HC Deb 18 April 1815 vol 30 cc658-60
Mr. Bathurst

re-stated the arguments made use of by him on the preceding evening, when moving for leave to bring in a Bill to provide further regulations respecting aliens, which motion was then lost from the thin-ness of the House. He now moved, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal an Act passed in the last session of Parliament, for establishing regulations respecting Aliens arriving in this kingdom, or resident therein, and for establishing regulations respecting Aliens arriving in this kingdom, or residing therein, in certain cases."

Mr. Whitbread

said, that, in his opinion, the Alien Bills from the beginning down to the present day, were a blot on the Statute-book of the country. In two instances of late, the powers of the Alien Act had been abused by those Ministers to whom these powers were entrusted. He alluded to the cases of M. de Berenger, and of M. Correia. Nothing but the danger which the country was supposed to be in from French fraternization, could ever have induced the Legislature to entrust such powers to the Government as were given in the first Alien Act; but no person then contemplated that such a measure would be continued in times of peace. The right hon. gentleman had not assumed the knowledge of the situation in which the country was at present placed. He was sure that the country in general did not know that situation, and that the House knew as little. The power at present vested in Ministers was very ample; they could take measures for ordering all suspected persons out of the country, and if they did not obey that order, imprison them; the names of all who entered this country were registered; masters of ships were liable to penalties who concealed any persons from the knowledge of the Alien Office; and, upon the whole, there were, he conceived, provisions in the present Alien Act amply sufficient to guard against the possibility of any danger from aliens. It had not been stated that there were any persons at present in this country from whom the executive was in danger; and therefore he objected to the vesting Ministers with such powers as might be made the instrument of the grossest oppression against the subjects of other countries. It had lately come to light that Government had delegated the powers vested in them by this Act to the agents of this country abroad; and it had thus been made the instrument of most grievous oppression to certain Spanish subjects, whose arrival atone time would have been hailed in this country, and who at another time were delivered up to the tyranny of Ferdinand 7, and to all the cruelty and injustice of the government carried on by him. It was the same with regard to the Italians. He was of opinion, therefore, that the necessity for the Bill ought to be more clearly shown, and that it should be delayed at least till we were involved, in what he hoped would yet be avoided, a war with France.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that no Bill like the present could be effectual for its object, if it did not arm the Government with powers which might be abused; but the liability to abuse ought to be compared with the danger which it was intended to prevent. The first Alien Act had been introduced in a period of peace, 1792, when we stood in the same relation to France as we did at present. It was at a moment like the present, of all others, when the country was not in the full vigour of its strength, when it was making preparations, and when it was important to prevent the enemy from obtaining such information as might enable them to thwart our measures, if these preparations ended in war, that it became necessary to take every precaution respecting the persons entering this kingdom. By the present Act we could not prevent improper persons from landing; we could only reach those persons by an operose process, Ministers would be deficient in their duty if they did not bring forward a measure like the present at this crisis.

After a few words from lord A. Hamilton and Mr. Sturges Bourne, leave was given to bring in the Bill. It was immediately afterwards brought in, read a firs time, and ordered to be read a second time on Friday.