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prevent the progress of a measure by a prorogation. This Bill ought not to be applied to measures such as a Reform Bill, but it would facilitate legislation of the second order, such as Bankruptcy Bills and the like.
Earl Granville said it was true that the present Bill had nothing of a party character; but a Bill of a similar character had once before been introduced, and the principle of it been rejected after due consideration. This Bill would certainly meet the same fate if simply sent down as it was to the other House. The best plan would, he suggested, be to give the Bill a second reading, and then to recommend the appointment of a joint Committee of the two Houses, and refer to it this Bill, together with a suggestion made on a former evening of a change in the time of the termination of the financial year. It might be referred to the same Committee to consider the means of remedying the mischief of the slip-shod phraseology of Government Bills, and the House of Commons might also be induced to forego some of its privileges as to the initiation of money Bills.
Lord Redesdale thought that a better remedy for the evil Lord Salisbury complained of in respect of Bills, such as a Bankruptcy Bill, would be to have such Bills introduced simultaneously into both Houses. For himself he had a great objection to settling matters of this kind by statute. Any change of the sort could be brought about equally well by alterations in the Standing Orders.
Lord Derby admitted there was much in Lord Granville's recommendation to refer the Bill to a joint Committee of the two Houses; but it would be useless to look for any result if all the other matters alluded to by him were also referred to the same Committee. He cordially agreed as to the principle of the Bill, but some of the details were open to criticism-e. g. the necessity of obtaining the Sovereign's consent to the resumption of a Bill in a subsequent Session.
Lord Russell believed the Bill would improve legislation. Perhaps it might be desirable to submit the Bill to a joint Committee, but his consent to that course would depend on the question whether any other matters besides this were referred to that Committee.
Lord Cairns appreciated the very great general merits of the Bill. On the details he thought the condition that the consent of the Crown must be obtained to the resumption of a Bill was inexpedient. He objected also to the provision which appeared to limit the right of the House in which a Bill originated to amend it in detail when brought back from the other House.
Lord Grey perceived difficulties in the proposed reference to a joint Committee, but he was of opinion that something must be done in view of the common and, he intimated, not unjust reproach that Parliament was becoming incompetent to deal with the mass of legislation before it.
The Lord Chancellor was of opinion that a joint Committee might provide a remedy for some of the evils of the present system.
He dissented altogether from Lord Redesdale's recommendation. It would be far from an economy of time to adopt the plan of considering the same Bill contemporaneously in both Houses; the amendments of the one House would often make the debate in the other so much waste of time.
Lord Salisbury in the main agreed with the amendments proposed by Lords Derby and Cairns. He had a prejudice against referring Bills to a Committee. But he would accept the proposal of a reference to a joint Committee for the sake of avoiding jealousy, and securing the co-operation of the other House. If, however, the Bill were referred to such a Committee, and an unreasonable delay occurred before the Committee decided upon it, he should propose the recall of the Bill, and would proceed with it in the regular
The Bill was then referred to a Select Committee, and the co-operation of the House of Commons having been invited and acceded to, a joint Committee, composed of an equal number of members of each, was formed, and held several meetings in the early part of the Session. The Committee was, however, unable to agree upon any plan for carrying into effect the object of Lord Salisbury's Bill so far as concerned public legislation. With regard to Private Bills they drew up a scheme for the joint action of the two Houses with a view to saving time and expense, and the Report embodying this recommendation was presented shortly before the prorogation. No action, however, was taken upon it this year.
About the same time a Committee on a very important question was appointed by the House of Commons on the motion of Mr. H. A. Bruce, the newly-appointed Secretary of State for the Home Department. In the Speech from the Throne Her Majesty had recommended that a Parliamentary inquiry should be made into the mode of conducting Parliamentary and municipal elections, with a view of providing further guarantees for their tranquillity, purity, and freedom. The recent general election had brought prominently before the public mind the scandalous corruption and iniquities prevailing in the elections for boroughs, and facts had transpired in the course of judicial inquiries which led to the conclusion that there was a close connexion between the Parliamentary and municipal elections, the same agencies being employed for both. Mr. Bruce now moved for an inquiry into the practices pursued in conducting these elections. In support of his motion the right hon. gentleman descanted at length on the evils of the present system, the immense expense of elections, the demoralizing effects of bribery-which, however, he admitted to be limited in area-intimidation, which had been largely practised at the recent election, and rioting, which he believed might be greatly checked by the abolition of nomination days and declaration of the polls. Finally, Mr. Bruce drew loud cheers from the Ministerial benches by stating that his experience at the last election had converted him to the Ballot. Admitting all the moral evils of
concealment, he held that they would soon die away, and that the practical advantages greatly outweighed them; and he concluded by avowing openly that the object of the Committee was to see whether some system of secret voting could not be devised.
Mr. Hardy, for the Opposition, consented readily to the inquiry, on condition that it was conducted bona fide and impartially, and not as a mere cloak for persons who had already changed their minds. He suggested, too, that intimidation by mobs should be a subject of inquiry.
Mr. Gladstone replied that the Committee was proposed, without any foregone conclusion on the part of the Government, as a mode of obtaining information on all points connected with elections, and would not by any means be limited to the Ballot. The collective opinion of the Government went no further than this, that the recent extension of the franchise had altered most of the conditions under which elections were conducted.
The Committee was agreed to and appointed, the Marquis of Hartington being the chairman, and a very full and searching inquiry into electoral corruption and abuses took place, a large mass of evidence affecting various parts of the country being taken. Towards the close of the Session the Committee presented their Report, which, although it exhibited a considerable diversity of opinion among its members as to the practical measures to be adopted, was considered to add a good deal to the strength of the case in favour of a secret mode of voting at elections.
The provision of some further legislative securities against the spread of contagious diseases among cattle, which had been for some time a cause of great alarm to agriculturists, was one of the first subjects on which the House was called upon to legislate after its meeting. Two rival projects were presented one, a Bill of Lord R. Montagu; the other, a measure proposed on the part of the Government by Mr. W. E. Forster. The noble lord, on moving the second reading of his Bill on March 9, said that it was necessary, owing to the powerlessness of the present system to keep out the rinderpest-an argument which he illustrated by copious quotations from the evidence given before the Select Committee of last year, and from the history of the cattle plague. He preferred to accustom the trade to run in certain grooves, though there might be restrictions, rather than expose it to sudden shocks, as would be the case under the Government Bill. He insisted on the advantages of his measure--the establishment of permanent markets for foreign cattle, the concentration of slaughterhouses, &c.; and as dead meat could travel more cheaply and in a better condition than live animals, he maintained that the system which he advocated would reduce the price of butchers' meat. One of his objects was to reduce the profits of the middle-man-the butcher-and thus to increase the price to the producer and reduce it to the consumer. He urged that his Bill should be referred to the same Committee as
the Government Bill, so that the House might have the opportunity of forming a judgment on the two systems.
The rejection of the Bill was moved by Mr. Headlam, seconded by Mr. Norwood, who considered that the establishment of separate and permanent markets was a return to the old principle of protection, and that the practical result would be the destruction of the foreign trade and a great rise in the price of meat.
Mr. W. E. Forster, speaking for the Government, objected to the Bill on three grounds-that it would not prevent the spread of contagion; that it did not define the discretion for suspending the rule of compulsory slaughter; and that in the long run the cost of providing separate markets at the outports must fall on the Consolidated Fund. The Government Bill proceeded on what he maintained was the true principle, of presuming that there would be health rather than disease; but at the same time taking powers to exclude the disease whenever it broke out. It also gave greater facilities for the establishment of markets at the ports; and, as a proof of this, he mentioned that the Markets Committee of the London Corporation, if this Bill were passed, would recommend the formation of a separate metropolitan market. He urged Lord Robert Montagu to withdraw his Bill, and to follow the more convenient course of moving amendments in Committee on the Government Bill.
The Bill was rejected, after some debate, by a majority of 253 against 197.
The objects of the other measure were clearly explained by Mr. Forster on moving for leave to bring it in. He explained that, as regards the home trade, it would re-enact, almost as they stood, the present arrangements for "stamping out" the cattle plague, and would give some new powers with regard to sheep. It was also proposed to give the Privy Council power for checking other diseases besides the cattle plague, as well as the diseases of sheep and horses, and it contained other provisions for regulating the traffic in cattle, and particularly for securing to cattle in transit an ample supply of water. As to the foreign trade, it transferred from the Queen in Council to the Privy Council the power of prohibiting the import of cattle from any country into any port, of prescribing from time to time the countries from which cattle might be brought, and of defining areas at ports into which cattle might be brought, but out of which they could not be taken alive. There were also provisions at which Mr. Forster glanced slightly for encouraging the formation of markets.
Lord Robert Montagu expressed his approval of the first part of the Bill, but objected to the provisions of the second part that they could never be effectual for the purpose of stamping out the cattle plague. The House, however, took a different view, and Mr. Forster's measure, after considerable discussion, was passed into a law.
Mr. Goschen, who had succeeded to the office of President of the Poor Law Board, took an early opportunity after Parliament
met to introduce two measures for amending the system of assessment of rates-another of the subjects glanced at in the Speech from the throne. One of these was a Bill to provide for uniformity of assessment in the metropolis. The Union Assessment Act of 1862 only applied to unions, and there were in the metropolis several parishes, which, although existing side by side with unions, were yet excluded from its operation. The Bill accordingly proposed to enable those parishes, which were twenty-two in number, to establish union assessment committees, and to place them thus on the same footing with the seventeen unions to which the Act of 1862 applied. The Bill also sought to accomplish another object. At present the poor-rate, the county-rate, and other rates in the metropolis were levied on different principles, but this Bill would place them on the same footing, and, if possible, establish one basis for local and imperial taxation within its limits. The right hon. gentleman, in bringing in the Bill, entered into details of the provisions to be adopted for the attainment of a common basis of action. The Bill would lay down a maximum scale, leaving a discretionary power below the amount. The Board would not have power to hear appeals as between unions, but a paid assessor would be appointed for that purpose.
Mr. Goschen also moved the introduction of a Bill for amending the law with respect to rates assessed upon occupiers for short terms, and, having described the widespread dissatisfaction among the working classes at the abolition of the system of compounding, stated that the Government proposed that the rate-book should still be the basis of the register, and that the occupier should still continue to be rated, but that he should be allowed to deduct the full amount of the rate from the landlord. It was proposed that the rate should be paid in quarterly instalments, and that no rate should exceed two weeks' rent, so that no tenant would be obliged to pay a greater amount for rent than that which it would be in his power to deduct from his landlord. It was also proposed that the Bill should have a general application, and not be confined, as the existing law was, to boroughs only.
In the discussion which arose on the introduction of this Bill Mr. Bright referred to the case of Birmingham, where 5000 distress warrants had been taken out, entailing great distress upon the people-distress aggravated by the conviction that it was wholly unnecessary.
Another measure, of which the initiatory steps were taken before Parliament entered upon the engrossing subject of the Irish Church, was the Bill for the better repression of crime, which was produced by the Government to meet the urgent demands of the public for a more effectual protection of life and property, and a more vigorous mode of dealing with that dangerous class who make crime their regular trade and pursuit, preferring to prey upon the industry of others rather than to exercise their own. In order to facilitate the progress of this Bill it was determined to introduce it first in the House of Lords, under the charge of Lord Kimberley, the Lord