Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Committee of Selection do appoint a Committee not exceeding Seven Members, to whom shall be referred all Private Bills promoted by Municipal and other Local Authorities by which it is proposed to create powers relating to Police or Sanitary Regulations which deviate from, or are in extension of, or repugnant to, the general Law."—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he objected to the Motion, on the ground that it contained proposals of a novel character, and carried the principle of delegation too far. It was proposed that the Committee of Selection should usurp the functions of the House, which would lose all efficient control over its own Committees. He begged to move the adjournment of the debate, in order to afford time for the House to consider the question and deal with it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the hon. Member was not correct in stating that the proposals contained in the Resolution were of a novel character. A similar Committee was appointed last year in precisely the same manner. Nor was there any delegation in the matter whatever. Some difficulty arose a year or two ago, in consequence of Bills which contained provisions imposing police and sanitary regulations, at variance with the general law, being referred to different Committees. Great inconvenience was occasioned, owing to the 65 different decisions that were arrived at—for instance, annuities were allowed in one case to be spread over 40 years, and others over 50 years; and, in one case for so long a period as 100 years. It was most desirable that some uniform mode of dealing with the provisions of such Bills should be adopted, and that these applications to Parliament for special powers should not be varied in different cases. A Committee was appointed, which was presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), who prepared a careful Report, which was discussed in the House, and a general approval given to it. Last year a Committee was again appointed, which was presided over by his hon. Friend the junior Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot), also with the full approval of the House. It was proposed this year that a similar Committee should be appointed to consider all the Private Bills promoted by Municipal and other Authorities containing provisions relating to police or sanitary regulations which were at variance with the general law, and more especially in reference to the financial position of the towns by which such Bills were promoted.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that, if he recollected rightly, it consisted of his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot), the hon. Member for Chippenham (Sir Gabriel Goldney), the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. C. S. Parker), the hon. Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Hastings), the hon. Member for South Devon (Mr. Carpenter Garnier), the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. West), himself, and one or two other Members whose names he could not recollect at the moment. Most of the Members of the Committee last year had sat upon the previous Committee in 1883. The general principle which guided the decisions of the Committee was that there should be some kind of uniformity adopted in regard to Bills of this character. It was certainly most undesirable to have one law in Liverpool, another in Manchester, and another in Leeds. The object of the appointment of the Committee was to prevent, as far as possible, Corporations and other public Bodies 66 from coming to Parliament and obtaining powers which deviated from, or were in extension of, the general law. The provisions of every Bill were carefully considered, and every proposition of that nature was rigidly excluded from the measure. He did not think that any advantage would be derived from an adjournment of the debate, and he hoped the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) would not press the Motion. He was not aware that there were many Irish Bills promoted this year which would be brought under the cognizance of the Committee. There were none in the two previous years; and he admitted that if there were Bills from Ireland which would go before the Committee, it would be desirable to have the services of some Irish Members upon it.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, he took it that his hon. Friend's objection was principally to the proposition that an important Committee should be appointed by another Committee, and that, however desirable it might be to nominate the Committee, it ought to be appointed by the House. The Committee might have done its duty very well in the past; but to provide that it should be appointed by the Committee of Selection was to delegate to the Committee of Selection, chosen by themselves, a duty which ought to be discharged by the House. If the seven Members of the Committee did their duty so well, and were so competent to discharge the important functions intrusted to them, why not appoint them directly by the House, and come down with a recommendation to the House to appoint a Committee of seven Members for that express purpose? The proposal made by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was a usurpation of the distinct functions of the House, and amounted not to the regular appointment of a Committee, but to the appointment of a Sub-Committee by an existing Committee. His own opinion was that that was a breach of the Privileges of the House, and that it ought not to be carried further. He should have thought that the hon. Member the Under Secretary of State would have been one of the last men in the House to give his countenance to such a proposition. It must be clearly understood that those who were in favour of adjourning the debate 67 had no desire to impugn the importance of the duties to be discharged by the Committee. They did not impugn the disinterested character of the motives by which the Committee would be actuated, nor did they intend to imply that the tribunal would be otherwise than impartial; but their contention was that the House itself had certain duties to discharge, and that they were not justified in delegating those duties to the Committee of Selection.
MR. JUSTIN HUNTLYM'CARTHY
said, he had great pleasure in supporting the protest made by his hon. Friends in this matter. He was of opinion that the delegation, in important matters of this kind, of the functions of the House to the Committee of Selection involved a very serious principle. There had been two previous Committees of this kind appointed, and he understood that the name of no Irish member had appeared on either of them. It must be remembered that, in the case of a Committee of this nature, its decisions were practically final; because, whatever decision was laid down by such a tribunal, it was always accepted by the House. Important Irish Private Business might be within the scope of this arrangement, and the Irish people might find themselves placed at a disadvantage by the adoption of this system. The fact that for two previous years the plan had worked fairly well was hardly a sufficient justification for the continuance of the arrangement. He earnestly hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) would persist in his Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, that, as Chairman of the Committee of last year, he was anxious to say a word in support of the observations of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. H. Fowler). First of all, in regard to Ireland. As a matter of fact, only a single Irish Bill came before the Committee last year, and all the Bills taken into consideration by the Committee were Bills which contained provisions in excess of the general law, and which proposed to take powers which, in the opinion of a large majority of the House, ought not, without grave consideration, to be given to any Municipal Body. Perhaps the House would allow him to quote from a Report of the Select Committee adopted at the last of 68 a series of sittings last year. These were the principles the Committee laid down—They have in every case amended the Bills, endeavouring to the best of their ability to limit the large powers sought by the Corporations and other Local Authorities upon two main principles, which they believe to be accepted by the Houso—namely, first, that no local powers should be given which are in excess of the general law, unless strong local reasons exist for such powers; and, secondly, that no statutory enactments should be permitted for purposes which can he effected by bye-laws.Those were the two principles laid down by the Committee, and upon those two principles they endeavoured to regulate all the Bills which came before them, and, he believed, to the satisfaction, if not of the promoters of the Bills themselves, at least of all those who took a reasonable interest in the matter. It was said that it was an unconstitutional proceeding for the House to delegate to the Committee of Selection the right of appointing a Committee for dealing with a number of Private Bills. Now, he failed to see any difference between appointing a Committee to deal with a single Bill and appointing a Committee to deal with a number of Bills. It must be borne in mind that the Bills referred to the Committee were all of the same character, and that they related to regulations in regard to police and sanitary matters. It was a special Committee to take into consideration a certain number of very important Bills, to which it was their duty to devote most careful consideration. They did not at all slur the work over, and he thought they sat as many as 30 times last Session, coming in each case to a deliberate conclusion. No doubt, the Committee was appointed by the Committee of Selection; but, as hon. members well knew, the House of Commons itself appointed the Committee of Selection, and gave them certain powers in regard to the appointment of other Committees.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that the Question now before the House is the question of the adjournment of the debate, and he would not be in Order in discussing the Main Question.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he was sorry for having transgressed. He would only add that he trusted the matter would not be adjourned, because it was of the utmost importance to come to a conclu- 69 sion upon it as rapidly as possible. He should be quite prepared, when the question came up again, to state his reasons for supporting the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite the Under Secretary of State (Mr. H. H. Fowler).
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, the great object his hon. Friends had in view was to prevent what they considered to be a breach of the Privileges of the House. No doubt, a precedent had been established in other years; but the contention of himself and his hon. Friends was that those precedents constituted no valid reason whatever why the House should not, on this third occasion, take exception to the course which had been pursued. The Committee of Selection was constituted for the purpose of nominating the Members of Private Bill Committees; but he did not believe that, save and except by an Order of the House in regard to a Hybrid Committee, the power had ever been given to them to select at their own discretion a Committee to whom was intrusted the duty of dealing with an important class of Private Bills. Hitherto, he believed, their duties had been confined to the selection of Private Bill Committees, and they had never gone beyond that duty. The proposal of the Government, if adopted on the present occasion, would establish what would be analogous to an lmperium in Imperio. They would, at their own instance, have the power of constituting a new Body, with very large powers of interference with the provisions of important Private Bills. No doubt, it was the duty of the House to watch very closely every attempt made by a Corporation to secure the passing of special laws by Parliament for itself, and great vigilance ought to be exercised in order to see that there was no interference with the general law, unless some very good cause should be shown for it. But it appeared to him that the Committee of Selection were now seeking to do, in a great measure, what the House complained of in regard to these Municipal Corporations, because the proposal was to give them exceptional powers, which might involve an arbitrary interference with the ordinary legislation of the House, so far as it affected Private Bills. He supported the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, because he thought that the Government were 70 bound to show a better case than had yet been put forward for continuing a precedent which might involve very serious consequences. In the absence of explanation the adjournment of the debate was quite justified; and he hoped the hon. Gentleman opposite would not resist the Motion.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, he did not think that the adjournment of the debate would entail any inconvenience upon the persons who were engaged in the promotion of these Private Bills. In the event of the Resolution moved by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department not being carried for the next three or four days no kind of difficulty would arise; and there was, therefore, no reason in the world why the hon. Gentleman should not consent to the adjournment. Of course, the question was one in which not only the Irish Members, but every other Member of the House was interested; and all they wanted was that a fair opportunity should be given for discussing a change which they believed to be one of very great importance. What harm would be done if two or three days were allowed to elapse before the House passed this Resolution? Under all the circumstances of the case, he thought the best course was to adjourn the debate.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he hoped that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would not inaugurate his new Office by coming into unnecessary conflict with a large body of the Irish people. He thought the Irish people were indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) for the way in which he had watched these matters. His hon. Friend had already succeeded in obtaining large concessions with regard to other Committees. It was now proposed to rush this Resolution through the House, in order to defeat the intentions of his hon. Friend in another respect, and to prevent him from securing upon this particular Committee the appointment of an Irish Representative who would watch over the interests of the Irish people. He did not see why, in regard to this secondary Committee, the concession which his hon. Friend had already obtained in regard to the Committee of Selection itself should not be made. The noble Lord the Member for Flint (Lord 71 Richard Grosvenor), who had just entered the House, was responsible for the manner in which these Committees wore nominated; and he would remind the noble Lord that the Motion they wore now discussing appeared for the first time on the Paper that day. The debate, therefore, ought to be adjourned at once, if it were only for the purpose of giving the Government time to consider the proposals now made to them. He must say that it was a monstrously unfair thing that Motions of this kind should be sprung upon the House before hon. Members could have had the slightest opportunity of considering them. There was a general rule, which prevented the discussion of any Business of which due Notice had not been given upon the Paper; and whenever an objection was raised to a Private Bill itself it was necessary that the Bill should be put down, and due Notice given, so that a day might be fixed for the discussion of it. But what was the course pursued in this case? At the time of Private Business, at a quarter before 4, when lion. Members were not prepared for contentious matter, a Motion, involving very important interests, and placed on the Paper for the first time, was attempted to be rushed through the House, contrary to all the recognized Rules. He therefore trusted that, under these circumstances, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State would now recognize that a case had been made out at least for the adjournment of the debate, so that he and the Government might take time to consider the advisability of placing one Irish Member, at any rate, upon the Committee. Sooner or later, it behaved the House to put its foot upon this loose way of transacting Business. The Irish Members represented a large body of opinion in that House—a body of opinion that was bound to grow and increase—and the Government must, sooner or later, face the fact that the representation the Irish Members desired in regard to every branch of the Business of the House must be conceded. It was, therefore, desirable that the Representatives of the Government should act in a more diplomatic manner towards the Irish Members. The noble Lord the Member for Flint (Lord Richard Grosvenor) had had a large experience in dealing with these matters, and he hoped the noble Lord would be prepared 72 to announce that the Government would consent to the adjournment of the debate, in order that they might have an opportunity of considering the representations now made to them. He would only point out to the Government that Irish Private Bills, of very great importance to the Irish people, must constantly come before this Committee. There was a Bill at the present moment, called the Rathmines Bill, which was of the utmost importance to the City of Dublin; and yet he believed that there would not be a single Irish Member upon the Committee who would have to deal with that Bill. It was most unfortunate that the Government should attempt to rush Business through the House in that way; and if they were not prepared to make the concession they were now asked for, he hoped they would, at least, consent to adjourn the debate, in order that the views of the Irish Members might be fully taken into consideration.
§ MR. DEASY,
in supporting the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, said, it was important, even from the Government point of view, that the House should resist the Motion now made. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had not long filled that Office; and he thought the hon. Gentleman was commencing his official career very badly, in endeavouring to shut out Irish Members from serving on this Committee.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
hoped that he might be allowed to explain. He was not proposing to exclude any Irish Member from serving on the Committee; but his proposal was simply that the Committee should be appointed by the Committee of Selection, upon which the Irish Members were already represented. It would be for the Committee of Selection to decide, one way or the other, what the composition of the Committee should be. Personally, ho did not propose, in-any way, to exclude the Irish Members.
§ MR. DEASY
said, that the proposal of the hon. Member was that the Committee should be nominated by a Committee that was already formed, and which was composed of nine Members, of whom only one Irish Member would have the right of assisting in the nomination of this Committee of seven. Judging from the performances of the 73 Government in regard to Irish measures generally, he thought the Representatives of that country were justified in coming to the conclusion that the one lrish Member of the Committee of Selection would have very little power of nominating and seouring a fair Irish representation upon the Committee. He would further point out that the hour at which this proposal was brought on was an hour at which hon. Members were very seldom in their places; and as the Motion had only appeared on the Paper that day, it must be fairly concluded that many persons who took a deep interest in the question could not have seen it at all, or otherwise they would have been in their places to support the remonstrances of the Irish Members. He did not think that a more reasonable proposition could be made than that which had been put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). His hon. Friend merely asked that the House should not be forced into a decision on the question that evening, but should be allowed a couple of days to consider it. At the end of a couple of days, it was possible that it would not be necessary to offer any opposition to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. The appointment of this Committee affected questions which concerned the Irish people very deeply, from the fact that questions dealing with police and sanitary regulations would have to come before it. It was, therefore, of the utmost importance that the Irish Members should be fairly represented upon the Committee. Judging from the action of Her Majesty's Government lately in regard to Irish Members, there would be no desire on their part to make proper provision for Irish representation; and, therefore, in order that the whole matter might be properly considered, he trusted that the Government would offer no further opposition to the action of the Irish Members, but that they would consent to the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. KENNY
said, he thought it would be generally conceded that the action of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was somewhat extraordinary. He had come down to the House that day with a Motion which was likely to escape the attention of everyone whose attention was not specially drawn to it, and he had moved it 74 without a word of explanation. One thing was quite certain—that it would not only be advantageous to the House, but that it was extremely desirable that the hon. Gentleman should explain the object with which he had made the Motion. He had said already that he was not prepared to exclude the Irish Members from sitting on the Committee, That was all very well; but the effect of passing the Motion would be to place important measures connected with local legislation in Ireland in the hands of Members who could have no possible interest in, or knowledge of, the country. He, therefore, felt that it was essential the hon. Gentleman should explain the precise scope and object of his proposition; and the request made by his hon. Friends the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) and the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), that he would postpone the Resolution until Monday, was only fair and reasonable. Was this intended to be a compromise in connection with the Bill affecting Private Bill legislation which was recently brought under the notice of the House? If it was, it was a very clumsy mode of discussing the question. If there was any desire to facilitate the passing of private measures through the House, the best course would be to convince every section of the House that the interests intrusted to their charge were in no respect disregarded. He should certainly offer the most strenuous opposition in his power to the proposition of the Government.
§ MR. GRAY
said, that, if his memory did not deceive him, at least one, if not two, important Irish Private Bills would have to go before the Committee this year. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot) had mentioned that no Irish Bill was referred to the Committee last year, and he thought the hon. Member was correct; but he was under the impression that an exceedingly important Irish Bill, one that was promoted by the township of Rathmines, would come under the cognizance of this Committee if it was appointed. He also thought there was another measure promoted by the borough of Belfast; but of that he was not quite sure. He was certain, however, that there was a Bill introduced by the township of Rathmines, and that it contained provisions of a most important character which would require 75 the careful attention of the Committee. That being so, he thought that, as a matter of principle, they should press for the adjournment of the debate, so that arrangements might be made for nominating Irish Members upon the Committee, which would have to deal with measures in which their interests were so deeply involved. He objected altogether to this system of indirect representation sought to be established by the Motion. He had the greatest possible confidence in his hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), who would be one of the nine Members of the Committee of Selection; but, notwithstanding that confidence, he did not think that his hon. Friend should be the only Irish Member to decide the matter. He also objected to inquiries of so important a character being conducted in a private room, where the proceedings were not reported. They could not have the same force as an inquiry conducted in the regular way. He trusted that this controversy would not be prolonged, but that the Government would consent to what, after all, was a fair and reasonable proposition—namely, that the Motion, having been placed on the Paper only that day, should be postponed for a few days, and not rushed through the House with unnecessary haste. Hon. Members well knew that the course now proposed to be taken by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department was in entire contravention of the ordinary Rules which regulated the proceedings of the House.
§ SIR JOHN R. MOWBRAY
said, he was most unwilling to take any part in the discussion; first of all, because the Committee of Selection, of which he was Chairman, had quite enough to do without having any extra duties imposed upon them. The Committee of Selection were perfectly ready to undertake any duties the House might intrust to to them; and he believed that they had hitherto discharged their duty to the satisfaction of the House. It certainly seemed to him that the Motion for the adjournment of the debate was most unreasonable; and as to the assertion that the Motion was brought on without Notice, he might say that his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had on Monday, three days ago, given 76 Notice, at the usual time, that he would make this Motion, which was simply for the re-appointment of the Committee, which had now been appointed for several successive years. He had never heard any complaint of the action of that Committee, nor had the Members of it been accused of dealing unfairly with Irish Bills. Hon. Members who had taken part in the present discussion were most of them new Members of the House; and they might really not be aware that the Committee of Selection was one which had long been appointed to discharge certain important functions, among them being the nomination of Committees upon Private Bills. "What was the ground of objection to the composition of that Committee in the present year? So far as he understood, it was that this year there was an Irish Bill, and that that Irish Bill would require particular attention on the part of the Irish Members. Then, what was the natural course to take? It was to secure that there should be some Irish Member upon the Committee of Selection who understood Irish questions. But the House must be aware that that wish on the part of the Irish Members had not been disregarded, and that this very year, at the instance of hon. Members below the Gangway, the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had been added to the Committee of Selection in order to represent Ireland. There were, really, two Irish Members now upon the Committee—namely, the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) and the hon. Member for Longford. Consequently, two out of the nine Members of the Committee, as now constituted, were Irish Members. If a debate of this kind was to be prolonged, and then to be adjourned for further discussion, what hope would there be of getting through the work of the House? He trusted that the House, by a large majority, would support the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State (Mr. H. H. Fowler).
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that, with all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken (Sir John R. Mow-bray), it would have been in much better taste if he, as Chairman of the Committee of Selection, had allowed the House to exercise an unbiased judgment rather than have made an ad misericordiam ap- 77 peal to it. The appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman to the Government -was that they should reject the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, and leave it to the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee of Selection to say what Rules should be laid down in regard to these Private Bills, and what Members should be appointed upon the Committee whose duty it would be to consider them. It might be in the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman, and of other hon. Members who sat in the last Parliament, that a Motion somewhat similar in its tendency to the present one was brought forward some years ago for regulating the proceedings of Parliamentary agents. That Motion was objected to, and the debate was adjourned for at least a week until the question could receive fair consideration, the result being that an Amendment was placed upon the Paper, upon which the original Motion was withdrawn, and the Amendment ultimately adopted. That occurred in the case of the Parliamentary agents either in the year 1878orl879. He would also ask the House to remember what the Rules were which were supposed to regulate the conduct of Private Business. The ordinary Notice of Motion for the nomination of a Select Committee would come under the Half-past Twelve o'Clock Rule; and any person who objected to the appointment of the Committee would have been able to place a Notice of Amendment on the Paper. Standing Order No. 207 said—In cases where the second or third reading of a Private Bill, or the consideration of a Bill as amended by the Committee, or any proposed clause or Amendment is opposed, the same shall he postponed until the day on which the House shall next sit.According to that Rule, if an objection was raised merely in a Bill set down for consideration at the time of Private Business, it was necessary to adjourn the discussion until the next day upon which the House sat. If it were a matter of importance to adopt that Rule in such a trivial case as that which he had mentioned, how much more important was it to adopt the same principle in such a case as this, and to adjourn the discussion until hon. Members could have ample Notice of it. The adjournment of the debate, even until tomorrow, would enable the House to escape the difficulty in which they were 78 now placed, and would afford an opportunity for some amicable arrangement to be arrived at. If that course were not adopted, they might have a discussion which would extend over several hours, in addition to which a feeling would be engendered that the Irish Members, in regard to this question, had not had a spirit of fair play meted out to them.
MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he would venture to express a hope that the Government would consent to the adjournment of the debate, seeing that the appointment of this Committee was of a novel character, and that, although Notice of the Motion had probably been given, it had never been brought prominently under the attention of the House, and many hon. Members had known nothing of it until they came down to the House. It was quite evident, from the discussion that had taken place, that there was only one voice among the Irish Members with regard to the Motion; and therefore he hoped the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would consent to adjourn the debate.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that last year he was in the position of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler), and had to propose a similar Resolution. He gave Notice of the Motion, and it was before the House for several days before it was brought forward; but no complaint was made on the part of any Member from Ireland of the wording of the Resolution, or in regard to the course taken. He wished to point out to the House what their position would be supposing the Resolution had not been brought forward by his hon. Friend, and a Committee were not appointed to consider these Police and Sanitary Bills. The consequence would be that each of these Bills would be referred to a Committee appointed by the Committee of Selection, and the House would have no voice whatever in the appointment of such Committees. Therefore, hon. Members opposite would gain nothing if the Motion were rejected. The object of the present Motion was to refer all Bills, of a certain character, to a Committee to be specially appointed for the purpose of carefully considering the whole of them; and he felt quite sure that if the Bills so referred included any Irish measure, the Committee of Selection would 79 take care not only that an Irish Member should be placed upon the Committee, but that it should be left to the Irish Members to say who that Member should be.
§ MR. SMALL
said, the right hon. Baronet who spoke above the Gangway (Sir John R. Mow bray) seemed to think that it wag of some importance for the Committee of Selection to have the right of nominating this Committee; whereas the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert), who had just addressed the House, seemed to think that it made no difference whatever whether the Committee were appointed or not. What he complained of was the exclusion of Irish Members from Committees; and he thought it would be better to give the Committee of Selection the trouble of excluding them on every occasion, rather than that they should be cut off at one swoop. The right hon. Baronet told them that if any Irish Bill came before the Committee of Selection, he would take care that Irish Members were placed upon the Committee. It was a singular thing that English Members should be of opinion that the Irish Representatives were not to interfere at all with English Business, but that English Members had every right to interfere with Irish Business. That was the best proof which had been given for a long time of the self-satisfied way in which the English Members legislated for Ireland. He was surprised at the course which had taken by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). He (Mr. Small) had certainly expected to find the hon. Member animated by that spirit of fair play for which he was so conspicuous when he occupied a seat below the Gangway. It might reasonably have been expected that the hon. Gentleman would have manifested the same spirit of fair play now that he had become an occupant of the Treasury Bench. After the unanimous opinion expressed by the lrish Members on that side of the House, he hoped the hon. Member would no longer resist their wishes. The Secretary to the Treasury had alluded to what occurred last year; but the hon. Member himself admitted that, on that occasion, there were no Irish Bills on the Paper. In this instance Irish Bills were affected for the first time, and that was certainly a strong 80 reason why the Government should consent to the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that he had been very much impressed with the point raised by the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan), that by the ordinary practice of the House with regard to Private Bill legislation, when any objection was raised in regard to Private Business, the ordinary course was to defer the consideration of the objection until a succeeding day. That practice had not been followed in this case, and he was not all certain whether they had not a right to insist upon that Rule being brought into operation now. But he thought that, on the merits of the question, irrespective of those technicalities, a good case had been made out for adjourning the debate. The Rule of the House, in reference to Bills of this nature, was founded upon a strict sense of justice—namely, that Private Bill legislation was of so peculiar a nature that such a thing as a surprise must be guarded against. Therefore, whenever the merits of a particular Bill were called in question, whatever the feeling of the House was, and notwithstanding that a large majority might be in favour of another course, the practice was to postpone the discussion. For that reason he would suggest to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that he should accede to the proposal now made to postpone the Motion. It was all very well to say that the Committee of Selection would act with impartiality with regard to the selection of the names of Members to serve upon the Committee; but, at the same time, the names of the Members proposed to be nominated upon the Committee were not down upon the Paper, and the Irish Members would not have an opportunity of expressing an opinion as to the merits or demerits of any hon. Member proposed to be placed on the Committee. For that reason he thought it would be well if the Government would give way, and save the House the trouble of dividing, which would be inevitable unless the proposal to adjourn the debate were acceded to. There would only be one day's delay, and no practical difference would be made in the time of the appointment of the Committee. He presumed that there was no Business ac- 81 tually awaiting the consideration of the Committee; and he was astonished that the Government should interpose a difficulty where there was really no controversy, and where no inconvenience would, as a matter of fact, take place. As to the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert), who said that the course taken last year met with no objection, that was no reason whatever why there should be no objection now. Last year there was no Irish Bill which could have gone before the Committee; whereas, in the present year, there was certainly one important measure, if not more, which would come under the cognizance of the Committee.
§ MR. P. J. POWER
said, that no objection was raised to the nomination of this Committee either last year or the year before; but that was because there was no Irish Bill which could be dealt with by the Committee. But even if there had been, and no objection had been raised to the appointment of the Committee, that was no reason why no objection ought to be raised now. Because the Irish Members might not have done right in one case, that formed no justification for their continuing to follow the same course now. The circumstances were altogether different from those of any previous year, because this year most important private legislation was promoted upon questions of vital interest to the Irish people; and that legislation would, in the first instance, be brought under the consideration of the Committee it was now proposed to appoint. He maintained that, under those circumstances, the Irish Members themselves were the persons entitled to say what the legislation should be; and certainly no people could be more competent to judge of the wants and wishes of the Irish people than the Irish Representatives themselves. They had been informed that Notice had been given of the intention of the hon. Gentleman opposite to make this Motion; but, if so, it was given at a period when the general body of Members were not in their places, and had no means of knowing what actually took place. All he could say was that the Irish Members knew nothing of the Notice, and the Motion itself had quite taken them by surprise. As a matter of fact, it had been sprung 82 upon them, and, he could not help thinking, in a somewhat unfair manner. Therefore, he entirely concurred with the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) that the debate should be adjourned. His hon. Friend did not wish to have the question forced upon the attention of the House that day, but desired to postpone the discussion of it, in order to give the Irish Members a few days to consider the action they ought to take. Then, as to the nomination of one Committee by another, he was entirely of opinion that the principle was altogether wrong. He thought that the Committee, which was to be intrusted with most important Business, should be named directly by the House, and that the House should, not delegate its functions to the Committee of Selection, or to any other Committee. Taking in view all the circumstances of the case, he was sure that Her Majesty's Government would have no hesitation in acceding to a proposition so just and fair on the face of it as that which his hon. Friend had made; otherwise the Irish Members would be compelled to prolong the discussion.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he only desired to say one or two words. Of course, he could not discuss the merits of the question on the Motion for the adjournment; and he did not know that he would personally object to the proposal itself, so far as it involved the principle of delegation. But the reason he did object to it was, that it might be made the beginning of a system of delegating the work of the House to something in the nature of Standing Committees. He certainly thought that that was a point worthy of careful consideration before it was carried out. He perceived that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir William Harcourt) had entered the House since the commencement of the discussion; and he (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) would submit to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman whether it was an unreasonable request, when a proposal of this kind was made, and a suggestion was offered that a little more time for consideration should be allowed—whether it was unreasonable, on the part of hon. Members from Ireland, considering that the interests of their constituents might be 83 very much affected by the proposal, to ask for a short adjournment of the discussion? He thought that, seeing how much of principle was involved in the proposal, and how fertile it might be of further proposals in the same direction, it was only reasonable to ask for timely consideration before they subjected themselves to the disadvantages in which they might hereafter find themselves involved.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that, as the hon. Member for the Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had appealed to him, he felt bound to say a word, although he did not think he could add anything to the statements which had been already made. This was not a new question at all, but it was one with which the House was quite familiar; and therefore no object would be attained by giving further time for coming to a decision upon a question which was already well understood. The matter was all in a nutshell. The Bills affected were all Bills of a similar character, and it had been thought well to appoint a strong Committee to consider the important principles they contained, instead of having a number of separate Committees all dealing with the same questions, and, it might be, deciding in different ways and acting upon different principles. Such a course would be found to be highly inconvenient. The House had now had experience of the working of this principle of a single Committee for some years; and, on the whole, he thought everyone felt that it was the most desirable mode of dealing with the question. The right hon. Baronet the Chairman of the Committee of Selection (Sir John E. Mow bray) had already pointed out that, whether it was one Committee or a number of separate Committees, they would equally be appointed by the Committee of Selection. The only question to consider was, whether there should be one Committee to deal with all these matters upon uniform principles, instead of leaving them to be dealt with on divergent principles by separate Committees. He had no doubt whatever that the plan submitted to the House was the most advantageous plan; and he could not see how delay or adjournment would add anything to the materials they now possessed for forming a judgment upon the matter.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 26; Noes 238: Majority 212.—(Div. List, No. 40.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Standing Order 173A shall be applicable to the said Committee."—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ MR. HEALY
said, the Irish Members really could not allow this Resolution to pass without entering another protest. He wished to point out to the Government the very extraordinary nature of the course which was being pursued. What was proposed was this—that the House should abrogate its entire functions for the purpose of appointing a Select Committee and constituting it an Imperium in Imperio. In point of fact, the proposal was to vest a sort of Standing Committee with direct functions of the House in regard to the appointment of Select Committees. It appeared to him that such a proposal was a direct infringement upon the functions of the House, and that it took away from their control over the Private Business of the House. The question, therefore, assumed a very serious and important aspect. In the first place, he might point out that when an ordinary Select Committee was nominated, the names of all the Members of the Committee appeared on the Paper; and hon. Members had the power of challenging the name of every Member proposed to be appointed upon it.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Member is not in Order. We are now discussing the question whether Standing Order 173A shall be applicable to the said Committee; and the hon. and learned Member must confine himself to that specific Question.
§ MR. HEALY
said, his objection was that the powers proposed to be conferred by the Standing Order were of such a character that they ought not to be intrusted to a Committee appointed by another Committee. The Standing Order provided that, in case of any Bill promoted by, and conferring powers upon, a Municipal Corporation, or Local Board, or Town Commissioners, or other public authority', the Committee should consider the provisions of the Bill in regard to police, sanitary, and other regula- 85 tions. He objected to give to any Committee power to appoint another Committee, either from within or without itself, with the right of exercising the large powers. which the Standing Order conferred. In his view, a Committee which was to have the right of applying the powers given by the Standing Order should be a Committee which directly sprang from the House. But this Sub-Committee, if he might so call it, would be a Committee that would have power to create preliminary and technical objections to the provisions of a measure before the Bill could be referred to a Select Committee in the ordinary way, and before a single witness had been heard. In the ordinary course, a Select Committee would sit, in order to inquire into the merits of a Private Bill, and would hear all that both counsel and witnesses had to say. He denied altogether that such a right or discretionary power should be confided to a single Committee selected by another Committee. Some of the persons who would be appointed might be persons to whom hon. Members, or the promoters of these Bills, would naturally object; and, therefore, he thought it was a matter upon which the House should not proceed in haste. No doubt, it was said that the appointment of a similar Committee had been acceded to without opposition for the last two years; but, nevertheless, he thought the powers conferred by the Standing Order were much too large to delegate to a Sub-Committee, and he trusted that the discussion which had that day been originated by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) on so important a subject would convince the House of the necessity for some change of the system of conducting Private Business. Indeed, the question had now assumed a position almost of scandal, and something ought to be done for the protection of the Private Bill legislation of the House. It was monstrous that municipal, sanitary, and police powers, affecting the health and welfare of the inhabitants of every large town in the Three Kingdoms, should be referred to a Sub-Committee in the manner now proposed. For his part, he thought they ought to go to the extent of taking another division against this extraordinary delegation of power. He sincerely 86 hoped that the House, without further discussion, would not consent to place important powers in the hands of a Committee over whose proceedings they would have no control.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the House had now decided that this Committee should be appointed. So far the business was settled, and there was no earthly use in discussing, even if it would be in Order, the propriety of appointing a Committee. But this Standing Order No. 173A was already applicable to every Bill that came before the House which contained clauses relating to sanitary matters or to police regulations. He should have thought, therefore, that the mere existence of the Standing Order would have brought every Bill of that description under its terms, whether it was referred to the new Committee or not. It, therefore, appeared to him that this new Resolution was not necessary. Then, again, as to the wording of the Resolution itself, it appeared to him to be open to objection. It said—" That Standing Order 173A shall be applicable to the said Committee." Now, the Standing Order was applicable to a Bill; and, therefore, as a matter of phraseology, it was incorrect to apply it to the Committee itself, instead of to the Bills referred to the Committee. The Standing Order was certainly drawn up with reference, not to the Committee, but to Bills which contained provisions of a certain character. Consequently, in the matter of phraseology, it was desirable that the Resolution should be amended. It was also a matter for consideration whether it would not be advisable to introduce some modification of the Standing Order, so as to provide against any possible danger in the way indicated by the hon. and learned Member or Monaghan (Mr. Healy). Under these circumstances, he would ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. H. H. Fowler), who represented the Government on this question, whether, in regard to this Resolution at any rate, the Government would not agree to some postponement, in order to afford time for further consideration? If there was the danger which had been pointed out, surely it was not objectionable to ask for time to consider 87 the matter before the House was put to the trouble of a division.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the Standing Order 173A was a Standing Order passed by the House in pursuance of a Report of the first Committee which sat upon the Bills which involved sanitary and police regulations. By that Standing Order Committees were required to inquire into clauses of a certain character which were inserted in Private Bills, and to report to the House how they had dealt with such clauses. The hon. Member for the Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) was quite right in assuming that, as a general principle, the Standing Order would apply to every Committee; and he thought that was the true construction to be placed upon it, and that there was no necessity for the insertion of these words. But last year, when the Special Committee was appointed, a doubt was raised whether the Standing Order applied to it; and in order to make assurance doubly sure, the House passed a Resolution directing that the Order should apply to the Committee, and that the Committee should make, under certain circumstances, a special Report to the House. Under these circumstances, it had been considered advisable to take the same course this year. There could be no doubt that, in the ordinary way, all of these matters would have to be inquired into by the Select Committee to which any Private Bill containing clauses affecting police and sanitary matters was referred. But it was most desirable that this Special Committee should inquire into and report upon them in the first instance.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he would suggest that the difficulty would be met by amending it so that it should read—"That Standing Order 173A shall be applicable to all Bills referred to the Committee." All that was necessary was to insert the words "all Bills referred to." after the word "to." He concurred with his hon. Friend the Member for the Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) that the Standing Order could not be applicable to the Committee, but simply to the Bills referred to it for consideration. It was only a verbal correction; but he thought it ought to be made, and he would, therefore, move it as an Amendment to the original proposal.
§ Amendment proposed, after the word "to," to insert the words "all Bills referred to."—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that he had not the slightest objection to the words proposed to be inserted.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, proposed.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he wished to put a question to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the information of the House. As he understood the matter, at present, the Committee of Selection had power to refer individual Bills to Private Bill Committees, which Committees were bound to hear counsel and witnesses. But before the meeting of these Private Bill Committees, there was to be a Report from the Special Committee under the Standing Order. Was the Special Committee equally bound, before making their Report under the Standing Order, to hear counsel and witnesses?
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.