HL Deb 17 April 1891 vol 352 cc777-8

My lords, I wish to ask my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies a question of which I have given him private notice. I have looked at the precedent quoted by my noble Friend the other night with regard to Procedure in the House of Commons in hearing Petitioners at the Bar of that House, and I find that in 1838, upon the Canada Bill, they pursued what seems a very singular course — namely, that although the principle of the Bill was objected to by the Canadians, they read the Bill a second time without Debate, and then Mr. Roebuck was heard on behalf of the colony, and afterwards the Debate, as it was distinctly laid down, took place upon the principle as if the Second Reading was not past, upon the question that the House should go into Committee. But I have been informed that there has been found some precedent in this House the other way. If that is so, I am sure my noble Friend will be glad to take advantage of it, and enable us to pursue the more rational course of hearing the Petitioners if they should think fit to Petition the House first, and read the Bill a second time afterwards, when we are in full possession of their case. I desire to ask the noble Lord whether, if it be found on the further consideration of the matter, that that course can be taken, he will put off the Second Reading of the Bill for a reasonable time?


I am much obliged to the noble Earl for bringing this question under consideration. When I made some remarks a few nights ago about the invariable practice of having the Bill read a second time before Counsel were heard against it, I confined them strictly to the House of Commons, but since that time I have found that in the Jamaica case in 1839 in this House Counsel were heard upon the Order for the Second Reading. When the Order for Second Reading was read, Counsel were heard and then the Second Reading was taken. Therefore, in hearing Counsel before the Second Reading, we should be acting strictly in accordance with the precedent of 1839, which was the last time that Counsel were heard at the Bar of this House. Moreover, since I made those remarks my attention has been called to the fact that the Procedure of the House of Commons has been altered since 1839, and, whereas formerly after the Second Reading of a Bill there was an opportunity of further Debate on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair—and that is the Motion to which my noble Friend has referred, and on which the Debate took place—that has now been swept away, and the consequence is that the Speaker leaves the Chair at once on the Bill going into Committee. Therefore, it is probable in the House of Commons, under the altered procedure, if the representatives of Newfoundland desire to be heard in the House of Commons, they would be heard before the Second Reading. In view of that fact, and considering also that it is desirable that there should be uniformity of action between the two Houses, I propose not to move the Second Reading of the Bill on Monday, but to put it down for Thursday or Friday, and that will give plenty of time for the Petition, which I believe is nearly if not quite ready to be presented, and for the Motion to be made that Counsel be heard before the Second Reading.


Perhaps it would be convenient to your Lordships that I should take this opportunity of saying that I shall have a Petition to present from the Legislature of Newfoundland praying to be heard by Representatives at the Bar of your Lordships' House with reference to the legislative proposals of the Bill which has been introduced by the Government. I shall, therefore, on the Second Reading of the Bill, move that the prayer of the Petition be granted.