§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Select Committee on the Agricultural Tenants (Compensation) (Nos. 1 and 2) Bills, do consist of Twenty-seven Members."—(Sir Thomas Acland.)
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
rose to Order, and asked whether, as the hon. Member proposed to raise this question, this was not an Opposed Motion? The hon. Member had given Notice of an objection to one of the names; but he now opposed the Motion that the Committee should consist of 27 Members.
§ MR. SPEAKER
No doubt, the hon. Member proposes an Amendment which challenges the proposition now before the House; but there is no Notice of the Amendment.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH
begged to call attention to the fact that the hon. Member had given Notice of an Amendment to one of the names, but now changed that Notice into an objection to nominating a Committee of 27 Member's. Surely it was not competent to him to take that course.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he would explain why he made this proposal. He had put down a Motion that the noble Lord the Member for South Wiltshire (Viscount Folkestone) be omitted from the Committee and Mr. Bradlaugh be added to it. He did not think the noble Lord had devoted as much time to agricultural subjects as the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin); but, on Saturday, after he had given this Notice, a Motion was placed on the Paper; the Government had altered the Committee by putting the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire in the place of the noble Lord. He thought the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire ought to be a Member of the Committee, and it would be wrong for him to suggest any other Member. His Amendment had been altered by the authorities of the House, so that the name of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) was inserted in the place of the noble Lord the Member for South Wiltshire. For the convenience of the House, he proposed to move that the Committee should consist of 29 Members; and then, if that was carried, he should propose to add Mr. Bradlaugh, and to name another Gentleman on the other side, so as to make the Committee even.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, the Motion before the House was that the Committee should consist of 27 Members; but the Motion of the hon. Member that one of the Members should be omitted was in direct contradiction to the Motion. Therefore, this was an Opposed Motion, and could not come on after half-past 12 o'clock.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member will refer to the Resolution of February 18, 1879, with regard to Opposed Business, he will see that it does not apply in this case. There is no Notice of opposition, and, therefore, there is no objection to the Motion being taken.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, the Motion was whether the Committee should consist of 27 Members; and the Motion of the hon. Member that one of the Members should be struck off was an Amendment to the Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is, no doubt, an Amendment; but there is no Notice of it, and the Standing Order requires that Notice of the Amendment shall appear On the Paper.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he thought the question had not been fairly brought before the notice of the Speaker. There was a printed Amendment to the effect that the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) should be omitted from the Committee. That, he thought, an Amendment to the Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I think it quite clear that that Notice does not apply, because the Question before the House is that the Committee consist of 27 Members, and the Notice of Amendment does not challenge that proposition.
§ COLONEL MAKINS
asked, if this Notice was carried, and the proposal that Mr. Chaplin should be a Member of the Committee came up, would not that be an Opposed Motion in the sense of the Standing Order, because a Notice had been given of an Amendment to that effect?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, then he proposed to move, as an Amendment, that the word "seven" be omitted, and the word "nine" be introduced. He thought it would simplify matters if the House would practically take that Motion as raising the question whether Mr. Bradlaugh should be on the Committee or not. Although Mr. Bradlaugh had not taken the Oath, he had a perfect right to sit on a Committee. The case had been so decided in the last century, and confirmed in the present century in regard to Baron Rothschild. Although that was so, the Committee of Selection had not put Mr. Bradlaugh upon any Committee during the present Session. He did not know why they had taken that course, or why Mr. Bradlaugh had not a legal right to serve on a Committee equally with any other Member, and therefore proposed that Mr. Bradlaugh should serve on this Committee—the Committee to inquire into two Bills connected with agricultural tenants' compensation. Mr. Bradlaugh had devoted a great deal of his time to questions connected with land. He might not have come to the same conclusions with regard to land as other Gentlemen in the House; but he had devoted a great deal of time to the subject, and had lectured throughout the country upon it. Therefore, he was as fitted to serve on this Committee as any other Gentleman in the House; and he also thought it would be desirable that 969 the Radical element should be represented on the Committee. There were 13 Members from this side of the House, and 13 from the other side, and the odd man was a Member of the Home Rule Party. But amongst the 13 on this side of the House he hardly saw one whom he could call a Radical. He should have no confidence in any of the 13, except two. He, therefore, thought Mr. Bradlaugh should be put on the Committee to represent that section of opinion on land which he represented.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Twenty-seven," in order to insert the words "Twenty-nine,"—(Mr. Labouchere,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'Twenty-seven' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. ONSLOW
rose to a point of Order. This case, he said, was not analogous to that of Baron Rothschild. Parliament ruled, by a distinct vote of the House, that Mr. Bradlaugh was not able to take the Oath; and, therefore, there was no analogy. He should like the decision of the Speaker upon that matter.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he remembered the circumstances connected with Baron Rothschild's case. Baron Rothschild was appointed on a Committee, although he had not taken his seat in the House. His conduct was very different from that of Mr. Bradlaugh. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) seemed to have taken Mr. Bradlaugh as his Colleague for better or for worse. It did not matter, in the opinion of the hon. Member, whether Mr. Bradlaugh knew anything about agriculture or not; indeed, he (Mr. Newdegate) thought Mr. Bradlaugh knew very little about it, because he had been practising as an attorney in America, after being a soldier, and since his return to this country he (Mr. Newdegate) did not believe he had attended to agricultural subjects at all. The real fact was that the hon. Member for Northampton was seeking an excuse to thrust his would-be Colleague in any manner he could upon the House; while the House could not feel that Mr. Bradlaugh had particularly commended himself to its favour by his conduct in respect to his seat. He hoped 970 that this extraordinary favour would not be extended to one who was in no way adapted to consider the subject which was referred to the Committee, and who was disqualified from the principal functions of his service. This was simply a contrivance to place the House in a false position with regard to its decision that Mr. Bradlaugh could not take his seat. That decision was supported by the Courts of Law to which this House, by Resolution, referred the case. The Motion of the hon. Member was, therefore, an attempt to place the House in a false position—of contravening the decisions of the Courts of Law, which the House had, in fact, solicited.
§ MR. ANDERSON
asked, whether, if Mr. Bradlaugh was put on the Committee, he could give votes in the Committee; and, if so, would those votes be equivalent to votes in Committee of the Whole House, carrying the same penalties? If so, he did not think the hon. Member (Mr. Labouchere) was conferring any very great boon upon his Colleague.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES)
said, he believed that no penalties would be incurred by Mr. Bradlaugh sitting on the Committee, as the Act referred to taking a seat and voting in the House. The question was raised some years ago; and in Baron Rothschild's case it was resolved that, though he had not taken the Oath, he could sit upon a Committee without being liable to penalties, and he did so sit on two Committees, and it was settled that he did not thereby become liable to penalties. Therefore, he did not think that the hon. Member for Northampton was running any risk in proposing this Amendment. With regard to the Committee, the question was that it should be enlarged to 29. That was so much a question for the House that he did not wish to express an opinion upon it, and probably every hon. Member would exercise his own discretion.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he did not wish to raise the question whether Mr. Bradlaugh should be on the Committee or not; but he should not vote, because, if he did, that would imply that there ought to be a Committee at all. He thought the whole proceedings with regard to the Agricultural Holdings Bill had been somewhat irregular. For the last three 971 years a Royal Commission had been sitting upon this question; almost as soon as that Commission was appointed an hon. Member, who was on that Commission, brought forward a Bill on the subject which had been referred to the Commission, and then a rival Bill was introduced on the other side.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House has already ordered that this Bill be referred to a Select Committee, and the only question is whether that Committee shall consist of 27 or 29 Members.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
thought palpable inconveniences would arise if Mr. Bradlaugh, not having taken the Oath, should serve on a Committee, and then, as it might happen, be appointed Chairman of the Committee, and, owing to that position, have to present the Report of the Committee to the House. That, he thought, would show the House the awkwardness of the position.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
said, the very same thing was said before Baron Rothschild was appointed, and yet the House appointed Baron Rothschild to sit on the Committee.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, the hon. Member for Northampton had led the House to believe, no doubt sincerely, that his Colleague had a right to be on a Select Committee. He denied that a Select Committee had any representative or judicial character. A Select Committee did not necessarily consist of Members of the House alone. It sometimes was constituted by an equal number of Peers and Commoners, and in a remarkable class of instances wholly within the disposition and control of the Commons. Referees, who were paid officials—none of them being Members of the House—were accustomed to sit and vote in the deliberations upstairs until the privilege was taken from them by a specific Resolution. A Select Committee was not bound to come to a decision, or pronounce judgment on the subject referred to at all. Except the evidence, it frequently made no Report, and when it did, the House was under no obligation, in point of principle or practice, to take any step in consequence, and it was considered no discourtesy if no notice of it whatever was taken after it was laid upon the Table. A Select Committee was simply appointed at the discretion of the House, and he did not hesitate to tell the 972 House that he was one who acquiesced in Baron Rothschild's being put on the Committee, because he thought the House had absolute discretion as to whom they should appoint on a Committee, and thought it was competent for the House to put Baron Rothschild on the Committee, without any reservation at all. Right there was none. It was for the House to decide whether Mr. Bradlaugh was eligible for this Committee. He could not help saying, without any disrespect to the hon. Member (Mr. Labouchere) or his Colleague, that he regarded this proposal as simply an attempt to break in a panel of a door which had already been closed against Mr. Bradlaugh.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 120; Noes 35: Majority 85.—(Div. List, No. 277.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. GOSCHEN, Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH, Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE, Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE, Lord EDWARD CAVENDISH, Mr. STANHOPE, Sir THOMAS DYKE ACLAND, Sir ROBERT LOYD LINDSAY, Sir HENRY HCSSBY"VIVIAN, Mr. PELL, Mr. RICHARD PAGET, Colonel KINGSCOTE, Mr. DUCKHAM, Viscount EBRINGTON, Mr. HARCOURT, Mr. HENEAGE, Mr. GURDON, Mr. JAMES HOWARD, Mr. CHAPLIN, Mr. STORY- MASKELYNE, Mr. BULWER, Mr. NORTHCOTE, Mr. WIGGIN, MR. RITCHIE, Mr. DAWNAY, Mr. COCHRAN-PATRICK, and Mr. MARUM nominated Members of the Committee; Five to be the quorum.