HL Deb 10 February 1852 vol 119 cc317-23

wished again to advert to the conversation which occurred last evening in that House with reference to the legislative procedure of Parliament. In the course of that conversation it was suggested by a noble Earl (Earl Grey), and the idea had probably suggested itself to others, that it might be advisable to adopt some measure for enabling either House of Parliament to take up the proceedings of a former Session, for the purpose of passing into law measures of which want of time had prevented the passing. He had brought in a short Bill for the purpose of carrying this suggestion into effect, and he begged now to move the first reading of the Bill. He did not suppose that he had in this measure met all the objections that might be made to it, but his object was to have the question put in a tangible and practicable shape, in order that they might examine and discuss, either in a Select Committee or any other mode that might seem expedient to their Lordships, the provisions of the measure. He should, therefore, content himself on the present occasion with moving the first reading of the Bill. He had adopted certain restrictions and regulations for the purpose of preventing any abuses from springing out of the course he proposed to introduce; but when it was laid on their Lordships' table they would have an opportunity of considering the measure, and seeing whether the method recommended was in itself a valuable one, and whether the restrictions by which it was guarded were sufficient to prevent any abuses.


must express his great satisfaction that his noble and learn- ed Friend had taken up this subject. Some Sessions ago he had declared his concurrence in the proposition now made; and a Bill to give it effect was actually introduced into their Lordships' House, which, though opposed in some high quarters, met with very general approval. That Bill was sent down to the other House, where the subject did not attract much attention, though various other suggestions for facilitating the transaction of the business of the House were made. The measure, along with others, was referred to a Select Committee; but there in point of fact it was swamped, and nothing more was heard of it. He only hoped that since that time the increasing difficulty which had been experienced in carrying any measure through Parliament might lead both that and the other House to a favourable consideration of the proposal of his noble and learned Friend.


observed, that in order to show the advantages of the measure, he need only instance the Bill of last Session, which had been referred to, for the amendment of the patent laws. If he were to propose to that House a resolution that that Bill should be considered and acted upon as a Bill of the present Session, he had no doubt that their Lordships would agree to that conclusion; and he thought also that the other House, if they agreed to consider the subject, would arrive at the same conclusion. If both Houses would agree with respect to a certain Bill which had passed both Houses in a former Session, or which had come down to either House for consideration from the other, that it was a proper Bill to be considered in the actual Session, he thought they must also acquiesce in the propriety of passing a measure with the view of making this the regular course of proceeding.


by no means rose to oppose the first reading of this Bill. On the contrary, he thought the question one of the utmost importance, and highly deserving their Lordships' attention. Nor did he mean to propose any amendment on it. He only rose to caution their Lordships against supposing that the Bill was to be considered free from objection. When it was introduced into that House on a former occasion, under the auspices of a noble Lord not now present, but who was most profoundly acquainted with its laws and usages—he meant Lord Redesdale, whom they had elected Chairman of their Committees, he (Lord Campbell), along with that noble Lord, certainly thought that it was liable to very serious constitutional objections; but perhaps these might now be removed, and he might have the pleasure of concurring in the measure now proposed by his noble and learned Friend. But as he was absent from the House on the previous day in the discharge of his official duties, he must express his humble opinion as to what had been said of the impolicy of commencing Bills in that House, being wholly unable to concur in it. He thought that a most erroneous, and it might turn out to be a most mischievous, doctrine; nor did he think it would be advisable for any Government to act upon it. With respect to measures that were unpopular, though unpopular, he allowed it was much better that they should not commence in that House; and he believed they would not receive much weight from their having passed that House when they were submitted to the House of Commons. But there were many measures now begun in the House of Commons which might much better originate with their Lordships; and, according to his experience and observation, measures were generally received with more respect and favour in the House of Commons when it was known that they had been considered and approved by their Lordships.


said, he had no doubt that the Bill proposed by the noble and learned Lord would be of great utility; and, as the subject was again started, he would take the opportunity of putting a question to the Government respecting the business of the House during the present Session. The Government appeared to have adopted the principle that the Bills passed by that House and dropped in the other during the last Session, should be commenced in the other House this Session, and vice versâ. That almost met the principle of the noble and learned Lord's Bill; but, in looking over the list of Bills which had been passed in that House, but not in the House of Commons, last Session, he found that the number was considerable, and the subjects they referred to very important. The Registration of Deeds, the Patent Law Bill, and others, had occupied their Lordships a great portion of last Session; and he saw from the Votes, that those Bills had been commenced this Session in the House of Commons. Now, he wished to be informed what were the Bills of importance which had been passed by the Commons in the last Session of Parliament, but which had dropped in this House, and which were to be introduced into the House of Lords this Session. He wished for an answer to this question: because he could not discover any measure of serious importance which their Lordships had dropped after having passed the Commons, so that the rule adopted by Government would still leave the House of Lords without business at the early part of the Session. He would therefore ask, Was there any Bill of importance which their Lordships were likely to have introduced to their notice before Easter, or before the Bills came up from the Commons? He protested against 'the principle laid down last night by the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, that all Bills of importance ought to originate in the House of Commons. He was himself a good Liberal, but not so much of a democrat as the noble Earl, who had said that it was advisable that all Bills of importance should originate in the other House. In his opinion the House of Lords ought on no account to abdicate its inherent right of originating Bills. There were very many Bills, especially those affecting the law and the landed property of the country, which their Lordships were more capable of originating than the House below. If their Lordships wished to maintain the utility of their own House, they must not let it go abroad that they had no power or right to originate laws, and that they were merely, as had been said by somebody, a House of revision, or a Chamber to correct the technical and clerical errors of the other House.


protested entirely against the accuracy of his noble Friend's version of what he had said. On the previous evening a noble Earl, not now in his place, remarked that the prospects of success for great measures were improved by their being originated in the House of Commons. But he was not aware that any fixed principle on the subject had been laid down by any one. What he had said, and what he now repeated, was, that from all his experience in watching the progress of Parliamentary business, he thought that for a great variety of subjects the prospects of arriving at satisfactory legislation were better for measures originating in the other House of Parliament, rather than in that; and for this obvious reason, that in a great variety of subjects, according to the usual forms of Parliament, their Lordships could not originate a measure in its com- plete shape. Again, all very important measures affected a great variety of public interests, which wore most broadly represented in the other House of Parliament, and it was by the arrangement of a compromise between conflicting interests that such measures were best framed for practical use and efficacy. But that that House existed for the correction of mere clerical errors, he should deny as much as his noble and learned Friend. The function of revising legislative measures commenced in the other House of Parliament was frequently not less valuable and important than that of originating such measures. There was also one class of measures which most fitly originated with their Lordships, and to which much of their attention was now devoted—he meant measures connected with the improvement of the law. With respect to the question put to him, he could only say that he was not at this moment aware of any very important measure likely to be speedily brought before their Lordships, with the exception of those which had been already announced.


said, he would take that opportunity of observing that Bills originated in the House of Commons ought to be sent to their Lordships as much as possible separately, and not be brought up all in a heap at the end of the Session.


said, he would only repeat the assurance already given by his noble Friend (Earl Grey) relative to the conduct of business in that House. He entirely dissented from the doctrine that any rule should be laid down, or even any understanding, that Bills should be generally originated in the other House, and not in their Lordships'. He should be sorry to see any such principle laid down, believing that it would be detrimental to the honour of their Lordships, and injurious to the interests of the country. He considered it was one of the advantages of the co-operation of two Houses so differently constituted as the Lords and the Commons, that an opportunity was afforded in every case of judging (and it was only upon the circumstances of each particular case that it could be judged) whether it were better that a Bill should be introduced in the other House or in their Lordships'. Looking at their past practice and experience in legislation, as exhibited in the Statute-book, it certainly was seen that very many Bills were brought under the consideration of Parliament connected with matters of trade and finance, or revenue, which it was obviously convenient, if not necessary, should be introduced in the House of Commons; though, on the other hand, some measures, even though measures of practical detail, might be better originated in their Lordships' House. He agreed that it was important that measures originated in the other House should be sent up to their Lordships, as far as possible, separately; and if it had not been so, he believed it was not owing to any want of zeal or assiduity on the part of his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) at the head of the Government, but to other causes, and, last Session, to the species of opposition pursued by some Members for the sake of obstructing a certain measure.


said, he would remind the House that there was a third or middle class of Bills, independent of the two classes which were formed of the Bills originated in the House of Lords, and dropped in the House of Commons, and of those passed in the House of Commons, and dropped in the House of Lords—there was a class of Bills which had passed through both Houses, and which were not converted into laws merely from want of time to consider the amendments made in them. Such was the Bill which he had introduced in their Lordships' House last Session for the extension of the jurisdiction of the County Courts to cases in bankruptcy, the second reading of which was appointed for this evening. Considerable alteration was made both in the form and in the substance of that Bill in the House of Commons. It came back from the House of Commons to their Lordships within a few hours of the close of the Session, so that the alterations which that House had made in it could not be taken even into consideration. It was therefore postponed to this Session. He now proposed that on Thursday next he should move the second reading of the Bill.


observed, that his noble and learned Friend's Bill on this subject went down last Session to the House of Commons with fifteen clauses in it, of which fourteen clauses were expunged by the Commons; and in the fifteenth the word "not" was inserted as an amendment, thereby altering and vitiating its meaning. The Commons then substituted seventeen new clauses of their own. Was that the Bill of which his noble and learned Friend intended to move the second reading on Thursday next?


said, that the account given by the noble and learned Lord was literally true, though, in point of substance and effect, it was the reverse of true. The object of the Bill was to give equitable jurisdiction to the County Courts, by empowering them to do much that was now done by the Masters in Chancery. The House of Commons had adopted the principle of the Bill, but had worked it out in a different way. The alterations which they had introduced did not change in any manner the principle of the Bill.

Parliamentary Proceedings Facilitation Bill read 1a.

Second Reading of County Courts Further Extension Bill put off to Thursday next.

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