HC Deb 15 June 1860 vol 159 cc539-42

Order for Second Beading read.


rose to call the attention of the Speaker to a question of privilege. There was a clause (the 11th) in this Bill which provided that a certain part of the penalties which might be imposed under its provisions within the Metropolitan Police district or within the City of London should be paid over to the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police dis- trict or to the Chamberlain of the City of London, as the case might be, and applied in aid of the expenses of the police. Now, he (Mr. Digby Seymour) understood that a considerable portion of the cost of the Metropolitan and City police was provided out of the Consolidated Fund, and if that were so, the Bill was one which would lessen the taxation imposed upon Her Majesty's subjects. Two Resolutions were passed by that House bearing on such legislation in the years 1831 and 1849 respectively. The first of those Resolutions declared that when, in any Bill sent down from the House of Lords for the purpose of receiving the concurrence of this House, it appeared that any pecuniary penalties were imposed, raised, or taken away, the Speaker, before the second reading of the measure, should report to the House whether the object of the provisions imposing, varying, or taking away such penalties was merely to punish and prevent offences, and whether it was expedient for the House to exercise its privilege with respect to such enactments. If there ever was a moment when it was expedient for the House to assert its authority over questions of taxation it was the present. The Resolution of 1849 was an amendment of the rules of the House as modified by the Resolution of 1831. It declared— That with respect to any Bill brought to this House from the House of Lords, or returned by the House of Lords to this House, with Amendments, whereby any pecuniary penalty, forfeiture or fee shall be authorized, imposed, appropriated, regulated, varied or extinguished, this House will not insist on its ancient and undoubted privileges in the following cases:— 1. When the object of such pecuniary penalty or forfeiture is to secure the execution of the Act, or the punishment or prevention of offences. 2. Where such fees are imposed in respect of benefit taken or service rendered under the Act, and in order to the execution of the Act, and are not made payable into the Treasury or Exchequer, or in aid of the Public Revenue, and do not form the ground of public accounting by the parties receiving the same, either in respect of deficit or surplus. 3. When such Bill shall be a Private Bill for a Local or Personal Act. The first clause of that Resolution apparently relaxed the general effect of the Resolution to which he had referred, but the objection he raised was supported by the second. He submitted that the present Bill, being one which would indirectly come in aid of the revenue, it ought to be laid aside and not entertained by the House.


I think it very likely that the House may consider there is some force in the objection which has been raised by the hon. and learned Member for Southampton (Mr. D. Seymour); but I think it a great pity that the case was not brought before your notice at some time before the second reading of this Bill, in order that you might have looked into the case and been fully prepared to give an opinion with regard to it. But the hon. and learned Gentleman is not to blame, because I believe his sagacity has only very recently enabled him to discover the point, and I believe during the time when you were not in the Chair this evening. I do not make this observation for the sake of blaming the hon. and learned Gentleman; but for your convenience, and that of the House, I think it would be better not to proceed with the Bill now, but to adjourn the further consideration for a few days, in order that you may have an opportunity of considering the question fully, and to see whether or not we are establishing a precedent which hereafter we may have occasion to regret. I do not know whether I should be in order in moving this at this stage—but if it is thought I am in order, I would move that the Order of the Day for the second reading stand adjourned to this day week.


said, it appeared to him that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Southampton had taken rather a nice distinction in regard to the Bill. As it was very desirable that no opinion should be given on the point thus raised without due consideration, he should prefer the opportunity which would be afforded by the adjournment of the Bill for considering the subject.


said, that the point had not occurred to him before, but he had lost no time in bringing the matter before the House the moment he discovered the informality.


said, that if the Speaker wished for time to consider this matter, he certainly should not object to the adjournment. He must say, however, that he thought the course taken by the hon. and learned Gentleman was rather unprecedented. He had not given the slightest notice of his intention, and he (Lord R. Montagu) thought it would have been better had they gone into the principle of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman expected that fines would be levied: but the Resolution said: The House will not insist upon its ancient and undoubted privileges, &c., where such fines are not made payable to the Treasury or the Exchequer. Now, the fines imposed by the Bill were not made payable to the Treasury or the Exchequer. [Read!] "Well, "or in aid of the public revenue." [Mr. D. SEYMOUR: Hear!] It appeared the hon. and learned Gentleman rested his case upon that. How was an Act which levied fines to prevent Sunday trading to be held to be "in aid of the public revenue? Was it to be supposed that no Act could be brought in by the House of Lords, or that no penalty could be enforced by them for the disobedience of that Act? It appeared to him that this passage which the hon. and learned Gentleman had read ex-eluded altogether the question of privilege. He was glad, however, that the hon. Member entirely disproved the only solid argument which had been raised against the Bill. It had been very generally asserted, that the Bill, if passed into law, would intend to suppress Sunday Trading, but that it would be as inoperative as the present law. But now, on the contrary, the objection which is raised rests on the supposition that the Bill would be operative, and that fines would be raised under its provisions. As, however, time to consider the question was desired by the Speaker, he moved that the debate be adjourned to that day fortnight.

Notice being taken of Clause 11, relating to the Appropriation of Penalties, which was alleged to be inconsistent with the Privileges of this House,

Second Reading deferred till Friday 29th June.