THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
moved the nomination of the Select Committee on Westmeath, &c., Unlawful Combinations.Select Committee nominated: — Marquess of HARTINGTON, Mr. DISRAELI, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND, Mr. HARDY, Sir GEORGE GREY, Colonel WILSON PATTEN, Mr. DOWNING, Viscount SANDON, Mr. JAMES, Mr. PEMBERTON, Mr. MAGUIRE, Mr. RUSSELL GURNEY, Mr. GREGORY, Mr. BRUEN, and Mr. Serjeant SHERLOCK:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, when the noble Lord the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland moved the appointment of this Committee, the noble Lord intimated that it was to be a Secret Committee; but in subsequent discussions the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury declared that the Committee was to act upon the ordinary powers vested in all Select Committees of this House, whereby they would exercise a discretion as to whether they would suppress any parts of the evidence given before them in their Reports to this House. But the right hon. Gentleman added that, although this was a Select Committee, it would not have power to report its opinion with 1751 respect to any remedy for the present disturbed state of the county of Westmeath, and the adjoining counties, to the House. Now, Sir, I have examined the precedent which was established in 1852, and I find from the Report of the Committee in that instance that it was appointed at the instance of Mr. Napier, at that time Attorney General for Ireland, in these terms—To inquire into the state of those parts of the counties of Armagh, Monaghan, and Louth, which were referred to in Her Majesty's Speech, into the immediate cause of crime and outrage in those districts, and into the efficiency of the laws, and of their administration for the suppression of such crime and outrage.In the Journals of this House I find entries from which I learn that this Committee was appointed on the 19th of March, 1852, and that on the 4th of May following, it was ordered by the House that the Committee should have power to report their opinion, together with the Minutes of Evidence taken before them, to this House. Now, it appears to me that this is a case precisely in point. Whenever the House appoints a Select Committee it appoints what is a delegation of its own; and I believe it to be consistent with all usage that, inasmuch as such Committee emanates from this House, so, as its delegation, it is reponsible to the House, and that its Report must be made to this House, as the sole source of the authority by which it calls for persons and Papers, and enters into an examination of them. If the Committee now proposed to be nominated by the Government is not, or if there is to be an understanding that it is not, to report the evidence it takes, or its own opinion, to the House, then it will have been appointed upon terms different from those I have ever known in any previous case of the appointment of a Select Committee, because, in this instance, a Select Committee of the House will have been appointed, as it were, to be an assistant department of the Executive. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Well, if that is not the case, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain that this Committee is to have the power of reporting to the House any portion of the evidence it may think fit—[Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!]—and to report any opinion it may arrive at to this House. [Mr. GLADSTONE: 1752 Hear, hear!] Because, as far as the debates have gone hitherto, the inference to be drawn is directly the reverse. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] And if the right hon. Gentleman, in the present disturbed state of the districts concerned in the Inquiry, had come down to the House and announced that he wished to appoint a Royal Commission, under the powers of the Crown, and had selected certain Members of the House to serve upon it, I feel convinced that the House would not have objected. Or, if he had brought in a Bill to constitute a Parliamentary Commission, under the provisions of such a measure, the House might have directed the Commission to report to Her Majesty. Then the Government would have had full discretion as to whether they would report any part of the evidence taken, or the opinions of the Commissioners, to the House. I beg now to move, in accordance with the precedent of the year 1852, to which I have referred, that the Select Committee on Unlawful Combinations, &c., in Westmeath, and adjoining parts of Meath and King's County, have power to report the evidence taken before them, together with their opinion thereon, to this House. I make that Motion, because it is the impression not only on my own mind, but on the minds of other Members of the House, that this Committee is appointed in unusual terms, and unless the right hon. Gentleman shows that it is not, I shall take the opinion of the House upon the question.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Select Committee have power to report the Evidence taken before them, and their Opinion thereon to the House,"—(Mr. Newdegate.)
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
asked whether the Order of Reference would enable the Committee to inquire into the question of how the Government had exercised the powers which they already possessed?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
understood that this must form part of the Inquiry to be entered upon by the Committee.
§ Question put, and agreed to.