§ Standing Orders of the House relating to Private Bills, read.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
, in moving the consideration of the Report of the Select Committee for the revision of the Standing Orders relating to Private Bills [Parl. Papers 444, 444–1.], and the adoption of the Revised Orders, said, that in the course of the examination of the Standing Orders the Committee had anxiously considered how far the expense of obtaining private Bills could be diminished by an alteration in the Standing Orders. They had first considered the table of fees of the House itself, and next the charges of parties who were engaged in promoting Bills. The latter were, however, regulated by Act of Parliament and were not within the con- 980 trol of the Committee, and they therefore determined that it would not be right to revise the fees of the House alone, because the revision of both schedules ought to take place together, and in connection with an investigation as to the mode in which the whole private business of the House was transacted. The Committee had made a Report in conformity with that opinion, recommending that an inquiry into the expediency of reducing the fees of the House and other charges on private Bills should take place as soon as possible. He should therefore move early next Session for a Committee to inquire into the great expense to which parties were subjected in passing private Bills through Parliament, with a view to its reduction. The alterations which the Standing Orders Committee had made pending their inquiry were chiefly with the view of assimilating the orders of that House with those of the other House, and of adapting them to the altered system under which private Bills were introduced into the other House of Parliament as well as into that House. As his duties as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee and Chairman of the Committee of Selection enabled him to judge of the manner in which the private business of that House was transacted, he could not allow the present opportunity to pass without bearing testimony to the very great sacrifice of time and labour on the part of several hon. Members of that House in discharging duties which, although no doubt secondary, were still very important. He wished also to draw the attention of the House to the manner in which the Chairmen's panel of Railway, &c., Bills conducted their investigations. He was sure the House and the public had very little idea of the time voluntarily devoted by private Members to the duties connected with private legislation. Among the Chairmen of Railway Committees during the Session, Lord Stanley had served 65 days; Mr. Adair, 56 days; Mr. Hassard, 47 days; Mr. Puller, 59 days; Mr. Scholefield, 35 days; Mr. Woods, 36 days; and Mr. Mowbray, 18 days. Although the expenses before Railway Committees were very great, the public were indebted to the panel of Chairmen for a great diminution in the cost under that head. Still, he was almost afraid to state the expense at which the private business of the House was conducted. Early during the present Session he moved for a Return of the expenditure incurred by railway companies 981 in the conduct of their private business before Parliament. The Board of Trade had rendered him what assistance it could in obtaining that return, yet, although it had been moved for in March last, not less than 100 railway companies had not up to the present moment furnished the required Returns. The Motion for the Return was in the form of an Address to the Crown, so that the House had no means of enforcing it. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would not lose sight of the subject, and that he would do all in his power to obtain for the House a Return of the exact sum spent in private Parliamentary business by the various railway companies. Early next Session, as he had stated, it was his intention to bring the subject under the notice of Parliament.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
said, that he agreed that the subject ought to be considered by a Select Committee next Session.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the country were very little aware of the extent of valuable labour which was bestowed on the legislation of the country by the Committee over which the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Wilson Patten) so ably presided, as well as by the Committees generally, records of their proceedings not finding their way into the usual channels by which Parliamentary proceedings were made known to the country. At a great sacrifice of time, those Gentlemen devoted their talents and gave their attention to the conduct of a business which had nothing very attractive about it.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he had hoped that the right hon. Baronet would have said something about the reduction of expenses in private legislation.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
The hon. and gallant Member says he will bring the subject forward early in the next Session; and that course is one which I entirely approve of.
§ MR. ADAIR moved, that in the proposed Standing Order 136 A, page 47 of the Report, the words "forms part of the continuous route of such railway" be omitted, and the words "is required to connect portions of railway belonging to or proposed to be constructed by such company" be substituted.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That Standing Orders, 4, 11, 15, 24, 25, 26, 30, 62, 93,103,132,163, 165, 184, 200, 205, and 207, be repealed.982
§ Standing Orders relating to Private Bills, as reported by the Committee, with Amendments to several of them, agreed to, and made Standing Orders of the House.
§ Standing Orders of the House to be printed, [Parl. P. No. 462.]