HC Deb 26 November 1813 vol 27 cc199-201

On the question for the second reading of the Marine Mutiny Bill,

Mr. Bennet

expressed some surprise at this Bill being hurried through at such an early period of the session.

Sir George Warrender

said, it was necessary that the marines, when serving on shore, should be subject to regulations similar to those of the land forces. The objection in point of time would have been better when his noble friend (lord Castlereagh) moved the Annual Mutiny Bill.

Mr. Manners Sutton

observed, that when the House had come to the resolution of the number of men to be voted for the service of the year, it appeared almost a matter of course, that the Mutiny Bill should be brought in for their regulations.

Mr. Whitbread

could by no means agree with the hon. and learned gentleman, that this was a mere matter of course. Nothing but circumstances of a very peculiar nature could justify the highly unconstitutional introduction of a new Mutiny Bill, at a period so premature. The existing Act would not expire until the 25th of March. It had hitherto been the invariable practice not to introduce a new Bill, until such a period of the session as would just allow of its receiving the royal assent before the expiration of the old. It was certainly easy to see, that under the existing circumstances it might be convenient for parliament to give the crown the power which this Bill conveyed for 16 months, instead of for a year, as usual; but a district and good cause made be stated for so doings. If the hon. gentleman or the noble lord opposite would say, that under the present circumstances the approaching adjournment might be so much extended as to reader it a matter of inconvenience to pass the new Bill before the expiration of that now in force, he would not object to it; but he repeated, that something more was necessary than the explanation given by the hon. baronet.

Lord Castlereagh

said, he was perfectly prepared to concur in the general reasoning of the hon. gentleman on this subject; but he hoped, that under the peculiar circumstances of the present period, there was nothing to rouse the jealousy of parliament, or to induce them to believe that the crown wished to possess the power which this Bill conferred for any other purpose than for the sake of public convenience. In the existing state of affairs, it was the opinion of the crown, that the parliament might adjourn to a period so distant, probably the beginning of March, as would render it difficult to pass the new Bill before the expiration of the old one. He was sure the hon. gentleman, and all who heard him, would agree in the expediency of not running the slightest risk of having no law in existence on this subject. The Bill was proposed as a matter of essential convenience; and the adoption of it could not be adduced in future as a precedent, under circumstances of a dissimilar nature.

Mr. Whitbread

was perfectly satisfied with the statement made by the noble lord. All that he was anxious about was, that the present practice should not form a precedent, which, if it were to pass wholly unnoticed, it might do. He should not have risen again, but for a single word which had dropped from the noble lord in the course of his observations. The noble lord had said, that in the judgment of "the crown," a long adjournment might take place. Now, as it was to be an adjournment, not a prorogation, he did not see what the judgment or opinion of the crown had to do with it.

Lord Castlereagh

replied, that it was by no means inconsistent with the prerogative of the crown to communicate to parliament the expediency of an adjournment for any particular purpose; which communication was generally answered by an adjournment, as a matter of course. All however, that he meant to say on the present occasion was, that in the judgment of the minister is of the crown, the general state of affairs was such, that the meeting of parliament, after the recess, might be deferred until a period somewhat later than ordinary.

The Bill was then read a second time, and ordered to be committed on Monday.

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