§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
, in moving that this Bill be now read the second time, said, its object was to simplify the forms now used in the prorogation of Parliament during its Recess. The present practice was not very consonant with the dignity of that House or of Parliament. A Commission was issued to some of their Lordships—generally Peers who held offices in the Ministry—empowering them to declare the further prorogation of the Parliament. Two or three of the Commissioners came down to the House, and a summons was sent commanding the attendance of the Commons to hear the Royal Commission. The House of Commons was generally represented by one of its Clerks, who was addressed as "Gentlemen of the House of Commons." It appeared that up to the year 1672 the Speaker always attended to hear the Commission read; but in that year his place began to be supplied by the Clerk. In 1706 an Assistant Clerk came to be substituted for the latter; and so the custom had continued ever since. The Speaker, it was said, had originally excused himself from attending on the ground that he wanted to go to Spa, an excuse which was repeated by Sir Fletcher Norton; and so it had come to pass that the Speaker in subsequent years was suffered to find it necessary to go to Spa also. Under these circumstances, he hoped 1661 their Lordships would see that it was not desirable to continue what in reality was an idle ceremony, and one which sometimes produced inconvenience; for it was often found difficult to secure the attendance of Commissioners sufficient to constitute the quorum. Indeed, he recollected that on one occasion it was only done by asking the Duke of Cambridge, who happened to be passing through town, to come down to the House. He did not wish to disparage ancient forms and ceremonies when they retained any meaning or use, but he thought the existing custom in respect of the prorogation of Parliament during the Recess was entirely useless and unmeaning, and might very well be dispensed with. What he proposed, then, was that the present custom should be abolished, and that the prorogations during the Recess should take place by means of a Proclamation.
§ Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.