HL Deb 19 March 1907 vol 171 cc620-1

, who had given notice—"To ask the Lord Privy Seal whether he can now state what course His Majesty's Government propose to adopt with regard to the question of Peers who have sat and voted without taking the oath," said: My Lords, I will now resume the sentence in which I was interrupted by my noble friend Lord Camper down. Your Lordships will remember the occasion last session when certain noble Lords voted without having taken the oath and the consequent debate that arose. The reason why I have put this Question on the Paper is that I would venture to suggest to His Majesty's Government that it might be wise to refer this matter also to the Committee just appointed. I beg to put the Question.


My Lords, I can reply in a very few words to my noble friend's Question. Your Lordships will remember the circumstances under which last year certain noble Lords inadvertently, and greatly to their personal regret, transgressed the important rule that they should not sit without taking the oath. I think we all feel that it would be desirable that some inquiry should be made into the penalties which now exist for this infraction of the law. There is something not very dignified in nominally inflicting a very large pecuniary fine which is never exacted. I think it must be generally felt at the present day that the infliction of a money penalty is not the proper sort of punishment for such an offence, and obviously if the penalties are never exacted the effect is not likely to be exceedingly deterrent. Whether it would be possible or desirable to inflict any other form of disability on noble Lords who commit this breach of the law is another matter, and one upon which I should not wish now to express any opinion; but as this Committee has been set up and must naturally be a Committee of very considerable authority, and as it has to deal with questions of order in your Lordships' House, it certainly would be a reasonable thing to refer this question to it also. Therefore, the Government will offer no opposition if the noble Lord submits a Motion to refer this Question to the same Committee.


As it would be out of order to-day to move an Amendment to a Motion already agreed to, I will give notice of a Motion for another day to extend the reference.