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be so.

A LONG time has passed since the Prince Consort declared that representative institutions were on their trial in England. There was an outburst of senseless indignation when the remark was made. Every institution is always on its trial in England, and it ought to A vigilant public opinion watches and judges it from day to day, and is prepared to deal with it as it succeeds or fails in the discharge of the work committed to its hands. To this fact we owe the constant re-adaptation of English institutions to changing circumstances, and the fact that hitherto in our history political evolution has successfully effected the transitions which violent revolution has attempted and failed to accomplish in some other countries. The Prince Consort's remark was made with respect to the embarrassment and difficulty which Parliament betrayed in dealing with delicate negotiations for peace and with the conduct of a great war. The implied criticism might be extended now. The House of Commons is on its trial in respect to its capacity, as it is at present organised, to conduct the ordinary business of the country, to pass the necessary measures of legislation, to inform and control the executive, and even to get through in proper time the formal acts on which the working of the administrative machinery of the country depends. It has ceased in any tolerable degree to be a legislative chamber. It resembles somewhat the Waring of Mr. Browning's poem, who paced this London, with no work done, but great works undone. The conduct of the notorious Duke of Newcastle, who, according to Lord Carteret's witty description, always appeared as if he had lost half an hour early in the morning, and was spending the rest of the day in running after it, is typical of proceedings of the House of Commons. The discovery of Parliamentary inefficiency is not new. More than thirty years ago, the late Lord Farnborough, better known as Sir Thomas Erskine May, the closest, most continuous, and most instructed observer of the doings of the House of Commons, proclaimed it, and in an article in the Edinburgh Review suggested what he thought the appropriate remedy.

He proposed that the House of Commons, then consisting of

658 members-we take the scheme as it is stated in the Edinburgh article

should be divided into Six Grand Committees, consisting of about 110 members each, to whom would be added fifteen or twenty Ministers and others who would be nominated to serve on all the Grand Committees. The members would be distributed by a Committee of Selection, subject to approval by the House, in such a manner as to secure an equal representation of political parties, interests, and classes, in all the Committees; and at the same time to maintain in each a preponderance of members more particularly conversant with its peculiar department of business. Thus the Grand Committee of Trade would comprise a large proportion of merchants and of the representatives of commercial constituencies, and the Committee for Courts of Justice an ample complement of 'gentlemen of the long robe.' The constitution and functions of these several Committees would be different; but all would be political representatives of the larger body from which they are drawn, and little Parliaments, as it were, in themselves. The province of one would probably be Religion and Ecclesiastical Affairs; of another, Law and Courts of Justice; of a third, Trade, Shipping, and Manufactures; of a fourth, Local Taxation and Administration; of a fifth, Colonial and Indian Possessions; and of a sixth, Education and General Purposes.1

We are not concerned with Sir Thomas Erskine May's distribution and classification of his suggested Committees, which would no doubt require revision if the task were to be taken in hand now. In 1882, Mr. Gladstone tried in a very limited way the experiment suggested by Sir T. Erskine May, two Standing Committees being appointed on Law and Trade. The scheme gave formal recognition to an irregular usage. What is called the Committee of the whole House practically consists of a succession of Grand Committees spontaneously formed on different Bills. A Committee of the whole House on a Merchant Shipping Bill would be, in the main, a Grand Committee of shipowners and of the representatives of great trading ports, not more qualified by the presence of other members than the Grand Committee suggested by Sir T. Erskine May would be. A Committee of the whole House on the Judicature Bill would be not less essentially that Committee of 'gentlemen of the long robe,' with a fair sprinkling of an unlearned element representing the public and the suitors' interest, in Law and Courts of Justice; and so with the rest. The inconvenience of these informal Grand Committees is that they assume to be the whole House in Committee, and that when any one of them is at work on its particular Bill, the House can do nothing and no other Grand Committee can be sitting. Division of labour and of rest is provided for by the spontaneous action of individuals, according to which, members interested in a measure or in a class of measures attend, while those not interested stay away and, to use the artisan phrase, 'play.' But division of labour is not enough for real efficiency; simultaneity of labour must be associated with it. The making of the separate parts of a watch forms a separate industry; but if the wheels and the springs, the case, the dial, and the hands were made successively, 1 Edinburgh Review, January 1854.

no workman beginning his task until some other workman had finished, and so on in long succession, the making of a watch would be a very long process, the supply of watches would fall very far short of the demand, the indolence and want of skill, or generally the obstructive tactics, of one workman would throw all the rest out of work and pay, into compulsory idleness and starvation. Members of Parliament not being paid for their work, nor by result, avoid some of the more disagreeable of these personal consequences. But the result of attempting to get through all the work of the session in sequence, and by ostensibly employing the whole House upon every portion of its business instead of engaging several portions of it simultaneously in tasks appropriate to them, is that the work of the country is not done. If Standing Committees were in existence, the House might be engaged on the second reading of a Bill or debating some question of policy, while the Committee on Trade was considering the clauses of a Bankruptcy Bill and the Committee on Law was occupied with the provisions of a Judicature Bill.

The present Government has become a convert to the principle of Standing Committees, and one of the procedure resolutions of this year which obstruction prevented its approaching, proposed the creation of three Grand Committees on Law, on Trade, and on Agriculture. It may be questioned whether this division of subjects is sufficient, or whether it might not be conveniently qualified or superseded by another division, by the establishment of Standing Committees for Ireland and Scotland. The Scotch members already constitute practically a Grand Committee on Scotch affairs-a Grand Committee, however, before which little business is allowed to come, mainly because there is no Irish Grand Committee, sitting in a room apart, to which Irish business can be referred. The Irish and Scotch Committees ought to consist mainly, though not exclusively, of Irish and Scotch members. With them all Privy Councillors should be associated, so as to insure the presence on the Committee of the most experienced statesmen of both political parties. Other members specially familiar with or interested in Ireland-to speak of it alone or versed in the subject-matter of the particular measures to be taken into consideration, ought to be added. It may be objected that these large inclusions would swell the Committee to unmanageable dimensions. It might reach a hundred and fifty. The attendance on it would, however, probably not be greater proportionately than the attendance in the House of Commons, in which it is not found necessary to provide accommodation for all the members simultaneously. If a quorum of forty is numerous enough for the House of Commons, a quorum, say, of twenty would be more than ample for a Standing Committee of a hundred and fifty members, and the average attendance would probably not be more than twice or three times the quorum. The Standing Com

mittee on Irish affairs would, of course, like the Committees on Trade and Law, be a substitute for the Committee of the whole House, and would discharge the functions now left to that Committee. The leave to introduce new Bills, and the discussion on the second reading by which they are accepted in principle, would be in the hands of the House at large. No Bills, therefore, except those on which a majority of the House thinks that legislation is desirable, and legislation in the general tendency and on the main outlines of the Bills, would come before the Standing Committee. Wild and revolutionary or otherwise inadmissible projects would be rejected on the second reading. The Committee would, therefore, simply have to do with the amendment of the clauses of the Bill in detail. Of course, the Committee might conceivably revolutionise or destroy any Bill; they might reverse all its provisions, leaving out all its clauses and substituting new ones. But as each Bill, after passing through Committee, would be, as now, reported to the House, it would be easy to restore it as nearly as might be thought desirable to its original form. If the proposed Standing Committee on Irish affairs dealt habitually with Bills in a perverse temper, the reference of Bills to them, which should be left as regards each individual measure to the discretion of the House, would be discontinued, and the Standing Order constituting the Committee would probably be annulled. The experiment would have failed. But no harm would have been done. On the contrary, some good would have been effected, by the proof given that Irish members, such as those whom Ireland now sends to the House of Commons, cannot yet be safely trusted even with specially Irish business. No step would have been taken which could not be promptly recalled. This revocability is the essential condition of safe political experiment. The establishment at once of a subordinate Parliament in Dublin, or of Provincial Councils in some selected cities of the four provinces, would be a revolution which could be set aside only by a counter-revolution.

It is possible that the settlement of the Irish land question by the abolition of the system of dual ownership would abolish the Home Rule question (in the Separatist sense of Home Rule) by removing the motive which has led the tenant-farmers of Ireland to associate themselves with the agitation for an independent Parliament. But apart from this consideration Standing Committees on Irish and Scotch business would be a useful device for relieving the House of Commons as a whole from the weight of business under which it staggers. Legislation to a great extent follows the line of the several nationalities which are combined in the United Kingdom. The Acts of Parliament are numerous in which it is provided that the Act shall apply only, or shall not apply at all, to that part of the United Kingdom called Scotland or Ireland. It seems only natural, therefore, that measures dealing exclusively with Ireland or Scotland

should be referred to Committees consisting mainly of Scotch or Irish members. It may be urged that the House of Commons, if it were divided into half a dozen or more Committees, some of them overlapping each other by the inclusion of the same members, would be lost in its Committees, as the wood is hidden by the trees. It would be dismembered and disintegrated. It would perish as some animals multiply themselves by fissure and scission. The assumption, however, that all the members of a Standing Committee would habitually or frequently attend its sittings is, as we have already seen, as absurd as to suppose that all the six hundred and seventy members of the House of Commons are habitually, or indeed ever, in simultaneous attendance. There would be a natural distribution of members and division of labour according to interest and taste. Members with a liking for detail, or specially interested in a particular Bill, would attend the Committee upon it. The component parts of each Committee would vary with the business before it. Members whose taste is not for detail would attend by way of preference the sittings of the House as a whole, reinforced by those who were not interested in the matter which might happen at any given time to be before the Committee to which they belonged. It may be objected that while the Standing Committees may reasonably consist of separate fractions of the whole House, nevertheless all the elements of the House at large should be represented in the proceedings by which, on the second reading, assent is given to the principle of a Bill, or when on report and on the third reading it is formally reviewed and passed, and that this would be impossible if Committees are sitting simultaneously with the sitting of the whole House. This objection proceeds on the assumption that members sit through the debates. The whole House, or its habitually working members, are present in the division lobbies when the division bell summons them. They are summoned by it from gossip in the smoking room, from letter-writing in the library, from lounging on the terrace. Under the new arrangement they, or such of them as were engaged in it, would be summoned from useful work on the Standing Committees. This would be all the difference. We assume that the Standing Committees and the House as a whole would usually be sitting at the same time. This would be the case if the new procedure rule which establishes morning sittings were adopted.

If, after an experience enough to give confidence in the result, it was found that the Standing Committee on Ireland was a useful instrument in legislation for Ireland, and sensibly relieved the House of Commons from other work than that of origination and final sanction, the task of revision and amendment being rarely called for, or being reduced to a minimum, the functions of the Grand Committee might be cautiously enlarged. It might be allowed to initiate measures and to prepare them for submission to the Imperial

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