§ Order of the Day for the House to be put in Committee, read.
§ EARL GREY
said, he thought that when their Lordships were considering a Bill for abolishing the property qualification of Members of the House of Commons, they ought, with respect to Members of both Houses, to abolish a privilege which ought not to exist, and which was a subject for scandal. He would, therefore, move, that the Committee be instructed to amend the Bill, by introducing a clause rendering Members of both Houses of Parliament liable to arrest for debt under a judgment of a Court of competent jurisdiction, and to alter the title of the Bill accordingly. He did not, of course, propose that arrests of Members of either House for debt should take place, except in the case of judgments. With respect to Members of both Houses, it was really right and proper that they should not be enabled, by the existing privileges, to evade the payment of their just debts, and he thought, when they were taking away the security which a property qualification was supposed to give in the case of Members of the House of Commons, that that was the proper time to amend the law as to the exemption of Members from arrest.
That it be an instruction to the Committee to amend the Bill by introducing Clauses rendering the Members of both Houses of Parliament liable to arrest for Debt under the judgment of a Court of competent jurisdiction, and by altering the title of the Bill accordingly.
said, his noble Friend 1917 had brought forward the proposition on the ground that their Lordships, as his noble Friend had said, were exempted from the payment of their debts; but that was not so, inasmuch as the property of any of their Lordships might be seized by creditors in satisfaction of debt. His noble Friend's proposition would also put their Lordships in a much worse situation than other classes of the Queen's subjects. For example, a witness subpœnaed to give evidence might not be arrested, nor might a barrister in Westminster Hall or on circuit. Their Lordships should, at all events, have an equal privilege, and should not be liable to arrest when they were coming down to attend their duties in that House.
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, the Amendment of his noble Friend had been brought forward without notice—a circumstance which he thought was fatal to it. Besides, it was not only an Amendment without notice, but one on an entirely new subject, inasmuch as he could see no natural or necessary connection between that Amendment and the Bill on which they were in Committee.
said, he could not agree to the statement that there was no natural connection between a Bill abolishing all property qualification of Members of the other House and some course of the kind taken by his noble Friend (Earl Grey). He had his doubts that his noble Friend's proposition was the best mode of attaining the end he had in view, but he thought there was a necessary connection between the two subjects. His noble Friend said, it was only in the case of judgment debts that he would make Members of both Houses liable to arrest; but he should bear in mind how many facilities there were of obtaining judgments. He should like to have the opportunity of considering the matter more fully befere he gave a definite opinion as to the propriety of the alteration suggested by his noble Friend.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
hoped the House would not agree to the Amendment. He quite agreed in its principle, but he did not think it the most proper course to carry it out, by attaching it as a rider to such a Bill as that now under consideration.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, from what had passed there appeared to be a general concurrence that the main object of the noble Earl was a desirable one. There were, however, reasons why there should not be hasty legislation; and it would be 1918 better if the noble Earl would not press his Motion upon the present occasion, but would introduce immediately a Bill upon the subject, which, if the House would read it a second time, could be referred to a Select Committee, where it could be carefully considered in all its details.
§ After a few words from Lord WENSLEYDALE,
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, he did not think that such a clause as that proposed by his noble Friend should be introduced incidentally and without notice. None of their Lordships had come down prepared to discuss the question raised by the proposed clause. It was a very serious question; and he should reserve any opinion as to the propriety of making any alteration in the law on the subject, or as to what restrictions ought to be imposed in case of such alteration. Though there might be some connection between the subject of the instruction and that of the Bill then before their Lordships, it was not so close a one as made it necessary that the one matter should be included in the same Bill as the other. He understood that a Bill having for its object the abolition of the privilege of freedom from arrest in the case of Members of the Legislature was about to be introduced into the other House, and a discussion on the question could be had by their Lordships better on a Bill of that kind coming up from the other House than on an instruction to a Committee on a subject that had not been contemplated by that House when it sent up the Bill.
§ EARL GREY
said, it was impossible that he should have given notice, for his Motion had originated from a debate in the House last night, and his noble Friend had fixed the Committee on the Bill for that evening. However, difficulty of shortness of notice could be got over by deferring the Committee upon this Bill for three or four days. It appeared to him that the question he had raised was closely connected with that proposed to be dealt with by the Bill; for when they were abolishing a security, however imperfect, they ought to substitute, if possible, some means of insuring the independence of Members of Parliament. Unless the two subjects were united he felt sure the abolition of the privilege of freedom from arrest would never be carried. He thought the best course to adopt in reference to the Bill would be to refer it to a Select Committee, to which it should be an instruction to introduce into 1919 it a clause to carry into effect the object which he had in view. If, however, their Lordships should not consent to take that course, he should not put them to the trouble of dividing, as it was evident the greater number of the Members of their Lordships' House were opposed to his proposition. Feeling confident, at the same time, that his Amendment was sound in principle, he could not consent to withdraw it.
§ On Question, disagreed to.
§ House in Committee.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; and to be read 3a, on Monday next.
§ House adjourned at Six o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.