HC Deb 20 May 1819 vol 40 cc591-3
Mr. Callaghan

wished to put a question to the chancellor of the exchequer on the subject of an article in the Courier newspaper of this day, which appeared to be, and would be considered by the country, to be official. The article in question was as follows:— "As a parliamentary measure calculated to facilitate bullion payments, it is proposed to make provision for the gradual repayment of the sum of ten millions due to the Bank. Such repayment to take place before the commencement of bullion payments, that is, before the 1st February, 1820."—Now, as this was a subject of the greatest importance to the country, he wished to Know from the right hon. gentleman, whether any intention was really entertained by government of paying to the Bank this sum of ten millions before the 1st February 1820? The article in question expressly stated this to be the principal feature of the resolutions to be moved in both Houses. When the public were filled with apprehensions respecting the diminution of the circulation, such a paragraph, bearing to be official, could not fail to fill them with the greatest alarm. A statement however from the chancellor of the exchequer, of its being an unauthorized paragraph, would relieve them from their anxiety.

Sir John Newport

rose to object to articles in newspapers which any member might choose to consider official, being made the foundation of questions like this. The House were bound to interfere to prevent any question being put to a minister on the subject of an article in a newspaper bearing no signature. In such a case, ministers must either remain silent, or commit the public interest by a premature declaration of their intentions. He rose to protest against a practice which had never yet been suffered, and never would be suffered by the House.

Mr. Grenfell

was surprised that any member should consider any article in a newspaper official. In the resolutions to be moved, there was indeed an allusion to the payment of 10 millions to the Bank, but not a syllable about the time when it was to be paid. He hoped that no answer would be given to a question so irrelevant.

Mr. Callaghan

said, the article in question carried on the face of it the stamp and character of official.

The Speaker

trusted the hon. member would, on a little reflection, be convinced that this was the first time that a question was put to any minister on an article in a newspaper, on a subject of such conse- § quence. A practice like this would be attended with the most inconvenient consequences.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, he felt all the objections to the question which had been stated. He was sorry that the hon. gentleman should have been misled by a private communication to put the question; and he hoped the hon. gentleman would never hereafter consider any article in any newspaper as official. With respect to the paper in question, he could not help saying, that he had seen much in that paper that he entirely disapproved of.