HL Deb 19 June 1888 vol 327 cc572-5

Moved, that the Lords following be named of the Committee:—

L. Chancellor E. Morley
L. President, (V. Cranbrook) E. Camperdown
E. Granville
L. Privy Seal, (E. Cadogan E. Northbrook
E. Selborne
D. Buckingham and Chandos V. Oxenbridge
L. Wemyss E. Wemyss
M. Salisbury
M. Bath L. Rosebery (E. Rosebery)
E. Derby
E. Pembroke and Montgomery L. Kintore (E. Kintore)
E. Cowper L. Kenry (E. Dunraven and Mount Earl)
E. Carnarvon
E. Milltown L. Herschell—(The Lord Privy Seal)
E. Harrowby


said, he rose to ask a question with reference to the scope of the Committee. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), who spoke in the debate the previous night, appeared to take the view that the usefulness of their Lordships' House depended in the main upon the possibility of its coming into collision with the other House of Parliament. It appeared to him, however, that their Lordships' House did perform, and might perform, most useful functions in cases in which there could be no possible danger of such a collision. It appeared to him also that their Lordships had very large and useful functions to perform in reviewing and revising the work of the other House of Parliament when it came up for consideration. During the whole of the present Session, and probably the whole of the past Session, in dealing with measures which had come from the House of Commons, their Lordships had dealt with them in such a manner as to involve no risk of collision between the two Houses. Their Lordships had been able to make useful Amendments, which would cause the work of the House of Commons to operate better than it would have done had no such revision taken place. It appeared to him that it would be extremely desirable to make the work done by their Lordships in that direction as effective as possible. There were many cases in which the object was one upon which they all agreed, and the general method to be pursued might command common assent. Yet the success of the measure might, to a great extent, depend on the careful thinking out of details, and in seeing that its provisions were consistent and coherent. He did not think this work was so well done as it might be. The measures which came before their Lordships were of various kinds. If they excited considerable political hostility they were carefully examined, their provisions were critically scanned. But if, as often was the case, the measures did not excite that keen political interest, though useful and important in their character, then too frequently it was the business of no one in particular to look into them. If the measure happened to be one which interested a particular Member of the House, the provisions most likely were carefully examined; but even that precaution could not always be relied on in the case of all Bills. It had in these circumstances occurred to him that Standing Orders Committees of their Lordships' House might be appointed each Session, somewhat similar to the Grand Committees in the House of Commons, to which certain Bills might be referred, unless the House otherwise ordered. Such Committees would then feel it to be their duty to examine the particular Bills referred to them, in order to see whether they needed amendment or could be made more effective. If the Committee were to have the assistance, as they might well have, of one skilled draftsman, whose work should consist in looking critically at the form of legislation, he thought they might be able very often to put the legislation into better shape, and prevent those inconsistencies and blemishes which were often found to greatly mar the measure, and lead to litigation. He would ask the noble Lord, therefore, whether he thought this question was one which would come within the scope of the Reference to the Committee; and, if not, whether he had any objection to the addition of words providing for the matter being considered by the Committee?


said, he cordially endorsed what had been said as to the proceedings of their Lordships' House in revising measures which came from the other House of Parliament. Anything which would in any degree tend to improve or strengthen their dealing with those measures would obviously be of great benefit not only to the proceedings of the House, but also to the progress of legislation in the other House of Parliament. He thought he might express the confident opinion that the Reference to the Committee as it at present existed was sufficient to cover the objects which the noble and learned Lord desired to attain. He had consulted the Prime Minister on the subject, and he also was of the same opinion—that it was not necessary to enlarge the Reference for the purpose mentioned by the noble and learned Lord.


said, that had the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) been present he felt sure that he would have objected to the rather paradoxical manner in which the noble and learned Lord represented the opinions of the noble Duke, as expressed the previous evening. He did not think the noble Duke said that the usefulness of their Lordships' House consisted in the possibility of its collision with the other House of Parliament. What he said was only that any measure which would prevent the possibility of any such conflict must also destroy the independence of the House and its power to be useful as a Second Chamber.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at Six o'clock, to Thursday next, a quarter past Ten o'clock.