HL Deb 25 June 1888 vol 327 cc1109-11

(The Marquess of Lothian.)


Order of the day for the Third Reading, read.

The Queen's consent signified; Bill read 3a (according to order).

Moved, "That the Bill do pass?"

Amendments made.


stated that the number of Commissioners had been increased from 13 to 15 by the addition of Sir Henry Roscoe and Lord Elgin.


said, everybody must feel that the new names which had been added must improve the texture and character of the Commission, excepting in one respect—namely, that whereas the number was to have been 13, it would now be 15. He wished to express most strongly his impression that this Commission was much too large. He was aware there were precedents for appointing Commissions of this size, even with reference to this great subject; but in the days when these Commissions were appointed 30 years ago, Commissioners were not expected to undertake so active a part on the Commission as people were supposed to do now. He feared the result of the large number would be to have a great diminution of the sense of responsibility on the part of each individual Member of the Commission. If they had a Commission of seven, they would have a body of men who would feel it a necessity to attend every meeting, and who would have a due sense of the powers devolved upon them by Statute. But with a Commission of 15, some of whom were resident in England, this could not be the case. They would have an habitually small attendance, ready, he feared, by the analogy of their Lordships' House, to be swamped at any critical moment by the appearance of the absentees on the scene. He was afraid that it was too late at this stage of the Bill to remedy this; but they had entrusted such very large—indeed absolute—powers to the Commission, the composition of which was of vital moment, that he must record his opinion of it even at this late period.


said, he could understand the noble Earl's contention that more efficient work might be done by a small Commission; but, on the other hand, in asking so many Gentlemen to serve, he had looked at the great amount of work to be performed. It might take not only months but years before the work of the Commission could be thoroughly carried through, and he thought that would be too great a task to place on a small number of Gentlemen who gave their honorary services. The analogy with reference to being swamped by absentees, as in the case of their Lordships' House, he did not think could apply. He felt that the Gentlemen whom he had asked represented and felt a practical interest in the subject to which the Bill referred, and he fully believed that they would give their very best attention, as well as all the time they could spare, to the work of the Commission. With that view, and with the hope that it would not entail too much individual work on any of them, the number of the Commission had been so fixed; and their Lordships might feel assured that the work would be fully, effectually, and well done.


asked whether he was to understand that the work would be so severe that the noble Marquess had fixed on the large number on the principle of the survival of the fittest, and that only a small remnant of the Commission would be likely to see the work accomplished?


said, he could not admit that the number was fixed on the principle suggested. He thought the Government had adopted the wisest course.

Motion agreed to; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.