HL Deb 02 May 1854 vol 132 cc1188-90

LORD REDESDALE moved the following Resolution— That this House will not read any Bill a Second Time after Tuesday, the 25th of July, except Bills of Aid or Supply, or any Bill in relation to which the House shall have resolved, before the Second Reading is moved, that the Circumstances which render Legislation on the Subject Matter of the same expedient are either of such recent Occurrence or Urgency as to render the immediate Consideration of the said Bill necessary. The noble said he believed, that if their Lordships would adopt the Resolution, that it would have the effect of enabling them to draw their deliberations to a close at an earlier period of the year than had hitherto been the case. A restrictive principle of a similar nature had been already adopted in reference to private business, and with the best effect, because the parties interested were thereby induced to prepare and press forward their Bills, and the Committees exerted themselves to expedite them; and he could see no reason why they should not extend the rule to public business as well. And to show how necessary it was to adopt some rule of the kind—if their Lordships wished to give a due consideration to the measures that came before them—he would refer to the experience of the last Session of Parliament, which commenced in the month of November. During the last Session there were no less than 136 public Bills passed; but of these only forty had been passed up to the end of July; so that in the month of August no less than ninety-six Bills received the Royal assent, sixty-two of which were read a second time after the 25th of July. Now, it must be evident at the first glance that sufficient time was not allowed for the consideration of the many subjects involved in these Bills. It had been said sometimes that their Lordships' House was merely for the purpose of registering the deeds of the other House of Parliament—that, in fact, they were almost useless for the purposes of legislation. But really the experience of last Session would seem to justify such a conclusion, and give the charge some weight, when it was considered how numerous were the measures that had been so quickly disposed of. He would only say, in conclusion, that he believed the Speaker of the House of Commons and several of the most influential Members were in favour of the proposal which was embodied in his Resolution.


said, he remembered ever since he entered Parliament, now nearly fifty years, the complaints now made by the noble Lord having been made in that House over and over again, and there must, he thought, be some very great difficulty in remedying the evil; since, notwithstanding the multitude of complaints which had been made, it still continued unabated. The attempt now made by his noble Friend might produce some effect; but he (the Earl of Aberdeen) was not very sanguine as to the result. Their Lordships might, however, adopt it, at least as an experiment, and they would then see what effect it would have during the present Session. He believed the tendency of the Resolution would be to expedite the progress of Bills in the House of Commons, and enable them to be laid before their Lordships at an earlier day than at present. The qualifications contained in the Resolution were necessary ones, for it would be impossible to bind the House not to read a Bill a second time after the 25th of July. It was absolutely necessary for Bills of aid or supply, and other measures described by the noble Lord, to be taken from the strict application of the rule, or otherwise he was not sure how far it would be right for the House to name arbitrarily a day after which their Lordships would not hear or proceed with public measures. However, without being sanguine as to the effect of the Resolution, he thought the object was a good one; and as he understood that several influential Members of the House of Commons took the same view as the noble Lord did, he would not throw any obstacle in the way of a fair trial of the experiment in the present Session.


hoped their Lordships would not agree to the Motion. That they should say beforehand that after the 25th of July they should then and there stop the whole Parliamentary business of the country, appeared to him to be almost unconstitutional. Parliament was supposed to be sitting continually, and if the House of Commons sent up a Bill to their Lordships after the 25th of July, they were bound to take it into consideration, though of course they were at perfect liberty to postpone it, to pass it, or to reject it, just as they thought proper. Why should not their Lordships be in that House attending to their duty after the 25th of July as much as before that date? As Peers of Parliament it was their duty to attend, and he was unwilling to announce to the world that they were passing a Resolution to enable them to evade their duty in order to enjoy the summer months in the country. He protested against the Resolution, as being an attempt arbitrarily to limit the duration of Parliament, to prevent their Lordships from discharging their duty, and to violate the principles of the Constitution.


believed that, so far from the Resolution enabling their Lordships to shrink from their duty, it would be found practically of great usefulness, and would induce them to proceed with public business with due despatch, unless a particular reason existed for deferring it. As to the Resolution being unconstitutional, it was only carrying out an old standing order of the House. In 1668, an order was passed in reference to a Bill which came up from the House of Commons, requiring that no discussion should take place upon Bills introduced after a certain date in the Session.

In reply to a question from Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY,


stated, that if his Motion were agreed to, it would become a sessional, and not a standing order.

On Question, agreed to.

House adjourned to Thursday next.