§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. HENNESSY
rose to call attention to a question of privilege. The Bill, he said, came down from the House of Lords on the 1st of May. The 5th Clause provided that, where only one of the parties to any matter before the Court should appear, it should be lawful for the Court to order Her Majesty's Proctor to instruct counsel to argue before the Court any question in relation to such matter, and the Proctor should be entitled to charge and be reimbursed the costs of such proceedings as part of the expense of his office. The 7th Clause provided that in certain cases Her Majesty's Proctor was 1629 to retain counsel, and subpoena witnesses; that the Court should be empowered to order the cost of such proceedings to be paid by the parties, or such of them as it should see fit; and that in the event of the Proctor not being satisfied his reasonable costs, he should be entitled to charge the difference as part of the expense of his office. He submitted that whether the insertion of clauses containing such provisions was not trenching on the functions of this House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said: As the hon. Gentleman gave me notice of his intention to raise this question, I have been able to give it full consideration. I am of opinion that there are provisions in this Bill liable to serious objections. Clause 5, authorizing the Proctor to charge certain proceedings as part of the expenses of his office. If this was an original Bill the case would be more grave, but it is an amending Bill, to amend the Act 20 & 21 Vict., c. 85. Section 62 of that Act provides,—It shall be lawful for the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, out of such moneys as may be provided and appropriated by Parliament for the purpose, to cause to be paid all necessary expenses of the Court under this Act, and other expenses which may be incurred in carrying the provisions of this Act into execution.The House will observe the words "out of such moneys as may be provided and appropriated by Parliament." It is to these words, and the use that has been made of them, that I wish particularly to invite the attention of the House. It has been a practice, grown up within the last six or seven years, for the Lords to establish grounds of expense, and to propose salaries "to be paid out of moneys to be provided by Parliament." On July 5, 1854, a Bill was brought from the Lords, entitled "A Bill to Facilitate the Sale and Transfer of Encumbered Estates in the West Indies." Clause 12 provided there shall be paid outOf moneys to be provided by Parliament—(this in black ink),—to the chief commissioner, two assistant-commissioners, chief secretary, and assistant-secretary—(this in red ink),—such salaries as the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury may from time to time recommend—(this in black ink).I do not trace this course to a date earlier than the year 1854; but the Bill I have named was considered a precedent for similar provisions in other Bills. In my opinion this new practice should not be permitted to become usage. It seems to me open to serious objections. It is liable to 1630 misconstruction. It is calculated to break down the broad line of distinction between the duties, attributes, and powers of the two Houses. Acting on the discretion vested in me by this House, I have already intimated that clauses in that form, and provisions so made, would hereafter be objected to by myself on behalf of this House, and that I should advise the House not to receive them. In the present instance—considering that this is an amending Act, considering the provisions of the original Act—I submit to the House that, if it approves of the course I have taken, and if it is satisfied that sufficient securities are provided for the future, it will perhaps not think it necessary to put its full powers into exercise on this occasion. The House, however, is now in full possession of the case, and it is for the House to decide.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, that after the very important statement made by Mr. Speaker, it would be presumptuous in him to add another word; except to move that this Bill be laid aside.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "now read a second time," in order to add the words "laid aside,"—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed be left out stand part of the Question."
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
hoped that the hon. Member would not press his Motion. Parliament in the original Bill had given authority to pledge its credit for the payment of all the expenses of carrying out the Act; and when the Bill came down under the provisions of the original enactment it was hardly a case for pressing the question of privilege to the extreme point.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
moved as an Amendment that the debate be adjourned. The Speaker had pronounced a most important and able judgment. He thought it but due to that judgment that the House should not rashly vote upon the subject one way or the other. It seemed to him to involve the most serious considerations; and while on the one hand he should not like rashly to vote the rejection of the Bill, he should not on the other follow without consideration the advice of the hon. and learned Attorney General, and adopt a course which, if it would not appear to set aside the judgment of the Speaker, might seem to fail in giving it due attention. He entertained very serious doubts whether the provisions of one of the clauses might not: amount to the imposition of a tax.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
thought that under all the circumstances it would he better to agree to an adjournment, which would give a proper opportunity for considering what was the best course to he taken under the circumstances.
§ Debate adjourned till Tomorrow.
§ House adjourned at a Quarter after One o'clock.