HC Deb 25 February 1878 vol 238 cc361-8

Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, The Marquess of HARTINGTON, Mr. MOWBRAY and Mr. DODSON nominated Members of the Select Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. WHITBREAD be one other Member of the Committee."


moved that the debate be now adjourned. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had given no information whatever in regard to the way in which this Committee had been organized. It was a Committee of the greatest importance, and one that that House might have a great deal to say upon, and the question ought to be brought forward at a time when the House could discuss it. So far as one could see from such hints as had been given, the questions which had to be settled by this important Committee and the evidence which would be brought before this Committee were, in fact, as well known to the House now as they would be then. The Committee would call before it a few officials who were acquainted with this House who would give no more information than was already contained in the admirable handbooks, compiled by gentlemen for whom that House had the greatest possible respect. The reason for the appointment of this, Committee was in regard to the management of Business in consequence of what occurred last year. The House got on very well this year under existing rules, and it was now a question whether there was at that particular moment any necessity for appointing this particular Committee. He would not like at that late hour to enter into the number of objections there were to this Committee, and therefore he moved the adjournment of the debate.


I must point out to the hon. Member that the House has already agreed to the appointment of the Committee, and the question now is that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitbread) be now appointed.


did not think the hon. Member need be afraid that this Committee would do very much. There were some names, like that of Mr. Henley, that were long known in that House, which of necessity did not appear in the list, though formerly they had always been included; but nearly all those proposed to be placed on the Committee were, as far as the Business of that House was concerned, of a Conservative character, and would propose very little change, if any at all. He did not think any Gentleman need be anxious as to what would occur. He wanted to point out that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not answered at all the complaint he had previously made. His complaint was, that willing Members like his hon. Friend were asked to do more than was reasonable, and he thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who represented the Government, ought to give instructions to those acting under him that they should select a small number of younger Members to learn the Business of that House by placing them on Committees. It was not satisfactory to see a Commit- tee nominated as these had been; and if they saw the practice continued, they would be compelled to take active steps to oppose the appointment of Committees so chosen. He thought it was well the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be informed of their intention, in order that he might obviate the necessity of carrying it into effect.


Does the hon. Member for Dundee oppose the name of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whitbread)?


No, Sir. After what you have said, I do not.


would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take action in time, and give such instructions as would meet the threatened obstruction of the hon. Member for Rochester.


thought it was the duty of any hon. Member if he objected to this Committee, that he should mention the name of the Gentleman to whom he objected. The names of the Gentlemen on the Committee were men of great experience in that House, and, with the addition of one new Member, they had all had experience of that House, and he trusted that when the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) met those Gentlemen, he would agree with those who had had wider experience than he had.


sympathized very much with the views of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), and had himself intended to call attention to the constitution of this Committee, particularly in relation to Scotch Members. He observed only one Member from Scotland on the Committee, and that Gentleman was already upon three other Committees. The hon. Member for Peebles had also been placed that afternoon upon a Committee of considerable importance, and he would, if appointed now, thus be on five Committees. He had looked over the list of Committees for this Session, and he found there were 290 Members on the Committees, of whom 16 were Scotch nominations; but as one Gentleman was on four Committees, only the other 12 had any part in this division of Public Business. For his own part, he had no desire to be on the Committees; but he believed that it was a reflection on Scotch Members that more of them were not selected, and when these names came up he intended to take the sense of the House on the question, and he trusted when this was done there would be more consideration shown to the interests of Scotland.


was sure the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) would be most desirous not only to reform himself, but to introduce many reforms into the Business of that House, and judging from the disposition he had already evinced, he was quite sure that it would be a labour of love to him to carry out the recommendation of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Onslow). What he would particularly recommend to the House was that young Members should have an opportunity of mixing with their elders in Committees of this description. He would further recommend that these much-respected pluralists should be asked to choose which Committee they would serve on. It could be no reflection on any Gentleman who was elected to serve on five Committees meeting at 1 o'clock to ask him which Committee he would sit on, and on what sort of business he wished to expend his talents. He candidly owned there was a great deal in the remark that on certain Committees of very great importance there should be a decided preponderance of senior Members. He might go so far as to say that these Committees should be composed of senior Members who had been three or four or five years in Parliament; but, even granting that, it did not bring the Government out of their difficulties. They did not put on all senior Members; they only put on a selected few. There was no disposition to make anything like factious opposition on this question, but still it was quite clear that an hon. Member could not attend four or five important Committees at the same time, and that was really all they had to suggest.


was glad the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been called to the constitution of this Committee. He was perfectly aware of the difficulty there was in forming this Committee, and he quite agreed that the most experienced Members should serve upon it. The real objection was that the same Members who were serving on other Committees had been nominated to serve on this. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) was nominated for this Com- mittee, just after he had been selected to serve on the Commons Committee. It was very possible the Commons Committee might sit on the same day. He thought his hon. and gallant Friend should be asked to choose which Committee he would sit on. On Friday last the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) was placed on the Metropolis Management and Building Acts Committee, and now it was proposed to nominate him on the Public Business Committee. It stood to reason that he could not serve efficiently on both Committees.


said, he was sitting two Sessions on a Committee upstairs. One Member of that Committee was occupied with two other Committees. He would say—"There is a paragraph in the Report on Tramways; I must go." Then—"There is the Telegraph Committee;" and so on. It was quite impossible that the hon. Member could attend to the business of all these Committees.


said, the system of making the selections from all Committees from a limited number of Members, was made, it appeared to him, with a distinct purpose. The Government knew well what an effect it had in facilitating Business, for it confined the knowledge of the details on which future legislation was founded to those few Members. It might be noticed that nine-tenths of the Amendments to Bills were put on by Members who had been Members of previous Select Committees on the subjects with which the Bills dealt. Thus, the system of exclusion really facilitated Business in the Government sense—which meant the getting of Bills through as fast as possible—by keeping ordinary Members in ignorance.


said, that what had been pointed out in regard to the representation of Scotland on these Committees had a great deal of force in it. The hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter Barttelot), whom it was proposed to place on this Committee, was a Member of four or five other Committees. There were Scotch Members of great experience, who were available for this Committee. There was the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), and there was also his hon. Colleague in the representation of Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). They did not like to divide against the hon. Baronet. At the same time, it was right that Scotland should be represented. He should move the adjournment of the debate.


seconded the Motion.

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


did not think they would gain much by adjourning the debate. There was a certain amount of force in the observations made, and he quite agreed that in training the Committees it was desirable to bring in young Members who had not yet had an opportunity of seeing Public Business. This was rather an exceptional Committee. It was a Committee which he hoped might not require any great length of sitting, because it would be in the recollection of the House that certain proposals were made by the Government, and probably the discussion that would be required would not be very long. Undoubtedly, such a Committee would work all the better for being composed in the main of Gentlemen who had great experience in the working of the House. There was, as it happened, several Gentlemen on it who were serving on other Committees. The fact was, those Gentlemen had been brought to serve on this Committee because of their experience in that House. Like the Committee on Public Accounts, this Committee was generally composed of Gentlemen who had been some time in the House, and understood the course of Business, and who discharged functions of that kind every day in the week. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) was a Member of that Committee, as also of the Commons Committee and others. These Gentlemen were selected for their special knowledge. However, he was quite content to add that it was desirable to pay as much attention as possible to the introduction of younger Members on Committees, and, so far as he could, he would endeavour to do so; but he hoped that with regard to this Committee, which was decided upon quite at the beginning of the Session, and had only stood over because there had been he time to attend to it, he felt convinced the sooner it got to work the more convenient it would be to those Gentlemen who had other duties to take up later in the Session.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 17; Noes 72: Majority 55.—(Div. List, No. 309.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.


said, that, in the early part of that day, he had taken some objection to the name of the hon. Baronet (Sir Graham Montgomery) appearing on the Tramways Committee. Apart altogether from the question of the fitness of the hon. Baronet, which he did not in the least dispute, he thought it desirable that some other Scotch Members should be appointed. The hon. Baronet had previously been appointed on three Committees, and this- made four. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that Members of experience should be appointed on these Committees. There was the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), formerly Secretary to the Treasury, who was well fitted, one might suppose, to appear on a Committee of Accounts; but there was not a single Scotch Member on that Committee, although the great proportion of them were not indifferent to accounts. He should prefer moving the adjournment of the debate, in order to give the Government an opportunity of re-considering this matter. It was the opinion of Members in that part of the House that the selection should be more general.


seconded the Motion.

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


trusted the House would proceed with the nomination of the Committee that night. Much had been said as to the formation of the Committees, and reference also had been made to those who were responsible for making them. The hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) was hardly aware of the difficulties hon. Members like himself were placed in in the formation of these Committees. As far as he was concerned, he never had any other object in view than that the outcome of the deliberations of the Committees should be to bring credit on that House. There had been some error in placing the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) on so many Committees, and he would endeavour, in future, to prevent the repetition of things of that kind. With respect to this particular Committee, the defect might be obviated in this way. It was urged that Scotland was not sufficiently represented. It seemed to him that so long a period had elapsed since Notice of this Committee was given that it was hardly dignified to defer the appointment; but, if he might be allowed to consult with his right hon. Friend opposite, and ask him to select another Member of this Committee, and might ask, also, an hon. Gentleman on this side of the House to serve, it seemed to him they would come to a satisfactory arrangement.


said, the proposition of the hon. Baronet did not, in his opinion, meet the requirements of the case. The proposition to select a new Member from each side of the House might be a reasonable one, if the Irish were fully represented. Of course, they were exceedingly well represented by the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell); but, if they were going to have two new Members, he should propose thatthe hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) should be added to the Committee.

Motion, "That the Debate be now adjourned," by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. NEWDEGATE, Mr. KNATCHBULLHUGESSEN, Mr. BEEESPOED HOPE, Mr. RATHBONE, Mr. PLUNKET, Sir CHARLES DILKE, Sir GRAHAM MONTGOMERY, Mr. PARNELL, and Mr. GOLDNEY nominated other Members of the Committee:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.

House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.