HL Deb 30 August 1887 vol 320 cc442-5

(The Lord Denman.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


said, he had to apologize to their Lordships for having brought in a second Bill on the same subject. He did so in order to rectify an omission in Bill No. 1 affecting the scope of the measure, and the opposition of the Prime Minister probably arose from the fact of there being another Bill on the same subject in the same Session before their Lordships' House. He begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a" — (The Lord Denman.)


said, that the course taken by the noble Lord in bringing forward the same Bill after it had been rejected in the earlier part of the Session was of very great importance on account of the question of procedure involved, and propably the most convenient course to take on behalf of the Government would be that he should move the Previous Question. The Bill was introduced on the o 1st of January last, on which occasion, on the Motion of the Prime Minister, its consideration was postponed till that day six months. As the noble Lord stated in his remarks on Friday night, the result of that was that the Order for the second reading should have been put down for the 31st of July, which fell on a Sunday, and on that account he was debarred from proceeding on that day. That raised the question whether, when a Motion was carried that a certain Bill be read a second time this day six months, the calendar or lunar month was meant. There was no precedent for a decision on that point in the records of their Lordships' House, but in the other House of Parliament there was an occasion when the question did arise. On the Bill relating to the Parliamentary Franchise a Motion was carried that the Bill be read a second time that day three months, and on that day three months, not three calendar months, but three lunar months. The Bill was put down on the Orders of the Day. Therefore, the precedent was in favour of lunar months rather than calendar months. There was another question deserving of consideration — namely, whether, when a Bill set down for second reading was postponed for a certain number of months, it was not the intention of the House, as it was certainly the understanding, that the Bill should not be pressed again during the same Session. The present was not a proper occasion for setting up such a precedent, and with a view to giving time for further consideration of these questions of procedure he begged to move the Previous Question.

A Question being stated thereupon, the Question was put, Whether the said Question shall be now put? Resolved in the negative.


observed, that the Previous Question having been carried, it appeared to him that this left the Bill in the same position —that was to say, it would still remain among the Bills in progress.


Quite true.


said, it seemed almost desirable that their Lordships should go one step further. The House having on January 31 decided in the case of this particular Bill that it should be read on that day six months, which was, according to all Parliamentary rule, accepted as the form of rejection of the Bill, and the Bill having again been brought forward by he promoter some months afterwards, another question was raised—namely, when the House itself had, by hostile Motion, postponed the Bill to a fixed date six months afterwards, whether it was ompetent—he had great doubts about it—for the promoter of the Bill of his own accord to take that Bill into his own hands and put it down. He thought the proper course would have been to give Notice of a Resolution to the House that the Bill should be again placed on the Orders. But as it had now been moved and the Previous Question carried, and the question decided that the Question be not now put, he would suggest that it would not be going too far if it was now resolved that the Bill be removed from the list of Bills in progress.


said, he claimed a title to address their Lordships on this question. His only object in bringing this Bill forward was to save their Lordships' time and the time of the country, and to do justice to a number of Petitioners who wished to have the right of. voting on account of their paying rates and taxes, and he thought the course proposed by the Chairman of Committees would be an extremely harsh proceeding. At the same time he felt that the question was advanced by every discussion—if the Bill had succeeded it would have taken some time to put these women on the register—and he left the responsibility of wasting the time of the country on those who delayed the Bill by special pleading of a most insignificant character.


said, their Lordships were the guardians of the Order of the House, but at the same time he doubted whether the noble Duke would be in Order in making such a Motion without previous Notice. He sympathized with the object of the noble Duke, because if the course taken by the noble Lord could not be pursued, he was not aware of any mode by which a Bill could be killed except by the expiration of the Session. It certainly had been understood that the Motion to read a Bill "this day six months" was only a courteous mode of saying that the Bill was rejected and not merely postponed for a time, although, in the face of such authority as he knew there was to the contrary, he would not profess to give a dogmatic opinion on the subject. The No. 2 Bill had been clearly presented against the Standing Order of the House. Months in Parliamentary Law was the same as in other cases, lunar months, and the six months had expired some time. All he would say was that nothing could be more inconvenient than that the same question should be raised again and again in the same Session in the House, and under the present Rule there was no mode of preventing that being done. When a Bill was ordered to be read on that day six months—that was to say, should be on the Order for second reading—and a noble Lord not having moved it that day six months, it struck him that it became a kind of dropped Order and could only be revived by specific Motion. He was not prepared, however, to defend this part of the Law of Parliament at present; but he thought the question should be settled before any authority was given to the precedent which the noble Lord proposed to initiate. He would suggest that the noble Duke should give Notice of his Motion.


said, he would accept the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, and give Notice that on the next day the House met he would move that the Women's Suffrage Bill be removed from the list of Bills in progress.


said, that he would be most happy to move that the Order for the second reading of the Bill be discharged. He had, he said, reason to think that the noble Marquess the Prime Minister was with him, so far as the Bills went, when he did not prevent him bringing forward the Bill, and he believed no time would be lost by discharging the Order. Other noble Lords like Lord Carnarvon and Lord Napier of Magdala were in favour of the Bill, and he had no fear but that their moral weight would carry it before next General Election. He was quite prepared to move that the Order for the Second Reading be discharged.


said, that it was not competent for the noble Lord to move that Motion now.

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