HL Deb 19 July 1869 vol 198 cc147-50

LORD CAMPBELL, in rising to call attention to that part of the Report from the Select Committee on the Construction of the House, in which it was recommended that larger powers of interference should be given to the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees for the maintenance of Order; and to move a Standing Order that, when two or more Peers rise to address the House at the same time the Chairman of Committees, subject to the decision of the House, should call on one of them to do so-said, that he found that he was precluded from proposing the last portion of his Notice that evening by the Standing Orders, and he would, therefore, confine himself to calling attention to the subject. The Select Committee to which he referred in his Notice recommended the House to take into consideration the policy of dividing the functions of the noble Lord on the Woolsack. It was only necessary to allude to the recent debates upon the Irish Church Bill to show that a power of deciding between the claims of noble Lords competing for a hearing ought to be lodged somewhere. This absence of necessary authority gave rise to tumult and disorder, by which the dignity of the House was lowered in its own eyes and in the eyes of the public while many noble Lords were prevented from taking a part in the discussions because they were unwilling to depend for a hearing upon the clamour of their friends or the forbearance of their opponents. This state of things, too, imposed a most invidious power upon the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition. He did not desire to utter a single word against the wisdom of their Standing Orders, as they were framed by their predecessors; but the state of things at the time of the framing of those Standing Orders was very different from what it was at present. A noble Friend of his assured him the other day that in the time of Henry VII. the number of the Members of their Lordships' House did not exceed fifty. It was evident, therefore, that rules framed at that time were not adequate to their present requirements. The Select Committee recommended the division of the functions of the noble Lord to whom the Great Seal was entrusted, or that his powers should be so increased that he might be enabled to perform those duties so ably exercised by the Speaker of the House of Commons. But these recommendations he would pass by, as involving too great and too sweeping changes. It remained only, therefore, to consider how far it was possible to invest the Chairman of Committees with this duty. The Chairman of Committees was a creation of the House, and was not exposed to any sus- picion of partiality that would not be equally applicable to the ease of the Speaker of the House of Commons. The noble Lord who at present presided over the debates in Committee (Lord Redesdale) was, he knew, adverse to this proposal; but, however amiable that objection might be on his part, it would not, he felt convinced, be permitted to influence the conclusion at which their Lordships would arrive. He trusted that his Motion would elicit the opinion of their Lordships, and, according to the opinion and the judgment of the House, he should be determined either to take no further steps in the matter, or to fix a day when, according to the Standing Orders, it would be competent for him to propose the Motion of which he had given notice.


said, there were some points on which he could not agree with his noble Friend who had just addressed the House. He did not think that in the debates on the Irish Church Bill the House had lost much of its dignity, either in its own eyes or in the consideration of the public, from the circumstance that on one or two occasions two noble Lords rose to speak at the same time. He believed his noble Friend over-rated the power of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. They had absolutely no power in respect of the speeches which were to be delivered; but when there was a long debate, an arrangement was sometimes come to as regarded the time at which Peers whom their Lordships were anxious to hear should deliver their speeches. He did not think he need discuss the proposition to give the Lord Chancellor more power after the remonstrances which they heard from his noble and learned Friend, and the objections which other Peers had made to it, when this subject was brought under the notice of their Lordships a few nights ago. With regard to the suggestion that the Chairman of Committees should fulfil the functions of Speaker he (Earl Granville) was himself somewhat blame-able for having led the noble Lord (Lord Campbell) to allude to him. He (Earl Granville) had spoken of him more on account of his personal qualities than from his official position. They all knew the despotism, mild, yet firm, displayed by his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees against which now Mem- bers like the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) were, at first, rather inclined to rebel; though they soon learned to submit themselves to his rule. No one was better qualified to exercise the duties of Speaker than his noble Friend; but he thought they would do well to rely upon the good sense of the House, and the authority of other noble Lords who had studied the rules and orders of the House, to preserve the due order of their debates. On the whole, he thought their debates were carried on in a manner convenient to themselves, and not discreditable to the reputation of their Lordships' House. As a rule, the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the House were allowed to conclude a debate; but there were one or two noble Lords who refused to be bound by that understanding. It was true that in the late debates there were Peers who would have wished to speak; but their not having got an opportunity of doing so was to be attributed to the fact that the House was of opinion the subject had been sufficiently debated. He was afraid he might be considered rather Conservative in his views on the matter; but he must confess that he could not concur with his noble Friend that there were such deficiencies in their present system as he seemed to suppose.


said, he did not agree with his noble Friend (Earl Granville) that a remedy was not required, and be (Lord Lyttelton) hoped that the matter would not be lost sight of. He had been a Member of that House for a great number of years, and he was fully satisfied that the state of things now, as regarded the order of their debates, was very much worse than it was some years ago. It seemed to him that the spectacle of two noble Lords standing up and insisting on speaking, without any authority to decide which of them was to proceed, tended to make the House very ridiculous in the eyes of the world, whilst it discouraged many young Members addressing the House.

House adjourned at Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Five o'clock.