HL Deb 24 June 1845 vol 81 cc1104-7
The Earl of Charleville

, presented a Report from the Select Committee on the Glasgow Bridges Bill, that three Members of that Committee had attended to-day; but that owing to the absence of Lord Gardner, a Member of the Committee, it had been compelled to adjourn without transacting any business.

The Duke of Richmond

moved that another Peer be appointed to this Committee in the room of Lord Gardner, and that Lord Gardner be summoned to appear in his place in the House, on Thursday next, at five o'clock, to state the reasons of his absence. It was absolutely neeessary that, considering the great amount of legislative business, every Peer appointed to a Committee should attend it, for in the event of non-attendance the parties were put to a very great expense. Their Lordships had exemption from serving on juries and performing other offices, inconsequence of their duties in that House; and they ought, therefore, to attend regularly to the discharge of the business of the House, otherwise the country would sustain the greatest inconvenience.

Lord Brougham

perfectly approved of the course taken by his noble Friend—it was, in fact, a matter of course. He did not, however, believe that the noble Lord (Gardner) intended to fly from the performance of his duty; but, at the same time, he thought it right to stale for his information, that it was the greatest mistake to suppose that attendance upon that House was purely voluntary on the part of their Lordships. Every Peer was bound to attend what was technically called the 'service' of their Lordships' House, and there were numerous precedents where the House had compelled an attendance. It occurred in the Queen's case, where a fine of 100l. was inflicted. There were other cases in which Peers had been ordered to attend the service of the House, and where the second vote was that they be committed to the Tower for the non-payment of the fines. The noble Lord knew that he was to be appointed to this Committee, and although he would be the last person who would wish to inflict a hardship, by his absence did inflict it to-day. He was not perhaps aware, that by the Standing Orders of 1827 no business could be proceeded with unless there was a full Committee, or he would not have put the parties to expense by his non-attendance.

Lord Campbell

had lately had occasion to search the Journals of their Lordships' House, and had found innumerable instances of the House having compelled the attendance of Peers, both for the service of the House and in Committees, by fine, and subsequently sent them to the Tower for the non-payment of the fine. It also appeared, that until the end of the seventeenth century all Peers were compelled to attend, not only in their places when the roll was called, but they were not allowed to leave the House until the House adjourned. Their Lordships might perhaps think that the appearance of the House sometimes, between seven and eight o'clock, might render it necessary to recur to the same strictness of discipline. He found that during a debate in the reign of Charles I. a right rev. Prelate applied for leave to quit the House before the debate was finished, and it was with considerable difficulty that the leave was granted. He rejoiced that the Motion had been made, because he was quite certain that their Lordships would cheerfully perform the duties which were imposed upon them.

The Duke of Wellington

was quite sure that it would be unnecessary to enforce the attendance of their Lordships by a recourse to any measures which had been mentioned. He had not the slightest doubt that the noble Lord (Lord Gardner) had inadvertently failed to attend this morning.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

thought that their Lordships should consider what course ought to be pursued, not only with reference to the present case, but in other similar cases. The great mass of legislative business before the House peremptorily required that every Peer should be punctual in his attendance to discharge the business of the House. It might be very well to say that they were prepared to do their duty; but they should recollect that they had not only a duty cast upon them, but an immense responsibility. It was fit for them, therefore, to consider whether they should not compel a full attendance of Peers on the Committees, if they wished to get through all those Bills which were under the consideration of the House of Commons.

Lord Brougham

was about to move, when this discussion arose, for the appointment of a Select Committee to communicate with the Committee of the House of Commons, relative to the great mass of legislation that was now before that House, for it was utterly impossible, even if every Peer should attend every day, to go through all the hundreds of Bills that would be brought before them.

The Marquess of Clanricarde

said, that the judicial Peers must be absolved from attending on the Committees, and the noble Lords who had property on the different lines of railway under discussion must also absent themselves.

The Motion was then carried.

Then it was Ordered, That Alan Legge, Lord Gardner, do attend in his place in this House, on Thursday next, at five o'clock, to state to the House the reasons for his not attending the said Committee.

The Earl of Chichester

presented a Report from the Committee appointed to investigate the Aberdeen Railway Bill, that the Earl of Ormonde, a Member of the Committee, had failed to attend that morning.

The Earl of Ormonde

said, that being out of town, he received the notice too late to attend the said Committee.

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