§ LORD WAVENEY
, who had upon the Paper a Notice of Motion—To call attention to the Standing Orders of the House of Lords, and to move Amendments in Nos. 95 and 96,rose for the purpose of addressing the House, when——
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
rose to a point of Order. Their Lordships would remember that the other night a discussion took place with reference to the powers, and the exercise of the powers, of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees (the Earl of Redesdale), and before the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Waveney) was proceeded with, he (the Earl of Camperdown) desired to know whether it was the intention of the Mover to make some change in the position of Chairman of Committees? If so, would it not be more convenient, and more in accordance with the practice of their Lordships' House, for the proposed Amendments to be laid on the Table? He thought that the noble Lord (Lord Waveney) was out of Order in bringing forward a Notice so worded as the one which he had placed upon the Paper.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, it would be more convenient, and certainly more in accordance with the present practice observed in that House, for the noble Lord (Lord Waveney) to have given Notice of what the Amendments were which he intended to propose. As it was, the words placed upon the Paper by the noble Lord afforded no indication of the nature of those Amendments; and therefore the House, in accordance with its practice, would have to abstain from discussing a subject of which no Notice had been given.
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, that, under these circumstances, he would merely call attention to the subject to which his Motion referred. He would like to know, however, whether it was the practice of their Lordships' House to impose silence on a Member when rising to call attention to inconveniences which arose from non-observance of Standing Orders?
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
said, that a discussion which could have no practical effect would be unsatisfactory. If the noble Lord intended to propose a remedy for any present inconveniences, it would be well for him to bring forward a Notice of Motion indicating the nature of the proposed remedies. If that were done, there would be one instead of two discussions on the subject. The noble Lord would certainly not be in Order in going into the second part of his Motion without first informing the House, 1130 so as to give noble Lords time to consider the question what his Amendments were to be.
§ LORD WAVENEY
said, he felt bound at least to call attention to the subject. The Standing Orders of the House of Lords had produced a result which could not be viewed with satisfaction, producing, as it did, a very great deal of distrust in the public mind in the management of the Public Business of the House by the Chairman of Committees (the Earl of Redesdale). He (Lord Waveney) was not one of those who adopted opinions put for ward by irresponsible writers in the newspapers, though he was glad to get information from all sources, and he had made the subject-matter of his Motion a matter of discussion by men competent to form opinions on it. he cheerfully acknowledged the great services which the noble Earl had rendered; but there was abundance of evidence to prove that the Standing Orders, by authorizing certain action on the part of the noble Earl, had done a good deal towards creating inconvenience and discontent. He thought that Standing Orders should be clear and distinct, and in agreement with themselves; but he found that they were not clear and distinct, and that the Standing Orders of the two branches of the Legislature were not in harmony. In this Chamber it was the practice of the Chairman of Committees to act in certain cases as the noble Earl had acted, and convert an unopposed into an opposed Bill, without first referring the matter to a Select Committee, as was the practice in the other branch of the Legislature. The Chairman of Committees in their Lordships' House, therefore, in certain cases, by the exercise of his power of reception, became the sole judge and arbiter of a Bill which he ordered to be transferred from the unopposed to the opposed class. It was not the noble Earl who was in fault for this state of things; it was the Standing Order in the first place, and their Lordships in the second, who had allowed the practice to go on uninterruptedly. The Standing Orders of the two branches of the Legislature were not harmonious, as he had shown; for in the lower House, under similar circumstances, although the Chairman of Committees might transfer a Bill, his rejection of it would not be conclusive 1131 until it had been referred to a Select Committee. Since the decision of their Lordships was pronounced a short time ago upon a Railway Bill, which decision was supported with some doubt by Her Majesty's Prime Minister, and supported on the Opposition side, no doubt, by the noble Earl whom they were all proud to acknowledge as Leader (Earl Granville)—since that decision he had been in Ireland, and in that particular part where the difficulty, in consequence of their Lordships' action, had been felt. What had he learned there? He had heard very strong objections raised to that mode of dealing with the Business which was principally affected on that occasion, and very much intensified the desire, which was widely felt, for what was called Home Rule. Even in Ulster, where order, peace, and regularity were prized above all things, he had heard it said, by men of mark and position, that if any one thing more than another could create such a feeling, it was the course which had been taken by their Lordships on that occasion. He considered it his duty to make these remarks; but for the present he should leave the Standing Orders to themselves, with the intention, however, next Session, of proposing some Amendment in them.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, as this matter concerned the office of his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees (tire Earl of Redesdale), it might be more convenient that he should make a few observations. He had taken the liberty of pointing out to the noble Lord (Lord Waveney) that he had not, as a matter of form, given any Notice of any alteration which he proposed to make in the Standing Orders, and that it would be more convenient to follow up any observations he might have to make by some specific proposition, pointing out the alterations he proposed to effect in the Standing Orders. He must, however, observe that the noble Lord was not only irregular in not giving Notice of what his Amendments were to be, but he was irregular in calling attention to the Standing Orders without some specific Notice to the House. No doubt their Lordships were in the habit of extending their indulgence to noble Lords in calling attention to a subject without some specific Motion; but that was by indulgence, and contrary to the Standing Orders which the noble Lord had in- 1132 voked. Having said so much, he wished to add a very few words as to the view which the noble Lord had taken on this subject. He said he would be prepared at a future period to propose an Amendment in the Standing Orders; but he (the Lord Chancellor) hoped, before doing so, he would take care to make himself better acquainted with the course and character of the procedure of the House. He (the Lord Chancellor) could not be suspected of speaking of the decision in a particular case, for it would be recollected that he had disagreed with his noble Friend with regard to the decision on that particular Bill. But, speaking of the practice of the House, it was not correct to say that they referred unopposed Bills to the arbitrium of his noble Friend at the Table. The noble Lord was under an entire misapprehension on that point. There was no such practice. What was done occurred every day. An unopposed Bill was "committed to the consideration of the Chairman of Committees and such Lords as think fit to attend." That was the practice of the House. The noble Lord himself was at perfect liberty to attend any Committee on any unopposed Bill; and if he could procure the attendance of any other Peer he might outvote the Chairman of Committees. The House, no doubt, left the decision on unopposed Bills very much to his noble Friend, because they felt it could not be in better hands; but if any noble Lord took a different view, he might get a friend to attend the Committee and overthrow his decision. The noble Lord said the Standing Orders in their Lordships' House were entirely different in regard to unopposed Bills from those of the other House of Parliament. That was not so. The Standing Orders said—The Chairman of Committees may, if he think fit, report to the House his opinion that any unopposed Bill on which he shall sit as Chairman shall be proceeded with as an opposed Bill.No doubt he had that option, and the noble Lord complained that it was optional; did he wish that the Chairman should so report if he did not think fit? It was in the option of the Chairman of Committees to report that it should be proceeded with as an opposed Bill, and then, of course, it would be referred to a Committee of five. In the other House the Standing Order was 1133 precisely similar, substituting only the Chairman of Ways and Means for the Chairman of Committees; and if the noble Lord proposed any Amendment in the Standing Orders of their Lordships' House in that respect, he would only introduce confusion where harmony at present prevailed. He was glad of the opportunity of correcting the misapprehension of the noble Lord that there was some Standing Order in that House which, contrary to the whole practice of Parliament, gave an absolute control and decision on any unopposed Bill to his noble Friend at the Table. The Rule of the House in regard to unopposed Bills was this—the Chairman of Committees was Chairman of the Committee, but the Committee might consist of as many Lords as chose to attend.