MR. BOUVERIE moved—
That the Clyde Navigation Bill, as amended in Committee, be referred to the examiners of petitions for private Bills, with instructions to examine and report whether the Standing Orders of the house have been complied with in relation to the Amendments made in Committee:—That all petitions complaining of non-compliance with the Standing Orders in relation to the said Amendments, be referred to the examiners, with instruction to hear parties and their agents and witnesses thereupon.
His reason for making this Motion was that the Committee had introduced certain clauses, which it was urged, and with some foundation, were beyond the powers conferred by the Standing Orders, inasmuch as they dealt with the interests of parties who had no notices served upon them, as by the Standing Orders they ought to have had. The course which he proposed to take would not have the effect of reversing in any way, or in fact of touching at all, the decision at which the Committee had arrived. It was merely to refer to the Examiner of Petitions to say whether the rule had been broken through, and then to recommend the course which ought to be taken. The Committee, he believed, had introduced these clauses in accordance with certain recommendations of a Report of the Board of Trade. No doubt, abstractedly speaking, these clauses would be very beneficial, but then no recommendation of the Board of Trade, or any other Government Department, ought to over-rule the adherence of the House to that mode of procedure which was necessary for the protection of private rights. If, therefore, the House would agree with his Motion, the question would be referred to the Examiner of Petitions, and if he reported that they had complied with the Standing Orders, of course the Bill would pass without any further hindrance; and if, on the contrary, he reported that they had not, it would be for the House to decide the matter on time merits of the case, or to refer the matter to the Select Committee on Standing Orders to say whether they ought to be insisted on or not. That course was strictly in conformity with precedent. Two years ago the same objection was taken to a Bill of the London and North Western Railway. The grant was referred to the Examiner of Private Bills, and he reported that the Standing Orders had not been complied
with, the clauses in question were struck out, and the Bill was then allowed to pass. He hoped, therefore, that after that statement, there would be no objection to the Motion. The reference would not take more than a couple of days, for the Examiner would proceed to the examination of the point forthwith.
said, he did not think that the right hon. Gentleman understood fully the extent to which the Motion he had made would affect the procedure of Committees. The alterations introduced into these clauses, as the right hon. Gentleman had pointed out, were adopted on the Report furnished by the Board of Trade, and the effect of this Motion would be to put aside altogether the recommendations of the Board of Trade, so that in future these Reports, which were of so much assistance to Committees, would be so much waste paper. According to the Standing Orders, notices must be given to all parties interested in a Private Bill before the 30th December; but the Board of Trade could never see the Bill before the end of the month of January at the earliest. The consequence was that the Reports were furnished to the Committees long after the parties interested had had their notices served on them; consequently, if it were insisted on, that no parties could be dealt with by the Committee, except those who had had notices served on them, these Reports would be utterly futile for the future. Of course, if the Amendments were adopted, the Examiner has but one Report to make—namely, that the parties concerned have not had notices served on them. It must not be forgotten, that these requests had lately been much more strictly insisted on than had hitherto been the case. Not more than two months ago, a Resolution was passed to the effect, that any Committee receiving a Report from the Board of Admiralty, the Board of Trade, or any other department, and departing from those recommendations, should make a special Report to the House stating their reasons. They must, therefore, take either one course or the other. If they were to lay down a rule that no Committee was to adopt the recommendations of the Board of Trade, or any other Department, if they affect persons who have had notices served upon them, let them say at once that these Reports should be treated as waste paper henceforth. The 506 tendency of legislation of late years had been to attach greater importance to these Reports. This Bill had been under the attention of the Committee for many weeks. There had been a great expenditure of public money on the inquiry, and the interests of the parties concerned in the alterations had been by no means damaged—in fact, he believed, they were very much advanced by the provisions which had been introduced into the Bill. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion.
MR. A. MILES
said, that as a member of the Committee, he wished to state in the absence of the Chairman, that he entirely agreed in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. FitzRoy). If this Motion were carried it would be absolutely fatal to the progress of the Bill this Session. He trusted the House would affirm the decision of the Committee.
§ MR. PUGH and MR. STEWART
, also Members of the Committee, urged the House not to accede to the Motion.
said, he had no disposition to dispute the nature of the decision of the Committee. He had no doubt it was perfectly correct; but what he contended was, that it was beyond their powers. They had put in a clause which they were not competent to enact in conformity with the Standing Orders. He had no wish to upset that decision, but simply to ask from the regular officers of the House whether the Standing Orders had been complied with or not? and if they had not, he was perfectly ready to have the matter referred to the Committee on Standing Orders, to say whether they ought to be suspended or not. The doctrine of the right hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. FitzRoy) was certainly a most dangerous one, because it went to this, that a Ministerial Board might make reports which would have the effect of over-doing the rules which the House had laid down for the protection of private rights. If that doctrine were to be maintained, the Standing Orders must be reversed altogether; and he could scarcely believe it possible that the right hon. Gentleman had considered what his doctrine would lead to.
§ MR. DUNLOP
insisted that the Board of Trade ought not to be allowed to override the Standing Orders in the case of a private Bill of this importance. The Standing Orders were established for the protection of private rights, and it was 507 palpable the Amendments made in the Bill were at variance with these safeguards.
Motion made and Question put,—
That the Clyde Navigation Bill, as amended in the Committee, be referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, with instruction to examine and report whether the Standing Orders of the House have been complied with in relation to the Amendments made in Committee.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 75: Majority 58.