HL Deb 09 August 1869 vol 198 cc1470-83

Bill, returned from the Commons, agreed to, with Amendments.

Moved, That the Commons' Amendments be considered To-Morrow.—(The Duke of Argyll.)


said, he should like to ask the noble Earl (the Secretary for the Colonies) if the Government really intended to seriously propose going on with the Bill at this late period of the Session? He intended to move that they do not go on with it; but he would rather let the Government have the opportunity of voluntarily withdrawing it than that they should be compelled to do so by an adverse vote. The noble Earl must himself be conscious that after the Appropriation Bill had been passed, it was not fair to ask their Lordships to proceed with a Bill which involved such controversy as this did. It was the duty of the Government to afford their Lordships a full and fair opportunity to reconsider the Bill when it came back again from the Commons, and he (Lord Rodesdale) said they could not do anything of the kind, now that they were within a couple of days of the close of the Session. He trusted it would not be necessary for him to move the Motion of which he had given notice.


said, he stated on Saturday that it was the intention of Government to propose to proceed with the Bill to-morrow, and he was glad to see such a large attendance of their Lordships on this occasion. He knew that some of their Lordships entirely objected to this measure; but there were other Members of the House who thought it a measure of very great importance; and therefore the Government thought it their duty to ask their Lordships to go on with the Bill, in order that it might become law this Session.


asked how it was possible to consider such a Bill as this two days before the end of the Session? He moreover understood the Bill to which the House of Commons had agreed was one entirely different from that which was sent down to them by their Lordships, and therefore the Bill must necessarily give rise to considerable discussion. Under these circumstances it would be a most unjustifiable course if the Government persisted in forcing the Bill forward. All the other important business of the Session had been disposed of, and many of the Members of the House had left town, and it would be a most culpable thing for the Government to ask the House to discuss the Bill on its merits or demerits, when it was simply impossible to consider the Amendments made by the other House.


said, that the answer given by the noble Earl (Earl Granville) only left one course consistent with the duty which he owed to himself and to their Lordships, and that was to move as an Amendment to the Motion of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), that the Amendments made by the Commons in the Bill be taken into consideration this day three months. He should like to know what were supposed to be the duties of their Lordships with regard to Public Business, and how they ought to act in regard to important measures such as this? This was a Bill of sixty clauses, and there would be a great many Amendments to the clauses if the Bill were proceeded with. He wanted to ask how they were properly to consider all this when the Session was virtually over? Besides, would it be fair for the Government to propose certain clauses now which they knew very well if they had submitted them to their Lordships six weeks ago they would have had no chance of acceptance? The Bill, which had been read a third time that day and passed in the Commons, would not be delivered to their Lordships until to-morrow; and it was promised that Parliament should be prorogued on Wednesday, or, at latest, on Thursday. How would it be possible, when they only got the Bill back on Tuesday, to carefully consider it before Wednesday or Thursday? How would it be possible for one Peer to communicate with another as to what Amendments it might be desirable to accept and what ought to be rejected? There would be no opportunity whatever. There would be no time for communication with parties in Scotland, and no time to do anything but to accept just what Government proposed without inquiry and without deliberation. He submitted it would not be right for their Lordships to yield to Government in this matter. Let the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) make ever so clear a statement to-morrow of the character of the Amendments which had been made in the other House, their Lordships would still require time to consider for themselves what the effect of these Amendments might be. He said that if their Lordships should proceed in such a manner as that proposed by Government with regard to public legislation, there was an end to the dignity and reputation of their Lordships' House, and they would, in fact, become merely the register of anything which came from the other House. Now, he did not think the other House had any reason to be hard upon them if they declined to take the Bill further into their consideration this Session; because they themselves had hardly shown that alacrity to deal with the subject which some might have supposed they would have done. The measure was sent down to them on the 14th of June, and was fixed for second reading on the 21st of that month, but it was then deferred till the 28th, next to the 5th of July, and again to the 12th, when it was read a second time, so that there was no less than a month consumed in postponements. It was ordered for committal the next day, but this turned out to be only a committal pro formâ for the purpose of altering the entire character of the Bill and restoring it very much to its shape when originally introduced by the Government into this House. Thus the Commons never had the Bill sent down by their Lordships fairly submitted to them—a proceeding against which their Lordships had a right to protest. After having been committed pro formâ, the Committee was more than once postponed, and it was not till the 27th of July that the Commons began to consider its clauses, the proceedings being then adjourned to the 2nd of August. The Appropriation Bill had passed the House, and they were told that they were within two days of the close of the Session, yet the Government press on us to re-open the discussion on such an important measure as this. He said that if their Lordships agreed to such a proposition it would be a mere mockery of legislation. Noble Lords opposite might like to know the opinion of the Prime Minister on proceeding with important Bills at the very close of the Session. On the 23rd of July, 1856, a Bill relating to the resignation of the Bishops of London and Durham having been sent down to the Commons, the right hon. Gentleman said— The business of the country has been almost entirely wound up. We have passed the Appropriation Bill—that which we look upon as the natural termination of the important business of the Session; our functions in Committee of Supply have ended. It is not merely the date of the 23rd of July which we have to consider, though I must say that if Government continue the practice of introducing these most difficult Bills, these measures of such vast importance, when the Session is expiring, it will be necessary for this House, in self-defence, to resort to a measure which has been adopted in the other House, and to pass rules fixing positive dates, after which they will not consent to entertain such measures…, in fact, come to a state of things in which some forty or forty-five persons holding office under the Government virtually decide every question before the House."—[3 Hansard, cxliii. 1327.] The practice of proceeding with important measures at a period when the larger number of the Members of the House had conceived that their duties were over, and that they might retire to the country, was a practice that required to be checked if the House wished to preserve its privileges. A short time since it was understood that to-morrow was to be the date of the prorogation, and accordingly many noble Lords loft town, in the belief that the business of the Session had virtually been concluded. It was not till last week that the date was extended to Wednesday or Thursday; and if Thursday was the day there would be no time for communication with the House of Commons, to arrange which of the Amendments might be accepted. Their Lordships were aware that he had always attended to this matter not at all as a party question, but with the view of watching the privileges of the House and securing fair deliberation. At one time, indeed, he induced their Lordships to take the course referred to by Mr. Gladstone in the speech he had quoted—namely, to resolve that after a certain day no Bill should be read a second time; and though in deference to a feeling of jealousy on the part of the Commons he gave up pressing for that Order, he did so on the understanding that the principle of it would be adhered to by the Governments of the day.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("Tomorrow") and insert ("this day three months.")—(The Lord Redesdale.)


My Lords, before I refer to the early part of my noble Friend's speech, I must remark that it is unquestionably a fact that there are two or three Members of this House who have from the very beginning been hostile to the principle of this Bill. They have opposed it on all occasions, and they have expressed extreme regret that the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) supported it on the second reading. In Committee they supported every Amendment for altering the principle of the Bill, or which was damaging to it. Some of these noble Lords may be now present; and I do not at all complain of the course which they will probably take in supporting the Amendment of my noble Friend (Lord Redesdale). It is perfectly legitimate for them, entertaining as they do a conscientious objection to the principle of the Bill, to take advantage of any technical means of securing their object. But I would appeal to a great number of Lords opposite, who had no objection to the third reading, and who thought it, on the whole, a valuable Bill—I would earnestly appeal to them to hear what I have to say in regard to the point of Order, and to the question whether your Lordships ought or ought not to proceed to the consideration of the Amendments made by the Commons—for I beg your Lordships to observe that the Amendment of my noble Friend is that you should not even consider the Amendments made by the Commons. My noble Friend said that these Amendments entirely alter the structure and character of the Bill. Now, I venture to affirm the contrary. I venture to say that those Amendments do not alter the structure and character of the Bill. But, before I enter into the question, I must be allowed to refer to another point—one connected with our procedure. The Amendment now before the House professes to be founded solely on a question of procedure, and, therefore, before I say anything with regard to the Amendments, I wish to direct attention to that point. Ever since I became a Member of this House I have had a great desire to maintain its authority. When I was an independent Member unconnected with the Government I often felt the justice of the complaint that important business was put off to a very late period of the Session, and I well remember the late Lord Aberdeen saying, in answer to a question, that though he had been upwards of fifty years in the House, he could remember no time when that complaint was not made. It appears to me in the nature of things, considering the relative position of the two Houses, that important business should come up at a late period of the Session. What is one of the causes of that? Why, it is that the House of Lords has been becoming less and less a House for the initiation of legislation. Measures of an important kind are generally brought into the House of Commons, and every Ministry has felt the advantage of having the support of a majority of the House of Commons in bringing a measure before your Lordships. Therefore it is that this House has been becoming less and less a House in which important measures are initiated. Now, I beg to remind your Lordships that so far from the Government having been unmindful of the position of this House, or indifferent to maintaining its influence in legislation, they took the unusual course of introducing this Bill in your Lordships' House, and desired that it should be considered by your Lordships in the first instance. That course was especially unusual considering the character of this Bill, because it is, to a very large extent, a Bill involving the question of rates. Eating is not merely an incident of the Bill, but it is an essential part of it. I say, then, that the Government gave every possible proof of their desire that the opinion of this House should be consulted in due time in this question of education in Scotland. Let me remind your Lordships that it was at the request of the noble Lords opposite, as well as of some noble Lords near me, that I consented more than once to a postponement of legislation that made the discussion on the Bill take place considerably later than it would otherwise have been the case. One cause of delay was the natural desire to consult the Commissioners of Supply in Scotland. I have the greatest possible respect for the Commissioners, but I say that this question of education is now ripe for legislation, that Parliament ought to legislate on its own authority, and that it was inexpedient for the Members of the other House to consult local bodies of that kind, or for this House to postpone legislation with a view of obtaining their opinions. On two occasions I have, in deference to the opinion of noble Lords opposite, postponed the measure to a dangerously late period of the Session—dangerously late, considering the occupation of the time of the House of Commons, and the great importance of the measures with which they were occupied. My Lords, there has never been a Session when the time of the House has been more occupied or engrossed with more important measures. I have great respect for the opinion of my noble Friend (Lord Redesdale). I believe no man is more anxious than he is to maintain the reputation and authority of this House, and I know his thorough honesty of purpose; but I would venture to ask him, as well as your Lordships generally, whether it can be conducive to the honour and reputation of this House that, when a measure of this kind, initiated in this House, has been sent down to the House of Commons and amended by them, your Lordships should refuse even to consider the Amendments which have been made. I must say that that appears to me almost a monstrous course. As regards the lateness of the Session, the lateness is the same to the House of Commons as to the House of Lords. The time of the House of Commons has been more engrossed than that of your Lordships, and the labour of the Members of that House been infinitely more severe. I really believe that for every ten hours that we have sat in this House something like forty or fifty have been occupied by the labours of the House of Commons. I ask is it for the reputation of this House, is it for the honour of this House, that we should say to the House of Commons, who were ready to consider our Amendments up to the second week in August—"We are unwilling now to consider Amendments you have made in a measure initiated by us?" I think that under the peculiar circumstances of the case the argument of my noble Friend will not hold for a single moment with regard to the lateness of the period in the House of Commons. I repeatedly urged upon my Colleagues the importance of this Bill being taken into consideration by the other House at an earlier period, and it was nothing but the urgency and importance of Public Business which prevented that from being done. The Members of the House of Commons have not thought it too late to consider your Lordships' Amendments, which were large and important. Those Amendments were considered even up to the end of last week, and I cannot help expressing on the present occasion, on behalf of the Government, our earnest gratitude to the Members of the House of Commons, and especially to those connected with Scotland, for the patriotic course which they have pursued with regard to this Bill. They have felt quite as much as your Lordships have done the unfortunate circumstances of this Bill having been so long postponed, but they have, nevertheless, proceeded to consider it with the greatest possible deliberation; and it is within my personal knowledge that many of the Members sacrificed, to a large extent, their individual opinions on points of detail in order to meet the views of Government and of all parties in Scotland, so as to secure the passing of a measure which would be for the advantage of the country. I say, then, that it will not be for the honour or credit Of this House, but far from it, if, in the case of a measure initiated in this House, altered largely and re-considered by the House of Commons during last week, we should refuse to take Amendments into consideration, even though it is almost the last day of the Session. [...] now with regard to the assertion of the noble Friend (Lord Redesdale). I cannot blame him, because he knows nothing about the question of education in Scotland, and probably cares less— but I say he is wholly mistaken with regard to the character of the Amendments made in this Bill. Let me recall to the recollection of the House a few questions. Very great stress was made by noble Lords opposite—indeed, what appeared to me undue stress—upon the constitution of the Central Board. The Bill returns to this House in that respect precisely in the form in which it was amended by those noble Lords. Noble Lords opposite insisted that that Board should be a small body—a wholly paid body—and that the payment should be sufficient to secure the attendance of the members. On that great question, which was made a testing question, Amendments of this House had been accepted by the Commons. Again, as the Bill was introduced, denominational grants were absolutely prohibited. That feature of the Bill was opposed in this House on behalf of Episcopalians and Presbyterians, and also on behalf of Roman Catholics. I myself was always in favour of a compromise on that point, and the House of Commons have adopted a compromise—they have given up the absolute prohibition of denominational grants, and have consented to grants being made under special circumstances. I say that on these great questions the Amendments made by the House of Commons do not in the slightest degree affect the principle of the Bill, and I say that the Government have a right to call upon the House of Lords at least to consider the Amendments of the House of Commons. I need not go further to show that the Bill as it comes up from the House of Commons is rather in favour of than adverse to the views of noble Lords opposite. Let me take one example. There is no part of this Bill which has been more opposed by the clergy and members of the Established Church, and by those who represent the Established Church, than those clauses which provided for conversion of parish schools. They said—and, I cannot deny, with some reason—" Let us see the effect of the new system on the new ground before you alter the constitution and management of those old schools which have worked so well." As the Bill returns from the House of Commons, it is provided that the parish schools shall remain as they are till Parliament shall have otherwise provided. I say, again, on this great question, which is one of the most important connected with the Bill, the opinion of the House of Commons has been, to an unexpected dgree, in accordance with that of the noble Lords opposite. Under these circumstances, to affirm that the Bill before us is wholly different from that which was sent down to the other House, is a mere excuse for getting rid of the Bill altogether. A noble Lord, who has now left the House, and, I believe, left town, asked me the other day—"What is the great hurry of passing this Bill?" I say there is a great hurry about passing any Bill on education which has arrived at this stage through both Houses of Parliament. We know that the subject has been surrounded with difficulties for many years, and we know that it has been a source of satisfaction to those who are connected with this Bill, and to others, that the question has arrived so near a solution. Next year we shall probably have as full a bill of fare as we have had this year, and it may be complicated by the introduction of the question of education in England and Ireland. I say here, on behalf of Scotland, that we have a right to consideration on our own merits, and with reference to the circumstances of our own country, and we ought not to allow any Bill to be sacrificed in deference to the prejudices of England or the difficulties of Ireland. There is another reason why we ought not to delay the passing of this Bill. The Royal Commission have reported that upwards of 90,000 children are without education in the large towns of Scotland, and we must remember that in every year of unnecessary delay thousands of the young are passing from the hands of those by whom alone they can be redeemed from the ranks of ignorance and vice. I rejoice that Government have determined that they will have no share in the responsibility of another year's delay on this great question. I rejoice that the House of Commons have determined—the Members for Scotland almost with one unanimous voice—that they will have no share in that responsibility, and I adjure your Lordships not to allow it to be said that the House of Lords has taken an obstructive course in regard to legislation on this question.


said, that he had given much study to the original Bill, but he now found it so completely altered that it required a new study in order to comprehend the changes which had been made in the other House of Parliament, and he thought it unreasonable that their Lordships should be asked to take this new proposal into consideration at so late a period of the Session.


said, he sympathized with what had just been said by his noble Friend (the Earl of Selkirk). He had not had much experience with regard to the termination of Sessions, otherwise he should perhaps have viewed with some alarm what had taken place with regard to this Bill. During the last ten days the torrent of legislation had been rushing on with almost unprecedented force. The only security they could have for sound legislation— that kind of legislation which the people had a right to expect—was that measures should have deliberate consideration in both Houses of Parliament in their various stages, so that there might be an opportunity of ascertaining that the measure was sound in principle, effective in machinery, and couched in language adapted to the purpose for which it was framed. Now, this measure had not received this sort of consideration. It was brought in on an early day—and he certainly felt indebted to his noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) for the opportunity which he afforded, for its being considered in Scotland before it was proceeded with in this House. He did not agree with him in thinking that this had anything to do with the delay, because the House of Commons had, according to his own showing, been so engaged with a very important measure that it would not possibly have proceeded with this Bill. The Bill, however, was sent down to the other House, where its progress was long deferred; and when it did come back to their Lordships' House it came back so different from its former self, so altered in shape, so changed in countenance, that he ventured to think that those whose names were placed at the back of it could scarcely recognize it as the Bill they sent forth. The Lordships were now called on at the very last moment to consider the Amendments. The Bill having past through Committee in the other House pro formâ, it was taken in hand by Lord Advocate, who applied his acute mind to it, and gave to it what was called in Parliamentary language "a respectful consideration." At least twenty clauses were subjected to that kind of operation to the extent of forty Amendments, and the Bill came out of the furnace a very different Bill from what it was when it wont in. The Bill sent down from this House never was, in fact, considered by the other House. It underwent a transforming and obliterating process before it was submitted for consideration. He (Lord Colonsay) did not think that course was at all a usual one; on the contrary, he believed it was almost unprecedented in reference; to an important measure, and he hoped their Lordships would bear that in mind in dealing with the question now before them. The altered Bill having come to be considered various important changes wore made in it. It was true, as the noble Duke had said, that the question of the Central Board was ultimately retained very much in the form in which it was amended in this House; but there were various other important alterations made in the Bill, both in principle and detail. The parochial schools were left under the management of those who at present manage them; but an option was given to bring them under the new constitution which this Bill was to provide. No doubt there was a want of additional schools in some places, and power was given under this Bill to the Board to select places where schools should be planted, and those schools were to be upheld by a new rate that was to be imposed. Those who had the management of the parochial schools had the option of transferring the schools to the new management, and the Bill provided that in case they did so the persons liable for the cost of the parochial schools should be relieved from that expense, and the schools put upon the rates. But as this Bill was now framed those who were at present liable for the burden of the parochial schools were to retain the burden upon themselves, and the maximum rate that was fixed by this Bill as sufficient to defray the expense of both present parochial schools and the schools to be adopted or newly-created, was retained in the Bill, and. power was given to a local committee to assess the whole land of Scotland to the full amount of that maximum rate, while the heritors would be still, bound to support the existing parochial schools. That was an important alteration; but that was not all. Those who had the management of the parochial schools under an Act passed upwards of sixty years ago, were no longer to have the management of them, and a new and a very large body was to be infused into the management. And who were to be on the local committee? Why, every proprietor of lands or houses in the parish under £4 a year was to have a voice in the selection of a school committee, which school committee was to have the power of assessment. He thought their Lordships would not consider it satisfactory—certainly those who were interested in the cause of education would not think it satisfactory; and he was satisfied still more that those who outside take an interest in the regularity and propriety of legislation would not consider it satisfactory—that they should now be called upon to deal with a measure of this kind.


said, it had been stated by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Colonsay) that no explanation had been made to the other House with regard to the character of the Amendments made in the Bill by this House. The noble and learned Lord, however, was misinformed upon that point, for a full statement, lasting half-an-hour, was made to the other House by the right hon. and learned Lord who had charge of the Bill. Then it was said that it was unreasonable to give their Lordships only one night in which to consider these Amendments. But the House would remember that, when they went before into Committee on the Bill, although it was then much changed from its original form, they went through the Bill in one evening—exactly the time which their Lordships would now have for considering the Commons' Amendments.


would remind their Lordships that on the occasion referred to by the noble Earl all the Amendments were printed and in the hands of their Lordships many days before they were considered. They had been told by the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) that it would be an ungracious thing for their Lordships having sent a Bill down to the Commons, to refuse to consider the Amendments made by the Commons when the Bill was returned to their Lordships. But it was small encouragement to their Lordships to originate measures if, because those measures had been altered in this House, contrary to the views of the Government who commanded a majority in the other House, the Government were entirely to alter the Bill in the other House and only return it to this House when the attendance was so thin that it was impossible to secure a proper consideration of Amendments. Such a course would be practically making this House merely the obedient servant of the Government of the day in dealing with measures of this kind.

On Question, That ("To-morrow") stand part of the Motion?—Their Lordships divided:—Contents 43; Not-Contents 55: Majority 12.

Hatherley, L.(L. Chan- Carrington, L.
cellar.) Chesham, L,
Churchill, L.
Cleveland, D. Clandeboye, L. (L. Duf-
Saint Albans, D. ferin and Claneboye.)
Crewe, L.
Ailesbury, M. De Tabley, L.
Lansdowne, M. Ebury, L.
Normanby, M. Foley, L. [Teller.]
Keane, L.
Camperdown, E. Leigh, L.
Clarendon, E. Lurgan, L.
De Grey, E. Methuen, L.
Essex, E. Monck, L. (V. Monck.)
Granville, E. Northbrook, L.
Kimberley, E. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bess-
Morley, E. borough.) [Teller.]
Saye and Sele, L.
Falmouth, V. Seaton, L.
Leinstor, V. (D. Lein- Stanley of Alderley, L.
ster.) Stratheden, L.
Sydney, V. Sudeley, L.
Suffield, L.
Audley, L. Sundridge, L. (D. Ar-
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and gyll.)
Orrery.) Truro, L.
Camoys, L. Wentworth, L.
Beaufort, D. Kellie, E.
Manchester, D. Leven and Melville, E.
Norfolk, D. Lucan, E.
Northumberland, D. Mansfield, E.
Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Abercorn, M. (D. Aber- Romney, E.
corn.) Rosslyn, E.
Bristol, M. Selkirk, E.
Exeter, M. Stradbroke, E.
Tankerville, E.
Amherst, E. Westmorland, E.
Beauchamp, E. Winchilsea and Notting-
Denbigh, E. ham, E.
Gainsborough, E.
De Vesci, V. Heytesbury, L.
Hawarden, V. Hylton, L.
Hood, V. O'Neill, L.
Melville, V. Ormathwaite, L.
Rochester, Bp. Penrhyn, L.
Redesdale, L. [Teller.]
Abinger, L. [Teller.] Rivers, L.
Bagot, L. Saltersford, L. (E. Cour-
Blantyre, L. town.)
Churston, L. Saltoun, L.
Colchester, L. Sheffield, L. (E. Shef-
Colonsay, L. field.)
Denman, L. Silchester, L. (E. Long-
Digby, L. ford.)
Fitzwalter, L. Southampton, L.
Foxford, L. (E. Lime- Stewart of Garlies, L.
rick.) (E. Galloway.)
Gage, L. (V. Gage.) Tredegar, L.
Hartismere, L. (L. Hen- Wynford, L.

Resolved in the Negative, and Amendments to be considered this day three months.