HL Deb 09 February 1852 vol 119 cc246-51

hoped that their Lordships would not consider him pertinacious, if he again called their attention to the course of legislative proceedings in that House. He believed, from an inspection of the Votes of the House of Commons, that seven or eight Bills effecting great alterations, and it might be improvements, in the law, were now prepared and laid on the table of that House—Bills requiring minute discussion in their details, and therefore scarcely likely to pass into law during the present Session. He knew many parties who thought that their Lordships' House was only a House of revision and not of initiation, and that they were rather an appellate jurisdiction than a legislative, body. That doctrine was quite contrary to the principles of the constitution, and was, at any rate, novel and extraordinary. He had already stated the number of Bills which had already been introduced into the House of Commons; but, with the exception of the solitary Bill introduced by his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, and just read a second time that evening, not one Bill for the improvement of the law had been presented to the consideration of their Lordships. Now, he wished to ask his noble and learned Friend why he had not already brought forward in that place his Bill for the improvement of Charitable Trusts? Last Session it was brought into the House at so late a period that it was as a matter of necessity thrown over when it reached the other House of Parliament, where they had no time to discuss it. He, therefore, submitted that the earliest opportunity ought to be taken to secure a discussion of that Bill in the present Session. There was another important Bill lost last Session, and requiring revival in the present—he meant the Bill for improving the Law of Patents and Inventions. That Bill went down to the other House, and met with nearly the same fate as the other Bill which he had just mentioned, partly from want of time to discuss it, and partly from a want of sufficient understanding between the Ministers in that House and the Ministers in this. The history of that Bill was rather curious. A Bill on that subject was brought in originally by his noble and learned Friend near him (Lord Brougham) at the very commencement of the Session. If that Bill had passed through their Lordships' House, it would have become law early in the Session; but his noble and learned Friend thought, that from the nature and variety of the interests involved in it, it should be carried through Parliament with the sanction and under the authority of Government; and the consequence was, that his noble and learned Friend expressed his readiness to surrender his Bill into the hands of Ministers. Considerable time was consumed in the consideration of that proposal, and the result was that the proposal was not accepted; and a rival Bill, as their Lordships would recollect, was introduced by the noble Lord opposite, who was at that time Vice-President of the Board of Trade. But even that Bill was not brought in until a short time before the Easter vacation. As there were then two Bills before the House on the same subject, they were referred, as a matter of course, to the consideration of a Select Committee. That Committee did not meet till after the Easter vacation, and the result of its inquiries was, that neither the Bill of his noble and learned Friend, nor that of the noble Earl opposite, was adopted by the Committee; but a Bill was drawn up and compounded of the two Bills, reminding him of the quotation— The force of nature could no further go; To make a third she joined the other two. That Bill was, he said, adopted by the Government, and received the sanction of his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack. It was natural to suppose that when that Bill went to the other House of Parliament, it would have met, so far as the Government was concerned, with an easy progress through that House; but, to his great surprise, when it reached the Committee in the House of Commons, 40 or 50 Amendments were made to a Bill which had originated with their Lordships, and which had left them with the full sanction of his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack. The result was that the Bill was defeated, owing to the animated discussions, and to the long delay attendant upon them, to which the Bill gave rise. One of the Amendments was of a singular nature. By the Bill every patent was required to pass the Great Seal; but Her Majesty's Attorney General, without any communication with the Lord Chancellor, proposed that the use of the Great Seal should be abolished in all cases of patent. What was the result of all this? That the Bill, with its Amendments, did not come up to their Lordships until the very morning of the prorogation. Those Amendements were not printed, nor were they known to a single Peer. Even his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack was unacquainted with them. The noble Earl opposite, wisely, as it seemed to him (Lord Lyndhurst), declined to move their acceptance by the House. The Privy Seal and the Great Seal were in conflict with each other on the occasion, and the whole matter terminated in the loss of the Bill. No, it did not terminate so; for their Lordships would have again to go over all the details of the Bill on the law of Patents and Inventions in consequence of the procrastination and delay of legislation in that House. He hoped, then, that his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack would not hesitate to lay at once on the table not only his Charitable Trusts Bill, but also the Bill for the Improvement of the Law of Patents and Inventions—a Bill of the utmost importance, which had given rise to such interests and such feelings in a large and valuable part of the community.


said, the noble and learned Lord had given the House a very amusing statement about the Patent Bill, which he dared say was all perfectly correct, but he could only say it was entirely new to him. That Bill was prepared under the noble Earl then Vice-President of the Board of Trade, and some of its provisions, at a late stage, were brought under his (the Lord Chancellor's) notice; but certainly the Bill generally had not come under his consideration. It was, however, deliberately considered, he believed, and great pains were taken with it. He had suggested the addition of one clause, which was for the purpose of authorising a Court of Law to grant an injunction where it was thought right to restrain the proceedings of parties pirating patented inventions. The Bill went down to the other House. He did not know the period when it came up again, but he knew that it was a subject of considerable inquiry and anxiety to the noble Lord (Earl Granville) and himself, and he believed it was brought up as early as it could be. But such extensive alterations had been made in it in the other House, that it was impossible for their Lordships to consider it. There were several Bills which passed that House, and went down to the other House, but which, by reason of their arriving there so late, could not be considered, and therefore they did not become law. Other Bills which had passed the other House, and came up to their Lordships under like circumstances, were also lost in a similar manner. In his communication with the Government for the purpose of arranging the order of business, the course they decided to adopt was to bring in their Lordships' House all Bills which had passed the House of Commons in the previous Session, and to bring in in the House of Commons all Bills which had passed their Lordships' House in the previous Session. Under that arrangement the Patent Bill was intended to be brought into their Lordships' House. He had had a communication with his noble Friend who had charge of the Bill on that subject, and they were anxious to lay that Bill on the table as early as possible. Since then intimations had been received by the Government which led them to the conclusion that the Bill would be strenuously opposed in the House of Commons unless a Committee was previously appointed to inquire into the general subject. For that reason it was not intended to bring forward the Bill at the present moment. He believed it was found that some very influential Members of the other House—persons extremely competent to form a judgment on the subject—desired to have a Committee of the nature he had observed. Upon further communication, his noble Friend opposite, or some other Member of the Government, who should be charged with the conduct of the measure, if they saw a probability of passing it by presenting the Bill in their Lordships' House, it would be introduced, and no time would be lost in doing so. Under the arrangement before mentioned, the Charitable Trusts Bill was passed in that House. It had been discussed as fully as ever a Bill had been discussed in Committee upstairs, and therefore, having been passed through their Lordships' House, it was deemed expedient that it should be introduced in the present Session in the other House, where it either had already been, or was about to be, laid upon the table. He was unable to suggest any more convenient arrangement than that Bills which had passed through one House in the previous Session, should be initiated in the other House in the Session following.


said, that on reflection upon what had been the fate of the Patent Bill in the House of Commons last Session, he was induced to hesitate before renewing his solicitations to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack that he should bring forward his great Chancery Reform Bill in their Lordships' House. If the noble and learned Lord introduced it there, he was afraid that it would jeopardise the passing of so vitally important a measure; and he therefore now begged to renounce any desire on his part to press the initiative of that Bill in their Lordships' House of Parliament.


said, that, in connection with this discussion, he had had forcibly called to his mind a conversation which he had many years ago on this very subject of introducing Bills of this description first in the House of Lords, with the late Lord Londonderry—than whom no man was more carefully observant of Parliamentary practice, or better acquainted with it; and he said, "I do not think we should gain much time. I never knew an instance of any Bill coming down from the House of Lords which was received with favour by the House of Commons." Now if that could be said with truth—and he believed it could—of an un-reformed House of Commons, he confessed he did not think the changes which had taken place since were very likely to improve the disposition of the House of Commons towards the favourable reception of Bills sent down by the House of Lords. The strength of their Lordships' House lay in dealing with the measures which came up from the other House; their Lordships would best consult their own usefulness by adhering to that course.


said, that from his own experience of that and the other House of Parliament, he had certainly come to the conclusion that the prospect of carrying important measures was much greater when they began in that House. He believed they would never see the work of legislation carried on at once with due deliberation, and also with the avoidance of unnecessary delay, until some arrangement had been hit upon by which measures could be considered during the one Session in the other House, and during the next Session in that House. He believed there were valid technical objections to the Bill proposed by the noble Earl opposite; but he did not think that that was inconsistent with the adoption of some arrangement—whether by Resolution or by Bill—by which it might be rendered practical for their Lordships to consider in a subsequent year the measures which, in the former Session, were under the consideration of the other House.

House adjourned till To-morrow.