HL Deb 30 April 1889 vol 335 cc770-2

, in rising to move "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee for Bills relating to Law, &c.," said: My Lords, before making the Motion which stands in my name I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the fact that we are at present a good deal in the dark with regard to the Standing Committees. We are ignorant of when they are to meet or where they are to meet. We de not know exactly whether they are to be public or private, and we are completely in the dark as to by what standard we should be guided in making the Motion to refer a Bill to either the Standing Committee on Law, or that for General Bills. I am moving to refer this Bill and the Town Police Clauses Act Amendment Bill to the Standing Committee for Bills relating to Law, not for any particular reason, because so far as I can see they might just as well be referred to the Standing Committee for General Bills. As my noble Friend opposite pointed out, there is nothing in the Bill now under your Lordships' notice which requires particularly the acumen or education of lawyers to unravel or dissect. But I propose to refer it to the Law Committee, partly because it was suggested to me that that was the proper thing to do, and partly because it so happens that I am myself a Member of that Committee. It has struck me that perhaps it might be as well that when the Chairmen of the Committees are elected there should be a direction to which of the two Committees the several Bills should eventually be referred. I shall be glad to hear from the Chairman of Committees what are his views upon the matter.


I propose to call a meeting for the election of Chairmen as soon as possible. I believe that is the first step to be taken. I think the earliest moment at which this can be done will be Friday next. At all events, it will be done at the earliest possible date, so that the Standing Committees may get to work in the course of next week.


There is one matter to which the noble Lord alluded, as to which I would like to say a word—as to whether the proceedings of the Standing Committees should be public. That is the practice in the case of the House of Commons Standing Committees, and I cannot see any reason why it should not be so in the case of the Standing Committees of this House. The advantage seems to me to be altogether in that direction. With reference to the time of meeting, no doubt that will be a matter of subsequent consideration. It is obvious that if work is done to the extent to which it will be done by these Standing Committees, this House will be so far relieved of its work, and it would be practicable, therefore, for the Committees to meet at or after the hour the House now sits for public business. It would, of course, be very difficult, without some arrangement of this kind, to obtain the attendance upon the Standing Committees of the legal Members of this House.


I think it would be very satisfactory if we could have some definition from those who proposed these Standing Committees of the standard by which it is to be determined which Committee a particular Bill is to be referred to. I see I am placed on the Committee for Law; that is, I suppose, for the satisfactory reason that I do not happen to be a lawyer. When the proposal to establish these Committees was before your Lordships, it was pointed out that hardships might arise in the case of a noble Lord, who might be interested in a certain measure, but would be excluded from the discussion upon it because he did not happen to be a Member of the Committee to which the Bill was referred. Your Lordships having come to the conclusion to establish Standing Committees, I, of course, loyally submit; but I do think that we who objected to their appointment altogether should at least be informed whether there is any standard by which any particular measure is referred to the one Committee or the other.


I might ask your Lordships' indulgence to point out, in reference to what the noble Lord has just said, that there is power under the Standing Orders to add to either Standing Committee ten Peers in respect of any particular Bill. There is no doubt that if a noble Lord who was on one Committee were interested in a Bill before another Committee, and wished to take part in its discussion, he would readily obtain a seat upon the Committee which had to deal with that measure.

Ordered, that the Standing Committee to which the Bill stands committed be the Standing Committee for Bills relating to Law, &c.