HC Deb 11 June 1811 vol 20 cc570-2
Mr. Hutchinson

stated, that hit anxiety for the repeal of the above act had arisen from a wish to prevent the government of Ireland making use of it as a means of interfering with the constitutional right of the subject to petition. When he originally gave his notice on this subject, it would be recollected, that there was a very thin attendance of gentlemen from Ireland, and since that time he had been obliged to postpone it, owing to a variety of causes, to the present late period of the session. With pleasure he saw that the government of Ireland had not acted on the right hon. gentleman's (Mr. W. Pole) circular letter; and that the right to assemble for the purpose of petitioning, was freely permitted to the people. The Convention Act had been suffered to re-main, as it should do, a dead inoperative letter on the statute book. He had been again induced to put off his motion on account of the absence of many of the representatives of Ireland, and also in consequence of the important motion of his hon. friend (Mr. Parnell) which stood for this evening. He should not, therefore, press the measure on the House during, the present session, but early in the next, he should feel it his duty to bring forward a motion on the subject.

Mr. Wellesley Pole

assured the hon. gentleman, that the Irish government had not altered their line of conduct inconsequence of any measures taken as to the issuing the letter alluded to, nor had they altered, in any degree, the construction they had given at that moment to the Convention Act. He conceived it to be an act essential to the peace of Ireland, and it had been approved of at the time of its passing by some of the most constitutional lawyers. It was merely a declaratory act, and it was thought most proper to make it perpetual, and not limited in point of time. He could not help trusting, that if at any future period any part of the measures of the Irish government for the peace of that country met the notice of that House, they would pause before they gave encouragement to any motion concerning it, in order to have an opportunity for previous investigation. He could assure the hon. gentleman and the House, that the general tenor of the duke of Richmond's administration had been one of conciliation; and it was satisfactory to him to find, that the House had already justified their conduct in the strongest manner possible; and that, upon the late discussion of the Catholic question, no one thought proper to make any observations upon their behaviour to that body, nor to any other body of his Majesty's subjects. They had always left to the Catholics the full, free, and undoubted right to petition the legislature, provided there were nothing in their proceedings to endanger the peace of the country.

Sir John Newport

was still of opinion, notwithstanding all the explanation that had been given, that the exercise of that power given under the Convention Act, was very blameable in the government of Ireland. He disapproved of the warning thrown out by the right hon. gent, as to calling their conduct in question. Was it proper to say, that the power of that House was to remain, as it were, in abeyance, till the Irish government thought proper to inform them that they had done so and so, and propose that inquiry should be made into it? He begged to enter his caveat against such a proposition, and, also, that because no member had particularly adverted to the conduct of the Irish government upon the Catholic question, they consequently approved of it. Although the Convention Act was in force in 1798, that was no reason for its remaining in force now, when the state of that country was so much altered. He hoped, that in the next session, his hon. friend would again bring forward the question of its repeal, for he thought it could not be denominated a mere declaratory law, but an enacting law, carrying matters much further than was necessary.

Mr. Hutchinson

, in explanation, stated, that he did not, by withdrawing his motion for the present, in any degree change his opinion as to the Convention Act; but he did not see the necessity of bringing forward the repeal of it, having foreseen that the Irish government would not again venture to execute the act to oppress the subject, but suffer it to remain a dead letter upon the statute book.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he could not approve of what had been stated as to there being any understanding of the kind alluded to, namely; that the Irish government would not carry into execution the Convention Act. Having heard such a statement made, he conceived it to be the duty of some one of the administration who heard such a statement, to rise up and contradict it.

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