HC Deb 23 December 1830 vol 2 cc66-71
Lord Althorp

said, by the courtesy of the hon. Gentleman who had a motion on the books, and who had consented to allow him to take precedence, he rose to make the Motion of which notice was given the day before yesterday, for the Adjournment of the House. It would be convenient, he believed, for Members then to return to the country. The period for which it was first intended to move the Adjournment was till the 8th of February, but, on consideration, the Ministers thought the period might be somewhat shortened, and therefore they proposed, that the Adjournment should be till Thursday, February 3rd. He had heard nothing which should make him doubt that the House might then safely and with propriety adjourn, nor did he see anything in the circumstances of the country which should raise up objections to the adjournment, on account of the public business, being for the length of time he had proposed. Gentlemen would recollect, that it was usual for the House to meet at the beginning of February, and at that time the King's Speech was to be delivered, the Address was to be agreed to and adopted, and several days must pass before business could begin. On the present occasion, the House would be ready to begin public business immediately, and there could be no danger that it would not get through that business before the end of the summer. With respect to the situation of the country, there was nothing in that to induce him to make the adjournment shorter. He doubted, indeed, in the present critical situation of the country, whether Gentleman might not be of more benefit to the people by returning home, than by staying in town, and the objections were much greater to keeping them away from their own neighbourhood, than were the objections to adjourning Parliament. He was aware of the difficult situation of the country, but he did not perceive the necessity of making any immediate legislative enactments. He felt that the Gentlemen belonging to the country would, for the present, be better there than here, and therefore he should beg leave to move that the House, at its rising, do adjourn to February 3rd.

General Gascoyne

did not rise to oppose the Motion, but he thought in the present critical state of the country, a shorter period would be better. No one knew what crisis might arise in the mean time —no one knew what might be the state of the metropolis, or the state of foreign affairs; and he should, therefore, have preferred an adjournment for a shorter period, with an understanding, that no meeting should take place till the 3rd of February, unless some special cause arose for a more early meeting. After the House was adjourned there was no possibility of summoning it together again, and there was no knowing what might happen. He would recommend, that the House should only adjourn for a fortnight, with an understanding that if the country then remained tranquil, the House should be adjourned for a fortnight longer.

Colonel Sibthorp

concurred entirely in what had fallen from the gallant General. The state of the country was such that Members of Parliament ought to be on the spot where they were most likely to be useful, and to which they had been culled purposely at an early period. If there were no other business than presenting and discussing petitions, that alone, he thought, ought to be sufficient to induce them to re-assemble early. It would have been better certainly if the country gentlemen had remained in their own neighbourhood, but being away, they ought to remain and carry on the national business. He had no wish to embarrass the Government by making these observations, for he placed great confidence in his Majesty's Ministers.

Mr. Long Wellesley

said, every one admitted, that he was friendly to the Ministers, yet it could not be denied, that many of those who made such professions were most forward to criticise their actions. They were like the hare with many friends —everybody was giving them advice, and everybody was criticising them. For his part, he wished to wait in silent confidence, and he hoped others would act in a similar manner. Ministers had already done a great deal; they had promised more; and, till they had broken their promises, he would give them his support. He was convinced that country gentlemen would be of more service at present among the people than in that House. He differed entirely from the opinions expressed by the gallant General and the gallant Colonel, and thought his Majesty's Ministers were not treated with that courtesy which they deserved, when hints were thrown out that it was necessary to watch their proceedings.

Colonel Sibthorp

wished it to be understood, that he had expressly declared, that he did not want confidence in his Majesty's Ministers.

Lord F. L. Gower

would not say, that he would wait, like the hon. Member, in silent confidence on the Ministry, but certainly he could not join in any of the objections raised to the Motion proposed by the noble Lord. With respect to the adjournment, he thought it would be best to leave the period to be fixed by his Majesty's Ministers; and it was not very fair towards men placed in their situation to object to the term proposed. The presence of Members was more necessary in the country than in the House. The objection to the noble Lord's motion he thought unfair; and he should be the last man in that House to raise any objection which, without cause, might embarrass the Government.

Mr. Briscoe

rose for the purpose of putting a question to the noble Lord, relative to Parliamentary Reform. He did not wish to call on the Ministers for any detail of the nature of the reform which they had in view; but he thought it was due to the House and the country that a question of such vast importance—a question on which the wishes and hearts of the nation were irrevocably fixed, ought to have a day fixed for its discussion in that. House. He did not put the question with any unfriendly feeling to his Majesty's Ministers, or with any view to show that he wanted confidence in them. In answer to calls from several Members, the hon. Member said, his question was, at what time, after the recess, it was the intention of Government to bring forward the question of reform?

Lord Althorp

could not, under the present circumstances, fix any day. He could, however, assure the hon. Gentleman, that it was the most anxious wish of his Majesty's Ministers to introduce to that House the proposition they intended to make on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. He could assure the hon. Gentleman, that the Administration would, at a very early period after the recess, fix a day for bringing forward the question.

Sir Hussey Vivian

approved of the plan of the hon. and gallant Member, for adjourning the House from time to time, in order to watch the occurrences that might arise in the present state of the country.

Mr. Slaney

wished to ask, if his Majesty's Government had any plan under consideration to amend the condition of the peasantry in the southern counties, and remedy the abuses of the Poor-laws?

Lord Althorp

said, there was no plan under the consideration of his Majesty's Government, but the subject was; and if the Administration could devise any plan to remedy the evil, it would be the duty of Ministers to do so.

Mr. Calcraft

said, if there was any subject which could make him doubt the propriety of adjourning the House to the 3rd of February, it was the subject started by the hon. member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Slaney). The distress of the labouring classes was a most important subject, and ought to be taken into consideration as soon as possible. The proposal of the hon. member for Liverpool, he thought was, in his mind, objectionable; for it was hardly possible that the House of Commons, under the existing circumstances of distress in the different counties, could continue to adjourn over from fortnight to fortnight at a time, without creating in the minds of most persons a suspicion that Government considered things in a more alarming state than was warranted by the fact, and disseminating the idea of insecurity and danger. Dismissing, however, the subject of the adjournment, he could not avoid expressing his surprise that the Ministers had thought fit, by a Treasury Minute to make a great alteration with respect to an item of taxation, and yet, although Parliament was sitting, they had not thought it necessary to move any resolution in that House which would sanction such a proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. P. Thomson) had taken it on his own authority to reduce the duty on barilla; and he certainly was a little surprised, that after such a slip or mistake, no attempt had been made to procure from Parliament the approbation of that measure.

Mr. S. Rice

observed, that Ministers, in proposing the adjournment for so long a period, had been actuated by the consideration, amongst other important ones, that the Representatives of the people in Parliament would be at this moment employed, perhaps, more advantageously for their interests, in the particular counties and places they represented, than they would be even within those walls. Public duty, then, not personal convenience to his Majesty's Ministers, had been their object in the proposition respecting the adjournment. The Treasury Minute relative to barilla duties was not without a precedent. He would particularly refer to that of the 25th of February, 1825, authorizing the reduction of the duty on Sulphate of Quinine. Having that precedent, and there existing a particular reason why the duties on barilla should be lowered, the Government had taken the responsibility of doing that on itself.

Sir George Clerk

remarked, that the precedent of the 25th of February, 1825, was one which could not be considered applicable. It removed only certain duties on the sulphate of quinine, an article then recently discovered, and on which the duty could not much exceed, perhaps, 100l.. The duty on barilla, however, was a protecting duty for a manufacture long-established in this country, and between that and the duty on the sulphate of quinine there was no analogy whatever. This, then, could be no precedent for the reduction, at the pleasure of Ministers, of duties so large in amount, more particularly as it had been done whilst that House was sitting. When the duty on thrown silk was reduced to 5s. from 7s. an application was made by Government for a resolution to sanction the proceeding; and Mr. Canning, when, in 1826, under the apprehension of a scarcity, admitted foreign corn to be sold from the warehouses here, to meet the pressing emergency, lost no time in calling Parliament together, in order to get its sanction, in the shape of a vote of indemnity, for an action otherwise commendable in itself.

Mr. George Robinson,

after expressing a hope that the noble Lord, on the part of Government, would disavow the proceeding as a precedent, said, he was encouraged to hope that Government would not attempt to postpone the financial statement late in the Session, but would bring on the budget shortly after the recess.

Lord Althorp

said, that it was not his intention to bring out the budget until the Estimates had been voted, but he would not fail to bring the financial state of the country under consideration at an early period after the recess.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

said, that the trade had been acquainted, by the late Ministers, as early as last June, of their intention to lower the duties on barilla, and therefore he did not think that his right hon. friend was to blame for making the alteration. He was solicitous to know, as the late Ministers contemplated an alteration and revision of the stamp duties, if the present Ministers intended to follow up that projected alteration? Interested as he felt on the subject of marine and life insurances which he stood pledged to bring under the notice of the House, he was anxious to learn the intentions of Government on the subject.

Lord Althorp

said, the bill for that object had been found in the office, and it would be proceeded with as soon as convenient after the re-assembling of Parliament.

The question that the House should, at its rising, adjourn until the 3rd of February next, was then put and agreed to.