HC Deb 22 June 1864 vol 176 cc95-101

referring to the circumstance of the abrupt termination of the proceedings in Committee upon this Bill on the preceding day, moved that This House will, on Thursday next, resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House to consider further of the progress of the Court of Chancery (Ireland) Bill. It appeared from a work which was a high authority upon the proceedings of that House, that this was the proper course to pursue.


opposed the Motion. It did not appear from the references to the Journals in the work to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded, and which was undoubtedly a work of the highest authority, that there had been a single case in which, after the Chairman had been moved from the Chair on a division taken, a Bill had been revived during the same Session. The passage in May's Law and Practice of Parliament, which referred to this subject, was at page 449, and was to this effect— Sometimes, however, the proceedings of a Committee on a Bill are brought abruptly to a close, by an order 'that the Chairman do now leave the Chair;' in which case the Chairman, being without instructions from the Committee, makes no report to the House. A Bill disposed of in this manner disappears from the Order Book, and is generally regarded as defunct; but as the House cannot be bound by the decision of a Committee, and has not itself agreed to any vote by which the Bill has been postponed for the Session, it is competent for the House to appoint another day for the Committee, and to proceed with the Bill. He admitted that this work was a most valuable compilation; but it did not appear from the Journals that there was any instance in which a Bill had, under these circumstances, been proceeded with. The first precedent cited by Mr. May was from 90 Commons' Journals, page 497, which was the case of the County Coroners Bill. That measure was brought to an abrupt conclusion, the Chairman being moved out of the Chair. There was no Report, and nothing further was done with the Bill that year. The second case cited was 90 Commons' Journals, page 562, the Public Institutions Bill; the third 105 ibid., page 345; the fourth, 111 ibid., 201, Justices of the Peace Qualification Bill; and the last, 112 ibid., 310; in all of which cases the Bills had a similar termination. He had also looked at the references to cases in which Bills had been revived, and not a single one appeared to be the case of a Bill, which being in Committee the Chairman was voted to leave the Chair. It must strike any one that when no Report at all was made that must be the result, because the House could take no notice of a Resolution which was not reported to it. In this very instance the Speaker had held that he, as the organ of the House, could take no notice of a division, because it had not been reported. The cases to which Mr. May had referred in support of his second position, "that it is competent for the House to appoint another day for the Committee, and to proceed with the Bill," were all cases on the consideration of the Report of a Committee, or after one report, and not one of them appeared to have been a case in which the Chairman was ordered to leave the Chair on a division taken. The first was 70 Commons' Journals, 384—the Paupers Removal Bill. In that case, as appeared by the Journals, the Chairman was not ordered to leave the Chair, but the Report of the Committee was considered, and they were ordered to re-assemble, and the Bill was re-committed. The same was the case in the second instance cited, that of the General Turnpike Bill, 82 Commons' Journals, 365. Under these circumstances, he submitted that there was no precedent for the re-instatement or revival of this Bill. If the Speaker should decide against him on that point, he thought that proper notice ought to have been given of a Motion of this kind, so that hon. Members might not have been taken by surprise.


said, the very precedents to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred would, if he had read them completely, have shown him that there was no doubt about the authority of the House in this matter. The last precedent was that of the 27th of March, 1827—the General Turnpike Bill. What occurred with reference to that Bill no doubt took place upon an order for taking into further consideration the Report from a Committee of the Whole House, but the House then resolved to re-commit the Bill, and the Committee to which it was re-committed was in the same position as an ordinary Committee, What followed was thus entered on the Journals:—"The House accordingly resolved itself into the Committee, but after some time spent therein Mr. Speaker resumed the Chair." The meaning of that was that there was no Report. The proceedings of Committees were not then entered upon the Journals when there was no Report, but in the "Minutes and Votes" of that day the entry was as follows:—"General Turnpike Act Amendment Bill—Report for the considered Bill re-committed; considered in Committee; No Report"—which, with the exception that in this instance there was a division, was exactly the way in which what had occurred with regard to this Bill was recorded. Therefore it was clear, that on the 27th of March, 1827, when the Turnpike Bill was re-committed, the Chairman left the Chair without making a Report, and the Bill was at an end unless something took place. What else was done then? On the 9th of April an order was made in the terms which the Attorney General had adopted upon this occasion—"That this House will, upon Wednesday next, resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House, to consider further of a Bill to amend the Acts relating to Turnpike Roads in England." The other precedent was that of the Paupers Removal Bill in 1815. In that case precisely the same entry was made in the Journals—"After continuing some time on the Committee, the Speaker resumed the Chair;" and on the 20th of June, the House set the Bill up again by order, precisely as his right hon. Friend now proposed. It was, therefore, clear that in both these cases the Chairman left the Chair without making a Report, and that the proceedings of the Committee would have terminated if the House had not exercised its inherent jurisdiction, and set it up again. In 1856 the Committee upon the Crime and Outrage (Ireland) Bill was two or three times counted out, and each time the House revived it. As to the question of notice, it had been the practice of Members, in cases in which upon the second reading of a Bill it had been resolved that the word "now" should not stand part of the Question, to replace their Bills on the Orders without giving notice. If, however, his hon. Friends opposite intended to take the sense of the House upon the question whether this Bill should be replaced in the Orders, it would, perhaps, be better that notice should be given of this Motion. He was not at liberty to refer to what occurred in the Committee, but in some place or other he did hear the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin state that his object in moving that the Chairman should leave the Chair was not to defeat the Bill.


said, that what he had done he had done upon the advice of the highest authority, and having resolved to take that course, he had communicated with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, and with the hon. Member for Mallow.


said, that the highest authority in the House was the Speaker, who had not yet pronounced upon this Question. It was true that it was at first his intention to move that the Chairman should report Progress; but Members who were well acquainted with the forms of the House told him that the Motion which he made deliberately, "That the Chairman do leave the Chair," was analogous to the Motion of the "Previous Question" in the Whole House, the adoption of which prevented the revival of the subject during the same Session. At any rate, whether it was possible or not, it was not usual. When a matter had been discussed and a vote taken, it was the practice of the House to have nothing more to do with it during that Session. Although the hon. Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt) had displayed much ingenuity, he had not produced a precedent of a case in which a hostile vote had been taken upon a division obliging the Chairman to leave the Chair, and in which, upon a Motion made as a matter of course, the Bill had been resumed in the same Session. What he contended was, that there must be in some shape a Report from the Committee to enable the House to proceed. In the present case, however, the House had nothing before it, and according to the principle quoted from Mr. May's book, a course had been taken which had brought the Bill to an end. This was the less to be regretted, as the effect would be that the hon. and learned Gentleman would bring in a better Bill another time. It was a matter of importance that the House should conform to its usual practice. A great Judge said it did not much matter what the practice was so long as it was practice. The right hon. Gentleman in the Chair was not partial to introducing subtle distinctions in the Rules of the House, and if the question must be argued again, due notice ought to be given.


said, that in the case of the General Turnpike Bill it was plain, from the short notice in the Journals of the House, that there could have been no division, as in the case of the Bill in question, where the Chairman had been moved out of the Chair. No one disputed that where there had been a Report, a Bill would re-appear on the Notice Paper, but he contended that when the Chairman of the Committee had been voted out of the Chair by a hostile majority, the House had never interfered. There was, therefore, he submitted, no precedent to justify the interposition of the House in the present case.


The hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield) not having favoured me with notice that he intended to raise this Question, I have been obliged to refer to the precedents since I came into the House. The House will be aware that the Committee have no power to extinguish a Bill. A Bill is referred to a Committee that it may be considered and amended; but the Committee have no power to put an end to a Bill. That power the House retains to itself. On many occasions, some of which have been quoted by the hon. Member for Mallow, the Committee has ordered the Chairman to leave the Chair, and this having been taken as an indication that the Bill is not favourably regarded by the Committee, it has not been revived by its author in the House. But it is beyond the province of the Committee arbitrarily to take a Bill out of the power of the House and to put an end to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University (Mr. Whiteside) has said, that when a vote has been taken on a measure, that vote must be regarded as decisive. But such a rule must not be taken without qualification. I would recall to his recollection that within the last few years the Question has been put to the House in regard to the second reading of a Bill, "that this Bill be now read a second time." The House decided in the negative—namely, that the Bill be not read a second time "now." The Motion had not been put in the usual form that the Bill be read a second time "that day six mouths," and it was in the power of the House, having refused to read the Bill a second time "now," to read it a second time on another day. I remember a few years ago that a Bill was brought in by the late Member for Surrey (Mr. Drummond), who not being satisfied with the decision of the House that the Bill be not read a second time "now," on a subsequent occasion moved that the Bill be read a second time; and the House, having changed its view in regard to the Bill, read it a second time, and it was ultimately passed. Now in this particular case the Bill is not extinguished and put an end to by the Chairman being moved out of the Chair. If the hon. Member for Mallow had examined the precedents with more care, I think he would have found that they do not correspond with the view he has taken of them. There is no Report from the Committee in this case. There was no Report also in the case of the General Turnpike Bill, and in that case the Bill was revived. I have not the smallest doubt that, in conformity with the distinct precedents that have been cited, it is entirely in the power of the House to order the Committee to meet again, and consider the Bill further. It will not be a case of "Progress," because, when the Chairman reports Progress, by a decision of the House which was come to fifteen years ago, the Speaker leaves the Chair without question. Inasmuch, however, as there is no Report from the Chairman, when the House is moved to go into Committee on this measure, it will be competent for any Member to raise the question on going into Committee, precisely as was done in all Bills and at all times before the rule of Progress was established. I believe that what I have now stated is, without question, in conformity with the established practice of the House. [Mr. WHITESIDE: As to notice?] With regard to the question of notice in the case of the General Turnpike Bill, 1827, the Order for the committal of the Bill was made early in the evening, and before the commencement of public business, and, therefore, I have no doubt it was done at that time without notice. Practically the Chairman being voted out of the Chair has the same effect as the House being counted out. We have a measure on which the House has been twice counted out lately, and which has been much opposed—the Weighing of Grain Bill. But although in those cases the debate came to an abrupt conclusion, there has been no question raised that the Member in charge of the Bill had not the power of putting it down for another day.


inquired whether the Question before the House would be whether the Bill should be resumed?


It would be in the power of the right hon. Gentleman to raise the Question on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair.


thought it would be for the convenience of the House that notice should be given for a future day, so that Members might be aware of the course to be taken.


said, that two questions were involved—one the question of form, which had just been decided by the Speaker; and the other, whether the House would think fit to revive the Committee, and that would come before the House when the right hon. Gentleman left the Chair. The Speaker having decided the question of form, the House could not be taken by surprise, and it would be competent to any hon. Member to move that the House go into Committtee on the Bill that day three months.


No doubt it will be quite competent to any Member to move that the House resolve itself into Committee on the Bill on that day three months.

Motion agreed to.

Committee to consider further of the Bill To-morrow.

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