HL Deb 05 June 1837 vol 38 cc1169-89
Lord Brougham

rose to call the attention of their Lordships to what, in his mind, and no doubt in theirs also, however they might differ upon other matters, was to be regarded as of paramount importance— he meant the state of business in that House; and, as connected with the business in that House, also to the state of business in the other House of Parliament, to which they were chiefly, if not entirely, to ascribe it—but if not entirely, then there could be traced in what he read of the records of the other House, the mischiefs that they complained of in their Lordships' House. The first mischief was that which might be stated in a single sentence—they had been sitting there between four and five months, and had been doing little or nothing. They had passed one Bill, which had given rise to considerable discussion on one or two particular points, but which, now that it was passed, was identically the same Bill that had been adopted by a Committee of their Lordships House, and which had been fully discussed two years ago. That Bill had been introduced by the Master of the Rolls. They had four or five alterations made in the measure. He had taken occasion at the time, to express his doubts as to these alterations at the time of their discussion. The Bill, however, left the House in all its substantial particulars identically the same with the measures that had left the Committee two years ago. He could not then, congratulate their Lordships on the subject of that Bill either in this or the last Session. Then there was another Bill—the Municipal Corporation Bill—a measure of very great importance, one that had undergone, he would not say two Sessions ago, but last Session, very severe scrutiny in a Committee of their Lordships. But, with the exception of these two Bills, had any one thing been done this Session? There was, in fact, absolutely nothing, with the exception of their agreement to the resolutions respecting the province of Canada. Upon those resolutions, their Lordships were unanimous in agreeing with the other House; their agreement being, as Bayes says, "when they do agree, it is wonderful." The measures came from the other House of Parliament at, as in 1835, so late a period, that it was almost impossible to pay attention to them. In three or four weeks, when the month of July had come, the whole of the business would be thrown upon them, and which, to be fairly done and deliberately considered, and efficiently accomplished, ought to be spread over the whole of the seven months. At that time he felt it his duty to complain of and lament the course that had been adopted by the majority of their Lordships; but he should be wanting in common candour, if he was, during the present Session, to state that the blame rested with the majority of their Lordships. He must confess, however, at the same time, that he looked with fear and trembling to the course which their Lordships might be induced to pursue with respect to some of those measures which would be brought before their Lordships; but he should be guilty of a gross breach of candour if he was not at once to admit that if their Lordships were to take the course which it was generally understood they intended to take—if they postponed their decision upon the measures which might come from the House of Commons in the course of the next six weeks or two months—he should be doing injustice to their Lordships if he did not at once admit that the fault was not at the door of their Lordships, but at other doors. He could understand the doctrine of those who said it would be better if our constitution were differently moulded, and that there should be but one legislative assembly—although they might be wrong, yet they held that opinion consistently. They said, let us have no more House of Lords —that he could understand. He could understand, though not so clearly, because it had never been stated so distinctly, the proposition of those who said, the present House of Lords, as now constituted, was ill adapted to exercise its legislative functions, and therefore that its constitution should be reformed and altered. They might hold that doctrine erroneously, but they also held it consistently compared with those who said there ought to be a House of Lords, who said they were satisfied with the present constitution of the House of Lords, who said a second House of Parliament, to revise the proceedings of the other House, and to originate proceedings of itself, was a necessary part of the constitution, and if not absolutely necessary, was highly expedient; and who, nevertheless, admitting that and resting their faith on that doctrine, took such precautions as made it absolutely—he was going to say physically—impossible that that other House of Parliament should exercise any one of those functions which they say are, as the law now stands, its just and lawful attributes; because, to crowd into three or four weeks, the measures which ought to take three or four months, at least, for the purpose of having them so understood that they might be fairly discussed and to be so discussed that they might safely be passed into laws by the machinery of that constitution of which those persons admitted the just force, and admitted the expediency, and at all events admitted the present lawful existence of whatever, in point of consistency, might be the conduct of the proceedings of the other class of reasoners to whom he had referred, theirs was utterly and hopelessly inconsistent. Having said so much of the evils, he would now entreat them to look at what might be considered as the source from which those evils arose; and neither in what he had said, nor in what he was about to state, did he take upon himself to throw blame upon any quarter whatever. He had no right, far be it from him to wish he had a right, to attribute this delay to the proceedings of the other co-ordinate branch of the legislature, for which, as representing the people of this country, he had, now did, and ever should entertain the most profound respect, a respect which he trusted he should share with the majority of those whom he had the honour to address. He wished to throw no blame whatever on the conduct of any individual Members, and the only means he had of knowing the proceedings of the other House were those which they had themselves enabled him to possess— namely, the printed votes which they had published. He ascribed no blame whatever to his noble Friend near him, at the head of his Majesty's Government. He might regret, perhaps, that Ministers had not originated some Bills in their Lordships' House. No doubt they had sufficient reasons for not doing so; and, therefore, although he expressed his regret that those Bills which might have been brought in there had been allowed to proceed first elsewhere, he threw no blame on them. Without attempting to assign reasons or motives to any person he thought he had a right to state to their Lordships what appeared to him to be one or two of the prevailing causes of that obstruction to the business of Parliament. First, one cause might be said to be certain privileges of the other House of Parliament, in respect of money bills and money clauses, which prevented the introduction into their Lordships' House of many measures, which were either money bills, or were so mixed up with bills of that description, that it had been found inconsistent with the exclusive privileges of the other House to which allusion was made on the Dublin Police Bill—some nights ago, to originate those measures in their Lordships' House, the consequence of which was, that a vast proportion of those bills were admitted not to be within the originating jurisdiction of their Lordships House, but only receivable there after passing the other House of Parliament. At one time, it was supposed that these privileges extended much further, and that a Bill, in which penalties were introduced, could not originate in that House. The inconvenience had been long submitted to; but so much of the mischief of which they were now complaining, namely, the postponement of the business of the House during the first two months of the Session had taken place, that it was found necessary to bring the subject forward in the other House, and his right hon. Friend, the Member for Montgomeryshire, had brought forward and carried a series of resolutions which enabled them to originate bills of that nature in the House of Lords. Now, that privilege might be extended a good deal without intending to interfere with what was exclusively the right of the House of Commons, namely, that of levying taxes upon the people, and bringing forward money bills. Without infringing upon that, he could not help thinking that some relaxation might be made in the rules which would be attended with the best consequences to the public, would tend to the convenience of legislation in both Houses, and would spread the business of that House more equally over the Session. There was a second cause, to which he had only adverted very generally, that was the right of parties to exercise their own choice in introducing bills into one House rather than the other. This was a point that could not be made matter of regulation; and he only threw out this observation by way of suggestion to the parties, as it would tend to expedite measures. He must say, that the general complaint now was, that the whole business was postponed to the end of the Session. There was a very great indisposition to begin, and the consequence was, that during the first part of the Session, little or nothing was done, and during the latter part there was a good deal too much done for the time left to do it in. His observation was not meant to apply to the present Government or the last—to that House of Lords or the preceding one; the system was at fault, and individuals ought not to be blamed for it. There was another thing to be considered in connexion with that subject, and one which he considered it was not impossible to provide a remedy for—he alluded to what was called the private business of Parliament, the mass of which had been increasing of late years, (although not so much as some would suppose) but which had been a very great burthen to the Houses of Parliament, and a great obstruction to legislation on public measures. Let them only see in what position the other House was placed, where Members were occupied the whole morning attending private bills—when, at one time, in their Lordships' House, ten or twelve Committees were sitting, and in the other from twenty to thirty at one and the same time—when the Members were obliged to attend these Committees, from the middle of the day to the sitting of this House-when many of them were harassed even before their attendance began by private communications with the parties interested, or with their own constituents. Even if they had no private business, or domestic concerns to attend to, their whole mornings were occupied in that way. Let their Lordships only consider what the state of Members of the other House must be, and how ill calculated they were to discharge their public duties, and nothing could be more likely than that these hon. Members should be wanting in their attendance, when it was necessary to keep the House together. It was not, then, to be wondered at—he only argued probabilities—if the result of that fatigue was, that the House did not sit, not being able to make one at four o'clock, and that Houses were not made for one or two days during each week; and if, after they had sat for an hour or two, they were counted out, it being found, in the course of the evening in consequence of the fatigue to which he had alluded, that it was more expedient to adjourn it than to go on, although there were thirty or forty orders and seventy or eighty notices which crowded the books; for that they were overwhelmed with this amount of public and private business their Lordships had only, in order to satisfy themselves, to look to the records of the House. Thus, with seventy-one notices upon subjects given on the first night of the Session, upon subjects, many of them of the highest importance to the interests of the nation, and of mankind, and others of minor import, and those had been increased to one hundred in the first week of its sitting, and, if he might venture to say, a very moderate per centage indeed of those had been disposed of, although they had been for four or five months upon the books. A very moderate per centage of them had even gone beyond the embryo state of notices in the first stage of their existence. Oppressed, then, as the other House was, with a heavy amount of business, and incapable, for the reasons he had already given, to sit for the purpose of expediting it— he would not say to get through it — but incapable of making even a serious im- pression on it, the other House was in the state to which he referred—a state in which their Lordships' House would also be from the same causes, if they were compelled to attend to private business during the morning, and if they had the same number of notices and orders to do with, which happily they had not, although it was a set off against the other evil, that of there being no business to be done in their Lordships' House for four or five months. Much of the business to which he alluded, was private business, but was, nevertheless, of great importance; not as of paramount import as public business could be, yet it was of great importance to the parties concerned; and thus the other House disposed in a Session of a greater amount of property, and of a greater amount of questions of private, interest, than all the courts of law and equity; in a year. No doubt those questions were of great importance to those concerned, and on reference to the amount of them which had been dealt with he found that in the course of the last five years, exclusive of the present, the average of local bills—for he meant to include local public bills in the list of private acts—that the average passed' was 161 each year, there having been not less than ninety-one passed during the last year. That was the amount of private legislation, which was, of course, a serious burthen upon both Houses of Parliament, from the obstruction to other business, which it caused, and, above all, from the unsatisfactory manner in which it was done and in which it must continue to be done so long as the present system was pursued, when the number of folio pages devoted to private legislation — of acts passed within the last two Sessions— was upwards of nine thousand. During the last six years and a-half, since the accession of his present Majesty, there were nearer 24,000 than 23,000 folio pages added to the statute book. There were in that time 23,700 folio pages in that species of legislation. The average number of bills passed in those years was l6l, but the number had been greater in former years. In 1825, there were 282 bills passed; in 1826, when the delusion that had existed respecting joint-stock banks was at an end, there were upwards of 200 bills. In 1813, there had been 295 bills passed. In the last twelve years no less than fourteen towns had had, in the course of every Session, two local acts passed. Southwark had had twelve, Edinburgh and Glasgow twenty-one, Liverpool no less than twenty-three, and there had been no less than 278 bills, all making local regulations for forty-live towns during the last twelve years. The expense of those measures was not less than 300,0001l. This species of legislation, however, was not confined to towns, but extended to parishes. In the parish of Mary la bonne alone, since the year 1795, the local legislation occupied a volume of nearly five hundred pages, being much greater—he would not say than the Code Napoleon—but much greater than the Code Civile. Each of those acts, he begged their Lordships to recollect, having the effect of suspending the law of the land and interrupting private rights, sometimes of altering the law under which men had made their contracts and settled their affairs, and by which they supposed themselves safe — giving rights which the law repudiated, powers which the law did not authorise, and sanctioning wrongs which the law deprecated; that was, in short, but in truth, the effect of private legislation. It was most inconceivable that measures such as those he had stated, should have passed without more mature deliberation, and have been decided upon by those who had never heard the facts connected with them. He sought not to cast blame on any party— it was the system, and the system alone, of which he complained, and which by long usage had grown up into an inveterate practice. With regard to Members of the House of Commons the case was peculiar. Men went there under the influence, not merely of the importunity of friends, which might be resisted, but of the importunity of constituents, which could not be so safely resisted. He knew not, indeed, whether, strictly speaking, the constituents had not a claim on their representatives assistance. If he were asked to support a particular measure by any particular class of individuals, he had it in his power to reply that he was here in his individual capacity — he represented no one; but a man's constituents had a right to say, "You are the representative of our interests,". It, was true that an individual elected a Member of Parliament ought to consider himself the representative not alone of his particular constituents but of the country at large. It certainly was his duty to consult the interests of the public as a whole, but it must also be admitted, that his constituents, in so far as their local interests were concerned, had a peculiar claim on him. One of the standing orders of the House of Commons made it imperative to publish the attendance of the Members on Committees, and he found, from a record of their proceedings, which he held in his hand that the attendance on one Bill, which he would not name, but it was before the House this Session, was as follows:—On one occasion there were present forty-eight Members, then forty, then forty-four, then forty-two and then forty. He would suppose that every one person who was nominally entered as attending did attend the whole time, but it was possible that only five or six out of the forty gave a continued attendance. The average attendance for the first six days was forty-three. On the seventh day, however, there was an unusual attendance; it looked as if the Committee were disposed to work double tides. Suddenly, the number who appeared rose from forty to seventy-one. One might naturally ask himself what was the meaning of so sudden an increase—how was it, that there having been an attendance of only forty during the first six days, on the seventh day there was an influx of thirty additional Members? The riddle was soon solved by what followed. There was a vote, and on that vote he found that sixty-five divided. So that though there were never more than forty-two or forty-three present during the hearing of the business, the counsel having delivered their speeches, the witnesses having been examined, and the question coming before the Committee for decision, it was decided by the votes of sixty-five individuals. Some who thus divided had never attended till the sixth day, and there were several who attended for the first time on the day of the division. This course of proceeding was not confined to the case of which he had been speaking; it was of ordinary occurrence. He would give another instance still more remarkable. In the case to which he was about to revert the Committee sat for fourteen days. In the course of the eleventh and three subsequent days there were six divisions; out of these six, three were equal, and the matter was decided by the casting vote of the chairman. On the other three divisions there never was a greater majority than one; the numbers were seven to six or six to five; so that the going out of a Member, or the coming in of a Member who had not been in before, and who, there-fore, had not heard a syllable of the evi- dence, governed the decision. For the first ten days the Committee sat, the numbers who attended ran thus:—In the beginning there were seventeen, then thirteen, then seventeen, then eighteen; then, when they had got into about the thick of the business, the numbers dropped down to ten, the next day they were seven, then they began to rise again, and their Lordships would suspect the reason. From seven they mounted to sixteen, from sixteen to twenty-four, from twenty-four to twenty-six, from twenty-six to twenty-eight, thus rapidly reaching that number of twenty-eight on the eleventh day. This was to be accounted for by the division. Now, seven of those who divided could not be found amongst the twenty-eight who had given their attendance. They were seen on that occasion, but they never had been seen or heard of before. The subjects to which this Committee devoted its attention were of a very peculiar description, and most remarkably precise was it as to the results to which it arrived One of the questions to be answered, being the number, of passengers that would be conveyed on that line of road, he found them estimated at 513 and seven-eighths of a passenger. The parties were also fractionally accurate as to the income to be divided between the shareholders, which was stated to be 31,7511l. 18s. 4d. The Committee reported that, "the line and its branches, in an engineering point of view; were peculiarly fitting for their purpose; that the gradients and curves were favourable, that the steepest gradient was one in 290, and that extended over a mile and a quarter, &c" Why, to learn the language of these things, it was almost necessary to attend for two or three days on the Committee. The noble and learned Lord then referred to the case of another Committee, which sat for fifty-five days in the last Session, and the Bill having been thrown out, resumed their sittings this Session, and had sat for thirty-five days, making in the whole ninety days. The attendance in this instance had varied exceedingly. At first, the numbers were twenty-four, then fourteen, then twelve, then ten; they then got up to twenty-six; on the twenty-eighth day, instead of there being twenty-eight present, there were fifty-three, and then of course came a division, when forty-six divided. What ensued? It might be fancied that the Members of the Committee were exhausted by the labour they had undergone. In the division for the next day, the attendance was only twenty-seven. The day after it rose again and was forty-three; on that day, there were three divisions. Once more the attendance dropped and was only twenty-two. On the last day of all, there were present forty-three; and then came the divisions in which, of course, were parties who had failed in giving a hearing to the evidence. These things, he it remembered, were done without even feeling ashamed of them—they were done, not in the dark, not by connivance, but openly, notoriously, and avowedly. They were part of a system; the system had been long established; the practice was inveterate, and his complaints were directed against the system and the practice. He would be the last person in the world to say anything against the Committee, and against the individuals comprised in the Committee, who had conformed to the practice. They did the same tiling in this House, without constituents to importune them. He recollected a case which was stated by the noble Baron opposite two years ago. The noble Baron complained on that occasion that noble Lords had divided on the Bill, who had not attended before the day when they came down to vote. He was aware their Lordships might say that they had read the evidence, but he begged to inform their Lordships that there was a wide difference between reading the evidence, and seeing and hearing the witnesses, and hearing the arguments of counsel. There might be various opinions as to the nature and extent of this mischief, and as to how far those individuals were acting indiscreetly who were parties to it; there might be different opinions as to the best mode of applying a remedy, or as to whether any remedy was likely to be effectual, but there was one matter, with respect to which, he would venture to say there could not be a difference; he would venture to say that there could not be any difference of opinion, either within or without the doors of Parliament, either as regarded the public or those who took a part in these transactions; he would venture to say, that there could not be a difference of opinion even on the part of that body of men to whom alone, the system, as at present established and administered could be supposed to be profitable—he alluded to the profession to which he had the honour to belong, not excepting them, throughout the whole country, not the shadow of a shade of difference of opinion would be found to exist as to the present system; but with one voice, and that would soon be a loud voice, they all would join in complaining of, in reprobating, and in condemning the system, and loudly and strenuously would they call out for a change. Flow to shape a proposition to get rid of the evil was a far more difficult question. This was not the only mischief God knew, which it was easier by a thousand times to point out and complain of than it was to find a remedy for; if, however, that were a sufficient reason for not seeking a remedy, where would be all the improvements which in other matters they had attempted, and he would add, so successfully? It was their duty to do their best, and only to cease attempting a cure when they found the mischief was irremediable. What he wished to call their Lordships attention to, was the propriety of instituting an inquiry to see whether the evil was past remedying or not. If the result of the inquiry should show that no remedy could be found, they must be content with things as they were. For himself he must say that he did not think the case quite hopeless. He had considered various plans, but he would not go so far as to assert that any one of them ought to be adopted, or even that a combination of the whole would effect the important object they ought to have in view; but he would, nevertheless, state one or two of them for their Lordships' consideration. In his opinion, some regulation was extremely desirable in both Houses of Parliament for limiting the period of the year in which private business was to be transacted; he would specify the time, and not allow it to be so extended as at present. He knew there were certain interests which would not be much benefitted by such a plan. He knew there were certain interests for the advancement of which it was better that the private business should be spread over a period of five or six months; but his belief was, that it would be in itself a great improvement, should they go no further than to confine the private business to a specified period, and let it be understood, that after such a date, allowing, say four or six weeks, private business should cease. But then that must be coupled with a cessation of other business during that time, and that involved what he knew many of the Members of both Houses were averse to, namely, a compulsory attendance to private business as there was in the other House of Parliament to Election Committees. This proposition might be carried into effect if they met at a reasonable time of the year —if they did not persist in turning winter into summer, as well as night into day — if, instead of meeting in the beginning of February, they would assemble in the beginning of November, laying it to their account to be released in the month of May or in the beginning of June. They might find such an arrangement inconvenient at first; but his belief was, that in a few years they would marvel that they had so long deferred an arrangement so easy and so advantageous. At all events, to meet earlier, to devote the first part of the Session to the private business, and so to get the remainder of the Session, for public business, in his opinion would be a great benefit. An arrangement for getting rid of the private business in the morning was objected to by some on the ground that it was inconvenient for the Houses of Parliament to meet in the day time. It was said, that such a system would exclude professional men. His experience did not lead him to that conclusion. He found that their sitting of an evening did not preclude the attendance of those professional men who had professional business of an evening. In former times, when Parliament sat at ten o'clock, and even earlier in the morning, they had as many lawyers and judges and mercantile men giving their attendance as they had of late years. His belief was, that if the House of Commons sat in the course of the day instead of in the night—the impossibility of sitting both day and night had made it necessary for them to adjourn almost every night at twelve o'clock—if the private business were first disposed of and they then undertook the public business, he had no doubt that would be found a much more convenient arrangement. It might be said his plan was merely speculative and visionary, but he could not bring himself to believe that there would be any objection to change the mode of conducting the private business, and thus, at once, lay the axe to the root of the evil. He had said not a word which went to impute motives to those who voted on private bills; he had spoken only of those who voted on them without having heard the evidence. It might be said, that to a certain degree the standing orders would apply a remedy for the evil of which he had complained; but he thought that an inquiry would shew the ne- cessity of some legislative provision to expedite the business. This plan had been proposed before; he had heard of it ever since he had possessed a seat in Parliament. It was notorious that the great expense and delay of private bills were occasioned by the necessity for the Committee coming to certain conclusions as to matters of fact, and reporting certain opinions on those facts. It had been recommended that they should send a commission instead of bringing the parties up to town from all parts of the country. It had been asked, why not, instead of putting the parties to such an expense in bringing up witnesses, send a commission to them chosen by each House of Parliament, or by both jointly, and let that commission examine the engineers and surveyors, and hear the counsel, and report, not their opinion as to whether certain points were explained or not, but let them find the facts, in the nature of a special verdict, on which the two Houses might proceed to legislate. If they reported the evidence as well as their conclusions, then it would be competent for the Houses, if not satisfied with their conclusions, to proceed to satisfy themselves. The consequence of that arrangement might be, another examination by the Houses, and it would perhaps be said that the examination by the Commission would thus be only so much in addition. There was another proposition, which was, to hold the Houses concluded by the finding of the Commission. If the Commission were well chosen, so that it deserved the entire confidence of Parliament, he could not perceive any very great objection to such a system; but he admitted objections might be urged against it, and he would not now stop to discuss them. What objection could there be to this? That the Committees should be chosen of a certain limited number—say eleven—seven, nine or eleven; that these Committees should sit, de die in diem; that persons should not be allowed to absent themselves from the Committees any more than they were permitted to absent themselves from the election Committees; that no vote should be taken without the presence of those who had heard the evidence; or, at all events, that no person should be allowed to vote by whom the evidence had not been heard. In some of the Committees to which he had already adverted, there were Members who appeared to possess the power of ubiquity, for, according to the documents they ap- peared to have been attending three or four Committees that were sitting on the same day. The non-attendance of Members and their attendance when they ought not to be present, were not the only evils. It was said that these Committees came to conflicting decisions. The same point was sometimes decided in different ways by different Committees, and occasionally these conflicting decisions were come to by Committees composed of nearly the same individuals, the variance being the result of Members going out or coming in. Such events led to suspicion that the decisions of the Committees were governed by the balance, of interests. It appeared to him, that to secure an uniformity of decision on questions of law, it was expedient that a selection should be made from among the Members of the House itself, or that in some instances, individuals out of the House should be obtained. He could not help here adverting to a measure framed by their Lordships about three years back. A Bill having come from the other House, dealing with the corruption in boroughs, that Bill was found exceedingly unsatisfactory, though there was the greatest inclination to support it. A suggestion was, therefore, made by the noble Duke on the benches opposite, which was held to be of so much importance, that it was considered proper to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. In the Committee, the proposed alteration was made, and the result was, that many clauses were thrown out, and many were introduced, and the entire Bill was so essentially altered that it could hardly be considered the same measure. The Bill having returned to the House of Commons, that House came to the conclusion that it would be better to reject the amendments, because the effect of adopting them would be almost the same as if the House were to pass a Bill by a single vote, and this Bill, as altered, was too important a measure to be passed by the House of Commons, without receiving the fullest consideration. It might therefore be said— not that the principle was negatived—but rather that the consideration of it was postponed. Now, what was the measure r It proposed one of the widest departures from ordinary rules—one of the most unquestionable invasions of the pledges of Parliament he ever recollected, being carried he would not say, but propounded. It went to this: it appointed a tribunal consisting of judges, the jury being selected from Mem- bers of both Houses of Parliament. It proposed to take seven Members of the House of Commons, and five of the House of Lords, who were to sit with the assistance and under the direction of one of the judges, not being a Member of either House of Parliament; there was to be given a power of appeal to the other judges on questions of law; that jury, so composed of Members of both Houses of Parliament, was to find, as it were, a special verdict on the facts of the case; that verdict being so returned to both Houses of Parliament, it was to conclude them, not as to any Bill or measure, but as to the facts only, and they were to proceed to legislate, if they chose, on the facts, found by the said special verdict. Now, see the advantage of this—here was one proceeding instead of two. Instead of both Houses sitting day by day and from month to month, there was to be one jury composed always of the same persons who would sit de die in diem, and thus would be saved to the parties, the delay, the expense, and the vexation which in ninety cases out of every hundred accompanied private bills. Various other plans had been suggested, on which he should not dwell. Among these, was one for withdrawing altogether these cases from the jurisdiction of both Houses of Parliament; and sending them before some other tribunal. There were many objections to such a plan; and it was, indeed, only to be thought of as a last resort, and when all other expedients were found to fail. He hoped, however, that it would be found quite practicable to remedy the evil, great as it was, by other means. The departure from the former usual course in reference to granting patents had been found fully to answer the purpose. Upon the whole, it appeared to him to be not only advisable but the imperative duty of the House, to apply a remedy as speedily as possible to the existing evils, and he trusted that the subject having thus been brought forward, the House would not allow it to be put aside either from neglect, or from a hopelessness of a cure. He was persuaded that if the Committee were granted, it would be able to devise something approaching at least to a remedy. The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into, and consider of the state of business before this House of Parliament."

Viscount Melbourne

said, that he felt, and he was sure the House and the country would feel themselves, under great obligations to his noble and learned Friend, for having brought forward a motion of such great importance, and also for the manner in which he had performed that task. He thought certainly that his noble Friend had stated sufficient to justify their Lordships in acceding to the motion which had been proposed. He had stated enough to call on that House to institute an inquiry into the matters which had been so ably, so clearly, so distinctly opened by his noble and learned Friend; but at the same time he wished to guard himself from acquiescing in all that his noble Friend had stated, and from concurring with him as to the magnitude of the evil and assenting to the proposition that that evil was of such magnitude and such importance as that it necessarily and imperatively called for revision, change, and alteration in the manner of proceeding in their Lordships' House. He agreed in the propriety of inquiry whether any defects existed, and applying any remedy that might be required; but he did not believe that the evil had proceeded to so crying an extent as to render it necessary, in justice to the subjects of this country, that some remedy should be applied. He would beg, with very great submission, to admonish their Lordships that, in entering upon subjects, connected with the privileges of Parliament, they were meddling with matters of the last importance—of no less importance than those strong, great, and sweeping measures which it was now the fashion to call organic changes of the Constitution. To change and to tamper with the privileges of Parliament was of little less importance than to interfere with the Constitution of Parliament itself; it was of little less importance than that measure which had introduced extensive alterations in the Constitution of the House of Commons, or any other measure for revising and altering other bodies of the State. He had heard many persons of very great ability and experience commend the proceedings of Parliament; but he particularly alluded to Sir Samuel Romilly, who was not certainly very much disposed to applaud the Constitution and laws of England, but who always gave his most unqualified approbation to the forms of proceeding in this and the other House of Parliament. He had heard him say that, having been a witness of the violence and excesses of the French Revolution, he was convinced that had their Upper Chamber been so well devised to check violence, so well devised for producing moderation and reflection, as was the House of Peers in England, that circumstance would have gone far to prevent the evils that arose at that period. He could not, therefore, approach the consideration of these matters without a considerable degree of apprehension, and without reflecting on the importance which was attached to them. His noble and learned Friend had not very much relied on a topic which had given rise to a good deal of observation—which related to the late period of the Session at which Bills passed the other House of Parliament, and were sent up for the consideration of their Lordships. That was a very general subject of observation, and his noble Friend opposite had made a complaint in reference to it in the Session of 1834. He, however, was more patient, and had waited till the 7th of July—but the present motion was before their Lordships on the 7th of June. With respect to this part of the subject, he must say, that, as to the measures that were sent up to their Lordships, if they had a mind to get rid of them, if it suited the majority to exercise that suspensive veto, to which some reformers of the present day were disposed to confine the powers of that House, it required little time to carry those wishes into effect: but if any considerable part of their Lordships thought that the questions were of a nature that it would be better to settle, if upon the whole the party should think that they might as well pass the measures, he had never found that the complication of those Bills, their length, or their difficulties, stood much in their Lordships' way, he had always seen that the House found time enough to pass the Bills, and he would refer the noble Duke to the end of the Session of 1833, when the Bank Charter Bill, the Emancipation Bill, and the East India Company's Charter Bill were passed—measures of such great importance that the contemplation of them makes one's head turn. He believed those measures had been very much considered; they had certainly been attended with a success which nobody expected—he was sure he did not. He did not, then, see much in that difficulty, which had been raised, because the real fact was, that much time and leisure did not lead to industry, attention, and thought, but was, on the contrary, calculated to produce neglect, inattention, and delay. He found it so with regard to himself, and saw it in the conduct of others. That which brought them really to consider measures was the existence of a necessity which called upon them to make some speedy provision; and, in fact, the more time they had the more they required. What was the reason that they had dawdled so long a time about the two Bills which had been sent up to them? Why, because they had nothing else to do. The fact was, the less they had to do the less they did. It sounded very well to talk about time for consideration and reflection, but their Lordships knew very well that it was a necessity for expedition that urged them to the real and serious consideration of a measure. His noble Friend had made some observations on the mode of transacting private business, and it was probably liable to many of his objections; but he doubted much whether to relieve the House from the private business would at all expedite the public business of Parliament. There was a sort of division of labour in that respect, for in neither House did the same Members generally attend both to public and private business, although, if they did, the private business was calculated to fit them for the discharge of the public business with which Parliament might be engaged. He was very anxious to have the subject seriously considered, but, at the same time, he must again express his doubt whether that inquiry would lead to the result expected. In very many of the suggestions of his noble and learned Friend he could not concur: with regard to limiting the attention of the House to private Bills during the early part of the Session that was a question touching the constitutional privileges of Parliament, which he thought inexpedient. The early business of Parliament was frequently of very great importance; there was already some limitation respecting the time of presenting petitions upon private bills; and if they drew the line tighter, he believed they would speedily be obliged to relax it. He was unable then to go into all the details which his noble Friend had adverted to; there was sufficient to justify the inquiry, but he wished to guard himself from admitting that the evil was so press- ing as to render any remedy necessary, or from being supposed to anticipate that much good could result from the motion.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that the proposition could have no tendency to make matters better this year, at all events. He had seen great improvement in the conduct of private business within the last five or six years; resolutions had been formed by many noble Lords, founded upon their own feelings and opinions, not to interfere with any Bills in which they had any private interest. He would not, however, pretend to say, that much might not still be done; but he believed that that improvement must depend on the feelings of noble Lords themselves. It did not appear to him that any measure was likely to result from this Committee; but he did not desire to oppose himself to anything which the noble and learned Lord might think desirable in that respect.

The Duke of Richmond

agreed with the noble Duke that the private business was better managed than it used to be. Still there was much to be remedied; and if the present motion had only been confined to that part of the subject it would have received his most cordial support. It frequently happened that many Peers went down to the Committees punctually, stayed during the whole of the proceedings, and heard the whole of the evidence, and the opening and summing up of the learned Counsel, whilst others went down on the last day, were contented with reading over the evidence, and hearing the summing-up. That was one evil; and he would say for himself that he could not conscientiously vote upon a private bill unless he had been present during the whole or a great part of the proceedings. Again, by reference to the standing orders it would be found that all Committees ought to meet at ten, and sit till four o'clock; whereas some of them did not meet till two, and then the Counsel were so clever and technical, that the whole of the time was taken up by their arguments, and frequently no evidence could be heard. With respect to public business, he would ask, might not the House of Commons concede something as regarded money clauses? There were many clauses which were not money clauses, but which, because they referred to some rate, precluded that House from interfering with the Bill. Why, he would also ask, should there be any jealousy on the part of the House of Commons as to permitting Bills sent up to that House too late on one Session to be commenced there in the next? He agreed cordially in the motion of his noble and learned Friend, and though it might not. be possible to effect all that he expected, still it was calculated to produce considerable improvements.

Motion agreed to.

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