HL Deb 04 September 1880 vol 256 cc1269-74

asked, Whether, in consequence of the House having rejected the Registration of Voters (Ireland) Bill solely on the ground of its being introduced at such a late period, in spite of the fact that the attendance of Peers at the time of its introduction was larger than usual, larger even than during many weeks in June and July, the Government will undertake to re-introduce the Bill at the earliest opportunity next Session? The noble Lord said that a great deal of irritation had been caused by their Lordships' rejection of the Bill; and he thought it would go a long way towards allaying the irritation if the Lord Chancellor of Ireland would give the assurance which had been given by the Government in the other House that the Bill would be re-introduced early next Session. If Bills were to be rejected merely because they came very late—six, seven, or eight days before close of the Session—to their Lordships' House, he thought a dangerous precedent would be created, and that many Bills of much value would be lost.


said, that though he had voted for the second reading he by no means thought that due attention could begiven to such a Bill as one on Registration in Ireland; it would have been like his Facilities for Interments Bill, which had twice been read a first time in this House in the present year, and there had not been sufficient time to go on with the measure, and for that reason it had been rejected, certainly not from any desire to show disrespect to the Irish people.


My Lords, it was only this morning that I became aware that the noble Lord meant to put this Question. I have great satisfaction in confirming what has been stated in "another place." It is the intention of the Government to re-introduce this Bill at an early period next Session.


said, that what had just occurred showed how perfectly justified the House was in refusing to read the Bill a second time. There were some clauses in the Bill which had nothing to do with the assimilation of registration in this country; but, even if they did, there would be plenty of time next Session to bring in a Bill in proper time to consider it fully; therefore, he repeated, the House was justified in not consenting to the second reading of the Bill. Some persons thought that that House ought to simply register all the Bills which were sent up from the other House; but their Lordships had a right to claim that they should have due time for considering every Bill. Long before the end of the Session he called the attention of the noble Lords opposite on the Government Bench to the manner in which Bills were coming up to their Lordships' House, and for years he had complained that they had been sent up so late that there was no time for their consideration. He believed that some good had resulted from his remarks on that point; but in the case of the Bill in question, though it went through Committee in the other House on the 11th of June, it was hurried through its later stages there, and came up to their Lordships at too late a period for them to give it proper consideration. A great deal had been said about himself personally, which he did not care about. He disclaimed any hostility to the Irish in what he had done. Then, there had been a great deal said about three other Bills which their Lordships had rejected on the second reading. One was the Compensation for Disturbance (Ireland) Bill. There had been anything but unanimity in favour of that measure on the part of even the usual supporters of the Government, and it could not be said that their Lordships were not justified in rejecting it. The other Bill was the Limitation of Costs (Ireland) Bill. Now, it so happened that though he was in the House when the second reading of that Bill was under discussion he was not satisfied about the measure one way or the other, and he did not vote on it. He gave a Notice on the previous evening that he intended to move a Resolution to-day which referred to proceedings in the other House; but, after he gave that Notice, the Clerk of the Parliaments informed him that he would not be in accordance with the Forms of the House to move the Resolution, though it was framed almost exactly on the model of a Resolution of which Notice had been given in the House of Commons. But, in the circumstances, he would not move his Resolution at all; and, he might add, that he never meant to ask their Lordships to come to a vote on it, but intended through it to direct attention to the manner in which Business in the other House was conducted. The other Bill which he called attention to was the Local Courts of Bankruptcy (Ireland) Bill. Now, that Bill was introduced by his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) and passed through that House, and was sent down to the Commons on the 10th of June, and read a first time on the 15th of the same month. The Order for second reading was delayed till the 30th of August; but the Motion was then postponed, and the Order was dropped. That was an important Bill, and Petitions from the Associated Chambers of Commerce had been presented in its favour, and such an important body of persons would not have done that if they had not been satisfied that the Bill was a good one; still the Government could not find time to proceed with it. Evidently everything was not going on well in the other House at the end of the Session, and, no doubt, Business was very much crowded, so that even in the Commons sufficient time was not given to the consideration of Bills. Their Lordships ought to have more time given to them to consider the Bills. The fact of there being clauses in the Registration of Voters (Ireland) Bill which were promoted by a Party in the other House for a purpose, showed that the Bill was not absolutely required, and that that House was justified in the course which they took that there should be further time allowed to consider. He expressed his satisfaction that he was told his Resolution would not be in Order; and he confessed he thought it would be very desirable if, at the commencement of next Session, steps were taken to pass a Standing Order that Resolutions of this sort, in either House, should not be put. Such an Order was upon their Lordships' Books; and it would be extremely desirable that there should be one on the Books of the other House. He hoped what had occurred up to the close of this Session would have the effect of getting measures sent up in time next Session.


My Lords, on two occasions I have stated that I entirely disagree with the noble Earl as to the rejection of the Bill in question. The noble Earl claims for this House that there should be sufficient time for the consideration of Bills that are sent up from the other House of Parliament. In that I entirely agree with him. There is nothing which I so much desire. The noble Earl also claims that this House shall not be dictated to by the other House of Parliament. I entirely agree with him in that too. I would not consent to hold the position which I do if any principle of that sort were adopted by the other House, or by the Government of the country. But when the noble Earl talks about the Business of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and justifies his rejection of a Bill when there was the whole evening before us and when the House was mote than usually full—as the noble Lord behind me (Lord Braye) puts it in his Question—and compares that with a Bill having fallen through in the House of Commons which came from this House, why the noble Earl must see that the analogy entirely fails. This is not the only year in which the Session has been divided by a General Election and been much prolonged; but year after year it happens that the road is so blocked up in the House of Commons that both the Government and private Members are obliged to sacrifice a great number of Bills. That does not apply here. Our amount of labour is perfectly insignificant as compared with that of the House of Commons; and I think that, so far from making excuses of want of time and other things for not considering Bills, we ought to apply all our energies to deal with the legislation which comes before us. I am glad the noble Earl has withdrawn the Motion of which he gave Notice last evening, and I had hoped that it would not be necessary to allude to it at all. The noble Earl says it was not his intention to ask your Lordships to give a serious vote on the question. It certainly alters the question if his Notice were a sort of facetious repartee to a Motion proposed by a perfectly independent Member in the other House. But one is obliged to point out to the noble Earl that he does not stand in the position of a perfectly independent Member who stands up in the House of Commons, whether he is English, Irish, or Scotch. The noble Earl holds a very important position in this House. Our Speaker is not elected by us. The only person who is elected by us is the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees. That gives him a position here, besides that arising from his high personal character, which makes a thing of this sort, affecting the conduct of the Business of the two Houses, perfectly different when proposed by him and when proposed by a private Member of the House of Commons, who would, perhaps, admit that some mischief was intended by his Motion. I would wish to make one more allusion. My anxiety is—and I hope it will be maintained and increased during the time I remain in this House—to contribute as much as possible to the good working of the two Assemblies. But, I must say, that after the noble Earl gave his Notice last evening, and after I expressed my deep regret that he had done so, and when this was followed by the remark of my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, I was somewhat startled at being told that one of my Colleagues in "another place" had announced that a reform of the House of Lords would be necessary. Inasmuch as we are not likely to meet for the despatch of Business again, I would wish, now, to remove any misapprehension on this matter, by stating the result of a communication, which I thought it necessary to have with Mr. Forster on the subject. The result is this:—My right hon. Friend assures me that he did not say that he thought the action of your Lordships made him suppose that a reform in the constitution of your House was advisable or necessary; but, that what he intended to say, and what he believes he did say, was, that a frequent repetition of such action might lead many men, both in and out of the House of Commons, to consider whether such a change would not become advisable, and even necessary. I find, from reading the longest report, and what my right hon. Friend says, is, on the whole, the most correct report of his speech—that in The Daily Chronicle—that this is what he did say— The Members of the majority of the House of Lords must not be surprised…if it (this action) leads many men, both in this House and out of it, to consider whether, if we have a frequent repetition of such action, we may not think some change in the constitution of the House of Lords will be advisable, and even necessary. At the same time, I must add that my right hon. Friend also informs me that, in saying this much, he was only expressing his own opinion, and had no intention whatever of expressing the opinion of the Government, or committing them to any course of action.