§ LORD BEAUMONT
rose to call the attention of their Lordships to the state of private business, which, he said, was such as to be productive of very serious inconvenience both to parties interested and to the House. It had happened this year, from peculiar circumstances, that many Bills sent up from the Commons had arrived late in the Session—some so late that they could not be considered if the Sessional Orders of the House should be enforced. This delay had arisen, not from the neglect of the parties, but from circumstances over which they had no control. One reason, with regard to Railway Bills, was the proceedings of the Select Committee, which had under its consideration the subject of amalgamations and working agreements; and another was owing to the appointment of numerous Election Committees, for which it was difficult to find Members, and which had occupied a very considerable period of time. One of their Lordships' Sessional Orders was that no Bill should be read the second time after the 12th July; but there was a provision in it which said that, if sufficient reason was shown, any Bill might be read the second time after the 12th July. He was informed that there were several Bills before their Lordships which, owing to the causes he had stated, had been delayed in the second reading beyond the period prescribed in the order. In such cases, where there had been no neglect on the part of the promoters, he thought their 880 Lordships were bound to appoint Committees to sit upon them, otherwise many thousands of pounds would be lost, and great inconvenience arise. There might be difficulty in finding Peers in sufficient numbers to constitute Select Committees, owing to the advanced period of the Session; but he would suggest that in the next Session the system should be revised. For his own part, he was willing to assist to the utmost of his power in discharging the private business now waiting. This year it could only be done by noble Lords volunteering to undertake it; but next year he hoped another system would be adopted. He suggested that the system of rotation should be tried, for it was really very hard that the weight and burden of business should devolve upon a few. A large number of Members of their Lordships' House were yet in town; and it was only fair that they should attend in rotation, or that some other steps should be taken to prevent the business of the House from being conducted in a way that was certainly not very creditable to it.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, he should certainly be very glad to receive from the House some directions as to the relaxation of the Sessional Order in cases where he might be of opinion that the Bill ought to be read the second time. At the same time he must add, that for the sake of the House, the maintenance of the Sessional Order was of the greatest importance. It was of importance also to the other House, for it stimulated Committees there to pass Bills through by a reasonable period, and it enabled time to be given to their consideration in their Lordships' House. But if it were held that because the Session was prolonged to a more extended period than usual, that was a reason for allowing further time, he must remind their Lordships that such an argument would do away with the stimulus upon the other House to send up their Bills to this House in time. At the same time, what the noble Lord had said was true, that there had been undue delay in the other House in consequence of the proceedings of the Committee on Amalgamation Bills, and by the appointment of so many Election Committees. If their Lordships did relax the Sessional Order, be must, as far he was concerned, be extremely cautious how he acted in order to avoid any charge of partiality. The line must be broadly and simply drawn, and it must be rendered perfectly clear. In the case of several Bills, he had already recom- 881 mended that they be read the second time but there were other cases which would require much consideration, before he could adopt such a course. At the same time, if it appeared to their Lordships that special favour should be shown in the present. Session to Bills which had been unavoidably delayed, he should be happy to act upon their Lordships' opinion. He should under stand the desire of the House to be, that the Standing Orders were to be so far enforced, that where extreme diligence had not been used, or where there had been originally an imperfect construction of the Bill, there no relaxation of the Standing Orders would be conceded, but that in other cases the Bills would be allowed to go on.
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
agreed with his noble Friend that the duration of the Session, irrespective of other causes, ought upon no account to be considered a good reason for a relaxation of the Standing Order. There were, however, other reasons for it, one of which was the course taken by the Government, which seemed to him to present a decided claim for some relief to the parties who were likely to suffer from the operation of the order He alluded to the Committee over which his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade presided, to which the question of railway amalgamation was referred. The Committee consumed six weeks of the Session just at the period most useful for the progress of measures of this description. This fact undoubtedly furnished a strong claim for relief. Then had also been a great demand upon the time of Members for other business, and he had reason to believe that great difficulty had been found in naming Select Committees. With regard to the private business in their Lordships' House, he must say he had seen with very considerable pain and annoyance the noble Lords who were occupied on both sides the House in managing the attendance of Members, and more especially the noble Lord entrusted by the House with the conduct of private business, obliged to go along the benches with slips of paper in their hands begging Peers in a sort of mendicant fashion, as a personal favour to themselves, to come down and discharge the duties which devolved upon them a Members of the House. This was not a position in which his noble Friend (Lord Redesdale) ought to be placed; it was not a position worthy of the character of that House; and noble Lords neglected very 882 important functions if they neglected the private business of the House. He agreed, then, that some remedy for a state of things so unsatisfactory should be provided before the next Session. He hoped his noble Friend would turn his attention to this subject. He thought that his noble Friend the Chairman of their Lordships' Committees, and the Members of the House of Commons who undertook the management of private business, ought to be called together, either at the close of the present Session or the beginning of the next Session, to consider whether some improvement could not be made in the mode of transacting the private business of both Houses. At present, looking to the fact that the delay in the present instance had not been owing to any laches on the part of the promoters of many of these Bills, but that they had been prevented by accidents beyond their control, from complying with the Standing Orders, he thought that a liberal and generous view ought to be taken of the matter, and that his noble Friend (Lord Redesdale) ought to be relieved from the responsibility which he wished to avoid of evincing any partiality in his selection of the Bills to be proceeded with. Their Lordships would not, he thought, object to some such rule as this, that those Bills should be allowed to proceed to a second reading, against which there were not broad grounds of negligence on the part of the promoters, At the same time he should be prepared in any future Session of Parliament to resist any similar relaxation of the Standing Orders.
§ LORD STANLEY of ALDERLEY
suggested that, upon a future occasion, the assistance of a Select Committee might be useful. There was already a rota for the attendance of noble Lords upon appeals; and probably some plan of that sort might he adapted to the discharge of private business.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, that he would to-morrow, after what had been said, look through the Bills again, and advance those of them, in accordance with what appeared to be their Lordships' wish, in regard to which the delay could be satisfactorily explained; and if there were any upon which he was doubtful, he would ask for the assistance of a Select Committee. With regard to the adoption of a new system of appointing Committees, no one could be more relieved by an improved arrangement than himself; but there were difficulties 883 with respect to compulsory attendance, which might not have occurred to noble Lords. There would always be a greater difficulty, in consequence of the age of many of their Lordships, in securing an attendance upon private business, than in the House of Commons, where the attendance was also more regular in consequence of the Members being representatives of constituencies. In consequence of age and other causes, the rota allude to by the noble Lord as having been established upon appeals, had broken down, and the attendance of the necessary number was now managed by agreement among their Lordships. A certain amount of compulsion was necessary to get through the private business of their Lordships but the amount must be very much left to the discretion of those upon whom the appointment of the Committees usually fell. One great difficulty was in finding noble Lords to serve upon Select Committees who had no private interest in the Bills brought before them. If noble Lords would turn their attention to the subject during the recess, he should be happy to give them his best assistance. With regard to the Standing Orders, there was none more important than that their Lordships should not receive Bills after a certain time. If that rule were acted upon, there would be no difficulty in obtaining Committees; but if that rule were departed from, their Lordships would have every Session petitions for time.