§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
rose to move—That, in the opinion of this House, the sittings for Public Business should commence at 4 P.M. instead of 5 P.M.The noble Lord said, it was a common impression that the advisability of the change which he proposed had been several times discussed in their Lordships' House, and with results adverse to the proposal. But this was not so. The question had only once before been brought under the consideration of the House—namely, in 1867—when a noble Earl who generally sat on the benches opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) moved for a Select Committee to inquire into the subject. Seventeen Peers were nominated to serve on the Committee. In the course of the discussions which took place in the Committee, the noble Earl who had moved for its appointment brought forward a Resolution, which was carried by a majority of 8 to 7 to the effect that the House should, after Easter, meet at a quarter past 4 o'clock for the despatch of Public Business. Later on, when the Report of the Committee was finally considered, two of the former majority were absent, and an Amendment was carried by 7 votes to 6. He had himself thought of moving for a Return showing the number of occasions on which their Lordships' House had sat for only half or three quarters of an hour; but, after going over the records of one or two Sessions, he thought it more prudent to ask for no Return of that description. The result of his observations since he had had the honour of being a Member of their Lordships' House, were these—On many occasions there was little or no Business, 617 and the House rose from half-an-hour to three-quarters after the commencement of the Sitting. On other occasions, there was a regular debate which came on after formal Notice; on other evenings a debate sprung up in consequence of some unexpected question or incident. In the first case, the attendance of Peers was little more than nominal; but in the two last, perhaps 25 or 40 noble Lords, who had been serving on Private Bill Committees or Select Committees of the House, remained to take part in the Evening Sitting. Now, these Committees rose at 4 o'clock. Therefore an hour to an hour and a-quarter had to elapse before the House commenced business. During that interval many of the Peers left the House and went elsewhere. Some went to the House of Commons and remained for some time if any discussion of interest detained them in the Gallery of that House. He believed, therefore, that if their Lordships met earlier a larger number would be in attendance when the time for beginning Public Business arrived. On the nights when there were regular debates, as their Lordships were not in the habit of prolonging their discussions into the early hours of the morning, the more humble Members had little opportunity of taking part in them between the hours of 5 P.M. and 12 P.M., the whole evening being monopolized by speakers of the first rank, most of whom held, or had held, official positions. The consequence was the discouragement of young Members, who might desire to train themselves to take a more prominent share in their debates hereafter. In the House of Commons there was a sort of tacit arrangement that some time should be allotted to the less prominent Members. The change he proposed would be still more sensibly felt on what he might term the intermediate evenings, when questions of public interest were put to Ministers in that House. Now, these answers were simply a rechauffe of information already given in the other House, where the Questions were put and answered three-quarters of an hour earlier. He had heard an objection to his Motion, that, as under the Statute, no Peer need enter the House before 5, therefore their Lordships might be interrupted, if they met earlier, by Peers coming in. But it was only since 1843 that the hour for noble Lords to take their seats had been extended to 5 618 o'clock. He found that from the time of Charles II. to the year 1843 the time assigned for a Peer taking his seat was before the hour of 4. In that year Lord Campbell passed an Act extending the time to 5 o'clock. The next objection was that, if their Lordships were to revert to the former hour, the Committees would rise earlier than they did at present. In the House of Commons Committees did not sit after 4 o'clock. Their Lordships' Committees sat at 11 A.M., and in the other House they did not sit before 12 o'clock. From 11 to 4 as much could be done as was necessary for public usefulness, and it would not be desirable to extend the Sittings later than 4 o'clock. The third objection was that those of their Lordships who held offices in the Government would find a difficulty in coming down to their Lordships' House at 4 o'clock or half-past. He could hardly conceive that that could be a serious objection to urge against the proposed change; for if their Colleagues were able to be in the House of Commons by half-past 4 o'clock to answer Questions, Ministers in their Lordships' House, who had not been kept till perhaps 2 o'clock in the morning, would surely be able to be in their places in their Lordships' House by half-past 4 o'clock. He might observe, also, that in the majority that supported the Resolution in the Committee of 1867 were six noble Lords who had previously held office under the Crown, and who had frequently held office since that time. The House now sat for legal business at half-past 10. The last objection was a more serious one, and had reference to the legal Sittings of the House. Until 1853— and he believed later—their Lordships' House sat at 10 o'clock in the morning for the disposal of legal business. He could see no reason why they should not again sit at 10 o'clock, and save half-an-hour at the commencement of the day. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was, no doubt, the hardest worked man of their Lordships' House during the Session of Parliament, and every consideration ought to be shown to him. Now, he (Viscount Midleton) could not see why the Deputy Speaker of their Lordships' House should not discharge his duties for the first hour. Since the Judicature Act the judicial strength of the House had been enormously increased, whilst the busi- 619 ness, on the whole, had become lighter. On the whole, he was of opinion that the change which he proposed would be found, if adopted, to work beneficially. It would promote a greater economy of time; and in those nights when debates took place it would greatly improve them by allowing many more Peers to take part in them, who were now prevented from doing so from want of time. The interest taken in their Lordships' House would also be enormously increased by a time being fixed for answering Questions, instead of as now their being answered at a time when all the interest in them had vanished. His sole object in bringing this Motion forward was to add to the honour and dignity of their Lordships' House, and add to its efficiency in the discharge of public business.
§ Moved to resolve, "That, in the opinion of this House, the sittings for Public Business should commence at 4 P.M. instead of 5 P.M."— (The Viscount Midleton.)
§ LORD SELBORNE
said, he had waited in the hope of hearing some of their Lordships express an opinion on this Motion before he ventured to give his own—for he had certainly formed one on the subject. No doubt their Lordships were all individually concerned in the proposed change; and nothing could be of greater importance to the country than that the efficiency and dignity of the debates in their Lordships' House should be maintained in the future as they had been in the past. He thought that the change proposed by his noble Friend would tend to produce that effect. One, however, of the reasons put forward by his noble Friend did not strike him as of any serious importance. He alluded to the argument founded on the fact that Questions were answered in their Lordships' House later than in the other House of Parliament. He could not think that the fact that Questions were put and answered in their Lordships' House half-an-hour later than in the other House would in itself be a good reason for any considerable change in the hour at which their Lordships ordinarily met for Business. Then, with regard to their debates—it certainly was most important that young Members should be encouraged to feel an ambition to take part in the discussion of 620 public affairs, and so keep up the reputation of their Lordships' House; and if the fact was, as his noble Friend supposed, that when an-important and prolonged debate took place there was not opportunity for all who wished to do so to take part in it, this would certainly be an evil for which a remedy ought to be found; and, if no better remedy could be suggested, it would be a reason in favour of this Motion. But his own reason for thinking the change expedient was rather founded on the third class of Sittings to which his noble Friend had referred — those, namely, which were occupied by business on which there was no great public excitement, and as to which no division was intended to be taken. He thought his noble Friend had scarcely done justice to his own case when referring to that class of Sittings as one in which discussions arose in an unexpected manner. Ever since he first had the honour to enter their Lordships' House, he had observed that on occasions when no division was expected, and when no very exciting question was under discussion, although the business might be of much real importance, and came on after full Notice, there was the utmost difficulty in inducing Members of the House to remain after that hour at which noble Lords were in the habit of going to get ready for dinner. If he was wrong, he apologized; but that was his impression. He believed that one of the reasons of the popularity of their Lordships' House was the opinion that, by their close attention to the details of Bills, their Lordships made good many omissions, and cured many defects in Bills as they left the other House of Parliament. And that was quite true in the case of Bills sent to Select Committees. It was not, however, so correct in the case of Bills the details of which did not attract much public notice, and which were carried through Committee in the ordinary way. Their Lordships might well consider whether, in the stages of second reading and Committee of such Bills, Members of the House were not discouraged from discussing those measures through the feeling that there was not sufficient time for the purpose between a quarter-past 5 and half-past 7, or a little later. Nor was this by any means the whole of the evil. The time available was too limited for the effec- 621 tive discussion of any question whatever, even when it might be most highly desirable that it should be fully discussed. Many such discussions were either not attempted at all, or were virtually suppressed when they were attempted—the unwillingness of noble Lords to remain beyond a certain hour being a discouragement to debate, which was felt by old as well as young Members of the House. The most serious obstacle to the proposed change was its operation on the legal Sittings; but their Lordships would bear in mind that at present the House of Lords had power to sit out of Session for the hearing of appeals, and to sit on Wednesdays for that purpose; and if the legal sittings for the day ended at half-past 3—half-an-hour earlier than at present—that would be compensated by a more than corresponding gain if they could induce a greater number of Members to take a share in the Business of the House. As to the Lord Chancellor, he, of course, could not be expected to take his seat on the Woolsack immediately after he had risen from hearing appeals; not because that interval was one of rest, however necessary some rest might seem after five or six hours of labour, but because it was the only time during which he could transact other indispensable official business before the meeting of the House. The case in respect of the Lord Chancellor might, however, be met by an arrangement such as that proposed by his noble Friend who had moved the Resolution — namely, that the Deputy Speaker should take the seat on the Woolsack until the Lord Chancellor came in. Upon the whole, he was favourable to the proposed change.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, the noble Lord who introduced the subject had made some remarks in a considerate spirit for the office which he (the Lord Chancellor) had the honour to hold; but that was not sufficient—he submitted that the burden lay on those who proposed this change to make out clearly that some advantages would arise from it. It was somewhat singular that there appeared no community of spirit between his noble Friend who brought forward the Resolution and his noble and learned Friend who had just spoken in its favour. His noble Friend adduced three reasons, and his noble and learned Friend, not at all concurring in 622 those, set up a fourth reason. In the first place, urged his noble Friend, an anomaly and an inconvenience existed, with reference to Questions put in this and in the other House of Parliament— that when the same Question was to be put in both Houses of Parliament the Answer was given in the other House before it was asked in their Lordships'; and that, therefore, the Answer given in their Lordships' House was already discounted. Now, he might be allowed to remark that if that were the case the proposition of his noble Friend did not meet it in the slightest degree; because, whereas under the present arrangement the Answerw as given first in the House of Commons, and in their Lordships' House at a later hour, if the change proposed were made the Answer would be given in the other House of Parliament later than in their Lordships' House—which would be simply a reversal of the anomaly. The proposition was that their Lordships should meet at 4, when Questions could be put; but Public Business did not commence in the other House of Parliament till half-past 4. But was it a fact that the Answers given in their Lordships' House were less interesting because they wore made after those in the other House? Unless his eyes deceived him among those who came to their Lordships' House to bear Answers given to Questions, and who awaited those Answers with great apparent interest and anxiety, were many who had already heard the Questions "put and replied to in the other House. And that always would be so, for this reason—that their Lordships' Standing Orders were more pliant and more flexible, and allowed of fuller and more explicit Answers than could usually be made in the other House. Their Lordships' forms of proceeding were so flexible that it was quite a common thing for Members of the other House, after hearing a Ministerial statement there, to come to their Lordships' House to listen to the fuller Answer that could be returned to any Question. Another argument of his noble Friend was that there was a certain number of their Lordships serving on Select Committees, which met at 11 o'clock and adjourned at 4; and that, therefore, those noble Lords who desired to remain to listen to the evening debate, had to roam about the building, or find amusement else- 623 where, until 5 o'clock. It appeared to him that the fact thus relied on by his noble Friend would not at all justify the change he proposed. It might be a reason for some change. It might be a reason why the Committees of their Lordships' House should meet at 12 and go on until 5 or a quarter before 5; but why arrangements affecting all the Members of the House should be changed to meet the case of the comparatively small number of Peers who, at a given time, were to be found serving on Select Committees was what he could not understand. The third ground put forward by his noble Friend was the most important. His noble Friend said he had noticed that when there was a great and important debate, there were a number of Members—and especially of the younger Members—unable to find an opportunity to address the House. Now, he was sure that all their Lordships would wish that the younger Members of the House should take part in the debates; but he ventured to ask the noble Lord on how many nights in a Session did that House continue a debate till midnight? Could those nights be counted on the fingers of one hand or on the fingers of both hands? He asked him, if that were so, whether for so small an emergency it was necessary to make so great a change? He would go further, and ask whether there was any real want of opportunities for Members desiring to address their Lordships? He believed, from his own experience of that House, that there never had been a single instance in which the slightest disposition had been evinced by the House to close a debate at 12 o'clock, as long as any desire was manifested on the part of noble Lords to speak on the question under discussion. He knew there had been occasions when a wish was expressed to terminate a debate on a particular night; but on those occasions the debate did not cease at 12 o'clock—it was carried on till the small hours of the morning. There was always the opportunity of ensuring a debate; and he might add that when there was reason to apprehend an unusually long debate, there was nothing whatever to prevent their Lordships resolving that on such an occasion the House should meet an hour earlier. That might be done when the occasion arose without making a change to apply to the Sittings generally. But his noble 624 and learned Friend (Lord Selborne) made a statement with respect to the dinner-hour from which he (the Lord Chancellor) must demur. He had always observed that when there was before the House a question of real interest that question secured serious consideration and discussion, and that, even despite the terrible dinner-hour, the attendance of Peers was kept up. Certainly, on other occasions, and when such questions were not before the House, he had seen the approach of the dinner-hour act indirectly, but not always uselessly, as the "count out" did in "another place." Again, when the clauses of a Bill were being considered in the ordinary way, and not by a Select Committee, it was not always a disadvantage to have the Committee of the Whole House more limited rather than too large in number. In the case of long debates the gain of time—one hour—by the proposed change could have but a very small effect in giving young Members encouragement to take part in the debates. As to the effect of the proposed change on the Judicial Business of the House, he had to observe that the adoption of the noble Lord's proposal would strike in a most serious manner against the whole of the Judicial Business. This business occupied on an average five hours each sitting day. Now, let them strike off one hour from that, and it was clear that while they reduced the time for the business by one-fifth they would add one-fifth to the cost of having that business discharged. Was the House prepared to sanction that? It was said that the House might sit at 10 o'clock in the morning for the commencement of Judicial Business. All the Appellate Courts in the Kingdom sat at half-past 10—and, he was sorry to say, not always punctually at half-past 10—whereas their Lordships' House sat punctually at that hour for Judicial Business. None of the primary Courts, except the Rolls Court and the three Vice Chancellors' Courts, sat at 10 o'clock; and for their Lordships' House to sit at that hour would cause much inconvenience to professional gentlemen. It was said that the House might meet for Law Business on Wednesdays. Well, that was a day devoted to Cabinet Councils and to other business to which the Lord Chancellor had to attend, besides his business in the House of Lords. As to the proposition 625 that, as Deputy Speaker, his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees might sit on the Woolsack from 4 o'clock till some time after that hour, when the Lord Chancellor would come in and take his seat, why, it often happened that the first Order of the Day was a Committee of the Whole House. How could such an arrangement be carried out in that case? He wished to point out that unless the House was prepared to say that it desired its Judicial Business to be suspended at 3 o'clock, the Lord Chancellor would be placed in a totally different position with respect to attendance in the discharge of that Business from that which he at present occupied. In the interval, he might add, which now elapsed between 4 and 5 o'clock the Lord Chancellor had to see his Secretaries, to receive deputations, and generally to look after the work of his Department; and it would hardly be well, he thought, to take away the hour which he now had at his command without affording him another opportunity for the purpose. For those reasons, he must submit to their Lordships that no good grounds had been made out for assenting to the Motion.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he thought that the reasons given for the change by the noble Lord who had introduced the proposal were entitled to considerable weight. He entirely concurred in the statement of the noble Lord, that the way in which the Business of the House was now conducted did not afford sufficient encouragement to its younger Members to take part in its debates—a matter of much importance, as it tended to keep up the debating power of the House;—and he would also remark that the examples furnished by several noble Lords whom he saw around him showed that those Peers who had not the advantage of previous training in the House of Commons need not on that account despair of taking a brilliant part in the discussions in their Lordships' House. There was, however, a difficulty in the case of the junior Members of the House in finding an opportunity to do so; and that opportunity would, it appeared to him, be to some extent afforded if the hour proposed were added to the time at their disposal. The debates, he might observe, on which he was disposed to lay the greatest stress, were those which arose sometimes without any 626 division being taken, and in which speeches were made by Peers of the greatest weight. Taking the month of July last, he found that there were 16 Sittings of the House. There were no very late sittings. Nine out of those Sittings varied from 5.20 to 6.45—there being no divisions. In the case of the other seven, the House adjourned once at 8.25, again at 8.10, 7.30, 7.45, and 7.40. Now, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said he never saw any unwillingness on the part of Members of the House to sit out the debates during those hours when subjects of importance were under discussion; but his own experience, he must confess, was of the opposite character. From a quarter past 5 o'clock to a quarter to 7 he did not know that any Assembly could give a more patient hearing to the speakers who happened to address it; but at the latter hour there was a general rustling of lawn sleeves, and the benches that were generally occupied by them were almost certain to become perfectly deserted, while five or ten minutes after he observed lay Peers by degrees quietly leaving the House in one direction or another. A certain number, it was true, remained, looking very woebegone, and listened patiently to any Ministerial statement if one was being made; but if any young Member rose to speak, it was almost impossible not to trace in their faces an expression the reverse of encouraging to the youthful orator. It would, therefore, in his opinion, be of great importance that an additional hour should be given to the debates, especially seeing how frequently important discussions were incidentally raised. As to the remark that their Lordships exhibited a liking to go home to dinner, he would observe that that was a feeling which was by no means confined to their Lordships' House. The Members of the other House appeared to be influenced by pretty much the same desire—although it was true they returned to attend to business later on in the evening. There might, he admitted, be some inconvenience to official Members of the House if the present Motion were adopted. The afternoon would, in consequence, be shortened for them; but that was a difficulty which ought not, in his opinion, to stand in the way of the change if it were likely to be of advantage to the transaction of Public Business. The 627 objections which had been raised in reference to the position of the Lord Chancellor were, he admitted, of considerable weight; but as to the small number of Peers who, after leaving the Committee-rooms at 4 o'clock, did not return to the House again, it was to them a matter of indifference at what hour the House met for the transaction of Public Business. There were others, however, who did come back, and unless they had letters to write or paid a visit to the Aquarium, they had nothing to do between 4 and a quarter-past 5—so that in their case the proposed change would, he thought, be an advantage, seeing how often the House adjourned immediately after assembling, and how frequently, therefore, they would be able to have an hour's exercise when it had done so, instead of wasting their time while waiting for the meeting of the House. He was very much strengthened, he might add, in the views which he held on the subject by what had fallen from his noble and learned Friend near him. The time of the Lord Chancellor was of immense value; and it was to be regretted that Lord Chancellor after Lord Chancellor should think it necessary to remain so many hours on the Woolsack. Often he remained on the Woolsack during along Sitting, when his aid was not in the least requisite, and when he might be most usefully employed elsewhere. It was said that he occupied the position of the Speaker in the other House. But he (Earl Granville) had known when there were more than one Speaker—in Lord Denman's time there were two Deputy Speakers—and he thought there might very well be two now to meet the special requirements of any case. The noble and learned Lord thought the change would operate injuriously to suitors. He (Earl Granville) could not see why the appeals should not go on to 4 o'clock; and then the House meet at 4.15. On the whole, the discussion had confirmed him in the opinion that it would be an advantageous change if their Lordships were to meet an hour earlier as proposed.
§ THE EARL OF BEACONSFIELD
My Lords, my noble Friend in his very ingenious speech—which reminds me of some he made in "another place" where I was his companion—has complained of a want of freedom and facility in our debates; and has stated, in a 628 manner with which I daresay many will sympathize, the lack of opportunity afforded to younger Members of the House from the general tenor and management of our discussions. But I must say that my noble Friend—although his opinion, no doubt, was most sincere on the point—gave us, in the speech which he made, no encouragement whatever to hope that a larger area of debate would be the consequence of the success of his position. My noble Friend has a very strong conviction on this question; but what is the course which he takes? He goes about, according to his own account, canvassing the opinion of noble Lords on both sides of the House—then states those opinions here and refutes them; whereas what he ought to have done would have been to have induced them to state their views in their places—then we should have had an animated debate. Now, from the peculiar process adopted by my noble Friend, it is almost impossible for any of them to open their mouths. I will not touch on the questions which have been exhausted in this debate, although it has not been of long duration; but I must express my agreement with my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor that the argument of my noble Friend that this House is debarred from making inquiries on matters of great import in consequence of those inquiries being anticipated in the House of Commons, is an argument that cannot be sustained. This Session has been remarkable for the number of interesting Questions, naturally arising from the state of affairs, which have been produced in this House; and I am sure, if your Lordships look either to the Gallery where Members of the House of Commons meet, or look to the Throne, you will remember that on every occasion this House has been thronged to hear the Answers. Then, in regard to the three divisions into which my noble Friend has arranged his speech on this subject, I do not exactly see myself how his Motion, if carried, would meet the difficulties which they each of them severally offer. In the first place, there is a series of evenings, we are told, in which nothing is said. It can scarcely be necessary to add to the duration of time for those Sittings. Then there is a series of evenings when there are great debates, lasting many hours, 629 and in which it is of importance that an opportunity should be given to our youthful Members. Well, but I can hardly believe that the short increase of time suggested by my noble Friend— which the noble Earl (Earl Granville) has already curtailed by a quarter of an hour—would afford that relief which is so indispensable. How is it to be managed? Is the three-quarters of an hour thus gained to be devoted entirely to the youthful Members? Is it to be understood that the debates are always to be begun by the younger Members and continued by them till the three-quarters of an hour have expired? I say this, as one who unfortunately no longer can sympathize with youthful Members, yet as one who, in "another place," as much as any man engaged in conducting the Business of Parliament, tried to encourage youthful Members. But it is a difficult task; and I can assure you, my Lords, that the want of opportunity youthful Members experience is not confined to the House of Lords; nor is it the result of our rules and regulations. In "another place" I remember that youthful Members made still stronger complaints than I have heard in this House. Then, there is the third series of Sittings, in which debates, without any previous Notice, which would command an attendance, still give rise to animated and interesting discussions which it is supposed ought not to be cut short by the arrival of the half-hour after 7. Well, I should say upon that subject that, generally speaking, it cannot be denied that if there is a question of public interest under discussion, a Member of the House of Lords would not hesitate for a moment to sacrifice even his dinner. It is a fact that in society our social experience often shows us how Members of both Houses—and especially Members of the House of Lords—are too late for dinner—and the fact is probably due to the prolongation of debates in which they wish to express their opinion, and take that part which is expected of them. Now, in regard to the question, in which most weighty considerations are involved, of our Judicial Business in this House, I think the remarks of the Lord Chancellor must have been conclusive; but it does appear to me, speaking from experience of the other House, that there is an easy and adequate solution of our diffi- 630 culty. There is no reason why this House should always meet at the same hour. As the Session advances, those responsible for the conduct of Business in the other House of Parliament, move that the Business should begin earlier for the rest of the Session; and we find that there is no difficulty in Members adjusting themselves to the new rules— all that is required is thus supplied. After all, you must take a broad view of this question; and, when we are asked to supply more time for our discussions, we must, to a certain degree, in the opinion at which we arrive, be influenced by the experience of the House. The noble Lord opposite gave a portion of its history. I hold in my hand a complete Return for the past year. In the last Session the House sat 93 days. On 49 occasions the proceedings were over by 6 o'clock; on 41 days the House rose between 6 and 9; and only thrice did it sit beyond the later hour. In the face of this Return I do not see how we can make out a case that there is not sufficient time for the general discussions of this House. There may be periods of interest, there may be circumstances of great importance—which might render it desirable that the time allotted for discussion should be enlarged; but I wish to impress upon the House that the remedy is in their own hands. There should not be a fixed rule, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, that the House should meet at 5 o'clock. As the Session advances, as business increases, it is in the power of the House to apply the remedy that is wanted by meeting earlier. I do not know whether my noble Friend will ask for a more decided opinion by the House, or whether he will be satisfied with the debate— leaving those who have the management of Public Business to consider whether the rules may be relaxed without inconvenience to the public service; but I think it would not be wise, without further consideration, to disturb the ordinary Business of the House in a way that might be inconvenient.
§ THE EARL OF REDESDALE
said, that according to these statistics, the House was rarely inconvenienced for want of time. The dinner hour could be, and often was, sacrificed when any business was before the House, and he did not think the proposed change either necessary or desirable. Now and then, 631 perhaps two or three times in the year, some little advantage might he gained; but on all other days the change would cause inconvenience. The rule need not be altered; but it was quite competent to the House, on special occasions, if it thought fit, to change the hour of meeting.
§ EARL STANHOPE,
as one of the younger Members of their Lordships' House, to whom so much allusion had been made in the course of the discussion, appealed to the noble Lord who had brought forward that subject not to press his Motion to a division. After what had been said by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and also by the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, he thought that the pressure of business did not warrant the necessity of the change. When the Business of the Session increased it would be competent for noble Lords, as the Prime Minister had pointed out, to suggest that the House should be called together at an earlier hour than 5 o'clock.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
said, he hoped the noble Lord would give them an opportunity of dividing on the question. It seemed to him that an important point had been kept out of sight. The noble Earl the Prime Minister had truly remarked that their time of meeting need not be as fixed as the laws of the Medes and Persians, and that it might be altered on Notice being given when any very important matter was to be brought forward. But it should be observed that there was an intermediate class of questions which came before their Lordships, and which, although they might not be of exciting public interest, were still of considerable administrative or other importance, and in regard to those questions it would be impossible to give any such previous Notice as had been suggested. The matter now at issue, therefore, was not merely one affecting young Peers, but whether questions which might not lead to important discussions or arouse a great deal of Party or political interest out-of-doors should receive adequate and suitable discussion in that House. Sometimes, when Bills were in Committee and the ominous hour of which they had heard was approaching, even the noble Earl who so ably presided was tempted to be a little impatient to arrive at the end of the clauses and get away to din- 632 ner. He trusted that the noble Lord (Viscount Midleton) who had made that Motion would give them an opportunity of dividing.
having heard the adjournment of the House when it was moved, might, he thought, say a few words. He thought it unseemly that the time of refreshment should be mentioned, as an obstacle to business, for it was uncertain; in Germany the word for dinner was mittag's essen —mid-day meal—and the late Earl of Ellenborough often dined before he came to the House. He thought if the House were to meet at 4, that the disgrace of an adjournment at half-past 4 might be incurred. He held that it was desirable that every subject which came before their Lordships should be thoroughly discussed, and he had often heard debates so complete that nothing could be added to them; and wished that every noble Lord who intended to speak should remain to hear the whole of the debate before his own speech. If that were done the speeches might be more brief, and noble Lords would not be so likely to repeat what others had said before, and be able to answer weighty arguments. The House met at 11 o'clock for business. He thought if the House met at 4, that the usual course of debate should be followed, but he did not wish much to multiply speakers; and, if the hour were changed, he would not trouble their Lordships more often than he did at present.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
thought the question one of very great importance. He admitted that it was a strong argument against the Motion that the time of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was already so greatly absorbed. The wonder was how the noble and learned Lord was able at all to perform so many different functions. And that might be taken as one illustration out of many of the inconvenience of having a man acting at the same time as a Minister, as a Judge, and as the Speaker of a Legislative Assembly. The remedy, however, for that, in his opinion, would be the appointment of another Deputy Speaker. It surely would not be difficult to select from among their Lordships some third Peer qualified to discharge that important office, in addition to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and the 633 noble Earl the Chairman of Committees. The Prime Minister had spoken with admirable humour against the present Motion, and had said with great truth that the Galleries of the House had been crammed on certain occasions. But he had omitted to state that the reason why they had been crammed was because of the presence in the House of the noble Earl at the head of the Government himself. The suggestion that they might vary the hour of meeting according to the importance of the Business to be transacted was an impracticable one. How would it be possible for a private Peer who wished to bring forward a Motion to rise in his place and say—"I think my Motion is of some importance; let us meet at 4 o'clock to-morrow instead of 5 to consider it?" That would be stamped by their Lordships, and properly, as impertinent humbug. If, however, the present proposal were adopted, the House would have 50 per cent more time for discussion.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said, his object was not in any way to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, but to assert what he felt to be a great and important principle. He very much regretted the decision at which the Government had arrived; but after the very strong expressions of opinion which had fallen from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and from the Prime Minister, and after the appeal which had been made to him, he did not think it right— even though he might be able to snatch a victory—to put their Lordships to the trouble of a division. He therefore begged leave to withdraw his Motion.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
observed that a number of Peers had left the House supposing that permission had been given to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.