HL Deb 09 April 1869 vol 195 cc452-73

My Lords, on rising to address your Lordships on the important subject of Life Peerages, I think the most convenient course to take will be that I should, in the first instance, refer to the state in which the question was left by the Resolution which was passed by your Lordships in 1856. The Resolution of this House of February, 1856, respecting the title of Lord Wensleydale to sit and vote as a Peer for life, moved by the late Lord Lyndhurst in a speech to which no one could Listen without being charmed, is one which I do not seek to disturb, but I wish to state precisely what that Resolution decided. Your Lordships will remember that Lord Wensleydale had been created a Peer for life, that the patent of creation was submitted to a Committee of Privileges, and that they reported that in their opinion that patent did not entitle him to sit and vote in this House. That, I take it, is the exact extent of the Resolution to which your Lordships agreed. Nobody attempted to question the fitness of Lord Wensleydale to receive a peerage, and nobody positively affirmed that the Crown could not confer a peerage for life. The dictum of Lord Coke that the Crown could, by its Prerogative, create a peerage for life was adduced; and nobody could quote any legal authority for debarring the Crown from confering such peerages. The question, however, was raised whether, even supposing that Lord Wensleydale was entitled to all the other privileges of the peerage, he was entitled by that patent to sit and vote in this House, and Lord Lyndhurst contended that your Lordships had an undoubted right to determine whether the patent did so entitle him—because the peerage might, for example, be conferred on an alien, who by the law of the land could not sit and vote in Parliament. In saying so, I think Lord Lyndhurst stated a proposition that was unquestionable. But he went on to maintain that when the law of the land did not interpose any obstacle, your Lordships, by your own will, your own line of policy, could prevent a Peer from taking his seat. This was far more questionable. But Lord Lyndhurst urged, in confirmation of his proposition, that this House, in 1711, refused to admit a Scotch Peer, the Duke of Hamilton, who shortly after the union with Scotland was created Duke of Brandon,; on the ground that the Crown had no power to grant a British dukedom to a Scotch Peer. That decision, as he pointed out, remained unchallenged for seventy years, and it tended to prove that this House had the right to judge whether a patent of peerage enabled the Peer so created by the Crown to sit and vote in this House. It is impossible, I think, to controvert that argument; for though the House decided in 1782 that the Resolution was void in law and overruled it, that did not affect the right of this House to decide whether any particular person was entitled to sit and vote in this House. It is, equally, I conceive, in the power of your Lord-ships, if you should see fit, to reverse the decision of 1856, and to decide that a person created a Peer for life may sit and vote in this House. But until your Lordships do reverse that decision, I hold that it is unquestionably the law of Parliament that a Peer created for life cannot sit and vote. The decision of 1856 has not been since questioned; but in the same year a most unfortunate attempt, as I think, was made to improve the appellate jurisdiction of this House, it being proposed to appoint two Law Lords as Deputy Speakers to assist the Lord Chancellor in hearing appeals, with a salary of £6,000 a year each. That proposition was attempted to be carried out by a Bill. The measure was much discussed in the House of Commons, and it was opposed by Sir James Graham, by Mr. Gladstone (the present First Lord of the Treasury), and also by me, and others. It seemed to me open to great objection; and, though it passed the second reading, it was laid aside in the month of July. Lord Palmerston, in the course of that debate, said:— There can be no doubt that the House of Lords would derive great influence and consideration in the country, if there were the means of placing within its limits men who had distinguished themselves, either by their legal attainments or by great military or naval achievements, but who, not having that fortune which would enable them to transmit to their descendants the means adequately to maintain the dignity of the peerage, would be placed in an improper, and, to themselves, a painful, situation, by being made hereditary Peers."—[3 Hansard, cxliii. 609.] Now, the Government of the day had not gone to the extent which Lord Palmerston shadowed forth of proposing to create peerages for men of great military or naval achievements, as well as for men of high legal attainments. Had they done so, I think their proceedings would have met with more favour in the House of Commons. Let me now call your Lordships' attention to the reasons given by Lord Lyndhurst on which the Resolution of 1856 was founded. I had the pleasure of listening to him at the time, and I remember that Lord Lyndhurst took his stand on what he justly called the constitutional principle of jealousy of the Crown, and on the fear that the power of creating Peers for life might be abused. A life peerage had been granted to Lord Wensleydale without any proposal or suggestion that the power should be limited, and it might thereforebe urged that this House might be crowded with life Peers created with the view of obtaining a majority for the Ministry of the day. That fear, I think, was an exaggerated one, and the jealousy of the Crown, though a constitutional principle, was carried to too great a length. In reviewing the question, I wish, however, to steer clear of these objections that a great number of life Peers may be created, and that the independence of this House might be diminished or destroyed. I remember that Lord Lansdowne, in a conversation with me at the time, said the question of life peerages was one very fit to be entertained, but he thought that the number ought to be limited, and he had heard it suggested that there might be certain categories or classes to which the power of the Crown to create life peerages, as far as it gave a right to sit and vote in Parliament, should be confined. That certainly appears worthy of consideration, and I should wish carefully to avoid giving any power which would enable Ministers of the Crown to place an indefinite number of life Peers in this House. What I propose, therefore, is that the number of life Peers should not, at any one time, exceed twenty-eight, which is about the number of the Irish representative Peers and also of the English Bishops, who are Peers for life. Then, to avoid a creation to that extent in a single year, I propose that there should be a limitation that not more than four should be created in any one year. It would thus be, at least, seven years before the total number of these life Peers would be created; and, considering the changes which occur in the state of parties and Ministries, it is not likely that a single Administration would have the power of creating the whole number. It may be asked however, why have life Peers at all? Why not go on with the power of making hereditary Peers, which had existed for so long a period and has been so freely exercised? My reply to that is that in the course of time circumstances have very much changed, and that the Prerogative of the Crown does not and cannot act so beneficially as in former times. We know that in former times there were vast domains in the hands of the Crown, portions of which might be conferred on men who had distinguished themselves in the service of the State. Such men having perhaps entered on life with very small means, by receiving the bounty of the Crown, were enabled to maintain the dignity of the peerage. There are other instances of the same kind. It was not difficult in former times for persons who held the office of Chief Justice of the King's Bench, or other high judicial offices, to bestow very valuable appointments on their sons and near relations, and thus, as it were, to furnish dotations to the peerages which were created. Now those domains of the Crown are no longer bestowed on persons serving the Crown, and reforms have been made with regard to the patronage of the Chief Justices, the abolition of sinecures, and the suppression of the very valuable offices which were formerly attached to courts of law. I hold in my hand some extracts from a letter which was quoted by my noble Friend the present Secretary of the Colonies in the course of a very able speech which he made in 1856. It was addressed by Lord Eldon to a friend of his, and it contains at considerable length Lord Eldon's opinion as to the acceptance of a peerage. He was, at the time, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and his words are these— When I came to the Common Pleas I had made some fortune in a successful practice at the bar and in the great law offices which I held nearly twelve years. Mr. Pitt was unwilling to give me an office which would take me out of Parliament. I could not be in it unless in the House of Lords, and I can assure you I have often thought that if I had survived the acceptance of the peerage but a short time I had accepted what would have been a nuisance to my family and no benefit to the public. Of our dear friend Lord A."—I suppose Lord Alvanley—"can anybody now say that it was a wise measure on his part to accept a peerage?"—[3 Hansard, cxl. 291.] Lord Eldon goes on to narrate the circumstances connected with Lord Chief Justice Abbott, afterwards Lord Tenterden. Lord Tenterden never had much practice at the bar, he never had a silkgown, and never held any of the great Law Offices of the Crown; his health was tender, his eyesight was not in a very safe state, and had he been told he must accept a peerage Lord Eldon thinks he would have refused the Chief Justiceship. The services, therefore, of that eminent Judge might have been lost to the country on account of his inability on pecuniary grounds to accept an hereditary peerage. My general proposition is, as I have stated, that there shall only be twenty-eight life Peers. I now proceed to the various classes from which I propose that these twenty-eight Peers should be taken. I propose, in the first place, that Scotch or Irish Peers may be selected for peerages for life. My noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) is about to bring forward a proposal with respect to the election of Scotch and Irish Peers to seats in this House, and I am very glad he has undertaken that task; but I think, nevertheless, the Crown should have the power of selecting some of those Peers for life peerages. The rule, I have understood, used to be that the recommendation of the Government of the day was always taken in the election of those Peers; but if that was ever the case it has not been so of late years, and this year the people of Scotland have elected representatives to the other House in the proportion of fifty-two on one side to eight on the other; while the Scotch Peers have elected their representative Peers in the proportion of fifteen to one the other way. The predominance among the people has been one way, and the predominance among the Peers the other way. Now, this shows a very anomalous state of things. I remember, moreover, a Scotch Peer, who, I think, was one of the cleverest, one of the wittiest, and one of the readiest men I ever knew. He sat for a short time in the House of Commons; but, becoming a Scotch Peer, he was excluded from Parliament all the rest of his life. That is not a good state of things, and a remedy can be provided by the power I propose. The next class consists of persons who have sat for upwards of ten years in the House of Commons. Now. a great change has occurred with regard to that House. Formerly a Gentleman accepting a seat for a small borough attended to his duties in Parliament or not as his leisure permitted him, and he might retain his seat for many years without taking any active part in affairs. Now-a-days, however, a Member is obliged, by the call of his constituents, to attend constantly and to take part in all important divisions. It is not extraordinary, therefore, to find excellent Members of Parliament, men whose conduct is approved by all parties, most respected for their attainments and their conscientiousness, retiring from the House of Commons at an early period of life, because they feel their health and spirits unequal to the fatigue of regular attendance. I think, therefore, that the Crown might elect some of the life Peers from Gentlemen who have been for ten years Members of the House of Commons. Supposing a young man to enter the House of Commons at the age of twenty-one, he would at the age of thirty-one be qualified to accept a life peerage. The next class which I propose consists of officers of the army and navy eminent for distinguished services. I do not lay down any particular qualification, because very frequently there are men whose services to the country have been very valuable, who have been, per- haps, in command of troops in our colonies and have served for many years, and yet, not having had an opportunity of commanding in chief, have not been remarked for those distinguished services which enable the Crown to say—"Here is a man to whom a peerage should be granted, together with an annuity of £2,000 a year for two or three lives." I remember a very distinguished man to whom I thought the country owed the safety of one of its colonies, and who had performed distinguished services to the Crown. I informed him that it was Her Majesty's pleasure that a peerage should be conferred on him; but I saw that he doubted whether he could take it. He was about, as I thought, to refuse it, when I told him further that the Crown would send down a Message to Parliament to propose a grant of £2,000 a year for three lives; and he thereupon accepted the peerage. Now, it would have been a great misfortune if so eminent a man bad been unable from the scantiness of his fortune to accept so deserved an honour. The pensions of £2,000 for three lives have been much less frequently granted of late years, and it would, therefore, be a great advantage to have life peerages conferred on eminent men of this class. It is easy, indeed, to say with regard to these men, and some of the other classes I am about to name, that they may enter the House of Commons. When, however, a man has spent many years of his life in the East or West Indies, or has been engaged in a laborious profession such as the law, and has got to be fifty years old, he hesitates to undertake a laborious course of service for the people in the House of Commons, and though he would be willing to accept a life peerage and take part in your Lordships' deliberations, he probably prefers retiring into private life and being unknown for the rest of his days to attempting the labours of the House of Commons which a body of constituents might feel inclined to exact from him, even if he could find a county or borough ready to accept his services. The next class I propose is that of persons who preside, or shall have presided, in any of the superior Courts of Law or Equity in England, Scotland, and Ireland, persons who have for a period of two years held the office of Puisne Judge in any of those courts and have retired from office, or persons who have held the office of Attorney General in England or Ireland, of Queen's Advocate, or Lord Advocate in Scotland, and have ceased to hold it. Such men, again, would be well qualified to sit in this House; they would bring here great powers of debate, as well as great experience as regards the appellate jurisdiction of this House. A noble and learned Lord (Lord Colonsay) who had held high judicial offices in Scotland was created an hereditary Peer a year or two ago, and no doubt you may now and then find a person ready to accept an hereditary peerage who has sat in one of the superior Courts of Common Law in Scotland, but such cases cannot be frequent, and since noble and learned Lords well qualified as regards other departments of the law are sometimes ignorant of the Scotch Law, it would clearly be of great advantage when Scotch appeals come on to have persons thoroughly acquainted not only with the general law of Scotland, but with the existing practice of the law, to assist your Lordships in deciding such cases. The next class of men are distinguished for their attainments in science, literature, or art. I remember in the history of the Revolution that Sir Isaac Newton was elected a Member of the House of Commons, which it appears to me was made more illustrious by having such a man one of its Members; but in 1690 there was a change of politics in the Universities, and he ceased to be a Member. Now it would strengthen the influence and character of this House if such illustrious men as Newton or Locke had seats among us. I now come to the last class—namely, persons who have been in the service of the Crown for not less than five years, and who, whether they have served in India, or the Colonies, or at home, have distinguished themselves by their talents and services, but who have no large fortune enabling them to go into a contest for a seat in the House of Commons, and who have no disposition to take part in party politics, but whose services to the Crown entitle them to some mark of special favour. I have now gone through the different classes of persons on whom I think life peerages might be conferred. This House would gain strength from having such Members, and I think it cannot be denied that the means which formerly existed of granting considerable fortunes to men of eminence who obtained a peerage from the domains of the Crown and from sinecures have ceased to exist. Some measure of the kind is, therefore, required, and by the plan I propose there would be no change in the constitution of this House. I believe there were at the beginning of the Session, including Bishops, 467 persons entitled to sit and vote in this House. Of these about seventy are Peers for life; and, supposing the numbers of the House increased by the course I propose, the proportion of life Peers would be only one-fifth, so that no alteration would be made in the general constitution of your Lordships' House. I do not think it desirable that such an alteration should be made, for I believe that the hereditary peerage is an institution which has the respect of the country. There is a respect in all countries attendant upon hereditary descent, and in no country is that respect more deep and general than in the United Kingdom. There are, however, some considerations which cannot fail to occur to your Lordships. It has been said by the most profound historian of antiquity that a Government composed of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy could hardly exist, or that if it should exist it would not be durable. Notwithstanding, however, so high an authority, we have now experienced during 180 years the harmonious operation of a Constitution so composed—a Constitution in which monarchy and aristocracy are as necessary parts as democracy, and in which democracy is a not less necessary part than monarchy and aristocracy. To what do we owe the benefit and harmonious working of a Constitution, thought by so great an historian to be impossible? We owe it, I think, to the general temper and forbearance by which that part of the Constitution which was at the time the weakest has not entered into collision with the other parts, and thus harmony has been maintained. Now, it was obvious at the commencement of the last century that the House of Commons was acquiring great power, and that that power would enable it to become superior to the other branches of the Constitution. When Sir Robert Walpole was taunted with the charge of ambition, "Can I be accused of ambition," he retorted, "I who have refused the White Staff with an earldom?"—meaning that he might have been Lord High Treasurer and an Earl. But while disclaiming ambition, Sir Robert Walpole had the sagacity to perceive that the seat of power was then changing, and that as First Commissioner of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons he would be more powerful than if he gained a seat in the House of Lords. It is true that afterwards, at the moment of being driven from power, he accepted a peerage. But meeting his rival, the Earl of Bath, in this House, he said to him—"You and I, my Lord, are now two of the most insignificant fellows in the kingdom." Has the power of the House of Commons decreased since that time? On the contrary, the power of the House of Commons has greatly increased and especially as a consequence of the measure which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) and I concurred in passing in 1832, and of the measures which the noble Earl passed in 1867 and 1868; the reason being that the constitution of that House was placed on a larger and a wider foundation. A gentleman who possesses a great knowledge of statistics has said that the members of the Liberal party had a majority of no more than 4,000,000. Well, a majority of 4,000,000 is no trifling majority, and it ought to be treated with the utmost deference and respect. I hope that the same hereditary constitution of your Lordships' House which now exists will continue to exist, that it will continue to be generally respected, and that the moderation and forbearance which the different parts of the Constitution—namely, the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the democracy—have shown towards one another hitherto will continue to exist. I am convinced that if the Bill which I shall have the honour of laying upon the table be adopted it will strengthen this House and not weaken it, that the hereditary principle will still be the main foundation of the House, and that the various parts of the House will act in unison and will tend to the consolidation of the Constitution.

Bill enabling Peers created for life under certain limitations and restrictions to sit and vote in the House of Lords presented.—(The Earl Russell.)


My Lords, I cannot allow the speech of the noble Earl (Earl Russell) to pass without some remarks from this side of the House, although I am aware that it is not consistent with the ordinary practice of your Lordships to enter into a debate on the principle on the first reading of a Bill. I only desire to thank the noble Earl for the speech which he has made, and for the Bill which he has laid on the table, believing, as I do, that the proposal he has brought forward is founded on a sound principle, and that if, in any way, it requires alteration, the alteration ought to be rather in the way of extension than of restriction. At the same time, I need hardly say that I concur most heartily in all the remarks made by the noble Earl with respect to the necessity of maintaining the hereditary character of this House; and if I should wish for any extension of the principle of the Bill of the noble Earl, it would not be an extension of the number of life Peers, whom he is desirous to introduce—for I think he has shown great judgment in the limitation which he has put on the whole number to be created, and also on the number to be created in each year. But, my Lords, if I do not find fault with the principle of the Bill, I would, nevertheless, say that the noble Earl has looked too much to one side of the object of extending the power of conferring peerages to the exclusion of the other. A peerage has a double function. It is a great honour conferred by the Crown, and it is also a membership of a political assembly. Now, in dealing with the peerage and the modes by which it is recruited, it is not only our duty to consider what classes of persons are most worthy to receive the honours which the Crown desires to bestow, but we must consider also how we can best strengthen and make permanent the political assembly in which we sit. Now, some of the categories of the noble Earl did not seem to me to be adapted for strengthening any political assembly. I do not myself see the advantage of introducing into this House persons who are simply distinguished for their position in science, or art, or literature, without any other qualification. No doubt they are persons who are worthy of all honour, and if, among the honours at the disposal of the Crown, there are none fit to be bestowed upon them, it is quite right that such a deficiency should be remedied. But I do not think they are persons who, however great their attain- ments, are as such particularly qualified to be members of a political assembly. They have not been trained, and their minds have not been exercised in politics, nor do they represent the great political classes in this country; and consequently they would not add to the strength of the House of Lords as a political assembly. Something, though not so much, of the same objection applies to limiting the creation of life peerages too exclusively to the two services. In the first place, I doubt whether we want more representatives of the two services in the House. We have already many distinguished officers in the House, and military merit is a kind of merit which so promptly attracts the recognition of the Crown and of the people that all the distinguished soldiers of the day will find their way into the House of Lords in the ordinary manner. At no time in our history—as far as I am aware—has this House suffered from a want of representation of the military element. Therefore, in dealing with the restriction of the number of life peerages, I should be sorry to see any large proportion of them devoted to representation of that kind. This is, of course, a very delicate matter even for the noble Earl, who has had so much experience, to take up, but it is very much more difficult for a young Member like myself; it appears to me, however, that the deficiency which may be recognized in the constitution of the House of Lords has been imprinted on it by the lapse of time, and does not belong to its original constitution. That deficiency consists in this—that we want a larger infusion from those large classes among whom is to be found so much of the wealth and power of the country. We belong too much to one class, and the consequence is that with respect to a large number of questions we are all too much of one mind. Now, that is a fact which appears to me to be injurious to the character of the House as a political assembly in. two ways. The House of Lords, though not an elective, is strictly a representative assembly, and it does, in point of fact, represent very large classes in the country. But if you wish this representation to be effective, you must take care that it is sufficiently wide, and it is undoubtedly true that, for one reason or another, those classes whose wealth and power depend on commerce and mercantile industry do not find their representation in this House so large or so adequate as do those whose wealth and power depend upon the agricultural interest and landed property. We have, indeed, a certain number of mercantile representatives in this House. They are admirable in every way, and I confess that if it were possible to increase their number the House would be a large gainer by the change. And it would be a gainer also in another way. We want, if possible, more representation of diverse views and more antagonism. On certain subjects, it is true, we have antagonism enough—on Church subjects, for instance, and on the interesting question as to who should occupy the Benches opposite. But there are a vast number of social questions deeply interesting to the people of this country, especially questions having reference to the health and moral condition of the people—and on which many Members of your Lordships' House are capable of throwing great light, and yet these subjects are not closely investigated here because the fighting power is wanting and the debates cannot be sustained. Now, if it were possible that the machinery proposed by the noble Earl could be to any extent effective to correct this evil, the advantage to the deliberations of your Lordships' House would be very great indeed; and it was in that sense that I said I should like to see the propositions of the noble Earl carried further. I do not wish to see life Peers more numerous, but I should like to see the choice of them somewhat more unfettered than the noble Earl proposes. I must apologize for having made these remarks; but I only wished to thank the noble Earl for bringing in the Bill, and to express my hearty concurrence with him in believing that it will tend to meet all the large advances of democracy as the third power of the State, as we must meet those advances, by making this House strong in the support of public opinion, strong in its influence with the country, and strong in the character and ability of those who compose it—strong in its relation to the other powers of the Constitution. We must try to impress on the country the fact that, because we are not an elective House, we are not a bit the less a representative House; and not until the constitution of the House plainly reveals that fact shall we be able to retain permanently, in face of the advances of the House of Commons, the ancient privileges and constitution of this House. I feel that the question is an important one, and I am the more anxious to say a few words upon it, because I differ in opinion from those with whom I ordinarily concur. The future of the House of Lords is one of great hope as regards its stability, and the wisdom of your Lordships at this particular crisis of time in dealing with its constitution will decide how far the power of this House shall remain intact, or how far it shall sink before the advancing power of the House of Commons.


My Lords, I agree with my noble Friend who has just sat I down that the question which has been brought under your Lordships' consideration to-night is one of the most important which can occupy your Lordships' attention. Upon a question so important I should have expected that Her Majesty's Government would have formed and been able to express some opinion to your Lordships. As, however, no Member of Her Majesty's Government has risen to express any opinion on the subject, I venture, before the conversation closes, to make a very few remarks on what has fallen from the noble Earl (Earl Russell). It would, my Lords, be entirely out of place now to say anything by way of criticism on the details of a measure which we have not yet had an opportunity of considering in the shape of a Bill. But there is one question which I cannot help thinking your Lordships will find it convenient to ask yourselves, and to answer, in considering a measure of this description. And I own I was somewhat disappointed that, following as well as I could the speech of the noble Earl, he did not appear to me to have proposed that question to himself or to have assisted us to a satisfactory reply. That question is—What is the precise object and aim you have in view in proposing a measure of this kind? It seems to me that there are three separate objects which have in a somewhat vague way been referred to by the noble Earl and by my noble Friend who has just sat down (the Marquess of Salisbury); and yet the opinion which I at least should form on a proposal of this nature would be very different according to which of those three objects you select and fix upon as the particular object of the measure. One of those objects would be in order to supply the Crown with the opportunity of affording to those who have distinguished themselves in the military or the naval service of the country—or, I might add. in the diplomatic service—a reward in a form more suitable to their wishes than that which the Crown is able at present to offer them—I mean a peerage limited to their lives rather than an hereditary peerage. That would be out: object. The second object would be this—in order to increase what I may, for brevity, term the judicial strength of your Lordships' House in disposing of the business that comes before them for decision. Those two objects are very simple and very plain. But there is a third object, which was referred to by my noble Friend who has just sat down, and which is of an essentially different character from either of the others. I mean the object of altering the entire composition of this House, and making this House what my noble Friend termed more of a representative body than at present he deems it. Let me say one word with regard to these different objects; and I do so not at all professing that on so short a discussion any definite opinion ought to be formed or expressed at this moment. I agree that there is weight in the argument which says that there are, there have been, and there may be again, persons in this country who have deserved well of the country by their military and naval achievements, and to whom the gift of an hereditary peerage may be an encumbrance rather than advantage; and it may be very fitting that the Crown should be supplied with means—which, after the decision of your Lordships it cannot have, as amply and fully as might be desired—to enable them to take seats and vote in this House. From what was said to-night, and what has been often said before in this House, I cannot help thinking that upon that there would be very considerable agreement among your Lordships. But, on the other hand, I think it must be obvious that, for the purpose of making the peerage a reward of distinguished service, the number of life peerages mentioned by the noble Earl goes beyond what the occasion requires. We are fortunate in this country in having distinguished men who have deserved well of the country; but I do not think it would be unsafe to say that there is no need of the Crown being provided with the means of conferring such rewards to a greater extent than one peerage in a year. Therefore, so far as concerns supplying the Crown with the means of bestowing rewards for distinguished services, every one I suppose would admit that the power of creating ten or twelve peerages to take effect at the rate of about one in each year, would be ample for the purpose in view. As to the second object, that of strengthening the judicial power for the exercise of the appellate jurisdiction of this House, all that I will say is this, that if that be the object of the noble Earl, I venture to think it ought to be dealt with in a very different way from that which he proposes. It should be dealt with upon a full consideration of what the appellate jurisdiction of this House requires, and of the strength which at the present moment it possesses. I believe it will be found that there never was a time when, from various circumstances, this House was in possession of greater strength for the discharge of its appellate functions than it is at the present moment; and I think it would be impossible to consider that question without at the same time considering the changes which will in all probability before long be made with reference to the other appellate courts of this country—the whole of that subject being now under the consideration of a Royal Commission. I pass, then, from these two objects, merely observing that if the ends sought are simply to confer rewards for distinguished services, or even to add to the judicial strength of this House, the number of life Peers proposed by the noble Earl is much greater than is required. But now I come to the third object, the change which my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) desires to see effected in the composition of this House, in order, as he says, to make it more of a representative assembly than it is at present, and for the purpose of producing that greater opposition, that greater pugnacity, which he wishes to see prevailing in this House, and which he thinks could be accomplished in this way. I beg, my Lords, to say, if that be the object in view, it will be incumbent on those who desire to see it attained to explain how it is that the composition of this House would become more representative in its character by power being given to the Government of the day to name annually for life four additional Members of the House. My noble Friend who wishes to see this object attained himself admitted that it would not be attained by selecting Members merely because they had sat for ten years in the House of Commons, or by selecting them merely because they happened to be Irish or Scotch Peers. The effect would be this—The Government of the day would have the absolute power of naming these persons; and if they had such a power of selecting men whom they supposed to be most eminent in science, literature, or art, or who might have sat for ten years in the other House of Parliament, I ask would there be any security that your Lordships' House would in any way become more of a representative Assembly than it was before? But I venture to take exception altogether to the view which has been expressed on that subject. I say, if you desire to make this House a representative Assembly, you desire to make it different from that which by the Constitution it is and always has been. You must make up your minds to choose between two things—either you must have the House of Lords that which, according to the Constitution of this country, it ever has been, an hereditary assembly—you must have it in the main an hereditary assembly still, with that consequence which, I am happy to say, has always flowed from its constitution—namely, that by additions made to it from time to time it has obtained not a direct, but an indirect, and yet a true representative character, inasmuch as it represents the different phases of opinion which exist throughout the country; or, if you are not satisfied with that, it is not by the paltry measure of adding four life Peers in a year to its numbers that you will give a representative constitution to this House. I trust, therefore, that at a future stage of this measure further discussion will be given to this question—whether we desire to obtain the means of rewarding those whose merits demand or are entitled to reward, or whether the object is to change the constitution of this House and turn it into a representative Assembly through the medium of allowing the Government of the day—in addition to their present power of advising the Crown to create hereditary Peers—to advise the Crown also to appoint four life Peers in a year to sit and vote in this House.


My Lords, although I had no intention to rise, I am not sorry to have been called up by the noble and learned Lord to say how much I have been struck—and I cannot help thinking that your Lordships must also have been much struck—by the difference both in substance and in tone between the speeches of the two noble Lords who have followed my noble Friend who opened this discussion. It was impossible for us not to listen with the greatest interest to the speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), seeing the ground he took up in reference to the Bill of my noble Friend. It was peculiarly gratifying to many who sit on this side of the House and who are deeply committed to the principle of life peerages to hear the assent which the noble Marquess gave to the general principle of the Bill now laid upon the table. But during the whole course of that speech there was entire freedom from any party feeling, his only object appearing to be to consider what was best—and, I may add, best in the most truly Conservative sense—for the honour and the just influence of this House. The speech of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), however, was in strong contrast to that of the noble Marquess. In the very first sentence of his remarks he complained against Her Majesty's Government for not having at once given an opinion on this Bill at its first reading, when we have not had it before us, and when it is obviously most important that the Government should have time for very carefully considering it before expressing a definite opinion upon it. I may mention—for on doing so I violate no confidence—that I consulted with my noble Friend (Earl Russell) after he had intimated his general intention of bringing in this measure, as to whether he would prefer that it should be done in concert with the Government, or whether he thought it would be better to introduce it in his individual character, and I believe he judged rightly in thinking it would be better for him not to act in concert with the Government in order to avoid giving to this measure any appearance of a party character. My Lords, both of the speeches to which I have referred—so different in tone and in substance—produced in my mind a feeling that, if there be any danger in the proposal of my noble Friend, it arises rather from its being too limited in its operation than otherwise. With regard to the question of numbers, I must say that when it is objected that four life Peers would be too many to be admitted in one year, I think that is just one of those things which must depend upon circumstances. The noble and learned Lord reckons that there is one person in a year on whom such an honour as a life peerage might be conferred. I do not know whether his statistics are correct; but it is quite clear, on the one hand, that there might not for several years be a necessity for bestowing a reward of this kind; while, on the other hand, there might occur several deaths among the Law Lords, or there might in any year be several men of great naval, military, or professional distinction whom your Lordships would think it desirable to have among you, and whom you would regret to see excluded owing to circumstances which rendered them unwilling to accept an herditary peerage. I cannot think it would be right for me on this occasion to go further than to say on the part of the Government that we are in favour of the general principle of life peerages; and I believe there is not one of us who does not deeply regret the vote come to by this House, I think in 1856, when the case of the Wensleydale peerage was before it. I have only further to add that Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to give a careful consideration to this Bill and to express their opinion upon it at a future stage.


said he thought their Lordships would be hardly disposed to agree with the noble Earl who had just sat down (Earl Granville) in his concluding remarks with respect to the course taken by their Lordships upon the question of the Wensleydale peerage. For himself he could say that subsequent experience and reflection had convinced him that their Lordships were most fully justified in the course which they took upon that occasion. He maintained that the proposal which was made in the case of the Wensleydale peerage was altogether different from that which had been submitted that night by the noble Earl (Earl Russell). The principle in- volved in the Wensleydale case was this—that the Crown might have power to create life peerages without limitation of numbers or regard to qualification. He (Earl Stanhope) said then and he repeated now that such a power would be fatal to the honour and independence of their Lordships' House. It would enable the Government of the day, on any question upon which political excitement might arise, to fill the House with nominees, undistinguished by any particular merits, for the purpose of carrying particular measures. But the evil would not stop there; for whenever one Government ceased to hold Office their successors would have a pretext for pursuing a similar course, and filling the House with nominees of an opposite complexion, in order to over-rule the majority that had been previously created, and the consequence must be that the House, instead of the proud and independent position which it now held, would become a mere shuttlecock between contending parties. For this reason he dissented entirely from the concluding remarks of the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies. He would further say that for himself he did not repent of the vote which he gave in 1856, and he felt that their Lordships had no reason to repent of the decision to which they had come on that occasion. But in reflecting on the subject, he had certainly arrived at the conclusion that, although the unlimited creation of life peerages would be fatal to the independence and dignity of their Lordships' House, yet, that a limited number of such Peers might be added to their Lordships, whose presence would be an ornament and an advantage. And here again he was not in unison with the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who had objected to the limitation.


I beg the noble Earl's pardon; I did not object to a limit. I merely said that if any objection was to be taken, it was rather with respect to the extent of the proposed limitation than otherwise.


said, he had misunderstood the noble Earl; but had he not argued that there might be so many cases of merit in the military and naval services, and so much need for legal assistance in that House, that in one year many more than four new creations might be required, though in another there might be fewer? What object could there pos- sibly be in urging that point at all if the limitation was approved? But reverting to what he had said—he would repeat that he looked upon limitation as absolutely essential; and he conceived that this limitation must be of two kinds—first, as to the total number of life peerages, and secondly, as to the number that might be created in any one year. In taking that view he held that the number proposed by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) was somewhat larger than there was occasion for. He should have thought that three life peerages in one year ought not to be exceeded. Their Lordships must remember that besides the life Peers, there would be hereditary Peers also; and the numbers not of one class only but of both would have to be considered. Then he took exception to some of the classes to which, as he understood, the noble Earl proposed to extend the privilege of life peerage. What reason, for example, could be alleged for placing Irish and Scotch Peers as one of these classes? All the other classes assumed some sort of merit or service, but there was no merit or service in being an Irish or Scotch Peer. However, this was not the time to discuss the matter fully. They would be in a much better position to do so when they had seen the Bill. There was one point, however, which he desired to notice, and upon which he was at issue with the noble Marquess near him (the Marquess of Salisbury). He could not desire that their Lordships' House should have any thing of a more strictly representative character, and he quite agreed in what had been said by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) if they were called upon to decide between the general constitution of the House as it existed upon the hereditary principle and the representative character which the noble Marquess desired to give it. On the whole, he thought the noble Earl opposite had brought forward his measure in a most temperate and judicious spirit, with an entire absence of party feeling, and it was in the same spirit he trusted the measure would be entertained by their Lordships. He did not wish to pledge himself to a Bill that he had not seen; but he had no hesitation in saying that he rejoiced that an opportunity would be given to their Lordships to express an opinion on the question of life peerages under circumstances more likely to recommend it than those under which it had been brought forward on former occasions.


expressed his repugnance to any measure for the creation of life peerages which might interfere in any way with the hereditary character of their Lordships' House. He admitted, however, that he saw a great difference between such a measure and the Bill which the noble Earl had proposed for consideration. When the Bill had reached another stage he hoped they would obtain from the noble Earl some clear definition of the claims and kind of merit which were to make persons eligible for the distinction of a life peerage. The Bill was one of great importance, and he hoped that at its next stage their Lordships' would give the measure careful examination.


expressed his gratification at the favourable reception given to the measure by those noble Lords who had taken part in the discussion, and the desire they had evinced not to consider it in any party spirit. With regard to any alteration in the character of the constitution of their Lordships' House, he thought he had shown by the advice he had thought it his duty to give to the Crown when he had the honour to hold the Office of First Lord of the Treasury that he approved the selection of persons engaged in trade, if of sufficient wealth and eminent merit, for hereditary peerages. So far he agreed with the noble Marquess. The Irish Peers appeared to him always to have enjoyed a privilege which had been denied others, and one of the most prominent was their power to sit in the House of Commons, Two Irish Peers, since the Union, be- came Leaders of the House of Commons. Lord Castlereagh was still Leader of the House after he became Marquess of Londonderry, and the case of Lord Palmerston was well known.

Bill read la; to be printed; and to be I read 2a on Tuesday the 27th Instant. (No. 49.)