§ Order of the Day for the House to go into Committee being read,
presented several petitions, and suggested that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.
said, that if the Bill was to be referred to a Select Committee, he most devoutly hoped that that course would be adopted expressly and distinctly with the intention that the Bill should make au easier and more rapid 232 progress than it could be expected to make had it been submitted to a Committee of the whole House. He admitted that he was not himself inclined to view with disfavour the proposition for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, because, late though it was in the Session, he very much feared that in considering in a Committee of the whole House a Bill affecting so many interests, and, above all, so many local interests, they would be inevitably betrayed into long and tedious discussions. But lest there should be any apprehension of the Bill being stifled in a Select Committee, which he knew was too often the grave of many a meritorious and well-meant measure, he hoped that there would be a distinct understanding, and indeed a positive pledge and solemn promise on the part of all those who were anxious for the appointment of the Committee, that it should sit de die in diem until the business for which it was nominated had been disposed of; and that nothing should be left undone to promote as much as possible the speedy passing of the Bill. He felt a deep interest in the measure, and he was sure that he properly interpreted the feelings of their Lordships when he said that they were one and all most anxious to facilitate its progress. Such a measure was at all times worthy of their favourable consideration, but at no time was it more desirable than at the present moment, when there was but too much reason to apprehend that appalling pest, the cholera, was making a steady, systematic, and rapid progress towards the shores of England. It was their interest, as it was their manifest duty, to promote as much as possible the progress of the only conceivable measure which could give a check to that dreadful scourge of humanity. The horrible events that had recently taken place in Paris had predisposed the atmosphere in the most confined quarters of that city to pestilential influences, favourable to the spread of that terrible disorder, and there was, therefore, the less time to be lost. He did not wish to create any unnecessary alarm—quite the contrary; but it was right that our true position should be properly understood. Alarm ought not to be raised except on the principle stated by Mr. Burke, that "the fire-bell alarmed our slumbers, but it prevented us from being burned in our beds;" and so, too, an alarm about the cholera, although it might make the malady spread more rapidly than in a calmer state of the public mind it might 233 do, would, he trusted, be conducive to the safety of the people, by making the constituted authorities and the Parliament take those precautionary measures to which they were urged by considerations of humanity and patriotism. Being on this subject, he would here take occasion to observe that he had read, with great admiration, and with great comfort to himself, the admirable report of the Sanitary Commissioners, at the head of whom was his noble Friend Lord R. Grosvenor, and another of whom was that eminent physician and physiologist, Dr. South wood Smith. That report clearly demonstrated that if the cholera was incurable when it became cholera, it could be easily and certainly prevented if the premonitory symptoms, which never failed to discover themselves, were taken advantage of in due tune the implored of their Lordships not to take any step which could have the effect of postponing the Bill for another Session.
feared that he could not accede, to the suggestion for referring the Bill to a Select Committee, for be apprehended that that course might be productive of delay; and certain be was that any further delay in the passing of such a measure would occasion deep disappointment to the public, and possibly very serious mischief. On a former occasion the proposition that the Bill should be that day considered in a Committee of the whole House, had met with the unanimous approval of their Lordships, and be certainly was not prepared for a suggestion that it should be referred to a Select Committee.
§ LORD REDESDALE
was decidedly of opinion that no better course to promote the speedy progress of the Bill could he taken than to refer it to a Select Committee. In discussing its provisions, it would be necessary to take three or four clauses into consideration at once, but that could not be done if the Bill were to be considered in Committee of the whole House. He was most anxious that the Bill should pass this Session; but he was also desirous that it should pass in as perfect a manner as possible. A Select Committee would find it no difficult matter to get through it in four or five days. He begged leave to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.
Every one was in favour of the principle of the Bill. The only question that now remained to be settled was that which affected the shaping of the details of the measure, He cer- 234 tainly should recommend his noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Campbell) to acquiesce in the suggestion that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
also hoped that the suggestion would be acceded to. A Select Committee could get through all the clauses in four or five days. A Committee of the whole House might take four or five weeks.
was of the same opinion. He trusted that the Government would not resist the suggestion for a Select Committee, now that so many distinct assurances had been given that the course was proposed in a bonâ fide spirit, and with a view to the more rapid progress of the Bill.
The DUKE of BUCCLEUCH
was also ill favour of referring the Bill to a Select Committee. He should not advocate it if he thought it had been proposed with the intention of stifling the Bill; but he was sure it would have the very opposite effect. It would certainly accelerate its progress.
The BISHOP of LONDON
would not, on any account, be a party to any movement, the consequence of which would be to retard the Bill, or to make it less efficient; but he certainly did think that Government ought to accede to the suggestion of the noble Lord opposite, after so many pledges had been given that those who desired the Select Committee did not intend delay.
§ LORD PORTMAN
approved of the Bill being referred to a Select Committee, as its numerous details could be sifted better there than in the House; but he hoped that there would be an understanding that the points which had been unsuccessfully raised in the Committee would not be gone over again when the Bill came back to the House.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
entertained some apprehensions lest the effect of referring the Bill to a Select Committee might be that of delaying a measure which yielded to none in importance, which was not only important itself, but with reference to the time at which it was brought forward. At this particular moment they were considering the subject under circumstances on which he advisedly forebore to dwell, considering the position he held, but which their Lordships would permit him to say were circumstances of peculiar urgency. He felt, therefore, that they ought not to pause in the consideration of the measure. He felt also that Govern- 235 ment had not been fairly used in the matter—that a week had been thrown away, the Committee of the whole House on the Bill having been deferred at the suggestion of a noble Lord opposite, without the least intimation, public or private, that there was any such intention, after that Motion had been acceded to, and after he had been allowed to fix his own day for a Committee of the whole House. They had been left up to yesterday in the dark privately, and had been kept up to that day in the dark publicly, without any intimation of a Motion for a Select Committee. He could not allow himself for a moment to suppose that any of the noble Lords who had supported the Motion for a Select Committee had done so with any intention of delaying the progress of the Bill; and he trusted that their declarations to that effect would be acted up to, especially in the ease of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London, than whom no man had more contributed to bring the Bill under the attention of their Lordships and the country. Under these circumstances, perhaps, his noble and learned Friend might withdraw the Motion, with the understanding that no witnesses should be examined, and that the clauses should be gone through with the view of coming to a distinct and perfect conclusion as to the provisions of the Bill.
could assure the noble Marquess that there had been no intention to take the Government by surprise. In no part of the House was there any other wish than that the Bill should be advanced as rapidly as possible, consistently with full deliberation.
The DUKE of BUCCLEUCH
observed, that no sanitary measure applying to Scotland had yet been introduced, and hoped that one would be laid on the table as soon as possible.