HC Deb 28 May 1880 vol 252 cc646-67

in rising to move the following Resolution, which stood upon the Paper:— That the Committee do consist of Twenty-three Members—Mr. Whitbread, Sir John Holker, Mr. John Bright, Lord Henry Lennox, Mr. Massey, Mr. Staveley Hill, Sir Henry Jackson, Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Solicitor General, Sir Gabriel Goldney, Mr. Grantham, Mr. Pemberton, Mr. Watkin Williams, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Hopwood, Mr. Beresford Hope, Major Nolan, Mr. Chaplin, Mr. Serjeant Simon, Mr. Childers, Mr. Trevelyan, Sir Richard Cross, and Mr. Gibson:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum, said: Sir, we have consented to propose an addition to the former Committee on finding that that was more agreeable to the views of many Gentlemen in this House, and from our desire to meet those views, and to obtain, if possible, a unanimous assent. There is one other observation I ought to make with respect to this Committee. As regards the apportionment of the number of Members connected with the different Parties or sections of this House, the Committee has been framed on the same basis as has been usual in the last two Parliaments. That was done partly because, when the first Committee was chosen, the Government was not fully constituted, and it was not desirable to introduce the consideration of any new question; and in the same way now we are very desirous to avoid mixing with the steps in this rather peculiar case any other question on which there could be a difference of opinion. I only say that because I consider it would be our duty in future to propose a somewhat different arrangement in order better to adapt the composition of Committees in general to the exact state of opinion and representation in this House; but for the present I propose the Committee as it now stands.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Committee do consist of Twenty-three Members."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


Sir, I only rise for the purpose of entering a caveat against the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman as to the future constitution of Select Committees. I wish it to be understood that I am no party to its acceptance; but I offer no objection to the proposed Committee.


asked, whether the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) would have the right to appear himself or by counsel, as had been suggested by the right hon. the senior Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Beresford Hope)?


I understood the suggestion of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge to be that Mr. Bradlaugh should be permitted to appear by counsel. That certainly would be conformable to various precedents, and I feel that the Committee would be well advised if they would apply to the House for the purpose of allowing such an arrangement. With regard to the question of Mr. Bradlaugh appearing personally, I am not so well able to give an answer, because I do not know what the precedents are; but that would be a matter for the consideration of the Committee, who would approach it in a proper spirit. With reference to what I said as to the composition of Committees, it had reference to important changes; but I said it merely to save myself from misapprehension on future occasions, and by no means to commit others to the views I am disposed to take.


inquired if the Committee were to have power to call for evidence?


That, Sir, I apprehend, would require a vote of the House, and I am not aware that such a Motion has been made.


said, there were one or two features in the composition of the Committee that struck him as curious. In the first place, it contained no fewer than 13 Members of the Legal Profession. That, he thought, was rather an undue preponderance of the legal element. The view on the Opposition side of the House was not that this question was a purely legal question. There were, no doubt, legal questions, and the advice of men of legal experience would be of great benefit to the Committee. But the view on his side of the House was that it was a great Constitutional question. Why did the Government think it necessary to place both the Attorney General and the Solicitor General on the Committee? He believed, further, that there were only two Nonconformists—the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), who was a member of the Society of Friends, and the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood). This was a question which had caused the greatest excitement among the Nonconformist Body, of whom there were about 100 Members in the House; and the Presbyterians, the Wesleyans, and the Baptists were all left to the hon. and learned Member for Stockport to represent them. Then there was only one Roman Catholic Member of the Committee, and, from his own knowledge, the Roman Catholic population and clergy of Ireland had the strongest possible feeling on this question. Strangely enough, they were represented by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) merely, who had not found it in his power to attend the meeting of the former Committee. There was another curious point which he would notice—namely, that there was no one on the Committee to represent Scotch opinions upon the matter in hand, for the hon. Gentleman who represented the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) could not be said to do so. It would be much more satisfactory to hon. Members on his side of the House if there had been on the Committee such a Member as the senior Member for the City of Bristol (Mr. S. Morley), whose opinion on this subject would have carried very great weight. He should have also liked to see the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), and the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Shaw). He did not think the Committee, as at present composed, would command the confidence of the House; and he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would undertake that full Notice should be given to the House before any discussion was taken on the Report?


said, he was not going to follow the noble Lord who had just sat down in his remarks with reference to the constitution of the Committee. He wished merely to say that if the House would consent to hand over the constitution of these Committees to the noble Lord much trouble might be spared to others, as he had no doubt the noble Lord would be able to apportion them amongst the different Parties, professions, and religions in the House in a manner which would give satisfaction to everybody. Possibly he might change his mind from year to year, as he rather thought the noble Lord, did on the question of the Irish franchise, and some little trouble might thereby be occasioned to the proceedings. His principal object in rising was to make an explanation which he thought was duo to the House in reference to his absence from the former Committee. The fact was that this Committee was struck upon a Tuesday evening when he was in the County Galway, and he started off on the following morning with a view to be present at its Sittings. When he arrived in Dublin on Wednesday night he telegraphed that he would be in London on Thursday; but it subsequently transpired that the Committee had decided the question. Having regard to the very rapid rate at which the Committee prosecuted its labours, he did not think he could be held responsible for his absence. With respect to the remarks of the Prime Minister, he wished to say that, as a rule, the Irish Party would be entitled to have two Members on a Committee of this kind.


said, the noble Lord opposite had assumed that he was a Nonconformist; and although he did not fool in the least hurt at the imputation, he could not allow the argument of the noble Lord to be enforced by leaving the House under what would be an erroneous impression. He might add that he thought it would be a very unpleasant heritage to anyone who had to sit upon this Committee, and he should be glad if the House would accept somebody in lieu of him; still, his services were quite at the disposal of the House.


thought the observations made by his noble Friend below him were entitled to some reply from the Treasury Bench. So far as the Committee was concerned, he should not object if it were the wish of the House to servo on it; but he must protest against the fact of his doing so being taken as an admission that he approved the constitution of the Committee. The question, he might add, was one which, in his opinion, the House ought to decide for itself.


said, that, although his name was on the list of the Committee, it would not, he hoped, be out of place that he should say a few words on this subject. He desired to observe that if the House entered on an analysis of the various names proposed it would be embarking on a sea of almost endless trouble. He would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite who had taken part in this debate whether, as those who usually managed such matters for the Party to which they belonged had, so far as the representation of their side was concerned, selected Gentlemen whose names were approved, it would not be well to allow any objections which might be raised as to other names to proceed from other sections of the House who might consider that their views were not fairly represented? For his part, he was of opinion that it would be scarcely possible to appoint a fairer Committee. There were upon it two Irish Members, a Scotch Member, a Roman Catholic, one, if not two, Nonconformists, as well as a Gentleman belonging to the Hebrew persuasion; and its Members had been selected, as far as possible, in equal proportions from the two sides of the House.


said, he did not rise to utter a word against the constitution of the Committee, but to protest against the startling doctrine just laid down that its appointment ought to be regarded as a matter which had been arranged out-of-doors. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, however, that the institution of a Committee of the kind was the act of the House itself, and that no arrangement made out-of-doors could be looked upon as debarring any hon. Member from making such criticisms as he might deem fit with respect to the Members whom it was proposed should serve upon it. In the name, then, of the independent Members of the House, he protested against the doctrine which had been enunciated from the Treasury Bench.


said, he had merely wished to point out that the arrangement made was one which, so far as the representation of their own Party was concerned, was satisfactory to the other side. Let their side complain if they were unfairly represented.


said, he was somewhat disappointed that the question at issue should be raised at that moment, instead of at the close of the Sitting. The question, he might add, was one in which the Irish people felt a great interest; and there ought, he thought, to be another Irish Member on the Committee. He himself would have been much happier off the Committee than on it; but he objected that on a matter of this kind a Committee should be overborne by lawyers. A lawyer would argue merely as a lawyer, whereas the Committee should look at it from a Constitutional and common-sense point of view. The services of one of the Law Officers might, he could not help thinking, be very well dispensed with.


thought the feeling of the House was that the composition of the Committee had been left too much in the hands of the "Whips," against whose dictation he, for one, was inclined to protest. He contended that the Committee should be constituted on a more extended basis. He objected to the number of lawyers—who voted strictly on Party principles—which it was proposed to put upon it. In the case of the last Committee he found that, with the exception of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood), the Liberal lawyers voted one way and the Conservatives another. If, he might add, there were two Law Officers on the Committee, he did not see why there should not be a pendant on the other side; but the name of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) had been omitted from the list. Believing that it was desirable, in the interest of the great Constitutional question involved, that more time should be given for the consideration of the constitution of this Committee, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir H. Drummond Wolff.)


Sir, I am not able to agree to the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth. I think it is anything but courteous to speak of the labours of the "Whips" in these matters in the language adopted by the hon. Member. These Gentlemen, we all know, undertake on our behalf very difficult and invidious duties; and I do not believe it would be practicable to get through matters of this kind in a way compatible with the general convenience of the House without their assistance. This Committee has not been, in any degree, the exclusive product of their labours, and great pains have been taken to make a fair and effective representation. What are the pleas set up against it? The plea of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) appears to be this—that the main things we have to look to in choosing a Committee of this kind are the religious professions of the men who are to be placed upon it, and the parts of the country which they represent. It appears to me that, whilst I do not say that either of these topics is a matter to be entirely set aside, they are very secondary matters, and that the great objects to be kept in view are—first, that the personal qualifications of the Members of the Committee shall be held in the very first rank of consideration; and, secondly, that the distribution of general opinions shall be fair as regards the various sections of the House. But how does this list stand in these respects? The minority of the House, from which almost entirely these objections have proceeded, is represented in this list in a proportion greatly exceeding the proportion which it bears to the rest of the House. Yet the complaint we hear does not proceed from the majority, who are under-represented, but from the minority, whom we have consented to be responsible to represent in a proportion very considerably beyond that to which the considerations of mere number would entitle them. Then, when we come to the personal qualifications of Members, I think no one who goes over this list, and observes the very considerable number of men of great experience and ability who appear upon it, will make any objection upon that ground. It is complained that the Government have two Law Officers on the list. So have the Opposition, and it was not our fault that they had not three. The hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) was withdrawn from the list, not by any proposal of ours, but entirely in conformity with the views of his own political friends. Then the next objection taken is the objection to the number of lawyers on this list. I myself am sometimes a little jealous when I see the Legal Profession on certain classes of questions assuming a formidable position in this House; but I must say that we feel under a very great debt to the Legal Profession for having so greatly assisted and guided us on this particular subject. The noble Lord thinks the lawyers are less likely to go right on this question than other men. [Lord RANDOLPH CHUECHILL: I did not say that.] Well, that is the construction I put on the speech of the noble Lord. What I wish to point out is that, whereas it is thought that a certain amount of Party feeling was to be distinguished in the proceeding of the Committee on the former occasion, one man, whose proceedings went effectually to relieve the Committee from any imputation of that kind, was a lawyer who, although a strong Liberal in politics, yet, as he was bound to do, gave effect to his conscientious opinions by voting with those from whom he differed in point of politics. My opinion is that the question of the composition of this Committee is one which depends in the main on the temper in which hon. Gentlemen are inclined to view it. If you wish to have an impartial Committee, I think we who are in the Government have done all we could to assure ourselves that the wishes of our friends have been properly consulted in the composition of the Committee, in the same way that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have consulted the wishes of their friends. We have taken every pains in our power for the purpose of having this matter amicably arranged upon a footing generally agreeable to the House. If there be a name on this list that is an objectionable name, no doubt objection will be taken to it; but I cannot agree with the general tone of the criticisms upon this list. I do not believe that you could produce a better list, although I believe you could produce as good a one. Considering the nature of the subject, there ought to be no undue haste, neither undue delay; but the House is perfectly in a position to proceed to a decision on the matter before it, and I hope it will refuse to adopt the Motion of the hon. Member for Portsmouth.


In discussing the appointment of this Committee we on this side approach the question from a somewhat different point of view from that by which it is approached from the other side of the House, because we have been of opinion that the question was one which would have been more properly decided by the House itself than by a Committee. That being so, we have naturally looked to the composition of the Committee to be a fair representation, as far as possible, not of one class only, but of all the different sections of the House; and I think there is great force in the remarks of my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) with regard to the various classes of opinions which it would have been desirable to place on the Committee. This Committee has boon nominated under circumstances that are peculiar. In the first instance, before the House had begun to attend to business, and when the Leaders of the House who now sit on the opposite Bench were not Members of the House, a question arose with regard to the hon. Member for Northampton presenting himself and claiming to make an Affirmation. That question the Speaker referred to the House in its then condition. Upon that the Representative of the Government moved that the House should refer the question to a Select Committee, and I seconded the Motion, which appeared to mo a proper proposal. The question before us was a very narrow one; and it was, of course, right that a large proportion of legal Members should serve upon that Committee, though I confess I was surprised that the Committee was. struck as it was done. It certainly was unfortunate that it should have gone to work with such rapidity that a Member placed upon it actually could not reach this Committee in time to take part in its deliberations. However, the Committee did its work, and we have every reason to say it did that work in a manner which entitles it to the gratitude of the House, and the House did right in accepting its decision. Then we had a discussion as to another question which seems to have let in much larger issues than the mere narrow technical ones which the first Committee was appointed to try. The question discussed was whether this further point should be referred to a Committee or be decided by the House itself. The House decided by a majority that the matter should go to a Committee; and when that decision was come to I thought we should have had a consultation, and some understanding, before the composition of the Committee was settled. But, instead of beginning de novo to consider what sort of Committee should be appointed, the Prime Minister put down on the Paper the reappointment of the former Committee. I immediately took exception to that course, and I intimated privately to the Government that I thought it would be an unsatisfactory proceeding. As the names were on the Paper, I did not like to be so invidious as to propose the withdrawal of some of them and the substitution of others; but I did express a wish that some other names should be added, and especially of Representatives of this part of the House. I named three whom I was anxious to see placed on the Committee—namely, my right hon. Friend (Sir Richard Cross), the Member for South-West Lancashire, as Representative of the late Cabinet; also my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gibson), the Member for the University of Dublin; and the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard). Two of those names were added; but the third was not. It was not at all the wish of myself or my Colleagues that the name of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Hardinge Giffard) should be loft out. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I am speaking only what I know. No later than last night I spoke again to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Kent (Sir William Hart Dyke), and I impressed upon him that an en- deavour should be made to come to an arrangement by which those three names might be added, including that of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Hardinge Giffard). I do not think any real object would be gained by adjourning this debate; but the composition of the Committee leaves something to be desired. If we are to proceed by a Committee in this matter, the fairest and the best way would be to increase the number of its Members, after agreeing to those whose names are already placed on the list, the object of such addition being to introduce those elements which had been pointed out by my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock.


said, he had understood the Prime Minister to say that his view was that Members of the Committee should be chosen for their personal qualifications. Although the right hon. Gentleman might be perfectly right in the main on that point, he (Mr. Mark Stewart) considered that Members to serve on such a Committee as this ought to be chosen from the respective nationalities serving in that House. When he found only one Scotch Member on the Committee, and when that Scotch Member was one who, after speaking on the subject the other night, stated, in the most apologetic manner, that his opinion could hardly be considered that of the Scotch constituencies, he could not help thinking that Scotland was entitled to have another Member on the Committee. There was one of the Scotch Members whose opinion he did not know. All he knew was that he did not vote on the last occasion; and if the Prime Minister would appoint the hon. Member in question—namely, the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), and if, to satisfy the Irish Party, he would also appoint the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw), two quarters of the House, at least, would, be satisfied.


begged indignantly to repudiate the insinuation of the hon. Member that he was not a Representative of Scotland. At the last Election he gained by open vote a larger proportionate majority than had ever been gained in ancient or modern times; and if that did not make a man a Scotch Representative, when that majority was entirely composed of Scotchmen, he did not know what did.


The hon. Member has misunderstood what I said. ["Order, order!"]


continuing, said, that next to being a representative Scotch Member, the most important point was that a Member chosen to serve on this Committee should bring to bear on it an impartial mind. He appealed to the House whether he did not the other day speak for 20 minutes—the only Member who did speak for anything like that time—without disclosing to the House his opinion—[Laughter]—perhaps hon. Members would allow him to finish the sentence—without disclosing his opinion on the main question of what verdict the Committee ought to find. He had spoken on that occasion entirely on the question whether that verdict ought to be given by the House at large or by a Committee. If he had been able to speak in that manner, and leave an impression of impartiality on the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, it showed that he had at least this qualification for sitting on the Committee, that he could bring to it an impartial judgment.


thought some answer should be given by the Government to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that some addition should be made to the Committee. He must congratulate the hon. Member who had just sat down on being able to waste the time of the House for 20 minutes without stating any opinion on the subject which the House was discussing. ["Order!"] That was what he understood the hon. Gentleman claimed to have done. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House took great credit for having placed on this Committee a large proportion of the minority in that House as compared with the numbers they represented. Anybody listening to the right hon. Gentleman would have thought the credit of the composition of this Committee was entirely due to him; but hon. Members must know that the usual mode of striking a Committee had been followed, and that the new-fangled notion he suggested at the beginning of the evening of making the Committee according to the political opinions of the majority of the House was not in accordance with the practice of the House. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman did not, in the last Parlia- ment, suggest such a composition of any Committee; and, therefore, they might suppose that his opinion on this, as on many other matters, had altogether changed since he was in Opposition. As far as he himself was concerned, he would have very much preferred that this Committee should not be composed so largely of lawyers. The late Committee was composed almost exclusively of lawyers. Perhaps it was necessary that they should be there; but, looking at the fact that the opinion of almost every lawyer he had heard outside the House was that, as far as the legal question was concerned, Mr. Bradlaugh had not a leg to stand, upon, he confessed that the opinions then expressed by the Law Officers of the Crown did not inspire him with any great amount of confidence. His opinion as to this Committee was still further shaken by the remarks made the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), whom he understood to say that, finding some lawyers on each side, he thought it best to give Mr. Bradlaugh the benefit of the doubt, as far as he was concerned. As far as the remarks of the Leader of the House referred to questions of nationality, he ventured to say there was no body of men who felt more interested in this matter than the right hon. Gentleman's constituents. Therefore he would urge the claims of the right hon. Gentleman's constituents to a fair share in the constitution of this Committee. The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition was worthy of consideration; and if the Government would consent to the addition of two Members, one of whom should be his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard), probably his hon. Friend (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) would not be disposed to divide the House. If, however, this concession were not made, he hoped his hon. Friend would press his Motion to a division.


said, he thought they ought to be perfectly clear as to what had passed, and also as to the constitution of the Committee. First of all, he would say a few words respecting what had passed in reference to the statement of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. Now, he wished to state distinctly that in the original draft arrangement for the con- stitution of the smaller Committee the name of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) was included as one of those who were to represent the other side of the House. That name was struck out at the desire of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), and the name of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) put in instead. Afterwards, when it was proposed to increase the Committee, no doubt communications passed between his right hon. Friend and those sitting on the Government side, and no doubt his right hon. Friend did propose to add to the Committee three Gentlemen from the Conservative side of the House. His right hon. Friend named three Members sitting on the front Bench by him—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir Richard Cross), the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson), and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard). Of those three names two had been placed on the additional list, inasmuch as it had been determined that only four Members should be added to the Committee. Two out of the three Gentlemen named by his right hon. Friend were put on the list, and the list so agreed upon was definitely agreed upon by him through the mouth of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Mid-Kent (Sir William Hart Dyke), who managed these matters on behalf of his right hon. Friend opposite. Therefore, anything approaching even to the scintilla of a suspicion of bad faith on that side of the House was entirely unfounded. With reference to what had been said on the other side concerning nationalities and creeds, he wished to call attention to this important fact. The proposed Committee consisted of 23 Members, 11 of whom belonged to the Conservative Party. A great deal had been said this evening as to the unfair division as respects nationality and religion. Well, out of these 11 Conservatives no fewer than 10 were Englishmen and Members of the Established Church, and the eleventh was an Irishman—namely, the late Attorney General for Ireland, a member of the same Church. Therefore those who struck the Committee on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite had taken great care that the whole of their Members, with one single exception, should be Englishmen, and all Church of England men. If, then, any Party were to blame for Ireland and Scotland not being sufficiently represented, it was distinctly the fault of the other side of the House. On the Government side three Gentlemen were proposed who were either Nonconformists or represented Nonconformist constituents. These were his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan), his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood), and his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright). Besides these there were his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Major Nolan), who was an Irishman and a Roman Catholic, the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon), who was a Member of the Hebrew persuasion, and the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), who represented a Scotch constituency. Thus of the 12 Gentlemen named on the Government side six were Englishmen and, he believed, members of the Established Church, and the other six represented Ireland or Scotland or Nonconformist opinion. There was a fair division as far as the Government side were concerned. It was remarkable that those who had secured on their own side the exclusive representation of English opinion and of the Church of England should make these complaints, even after their own Whips and their own Leaders had formally concurred in the appointment.


hoped the House would allow him to make a few remarks of a personal character. With regard to the earlier part of the transactions to which reference had been made his right hon. Friend's statement was perfectly correct. With regard to the subsequent transactions he wished to observe that he brought no charge of breach of faith against anyone in the composition of this Committee. But it was remarked just now on that side of the House that it was to be lamented that the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) was not on the Committee, whereupon a reply was made to the effect that that was the doing of his own friends, who withdrew him. He did not concur in that statement. As far as his own knowledge was concerned, there was no such withdrawal; but he at the same time stated that he was not aware of all that had passed between his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Sir William Hart Dyke) and the noble Lord the Secretary to the Treasury. He was only able to speak of his own knowledge up to this point—that when he left the House last night he spoke to his right hon. Friend the Member for MidKent, expressing his wish that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Launceston should be placed on the Committee if the matter could be arranged. His right hon. Friend undertook to speak to the noble Lord on the subject. He never heard the result of that conversation, and when he saw the list he thought that it had not been deemed possible to increase the number of Members to be put on the Committee, and that on that account the name of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston was not placed upon it. But he wished distinctly to say that there had been no intention on the part of those who sat near him to withdraw the name of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston if it could possibly be put on the Committee. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) had no doubt that the matter was discussed between his right hon. Friend (Sir William Hart Dyke) and the noble Lord opposite (Lord Richard Grosvenor); but he had not heard the result of their discussion.


doubted whether it would be possible, in constituting a Committee of that kind, to give entire satisfaction to the House. They might almost as well expect to give entire satisfaction by the constitution of a Government. The attainment of that entire satisfaction had not been made more probable by the description they had had given them of that Committee as being composed of almost all the eminent Members of the House. He saw around him some hon. Members who, though not included in the proposed list, might fairly rank among the distinguished Members. In the formation of that Committee, however, he believed that the usual practice of the House during the last quarter of a century had been followed. It seemed to him that, if the House interfered too much in the arrangement of the Gentlemen who were mainly ap- pointed for the formation of Committees, the result would be almost inextricable confusion. But, although he was prepared to adhere to the arrangement which had been come to, he could not but regret the preponderance that was given to the legal element in the constitution of the Committee, because the question about to be referred to them had assumed somewhat the form of a House of Commons' question. Recalling the circumstances under which the claim of the hon. Member for Northampton now presented itself to them, he asked whether the House of Commons, as the guardians of their own rules, should not be more largely represented than they were on that Committee? It was impossible to conceal from themselves that that was not a purely legal question; and if the decision of the Committee should be based on narrow and legal grounds it would fail to give satisfaction. If, therefore, the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition were modified to this extent, that two or three Members not belonging to the Legal Profession, but representing the independent and lay element, be added to the Committee, although its numbers were already large, that would get them out of their difficulty.


thought that the composition of the Committee had been argued with an unnecessary degree of warmth. If, indeed, the Committee were one whose Report would be definitive and conclusive of the whole question, then he should have understood the extreme anxiety manifested in regard to its constitution. But he took an entirely different view of the province and the functions of the Committee. The Committee were to inquire both into the legal aspect of the question and into the circumstances which attended it; and their Report would be presented to the House, which would afterwards be perfectly free to pronounce its own decision on the matter. Therefore, he did not entertain the same horror of its including so many lawyers as some hon. Gentlemen seemed to do. The lawyers on both sides would pretty well balance each other, and they would well thrash out the question referred to them. He reserved to himself entire freedom of judgment when the Report of the Committee came before him; and it was because he held that the Committee would not bind him at all that he did not feel any alarm as to its constitution.


said, he concurred in the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Shaw) respecting the inadequate proportion of Irishmen and Roman Catholics on the Committee; but he hoped that it might be in the power of the First Lord of the Treasury to sanction the addition of another Irish Representative to the Members about to serve upon it. He should not, however, feel disposed to object to the number of lawyers on the Committee, as he held that the question to be decided was a purely legal one; for it had to decide whether any form of words which Mr. Bradlaugh might use would constitute an oath—he might advance to that Table and shock the feelings of hon. Members by taking the solemn words in vain that would constitute in the eyes of many an act of blasphemy; but it might be doubted whether it would constitute an oath.


hoped that the Government would accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that a fairer representation on the Committee should be given to various nationalities. By adding two or three more names they might have on the Committee a Member for Scotland, another for Ireland, and another for Wales. If Scotland was to have one Representative on the Committee, he ought, at any rate, to be a real Scotchman.


wished only to make a short personal explanation. He did not intend to vote in that division, simply because his name was on the list of Members proposed for the Committee; and he thought it would be in better taste if he abstained from even appearing to pronounce any opinion on the selection of the Gentlemen who were to serve upon it.


complained that no distinct understanding had been arrived at between the two sides of the House. He regretted that a question which involved the highest principles, human and divine, had been made a Party question by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It was impossible not to regret the absence of so important a name as that of the late Solicitor General from the proposed Committee; and he hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) would not withdraw his Motion unless the hon. and learned Gentleman was appointed a Member of the Committee. He should like also to know what was the nature of the instructions to be given to the Committee, and whether Mr. Bradlaugh was to be represented by counsel or not?


said, he did not think the question of the Committee need be put as a question of one country more than another. The idea of religious representation need not be necessarily dominant; but still it should be kept in mind. The Catholics constituted one-sixth of the whole community; there were about 50 Catholic Members in that House; and he was of opinion these facts had not been kept in mind in the constitution of the Committee, for only one Irish Member had been nominated in a Committee of 23. He should vote for the adjournment of the debate as a protest against that action on the part of the Government.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 100; Noes 256: Majority 156.—(Div. List, No. 8.)

Original Question again proposed, "That the Committee do consist of Twenty-three Members."


thought that after the discussions which had taken place, and the statements which had been made, there was great reason why the Committee should be increased, and moved accordingly that it consist of 27 Members.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Twenty-three," in order to insert the words "Twenty-seven."—(Sir Walter Barttelot,)—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words 'Twenty-three' stand part of the Question."


said, he could not agree with this proposition without an opportunity of considering it. At the same time, he did not wish to preclude hon. Members from attempting to increase the numbers of the Committee. He thought that if they voted that 23 Members be appointed, and then proceeded with the names before the House, hon. Members would not be prevented from moving subsequent additions to the Committee. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would allow the House to proceed to the nomination of the Committee. It was a serious matter indefinitely to increase the numbers of a Committee at different times; and the Government would, therefore, reserve to themselves the right of refusing to accede to any proposals that might be made in that direction.


agreed to withdraw his Amendment, saying that on Monday he should move for an increase of the Committee.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


assumed—andhe hoped he was right in his assumption—that until after the House had an opportunity of deciding on the hon. and gallant Baronet's proposal to enlarge the Committee it would not proceed to business. There ought to be a distinct understanding upon this point.


said, he was not a Member of the Committee, and therefore could not give any pledge or promise with regard to its future proceedings. He felt satisfied, however, that the Committee would only do what was right and fair; and if it met to transact preliminary business, such as the election of Chairman, and arranging the course of procedure, the action of the Committee would be without prejudice to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot).


intimated that he was dissatisfied with the powers which the Committee were to have, and that he should in consequence abstain from taking any part in the question of the composition of that body.


was of opinion that it would be convenient to have 29 Members on the Committee, as they could then have two Irish Members on it, a thing easier to arrange than the choice of one.


asked whether the Committee would be precluded from sitting if hon. Members should now give Notice of the names they intended to move to add to the Committee He asked this question because he understood his hon. and gallant Friend to withdraw his Amendment in the belief that he would have an opportunity of proposing additional names before any action on the part of the Committee.


hoped the Prime Minister would give the House an assurance that the Committee would not sit until the settlement of the question which he had raised.


said, that he had no power in the matter. He apprehended that the House, in appointing a Committee, usually left to the discretion of that Committee the determination of any question that might arise in reference to the propriety of its manner of procedure. The present point, he thought, would have to be left to the Committee's discretion; and he was of opinion that there was little likelihood of any serious difficulty arising affecting the question raised by the hon. and gallant Member.


pointed out that it was in the power of the right hon. Gentleman himself to secure that the Committee should not meet before Tuesday, and said he had no doubt the House would be satisfied with his assurance that it would not be summoned to meet until after the decision of the House with regard to the naming of additional Members was taken on Monday.


asked whether the Committee would have power to allow Mr. Bradlaugh to be heard by counsel? In his opinion, he ought to be entitled to that privilege; and, if necessary, an instruction might be given to the Committee to that effect.


said, that if he were a Member of the Committee it might, perhaps, fall to his lot to take part in the summoning of it. He was not, as he had said, a Member of it, and had no power to interfere in its proceedings. As to the application to be heard by counsel, the proper course, he believed, would be that, such application having been made, it would be considered by the Committee, who would then report upon it to the House.


said, that, although the right hon. Gentleman was not a Member of the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for War as well as the two Law Officers of the Government were; and he was sure that if any one of them were to give an assurance that the Committee would not meet before Tuesday the House would be quite satisfied with such an undertaking.


asked the Speaker, as a matter of Order, whether the question of adding new names to the list of the Committee would take precedence of other Business fixed for Monday, or come at its close?


said, that the Committee having been appointed, the question of adding new names to the list of that Committee would not take precedence of the other Business as a matter of Privilege.


said, that being so, he would take care that the regular Business was so arranged that the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) should come on at a convenient hour.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That the Committee do consist of Twenty-three Members.