HC Deb 04 June 1872 vol 211 cc1236-8

wished to know what course the Government intended to adopt with regard to the various Resolutions on the Paper affecting the Business of the House? Would they appoint a Committee, or would they consider the whole subject themselves, and make a proposal to the House upon it? As the Government did not seem inclined to give him an answer, he would move the Resolution which stood on the Paper in his name. Although he agreed with a previous speaker, that it might not be wise to expedite legislative business and promote changes in the law, yet he thought that there could be no difference of opinion with regard to the object of this Motion—namely, to facilitate the passage of Consolidation Bills and to promote the consolidation of the law. A consolidated law was merely an authoritative declaration of the existing law upon any subject. It was true that the existing statutes were contradictory; it was therefore necessary, in every Consolidation Bill, to take only one member of those opposites. As the Standing Orders then were, one of two things always happened—either a Consolidating and Amending Bill was introduced, and it then consisted of some 500 pages, like the Merchant Shipping Bill, and was introduced Session after Session, and always lay like a log in the way, to be ultimately withdrawn; or else, a Bill was introduced with the sole object of amending the existing law, and then the Members of the House who desired to vote intelligently, had to thumb some 20 or 30 conflicting Acts of Parliament, and study until they could make up their minds what was the existing law on the subject. Such Bills were always unduly hindered, or else were passed in ignorance. The Sanitary Bill of this year was an example of that kind. If the present Motion became a Standing Order, the draftsman would in future have to write his Bill with a pair of scissors, choosing out such clauses of existing Acts as he thought proper, and writing between them, in red ink, whatever he thought necessary to explain or amalgamate them. Such a Consolidation Bill could then not be delayed at the second reading, nor on going into Committee; and it would pass rapidly through Committee, as the only Amendments permitted would be to insert, or else substitute, some clauses of existing Acts which the draftsman had thought better to omit. The amending Bill could then be brought in during the same Session, and the House could easily legislate intelligently upon it.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That whenever a Bill for the consolidation of existing Statutes, and containing only Clauses of Acts in force, be on its passage through the House, no Amendment shall be moved at any of its stages except in Committee; and the only Amendments which may then be moved shall be to insert other Clauses of any Acts in force on the same subject, and verbal Amendments rendered necessary by the amalgamation of the Clauses of different Acts."—(Lord Robert Montagu.)


believed that the House would not adopt such a Resolution, as by so doing they would simply express distrust of themselves.


said, he thought that if they adopted the Resolution they would unwisely tie up their hands; and he believed that all attempts to fetter the free action of the House were mischievous, and such a Resolution would be simply making a general law to meet a particular case.


consented to withdraw the Motion.


said, that, in his opinion, this question as to the Business of the House was in an unsatisfactory position. He believed that Business might be very much facilitated by proper regulations; and he thought that the recommendations to the Committee should have been discussed. If the Government did not adopt some course, it should surely be open to private Members to do so.


said, that four of the recommendations of the Committee had already been considered by the House, and there was one which it would be obviously improper for the House to consider, because it dealt with the discretion of Ministers and the Prerogative of the Crown; he referred to the proposal to call Parliament together in November, a proposal to which he was very favourable. The Resolutions which remained were of a secondary character, and if it were thought proper they should be considered with any new suggestions by a fresh Committee, it would be necessary at this period of the Session to postpone the appointment of that Committee until next Session.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.