HL Deb 04 July 1873 vol 216 cc1758-76

in rising to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that for the advantage of this House and of the suitors thereto, and for the honour of the legal profession, Her Majesty will be pleased to sanction the erection of the offices of Lord High Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer of England into Baronies which shall entitle the holders of those offices to writs of summons to Parliament by tenure thereof under such titles as Her Majesty shall in each case be pleased to summon them; and that such writs of summons as aforesaid shall make the persons receiving the same, although they may not continue to hold the said offices, Peers of Parliament for life, without remainder to the heirs of their bodies; and that in the event of Her Majesty being pleased at any time after such writ shall have been issued to create the person sitting under the same a baron by patent under the same title, with remainder to the heirs male of his body, the barony so created may, if Her Majesty shall be so pleased, take precedence from the date of the first writ of summons directed to such person, said, he would remind their Lordships that 22 years ago—namely on the 15th of June 1851—he gave Notice of a Motion of a precisely similar nature to that which he was now submitting to their Lordships; but meeting with no encouragement at the time he had abstained from bringing it forward. He made that observation for the purpose of making their Lordships aware of the fact of his having entertained his present opinions on the subject for so long a time, and because he thought it ought not to be treated as a party question. From that time forward he had always held a decided opinion upon the subject, which was that he strongly objected to life Peerages. What he always advocated, and what he now advocated, was official Peerages—Peerages which would be granted on account of the high office a person might hold, and on the consideration that the presence of such a person in their Lordships' House would be a matter of great advantage to them. He believed that those Peerages could be created quite irrespective of party consideration, and the result would be a deserved honour on the Gentlemen whom his Motion included, and a great gain to the legislative resources of that House. They were no novelty, for the Church had from the earliest period been represented in the House in that way, and the Church being no more closely allied to the State than to the Law, it would be equally advantageous for the Law also to be represented. In 1856, the question of life Peerages was for the first time brought under their Lordships' consideration in the case of Lord Wensleydale, and their Lordships very properly resisted the attempt that was made to introduce life Peerages. He approved that decision, for an unlimited introduction of life Peers would have been fatal to their Lordships' independence. Lord Russell's Bill four years ago sought to avoid that objection by restrictions on the number and modes of creation. The Select Committee on the Appellate Jurisdiction which was appointed after that decision recommended the strengthening of the legal element by the appointment of Deputy Speakers, paid officers of high character with life Peerages; but the Bill founded thereon, after passing through that House and passing a second reading in the other, with the support of Lord Palmerston and the present Lord Chancellor, fell through, owing to the lateness of the Session, and to objections to the creation of new paid officers of that House. The official Peerages which he now proposed would be held by men with salaries enabling them to sustain the position, and he had included the Lord Chancellor; for in many instances persons who had accepted the office with an hereditary Peerage would have preferred on their appointment, in consideration of a large family and small means, a Peerage for life. Life Peerages unconnected with office would give no security that the House would be benefited, and were therefore objectionable. It might be asked whether he would have any objection to an extension of the principle upon which his proposition was based. He was prepared to do so to some extent. For instance, he should be willing to extend his Motion to the holder of any high office in Scotland whose attendance in Parliament would not be incompatible with his other duties; for the House had derived much assistance from his noble and learned Friend (Lord Colonsay); who was conversant with Scotch matters; but the office of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal in Scotland was at present not connected with the Law. Men qualified by holding high legal offices would be a valuable addition to the House, and that the more so from the fact that it was proposed to include Scotch and Irish Appeals in the operation of the Supreme Court of Judicature Bill. As to colonial Governors, whom Lord Russell's Bill proposed to admit, nobody denied the advantage of their being Members of that House, and giving information on colonial subjects; but the number of the Peerage rendered it easy to find Peers willing to accept colonial Governorships, and it would be undesirable both for the colonies and for that House that there should be any notion of sending out Commoners in order to qualify them for Peerages. It might lead to persons equally qualified, but already Peers, being passed over. The Bill also proposed the admission of persons who had sat 10 years in the other House; but many hon. Gentlemen sat there on account merely of their wealth and desire for social position, and it was not ordinary men whose admission here was desirable. He attached no weight to the objection that the Chief Judges would have no time to assist in Parliamentary business, especially as, if the Judicature Bill passed, they would become Appellate Judges exclusively. After the charges preferred from the Bench against Parliament of careless legislation, it might bean advantage to have the Chief Judges in the House, responsible in some degree for what was done, and there could be no constitutional objection, for Chief Justices had always been deemed eligible for Peerages, and lead sometimes held them. He was anxious to keep such Peerages free from any stamp of inferiority, and he proposed that the wives and children of such Peers should have the same rank as those of hereditary Peers; as, also, that if an hereditary Peerage with the same title was afterwards granted, it should date from the patent of life Peerage. Above all, the honour should he in the office and not in the Peerage, as was the ease with members of the Episcopal bench. In conclusion, believing that what he proposed would add great weight and value to the deliberations and decisions of that House, and that the plan he had hit upon for carrying that proposition out was the best that could be adopted, he recommended it to the favourable consideration of the House. Moved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that for the advantage of this House and of the suitors thereto, and for the honour of the legal profession, Her Majesty will be pleased to sanction the erection of the offices of Lord High Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer of England into Baronies which shall entitle the holders of those offices to writs of summons to Parliament by tenure thereof under such titles as Her Majesty shall in each case be pleased to summon them; and that such writs of summons as aforesaid shall make the persons receiving the same, although they may not continue to hold the said offices, Peers of Parliament for life, without remainder to the heirs of their bodies; and that in the event of Her Majesty being pleased at any time after such writ shall have been issued to create the person sitting under the same a baron by patent under the same title, with remainder to the heirs male of his body, the barony so created may, if Her Majesty shall be so pleased, take precedence from the date of the first writ of summons directed to such person.—(The Lord Redesdale.)


said, he could not concur in the proposals of the noble Lord. He thought it was not the time for such a change, and that whatever advantages it might confer upon the House could be just as well obtained without it. The Judges were always ready to assist in the appellate jurisdiction of the House; and in his opinion it would be a very equivocal honour to confer upon them to place them in a social position which they did not covet, and which in many instances might be beyond their means. He hoped the Motion would not be adopted. It was inopportune to submit it when the Judicature Bill was altering everything, and itself being daily altered. Lord Hatherley, in 1856, declined a Peerage, and it would be awkward if, after the Motion was adopted, Judges declined, for want of time or other reasons, to accept these Peerages, which could not be considered any very great honour to receive.


My Lords, I stated the other day that I thought at the time, and that subsequent reflection had confirmed my opinion—that it was a great misfortune for the House that the question of life Peerages was decided adversely. I have always felt the Resolution in Lord Wensleydale's case a great blow to this House, and I am glad to find from the Motion of the noble Lord, that the subject is still in your Lordships' minds, and that it may possibly bear fruit. At the same time, I feel some hesitation upon the subject, for although, considering the position in which the question was left by your Lordships' decision, I think the noble Lord's Motion is perfectly correct in point of form, and there is no doubt that—supposing the proposal to be accepted—the most appropriate mode of pro- ceeding in the matter would be by means of an Address to the Crown, yet I see great objections to it. One thing we ought to consider is not only how far any proposal of the sort is sufficiently mature and in itself defensible, but whether it has a reasonable chance of success in the other House; for it is undesirable, and a harmful thing, that anything affecting the character and constitution of this House should be discussed and canvassed there, if there is no likelihood of any practical result. We should therefore well consider the steps we are taking, before we recommend the Government to bring the matter in a legislative shape before Parliament. With regard to the statement of the noble Lord in his Motion, that the carrying out of the proposal will be of advantage to suitors, there seems to be a slight anachronism in that, inasmuch as your Lordships have already passed a Bill depriving yourselves of your judicial functions to a certain extent, and that Bill has been amended in "another place," by striking out all the remaining judicial functions of this House; therefore if the measure passes in that shape, suitors will not derive much benefit from the creation of those legal life Peers, inasmuch as there will be no suitors appealing to the House. Moreover, there is no provision in the Motion for insuring a Law Peer from Scotland or Ireland. The noble Lord appears inclined to meet that by the somewhat clumsy expedient of adding, not an actual Scotch Judgeship, but an office held at this moment by a layman, a Member of this House. I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Denman) when he says that it is not an honour to be created a life Peer of this House. It was argued in Lord Wensleydale's case, though I always scouted the idea, that there would be some feeling of superiority on the part of hereditary Peers towards eminent men entering this House in virtue of high qualifications. With regard to the honours of the legal profession, it stands deservedly high; and it is no reason for making an alteration to represent it as "for the honour of the legal profession." One objection to the proposal is, that it passes by other professions whose representation here would be an undoubted advantage. The noble Lord thinks it would be unwise to take any step lessening the in- ducement to select Peers from colonial Governors. That may be very well for us to say; but it is certainly not a reason which will recommend the exclusive character of his proposal to the House of Commons. This Session we have had few debates of any interest; but we have had debates in which late colonial Governors have contributed very much to the information of the House. If we have some eminent colonial Governor—even a man pre-eminent among Governors—who happens not to be a Peer, owing to a large family, or to not having large savings—and it is difficult for a Governor to have large savings—it is surely undesirable that he should be excluded any more than an eminent lawyer. Take another case. The noble Lord (Lord Blachford) made a speech the other day, and was followed by Peers on both sides, who not only praised its admirable character, but said that he from his accurate knowledge of the subject, was the only man in the kingdom by whom it could have been made. I do not, therefore, understand why we should adopt a system by which we exclude persons of these qualifications who have a large family, or an insufficient landed estate. The scheme, moreover, would not have applied to Lord Kingsdown, whose assistance in appeals was an inestimable advantage. I have no doubt life Peers would be an advantage to the House, but I think the best way would be to leave the Prerogative of the Crown undisturbed. I do not remember that in Lord Wensleydale's case anybody ventured to deny that it was in the Prerogative of the Crown to make life Peers. I believe it would be very much controlled, as stated the other day by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), by public opinion. As Lord Lansdowne said, the Prerogative of the Crown might be safely trusted in matters of the sort to a control by the new prerogative of public opinion. I know the jealousy which your Lordships then entertained, and the feeling which actuated legal Members. Lord Campbell asked what the legal profession had done that it was to be humiliated in that way? I believe your Lordships feared that life Peerages would make it easier for a Minister to ask, and more difficult for the Sovereign to refuse, an enormous and unwarrantable creation of Peers for the purpose of swamping the House at any particular moment, and thus obtaining a majority on any particular question of the hour. I think that fear an unreasonable one. Exactly the same weight of responsibility would exist with regard to creating life Peers as hereditary Peers, and that feeling would restrain the Sovereign as much in one case as in the other. It would be infinitely better even to restrict the number, and prevent the exercise of the power in an unwarrantable and unconstitutional manner, than to confine the Peerages to four legal offices. Lord Russell's Bill restricted the whole number and the number of annual creations, and that would be better than the noble Lord's proposal. He proposes that the wives of these Peers should be Peeresses, and their children have titles of courtesy. That takes them out of the category of the Episcopal Bench, which is the only analogy the noble Lord tried to make out. Bishops, moreover, represent property, which would not be the case with the Judges, who would represent nothing but stipends. The noble Lord thinks hon. Members of the other House of great wealth and desirous of social position would exercise great pressure on the Government to make them Peers. Is that pressure at all diminished, however, by its being open to the Government to make them hereditary Peers? One advantage of life Peerages is, that it prevents persons who themselves have every claim to a seat here from transmitting their Peerages to persons who maybe excellent in their way, but may not have the eminent qualities of their fathers, and lack the means of keeping up in any proper degree the dignity of the Peerage. I should much prefer to life Peerages attached to offices some restriction on the number of life Peers at one time, or on the annual creations. There are advantages about life Peerages which are patent to view; but the subject involves many difficulties so grave that I cannot give my support to the proposals of the noble Lord, and I do not think it desirable that legislation should take place in the direction they recommend. Under all the circumstances, therefore, I do not think it advisable that the noble Lord should press his Motion for an Address.


My Lords, I think the objections which the noble Earl has offered to the Motion show very little zeal for a measure he professes to support; or else it suggests the idea that he has in the background some more revolutionary proposal of his own. The noble Earl seems to object to one proposal, because the time is not propitious; and another does not suit him, because it does not go far enough. One of his objections to this scheme is, that we ought to have it in a shape likely to pass the House of Commons, and that this scheme would not pass there. Now, the House of Commons is a very favourite bugbear, which the Government keep for the purpose of frightening us. Some time ago I proposed a certain alteration in the Ecclesiastical Courts of Appeal, when I was told it would certainly wreck the Bill in the House of Commons; that though the principle was quite right, the Bill so weighted would never pass. This evening I hear that that very proposal has been passed by the other House with perfect unanimity. The noble Earl does not sufficiently appreciate the difficulties which surround the question, and the reasons which induce the advocates of life Peerages to support the limited proposal of the noble Lord. No, doubt, the real fear is, that if the principle should be more extended, the independence of this House may be seriously tampered with. This House has always looked with great jealousy on giving Ministers the power of advising the creation of an unlimited number of Peers. Every Sovereign has naturally a deep aversion to loading the Peerage unnecessarily for all time with Peers created to meet some present emergency. That makes the Sovereign very jealous of allowing the Prime Minister of the day—himself a merely temporary phenomenon—the power, for a temporary object, to mortgage to all futurity the honours in the gift of the Crown. It is a very serious responsibility, and every Minister feels it. It is to the weight arising from the perpetuity of the Peerage that we owe the fact that the power of creating Peers, apparently so unlimited, has in reality been so seldom used for influencing our deliberations. If, however, the Sovereign knew that the results of the Act would not last for ever; that it would not be stamped in indelible characters on the history of the country, but that a few short years would dispose of some few aged men; would bury in oblivion his own facility in conceding the temporary demands of the Minister, and that the mode by which the crisis was surmounted and the crisis itself would be alike forgotten by posterity, the responsibility would be much lighter. The advocates of life Peerages have to satisfy the House that the power will not be used for the purpose of controlling it, and I am convinced that the House will never recede from its decision in 1856—that it will never trust an unscrupulous Minister, backed by some transient popular agitation, with the power of humiliating this House. I should have been very glad had Lord Russell's Bill passed, though I felt at the time there were objections, the force of which reflection and experience have not diminished. The temptation of the Minister to confer Peerages on those whom he does not like to put in a responsible office is now considerable. If he knew, and the Sovereign knew also, that he was not thereby pledging the future interests of the country, do you imagine life Peerages would not be habitually created as a means of securing influence? Bribery, it is said, has passed away—namely, money passing from hand to hand—but has it entirely disappeared from our institutions in the form of a mark of distinction for political support? Unless the standard by which Ministers are habitually governed is raised higher than it is now, it would be dangerous to give a Minister an unlimited power, which might be used for stocking these benches with some of the most incompetent Members of the House of Commons. The noble Earl quoted me, as saying that no Minister would be so lost to his duty, or his reputation, as to appoint men to high judicial offices for mere party purposes. I think we have got beyond that. The interests concerned are so large and the injury and the injustice would be so cruel, that no Minister would dare to appoint incompetent men to administer justice. But in this case, the injury would not be so apparent, and a Minister who would shrink from appointing a Judge from party motives, might not shrink from rewarding the steady votes of a worn-out partizan. The noble Earl asks the reason for confining the measure to lawyers. The reason is that half-a-loaf is better than no bread. Supposing the paramount object of bringing men of proved ability is secured, I have no objection to go beyond the limits of the law; but let us try this proposition, and admit eminent Judges, and go further hereafter, if it proves advantageous. We should thus decide the vexed question, whether life Peers would diminish the influence of the hereditary Peers, which I believe to be a bugbear. After all, we have those who may be considered life Peers—namely, men who come here by their own merit and not by hereditary descent; and, as one of the caste who, according to that hypothesis, would be injured, I have never found hereditary Peers depreciated. In point of fact, this House within its walls, is the most democratic Assembly in the world. As to colonial Governors, let us wait awhile and try this experiment. If it answers, we can go further; if not, we shall have done no harm. This is not the time when we should be wise in rejecting such a proposal. I cannot help feeling that had Lord Russell's Bill passed in 1869, we should not now have lost the appellate jurisdiction. In the long run in England, whatever traditional rights or powers may be, jurisdiction will ultimately be fitted to the strength of the back that has to bear it, and in proportion as we are strong to do our work, we shall get more work to do, and in proportion as we are strong to exercise the power, we shall have power to exercise. I cannot feel altogether satisfied with the present state of things. Nobody impeaches the capacity or ability of this House; but as to the extent to which, in comparison to our numbers, attention is shown to our work, I fear no candid critic would say we are wholly above reflection. While the attendance year by year diminishes, the work we have to do seems to diminish too, and I sometimes think there is a race for extinction between the two, and that it is an even bet which will disappear first, the work which the Assembly has to do, or the Assembly which does the work. I am satisfied, however, that there might be abundance of work for us to do, and that should this proposal result in fresh talent being introduced into this House, we shall have ample opportunity afforded us for availing ourselves of its assistance. I am afraid that the change that appears to be impending over us through the operation of the Judicature Bill will tend largely to diminish the number of legal Peers in this House, because lawyers of eminence will not have the same inducements as before to accept Peerages, and the consequent result to the reputation of the House as a Legislative Assembly will be most injurious. That prospective evil may, however, in some degree be met by the noble Lord's proposal being carried into effect. I trust, therefore, that we shall not, by rejecting the proposition, indicate to the country that we value our privileges more than our usefulness; but that we shall rather show an intention on our part to welcome, with the utmost earnestness, any change in our constitution which will strengthen our voice as a deliberative, revising, and legislative body, and so increase our usefulness to the country and the probability of the permanence of the House. In conclusion I beg to express an earnest hope that the House will agree to the proposal of the noble Lord.


said, that having had the misfortune to be the principal means of rejecting the Bill of the noble Earl (Earl Russell) in 1869, he wished to make a few observations upon the subject. He did not think that that was the proper opportunity to discuss the proposal to create life Peerages generally, inasmuch as the terms of the noble Lord's Motion were strictly limited. He must, however, enter his protest against the statement made by the noble Marquess that the House of Lords as at present constituted did not and could not do its duty.


What I said was, not that the House was not competent to do its duty, but that its Members did not attend to it.


said, that having been a Member of that House for a much longer period than his noble Friend, he thought he was justified in taking objection to the statement made. He was prepared to prove, from the Papers which had been laid upon their Lordships' Table, that the House had attended to its duty more assiduously during the last three or four years than had been the case during the previous 20 years.


remarked that the proposal concerned most nearly those noble Lords who in the course of nature might expect to remain in that House the longest time. He thought that the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) had been more than severe in the strictures he had passed upon the noble Earl (Earl Granville) who had shown his attachment to the principle of the proposal on more than one occasion. His objection to the proposal was that it admitted a principle without carrying it to its legitimate conclusion, for it admitted the principle, he would not say of life or official Peers, but of personal as opposed to hereditary Peers, but did little or nothing to carry it out. Then while it admitted English Judges it did nothing for Scotch. Yet on no one point was the evidence before the Select Committee of last year more unanimous than on the necessity of some Scotch legal representative in this House, not for judicial purposes so much as to conduct legal measures. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Colonsay) was only a happy accident. As regarded personal Peers the present proposal did not go so far as that of 1869. That Bill met with almost universal acceptance; it had hardly any enemy, it could hardly be said to have fallen in battle, it was stifled under the cold embraces of its friends. Its debates consisted in haggling over the number of Peers to be admitted, whether 14, 21, or 28 in seven years. The importance of that point seemed to him always over-rated, when it was remembered that Mr. Pitt had in two years created 35 hereditary Peers, and he supposed, though he heard the phrase with surprise, that Mr. Pitt was the revolutionary statesman alluded to by the noble Marquess opposite. However, the present proposal was not revolutionary. It was strictly speaking a return to what were commonly called the ancient lines of the Constitution—a return to the old alliance between office and title which was the origin of the very nomenclature of our titles. However, that was a small point. He should vote with the noble Chairman of Committees not for his reason that the present proposal was distinctly not one for life Peerages, but for the directly opposite one, that it was voluntarily or involuntarily an admission and affirmation of the principle of personal Peerages.


in making a few observations on the subject, said, he should endeavour as far as possible to avoid introducing any matters likely to give rise to professional controversy. He was anxious to correct the statement that had fallen from the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) with reference to the course that was pursued with regard to the Bill of 1869. That Bill, having passed through Committee, stood for its third reading, when, notwithstanding the fact that Her Majesty's Government had always professed themselves favourable to the measure, a letter from one of the then Members of the Government was published in certain of the public journals, in which he ridiculed the measure as a "mere tinkering of the constitution of that House," and the result was, that the Bill was lost. A measure of that kind was, however, he thought, desirable, and he should be' very glad to see one introduced to their Lordships' House, carefully considered, and with all the restrictions which attached to the former Bill. But the question which he had on the present occasion to ask himself was, whether he could support the Motion of his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees. With the Motion he agreed to a great extent, so far as it went. He was at the same time unwilling to vote for it, because it only touched the mere fringe of the question; and in dealing simply with one point of it, might create the impression that the rest ought not to be dealt with. He was therefore unable to vote for the Motion, while he was prepared to consider the principle that some mode of introducing official persons, such as those named in it, into the House ought to be adopted. Under those circumstances, the best course, in his opinion, which he could pursue was to move the Previous Question, for voting on the question "Aye" or "No" would be likely to give rise to misapprehension. He should, therefore, conclude by moving the Previous Question.


in supporting the Motion, said, he had in the year 1869 voted against the Bill of Earl Russell for the creation of life Peers, and should a measure of the same kind again be brought forward, he should still be prepared to oppose it. He could not but consider the creation of life Peerages at the discretion of the Minister of the day an invidious task in the hands of a scrupulous and conscientious Minister, and a dangerous power in the hands of a Minister less conscientious and less constitutional, who might use it with detriment to their Lordships' House. They rejoiced to see the right rev. Bench sitting among them by virtue of their office; but it might be regarded in a different light if a power existed in the Minister of the Crown to decide whether each right rev. Prelate should or should not sit for life in that House. He regarded, however, the proposal of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees connecting the life or official Peerage indissolubly with appointment to high and responsible functions, to great and important individual as well as collective duty, as resting on an entirely different basis, and if it could be practically done, maintaining the principle that the Peerage should necessarily—not at the option of the Executive—be united to office, he should be glad to see it extended to other professions than the legal. He should be glad to see the Governors of our great colonies necessarily sit in that House on their return, though it might be very objectionable to give a power of selection for creation as life Peers among all Governors of colonies, great or small, at the pleasure of an Administration. Therefore, while holding that a Chamber mainly or wholly composed of life Members, as in some foreign countries, was not only an undesirable, but one of the least desirable forms of an Upper Chamber, as being a mere reflex of the Executive—while deprecating the introduction of a life element as such into that House, he was prepared to support the plan of an ex officio Peerage as proposed, and should have great satisfaction in voting in its favour.


thought the House would do well to accede to the suggestion which had been made by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) who moved the Previous Question. For his own part, he should be very glad to see persons holding the high offices named in the proposal under discussion occupying seats in that House, and he should therefore be very reluctant to vote against any Motion having that object. But he was, on the other hand, very strongly impressed with the feeling that it would be wholly impossible to stop at so limited an extension as was proposed of Peerages to persons not sitting as hereditary Peers, and he must say that frequent and repeated tentative legislation as to the constitution of that House would be a serious evil, not to say a serious danger. It seemed to him that there was no slight concurrence of opinion in favour of the introduction of life Peers under such restrictions as might prevent abuse; but it was manifestly a different proposal to create a certain number of ex officio Peers; and it was impossible to deny that there were beyond the lines of the legal profession classes of persons to whom reference had been already made, such as Governors of Colonies, or Ambassadors and high diplomatic servants of the Crown, to whom it might fairly be contended that the proposal of the noble Lord might with advantage be applied. Fit persons to occupy seats in their Lordships' House on a similar footing might be selected from all those categories, and also from the naval and military professions, and he was quite prepared to say that the legal profession had already, and was likely to have, its full share of the honours of the State, as compared with other professions. It would be a somewhat invidious thing therefore, to make an exceptional rule in its favour as was now suggested. If, however, they travelled beyond the legal profession, it would be found an exceedingly hard thing to find other offices held with that permanency of tenure and that independence which their Lordships would wish to see if life Peerages were to be attached to them. It would be a great mistake, he might add, to suppose that in adopting the Motion the House would be following the analogy of the case of the right rev. Bench, the historical origin of whose title to sit in that House was not ex officio but as Barons by tenure, because, like the mitred Abbots, who, before the suppression of Monasteries, also sat in Parliament, they held great ecclesiastical fiefs from the Crown. There was indeed, a variety of questions which would require consideration before the question could be dealt with in the limited form now proposed, and the House would, therefore, he thought, act wisely in adopting the course which his noble and learned Friend had suggested.


said, he was also in favour of putting the Previous Question. He fully agreed that it would not be wise to divide on the Motion. The question was a very important one, and the more they considered it, the more they must see the necessity there was for a measure of the kind. He fully recognized the danger indicated by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) that the power of creating life Peerages, unless it was carefully guarded, would be liable to abuse; but, on the other hand, there was no slight danger—and perhaps even a more formidable danger—of an abuse of the power of making hereditary Peerages. In the course of the present century, he thought that latter power had been abused with great detriment to that House. There was, he felt persuaded, a manifest deterioration in that Assembly as regarded the disposition to attend to business, and that evil might be traced in a great degree to the fact that the House had become much more numerous. That House, owing to its peculiar character, was not fitted to be a very numerous Assembly, and a state of things had been produced by the cause he had described, in which after a certain period of the evening, it was often almost impossible to discuss interesting questions as they ought to be discussed there. He believed the tendency to abuse the power of creating hereditary Peerages since the commencement of the century had been gradually increasing. Lord Palmerston, however, had shown a greater abstinence on that point than the Ministers by whom he had been followed, whether they sat on the one side or the other of the Houses of Parliament. Probably the best remedy against the abuse of the power of making hereditary Peers would be found in the adoption under proper safeguards of the principle of life Peerages. The decision at which their Lordships' House arrived in 1856 on that subject had been referred to. In his opinion, looking at the nature of our Constitution and Government, no Minister was entitled to advise the Crown, as was done in 1856, to bring forth from antiquity a Prerogative which had not been used for 300 years. The fact that that Prerogative had been so long in abeyance was, he maintained, an insurmountable bar to its being used without consulting Parliament; and it, instead of creating Lord Wensleydale a life Peer, the Government of the day had taken that House into its counsels, and had pointed out how great was the object to be attained, how useful it would be for the character and dignity of the House, and how much it would conduce to the convenience of the public—if the subject had been dealt with in that manner, and if an angry feeling had not been raised by what was thought an unwarrantable invasion of the rights and privileges of that House, he was persuaded there would have been no difficulty in arriving at an amicable solution of the question, and the ancient practice of creating life Peerages might have been revived under such conditions as would guard against abuse. But although mistakes were made in 1856, it was not too late to deal with the matter; and he hoped that both the Government and those who sat opposite to them, would take it into their consideration and endeavour to arrive at some mode of attaining an object which from the discussion of that evening it appeared they all desired.


in reply, said, that it was difficult to raise the question in any other way than that which he had suggested; and in any proposition for creating life Peerages which might be made, the high legal offices referred to in his Motion ought to be clearly provided for. His proposal was free from any objection, and was an entirely constitutional mode of treating the subject. He had carefully avoided making that a party question, resting his Motion solely on the ground of what was best for the interests of that House and of the public. He had heard with considerable regret the remark of the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary to the effect that if the Motion for an Address to the Crown were adopted it would receive an unfavourable answer. That, he thought, was not a proper method of meeting such a proposal. If the House expressed an opinion that it was desirable that Prerogative should be exercised in a particular manner, it would be most unfortunate if the answer of the Crown should be one which amounted in fact to telling the House to mind its own business. He was now very much in the hands of the House; but he thought their Lordships need not fear that it would meet with a response distasteful to them, although it might convey little or nothing to the House. He regretted that his noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) had suggested that the Question should not be put. It was to be regretted, he thought, that when a question of this sort had been brought before their Lordships, they should not express an opinion upon it. He was, however, entirely in the hands of the House, and if their Lordships thought they should go to a division, he should certainly prefer that course.


in explanation, said, that the noble Lord had misinterpreted a portion of his (Earl Granville's) speech to which reference had been made in the noble Lord's reply.

A Question being stated thereupon, the Previous Question was put, "Whether the said Question shall be now put?"

Resolved in the negative.


said, he had not called for a division lest the question might appear to have assumed a party character. He believed a considerable number of noble Lords would have voted with him; but under the circumstances their Lordships would probably think that he was exercising a wise discretion in refraining from asking the House to divide.