HL Deb 11 August 1836 vol 35 cc1117-20
Lord Holland

said, as the noble Baron opposite had moved for a new free Conference, he wished to know from him whether he intended to offer to the Commons any fresh reasons or adopt any new mode of proceeding?

Lord Ellenborough

considered, that the noble Baron opposite was not justified in putting to him, an individual, a question as to what the opinions of the whole body of the managers might be, or what they might think it expedient to do.

Lord Holland

said, the noble Baron was right in one part of his observations, but as he had been heard to express what was understood to be the sentiments of the mana- gers, it was thought he might be expected to state now what they, including the noble Baron himself, thought on the subject, or intended to do.

Lord Ellenborough

replied, that when he spoke in that House he merely expressed his own individual sentiments. When he acted as a manager his duty was, to be guided by the instructions of the House.

The Managers for the Lords, who were the same as before, left the House to confer with the Commons.

The Managers of the Conference, on the part of their Lordships, having returned, after an absence of two hours,

The Earl of Ripon

said, he had to read to their Lordship's House the Report of the Managers appointed on behalf of their Lordships to conduct the free Conference with the Managers on the part of the House of Commons, which was conducted by Lord John Russell and others, Members of the other House. The noble Earl read as follows:— The Managers of the House of Lords stated to the Managers for the Commons that the Lords were determined to adhere to the Amendments made in pr. 5, 1. 25 of the Act, because the Municipal Corporations Act not having provided that a fresh election should take place, in the event of an equality of votes, the Lords considered it would be more in accordance with the principle of that Act to meet the difficulty which might arise from the cause in the manner in which it was proposed to be met by your Lordships, namely, by giving a casting vote to the person presiding at the election. That the Lords likewise adhere to the insertion of Clause (L), because they are of opinion that the inconvenience which would arise from placing the charitable trusts under the management of the Lord Chancellor would be much greater than might arise by allowing them to remain until the next Session, or until Parliament should otherwise provide, in the hands of those persons, in whom both Houses of Parliament concurred in continuing them by the Act of last year. The Lords observed, that it does not appear that any practical injury had arisen from allowing those trusts to remain under the management of those under whose direction both Houses of Parliament concurred in placing them last Session. The Lords were, nevertheless, anxiously desirous that the management of these charitable funds should be placed on a permanent and satisfactory footing; whereby the administration of these trusts, which were intended for the benefit of the poor, might, as far as possible be divested of all party interest. The Managers for the Commons stated, that they were not instructed to yield with respect to the two clauses in question. With respect to the first, that which relates to giving the castin vote to a person chosen by lot, they considered it inconsistent with the spirit of the Act, but they were willing to have that point referred to the present House of Commons. With respect to the provision in Clause (L), by which the charitable trustees were to be continued in power, they hoped that it would not be considered necessary to introduce into this Bill this provision, as the conduct of those persons was unsatisfactory to their constituents; and they could not consent to have the power vested in the present trustees continued in them on any terms. That the provisions made last year showed that Parliament was not of opinion that any serious inconvenience would arise from having the power over these trusts placed in the hands of the Lord Chancellor. That the Commons were apprehensive that, if they conceded this point now, they might be asked on similar grounds to acquiesce in placing the trusts in the hands of those to whom they were now confided at a future period. The Commons thought that the Bill was a valuable Bill, and that the Lords should recollect, that all that was valuable in its provisions would be lost by your Lordships' adherence to the amendments which they had made in it. Your Managers replied, that your Lordships were always desirous of maintaining a good understanding with the House of Commons, and were willing to defer to their opinion on any point which could be conceded consistently with your view of the public interest. Your Managers then detailed the manifold mischiefs which must arise from placing the control over the administration of those trusts in the Lord Chancellor: that it had not come to your knowledge that any abuses had taken place since the Act of last year in the management of these trusts, nor was it at all probable that persons so observed, as those who had had the management of these funds have been, would venture to abuse or betray the trust reposed in them. The Managers for your Lordships suggested that still it was competent for the House of Commons to introduce clauses for the auditing and superintending of these trusts; and, finally, they, the Managers of the Lords, having enlarged upon the reasons already detailed, and no agreement having been come to, left the Bill with the Managers of the Commons.

Viscount Melbourne

said, it appeared to him that this was a very odd way of proceeding. From the report just read of the Managers who had conducted the Conference, and from the period of time they had been absent, it was evident that a considerable length of debate had taken place on this subject. When they first met, their hands were free, and yet it appeared that they had not entered into any debate or urged any argument whatever in support of their amendments, although the whole matter was then open; but now, after having come to a vote on the subject—after the whole matter had been decided—after the House had determined to insist upon their Amendments, and with their hands thus tied, the Managers, it appeared, had entered into a very long course of argument and debate, and had had a complete discussion of the whole subject. Now, he thought it would have been more consonant with their duty, as well as with reason, to have entered into those arguments at the first Conference, while the matter was yet open, than when it had been concluded by a vote of that House. It appeared to him to be a very strange mode of conducting a conference between the two Houses, and not at all consistent with the practice of former times.

Lord Wharncliffe

was understood to observe, that in the first Conference the Commons did not enter into any debate, and the Lords had merely followed their example, and that in the second Conference the Commons had originated the debate which had taken place.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that they had now recommenced a practice after a lapse of nearly 100 years. The discussion, however, which the doing so had given rise to did not appear to have been a very advantageous one, though certain it was it had been a very long one. To him it did not appear to have produced a very good effect. The noble Viscount opposite had expressed his disapprobation of it, and in reference to which he (the Duke of Wellington) had only to say, that he hoped the noble Viscount would be so kind as to exercise that influence which he undoubtedly possessed over his colleagues in another place to induce them not to propose to their Lordships' House the adoption of any such proceeding in future.