HC Deb 10 May 1893 vol 12 cc545-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Benn be a Member of the Select Committee on the London Improvements Hill."—(Mr. Marjoribanks. )

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

took exception to the name of Mr. Benn, who was a member of the London County Council, and therefore ought not to be made a judge in his own cause.


said, the right hon. Gentleman took exception to four names, but the Committee had been appointed in the ordinary manner by agreement between both sides of the House. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would fall in with the ordinary practice and agree to the nomination of the Committee.


said, he would give his reasons for objecting to the names. It was the practice of Members who served on Select Committees to sign a declaration to the effect that neither individually nor through their constituents had they any interest personally in the Bill that came before them. He imagined that, as a matter of principle, it was thoroughly unsound that a member of a Body which was the promoter of a Bill should be a judge in the cause in which he was concerned. He need hardly say that, as regarded the hon. Member to whose name he took exception, he did not object to him personally as a fit Member to serve on the Committee, but he thought it would he derogating from the judicial impartiality which had always been associated with Committees in the House if those who were interested as promoters were to be judges in their own cause. A person who was called upon to impartially assist in sifting evidence should be like Cæsar's wife—above suspicion. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury would seriously consider this matter. It was not a matter, he presumed, which would have been brought personally before the Prime Minister, but he thought the Government should realise that it would be a serious thing if any step were taken which would take away from the spirit of judicial impartiality and fairness which, happily, was always associated with Committees of the House. He was told that there were so-called precedents in the fact that members of the now defunct Metropolitan Board of Works had served on Select Committees which had to consider proposals initiated by that Body; but this contention did not apply to a Body like the London County Council, which had been in the past, and was certain in the future, to be the promoter of legislation of a somewhat highly contentious character. In regard to Select Committees, it had always been thought desirable to eliminate from them all partisan elements. So far as Private Bill Committees were concerned, he should have the concurrence of Members on both sides of the House when he said that hitherto they had commanded the confidence of the public and of both sides of the House——


If the right hon. Gentleman objects to the name, the question of the nomination of the Committee must stand over.


I do object.

Objection being taken, Further Proceeding stood adjourned until Tomorrow.