HL Deb 01 June 1886 vol 306 cc613-9

, in rising to move— That the Examiners' Certificate of noncompliance with the Standing Orders be referred back to the Standing Orders Committee, said, that the Bill was before their Lordships' House last year, and when it came before the Standing Orders Committee it was found that the promoters had not complied in one particular provided for in the Standing Orders of their Lordships' House—namely, that the money should be deposited before January 15. The money in this case was not deposited until some weeks later, and the Standing Orders Committee of their Lordships' House last year unanimously refused to suspend that Standing Order, and the Bill was thrown out. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition proposed a Motion to the effect that the Examiners' Certificate should be referred back to the Standing Orders Committee. After discussion, that Motion was negatived without a division. With regard to the Bill this year, he was bound to admit that the promoters had again failed in the same respect as last year. There were those who asserted that the Standing Orders should always be maintained. He yielded to no one in his respect for the Standing Orders of their Lordships' House, and in his desire to see them strictly adhered to; but when he was asked what was the use of Standing Orders if they were not adhered to? he would reply by asking another question—namely, what was the use of the Standing Orders Committee if it was not to be allowed to exercise its discretion in suspending the Standing Orders when the reason for doing so seemed sufficient? When they met this year to consider the question of the suspension of the Standing Order, the Members present were equally divided in opinion—five being in favour of suspension and five against. The result was that, in accordance with the practice of Committees, the suspension was negatived. It was said that considerable delay had arisen between the decision of the Committee and the Motion which he had now to make, and he could quite understand that cases might arise in which great hardship might occur to owners of land and other parties affected by the revival of a Bill such as this after it had been disposed of; but if their Lordships would take the trouble to look into the matter they would see that there was really no very serious opposition to the scheme at all. The only serious opposition of which Notice had been given was that of the East and West India Docks Company, on the other side of the river, which was described last year as the opposition shop over the way. He could not, therefore, believe that the delay of two or three months which had taken place would in any way affect injuriously any of the opponents of the Bill. If that was the case, and the Standing Orders Committees of both Houses had been unable to come to a decision adverse to the Bill, he thought he was entitled to press upon their Lordships the consideration so eloquently urged by the noble Marquess below him (the Marquess of Salisbury) last year. They all sympathized with those who were suffering from the prevailing distress, and he would ask the Chairman of Committees to temper justice with mercy, and look at the question as one which would affect large bodies of distressed artizans. He desired also to appeal to noble Lords on the Front Government Bench, to support his Motion. He would remind them that early in the Session Mr. Mundella, in reply to a Motion which was brought forward to promote the construction of harbours of refuge in order to give employment to distressed workmen, said that, although he could not hold out any hopes that public works would be originated for that purpose, yet he did believe that it was the duty of the Government to encourage to the best of their ability any private enterprize which would give promise of employment to men who were out of work. Under all the circumstances, and notwithstanding the infringement of a small technical rule, he hoped their Lordships would allow the Bill to be remitted to the Standing Orders Committee.

Moved, "That the Examiners' Certificate of non-compliance with the Standing Orders be referred back to the Standing Orders Committee."—(The Earl Cadogan.)


, in supporting the Motion, remarked that the pressure of distress in that part of Kent where it was proposed to carry out the works was very great.


said, he was one of the Members of the Standing Orders Committee who opposed the Bill being proceeded with. This Bill was opposed, and he did not think it right to discriminate as to the character of the opposition at the present stage. This or a similar Bill was introduced the Session before last, and it was then dropped. Last Session it was again introduced, and the Standing Orders Committee had to consider it with reference to a breach of the Standing Orders as regarded the deposit required. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition moved that it should be referred back to the Standing Orders Committee, and there was considerable discussion, and the preponderance of feeling was against sending the Bill back. Now, their Lordships were asked to take a similar course on the 1st of June, although the Standing Orders Committee reported so long ago as the 16th of March. If the Motion were agreed to it would have a very prejudicial effect on Private Bill legislation in the future. A Bill would no sooner be rejected on the Standing Orders than the promoters would indulge in Lobbying in the hope of getting some Peer to move that it be reconsidered; and thus there would cease to be any finality in their decisions. No strong reason was given why the Standing Orders should be suspended in this case. It would be setting a very inconvenient precedent to send this Bill back after so long time had elapsed since the Report of the Standing Orders Committee.


said, he was not a Member of the Standing Orders Committee when this Bill came before them; but since Notice was given of this Motion he had considered it his duty to look into the matter, and it seemed to him it would be rather a dangerous precedent for the House after this long lapse of time—two and a-half months—when the Report was presented to require that the matter should be reopened by the Standing Orders Committee. It was an invidious task to oppose the progress of a Bill the passing of which was very likely to give a considerable amount of labour in the East of London; but certain Rules had been laid down by the Standing Orders Committee, and they were well known to these promoters of these undertakings. They knew very well that their bona fides had to be attested by the making of a deposit by a certain day in January. In this case the deposit was not made until late in February; and the promoters could not have erred in ignorance, because they paid the penalty for making the same mistake last year. The Bill was considered to be at an end in March last, and it was now proposed to be revived in June. They were told that if their Lordships assented to the Motion, and the Bill were passed, the work would be pushed forward. But if there was a difficulty in the matter of the deposit there was likely to be a greater difficulty in finding the capital. He hoped their Lordships would not take the extreme step of referring back the Bill to the Standing Orders Committee.


said, that, as one of the Standing Orders Committee, he felt very strongly the argument based on the length of time that had elapsed; but, in consistency with the vote which he gave in the Committee, he felt bound to support the Motion. The postponement of the deposit before the Committee had decided did not appear to him of sufficient importance to justify them in stopping the progress of the Bill. At the same time, he must deprecate the argument that they ought to pass the Bill because it would give employment.


said, that having taken part in the matter last year, he had been consulted about bringing the matter forward at an earlier period, and he had recommended delay on two grounds. The first was that it seemed very undesirable to discuss the question in the then absence of the late Chairman of Committees (the Earl of Redesdale), who felt very strongly on the subject. His second reason for delay was that a Select Committee had been appointed, on the Motion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, which was to deal with the question of the payment of interest out of capital, and he thought that that Committee might deal also with the question of the deposit. The delay, therefore, was not the fault of the promoters; it was his own. The injury to the opponents of the Bill before the Committee was infinitesimal, and there was no reason why they should not state the grounds of opposition in the second week of June as well as in the second week of May. He regretted very much that some noble Lords regarded with something like horror the idea that if this Bill gave employment that was some ground for setting aside a Standing Order. What were their Standing Orders? Had they been brought down by Moses from the Mount that they were to be regarded as so sacred? It was a matter of relative importance; and the question was whether the suspending of the Standing Order on the one side or the interests involved on the other were the more important. Instead of making the deposit on a day in January, it was made on a day in February. Was that a matter of such extreme importance? On the other hand, was it not carrying too far their reverence for the Standing Orders that, rather than suspend one of them, they would allow to be lost a Bill which would set on foot a work that would not only be of value to the Port of London, but would, in a time of grievous distress, give employment to 7,000 people? Why, the noble Earl opposite (Earl Spencer) would, by-and-bye, ask them to suspend a Standing Order, and no one would protest. In a matter of this kind they must view the importance of the Standing Order on the one side, and thy interests affected on the other. Their Standing Orders were not so slight that they should be set on one side on every occasion, and not so sacred that they ought never to set them aside at all. The case had changed enormously since last year. Last year they were asked to revise the Report of their Standing Orders Committee; but this year they had no Report; the Committee had given only the former answer—presumitur pro negante. He asked their Lordships only to look at the case as it would appear to those whom their refusal would deprive of bread. Now that they were without work for a considerable time, the reason that would present itself to them while their families were starving and their homes desolate was that it was thought necessary to punish a capitalist for having been a month late in making a deposit in accordance with the Standing Orders. He was all for enforcing discipline among promoters, but that might be done at too great a cost; and he thought that, considering the Committee on Standing Orders was so divided that no Report was made, their Lordships ought to afford an opportunity of considering the matter once for all before arriving at a decision.


said, he thought it would have been more convenient if the noble Marquess, or one of his Friends, had given Notice of their intention to move in this matter. He felt most fully, as the noble Duke at the Table had felt, the invidiousness of inviting their Lordships to adhere to their Standing Order, and he felt it still more after the speech of the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess had addressed to them an appeal to the passions and feelings of the people, asking what would be the opinion of starving men when they were prevented from getting work and earning wages by a Standing Order of the House. He thought that was an unfair pressure to put upon the House. It was an unjust thing for any noble Lord to put such arguments to them and place them in such a position. It was a great temptation to noble Lords to shrink from their duty when such arguments were addressed to them. Last year he had said that they ought to support the late Chairman in his decision, and he now thought they ought to support the present Chairman. As the matter stood, he must come to the conclusion to give his vote in favour of the noble Chairman's view. When the noble Marquess spoke of this being a mere matter of unpunctuality, he could only say that nearly the whole of the Standing Orders of the House depended on the question of punctuality. He greatly regretted that anyone should feel himself compelled to impede any work which was useful on account of a technical Rule; but, on the other hand, he believed these Rules had very great weight and utility in protecting the House from great abuses, and for that reason he felt it to be his duty to support the noble Chairman.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 52; Not-Contents 54: Majority 2.

Resolved in the negative.