HL Deb 12 May 1870 vol 201 cc570-2

Amendment reported (according to Order.)


stated that the suggestion of the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) on a former evening had been considered by the Secretary of State for War with the attention to which, the spirit in which it was offered entitled it, but he had not felt himself able to adopt it. The appointment of an Assistant Under Secretary would involve changes in the constitution of the Department which were not deemed advisable.


said, he wished to say a few words on the position in which the House was placed by the adoption in Committee of the Amendment of the noble Earl (Earl Grey). He (Lord Lyveden) admitted that at the present time the duties of the Secretary for War were very laborious; but he deprecated the creation of new Offices merely on account of temporary pressure. It was not attempted to be shown that this pressure of business would continue. He would not, however, dwell upon that—he had once held Office in the Department himself, and he knew that there was much to be done. The justification of the Bill, as he gathered from the explanation of the noble Lord (Lord Northbrook), was that the Secretary for War was frequently a civilian, and he admitted that when a short time after entering upon his Office he had to propose the Estimates, he found that he should have a difficulty, as a civilian, in explaining them. The Bill, as brought up from the Commons, proposed that the Surveyor General of the Ordnance, if a Member of the House of Commons, should vacate his seat on accepting Office, and that the Financial Secretary should be under no such obligation. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) proposed in Committee that the Surveyor General should not vacate his seat, explaining that he did so merely for the sake of symmetry, and that if it were rejected he should, move that both officers should vacate their seats, and their Lordships adopted that Amendment. He was never more surprised in his life than to see the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) and his Friends vote in favour of that Motion, because he had understood the noble Duke to contend that neither the one officer nor the other should have seats in the House of Commons. There was much to be said in favour of that proposition; but by the vote he gave the noble Duke had thrown an additional obstacle in the way of what he wished to obtain, for if the Surveyor General had been called on to vacate his seat there was a chance that he might not be again elected; but by the vote the noble Duke had given it was certain that both the Surveyor General and the Finance Secretary would always be Members of the House of Commons. This was a great constitutional question. It had been frequently argued whether a Minister on his appointment ought to vacate his seat or not. Now, he submitted that it was a question for the constituencies, whether persons whose position changed from perfect independence to perfect subserviency should be bound to vacate their seats. It was one which peculiarly belonged to the House of Commons; and he trusted that their Lordships, who were always jealous of any infringement of their privileges, would carefully avoid a collision with the House of Commons in a case where nothing whatever was to be gained. He wished to know whether the Government were content that the Bill should go back to the Commons with such an Amendment?


replied that the Government, though they had opposed the Amendment for reasons explained at the time by his noble Friend (Earl Granville), did not deem it right to ask the House to reverse its decision. The point was not one of great importance either way, and it would ill become him to anticipate the view which might be taken of it by the other House.

Bill to be read 3a To-morrow.