HL Deb 13 August 1838 vol 44 cc1167-9
The Marquess of Salisbury

said, that as a motion had been made in the other House of Parliament for a return of the number of bills rejected by their Lordships, the only object of which would be to cast a slur upon their Lordships, it became their duty to show, that they had not been unduly negligent or precipitate in the examination of those measures which had been submitted to them for consideration. Their Lordships, it was true, had very few opportunities of properly considering the bills which were sent up to them from the Commons. It was perfectly notorious, that most of the Commons' bills required their Lordships' serious attention, if it were only for the purpose of carrying into effect the intentions of the framers. The public unfortunately suffered the greatest inconvenience in consequence of the postponement till next Session of measures of great importance. That was not the fault of their Lordships. It was the only course left open to them to take. The returns would show the times at which the different bills were sent up. He found, that during the present year there had been 103 bills sent up. Fifty-eight of these had been sent up within the last six weeks, or rather up to the 8th of August, for several had been since brought up. During the whole of the preceding part of the Session there had been only forty-five sent up. The blame did not rest with their Lordships, nor so much, indeed, with the other House. When he recollected the number of days upon which there was no House formed, it occurred to him, that, perhaps, the Government might have an object in keeping bills back till a late period of the Session, in order to give themselves the opportunity of making a charge against their Lordships for either rejecting or postponing them. The noble Marquess concluded by moving for a return of the number of bills brought up from the House of Commons during the present Session, distinguishing the months and the number brought up in each.

Viscount Melbourne

did not believe, that the motion which had been made in the other House was made with the view or intention of casting any slur or imputation upon their Lordships. The mere rejection of a number of bills was nothing in itself; the question was, whether they were wisely rejected or not. He entirely denied, upon the part of the Government, that there was any intention to take advantage of their Lordships, by bringing in bills at a late period of the Session. The delay was altogether unavoidable, and arose from a variety of causes—from the nature of the business, from the nature of the constitution, and of popular assemblies, and chiefly from the great increase of business which had taken place within the last few years. Then came the great party battles of the Session, which were generally fought within the last weeks. These necessarily absorbed and arrested all attention, and business became suspended until it was decided who the Government was to be.

The Earl of Wicklow

observed, that the return moved for in the other House was not for the bills which had been brought up, but for those which had been rejected. Coupling that with various other little circumstances, it was easy to collect what the animus was which influenced the mover of that return. So far, however, from such a return implying any censure upon their Lordships, in his opinion, there was nothing which was likely to confer upon them greater credit. He thought it was likely to reflect the greatest credit upon their Lordships for their watchfulness and attention to public business, and he was convinced, that Members of the House of Commons would not so readily agree to many of the bills, if they were not sure that they would receive attention and consideration from their Lordships. During his experience, the practice had been very much the same, and he did not blame the present Government for it. Being in a minority in their Lordships' House, it was, perhaps, natural, that they should wish to obtain the sanction of the other House for their bills, before they sent them up to their Lordships.

Motion agreed to.