HC Deb 28 March 1873 vol 215 cc300-9

rose to put a Question on a point of Order. The second reading of the University Tests (Dublin) Bill had been fixed for the 2nd of April, and he wished to know whether the Bill could be permitted to proceed, having been materially altered by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) since it was read a first time? The hon. Member stated in introducing the measure on the 7th of February, that it had been accepted by a large majority, and was, in fact the Bill of the House; and, on the 20th of March, in reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Dixon), he said that the delay in printing the Bill— had been caused by his anxiety to consider, and if possible to meet, the objections urged against his measure by the Prime Minister and others in the recent debate. It now turned out that the hon. Member for Brighton had got printed quite a different Bill from that which he had introduced, the constitution and powers of the Governing Body of Trinity College and the University of Dublin being entirely different in the Bills of 1872 and 1873. The reason why he asked the Question was this:—The Bill had been put down for second reading on Wednesday next, and as it was a measure on which much interest was felt in Ireland, Irish Members would be saved the necessity of coming over, and other Members the trouble of coming down to the House, if it were now ruled that the second reading could not proceed on that day. He believed the usual course was this:—When a Bill was introduced and ordered to be read a first time, it was not the practice to have it printed, especially in a perfect shape. For the convenience of Members, the practice was that the clerks in the Public Bill Office took the title of the Bill from its introducer, who might then bring in a dummy Bill. But the theory was that the Bill was introduced in a perfect shape. Now, the measure before the House he conceived to be an abuse of all procedure and all precedent, because the introducer of the Bill stated that it was the Bill which was read a second time last year, and led the House to believe that it was in a perfect shape, the fact being that the clauses were not then settled by the draftsman, or even in the mind of the hon. Member himself. The Bill, which should have been printed on the 7th of February, was not delivered to Irish Members until late on Tuesday, and it was only on Wednesday that his attention was directed by the Press to the fact that material alterations had been made in it. A case in point, reported in Burke's Precedents, had occurred on the 18th of February, 1850, when Mr. Stuart Wortley, in reply to a Question asked by Sir R. H. Inglis, said that his Bill on the subject of marriage with a deceased wife's sister had been delayed because he desired to frame a clause in accordance with the wishes of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth. Sir R. H. Inglis contended that— Though any Member having obtained leave of the House to prepare and bring in a Bill on any subject, might take days, weeks, or months for the purpose, he could not, when once he had brought up such a Bill, and when the House had received and read it, make any alteration whatever in it. It was no longer his property, any more than that of any other individual Member, and could not be altered by any one. The House alone could then deal with it."—[3 Hansard, cviii. 969.] The Speaker of the day (Mr. C. S. Lefevre) ruled That it was not competent for an hon. Member to make any other than a clerical alteration in a Bill which had once been introduced and read a first time."—[Ibid.] He had only to refer to the fifth, sixth, and seventh clauses in proof that the Bill of the hon. Member for Brighton was not the measure which last year received a second reading; and, under the circumstances, he begged to ask Mr. Speaker, Whether the hon. Member for Brighton was in Order in proposing to proceed with the Bill which stood for reading a second time on Wednesday next.


said, it might not be inappropriate, before an opinion was expressed from the Chair, that he should state the facts of the case, and at once he was prepared to admit that the hon. Member had stated the facts correctly. He introduced the Bill on the first day of the Session, but did not get it printed because there was a probability then, another Bill on the same subject would pass the House, and, of course, if it had done so there would have been no use in troubling the House with his Bill. As the discussion on the University Bill of the Government proceeded, the Bill of which he was in charge was frequently referred to, many objections were pointed out to it by the Prime Minister and other eminent Members of the House, and the sole reason for altering it was that its promoters thought they would be paying more respect to the Prime Minister and the other distinguished Members to whom he had referred if they endeavoured as far as possible to meet their objections. As far as he was concerned, and he believed he was expressing the opinion of his two hon. Friends whose names were on the back of the Bill, it never once entered their minds that they were infringing, or disregarding even, a technical Rule of the House in adopting the course they had done. He now found that they had done so, and in his own name and in that of his hon. Friends he begged to say that they deeply regretted that they should have unintentionally disregarded a Rule of the House. He had no doubt that the House would accept his assurance that the error was entirely unintentional. But, having made this admission, the next question was, what had they better do? It seemed to him that the best thing to be done was this—As far as he understood the question, the leave which he obtained to introduce a Bill dealing with the Dublin University was still operative. He, therefore, with the permission of the Speaker, would ask to be allowed again to present another Bill to the House, and would then move that the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Bill put down for Wednesday next be read and discharged. If that Order should be discharged, he should then fix the second reading of the Bill, which he now begged to be allowed to bring in, for the same day. He greatly regretted that the course which had been adopted by his hon. Friend (Mr. Callan), if this were done, would not be so fruitful of advantage, as the hon. Member had thought that he had no alternative. He should deeply regret if, through an oversight on his part, a question which needed settlement should in any way suffer. Still, he had no alternative in the matter. He would only add this much more. ["Order."] He was perfectly well aware that there was no chance whatever of passing the Bill, even if this point of Order had not been raised, unless he and those who acted with him should obtain considerable indulgence from the House and the Government. He did not think, under the circumstances, that indulgence they would be less likely to receive now. In conclusion, he would simply say that he hoped the course which he had suggested would meet with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair and also of the House.


I am bound to say that the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) has exercised a sound discretion in taking the course which he proposes to adopt. There is no principle more clearly laid down in this House than this—when a Member has introduced a Bill to the House it ceases to be in that Member's hands, and passes into the possession of the House. No essential alteration of that Bill, at any stage, may then be made without the distinct Order of the House. I may remind and the House that that principle applies with special force when the House proposes to go into Committee pro formâ on a Bill in order to meet objections to that Bill, raised on the second reading. Upon those occasions it is clearly established that no alteration can be introduced in a Bill inconsistent with the general character of the Bill. The House has laid down a clear course for Members to take if they desire to make any essential alteration in a Bill of which they have charge at any stage. That course is to ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Bill, and to present another instead thereof. That is the proper course to take, and that is the course which, as I understand, the hon. Member proposes to take. If that be so, the first Question to be put to the House will be that the Order of the Day for the second reading of the University Tests (Dublin) Bill be read and discharged, and that the Bill be withdrawn. Should the House think proper to agree to that Motion, it will rest with the hon. Member for Brighton to ask leave to present another Bill in lieu thereof; and when the new Bill has been presented and read a first time, to name for the second reading Wednesday next, or any other day he may think fit. The Question, therefore, which, in pursuance of the hon. Member's desire, I have to put to the House is—"That the Order of the Day for the second. reading of the University Tests (Ireland) Bill upon Wednesday next be read and discharged."


I wish to put it to you, Sir, whether the second reading will take precedence of the other Orders on Wednesday?


If the House should allow the hon. Member for Brighton to present another Bill, he can fix the second reading for the day he thinks proper. Of course, it will take its place after the other Orders of the Day already appointed for that day.


Is it, Mr. Speaker, competent to debate the Question that the Order of the Day be discharged?


In accordance with the Rules of the House, I have put the Question—"That the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Bill on Wednesday next be read and discharged." That Question may be debated; but, according to the ordinary rules of debate, the discussion must be germane to the question.

Question put, and agreed to.

Order read and discharged.


I have now to put the Question—"That the Bill be withdrawn." The Ayes have it.

Bill withdrawn.


Mr. Speaker, I beg to present the Bill to the House, and to move that it be read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to present another Bill instead thereof."—(Mr. Fawcett.)


The Question is—"That leave be given to present another Bill instead thereof."


I beg, Sir, to point out—it appears to me that it is quite unnecessary for the hon. Member for Brighton to give Notice of a new Bill.


The hon. Member obtained leave to bring in one Bill on a statement which he made to the House—can he, without Notice, introduce another Bill?


I would ask, Sir, as a point of Order, whether the hon. Member for Brighton can interfere with the programme for this evening? Orders of the Day on Friday have precedence over Notices, and he cannot take precedence of the Orders and the four Notices of Motion now on the Paper.


The Bill has been withdrawn; but I apprehend it is not competent for the hon. Member for Brighton to introduce another Bill without giving Notice.


I wish to say a few words on the point of Order. The position, as I understand it, is this—the hon. Member for Brighton has obtained leave to withdraw his Bill, and the Bill is withdrawn. But the Order of Leave, as stated by you, Sir, to introduce a Bill on this subject still holds good, and the hon. Member upon that Order asks leave to present another Bill. The Question I have to put to you, Sir, is whether it is not in accordance with precedent, under the circumstances, that leave should be given to enable the hon. Member to present the Bill without further Notice? If leave be given to present that Bill, the hon. Member at the close of the sitting may bring up that new Bill in the same manner as if it were a Bill brought in under an Order of Leave given.


The House is now engaged in dealing with a point of Order, and it is according to the usual practice that the point of Order should be determined, and effect given to that determination. No Notice on the part of the hon. Member for Brighton is necessary in order to raise the Question whether he should or should not be permitted to present another Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson) has correctly stated the practice of the House. The Order of Leave to introduce a Bill is still operative, and the only question now to be determined is whether the hon. Member for Brighton shall be allowed to present another Bill instead of that withdrawn. Of course, whether the hon. Member for Brighton shall be allowed to do so or not must be left to the House; but no Notice in respect of that Motion is necessary.


I wish to know, Sir, whether leave having been given to the hon. Member for Brighton to introduce a Bill on the 7th of February, he can now on the same leave introduce a Bill different in principle.


I believe, Sir, in such a case as that now before the House, where a Bill from some informality is withdrawn and a new Bill presented, the invariable practice has been to allow the Bill to be brought in by the Member at once; and no Notice is requisite. Leave having been given to introduce a Bill, it may be presented at any time. Being introduced on that Order it will then be read a first time.


In that case I should like to know how we are to debate the first reading. We may have to take a division on the first reading.


The Question is that leave be given to present another Bill instead thereof.


We have been taken by surprise. We do not know what the new Bill of the hon. Member for Brighton will be; and we should have time to consider the course to be pursued. I beg to move the adjournment of this debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Downing.)


said that the two hon. Gentlemen who had last spoken could be in no want of information as to the provisions of the Bill which the hon. Member for Brighton wished to present. Every one in the House was perfectly conversant with its proposals.


wished to ask the Speaker, Whether the withdrawal of a Bill differed from the second reading having been negatived. If the original leave covered a new Bill, why should it not cover a Bill which had been defeated on the second reading?


Any hon. Member who has obtained the leave of the House to introduce a Bill is at liberty to suspend the introduction of that Bill and to alter it in any way he thinks proper, provided it is not so altered as to be inconsistent with his original leave. As long as the Bill is introduced in consistency with the Order of Leave, he is quite in order in laying it on the Table of the House; but when once laid on the Table of the House, it is not regular that it should be altered in essential particulars. The hon. Member for Brighton having, as acknowledged by himself, altered his Bill in essential particulars, asks leave to present another Bill. There are several instances of the same kind on record, and in all those instances hon. Members have presented another Bill, and without Notice. The hon. Member for Brighton is therefore in order in now proposing to present to this House another Bill, without Notice.


It appears to me that there is an amount of difficulty in the position in which we are placed. The ruling of the Speaker has been perfectly clear, that although it was necessary for the hon. Member for Brighton to ask permission to present his Bill, he could do so without Notice. Then the question arises as to the position of Members who, like the hon. Member for the county of Limerick (Mr. Synan), desire to oppose the Bill on the first reading. [Several hon. MEMBERS: He cannot now.] They cannot oppose a Bill on its first reading? I recollect that great battles have been fought on the first readings of Bills. I remember a declaration by Lord Russell in 1842 that he would oppose the Income Tax Bill on the first, second, and third readings, and he was as good as his word. The Motion for the first reading usually follows the presentation of the Bill; but in this case the presentation recurs without any Notice. It will be rather hard on my hon. Friend, supposing he wishes to oppose the first reading, that he should have no course open to him except to watch the entire proceedings of the House before and after the discussion of Orders of the Day, in order to make sure that the first reading is not taken. In lieu of adjourning the debate, for which there is no necessity, as the question at issue is perfectly clear, the convenient course would be for the hon. Member for Brighton to give Notice that he will move the first reading on Monday. It is not usual that such a proceeding as this should occur at all, for usually every Member has Notice of the introduction of a Bill, and then takes his own course with reference to the first reading. I doubt whether it is consistent with the privileges of Members to have to watch the proceedings of the House in the way I have described; and, without raising the abstract question of procedure, the whole difficulty might be met if the hon. Member for Brighton gives Notice of the first reading for Monday, and he would then be in plenty of time to fix the second reading on the day he desires.


I differ from the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Brighton having admitted that his Bill is not in accordance with his statement of it on the first reading, the Speaker has ruled that it ought to be withdrawn. But there stands on our Journals the Order that he has leave to introduce a Bill for the better government of the University of Dublin. The Speaker has told us that, under these circumstances, the custom, for which there are several precedents, is to introduce another Bill. Now, if the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Synan) intended to oppose the Bill when first introduced, there would be some reason for deferring the first reading; but he had no such intention, and it would be rather hard on the hon. Member for Brighton to take advantage of the new state of things and oppose the presentation of his Bill. It is for the House to judge whether the hon. Member should be put in the same position he was in before with his fresh Bill.


The House, or a portion of it, does not seem aware of the Standing Order of 1852 on the question. That Order provides that, a Bill having been introduced in pursuance of an Order of the House, "the Question that it be now read a first time and printed shall be decided without Amendment or debate."


suggested that if the Motion for the adjournment of the debate were withdrawn, a decision might very shortly be arrived at, by taking the sense of the House on the Question whether the hon. Member for Brighton should be allowed to present his new Bill.


The course which my hon. Friend (Mr. Fawcett) proposes to take is one commonly adopted with Government Bills. As to the view of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, that the first reading should be postponed till Monday—is there any instance of a Government of either political party having given Notice in such a case? If the first reading is deferred till Monday, the convenience of the printers in distributing the Bill will be interfered with. We are discussing a mere question of form, for my hon. Friend is about to present the very Bill which has been in our hands the last 10 days.


Before we consider the practical consequences, we should have regard to adherence to the Rules, which are distinctly laid down in the volume to which we always refer in such cases. It says— If a Bill has been received in either House the Question is put that this Bill be now read a first time,' which is rarely objected to, either in the Lords or Commons, and in the Commons can only be opposed by a Division. When the Question of the first reading is negatived the House merely determines it shall not be now read a first time, and the Question may therefore be repeated on a future day, as in the ease of the County Elections Bill in 1832 which was twice negatived. The Question now is that the hon. Member for Brighton be permitted to present another Bill; and that Motion any Member may resist.

Motion, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and negatived.


said, it had been denied by some Members that a Bill could be opposed on the first reading, and that the House could divide on the first reading. He would remind those hon. Members, however, that in the present Session a measure proposed by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) was opposed on the first reading, when a division was taken.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

UNIVERSITY TESTS (DUBLIN) (No. 2) BILL,—" to abolish Tests and alter the Constitution of the Governing Body in Trinity College and the University of Dublin," presented accordingly; read the first time; to be read a second time upon Wednesday next, and to be printed. [Bill 109.]

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