§ On the motion of the Earl of Rosslyn, a free Conference desired by the Commons was had, and Peers appointed to manage it.
§ On the managers returning, the Earl of Ripon reported to the House the reasons of the Commons for dissenting to the Lords' amendments, on the clauses relating to Charitable Trustees, and to the conferring the power of giving a casting vote to the presiding officer of the town council, on questions where there existed an equality of votes.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that in moving their Lordships to adhere to their amendments, he should not trouble them at any length. The questions which they had now to consider were two in number, and he thought the mere statement of their nature in a few words, would be sufficient to satisfy their Lordships that they ought not to depart from the amendments they had made in the Bill. The first which he would state was, that which related to Charitable Trusts. In the last Session of Parliament, when the Municipal Corporation Reform Act was under discussion, it was the opinion of their Lordships, as it was also the opinion of the other House of Parliament, that it would be advisable that a temporary provision should be made in respect to Charitable Trusts, in order to enable both Houses of Parliament to come to a satisfactory and permanent arrangement of the Trusts. With that view, a provision was introduced into the Bill of the last Session, by which 1096 the existing Trustees were continued in the management of the Trusts for one year longer. That time had now elapsed; but, unfortunately, the most desirable object of a final arrangement had not been accomplished. With a view to the accomplishment of that most desirable but difficult matter, it had this year been proposed, that that which was done last Session, should be followed—namely, to make again a temporary arrangement, and to extend the provisions of the former Bill to the end of the next Session of Parliament. That proposition had been made in the spirit and sense of what had taken place last Session. The proposition had been adopted by this House, it was not objected to by the other House, and noble Lords on his side of the House, conceived they were acting up to the spirit of what had been before adopted by both Houses in renewing the proposition again this year. To this, it was now objected that they were continuing in the management of these Charitable Trusts persons, who, it was insinuated, had misconducted themselves in that management. He apprehended, however, that there was not the slightest evidence to support that allegation. They had been selected for the trust in the Bill which passed last year; in that selection the other House of Parliament concurred, and therefore, if they were thought fit and proper persons then to be intrusted, he would ask the House what had occurred since to render them suspicious individuals, and as being unworthy to be trusted? There existed not the slightest evidence of any such misconduct. No complaint had been made against them (though it was open for any one to do so) to his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack. Further than this, it seemed almost impossible, considering the situation in which these Trustees were placed, that they could have misconducted themselves, or even attempted to have done so, even if they had been so disposed, for in every place they had been watched with most vigilant eyes by persons seeking and desirous to find fault with their conduct. If, therefore, these Trustees were thought fit to be intrusted last Session—if it was then with the entire concurrence and approbation of the other House of Parliament, he must beg to ask their Lordships what ground there was now for saying that they were incompetent to discharge the trust for another year, while, during the past year, 1097 they had conducted themselves honestly, faithfully, and honourably? The question for the consideration of their Lordships was now this—would they disgrace these Trustees, or would they again allow them to act? When it was remembered, that if not allowed to continue in the discharge of the functions, now vested in them, the duty of appointing new Trustees in their stead, would devolve upon his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, and the expense of that mode of proceeding, would be considerable, he thought another argument was furnished in favour of this amendment, and by it of the continuance in office of these individuals for another year. He would not weaken the able argument advanced by his noble and learned Friend, the Lord Chancellor, on a former occasion, in which his noble and learned Friend described the difficulties which would arise, if the appointment of new Trustees being vested in him, by any language of his own. The House would remember that his noble and learned Friend had said, before he could appoint, it would be necessary for every one of the charities to present to him a petition—that being done, he must then consider the matter and prayer of the petition—it would then be referred to the Master to appoint new Trustees—for that purpose the Master must be attended by parties interested—evidence must be heard—after a long litigation the Master would make his report—that report would come under the consideration of his noble and learned Friend, before whom it might be again discussed, and an opposition sent back to the Master to review; and thus, after all this waste of time, after all this expensive litigation, his noble and learned Friend might at last be in a condition to make his order. Thus it was manifest, that for the mere purpose of appointing trustees much time would elapse and great expense would be incurred. Of that expense the greater part would necessarily come out of the charitable funds, many of which were so small (as every one who had read the report of the Commissioners must know) that the expenses of such controversies as he had described, would wholly exhaust them. If it were inconvenient, as suggested by the other House, that the present trustees should be continued for another year, how much more inconvenient was the alternative, namely, that the trusts should be administered by his noble and learned Friend, attended as that administration would be 1098 attended, by all the circumstances to which he had adverted? Dismissing this first question, he would trouble the House very shortly on the other point now under consideration. By the Municipal Corporation Bill the election of the mayor and aldermen was vested, in the first instance, in the council, and if the council should be equally divided in their choice, no proceeding or appointment could take place. The other House of Parliament did not object, in such a case, to the appointment of a presiding officer over the council. They did not object to that appointment being made by lot, but they said, that a person so elected ought not, in case of an equality of votes, on any question in the council, to have a casting vote. To contend for this objection was to argue for an anomaly upon the Municipal Corporation Bill itself, which actually gave a casting vote to the mayor—if no mayor, to the senior alderman—and if no alderman, to the presiding officer chosen by the council itself from its own body. He, therefore, must pause to inquire whether the amendments of this House were not in strict conformity with the principle of the Act of last Session—the principle being, that a person appointed in a manner to which the Commons did not object should have a casting vote. It was said, in opposition to their Lordships' amendment, that when parties were equally divided, by giving a casting vote to the chairman or presiding officer, he or one party would command the election or decision in the council. Why, the objection applied equally to every election in which, by the Municipal Corporation Act, a casting vote was given to the mayor. And what was the substitute proposed in lieu of the amendment made and sanctioned by this House? Why, it was proposed, where the council was divided, to vest the election of mayor and aldermen in the burgesses. Now, when the Municipal Corporation Act was under consideration last year, this House was of opinion that the election of those officers ought to be vested in the council; and having acted on that opinion, he did not suppose they would now depart from the principle they had sanctioned and adopted. He thought he had pointed out quite sufficient on this point to induce the House to think they ought to adhere to the spirit of the former Act, and give the casting vote as had been proposed. He believed that on all these grounds their Lordships 1099 would join him in thinking they ought to insist on the amendments sent up by them to the other House of Parliament. The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving that this House do insist on the amendments made by it in the Municipal Corporation Act Amendment Bill.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that as he gathered from the report which had just now been made by the managers appointed to conduct the free conference on behalf of their Lordships, he understood that none of the arguments advanced by the noble and learned Lord were urged to the managers on behalf of the other House of Parliament. Now, considering that this had been a free conference—a conference in which the case of this House was to be sustained, he did not understand why the argument urged by the managers on behalf of the Commons had not been met by the managers for this House—he did not understand why the dignity of this House had been abandoned, its character lowered, and its interests deserted, by the arguments just uttered not having been urged in that place where they were naturally expected. In his opinion, the arguments stated by the noble and learned Lord were totally insufficient in order to maintain the course he advocated. The clause, in reference to the charitable trustees, was adopted in the Municipal Bill of last year on the eve of the termination of the session, on the understanding that it was to be thought a mere temporary arrangement until Parliament could legislate more fully and completely in the matter; and this House would please to bear in mind that since that period, a bill entirely providing for the whole matter—a bill making full and entire provision for those contingencies which it had been intended to meet, had been sent up from the other house, and that that bill, on its second reading, without a consideration of its provisions, without going into Committee, their Lordships had thought proper to reject. Such being the case, he must say that their Lordships were not in a condition to require the House of Commons to yield to them on this question. It seemed to him to be a most unfair proceeding towards the House of Commons. This House having in this Bill secured the continuance in office of the trustees for another year, had treated the measure of the Commons, which went to establish a final and permanent arrangement, with perfect con- 1100 tempt, and had accompanied its rejection by expressions towards the other House of a most insulting, exasperating and contumelious nature. [Lord Lyndhurst: where have those expressions been used?] He contended, that every species of motive and intention had been attributed to the Commons—they had been charged with seeking to secure designs of their own, and to promote the interests of their own party, and he submitted that it was not fair or right to expect that the Commons would agree to continue the charitable trusts in the hands of those who now held them, after this House had itself rejected the means which had been provided by the Commons for supplying the deficiency. He wished to take this opportunity, on behalf of a noble and learned Friend of his, who had been absent from illness during the whole of the present Session, of setting right a misapprehension on this subject which had prevailed, and which had given his noble and learned Friend much uneasiness. His noble and learned Friend had desired him to state, that it was not on his (Lord Brougham's) motion that the clause in the Municipal Reform Act, intrusting for another year the existing trustees, was introduced, but, on the contrary it was introduced by another noble Lord, also not now in his place, (the Earl of Radnor) and had been assented to by the House. His noble and learned Friend begged him further to state, that not only did he undertake to introduce a Bill on the subject of Charitable Trusts, but that he did actually introduce a Bill for that purpose, and that it was only on being pressed by both sides of the House that he last year gave up the measure. His noble and learned Friend in addition stated, that his absence from his place this Session could not be a reason for not legislating on the subject, inasmuch as the House was in possession of his views on the matter. He therefore submitted to their Lordships, that the not legislating on it was not to be attributed either to neglect of duty on his part, or to the indisposition by which his noble Friend's absence had been occasioned. The delay might be chargeable on the Government, or on the House generally, but certainly it was not chargeable upon his noble and learned Friend. The noble and learned Lord opposite had well stated the inconveniences which would arise from the situation in which matters will stand if 1101 this Bill, with its amendments, was not allowed to pass into a law; but the noble and learned Lord had been silent upon the inconveniences which would arise from the Joss of other provisions of the Bill to which the amendments have no reference. He (Viscount Melbourne) would not trouble the House with a detail of them, for they were manifest to every noble Lord; but he would say, that these inconveniences, and that loss would lie, not at the door of the Government, not at the door of the House of Commons, but at their Lordships' door, who had refused the opportunity afforded them of legislating generally on the subject. Such was his opinion upon the first point raised by the noble and learned Lord opposite. With respect to the other point, he would say, that it was to give a man, chosen merely by lot, the power of carrying into effect, where there was an equality of feelings, a decision which ought to be that of the great body of the council. On these grounds, he should move, as an amendment, that the word "not" be inserted in the motion of the noble and learned Lord—in other words, that this House do not insist on their amendments in this Bill.
§ The Earl of Ripon
, in consequence of what had fallen from his noble Friend who had just sat down, felt obliged to trespass on the attention of the House for a very few moments. His noble Friend had complained of the course pursued by the managers on behalf of their Lordships as having been derogatory to the dignity of the House.
§ The Earl of Ripon
His noble Friend had also said it was derogatory to its dignity. Now, having taken the duty of managing the conference on behalf of this House, he felt called upon to vindicate the managers from the reproach thus cast upon them by his noble Friend. He was convinced that reproach arose from his noble Friend not knowing the course which had been taken by the managers on behalf of the Commons—a course most certainly consistent with their rights and privileges, but one which made it impossible for their Lordships' managers to enter into any verbal discussion with a view to enforce the opinions to which the House had arrived. In point of fact, the representations made to the managers were not made viva voce, but were read, from a 1102 written paper, which he really believed was verbally the same as that sent up on a former conference. It certainly appeared to him, that nothing was more natural and proper than that the managers on behalf of the Lords, not having been invited to enter into any discussion, should pursue the same course as that followed by the managers for the Commons, and to tender them in writing the reasons the Lords had to offer in support of the opinions they had formed. He apprehended, therefore, that they had not done anything that was at all derogatory to the character and dignity of this House. With respect to the clauses themselves, he trusted their Lordships would adhere to their original decision. The noble Viscount seemed to think that there was something very unreasonable in giving the casting vote to a person who was to be chosen by lot. For his own part, he could not see in what the unreasonableness consisted. By one clause of the Bill as it passed last Session, in the election of councillors, in case of an equality of votes the power was given to the mayor and assessors to decide who were elected into the council. But the next clause went still further; for with respect to the first election, it was provided that the mayor alone—independent of the assessors—the mayor of the old corporation, which it was the object of the Bill to destroy, should be the person who was to possess the casting vote. Upon what, then, could the noble Viscount found a charge of unreasonableness against the principle which was maintained in that amendment, to which the House of Commons had objected? With regard to the future, the present clause would in no way apply, for that was provided for by the Bill of last year. It was settled, that whenever a question came before the council, it was to be determined by a majority of votes; but if upon any subject there should be an equal division, the case was then to be submitted for decision to the mayor or to the senior alderman, or if he were not, then to any other of the aldermen, or if there should be none of them, then a commissioner, to be elected by the council, was to have the casting vote. The Bill, therefore, as passed last Session, did allow a casting vote. [Lord Melbourne: No election by lot.] He (the Earl of Ripon) admitted that the cases to which he had referred were not questions of lot; but the House of Commons had itself admitted 1103 the principle of proceeding by lot. It appeared to him, then, that the noble Viscount had stated no such strong objections against their amendment as would then induce the House to entertain an opinion of its unreasonableness; for who was the person after all that was to be elected by those to whom the election was intrusted? Was he a person wholly unconnected with the corporation? No such thing. He was a person whose character had been already before his fellow-citizens—whose conduct had been known by them, and in whom, so far as could be shown by their previous election of him, they had placed considerable confidence. Therefore he thought that the noble Viscount had pushed the argument to an extravagant length, because he had proceeded upon the assumption that the persons entitled to be elected might be totally unconnected with the particular corporation. With respect to the administration of the Charitable Trusts, the noble Viscount had complained that they had treated the House of Commons in a "contumelious"—he believed that was the word—and offensive manner; but that observation could at least have no reference to the Act of the House, whatever application it might have to the conduct of individual Members; but the House, at any rate was not responsible for anything which any individual might be supposed to have said or done upon the subject. When, however, the noble Viscount threw upon that House all the blame of any inconvenience or difficulty which might arise, he could not but think that that noble Lord forgot the circumstances under which the Corporations Act Amendment Bill came up to that House. Their Lordships would remember that it was early in the Session when the Bill was brought up. Upon the second reading various objections were stated to it; and it was agreed to, entirely, as he thought, with the consent of his Majesty's Government, that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, for the purpose of considering how those deficiencies might be removed, and the measure be made most applicable to the purposes for which it was framed; and he would confidently assert that there was nothing in the conduct of that Committee which showed any disposition to do that which was unfair or unreasonable. He might appeal to the recollection of the noble Lord as to two or three occasions, 1104 whether questions were not discussed in that Committee with a total absence of party feeling; it was impossible that there could have been a more fair investigation than that which there took place. It must also be remembered that at the time that they were called upon to consider the particular clause which was then the subject of discussion, no Bill had been introduced into either House of Parliament for the settlement of the general question. How could they possibly know that it was the intention of Government on the 7th of June—that Bill having been sent down in the month of May—to introduce on the 7th of June a measure upon that subject? At the time that they had to consider the question all they knew was that it was deemed expedient that there should be some general measure; but they had not the slightest hint given them as to the nature or the character of the provision intended. The Committee were aware of the expediency of some steps being taken in the matter. They saw no measure forthcoming; and therefore they did apply to the case the expedient of leaving it in its existing position until the 1st of August next year. Well, then, he did say upon that statement of the circumstances that they were not chargeable with any blame whatever. Undoubtedly if that line of argument was to prevail, and their Lordships were not to be permitted to exercise any judgment, they might just as well never debate at all. The Bill itself was most deficient in many of its provisions, and contained very dangerous clauses. Their Lordships had thought fit to defer the matter till another Session; and then, because, on the 4th of August, they found it impossible to deal in detail with a measure of great importance and delicacy, they were to be made answerable for all the difficulties and inconveniences arising from such a delay. The cause of the difficulty, he maintained, was the time when the Bill was brought forward. He did not intend to attach blame to the noble Lord on the Woolsack for not having at an earlier period introduced the measure, which belonged to his proper functions—he did not blame the Government; but he had a right, which he was bound to exercise, to exculpate the Committee from all blame whatever as being the cause of any inconveniences which might arise in reference to that subject.
said, that he rose merely for the purpose of saying a few words 1105 upon the criticisms which his noble Friend opposite seemed to feel so severely. A man most remarkable for his talents, Mr. Oliver Goldsmith, said,—"With respect to arguments, I always find myself to have the advantage of my antagonist when I am alone; but when I come into the presence of my adversary that fancied advantage is quickly gone." Now, noble Lords opposite seemed to be acting in the spirit of that observation, for the noble and learned Lord (Lyndhurst) had made a speech to their Lordships that night of considerable power, and which appeared to produce a great effect upon the House, conveying the reasons for insisting upon the amendments of that House, but which reasons he had not delivered in the free conference. Now, what was the meaning of a free conference? Their Lordships well knew that upon differences existing between the two Houses, conferences took place, and the reasons of each House were tendered in writing; but, by the interchange of these reasons, neither party having been convinced, the next step according to the rules of Parliament, was the holding of a free conference. But he would ask, where was the reason in such a course of proceeding as had been adopted upon this occasion? If Members of that House were sent to a free conference, and did not debate at all—he would not go to the extent of saying that such a course would lower the dignity of the House, but it at least led clearly to an inference that the reasons alleged by the other House were so convincing that they did not know how to answer them. Their Lordships had sent their managers, not merely for the purpose of insisting upon their amendments, but of battling and debating the question on behalf of the House; and why, he would ask, did the House select the noble Baron opposite? Because it thought he would be an able advocate of the opinion which the House had previously adopted—because it thought he would be able—and sufficient proof of his ability, the noble Lord had since afforded that night—to use convincing and eloquent arguments in favour of the view which the House had adopted. But it now appeared, when the question came to be urged with their adversaries, the manager had advanced no reasons whatever; but they waited till they came home—he would not use a more invidious expression, which might be misconstrued— 1106 till they came home to their own House, and then, in their own House even boasted of the reasons upon which they recommended their Lordships to adhere to their amendments. He certainly must confess that he was surprised that the counsel whom they had employed, having abandoned their case, should have come to their Lordships, and again press those arguments which they were afraid of maintaining before their antagonists. He thought the amendments originally wrong. If they adopted those amendments, they would entail upon the poor people the kind of catastrophe which the noble Lord had described, and the rejection of the Bill would produce nearly the same effect. The House of Commons had told them what they required. They said in all propriety and courtesy, "You insist upon your amendments; we dissent from them; but be so good as to tell us your reasons." The matter however, had, all been dumb show. ["They did not ask," from Lord Lyndhurst.] I deny it, said the noble Lord, they did; for the noble and learned Lord could know little of Parliamentary language if he was not aware that they did ask for reasons by demanding a free conference. If it did not mean that, it meant nothing. He denied that the managers for the Commons had tendered their reasons in writing; they had read their speech which was, of course, previously prepared. He supposed the noble and learned Lord had done the same—had read his speech. [Lord Lyndhurst: No! I spoke it.] Then he could only say, that since the Revolution, during which ten or twelve free conferences had taken place, it would be impossible to find a single one at which such a course of proceeding as the present had been adopted. In some instances there had been long debates; in all some reasons had been stated. It had been said, that this proceeding was calculated to lower the dignity of that House; but he would venture to say that it was lowering and degrading to Parliament itself, if they considered the nature and character of those conferences. A free conference was the last resort—it was that stage of the transaction at which they were driven to their reasons. What else could it mean? Was it, then, to be left to the judgment of the Members appointed upon that conference to come back to the House and say, "We have heard the reasons of the Commons; but 1107 we have also arguments of our own; we have not addressed one of them to the jury; but we are all against the verdict." Was it to be permitted to the counsel to come back to his client and say, "I advise you strongly to persist, though I have not one single word to say for you? "
§ The Duke of Wellington
observed, that after what had been stated by his noble Friend, he was surprised that the noble Baron should have expected that a debate should take place on the subject between the managers of the two Houses. The fact was, there was no room for a debate, and he was particularly surprised that the noble Viscount, and the noble Baron, should both have found fault with the managers for not debating the question, after the reasons they had heard so eloquently stated by his noble and learned Friend, although they had disapproved of every one of those reasons. But their Lordships would remember that the reasons which the managers had to deliver, were the reasons of the House, and not their own, and yet the two noble Lords came down here and disapproved of the conduct of his noble Friend, in not entering into a debate of the question. But this was not the only remarkable circumstance in the conduct of those two noble Lords. It appeared that they not only disapproved of the conduct of the managers of the free conference, but of the conduct of the House itself, on those two very questions, which were now under their Lordships' consideration. Now it so happened, that he had been in attendance on the Committee up stairs, to whom this very Bill was referred, and he had the happiness to be associated both with the noble Viscount, and the noble Baron in that committee. He would not impeach the accuracy of the noble Viscount's own statement of his belief, but he would remind him that these two very questions passed unanimously in the Committee up stairs, and through the House, as well as the committee, with the same unanimity. He was himself the person who moved that very clause respecting the existing vote, and not one word was said against that motion by any single member of that committee. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack himself, corrected some verbal mistake in that very clause. The report of that Committee passed the Committee unanimously; it was brought down to the House, and both the report and the 1108 third reading of the Bill, were agreed to without an expression of dissent. He did not mean to say, that he entertained no feeling of objection to some of the proceedings in that Committee. He certainly had felt such objections, and there were many of his noble Friends in that House, who felt the strongest objections to parts of the measure. But at the same time, he, considering that he had come to a compromise, in agreeing to that Committee, thought himself bound to go on with that compromise, and to persevere to the last; and he called on their Lordships—he called on the noble Viscount—he called on the noble Baron, now to support the Bill, to which they agreed on that occasion, after a consideration of three months—a measure, too, which they thought the best that could be adopted for the public interests at that time. After the statement which had been made by his noble Friend to the House—a statement of which he defied the noble Viscount to contradict one word—he was surprised to hear the noble Viscount, and the noble Baron, disapprove of the conduct of his noble and learned Friend, and of the conduct of the House, in persevering in their amendments. The noble Viscount had been pleased to state, that since that time, their Lordships had treated the House of Commons with insult and contumely, because they did not agree to the Bill which was sent up to the other House in the month of August, for regulating the management of charitable funds in corporate towns. Now, he was himself the person who moved, that the second reading of that Bill should be postponed to that day three months, and he made this motion upon these plain grounds—he recommended their Lordships to take that course, because one particular part of the Bill would subject the administration of those charities to this danger, that it tended to place them at the disposition, and under the government, of a party in the corporation, and the very appearance of election seemed to indicate that that plan was proposed with the intention of keeping those funds in the hands of that one party. Indeed, as the mayor was to preside over those who were to conduct these affairs, the management of them must have fallen into party hands. On that principle he objected to the arrangement proposed, but he offered no insult, he cast no contumely on the House of Commons for the course which they 1109 had thought proper to pursue. He stated his own opinion freely, as he had a right to do, on that measure, but it was far from his intention to say one word that could, by any possibility, be considered disrespectful to the other House of Parliament, and he was quite sure that he never could have said one syllable that could come within the meaning of the terms, "contumely and insult," which the noble Viscount had been pleased to use. The noble Viscount had blamed noble Lords on that (the opposition) side of the House, and had protested against the inconveniences that would result in the administration of charities, from their Lordships insisting on their amendments. All that their Lordships proposed by those amendments was, to continue in the hands of those persons, who now administered the Charitable Trusts in corporations, the same powers till the 1st of August next year. The noble Viscount said, that if their Lordships persisted in that amendment, the Bill would certainly be lost. But if the Bill were lost, that was not the fault of their Lordships. On the contrary, he would ask them, if they did not take the only course that could be adopted, by continuing the Trusts in the hands in which they were now placed till next year? If they withdrew that clause, the charities would be exposed to the ill effects of administration by a party; and if, on the other hand, the House of Commons insisted on their own amendments, and consequently in rejecting the Bill, the responsibility for the consequences ought not to attach to the Lords, but to the House of Commons. If indeed, they withdrew their amendments, and the charities should suffer from their doing so, then their Lordships would be responsible for the consequences that might ensue, and for the opposition which they had made to the Charitable Trustees Bill, in order to secure the reception, it would be said, of this very clause. This, then, was a course which he could not recommend their Lordships to pursue. With respect to appointing the Charitable Trustees, who administered the funds up to the 1st of August in this year, it was so clear that there was no other mode in which the matter could be arranged, except by a departure from the constitution of the corporation, that it was absolutely unnecessary to argue it.
remarked, that after what had already been said by the noble 1110 Lords who had preceded him, he should detain their Lordships with a very few words. He rose chiefly for the purpose of observing on two points on which the noble Viscount had touched, of which one related to a matter with which their Lordships, in that discussion, had nothing whatever to do, and which the managers of the Commons very properly abstained from referring to, in the conference between the two Houses—he meant the rejection of the Charitable Trustees Bill by that House. Their Lordships had nothing to do, at present, with the conduct of the House in rejecting that Bill. They had to choose between placing the charitable trusts, until the commencement of the next Session of Parliament, under the control of the present trustees, by which both Houses of Parliament concurred in directing that they should be administered, and the control of the Lord Chancellor; and he thought that the noble and learned Lord behind him had fully satisfied their Lordships, that it would be much less in. convenient to allow those funds to continue under the management of the present trustees, than to leave them to the control of the Lord Chancellor. There was no noble Lord in that House who was more thoroughly acquainted with the practice of Parliament than the noble Baron (Holland) who sat on the other side, but he believed that there was no period to which any man, who was zealous for the honour of Parliament, could look back with less pleasure, than to the period at which these discussions between the managers of the two Houses had taken place. He was satisfied that if they looked back, they would find nothing that was less creditable to both Houses than what had passed at the free conferences to which the noble Baron had referred. Nearly 100 years had elapsed since the last free conference was held; and he thought that the managers of the House of Commons must have felt—he was sure that such a feeling existed on the part of those whom their Lordships had appointed to manage the conference on their behalf—that after such an intermission of such a mode of communication between the two Houses, they had not merely to consider what precedents they were to follow, but what precedents they were to establish. He thought that both the managers of the House of Commons, and of the House of Lords, were entitled to this commendation, 1111 that if they had departed from the more ancient and established precedents on this occasion, they had done so only after the recommencement of a method of communication which, in the judgment of their predecessors, had tended to impede the public business, and had anything but forwarded the public advantage. The managers of the Lords had adopted the course which they thought was the most respectful to the House of Commons, and having communicated to the managers of the Commons the substance of the reasons which the managers were guided by, in insisting upon the amendments of their Lordships, they thought it proper that those reasons should be communicated to the House in extenso: and then, if their Lordships still adhered to their amendments, those reasons might be communicated in the same manner, and at the same length, to the Commons in another conference. In that case, the course would be to request a further conference with the Commons, at which these reasons might be communicated. If, then, their Lordships agreed to the motion of his noble and learned Friend, the next motion that would be necessary would be, to desire a further free conference, at which the reasons of their Lordships for insisting on their own amendments would be explained by the managers.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
said, that after the personal attack which the noble Viscount, in great anger, or at least apparently under its influence, had made against him, he felt he could not do otherwise than reply to the observations which the noble Viscount had thought proper to make upon the argument which, in all humility, he had felt it his duty to submit to their Lordships. The noble Viscount's conduct on this occasion, appeared to him the more extraordinary, since the arguments which he had used were employed in support of a measure to which the noble Viscount himself was a party. He (Lord Lyndhurst) was a member of the Committee to which the Bill was referred, and he was instrumental in naming the persons of whom it was composed. Every member of his Majesty's Government was a member of that Committee—the noble Baron (Holland), the noble Viscount (Melbourne), the noble Marquess(Lansdowne), and his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, were all members of it; and with respect to that very question which their Lordships 1112 were then considering, as to charitable trusts, there was not the slightest difference of opinion among the members of the Committee. The only thing which occasioned anything like a dispute in their discussions, related to the additional power that it was thought proper to give to those who exercised the corporate franchise. That was the only point on which a difference of opinion arose; and though that discussion was conducted on the most amicable footing, it occupied three or four days, but ended, he was happy to say, to the entire satisfaction of every member of the Committee. Then, what grounds were there for the attack which the noble Viscount had made, alleging that the object of this amendment was the encouragement of a party? Then the noble Viscount told their Lordships something about the Bill respecting the administration of charitable trusts, proposed by his noble and learned Friend, who had been obliged to absent himself from the House that Session. That Bill was indeed introduced by his noble and learned Friend, and it was read a first and second time, and ordered to be printed, but it was never subjected to a discussion, and it was admitted, considering how little was known of the provisions of the Bill, that it had better stand over till the present Session of Parliament. The noble Viscount seemed to think that he (Lord Lyndhurst) was to blame for not carrying this measure of his noble and learned Friend's into effect; but this was a measure which was not introduced at his instance, and surely it was the duty of the Government, if it was incumbent upon any one, certainly it was not the duty of any individual on that side of the House, to take up a measure which was propounded to Parliament in the last Session. He hoped their Lordships would be of opinion, that he was not to blame for not taking up this Bill, and leaving the noble Viscount to bring it in. With respect to the Bill now under consideration, these amendments were adopted long before the other Bill came up from the other House of Parliament, and it was considered of the utmost importance, that the present trustees should be continued in office for a limited period, in the event of no bill being sent up for the regulation of these matters. It was considered as a measure of precaution. Afterwards, it was true, another bill came up, having as its professed object the regulation of these 1113 funds; but it did not follow as a matter of course, that their Lordships were under the necessity of adopting it. The noble Viscount had stated, that in the discussion which this measure received, he had used language insulting to the character and derogatory to the dignity of the other House of Parliament. If he had done so, it was the duty of the noble Viscount to call the attention of their Lordships to it at the time. He was not aware, that he had ever spoken of the House of Commons in any terms but of the highest respect. But was it not competent for him to express his opinion upon a Bill which had received their sanction? The noble Marquess (Lansdowne) had made an active assault upon him on that occasion; but the noble Marquess dealt with his arguments, and did not accuse him of treating the House of Commons with disrespect. He wished to know what was the foundation for the charge which the noble Viscount had preferred against him; and he now gave him the opportunity of naming the expressions he had used, tending in the slightest degree to throw insult or contumely on the House of Commons. He had treated the subject as it ought to be treated; he looked upon the measure as a party measure, and he satisfied their Lordships, that he was right in entertaining that opinion. He argued the question on another principle also; he showed, that by the express terms of the grants a great proportion of the charitable trust funds were intended to be exclusively appropriated to members of the Established Church; and he contended that these funds ought not to be administered by Dissenters, which, if this Bill passed, in a great number of instances they would be, and therefore he objected to the principle of the Bill. The noble Viscount attempted to answer that argument. However, he left that for the noble Marquess to do. That Bill was, however, very properly rejected, and no other provision had been made for the regulation of charitable trusts than what had been introduced by their Lordships, and to which the noble Viscount was a party, but which he now came down to oppose. He asked their Lordships, therefore, whether the course they had pursued was not a straightforward and correct one; and he took the opportunity of asking the noble Viscount, if he would condescend 1114 to give him an answer, what were the expressions which he (Lord Lyndhurst) had used insulting and contumelious to the House of Commons?
§ Viscount Melbourne
observed, that the noble and learned Lord had mistaken the effect of what he had said with respect to the Bill of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham). He stated, that no argument ought to have been drawn by the noble and learned Lord from the absence of his noble and learned Friend, as a reason for not proceeding with the measure introduced by his noble and learned Friend, because the House was already in possession of the subject; and so far was he from charging the noble and learned Lord with a fault in not bringing forward the Bill, that he only mentioned the subject to vindicate his noble and learned Friend from any imputation of lâches or negligence, or from a suspicion that the measure was not proceeded with owing to his indisposition, as his noble and learned Friend was most anxious that he should not be represented to the country as in any way instrumental in delaying a measure of this kind. With respect to that part of the Bill that related to an equality in the town-council, and the appointment of a chairman by lot, he begged to say, that he most distinctly stated, that the Commons would not press their amendments on this point, provided their Lordships would give way on the question of charitable trustees. That he gave them most clearly to understand. That objection was considered of far less importance than the other, and if their Lordships would yield upon that, there would be little difficulty in accommodating the matter. The noble Duke had said, that he (Lord Melbourne) had agreed to the clauses now under discussion when the Bill was in Committee. He did so, but he distinctly stated at the time, that they were to be no bar to future legislation on the subject. He did not mean to say, that anything of unfairness had been exhibited in this particular; but if there were any political advantage to be gained by the funds remaining in the hands of the present trustees, the course to attain that object would be exactly that which was taken. They brought in a clause leaving the trust funds where they were; and, having done that, they threw out the Bill for the general regulation of corporate trust property. If he were to speak his 1115 own candid opinion, it was an act of political jockeyship. With regard to the remarks he had made upon the insult offered to the House of Commons, he was convinced of the accuracy of his observations from his general recollection of the tone and character of the debates that took place in their Lordships' House on that Bill. He did not know, that he could apply any particular expressions used by the noble and learned Lord, nor could he certainly at that moment state what he said; and if he were to attempt to quote from memory he might commit some error; but undoubtedly it was and still continued to be his impression, that during the whole course of these debates the greatest jealousy was expressed with respect to the House of Commons, and he remembered well it was distinctly stated, that there was a revolutionary party in that House who projected these and similar measures. He was stating what was in his recollection; if he were wrong, he should be very glad to hear noble Lords disavow those sentiments and those feelings. But he did not rely on particular expressions; he regarded the tone, the temper, the character, the colour of the debate. There was an observation made something like this—"Here you see the character of this scheme, and the temper in which it was framed." [Lord Wharncliffe. Hear, hear.] The noble Lord, avows it; I knew he would have the manliness to do so. I cannot say, that the noble Duke has used such language, but I cannot say the same for others. I repeat again that I entertained, and still entertain, that impression. I cannot, if I am called upon, state the precise words, but after all it is the import—it is the meaning—it is the animus—the spirit which dictates that sort of tone, and runs all through it that I looked to; and I say that jealousy and suspicion of the House of Commons, and of all popular feeling throughout the country, pervaded and characterised that debate. With respect to the question at present before the House, whatever may be the inconveniences which may ensue from the loss of the Bill in consequence of the charities coming under the supervision of the Court of Chancery, I believe that the House of Commons will not allow the present trustees to retain their power for six months, nor for six hours—no, nor for six minutes, and I believe they are in the right.
§ Lord Abinger
My Lords, I must deny the justice of the noble Viscount's impressions; but I ask your Lordships whether in reproving the members of this House, it becomes the leader of the House and a Minister of the Crown to do so in the manner and in the tone in which the noble Viscount has expressed himself. Does he suppose that because we have the misfortune not to agree with him, that we have no sensibility to the mode, manner, and language in which he habitually addresses the majority of this House? What does he mean by saying that we repudiate every thing popular in feeling throughout the country? I beg leave to protest against the truth of that supposition; for my own part, I deny the charge altogether. I do not believe that any other noble Lord is liable to such an imputation, and if I did not think that the noble Viscount sincerely believed what he said, I should look upon his observations as nothing more than a rhetorical artifice.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
admitted, that he had used language not much unlike what the noble Viscount had supposed, but was he to be told that he must shut his eyes and ears, and believe that there were not any persons in the House of Commons who were decrying their Lordships' House, and decrying the situation which their Lordships filled in the constitution? He must be blind and deaf, indeed, if he did not perceive that there were many persons in the House of Commons who entertained these views and expressed these sentiments. He believed, and he was quite ready to admit that it was his opinion, that cases did arise in which measures were brought forward for party purposes, and he must say that a large party in the other House of Parliament had in the instance of a great number of other Bills made an attempt to place their Lordships in an inconvenient and embarrassing position, by sending them up for their concurrence, though they well knew that they would not be carried.
§ The Lord Chancellor
would not have said one word upon this question, had it not been for what had fallen from the noble Duke and the noble and learned Lord, in adverting to the assent which the Government had given to the clauses now under consideration when the Bill was discussed in Committee up stairs. It was perfectly true that no opposition was then offered to them; but the argument was accompanied by a distinct representation that 1117 they were not to interfere with any future legislation. On this understanding, he had consented to the clauses. But he never supposed that when the Charitable Trustees Bill came up from the other House their Lordships would have refused even to look at the measure, for he did say that they might at least have entertained the principle of the Bill, and dealt with the details in Committee.
§ Lord Lyndhurst
observed, referring to what had been said by his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, that if this measure had not been passed by their Lordships, he never would have assented to the Bill sent up by the other House of Parliament.
§ The House divided on the question, that their Lordships do persist in their amendments—Contents 40; Not Contents 29: Majority 11.
|List of the NOT CONTENTS.|
|Scarborough||Saye and Sele|
§ Resolution ordered to be communicated at another free conference, and message to be sent requesting such conference.
§ Conference agreed to.