HL Deb 07 August 1860 vol 160 cc822-8

rose to put the Question to the Lord President as to which of the Bills now waiting for Second Reading Her Majesty's Government intend to proceed with—and said that, before he put the question, he was desirous of eliciting un expression of opinion upon two Bills which stood for a second reading—namely, the Ecclesiastical Commission Bill and the Poor Law Relief (Ireland) Bill. If he did not mistake, the noble Lord President had expressed an opinion that certain clauses which had been introduced into the former Bill were absolutely necessary; and inasmuch as those clauses had been rejected in the House of Commons, he wished to know the intention of the noble Earl whether he proposed to proceed with the Bill in its present shape? The other Bill, the Poor Law Board (Ireland) Continuance Bill, it was unquestionably desirable should be passed; but it did not at all follow that in a measure intended to prevent the powers of the Board from expiring, provisions making considerable alterations in their functions ought to be introduced, to which grave objections were entertained by many of the Irish Peers. He was not disposed to insist on the too strict enforcement of the Resolution which their Lordships had adopted; but he thought they ought to guard against such alterations being introduced under colour of a mere continuance Bill, and receiving the assent of the House on the plea of urgency. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would consent to make the Bill a continuance Bill merely. The question he wished to ask the noble Earl was, whether he would have the kindness to state which of the Bills now in their Lordships' House and waiting for a second reading, the Government considered of such urgency and necessity as to induce them to ask the House to dispense with the rule which had been laid down for the guidance of their proceedings. He would extend that question one degree further than the notice he had given; because he observed that a number of Bills which had not reached their Lordships' House, were still in progress in the other House of Parliament. "With regard to these, their Lordships would doubtless agree with him that the case must be a very strong one which would justify them in departing from the rule fixed by the Resolution, which had been brought up to the House so long after the time fixed by the Resolution. To the Bills requisite for the purposes of Supply, and to complete the financial arrangements of the year, he was quite sure there would be no opposition at whatever time they came up; indeed, they had been specially excluded from the operation of the Resolution; but respecting other measures they ought to be cautious in admitting the plea of urgency. It was very desirable, he thought, that in the conduct of business a perfect understanding should exist between both Houses; for though the House of Commons had no very great time to spare, and everybody was anxious to close the business of the Session, he had seen time wasted in the discussion of Bills which were even yet in very early stages; and with regard to which, if they reached that House, their Lordships, he apprehended, would not admit the plea of urgency. He might instance one of the measures to which he referred. There was one very long and much disputed, partaking, in some degree, of the nature of a private Bill—the Metropolis Local Management Bill. To this measure, which had given rise to much controversy, and which affected a great many interests, and with respect to which it was quite certain that there was no chance of its receiving due consideration this Session, their Lordships would never think of applying the principle of urgency; and yet he had seen certainly one whole day, if not two, occupied in discussing Amendments to that Bill in Committee, and it had not got beyond that stage at the present moment. There was one measure which was to be discussed by the House of Commons that evening, to which Her Majesty's Government attached much importance, and which was certainly a matter of urgency and necessity; for, although he could not say he was very well satisfied with the mode in which Her Majesty's Government had dealt with that question, still he thought the difficulties surrounding it would be immensely increased by leaving it until another Session—he meant the Bill which had been introduced for the reconstitution of the Indian Army. At whatever inconvenience, therefore, he thought the Government had a perfect right to ask the House to discuss that measure. He thought, however, that the House had a right to know, at this period of the Session, what measures the Government considered measures of such urgency, that they ought to be proceeded with. Of course, he should give all the assistance in his power to the consideration and despatch of the necessary financial measures; but with that exception, and Bills of real urgency, he trusted no other business would be proceeded with.


was understood to say, that of the Bills referred to by the noble Earl, the Ecclesiastical Commission Bill stood on the paper for Thursday; the Poor Law Board Continuance (Ireland) Bill would be taken on Friday. The Government certainly intended to proceed with them both; but it was not for him to say how their Lordships would deal with them. The House would likewise be asked to agree to the Savings Banks and Friendly Societies Investments Bill, and to the East India Stock Transfer Bill. Of the Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Bill, and of some other measures still in the other House, he at present knew nothing. The Fortifications Bill, however, would be brought before their Lordships, and, he hoped, would receive favourable consideration at then-hands. He did not place in the list the Bills connected with money, which of course would be exempted from the operation of the Resolution. Then there were the Fortifications and Works Bill, which he trusted would be considered of sufficient urgency to be exempted from it also; the India Forces Bill, which was also of great importance; the Land Improvement (Ireland) Bill, which, though of great importance also, was not a Government Bill; the Roman Catholic Charities Bill, and the Industrial Schools Bill. The Metropolis Local Management Bill was not one, perhaps, of real urgency, but it would be for their Lordships to consider whether it ought to be exempted from the Resolution. No doubt the Resolution itself, though, perhaps, some persons might take exception to the principle of it, had worked very well in practice, still there might occur cases in which the rigid application of it would place their Lordships in a very awkward position. The other House had been sitting for an unprecedented number of hours every day, and it would not look very well for their Lordships to strike work five or six weeks before the end of the Session -["Oh! oh!"]—well, at any rate, a good month. He approved the working of the Resolution, and was anxious that it should not break down; and he thought, therefore, that their Lordships ought to be careful in this respect. In conclusion, the noble Earl was understood to express his dissent from the principle that continuance Bills should not contain any amendment or alteration of the law.


said, he had not gathered from the noble Earl's statement whether it was intended to bring in any new Bill with regard to India, and especially with regard to Indian finance, which was not already before Parliament. Such a Bill, of course, would not come within the operation of the Resolution; still it was just as well that their Lordships should know whether such a Bill was likely to be brought before them.

After a few words from the Earl of CHICHESIER,


thought that all noble Lords would admit that he had never factiously opposed the relaxation of tins Resolution. In fact, he had always assisted in recommending the House to relax it in all cases where there was any real urgency shown. But, on the present occasion, as far as he could understand the statement of the noble Earl opposite, it amounted to this—that all the Bills now before Parliament were urgent, and that for the simple reason of the extraordinary length to which the Session was to be prolonged. The intention of the Resolution was to enable noble Lords to judge of the time when their attendance in town would be no longer necessary; and if, from the inability of the Government to carry on the business of the country at the usual rate, the Parliamentary Session could not be closed at the usual time, he did not think their Lordships ought to suffer: and they certainly had a right to complain of the arrangements of the Government in respect of particular Bills. In his opinion notice should be given at the earliest possible period after the expiration of the period fixed by the Resolution of the intention of the Government to proceed with any measure. The House had a right to complain that whereas the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill had been introduced a week ago; the second reading was fixed for as late a day as Friday, when the attendance of Irish Peers who took an interest in these matters must necessarily be very small. With regard to Continuance Bills, he was distinctly of opinion that no provision ought to be introduced into them altering the law in any way. They ought to be confined entirely to continuing the operation of the particular Act to which they relate. He could not admit that the circumstances which would justify their passing in a thin House a simple Continuance Bill would justify their making important alterations in the Poor Law of Ireland. He thought that after the delay of ten days between the Bill coming up to their Lordships and the time proposed for the second reading, they ought not to be called upon to discuss clauses which had nothing to do with a Continuance Bill, in the absence of a great number of the Irish Peers, It might cause inconvenience if the Local Government Supplemental Bill was not proceeded with; and as he had no wish to be blown up, there might be some reason alleged for passing the Gunpowder Bill; although it certainly appeared to him to establish a new code of laws which had not before been deemed necessary. But as to the Savings Banks and Friendly Societies Investments Bill, it was not urgent; and it was extremely objectionable, because the object seemed to be to enable a species of stockjobbing to be carried on by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the funds of Friendly Societies. He knew nothing about the East India Stock Transfer Bill. The Landlord and Tenant (Ireland) Bill was represented as supplementary to the Improvement Bill which their Lordships had passed; but he was not prepared to say whether that circumstance would justify their proceeding with it. The Industrial Schools Amendment Bill could not be very urgent; and the Roman Catholic Charities Bill was of such importance that, unless it was in a satisfactory shape, it ought not to be discussed in a thin House at the extreme end of the Session. The Metropolis Local Management Bill had met with considerable opposition. The Bill was confessedly of little interest to the Government; and, as it was pressed forward by parties connected with a very oppressive Board, he did not think it was a measure which ought to be proceeded with at a late period of the Session. The proposition to expend large sums of money on fortifications and the defences of the realm of itself showed that urgency could very properly be pleaded in favour of those Bills; but with regard to many of those which he had mentioned, there was no such justification. It should be remembered that the Resolution was intended to prevent Bills being passed without deliberation, and being considered in a thin House, unless they were so urgent as to render their immediate consideration absolutely necessary. The fact, therefore, that Parliament was unusually prolonged, was no reason why Bills not really urgent should evade the operation of the Resolution.


said, he believed there had been an understanding between the Government and the Irish Members in the other House to the effect that the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill should be nothing more than a Continuance Bill; and yet there had been inserted in it two important clauses, to one of which he confessed that he entertained a considerable objection. He thought that it ought to be passed as a mere continuance measure.


said, that the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill, as it was first introduced, contained several new and important provisions; but it had been withdrawn in consequence of the opposition which it encountered. A Continuance Bill was then brought forward, and it was with the consent of the Irish Members that the two clauses to which the noble Viscount objected were inserted in the measure. One of those clauses was proposed by Mr. Hennessy, and the other was supported by Mr. Monsell, with the concurrence, as it was supposed, of the Irish Members generally.


agreed that a Bill brought in as a Continuance Bill ought to be passed simply as a Continuance Bill, and that clauses of importance ought not to be introduced into it. The Resolution fixing the period up to which their Lordships would read Bills a second time was, in his opinion, intended not so much to limit the duration of the Session as to provide that no Bills should be hurried through the House without due consideration; and it therefore appeared to him that if from any circumstances the Session was unusually prolonged, that Resolution need not be strictly adhered to.


said, he thought it was important that some explanation should be given upon a subject to which a noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had already adverted. A report had gone abroad to the effect that in the present state of the Indian finances the Government believed it would be necessary for them to introduce an Indian Loan Bill before the close of the Session. He should be glad to know whether there was any truth in that rumour. He doubted whether such a measure could be brought within the exception of the Resolution.


said, that if such a loan Bill were introduced he thought it might fairly be considered a measure of urgency.

House adjourned at a Quarter before Seven o'clock, to Thursday next, Half-past Ten o'clock.