HL Deb 17 June 1852 vol 122 cc827-31

House in Committee (according to Order).


begged, before their Lordships proceeded to consider the clauses of this Bill, to say a few words with respect to the course which had been adopted in reference to it by his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack; and he was the more anxious to do so, because when his noble and learned Friend proposed to have this measure referred to a Select Committee, a noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Campbell) had alleged that the object in doing so was to prevent the passing of the Bill in the present Session. It was absolutely necessary that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee; and if they had pursued any other course, or if the measure had been passed as it came up to their Lordships from the other House of Parliament, great injustice would have been done in many instances. It now appeared before their Lordships in a greatly improved shape. His noble and learned Friend on the woolsack was entitled to the sincere thanks of all those who were interested in the measure, for it was mainly by his exertions that the blemishes which had defaced the measure had been removed. As a Member of the Select Committee, he (Lord Lyndhurst) felt bound to make that statement in vindication of the conduct of his noble and learned Friend, at whose instance it had been referred to that Committee.


said, he had never doubted for a moment that the proper course to be taken was to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. He had applauded that mode of proceeding in their Lordships' House, particularly with regard to measures that were to effect an alteration in the law. It was the course he uniformly pursued himself; and if he had imagined, when it was proposed on the second reading of the Bill to refer it to a Select Committee, that it was intended to pass the measure this Session, he never would have opposed that Motion. But the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down, seemed to have forgotten what passed on the second reading. The noble and learned Lord on the woolsack then said, that the Bill was, in his opinion, wrong in principle as well as in detail. His noble and learned Friend pointed out the injustice that Would be done to lords and tenants by the measure, and made a bold and masculine speech against the principle of the Bill. When his noble and learned Friend said that, instead of moving that it be read a second time that day three months, he should move that it be referred to a Select Committee, he (Lord Campbell) was not rash in thinking that his noble and learned Friend was of opinion that the Bill ought not to pass. He submitted that nothing had been done on his part to expose him to the censure of his noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Lyndhurst), and he felt he had done nothing of which he should repent. He was rejoiced that the Bill had been referred to a Select Committee, for the measure had undoubtedly been greatly improved by that tribunal; he was rejoiced that the Government were favourable to the Bill, though when the second reading was proposed they had exhibited symptoms of a different kind. He did not know whether the change that had since taken place had been caused by communicating with the Home Secretary. He hoped that right hon. Gentleman explained to them what had taken place in the other House, and pointed out the impropriety of Government opposing a Bill in one House of Parliament and supporting it in the other. He hoped he had made an impression upon those who influenced their Lordships' House, and that there was now a sincere desire that the Bill should pass the House and become the law of the land.


had hoped that his noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Campbell) would have viewed his conduct in a better light, and that, at all events after the statement which had been made by his noble and learned Friend near him (Lord Lyndhurst), he would have withdrawn the censure which he had thought fit to pass upon him. His noble and learned Friend had repeated the accusation after he (the Lord Chancellor) had denied it, and asserted that he was professing and declaring one thing while he intended another. There was nothing that he wished to avoid so much as to get into a controversy with any noble Lord; but he felt his course was, holding the office he did, and considering it to be his positive duty, to tell their Lordships what his sincere opinions were on the measures that came before them. He was not to ask whether those opinions were popular of unpopular, but merely to give them the opinion he entertained. He had after laborious study and attention expressed his real opinion to their Lordships on this Bill; it was not a popular one, and his noble and learned Friend objected to it. His noble and learned Friend stated in the House, and repeated in the Committee, that he did not object to a Select Committee, but he did object to a Select Committee when it was intended for an indirect purpose; and his noble and learned Friend had repeated the assertion, though he (the Lord Chancellor) had disclaimed such an intention over and over again. He (the Lord Chancellor) had never concealed his opinions—he felt that in accepting this Bill, it was a choice of evils, and though a remedy was called for, they could not pass this measure without inflicting considerable injury on a very large number of persons. He felt that he could point out parties who would suffer deeply from the measure, and was assured that they would hear of their distress. He thought that their Lordships were responsible for the consequences, and that they ought to take leisure and care in carrying that measure. He was prepared to do anything in his power to make the measure as good as it could be made, and to lessen evils which were inevitable; and he took the liberty of stating to the Committee upstairs, that they should take care how they acted, and endeavour to prevent a great mass of evil and distress falling upon a great number of persons. He thought that his noble and learned Friend should have now adopted a different tone, and that he should have expressed his sorrow that he had over doubted the good faith in which the Select Committee was proposed, and his pleasure to find that everybody on every side of the House had but one object in view, namely, to pass as perfect a measure as possible.

Without meaning to say anything disagreeable to his noble and learned Friend the author of the measure, he must make this observation: he had stated, after reading the Bill in its original shape, that he could not take upon himself to say that it was a measure, unless alterations were made in it, which could effect the objects in view. No sooner had the Bill got into the Select Committee than his noble and learned Friend (Lord Campbell) himself declared that it was the very worst drawn Bill he had ever seen. He (the Lord Chancellor) had taken a great deal of trouble with it, both in and out of the Committee. There was not a clause in it that had not been cut about in every direction. Some eight or nine new clauses had been added. In fact, he had never seen a Bill more hacked and mutilated by a Select Committee, and he had never seen one that more required it. He hoped it would now effect the object for which it was passed, their anxiety being to protect the poorer class of tenants.


had not the smallest desire to interrupt the harmony of the House; but the Bill, though improved, was still a Bill for the enfranchisement of copyholds, which his noble and learned Friend some time ago thought was a measure highly objectionable and not to be effected.


said, it would have been perfectly impossible to pass the Bill in the shape in which it originally came from the House of Commons; and he was confident that, in proposing that it should be referred to a Select Committee, it was never the intention of the Lord Chancellor to throw out the Bill.


bore his testimony to the pains taken by noble and learned Lords to make the Bill of a practicable shape. A more difficult question to deal with it was scarcely possible to imagine; but he believed the Committee had completely succeeded, and that the Bill was now in a state to do the least harm and the most good of any Bill that could be framed.


said, from the first moment the Committee met until the last, when the Bill assumed the shape in which it was now presented to their Lordships, there had been the most unremitting and impartial endeavours on the part of the Members to do justice between the parties whose interests were affected, that he had ever seen in the whole course of his life. It might have been anticipated, per- haps, that a Committee of that House would have tended rather to a bias in favour of the lords; but on the contrary, he thought he saw sometimes an almost ridiculous sensitiveness respecting the rights of the tenants: he believed that the interests on both sides had been as fairly arranged as possible.

Amendment made: The Report thereof to be received To-morrow.