§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Hadfield.)
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Drainage and Improvement of Lands (Ireland) Provisional Orders Confirmation Bill has been read a second time. ["No, no!"] The Bill has been read a second time, and the Committee has been fixed for Monday.
§ MR. HENNESSY
With great submission, Sir, I venture to point out the fact that this Bill had not been printed by the Government and was not in our hands, and I called upon the Clerk at the table 182 to perform the old custom in such cases and read the Bill. That was a point of order.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Has not the Order of the Day been read for the third reading of the Qualification for Offices Abolition Bill? ["No! no!"] I do not ask the noble Lord or the hon. Baronet, but I ask you, Sir, whether the Order for the third reading of that Bill has not been read, and whether, therefore, the hon. Gentleman is in order in discussing the Irish Drainage Bill. ["Chair, chair!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is perfectly true that the Bill was ordered to be read a second time; and it was read a second time in the ordinary and regular course of procedure. There is no doubt that, according to a usage which is quite obsolete, the Clerk may be called upon to read a Bill; but the Bill has been read in the regular, usual manner, according to the ordinary form of the House.
rose to move that the Committee (of the Drainage and Improvement of Lands Bill) be fixed for that day six months; but being informed that the Committee had already been fixed for Monday next, said he would move that the House do now adjourn.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Perhaps Mr. Speaker will have the goodness to tell us what is the Question last put from the Chair.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It appears there has been some misunderstanding in the House. The next Order has been read by the Clerk—the Clerk has read the next Order.
§ MR. LYGON
I submit, Sir, that whatever may have been read by the Clerk at the table cannot be held to have been read until the point of Order raised by the hon. Member for the King's County has been disposed of. That point of Order ought to be disposed of either by you or by the House, and it is not competent to the Clerk, not perhaps conversant with the point raised, to get rid of it by reading another Order. If ever a question of Order was fairly and legitimately raised this one has been so raised by the hon. Member for the King's County, and it must be disposed of before it is competent to the Clerk at the table to read the next Order. ["Chair, chair!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already stated to the House that in my opinion, according to our usages at the present day, the Drainage of Lands (Ireland) Bill has been read a second time.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member (Mr. Hadfield) has moved that the Qualification for Offices Abolition Bill be read a third time.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
wished to ask Mr. Speaker, whether the Motion for going into Committee on the Bill on Monday next had been put, as he and several Members in his neighbourhood had not heard it.
§ MR. HUNT
desired to offer a few remarks upon the extraordinary scene which they had just witnessed. He could not help thinking that such scenes did not contribute to the dignity of the House. He had no feeling whatever with regard to the Bill in question, but he had voted against its second reading, upon the principle that it was undesirable that Bills should be read a second time before they had been placed in the hands of the Members. If the rule that the Clerk should read the Bill on such occasions were not obsolete, Members would be careful to have Bills printed before the Motion for the second reading was brought before the House, because they would know that it would be practically within the power of any Member to stop the second reading of a Bill. He hoped that the scene which had taken place this evening would be a warning to them for the future, and prevent any Member from bringing Bills before the House for second reading until they had been printed. He hoped that the House would consent to the adjournment, because he believed that in the present excited state in which Members now were, it would not be wise or well to discuss such an important measure as that of which the third reading had been moved—the Qualification for Offices Abolition Bill. He, therefore, thought it would be well that the House should consent to adjourn.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
had been assured that the Bill was merely a formal measure, and in accordance with that assurance, he had voted for its second reading.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had moved the adjournment of the House had, he presumed, done so with a view to prevent the House going on with the second reading of the Qualification for Offices Abolition Bill. ["No, no!"] He was very glad, then, to 184 find that that was not the case. He did not think that the passing of the Bill that night was a matter of overwhelming importance, but he thought there were good reasons why it should not be adjourned. The House had already in previous Sessions passed a similar Bill no less than five times. During the present Session it had been referred to a Select Committee, who very fully discussed it, and who by a very large majority agreed to it as reported to the House. He would, therefore, ask hon. Gentlemen whether, considering the persistent course which his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) had taken with regard to it, and the course taken by the House in five previous Sessions, as well as the fact that it was a question in which half the population of England and Wales were interested, it was not fair now to allow the House to divide upon it? As to the excitement under which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) said the House was suffering, he (Mr. Bright) did not feel the slightest symptom of it; and he (Mr. Hunt) was not, he thought, so highly excited but that he would find his way into the lobby in the division upon the Bill, and that he would take care to turn in exactly the opposite direction to that which he (Mr. Bright) would take. The House might divide without further discussion, as the Members knew the purport of the Bill, and had pretty well made up their minds as to which way they should vote. He therefore asked the hon. Member for North Staffordshire whether it would not be a graceful thing to allow the division to take place, and not bring his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, who had charge of the Bill, down to the House night after night to attend to it.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that there had been two distinct misunderstandings as to this Bill, otherwise it might not probably have been sent to a Select Committee. It had already been six times rejected by the House of Lords, and that was a very good reason why a decision should not be hastily forced upon the House. He should vote for the adjournment.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Colonel Dunne.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 72; Noes 141: Majority 69.
§ Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."185
§ MR. MOWBRAY,
as a member of the Committee by which this Bill had been considered, begged leave to remind the hon. Members for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield) and Birmingham (Mr. Bright) of the circumstances connected with the Bill. Those hon. Members should recollect the Church Rates Abolition Bill, which, after being passed by a majority, had ultimately been rejected, the time afforded for reflection I by the action of the other House having induced a change of opinion. Therefore, it was not altogether safe to rely upon the fact that this Bill had been adopted by the House on former occasions. The hon. Member for Birmingham relied upon the fact of this Bill having been referred to a Select Committee, with the assent of the right hon. Gentleman the late Member for North Wilts (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), whose loss they all regretted. It was true I that that right hon. Gentleman did recommend that course; but in doing so he did not foresee the course that would be adopted. The Committee only sat for! two hours, and he attended it, believing that the advocates of the measure were willing to listen to some fair terms of: arrangement or compromise. The hon. Member for Sheffield based his Bill upon two grievances; first, he complained that, under the Act of 1828, it was necessary that all the minor officers in the service of corporations should make the declaration, and he complained that in Manchester the Act was in very bad odour, as a great number of nightsoil men and scavengers were brought under its operation. In order to meet that objection, he (Mr. Mowbray) proposed that such minor officers as the hon. Member referred to should be relieved from the necessity of making the declaration, and that it should be required only for mayors, town councillors, town clerks, and recorders. The other complaint was that whereas all high officers of State were allowed six months before they were called upon to make the declaration, all municipal officers were required to make it immediately upon entering into office. To meet that objection he proposed to place municipal officers upon the same footing as the high officers of State. Those propositions, however, did not meet the views of the advocates of this measure, whose real object was, he believed, not so much to get rid of practical grievances as to erase from the statute book a declaration that the Church of England was intimately and permanently connected with 186 the State. Some such compromise as he had proposed might have made the Bill acceptable elsewhere, but his propositions were not adopted, and the only change made by the Committee was in respect of three words in the preamble. Under the circumstances he should recommend his hon. Friend not to divide, seeing that from the last division it appeared there was a majority prepared to support the Bill without understanding its effect; and although if his hon. Friend did divide he should feel bound to vote with him, yet he thought it would be better to allow the third reading to pass rather than to allow it to be supposed by the public from the majority that the House had changed its opinion as to the merits of this measure.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE,
pursuant to notice, moved that the Bill be read a third time that day six months., He explained that he had declined to act upon the Select Committee, to which the Bill had been referred, because the Bill consisted so entirely of principle that a Select Committee could not by merely altering the terms of its provisions alter the scope of the Bill; the result had proved that he was not mistaken, since the Bill had come practically unaltered from the Select Committee. The proposal to refer this Bill to a Select Committee had been founded upon some expressions which fell late one evening from the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), during the Session of 1860—five years ago. He (Mr. Newdegate) had subsequently represented to that right hon. Gentleman that it would be useless to refer the Bill to a Select Committee for the reasons he had already assigned, and, on reading the Bill again, Mr. Sotheron Estcourt fully concurred in this view. The House had, in fact, been entrapped into a useless proceeding, which seemed merely intended to disguise the purport of the Bill, which was to break up the compact of 1828 that had been framed by the late Sir Robert Peel, and Earl (then Lord John) Russell. When Dissenters were admitted to corporate offices, the effect of the declaration, the necessity for making which this Bill would repeal, was to require the members of municipal corporations to declare that they would not use the influence and power to which they became entitled by their office for the purpose of weakening the Church of England, as by law established, or to deprive the bishops and clergy of the property to which they are by law entitled. The House of 187 Lords had not acted unreasonably in six times rejecting the Bill—which, in fact, was an attack upon the Established Church. The great majority of the Dissenters were content with the law as it now stood; and the Bill was brought in on the plea that the majority of Dissenters felt aggrieved by the present state of the law; such, however, was not the fact. The truth was that a very few Dissenters had the conscientious scruples, to satisfy which was the ostensible object of the Bill. It was an exaggeration, a misrepresentation, to say that the law prevented the proposing motions in vestry and elsewhere against church rates. The Bill involved principles which meant a disruption of the union between Church and State; and he considered it his duty to press his Amendment to a division.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Newdegate.)
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 56: Majority 74.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 3o, and passed.