UK, HL, “Motion for Returns”, vol 188 (1867), cols 129-144

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Date: 1867-06-20
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “Motion for Returns“, vol 188 (1867), cols 129-144.
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129 LORD LYVEDEN , in moving for Returns relating to the Business of the House—the number of Peers who have attended each sitting, the measures passed, the number of divisions, the number of times proxies have been called and their effect upon the result of the divisions—said that in the first place he must apologize for introducing a subject which would more properly have originated with one of much greater experience. In doing so he in no wise desired to speak in the way of reproach of the manner in which the business was managed in their Lordships’ House; he simply desired to make clear to their Lordships, and through their Lordships to the public, what amount of business was actually transacted in their Chamber. He did not consider that their Lordships’ House ought to be regarded as a drag upon the wheel of progress, or as merely a weight on the machinery of the State. On the contrary, he thought their Lordships should transact a large amount of business of great importance. Wherever representative assemblies exist an Upper Chamber had always been deemed a necessity, as was shown by the fact that a double Chamber always formed a feature of every new Constitution framed by the Legislature for the Colonies. The only distinction between the Upper Chamber of the mother country and those of the Colonies was that the one was hereditary and the other elective; and no doubt the colonial Upper Chambers were elective, because it was impossible satisfactorily to form a colonial Upper chamber purely after the model of their Lordships’ House. He did not indeed believe that in any country in the world such an assembly of men could be brought together as formed their Lordships’ House. In it were to be found the descendants of the ancient nobility. Lawyers who had raised themselves by their learning and talents to the highest rank in their profession, eminent diplomatists, distinguished military men, and a bench of Bishops no less remarkable as scholars than as divines — some men eminent in commerce, others beloved for their philanthropy—so that among them were many of the most highly educated men 130 in the kingdom: with experience gained by many in the more active arena of the House of Commons, and by nearly all in the local tribunals of their country, their Lordships’ House was formed of those whose education peculiarly fitted them to fill the office of legislator. Nor were they without great rhetoricians. The noble Earl behind the gangway (the Earl of Ellenborough) was almost alone in his emphatic eloquence. The noble Earl at the head of the Government was, as a debater, not excelled by anyone in this or any assembly in the world; and generally their Lordships brought to that House an independence of action not always possessed by Members of the House of Commons. Still, with all these advantages, it was constantly asked why their Lordships’ debates were not more ample, and why they were regarded with so little interest by the public? In answering this he contended that the House of Lords wag not to be considered by the same standard as the House of Commons. The main reason, of course, was to be found in the position which the House of Lords occupied in the constitution, while it was notorious that the Government of the country rested mainly with the House of Commons. Ministers were naturally desirous not to bring forward in the House of Lords measures which might appear more appropriate to the House of Commons, and they were anxious first to ascertain the opinion of the Lower House upon their Bills. There had, indeed, always been a tendency not to originate measures in their Lordships’ House—so much so that the subject had led to a great deal of discussion in a Committee which sat in 1861. For his own part he thought that there were several directions in which the present arrangements might be altered, and that legislation might safety be commenced in that House to a much greater extent than was the case at present. He confessed, however, that his experience did not lead him to put much faith in leaving the matter to be dealt with by a Committee; he believed that the evil might be much better remedied by their Lordships themselves taking the matter in hand. That section of the Return for which he proposed to move, relating to the attendance of Peers during the present Session, would, he believed, show that the attendance in their Lordships’ House was much more constant and much larger than was generally supposed. And on this arose the question, whether they should not adopt some such course as 131 was in practice in the House of Commons — that of requiring a certain number of Peers to be present in the House in order to the transaction of business. He did not know that such a rule would tend to expedite the public business, but it would certainly be more satisfactory to the country. The practice, which was not one sanctioned by the House of Commons, of any Peer bringing forward in a long speech a subject after giving private notice to the Minister, also damaged their Lordships’ debates, for many noble Peers who would otherwise have been present, and whose opinion on any given subject was of great weight, were absent owing to the fact that they knew nothing of its being brought forward. Again; there certainly was in their Lordships’ House an absence of order in the conduct of business, such as did not exist in the other House of Parliament, owing to their having no president to whom reference could be made for decision. But his chief object in bringing forward the subject was to disabuse the public mind as to the small amount of business supposed to be transacted by their Lordships’ House. It was no doubt startling to read in the newspapers that the House met at five o’clock and adjourned at half-past five, leading to the inference that the Lords have done nothing, forgetting that they have nothing to do by no fault of their own. In opposition to this short sitting he would take an evening when some great question came forward. Unless a division is expected, which is seldom, the attendance diminishes at seven, and altogether disappears at eight. As the House does not meet till five, and does not begin business till a quarter past, just two hours and a half are left for the debate, the whole of which, or at least two-thirds, are engaged by the Leaders of the House, so that no young Peers have that opportunity for practice which is quite necessary to make accomplished speakers. Another reason for the diminished attendance of Peers at the sittings of the House was the mode in which private business was conducted. He thought that in spite of the able manner in which the Chairman of Committees performed his duties, the practice of selection for Committees on Private Bills at present in vogue was one which it was, at all events, advisable in Borne way to modify. Instead of noble Lords being canvassed for their attendance on Committees as was now 132 done, he could not understand why a circular similar to the one adopted by the House of Commons should not be sent to every one of their Lordships, asking at what period of the Session it would be most convenient for him to attend. The present practice was most objectionable; and, as the nature of the work was of itself extremely irksome, the only plan by which it could be made tolerable would be one which would secure a regular and fair division of labour. He might, perhaps, add that he had no objection, if the noble Earl at the head of the Government thought it desirable, that this subject should be referred to the Committee which would probably be appointed in consequence of the Motion which his noble Friend (the Earl of Shaftesbury) had placed on the Paper for to-morrow. The next point to which he wished to call their Lordships’ attention was the question of proxies, in which also he felt a very deep interest. And here, too, he believed the general opinion over estimated the extent to which they were employed. The use of proxies was one of the oldest institutions of the House of Lords. The first instance of the use of proxies occurred, as far as they could learn, in the time of Edward I.; but the proxies of that period were of a very different character to that used at present, for a Peer had to state the reason why the Peer whose proxy he held could not attend. According to a Return obtained by Lord Brougham in 1849 it appeared, that in the ten years previous proxies only had been used on twenty-two occasions, and of that number four measures or questions only were carried by these proxies. Owing to the diligence of one of the officers of their Lordships’ House he learnt that, during the ten years subsequent to 1849, proxies had only been used nine times, and on only three occasions was the result determined by their influence—namely, the Ministers Money Bill, the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Bill, and, thirdly, the Motion made by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) for a vote of censure on the Government of the late Lord Palmerston for their conduct in connection with the Danish Question. He believed the system itself, however, to be so anomalous that it was incumbent on the advocates of the present practice rather to offer a defence than for those who attacked it to make out their case. The impression out of doors was, that Peers held many proxies which they could use as they 133 thought fit, and by so doing, of course, carry any measure; but since the time of Charles II. no Peer had held more than two proxies, and on certain questions they could not be used. The great mistake, however, was their use on votes of censure; but their use on those occasions did not produce any popular victory, because the fate of a Ministry did not depend upon a vote in their Lordships’ House. Their Lordships’ House never stood higher in public estimation than at present, and to a great extent it was the guide of public opinion in this country. It was the duty of their Lordships so to improve the conduct of business in that House as to continue to merit that good opinion, and if possible enhance it. The noble Lord concluded by moving for the Returns.

Moved, That there be laid before this House: Return of the Number of Lords who have attended the Sitting of the House on each Evening since the Commencement of the Session; the Time each Evening during which the House has sat; the Measures passed; whether brought up from the House of Commons or originated in the House of Lords; the Number of Divisions, and the Number of Lords who voted: Also, An Account of the Instances in which Proxies having been called the Result of the Division was such that the Majority of the whole Votes was different from the Majority of the whole Votes present and Proxies, distinguishing the Date of each Instance since 1849: And also, An Account of the Number of Times in each Year which Proxies have been called since the last Return in 1849.

—(The Lord Lyveden.)

THE EARL OF DERBY I can find no fault with the noble Lord for introducing this Question. I think it is very important that the public at large should be satisfied that this House is not a mere drag upon the other House of Parliament, and that it should not think, on the other hand, that this House systematically abandons the consideration of all important measures a small proportion of its Members, and neglects those duties which should engage the attention of those who occupy seats in this House. With regard to the particular object of the noble Lord’s Motion I confess that I am of opinion that some of the information he seeks is not very valuable or important. It is not necessary, for example, to show the number of Peers who attend each particular evening, or the number of hours—or of minutes in some instances—we sit on each particular evening, because that information, taken without any explanation of the amount of business transacted, would give a false impression of the 134 manner in which the House discharges its duties. I venture to say that, whenever any really important business comes before the House for consideration, looking to the difference of ages of the Members of the two Houses, and the number of Members of your Lordships’ House who are unfortunately unable to attend in consequence of infirmity, there is a full proportion of attendance in this House compared with that given in the other House. It cannot be expected that Peers will come down to the House in large numbers in the early part of the Session, when there really is nothing before the House but mere questions of routine and minor importance are to be discussed, and nothing comes before the House attracting public attention. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has a Motion on the Paper for to-morrow, which he believes will have a tendency to encourage the attendance and speaking of the younger Members of your Lordships’ House on ordinary occasions. Now, if that object can be attained, it will be very desirable, because I think that it is a great inconvenience and loss to your Lordships’ House that the younger Peers, from whatever motives, abstain from taking part in the debates, leaving the main business to be done by the older stagers. I am not quite certain that the course which the noble Earl suggests is one calculated to have the effect he desires to produce; neither am I sure that there may not be other objections taken to it; but it is, at all events, worthy of your Lordships’ consideration. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Lyveden) has stated that he has no objection to refer the subject of his Motion to the Committee to be moved for by the noble Lord opposite, if granted. As far as the Government is concerned we shall not offer any objection to the proposal of the noble Earl, nor to that of the noble Baron. On the contrary, I think it is very desirable that we should take this opportunity of inquiring into the mode of conducting business in this House; but I think that it can be more advantageously done by moving for a Committee, than by moving for certain Returns, which, unaccompanied by explanations, may lead to false and unfair impressions as to the real merits of the case. With regard to the time spent by your Lordships, irrespective of the measures brought forward, I confess I am not one of those who measure the value and importance of the duties performed by the two 135 Houses by the time occupied in the discharge of them. I am happy to say that the cacoethes loquendi does not prevail in this House to the extent that it does in the other House of Parliament. There are not so many of your Lordships who are anxious to give your opinions upon every subject which is brought under discussion; neither are there so many, I am happy to say, who suggest Amendment after Amendment in Committee. Were we to follow the example of the other House we should find that passing one Bill through Committee would probably absorb the greater portion of the Session. I do not think that the time spent on a particular debate is a measure of its importance. Therefore, a Return of the number of hours occupied and the number of measures passed between February and June would give a false and erroneous impression of the amount of business done by this House, because, as the noble Lord is aware, during the early part of the Session we are waiting for measures from the other House and have nothing to do, whereas, at the end of the Session, we are overwhelmed with business which has to be got through very hastily; and I am sorry to say, that, owing to that circumstance, our duty is often very superficially performed. It is much easier, however, to point out the inconvenience than to suggest a remedy. It may be said that we might in the earlier part of the Session proceed with measures which might fitly occupy the other House at a later period. Now, it does so happen that this Session we have sent down to the other House a greater number of measures than have been sent up to us. The Bills relating to the Metropolitan Traffic, to the Public Schools, and to the Amendment of the Law, which were originated in this House during the present Session, have been sent down to the other House, where they are all tied up, and will have to remain there until July or August; when perhaps the measures which we sent down from this House in March may have to be laid aside in consequence of the other business of the House of Commons occupying their whole time. It is no encouragement to your Lordships to devote your time and attention in the preparation of measures with the perfect conviction in your minds that they will be thrown over, and that you will have to recommence your labours the following Session, Besides this, the greater proportion of the Bills winch pass through Parliament contain 136 provisions with regard to taxation or other money matters which the rules of the House of Commons — whether reasonably or unreasonably I do not pretend to say — prevent us from exercising any control over. At the same time I think it is quite desirable to ascertain whether, by any mode we can adopt, we can secure a more regular and a larger attendance of Members of this House, and whether we can take upon ourselves a larger share of the duties of Parliamentary legislation. I confess I do not see any hope of altering the existing state of things as long as the rules of the House of Commons prevent measures being brought into this House in the early part of the Session. In taking into consideration the proportionate attendance in this House and in that of the other House of Parliament, the greater age of the Members of this House—a much larger proportion of its Members being above the age of sixty than is the case in the House of Commons—should not be overlooked. And this is not unimportant with regard to the question of proxies, the greater age and the increasing infirmities of the most valuable Members of this House preventing them from attending to give their votes in person upon all occasions. I am not going to argue the question of proxies; it is, as the noble Lord says, a very ancient right of the House; but it is never used except upon very rare occasions. Indeed, proxies have only been used in two instances in the course of the last nine years.

LORD LYVEDEN remarked that there had been nine occasions within the last ten years.

THE EARL OF DERBY There were several instances in 1857-8, when proxies were used, but within the last nine years they have only been used on two occasions. It is supposed out of doors that a single Peer can hold an unlimited number of proxies, but actually no Peer can hold more than two; and, so far from your Lordships being taken by surprise by their use, all proxies are entered in a book, with the names of those who are to use them, such book being open to inspection to all Members of the House before 4 o’clock of the day previous to that in which they are to be used. Again; on this subject it should be recollected that they can only be applied to questions of principle not of detail. Proxies cannot be used in Committee. It is no doubt most important, that on all subjects the arguments should be carefully 137 weighed; and there is no doubt that on many great and important questions of principle your Lordships’ judgment is delivered when many have not been present to hear the arguments used on that occasion; but these arguments have been probably used over and over again, and year after year. I cannot think that the use of proxies on such occasions is an improper use. It certainly is not more unreasonable than the power of pairing acted on in the other House, and according to which Members are pledged to abstain from voting until a particular hour, and then they went down to the House to give their votes without knowing the particular questions to be brought forward at the particular moment, and without having heard the arguments—or perhaps for a portion—it may be the greater portion—of a Session, by which Members pledge themselves to a particular course of action in matters of which they have at the time not the slightest conception. Again, I say, there are many most valuable Members of their Lordships’ House, who, from age and infirmity, are unable to give their attendance, but whose opinions on subjects which have been discussed over and over again would be most valuable to the House, and who are enabled by the system of proxies to record their votes on such subjects. That is a very legitimate occasion for the practice of voting by proxy; and, though I do not think it of great consequence if it should be done away with altogether, yet I think there are reasons for it as applying to your Lordships’ House which would not apply to such a practice in the other House. I will not enter further into the discussion of the merits of this question. I think I understood from the noble Lord (Lord Lyveden) that he would have no objection to have the whole matter referred to the Select Committee. Perhaps, then, the noble Lord will consent to withdraw his Motion for the present upon the understanding that not only his Motion, but that of which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Shaftesbury) has given notice for to-morrow, and the addition to be moved by another noble Earl (Earl Granville) will, with the consent of Her Majesty’s Government, be referred to the same Committee. That Committee will have a full opportunity of discussing the various questions comprised in the two notices.

EARL GRANVILLE said, he was glad to hear that the Motion of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), together with the extension, of which he (Earl Granville) had given notice 138, would be acceded to by the Government. There was no doubt that there were two things upon which the public had formed erroneous notions—the attendance of their Lordships in the House, and the amount of business transacted. No doubt, the amount of business to be transacted by their Lordships must have some effect on the attendance of Peers in the House. With respect to attendance, no one could speak with more authority than the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), not only on account of his being the Leader of the Government, but because there was no Peer young or old who attended more assiduously than he did, whether in or out of office. The attendance in this House had been above the average this year, partly owing to the pressure which it was understood he (the Earl of Derby) put upon all those connected with his Government, The attendance of their Lordships depended very much upon the interest attached to the Question upon the Paper, On the one hand, if a large number of Peers came down to the House, and found nothing to do, they were not encouraged to come down the next day. On the other hand, if a noble Lord came down to the House with the intention of bringing forward some question of interest or importance, and found on his arrival only a scanty attendance of Peers, he could not feel the same desire of dealing with the matter as he would have if there were a large attendance. This year one subject alone absorbed the attention of the public—that subject could only be discussed when the Reform Bill came before the House. On other subjects, there was a desire on the Liberal side not to show any party spirit; and it would not add to, but diminish the reputation of the House, if Peers were to debate questions of no practical interest to the public at large. It was never the interest of a Government to raise discussions; it was their business I to get their business done as quietly and promptly as possible. The noble, Earl (who was imperfectly heard) deprecated the use of proxies, answered the reasons given for their use, and strongly recommended that the further exercise of them should be considered in the Committee. The words of reference which he had proposed were purposely vague, in order that the Committee might inquire into the various suggestions which have been made for the 139 more satisfactory transaction of the business of the House.

LORD REDESDALE trusted that the House would not make any change in the mode of conducting the private business of that House, which, from his long experience, he thought he could say worked admirably. He believed that the mode of conducting it in connection with opposed Bills gave very general satisfaction, and he believed that that satisfaction would not arise unless the Peers who served on Committees served voluntarily. He did not think that the same service could be obtained by a system of rota as by the system of Peers serving voluntarily. It was absolutely necessary, in consequence of the great territorial connection of the Peers, that great care should be taken in the formation of Committees on Private Bills. With regard to the business of a public nature transacted by their Lordships in the present Session, he would mention among other measures one of very great importance — the British North America Bill; and, as had been already remarked, their Lordships had already sent down more business to the other House than the other House had sent up to their Lordships. He must remark that one great impediment in the way of legislation by their Lordships’ House was by reason of the privileges claimed by the other House of Parliament. No one was more sensible than himself of the extreme importance of leaving all measures relating to taxation to the other House. It was true that the powers of this House were thereby limited; but still he thought it was a principle which was right in itself, and in regard to which he should not think of asking for any change to be made by the other House of Parliament. With respect to the question of rating, however, it appeared to him that it involved no principle whatever; and there were certainly many measures of local importance which might with advantage be originated and dealt with in that House; and yet even when such Bills came up from the other House they were crippled with reference to Amendments by this claim of privilege. That question had nearly been given up by the House of Commons a good many years ago. A Committee passed a Resolution in favour of relaxing the rules on the subject; but, unfortunately, they reconsidered the Resolution, and the result was that it was not inserted in their Report. The House of Commons had, however, relaxed their privileges in order to 140 enable that House to commence a portion of the private business; and no objection had since been raised in the other House on the subject. He hoped that the House of Commons would take into consideration their privileges respecting local taxation and rating in a manner which would tend to improve legislation in both Houses. As to proxies, perhaps, nobody had had more experience of them than himself, he having been “whip” throughout the stormy political period which followed the passing of the Reform Bill. He confessed he thought there was a great deal to be said in favour of proxies, and that what had been said against them proceeded in great degree from theory and not from a practical knowledge of the conduct of business in the House. People were in the habit of talking about decisions being come to by Peers who had not heard the debates; but, as a plain matter of fact, did not everybody know beforehand how every Peer would vote on questions of importance? As an example of this he might refer to the question of foreign policy raised by the noble Earl who had just sat down. They might depend upon it that every vote given by proxy upon that occasion—which was a party occasion — would have been precisely the same if every Peer had heard the debate. There were, indeed, a certain number of persons who did not hold very decided views, and whose decision might be influenced by a discussion. Some, perhaps, would call them crotchetty and others undecided. Well, this was the very class of Peers who gave their proxies only upon condition that they should be used very carefully, and they usually placed them in the hands of some Peer in whom they reposed confidence. Another point concerning proxies deserved consideration. If a Member of the other House obtained an appointment abroad, he vacated his seat, and his place was at once filled up. In the House of Lords, however, the state of things was altogether different. If a Peer were appointed to a foreign mission, his party would be deprived of his vote altogether unless he were allowed to give it by proxy. Suppose, then, that proxies were abolished, it might possibly happen that the best men would not be appointed to important offices—such as that of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, or of Ambassador at Paris—on account of the Government being unwilling to lose their vote in that House. He thought,  on the whole, that voting by proxy was a very useful arrangement 141. As, however, there appeared to be a great desire that the subject should be investigated, he should be glad if it were referred to a Committee, although he thought the discussions of questions of that kind in the House itself was of more importance than a discussion before a Committee. The real use of any inquiry was to enlighten the public mind in regard to the way in which the business of their Lordships’ House was conducted. He thought that a little discussion would be productive of much good, and was glad, therefore, to have had this opportunity of making known his views on the subject.

THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY said, he paid great deference to the large experience of the noble Lord (the Chairman of Committees) in matters of this kind, but it certainly appeared to him to be not consonant with the dignity of their Lordships’ House, or conducive to the proper transaction of business, that the attendance of Peers on Committees should be entirely voluntary. It would be invidious to mention names, but he might remark that some noble Lords scarcely ever attended that House who were just as able as other noble Lords to take a part in the transaction of business. It was not right that those noble Lords should entirely absent themselves. The noble Lord who had just spoken seemed to think that the attendance of noble Lords on a rota would not secure the efficiency of Committees. He, however, would suggest that at the commencement of every Session, as was done in the other House, an “Excused List” should be made out, and that the names of all Peers who so desired should be placed upon it. [“Oh, oh!”] Well, if any noble Lords desired to be excused, their wishes ought to be taken into consideration. They might be excused on account of great age and other reasons. And he might here remark that Members of the other House not unfrequently obtained leave of absence. He hoped that this question would be discussed by the Committee, and that his suggestion should be adopted. In speaking of proxies he thought the noble Lord had overlooked the moral effect produced by the system in the mind of the public out of doors, who had become impressed with the idea that questions were decided in that House without debate, and by the votes of absent Members. The existence of such an idea obviously tended to lower that House in the estimation of the public, and he thought 142 therefore that it would be exceedingly desirable to abandon the ancient practice of voting by proxy.

THE EARL OF CARNARVON desired to call their Lordships’ attention to the fact that in former times a very large proportion of their Lordships’ House was composed of ecclesiastics. No doubt considerable jealousy existed as between the spiritual Lords and the Lords temporal; and while, on the one hand, the spiritual Lords were anxious to bring their numbers to bear on the deliberations of the House with respect to matters in which they felt interested, it constantly happened that the temporal Lords were absent by order of the King for the discharge of duties in other parts of the kingdom and elsewhere. In that way voting by proxy commenced, the object being to enable the spiritual Lords to express their opinions, and that the Lords absent on the King’s service should be able to record their opinions in Parliament. But if their Lordships looked back through the Journals he thought they would find that the proxy system had been regarded by the House in the interest of the House itself, and not in that of the individual. There was a rule that the proxy of a temporal Lord must always be held by a temporal Peer, and that the proxy of a spiritual Peer must always be held by a spiritual Peer. The great principle which underlaid the proxy question was this—that the use and exercise of the proxy was the privilege of the Mouse, and not a privilege of the individual. But in the course of time that which had been the privilege of the House became absorbed in the consideration of the personal convenience of the individual. Various Motions and Orders had been made on the subject. In the reign of Elizabeth a Motion was made by the Lord Keeper that the Gentleman Usher might be sent to such Lords as were absent from Parliament, and had not sent their proxies, “to admonish them thereof.” They were not to be admonished because they had been absent from Parliament, but because they had not sent their proxies. Several Motions were made during the 17th century, all of which bore more or less the same character as that to which he had just referred. At the end of the 17th century these questions were raised—”First, whether proxies of Peers absent without leave of the House or of the King be allowed; second, whether proxies of Peers absent without the 143 King’s leave, but with leave of the House, be allowed; third, whether proxies of Peers absent without leave of the House be allowed.” All those questions were resolved in the affirmative. He concurred in what had been said as to the direct importance of proxies being very much overrated. Of late years they had been used only very sparingly. But he thought their indirect influence had a very prejudicial effect. They had a prejudicial effect on the opinion of the public out of doors, who did not very well understand the character of the proceedings in their Lordships’ House. The use of proxies gave rise in the public mind to the idea that their Lordships were in the habit of deciding matters, not on the merits, but on grounds of previous prejudice, and that proxies prevailed against the views and votes of the Peers who were present at divisions. Again, the system was unfortunate as regarded Members of the House. It tended to create in the minds of young Peers the belief that their presence in their places there was a matter of indifference. He knew there were several Peers who, had they attended that House habitually and taken part in their Lordships’ deliberations, would have become valuable Members; but they thought they saved their consciences by placing their proxies in the hands of some noble Lord in whom they had confidence, and having done that they absented themselves. He need not point out how certain it was that if the first few years of a Peer’s life were allowed to go by without his attendance in their Lordships’ House, the habit of non-attendance became fixed. In that way their Lordships lost the services of men who would be most useful. A great many changes had been made in respect to their proceedings within the memory of living men. It was only within the last five-and-twenty years that the Minutes of that House were first printed. It was within a shorter period the agenda paper had first been drawn up and circulated. It was only within a very few years divisions in their Lordships’ House had been taken on the present plan. Before that time the votes were taken on a division just as the Peers sat, and much confusion had frequently resulted from that system. The late Earl Stanhope induced the House to alter their practice so as to make it in accordance with that of the House of Commons, and he believed no one regretted the change. He felt convinced that a change from anything that was 144 unsubstantial and unreal would be of service to that House and to the country. Nothing appeared to him to be so fatal to efficiency as a sense of want of reality. If they made it clear to the Peers of England that there was a real obligation and responsibility attached to their position as Members of that House, he was sure that in the spirit which actuated Englishmen generally they would come forward and do their work well and effectually.

Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.

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