HL Deb 07 December 1852 vol 123 cc1061-4

moved— That, in the event of a division taking place in any Select Committee, the Question proposed, the Name of the Lord proposing the Question, and the respective Votes thereupon of each Lord present, be entered on the Minutes of Evidence, or on the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Committee (as the case may be), and reported to the House on the report of such Committee. The noble Earl referred to the alterations adopted by the other House in reference to the record of the proceedings of Select Committees; and said that a Committee of their Lordships' House was appointed last year to consider how far those alterations would be applicable to the Committees of the Lords. As Chairman of the Committee he communicated with the Speaker of the House of Commons, who told him that from what he had heard he understood the alterations worked admirably; and, having received the evidence of some Members of the other. House, the Committee reported on the subject. He moved their Lordships to agree to the recommendations of the Committee, with some alterations. On that occasion he was defeated, it being argued that it was not desirable to decide so hastily, as the evidence had not been laid before their Lordships. The evidence was now in their hands, and would be found strongly in favour of the Motion he proposed. He was aware that one objection to the Motion was, that it was the practice of their Lordships to assimilate the proceedings of Committees as much as possible to the proceedings of the whole House, and that no divisions were ever recorded in their Lordships' journals. But he did not see the great virtue of the existing regulation with respect to the whole House; for he thought that House, like every other body, would gain by publicity. He called their Lordships' attention, however, to the fact that not only what was said in that House was recorded in the public newspapers, but it was the practice of two noble Peers, having a sort of semi-official position, to make out a list of divisions, which appeared first of all in the newspapers, and afterwards in Hansard. It might he said by some that there was no occasion to publish the divisions in their Lordships' House, as their Lordships represented no constituencies. Nobody, at any rate, would deny that their Lordships were amenable to public opinion. However, the same argument did not apply to Committees, as they were composed of Peers delegated by their Lordships; and it was desirable that their Lordships should know how the majority and minority were composed. He recollected that in one of the most numerously attended Committees of that House a Report was prepared by the Marquess of Lansdowne, as representing the opinions of the then existing Government. Now, whether that Report was wrong or right, as it was in conformity with the existing legislation on the subject, some record of it ought to have been retained; and it surely would have been of interest to their Lordships and the public to know what it contained, and what the opinion of the minority was on the subject to which it referred. It was also of importance to know in what way particular paragraphs and recommendations in a report were carried—whether by a large or small majority, and in what way the Members voted; for it might happen that their Lordships would not give the same weight to the views of persons forming the majority which they did to those of the minority. When examined before the Committee to which he had already referred, Sir James Graham stated that the change which had taken place in the practice of Committees of the other House had been productive of unmixed good, and had proved most salutary in its results—one of the great advantages being that a minority had the opportunity afforded them of making known their views. He had no hesitation in saying that there was no department of the business of their Lordships' House that was more likely to do credit to their Lordships in the eyes of the public than the labours of their Select Committees. From the knowledge, the experience, and the ability of those who usually served on those Committees, they were peculiarly fitted to go into the investigations for which they were instituted; and as they examined witnesses on oath—which was not the case in the Committees of the other House—he believed that the publication of their proceedings would go far to keep up and increase the estimation which their Lordships held in public opinion. He believed the opinion of the public was very much influenced in the case of public bodies, as in individuals, by what took place in small as well as in great affairs; and, if their Lordships opposed the Resolution which he now proposed, it might lead to an opinion—which was the very reverse of the fact—that their Lordships were op-posed to the safest and most necessary reforms.


objected to the proposed Resolution, on the ground that it would entirely alter the character of the Committees of that House. When then Lordships delegated a certain number of its Members as a Committee to consider a particular question, the Report which they made was the Report of the Committee, and was so regarded by the House. But the effect of the alteration would be, that everybody's opinion would be given as well as that of the majority. He would certaiely say "No!" to the Resolution, though he would not divide the House on the subject.

On Question, agreed to.

House adjourned to Thursday next.