HL Deb 11 July 1854 vol 135 cc1-5

said, he had a question to put to the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) of which he had not given him notice, as the circumstance to which it related had only come to his knowledge within the last hour; but as the matter was of very considerable importance, he trusted the noble Duke would excuse his alluding to it. It might be in the recollection of their Lordships, that various Bills had been introduced in that and the other House of Parliament by the Government and by private individuals, with a view of settling the much-vexed question of the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland. Those Bills were referred to a Select Committee of their Lordships for consideration. In that Committee, after much time and labour had been expended on the work, two measures were elaborated, which were for the most part identical with the measure introduced by the noble Duke. The third reading of these Bills was moved by the noble Duke the Lord Privy Seal (the Duke of Argyll); they were passed and sent down to the other House of Parliament. He had been informed, however, that notwithstanding that circumstance, Her Majesty's Government in the other House had distinctly denied that they were responsible for these measures, and that they had accordingly thrown the onus of carrying them through upon private Members; but he was still more surprised to hear it announced that there was no intention of proceeding with them at all during the present Session. Now, he did hope that when so large a number of their Lordships' House had been put to the trouble and inconvenience of attending the most laborious Committee which had elaborated the two Bills, Government would have kept faith with their Lordships; and at the same time he did hope that the Government would have assumed the full responsibility of carrying them through. He therefore wished to know from the noble Duke, whether it was a fact that the Bills were not to be proceeded with this Session.


said, he had only just heard of the withdrawal of the Bills alluded to by the noble Earl, from the noble Marquess sitting opposite to him (the Marquess of Bath), and he consequently had had no opportunity of conferring with any of the Members of the Government in the other House of Parliament as to the circumstances connected with it. He supposed, however, it had taken place at the morning sitting of that day. However, he would of course make himself fully acquainted with all the causes which had led to the adoption of that course, and he should take care to inform the noble Earl what had induced the Government to act as it had done. All he knew of the matter was, that it had always been intended, if the circumstances of the Session allowed, to carry the Bills through this year. The noble Earl must be aware, however, from the experience of their Lordships' House—and the rule would apply with much greater force in the case of the lower House—how easy it was to delay the passing of a measure if only a few persons were bent on opposing it; and as it would appear that the two Bills in question were threatened with such an opposition in the other House, it might have been found impossible to get them through during what remained of the present Session. As to the Government being responsible for the conduct of the Bills, all he could say was, that the Government were not parties to framing the Bills in any way. The Bills were not party Bills, and had not been looked upon as such; but though, technically speaking, they might not be Government Bills, there was no doubt that Government had adopted them in their essence. They were introduced by the law officers of the late Government, were then taken up by the Members of the present Government, and in an altered shape came before their Lordships' House, when they were referred to a Select Committee, of which the noble Duke the Lord Privy Seal was Chairman. He was quite sure that there was no unfair repudiation of the Bills intended by the Government; and though he could not as yet say under what circumstances the Bills had been withdrawn, he was quite satisfied that that course had not been adopted from any dislike entertained by the Government to the character of the measures.


said, as a Member of the Select Committee which had elaborated the two measures referred to by the noble Earl, and as one who had taken a prominent part in the discussions of last Session, when the subject was brought before their Lordships, he could not help expressing his sincere surprise and deep regret at the course which Her Majesty's Government intended to take; at the same time he readily acknowledged the noble Duke was justified in deprecating any further discussion at the present moment in reference to this topic, as he certainly appeared not to have had an opportunity of possessing himself of the necessary details. But at the same time he could not help saying how strange it was that a Member of the Cabinet, and he too a Secretary of State, should not have known what were the intentions of the Government upon so important a matter until the last five minutes. He would ask their Lordships, was it not a subject for most legitimate and natural surprise that the abandonment of a number of most material Bills should have been decided on, and yet that the noble Duke, whose peculiar measures they might be considered to be, was obliged to tell them that he was able to give no information as to the causes of such a proceeding? However, he judged the matter of so much importance—important, not merely in its relation to the loss of the measures in question, but as involving the conduct, not merely of the present Administration, but of all Governments, towards their Lordships House—that it was his intention to bring the subject formally before them on Thursday next. He certainly understood that the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll), who had acted as Chairman of the Select Committee, had spoken in the name of the Government, and under authority, when he told the Committee that the Government would interest itself in the passing of the measures through the House of Commons. He was, therefore, much surprised at hearing the Bills were about to be withdrawn without any apparent reason, and he could not help contrasting the conduct evinced by the noble Duke last year—when, within seven or eight days of the termination of the Session, he peremptorily charged their Lordships with the duty of passing the Bills—nay, even insisting with impetuosity upon the necessity of their doing so—with the fact of his Colleagues, with a month or six weeks of this Session still before them, suddenly throwing up these Bills. Although, therefore, he could not expect the noble Duke to give any further reply upon the present occasion, he found it necessary to give notice, that on Thursday next he should again invite their Lordships' attention to the subject, when he hoped he might count on the presence of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), who acted as Chairman of the Select Committee.

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