HL Deb 18 February 1856 vol 140 cc909-12

moved to resolve— That no Private Bill shall be read a Second Time after Tuesday, the 8th Day of July next: That no Bill confirming any Provisional Order of the Board of Health, or authorising any Enclosure of Lands under special Report of the Enclosure Commissioners for England and Wales, or for confirming any Scheme of the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales, shall be read a Second Time after Tuesday, the 15th Day of July next: That when a Bill shall have passed this House with Amendments those Orders shall not apply to any new Bill sent up from the House of Commons which the Chairman of Committees shall report to the House is substantially the same as the Bill so amended. He said their Lordships were aware that he had in former years proposed another Resolution as to the time after which they would not take the second reading of public bills. He regretted to say that last Session the Resolution in question was not adhered to as it ought to have been, several Bills, the urgency of which was not such as to justify a departure from the Resolution, having been brought in and passed after many noble Lords had left town, assuming, as a matter of course, that the rule would be observed. If that Resolution was to be again adopted by their Lordships, it ought to be on the distinct understanding that no public bills, unless they were of sufficient urgency, should be taken into consideration after the period named in the Resolution. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Lansdowne) assured him last year that he highly approved the order, and thought it should be fairly construed according to its terms. If that assurance were repeated now on the part of the Government, and if he felt that he would not be misleading the House by asking it again to adopt the Resolution, he should be happy to give notice to that effect; but otherwise he should not trouble their Lordships on the subject.


thought the Resolution referred to by the noble Lord had done great good in expediting public business in the House of Commons. But it was manifestly impossible, with a due regard to the public interests, to lay down a rule which should in no instance be departed from. At the same time he was most anxious to assist the noble Lord in carrying the Resolution into effect.


said, that, if their Lordships did renew the Resolution of last year, they were bound in justice to their own character to adhere to it. He might remind them that a Bill—important, indeed, but without even the pretext of urgency—for the permanent improvement of the law was brought into that House last Session and passed through it with breathless haste, when it was utterly impossible to consider it, and when the House was in such a state that not one individual not holding some office in the Government or the Household could be prevailed upon to vote with the Ministers, and when, by a mere official majority, in a very thin House at the beginning of August, an important measure was passed into law. He alluded to the Limited Liability Bill. For his own part, he thought it so important that the House should maintain its character by adhering to the Resolution it had deliberately adopted, that, at great inconvenience to himself, he came from a considerable distance in the country for the express purpose of endeavouring to persuade their Lordships to stand by their regulation. It was represented to the Government that the subject of the Bill was one of great importance; that few noble Lords differed altogether from them as to the principle of the measure; that all admitted that the principle was one which, at all events, deserved the utmost consideration; but the law of partnership was a question of all others requiring the greatest care and deliberation. It was pointed out that the Bill, in passing the other House, had not received that attention which its importance demanded; that in the then state of this House, there being not a single day to spare, it would have to be passed through its successive stages on consecutive days, and that in those circumstances the measure could not be considered in a manner worthy its importance. These representations had no effect whatever upon the Government. The measure was pressed forward; the House sat on one occasion till two o'clock in the morning; and a great many alterations were made which, suggested on the spur of the moment, could not all be of a beneficial character. He confessed that upon so difficult a subject it was far beyond his power to be able, in four or five hours, to form a positive opinion as to how the Bill should be amended. But the best proof that he and those who acted with him were right, and that the promoters of the Bill were wrong, was to be found in the fact that already, at the beginning of the Session, the Government were introducing a new Bill to repeal the hasty legislation of last year—a Bill, too, founded upon very different principles from that of last Session even before it was amended. To show their Lordships how little the latter Bill received from the Government that consideration which its importance demanded, he might mention one curious circumstance. It was proposed in the other House to insert in the Bill four or five clauses of great importance. Those clauses were opposed by the Government and rejected. In the Bill of the present year those identical clauses, word for word, had been introduced by the Government themselves, and now stood part of the measure under the consideration of the House of Commons. Was that a proper and deliberate mode of carrying on the legislation of the country? Could anybody say that the permanent improvement of the Law of Partnership, however important, was a measure of urgency? He admitted its importance, but it would be trifling with the House to say that it was a matter of urgency that a law under which the commerce of the country had flourished for centuries should be amended a few months sooner or later. He mentioned those circumstances because he thought that, if their Lordships did not mean to adhere to the Resolution against reading public Bills a second time after a certain fixed period, it would be far better to abstain from passing it. If they intended to adhere to it in spirit and truth, he believed the Resolution would be a most important one, and was persuaded that, if they steadily refused to take up measures sent to them at a period when it would be impossible to consider them properly, the Government and the other House would find some means of bringing such Bills before them in due time.


said, that he remembered only one Bill—the Limited Liability Bill—which was urged upon their Lordships last year after the time named in the Resolution.


And the Sunday Trading Bill.


The Sunday Trading Bill might be another. But I remembered only the Limited Liability Bill; and, with regard to it, I must remind the noble Earl that it was expressly stated in this House at the time that that measure would form the subject of legislation during the present Session.


hoped that when the time came for proposing the Resolution an assurance would be given that it would be adhered to, otherwise it would be useless for him to press it.

Motion agreed to.