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usual to appoint public committees, of the proceedings

Hans. D. v. 235, pp. 1478, 1725. p. 1277 ; v. 226, p. 789.

u Rep. Com*. Diplomatic Service, w Holyhead Harbour, Hans. D. v.

Com. Pap. 1870, vol. 7, pp. 420, 421. 172, p. 1330.

Ev. 1767-1770. Ib. 2nd Rep. 1871, x Anchors and Chains, Merchants'

v. 7, p. 359. Hans. D. v. 161, pp. Service, Hans. D. v. 164, pp. 235-

496, 817 ; Ib. v. 168, pp. 626-633 ; 242 ; Medical Officers in Unions

v. 173, p. 1239 ; v. 235, p. 1478. In (Ireland), Ib. v. 177, p. 1516 ; Bank-

1850 the Commons addressed the ruptcy Act of 1861, Ib. v. 179, pp.

crown to appoint a commission to 420, 1 109. Royal Dockyards, Ib. v.

follow up certain enquiries instituted 190, p. 2034. Naval Cadets, Ib. v.

by a Sel. Com*. Com. J. v. 105, p. 85, 206, p. 2011.

* Hans. D. v. 201, p. 431 ; v. 203,





letters at

consequent upon their labours, and of the conduct of
government in respect to the same, the following cases
may be consulted :

On June 14, 1844, Mr. Duncombe presented a petition to the
House of Commons from four persons, of whom Joseph Mazzini,
the well-known Italian refugee, was one, complaining that their
letters had been detained at the London post-office, broken open, and
read. The home secretary (Sir James Graham) explained that
Mazzini's letters only had been opened ; and that this had been done
by his express authority, under a warrant issued in conformity
to an Act of Parliament. On June 24, Mr. Duncombe moved for a
select committee to enquire into the operations of the Post-office De-
partment in such cases. The motion was successfully opposed by
government, on the ground that they had merely exercised a right
which had been constantly resorted to by their predecessors in office,
and which had proved advantageous to the public interest, in the
prevention and detection of crime. But on July 2, Mr. Duncombe
again moved for a committee of enquiry ; in amendment to which Sir
James Graham himself proposed the appointment of a secret com-
mittee, to investigate the law in regard to the opening of letters,
and the mode of its exercise which was agreed to by the House.
On July 4 a similar committee was appointed by the House of Lords.
These committees were composed of some of the most eminent and
impartial men in Parliament. A motion to include Mr. Duncombe
upon the Commons' committee was negatived upon division^ Mr.
Duncombe afterwards complained to the House, that while he had
been invited to attend the committee to prefer his complaint against
the home secretary, and to give in a list of witnesses in support of
the same, he was not permitted to be present himself during the
examination of witnesses. He then moved that it be an instruction
to the committee to allow him to attend, and produce and examine
witnesses in support of the case of the petitioners : but the motion
was negatived. A motion to add Mr. Duncombe to the committee
was ruled out of order by the Speaker, on the ground that a similar
motion had been already negatived by the House. 2 After due inves-
gation, these committees reported. They entirely exonerated Sir
James Graham from blame in the discharge of his duty, and gave
full particulars of the origin and exercise of the power of opening
letters entrusted by statute to the secretary of state. They recom-
mended no alteration of the law on this subject.* A few days after-
wards, Lord Radnor introduced into the House of Lords a Bill to

> Hans. D. v. 76, p. 257.
* Jli. v. 70, pp. 1010-1024.


Com. Tap. 1844, v. 14, pp. 501,



abolish the right of opening letters, but it did not proceed beyond a
first reading : b so that the secretary of state still retains his accus-
tomed authority whenever he may deem it advisable to exercise it.
On June 16, 1841, a select committee of the House of Commons,
appointed to enquire into the present state of the national monu-
ments and works of art in Westminster Abbey and in other public
edifices, reported an opinion in favour of the opening of the English
cathedrals, daily, to the public, for the inspection of their architec-
tural beauties. On April 16, 1844, a motion was made to approve
of this recommendation. Sir Robert Peel (the prime minister),
while expressing himself favourable to the free admission of the
public to such edifices, nevertheless opposed this motion as an
attempt, by a mere resolution of the House, to control the lawful
guardians of these institutions, who possessed rights independent of
the House as an encroachment on the liberties of the people, and a
dangerous endeavour to effect, by inadequate means, that which, if
desirable, should be made the subject of legislation. The motion was
accordingly withdrawn." 1

A committee on Public Moneys, which sat during the years
1856 and 1857, made numerous recommendations, of more or less
importance, in reference to the public finances, with a view to subject
the public expenditure to a more rigid investigation and control on
the part of the House of Commons. In their final report they
stated that they were ' aware that the important and extensive
changes they have suggested cannot all be immediately carried into
effect ; but they believe that the continued attention of Parliament
-and of the executive government to the subject, will secure, at no
distant date, all the objects embraced in their recommendations.' 6
In the session of 1861, the chancellor of the exchequer informed the
House that the said recommendations had, in the interim, received
the careful consideration of the government, and that he was prepared,
in regard to most of them, to submit to Parliament Bills, or resolu-
tions, to carry the same into effect/

. In the years 1857 and 1858 on motion of the secretary to the
treasury a committee of the House of Commons was appointed to
enquire into the policy of making further grants of public money
for the improvement and extension of harbours of refuge on the
coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. Pursuant to the report of this
committee, a royal commission was appointed to complete the enquiry,
which reported in 1859. While mutually agreed as to the necessity

b Hans. D. v. 76, p. 1714 ; and see
May's Const. Hist. v. 2, p. 292.

e See Broom, Const. Law, pp. 615-
617 ; and see post, v. 2.

d Hans. D. v. 74, pp. 29-48.


e Com. Pap. 1857, Sess. 2, v. 9,
p. 502.

? Hans. D. v. 161, pp. 711, 1310.
And see post, vol. 2.





of refuse.




for the construction of these important works, the two tribunals
differed as to their cost, and as to the mode of obtaining funds for
the purpose. The committee recommended that two million pounds
should be expended for this service, but suggested that three-fourths
of the required amount, and three-fourths of the cost of maintaining
these harbours, should be raised from passing tolls 011 shipping. The
commission, on the other hand, adjudged that an outlay of four
millions would be required to construct the works, and were of
opinion that, inasmuch as the general interests of the community
were concerned in the undertaking, the greater part, if not the
whole, of this sum should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund ; and
that no passing toll should be levied either for the erection or main-
tenance of these harbours. On June 19, 1860, the House of Commons
resolved that it was the duty of the government to adopt, at the
earliest possible period, the necessary measures to carry into effect
the recommendations of the commissioners. Some progress had
been made by government in the construction of these harbours, but
owing to the state of the public finances, and the large expenditure
required for other extraordinary services, they had not felt warranted
in incurring the whole of this enormous outlay. Sir Morton Peto,
in his work on Taxation (p. 316), observes that ' the case of the
so-called harbours of refuge should be a lesson to us for the future.
A great deal of money has been uselessly expended on very ill-con-
ceived plans.' Whereupon, on May 6, 1862, it was moved in the House
of Commons to resolve, that it is the duty of the government to adopt
measures to carry into effect the preceding resolution. But, after
full debate and explanations from ministers, the motion was negatived
upon division. Again, on April 17, 1863, it was moved to resolve,
as the opinion of the House of Commons, that so much of the
report of the commissioners on Harbours of Refuge as concerned
Waterford, Wick, and Padstow be carried into effect, but, after
some debate, it was negatived without a division. The whole case in
regard to the harbours of refuge is given in the correspondence
between the Board of Trade and other public departments respecting
said harbours, since the report of the Commons' Committee in 1858.K
After the report of the royal commission, Lord Palmerston induced
Parliament to pass the Harbours' Loan Act, which gave facilities to
localities throughout the kingdom, to make or improve their own
harbours, by the aid of government loans on easy terms. h On April
26, 1864, a motion to declare the opinion of the House that the
government ought to proceed with the construction of harbours of
refuge, was negatived, on division. On June 13, 1865, a motion
that, in the opinion of the House, the government should adopt
measures for the construction of some of the said harbours on the

Com. Tap. 1804, v. 55, p. 4:39.

Hans. D. v. 231, p. 38.


coast of Great Britain and Ireland, was negatived, on division. A Select

similar motion was proposed and negatived, on March 21, 1871. ^ O . m '

On June 27, 1871, a proposed vote in supply, on behalf of Alderney p re .

Harbour was negatived, without a division, it being admitted that cedents.
the grant would have been a waste of public money. 1 On July 28,
1876, and on June 1, 1877, motions in favour of a new harbour on
the north-east coast of England were proposed and negatived.

On March 5, 1861, a motion was made in the House of Commons Colonial
for the appointment of a select committee, to enquire and report defences,
whether any, and what, alterations may be advantageously adopted
in regard to the defence of the British dependencies, and the
proportions of cost of such defence as now defrayed from imperial
and colonial funds respectively. The mover disclaimed any desire to
invade the functions of the executive, but contended that the inter-
ference of Parliament in the settlement of this important question
had become necessary, in consequence of the failure of a depart-
mental committee, appointed by government in 1859, on colonial
military expenditure, to agree in any recommendations on the
subject. In reply, the under-secretary for the colonies deprecated
the proposed committee, on. the ground that the question being one
of opinion and principle, and not of facts, was not a fit subject for
enquiry by a parliamentary committee. He admitted that the
report of the departmental committee had not been free from objec-
tion, but contended that the only proper way to treat the question
was by negotiations, to be carried on by the imperial government
with each of the colonies in their turn. Further debate ensued
from which it was evident that the sense of the House was in favour
of the appointment of the committee. Accordingly, Lord Palmerston,
while he expressed his agreement with the constitutional objections
which had been urged against the motion, and felt bound to declare
that its tendency was ' rather to transfer to a committee of the
House duties and functions which properly belong to the responsible
advisers of the crown,' nevertheless consented to the appointment of
the committee.J After taking voluminous evidence, the committee
reported on July 11. Their labours were subsequently characterised
as being ' chiefly valuable in furnishing information, promoting dis-
cussion, and exhibiting the discordance and inconsistency of opinion
on the subject, not as recommending any practicable policy.' k On

' Hans. D. v. 207, p. 679. Ib. v. p. 1 04, analysing the evidence and

215, p. 1407. pointing out the different views of

J Ib. v. 161, p. 1420. See the leading statesmen on this question,

analogous case of the committee on See observations of colonial secre-

the Board of Admiralty, noticed tary (Duke of Newcastle), in the

ante, p. 425. House of Lords, in Hans. D. v. 164,

k An article in Ed. Rev. v. 115, p.. 1579; and of the secretary for



Select March 4, 1862, on motion of .the chairman of this committee, the
? m ~ House resolved, without division, ' That this House (while fully re-

Precs- cognising the claims of all portions of the British Empire to imperial
dents. aid in their protection against perils arising from the consequences
of imperial policy) is of opinion that colonies exercising the rights
of self-government ought to undertake the main responsibility of
providing for their own internal order, and security, and ought to
assist in their own external defence.' On March 21, following
another member of the committee, conceiving that this resolution
did not go far enough, proposed the adoption of a resolution con-
demning the erection and maintenance of fortifications, out of im-
perial funds, in self -governed colonies, not being great naval stations.
The administration, while acknowledging the correctness of this, as
a general principle, considered it to be subject to certain limitations,
rendering the assertion of the principle inexpedient. The motion
was accordingly withdrawn. 1 Between the years 1861 and 1870,
the principles contained in the report of 1861 were adopted as the
settled policy of the empire, and were gradually applied to the
Colonies of Ceylon, the Mauritius, Hong Kong, British Columbia,
Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Debates in the House of
Commons in the years 1867, 1868, and 1869, and in the House of
Lords on June 20, 1870, on this subject, proved that 'a judicious
and moderate adherence to the report (aforesaid), and a steady
endeavour to throw more and more upon the colonies the obligation
of defending themselves, was a policy which Parliament would sup
port ; m and one which eventually was accepted generally throughout
the empire as, ' the true policy both of England and the colonies.' n
So completely so that, in 1873, the under- secretary for the colonies
declared 'that the military expenditure for the colonies was now
almost entirely for imperial purposes.

Inclosures On March 3, 1863, a motion was made in the House of Commons

in royal or fae appointment of a select committee, ' to enquire into the

3 S ' legality of inclosures in Waltham, Epping, and other forests in

Essex, and to ascertain what steps ought to be taken to preserve the

war (Sir G. C. Lewis), on March 9, of Canada, see Hans. D. v. 176, p.

1863, showing 1 why the government 373.

had been hitherto unable to Ccirry m Hans. D. v. 187, pp. 1596-1002.

out the recommendations of the com- And see Ib. v. 188, pp. 5-15 ; v. 191 1

mittee, in effecting any material re- pp. 93-97. As to the delay in car-

duction in the number of troops in vying out certain recommendations

the colonies. Hans. D. v. 16!), p. of the Corn*', of 1861 in regard to

] y 81 and Ib. pp. 1446-1457, 1776- military accounts, see Com. Pap.

1780 ; v. 170, p. 876. 1867, v. 10, pp. 690, 694.

1 For further debates in the House " Hans. D. v. 199, pp. 1162, 1192.

of Commons on the military defence Ib, v. 214, p. 1531.



rights of the public, of the poorer foresters, and of the inhabitants Select
of the metropolis, within the forests, as well as to enquire into their . "
general management.' This motion was opposed by the attorney- p re .
general, on the ground that it would be a most inconvenient and cedents.
dangerous precedent to erect a select committee into ' a court of
judicature for the purpose of enquiring into and expressing an opinion
with reference to the rights of individuals and of the crown/ or
' into any technical and strictly legal rights,' for which purposes a
parliamentary committee was a manifestly defective and improper
tribunal. Accordingly, at the suggestion of the attorney-general,
the motion was withdrawn, and instead thereof a committee was
appointed ' to enquire into the condition and management of the
royal forests in Essex, and into any inclosures which may have taken
place therein since the report of the commissioners of 1850 ; and to
consider whether it is expedient to take any steps for preserving open
spots in such forests.' P This committee reported on June 9. They
recommended the continuance of the inclosure of Epping Forest,
and that an adequate portion thereof should be set apart for the
public, for the purposes of health and recreation : also, that any path
encroachments on the forestal rights of the crown should be abated.i

On May 5, 1863, a private member moved, in the House of Com- Holyhead
mons, for the appointment of a select committee to enquire into the Harbour
state of Holyhead Harbour, with a view to securing safe and
efficient accommodation for vessels engaged in the Irish mail-service
and for passengers conveyed by them. On motion of the chancellor
of the exchequer, the debate was adjourned until papers in relation
"thereto were distributed to members. It was resumed on May 12,
when the motion was agreed to, notwithstanding the opposition of
the government, who contended that the committee was unnecessary
and inexpedient. 1 " On June 1, upon motion that the committee do
consist of certain specified members, the chancellor of the exchequer
took exception to the list proposed, alleging that it was ' as far as
possible from being an impartial committee.' He declined to take
the ' invidious and annoying course of proposing that some of the
names should be omitted, and replaced by others more impartially
selected ; ' but he felt ' bound to say, even before the committee sits,
that [the government] do not think the subject one that ought to be
referred to its consideration, and that we shall not be able to look
upon its finding as the verdict of an impartially constituted tribunal.' 8
The proposed list was nevertheless agreed to, without a division. But
on June 4, a member of the committee, who was personally ag-
grieved by Mr. Gladstone's remarks, characterised them as being

P Hans. D. v. 169, p. 1038. further, post, v. 2.

i Coin. Pap. 186.",, v. 6, p. 552. r Hans. D. v. 170, pp. 1243. 1660.
Hans. D. v. 172, p. 1055. See Ib. v. 17], p. 242.




insulting and unparliamentary, and called upon tnat minister to
move that he be discharged from the committee in order to take the
sense of the House thereupon. An informal discussion then arose
as to the purport of Mr. Gladstone's observations, which were
further explained by himself. The Speaker, on being appealed to,
acquitted Mr. Gladstone of unparliamentary language, and the
subject was dropped.* The committee reported on July 14. u Their
report contained certain recommendations, to which, when discussed
in the committee, the president of the Board of Trade had expressed
his dissent. Wherefore, on July 23, the chairman moved to resolve,
that the recommendation of the committee ought to be adopted.
This motion was opposed by government, and negatived, without
a division. v

On June 22, 1869, on motion of Mr. Gladstone (the prime
minister), a select committee was appointed to enquire into the site
and charge of the new courts of law. The government desired to
associate the House of Commons with themselves in the settlement
of these points, as they had given rise to much controversy. w

In 1874, the select committee of the House of Commons on
public departments (purchases) made a special recommendation in
their report (clause 130), that, on a vacancy occurring in the office
of Controller of Stationery, it should be filled up by the appoint-
ment of a gentleman possessing technical knowledge and experience
of stationery and printing. Nevertheless, upon the retirement of
Mr. Greg, in 1877, the prime minister appointed to this post Mr. T.
D. Pigott, an able and practical man of business, who was previously
a junior clerk in the war office. 1 He gave a careful consideration to
the aforesaid report, but was of opinion that it was not desirable to
give effect thereto.y Accordingly, on July 16, 1877, the chairman
of the select committee above-mentioned moved to resolve, that in
view of the aforesaid recommendation, the recent appointment of
controller of the stationery office was calculated to diminish the
usefulness and influence of select committees of this House, and to
discourage the interest and zeal of public officers. The chancellor
of the exchequer defended the appointment on its own merits, and
asserted that the government had carried out various recommenda-
tions of the committee of 1874, but were not of opinion that it was
expedient to limit the choice of the controller of stationery to men
possessing technical knowledge of stationery and printing. Never-
theless, the motion was agreed to, by a majority of four. 2 On July
19, the Earl of Beaconsfield (the premier, who was personally

1 Hans. B. v. 171, pp. 325-331.
u Com. Pap. ]8G3, v. 7, p. 223.
T Hans. D. v. 172, p. 1330.
w Ib. v. 197, p. 458.

* Ib. v. 234, p. 1849.
y Ib. p. 1943.

Ib. v. 235, p. 1330.


responsible for the selection of Mr. Pigott), explained to the House
of Lords his reasons for making the appointment, and for non-
compliance, in this particular, with the recommendations of the
select committee. He was followed by leading members on both
sides of the House, who testified to the special fitness of Mr.
Pigott for this position.* 1 On the following day, the chancellor
of the exchequer put the House of Commons in possession of
the foregoing explanations, and stated that the cabinet, collec-
tively, approved of Mr. Pigott's appointment, and being con-
vinced that it had been made on public grounds, agreed with the
premier in his refusal to accept Mr. Pigott's proffered resignation.
He left the course to be taken in regard to the Vote of Censure in
the hands of the House. Whereupon a private member gave notice
of a motion to withdraw the censure, upon the further explanations
that had been made. b Accordingly, on July 23, after full debate,
the motion to withdraw the censure expressed in the former resolution
was agreed to, without a division.


The rule which forbids any encroachment by Parlia- informa-
ment upon the executive authority of the crown has a toPariia- n
further application, to which our attention must now be m . ei ? t ' 1 j

1 withheld.


It is imperative that Parliament shall be duly in-
formed of everything that may be necessary to explain
the policy and proceedings of government in any part
of the empire ; and the fullest information is communi-
cated by government to both Houses, from time to
time, upon all matters of public concern. For it is in
Parliament that authoritative statements are made, or
information given, by ministers, upon public questions ;
and no action in Parliament should be based upon
declarations of policy made elsewhere. 3

Sometimes a statement, by the minister who is specially respon-
sible, is made in one House and not repeated in the other, ' the

Hans. D. v. 235, p. 1477. e Ib. p. 1727.

b Ib. p. 1569. d Ib. v. 230, p. 1814.


ordinary channels of information, i.e. the newspapers, being relied
upon to give it general publicity. But such a course is inconvenient
and objectionable." Much inconvenience having been occasioned by
motions for papers having been agreed to in one House, and opposed
by government in the other chamber/ it is now understood that
when papers are presented to one House they shall also be laid on
the table of the other.*

informa- Considerations of public policy, and a due regard to

tion with- , Pin ti t i i

held. the interests ol the fetate, occasionally demand, how-
ever, that information sought for by members of the

Online LibraryAlpheus ToddOn parliamentary government in England : its origin, development, and practical operation (Volume 1) → online text (page 41 of 85)