HC Deb 21 May 1895 vol 33 cc1728-43
MR. H. T. ANSTRUTHER (St. Andrews Burghs)

said, it would be consonant with the feelings of the majority of the House if he took the earliest opportunity of Moving— that the Speaker do issue his warrant to the Clerk of the Crown to make out a new writ for the election of a Member to serve in the present Parliament for the borough of Edinburgh (Western Division) in the plate of William Waldegrave Palmer. commonly called Viscount Wolmer, now Earl of Selborne.


having put the Motion,

*MR. GEORGE CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)

said, that though he recognised as fully as any man in the House that the general opinion of the House of Commons, no less than the decision of the Committee, was hostile to the claim which was made by Lord Selborne, at the same time he trusted the House would allow him to remind it that upon the present occasion it was invited to take a step entirely new in Parliamentary procedure, without any precedent whatever in the history of the House, and a step which, if persisted in, as it was not unlikely to be, might involve the House in Constitutional difficulty and trouble in the future. The House had during the last few days constituted itself into a Court of Inquiry, or rather had appointed a Committee which was acting as a Court of Inquiry into the fact of succession to a peerage. This was the first time in our history that the House of Commons had ever taken upon itself those functions which had hitherto been looked upon as part of the prerogative of the Crown and the House of Lords, and he ventured humbly to submit that in taking this step the House of Commons had usurped functions which did not properly belong to it. The dangers of the position which the House had taken up, and the possibilities which it might involve, had been stated by no one with greater clearness than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he could not help regretting when the right hon. Gentleman was reading out the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, a few days ago, and taunting him with inconsistency, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not proceeded further and read out certain extracts from his own speech delivered on the same occasion. It was useless, and might be considered discourteous if he was to taunt the right hon. Gentleman with inconsistency, because when that was done from the Opposition benches he owned the soft impeachment with an ingenuous naiveté that disarmed criticism. But he would read one short extract from his speech of last year which directly bore on the position, which, under his guidance, the House of Commons had now taken up. In the Debate on the Motion for a writ for the seat vacated by Lord Coleridge he said:— ''We should be undertaking, if we issued a writ before a Writ of Summons had been given by the House of Lords, to determine that a man was a Member of the House of peers, and we might on our own authority declare a man to be a peer whom the House of Lords later might declare to be not a peer. All must admit that a conflict of jurisdiction of the kind would be most inexpedient, if not indeed wholly unconstitutional. Yet this was the precise position which the right hon. Gentleman now invited the House to take up, and the precise danger which he was not adverse to its incurring. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went on to say:— Then you are brought face to face with this point. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham says either we must wait for the Writ of Summons or for some other proof to be given to the House. How is this House to obtain the proof? Are we going to have a Committee of Privileges to inquire whether a man has become a Peer or not? We have never adopted that course before, and it would be a most inexpedient precedent to set up. The inexpedient precedent of 1894 had now become the expedient and necessary precedent of 1895. The terms of the Writ as read out failed to contain the words "in the room of Lord Selborne, called up to the House of Lords." That was to say, the House of Commons was now about to issue a Writ without waiting for a writ of Summons to the House of Lords. This was the third time in our Parliamentary history that such a step had been taken. He would not weary the House by recapitulating the details with which it was perfectly familiar. The two instances to which he alluded were—in the case of the Berkeley Peerage in 1809, in which the Writ was moved without the customary allegation, but was superseded; the second was in the case of Lord Dursley in 1811. But Lord Dursley's claim to the Peerage was disallowed by the Committee of Privileges, and the action of the House of Commons in vacating his seat was, therefore, stultified and found to have been taken in error. These were the only two cases in which the House of Commons had taken upon itself to issue a new Writ to vacate a seat after succession to a Peerage without the allegation that the seat had been vacated by a Writ of Summons from the House of Lords. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his evidence before the Committee on Lord Coleridge's succession, said that any Writ issued without the allegation that a Writ of Summons to the Lords had been issued was bad, and must be superseded. He was utterly unable to reconcile the position taken up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his evidence before the Committee last year with his speech two days ago in the House, and with the action he had taken upon it. He submitted to any hon. Member who attended the proceedings of the Committee, or read the minutes of its evidence, whether there was scarcely a single proposition in the speech the right hon. Gentleman made the other day, or whether there was a single step in the course of action he now recommended the House of Commons to take, which was not absolutely contradicted by his evidence before that Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had there said:— The material point to which I desire to call the attention of the Committee is this, that whether Lord Coleridge could sit or vote in the House of Commons his seat could not be vacated upon this ground (i.e., the ground of succession to a Peerage) until the Writ of Summons was issued to him in the House of Lords. That is absolutely determined by a series of precedents and upon the authority of the Speaker. On another page the right hon. Gentleman said:— Therefore I think I am clearly well founded in stating that no Writ vacating a seat in relation to a Peerage can be issued by the House of Commons, except upon the allegation that a Writ of Summons to the House of Lords has been issued. On the next page the right hon. Gentleman said:— ''There are two views on the matter (i.e. the right of a Peer to sit in the House of Commons), either of which may be taken. But whichever view is taken this is certain, that until the Writ of Summons in the House of Lords issues, a Writ cannot go forth on the ground of Peerage. Then, again, two pages later it would be found that the right hon. Gentleman said:— I do not conceive as regards a Peerage that that (i.e. the custom of requiring the proof of the issue of the Writ) can be altered, unless, of course, the House of Commons chooses to alter the practice of the whole of the century. I maintain that no Writ can be issued upon succession to a Peerage without the material and indispensable allegation that the Writ of Summons had been issued. The language of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, was so unmistakable that they had a right to ask him how he could reconcile the evidence he had given before the Committee with the position he now assumed. Again, with regard to Speaker Abercromby's dictum that— the only safe and certain evidence on which the House could act was that a Member had received his Writ of Summons and had been called up to the House of Peers. If there were any doubt as to the fact of a Member of this House being entitled to be a Peer, that was a question which the House could not decide, and therefore the safest course was to act only when a Member had received his Writ of Summons.'' The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said before the Committee:— That was laid down in 1835, and, so far as I know, has been consistently acted upon since, and as a rule of Parliament, that no Writ can be issued on a Peerage until the Writ of Summons has been issued. He desired to take that opportunity of saying that he and those who acted with him had raised this question on constitutional grounds. Their action was no rash or impulsive step taken by a small knot of individuals actuated by unworthy or selfish motives, but was an attempt to raise a broad constitutional issue on constitutional grounds. In the proceedings which had taken place upstairs it had become clear that there were two possible but virtually contradictory views of the Peerage. One was that succession to a Peerage was a disqualification from sitting in the House of Commons, and that the moment a Peer died, and his heir became his successor, the heir became disqualified from sitting in that House, and, in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was so disqualified as being a Lord of Parliament. Then there was the opposite contention, and the one for which, in his view, there was really superior authority—namely, that on the death of a Peer, his heir became indeed a Peer of the Realm, but he did not become a Lord of Parliament until he had taken his seat in the House of Lords, and was therefore not disqualified from sitting in that House. In other words the disqualification was not an inherited but was an acquired disqualification. It arose not from the fact of succession, but from the fact of summons, and was dependent not upon the ennoblement of blood, but upon the assumption of inconsistent service. In the case of Irish Peers there was no such disability. It might be said that they were enabled to sit by statute, but he could assure the House that there were instances from 1620 to 1801, the date of the Act. of Union, of Irish Peers sitting in that House. Why, therefore, should not such a right be extended from Irish Peers to the Peers of the United Kingdom? He and those who had acted with him had not taken these steps without consulting the highest legal authority. In acting as they had done, they intended no disrespect to the House of Commons, and still less to the House of Lords, the responsibilities of accession to which they valued as much as any one of its present Members. In bringing the question before the House of Commons, they had appealed to the decision of the most competent tribunal to which they could submit it. They regretted, indeed, that there was no power of bringing the issue before a Court of Law; but, having the decision of the House of Commons against them, they would, of course, respectfully bow to it. He could not help thinking, however, that this disability, upon which public attention had been fixed, was one which in common equity and fairness could not be allowed to continue. He was aware that their ease had been prejudiced in public opinion by the impression that they were claiming an unfair privilege for Peers and the sons of Peers by giving them the option of sitting as long as they liked in the House of Commons, and then of seeking the secure and tranquil haven of the House of Lords whenever they chose to do so. It might be desirable, if that privilege were ever accorded, to say that the Peer who had elected to remain in the House of Commons should be debarred for the rest of his life from sitting in the House of Peers. But that was not the issue now raised. The decision of the House was manifestly against them, but he ventured to prophesy that the question would not be allowed to slumber, and that in that reform of the House of Lords, which was certain to come about in the near future, this particular change would play a not unimportant part.


The hon. Member has thought fit in this matter to make something in the nature of an attack upon me. I will not follow him in that, because I think that there are matters of larger importance before us. I shall therefore, content myself with saying that I adhere to every one of the opinions expressed by me in this House, as well as in my evidence before the Committee upstairs. In my evidence before the Committee, I absolutely and persistently refused to give any opinion on this subject, because I knew that I should have to give my opinion here; and I confessed, I hope courteously, that I treated this claim as I have always treated it, as being an absurd, and I may almost say a childish, claim. Anybody who will take the trouble to read my evidence will find that that is the keynote of the whole of it; and when the hon. Member read out the opinions of Speaker Abercromby, he will find that, in giving evidence upon that point, I was stating to the Committee the practice of the House, and I over and over again stated that, as to my own opinion, I declined to give it. That will dispose of that part of the matter. The hon. Member said that in this House I stated that I regarded the proceeding which we have been obliged to take as an inconvenient proceeding, and an inexpedient one. He says it is a proceeding without a precedent. So it is; but we have been driven to it by the conduct of Lord Selborne, which is also without precedent. There is no man who has ever succeeded to a Peerage who has entered this House and claimed to sit and vote here. All the passages which the hon. Member has read from my evidence and speech referred to a totally different matter; and that was, the condition of a man who had succeeded to a Peerage, and who had not yet got his Writ of Summons. But there was no pretence on the part of Lord Coleridge to come to this House, and to sit and vote here, before the Writ of Summons was obtained; and, having been challenged on my conduct in giving the Chiltern Hundreds to the present Lord Coleridge, I was pointing out the extreme inconvenience there was in waiting the ordinary proceeding—that is, the evidence of the Writ of Summons, and so disfranchising the constituency for a long period. A gentleman whose absence from this House I am sure every man deeply regrets—I mean, Mr. Sidney Herbert, whom his opponents, no less than his political friends, regarded as one of the ornaments of this House, and a personal friend—took the course a day or two ago which the present Lord Coleridge took, in favour of his constituents, and vacated his seat, so that his constituents might elect another member. But Lord Coleridge never pretended for a moment that, having succeeded to the Peerage, he had the right to come and sit in this House and vote; and it is the unprecedented conduct of Lord Selborne which has necessarily compelled the House of Commons to ascertain for itself that which on former occasions, sooner or later, was ascertained by the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords when the Writ of Summons was issued. This is the first time that a Member of this House, who has succeeded to a Peerage, has come to the House and set up a claim which is absolutely without foundation. Nothing can be gathered, I am sure, from anything I have said, either in the Committee upstairs or in this House, which would lead to the conclusion that I ever entertained the opinion that a man who had succeeded to a Peerage can sit and vote in this House. The finding of the Committee upstairs on the Vacating of Seats is entirely in accordance with everything that I have said. Their Report says that the Writ of Summons, in cases in which such a Writ can be issued, is the best and safest proof of which the circumstances admit; the rule, in other words, is a rule not of law, but of evidence, and this House, when that evidence was available, has always waited for it. Lord Selborne in this House, however, declared that he would not permit the House to have that evidence, but claimed to sit here; that is, by not applying for the Writ of Summons he prevented the evidence from being available. The Committee found that the Parliamentary law on this subject, which I ventured to bring the other day under the notice of the House, as laid down by Speaker Manners-Sutton in the Beer Alston case, was that, when a Member succeeded to a Peerage entitling him to a seat in the House of Lords, and delayed or refused to apply for a Writ of Summons, the House of Commons was entitled and might, in the interest of the constituency, be bound to ascertain the fact of the succession by such inquiry and upon such evidence as it considered appropriate to the case. The hon. Member referred to what I said as to the possibility that this might lead to a conflict between the House of Commons and the House of Lords; that the House of Commons might find a man to be a Peer whom the House of Lords held not to be a Peer. That might occur, and it would be a very inconvenient thing, but that is not our fault. If any mischief arises from a conflict of jurisdiction of that character, it arises out of the course which Lord Selborne has pursued in coming to this House and depriving it of the natural means of ascertaining his position in the Peerage. The responsibility rests with him and not with us. The House may observe that, in the evidence of Mr. Muir Mackenzie, who is the Clerk of the Crown, he expresses a strong opinion that, if a Peer does not apply himself, the Writ of Summons may be issued without his application; he also says that the information as to the succession, to a Peerage generally comes from a relative, and not from the Peer himself. I am bound to say that, in my opinion, no clearer case was ever brought under the consideration of the House. I did not move the Writ myself because it was so pressed upon me that it should not be moved till the House had time to consider the Report of the Committee; but from the same quarter which impressed upon me the necessity for having a full discussion on the subject, the Writ has been moved this afternoon. Under these circumstances I am absolved from all responsibility in the matter. I understand that neither the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wrest Birmingham nor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall oppose the issue of the Writ, which was moved by an hon. Member who is politically acting with both of them. Under these circumstances I do not see that the House can take any other course than to issue the Writ, having ascertained the facts.


commented on the circumstance that the right hon. Member for the Bodmin Division of Corwall, who had recently filled two columns of the Times with reference to this subject, had on the present occasion run away into Cornwall. He himself had signed the minority report of the Committee on the Vacating of Seats, in company with the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean and the hon. Member for Southport, though on entirely different grounds from those of the hon Member for Southport. He was surprised to see the Liberal Unionist benches opposite deprived of their chief ornaments, and he felt inclined to re-echo the mourning complaint of the Hebrew patriarch: "Joseph, my son, where artthou?" He thought, when Lord Selborne this day week appeared in his place, that he inflicted a greater blow upon the hereditary principle than had been inflicted on it since the Reform Act of 1832. Lord Selborne stated that he was a Peer of the Realm, but that he was not a Lord of Parliament. That distinction was well and properly marked. There were many Lords of Parliament who were not Peers of the Realm. The Bishops were Lords of Parliament, but there were not Peers of the Realm. On the other hand, minor Peers were Peers of the Realm, but they were not Lords of Parliament; Peeresses in their own right were Peeresses of the Realm, but they were not Lords or Ladies of Parliament. Irish Peers were Peers of the Realm, but they were not Lords of Parliament. There could be no question of a conflict of jurisdiction between the two Houses in a case of this kind. The Lord Chancellor, and he alone, was the person through whom Writs of Summons from the Crown came. He was not, in issuing these Writs, an officer of the House of Lords, but the servant of the Crown. It was the prerogative of the Crown to give or withhold Writs of Summons—a prerogative which had existed in ancient times and had never been abrogated. Such a prerogative could not become obsolete. Prerogatives that had not been exercised for 400 years were still in full force to-day. The only change that had taken place was, that the exercise of these prerogatives, instead of being the personal act of the Crown, was the act of Ministers responsible to the House of Commons, and through it to the people. It was because he was persuaded that the Lord Chancellor might either give Lord Selborne his Writ of Summons or withhold it that he considered that until the Writ of Summons was given he had a right to sit in the House of Commons. It was as a high prerogative lawyer that he signed the Minority Report. This was not the first time in modern history that the old prerogatives of the Crown had been wrested from privilege and used in the service of the people.

MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

moved: "That the Debate, be now adjourned." They were all agreed, he said, that a question of great constitutional importance had been raised, which ought not to be settled after a few minutes' consideration. This Writ, he thought, had been moved very hurriedly. He could not believe, for a moment, that had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, known that this question, in which they had hitherto taken a very keen interest, was to be decided now they would have been in their places. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had given a practical pledge that this question would stand over until the Select Committee on the Vacating of Seats had reported to the House. The Report of that Committee was circulated that morning. The Report of the Committee on the Earldom of Selborne had just been, read out at the Table, and he thought the House was entitled to see that Report in print. They had had the Report of the Select Committee, but that was only a Majority Report. Surely, it was only reasonable to ask, before the House came to a decision, that they should have the views of the minority with regard to the question. Then he understood that the hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate had this afternoon presented a memorandum of very considerable importance, with regard to the historical aspect of the case. Surely it was not unreasonable to ask that the House should know the contents of that memorandum.

MR. CYRIL DODD (Essex, Maldon)

seconded the Motion.


said, that if it was intended to press the Motion to a Division, it might be necessary to give some reason, for proceeding forthwith with the issue of the Writ.

[The hon. Member was met with cries of "Divide!" and did not proceed with his remarks.]


said, it was the case that he gave a pledge on this matter, at the request of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and the right hon. Member for Bodmin. He certainly understood at that time that the Report would be presented, and that the House would have time to consider it; and he stated that he did not regard this as an ordinary case of moving the issue of a Writ. It raised a disputed question of constitutional law, and, in order to give time for its consideration he had intended to move the Writ upon Thursday. He was entirely taken by surprise when the Writ was moved this afternoon. He had no notice from the hon. Member who made the Motion of his intention to take that course. He did not know for what reason it was taken. However, as he had said, he considered himself absolved from all responsibility. This Motion had come from that Party who insisted on full time being given for the consideration of what they regarded as a profound constitutional question. For himself, he had never entertained any doubt on the matter. He had never contemplated the possibility of applying the principle of local and personal option to the House of Lords. They had heard of various plans for the reform of the House of Lords, but local and personal option as to the Peerage was a new Constitutional doctrine. Therefore, if the House were prepared to entertain a Motion for the issue of the Writ he certainly should be prepared to support such a Motion.

The House divided:—Ayes, 109; Noes, 343.—(Division List No. 93.)


said that while he did not intend to resist the issue of the Writ, he wished to say a few words on this subject, first because he belonged to that unfortunate class of individuals who might expect at some time or other to be disabled from discharging the functions of a Member of that House, and, secondly, because no one in that House would suffer more than himself from the absence of Lord Selborne, with whom he was so closely associated politically and personally. For his part he did not believe that the existence of the House of Commons could ever be affected by such a trifling circumstance as the elevation now and then of an elder son to the House of Peers. If he was inclined on the whole not to rank himself among the supporters of the hon. Member for Guildford and the hon. Member for Southport, the reason must be that he did not estimate the power of the House of Commons as against the House of Lords as highly as they did. In fact, it appeared to him that the House of Commons was going down every day and that the the House of Lords was going up. In his judgment those who were called under the Constitution to perform certain duties in the Upper House ought to accept the situation. Whilst he held that view, he thought it in the highest degree absurd to charge Lord Selborne with pursuing a childish or preposterous course in the action which he had taken. He regretted very much the strong expressions that had been used, both by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and some of his hon. friends near him with whom he generally acted. His noble Friend, whose good work for the Unionist Party could not be gainsaid, might well have been spared some of the expressions that had been applied to him by hon. Members who used to sit and act with him. Nothing could be more untenable than the allegation that his noble Friend's action was childish and preposterous. Why, only last Session the House had itself appointed a Committee which had had to consider in connection with Lord Coleridge's case a precisely similar issue. He submitted that even an eldest son whose father died had a right to ascertain what his political position really was, and his noble Friend not being able to appeal to a Court of Law had asked that House as the highest Court of the realm to decide the question. His noble Friend had asked for the decision of that House upon a great constitutional point, and in such conduct there was nothing absurd, or disrespectful, or childish, or preposterous. If anybody was to blame it was the Vacation of Seats Committee, that sat for 11 months without coming to a decision upon the point. But a decision had now been come to by a Committee, and as a consequence of that decision, the Writ had been moved, and he should not oppose it. His noble Friend who had raised this question deserved the gratitude not only of eldest sons, who had seats in that House, but also of the House itself.


claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.


wished to explain briefly the opinion which he had formed after hearing the arguments adduced by those who opposed the issue of the Writ. The statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week contained what he believed to be the true view of the law upon the subject. He did not, however, wish for a moment to belittle the case put forward by the hon. Members for Southport and Guildford, and he imagined that they would all regret the enforced absence from that House of Lord Selborne. But they must consider what this claim was. It rested upon the proposition, or rather assertion, that a Peer of the Realm need not be summoned to the House of Lords unless he wished; that if he chose to abstain for any length of time from asking for a Writ of Summons, such Writ could not be issued to him. That proposition he believed to be legally erroneous and historically incorrect.


I am unwilling to interrupt my hon. and learned Friend, but our contention is that, until the Writ of Summons is issued a Peer may sit in this House.


said, that was only another way of stating the same view, either that the Writ of Summons could not be issued until the Peer desired it, or that the Crown could, at its own option, postpone the issue of the Writ. A more dangerous doctrine than that the Crown can abstain from issuing a Writ could not be conceived. In the reign of Charles II., the Crown attempted to summon a certain number only of Peers to Parliament, but the attempt was resisted, and it had been recognised for two centuries as the constitutional right of every Peer of the realm to be summoned to Parliament. If his hon. Friend declined to depend, as he believed he must, on the doctrine that the Crown could postpone the issue of the Writ, he could only fall back on the other alternative, namely, the doctrine that a Peer could apply for a Writ or not as he chose. The reason why the House had always acted on the Writ of Summons was that in almost every case a Peer had applied for it, and, therefore, the House had the evidence ready to hand. He ventured to endorse what had been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the law was correctly laid down by the Speaker 50 years ago in the Beer Alston case, that the House could examine for itself, upon evidence satisfactory to itself, the question whether an individual Member had succeeded to a Peerage of the realm. He believed the position was this, that every Peer of the realm had a right to be summoned, and that with that right there existed a corresponding obligation to obey the Writ. That view was shared by great authorities such as Lord Penzance, Sir W. Anson, Professor Dicey, and others. His hon. Friend had failed to appreciate this position, that if the view he (Sir R. Webster) had expressed was not the right one, a man might be a Lord of Parliament, and disqualified to sit in the House of Commons in one Parliament, and yet become qualified in another. The hon. Member seemed to forget that a Writ of Summons was issued for every Parliament. No fresh application was made at the beginning of every Parliament. The Lord Chancellor, acting for the Crown, at the beginning of each Parliament issued the Writ ex mero motu. It did not depend on the Act of the Crown, for the Crown had not the option to say whether a Writ should be issued or not; and if it depended on the choice of the Peer, he would be able to say at the beginning of a Parliament, "I am not a Lord of Parliament for this Parliament." If the House would allow him, he would read the words which occurred in every patent of Peerage. This case had been argued as if, a man having been created a Peer of the realm, it was optional to the Crown whether he should be summoned as a Lord of Parliament or not. But the position of Lord of Parliament was given to him by the patent of his Peerage. After granting the Peerage to the man by name, and the heirs of his body begotten, the patent went on:— They and every of them, successively and respectively, may have, hold and possess a seat, place and voice in the Parliaments and Public Assemblies and Councils of us, our heirs and successors, within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Thus the Peerage was created by the patent, and the privilege of being a Lord of Parliament was conferred at the same time, a privilege which, he contended, carried with it a corresponding obligation to obey a Summons by the Crown. Although in old times a Writ of Summons was often the foundation of Peerages; of late years, in the case of Peerages created by letters patent, it had become only an incident to the Peerage. If he was right in his view that, once a man was created a Peer by letters patent, he was given the right to sit in the House of Lords and the Public Assemblies and Councils of the Queen, he was under an obligation to obey the Summons of the Crown. It could not rest with the Crown to say whether this or that Peer should be summoned, or with a new Peer to say whether he would be summoned or not. He doubted whether the cases of Lord Tenterden and Lord Iddesleigh had any bearing on the case. At any rate, the question was entirely different, and the circumstances of the office held by those Peers would require to be carefully investigated. It had been said that there were no precedents of the Writ of Summons being issued when it had not been applied for. He believed that if the records were searched, cases of that kind might be found. It was obvious that the cases were so rare in which a Peer abstained from applying for a Writ of Summons, that the cases in which it would be issued without application must be very exceptional. This was an occasion on which, for the first time, the Constitutional question had been prominently raised in the House, and he thought it was of importance that everything which anyone could say to assist the House should be said on the floor of the House. It was in order that his opinion, for what it was worth, might be placed on record in these Debates that he had offered these few remarks.

Motion agreed to.