HC Deb 18 May 1830 vol 24 cc831-4
Mr. C. W. Wynn

wished to know what course his right hon. friend intended to take with respect to the resolutions which had been agreed to in the case of Sir Jonah Barrington.

Sir Robert Peel

replied, that the public interest required that some steps should be taken in that case; but in the present state of public business in the House, he hardly knew what day to name for taking the resolutions into consideration, with any hope that they could be brought forward at a reasonable hour. Indeed, such was the state in which the public business now stood, that he felt it would be necessary to introduce some measure for regulating it in the next Session. It was now half-past seven, and that which, properly speaking, was the public business of the evening,—he meant the motions or orders of the day,—had not been commenced, owing to the number of petitions, and the discussions which took place on them. He did not lay the blame on any person, or say that those petitions should not be presented and considered, but some arrangement must be made, by which the fixed business of the day should be brought forward at an early hour. With respect to the case of Sir Jonah Barrington, to which his right hon. friend had referred, he thought it would be extremely inconvenient, and not consistent with what was due to the public interest, to postpone it to the next, or delay it to a very late period in the present Session. Under these circumstances, and considering the state of other business in the House, he thought they should be justified in departing from their ordinary course, and fix it for an early hour on Saturday. He would say, to meet at two o'clock on that day, in order that they might be able to get through it, with the understanding that they should take no other business on that day.

Mr. Hume

said, that he could have no objection to the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, on the subject of the state of business in the House. He, for one, had no objection that the public business—the fixed business—the Orders of the Day or motions—should commence at an earlier hour—say seven o'clock—but that it should also close at a much earlier hour than it did at present—he would suggest twelve o'clock, which he thought was late enough. It was impossible that even the most powerful constitutions should not feel exhausted by the very late hours to which debates were protracted night after night. He would mention, for instance, the case of yesterday: he, who was not a very early riser, got up yesterday morning at seven o'clock, and did not get to bed this morning until a quarter-past four; so that he was twenty-one hours engaged, and had spent the greater part of that time in the House, to which he had come down at twelve o'clock in the day. This was more fatigue than any man ought to be subject to in the discharge of public business, and which few persons could bear long without injury to their health. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned the necessity of some future regulation with respect to the business in that House; and he would suggest to him that one great improvement, by which much of the pressure now felt might be avoided, would be for the House to meet a couple of months earlier than it usually met, and to sit later. He would say, let Parliament be called together in November, and if it were, a great portion of the public business would be despatched before the present usual time of meeting. The want of such a regulation occasioned the inconvenience that was now felt. Surely it would not be said, that twelve o'clock at night was a proper hour for the introduction of a measure to alter the judicial administration in England, and Wales; but a bill for that purpose had been introduced at that hour in the course of this Session. He should hope, therefore, that some regulation would be made by which this inconvenience might be avoided in future, and he did not know a better way than to call Parliament together at an earlier period.

Sir Robert Peel

observed, that the suggestion which he had made did not refer to the convenience of Ministers more than to that of other Members. Considering the business to be done, he did not think, if the House sat the whole year, and transacted public business only from seven to twelve each evening, that the time would be sufficient to get through it. To fix the latter hour as that of adjournment each day would often be attended with great inconvenience. It would occasion frequent adjourned debates, which would render the bringing forward any business fixed for the following day as uncertain as at present, when so many matters stood for the same evening. For instance, if the debate of last night, which lasted till nearly three o'clock, had been adjourned at twelve o'clock, it would have been found much more inconvenient than having it protracted even to that hour. However he had mentioned the necessity of some regulation as to the mode of conducting business in future, not with the view of proposing any thing immediately, but in order that hon. Members might consider the subject, with a view to what might, in future, be advisable.

Mr. Huskisson

thought, that much of the time of the House might be saved if hon. Members, in presenting petitions which related to bills before the House, would abstain from making any remarks on them until the proper time arrived for the discussion. Much of the time of the House was consumed in desultory observations which led to no result. He was aware that he spoke this with a bad grace, as he should have to occupy the House at some length on the subject of the petition which he should have to present on Thursday; but there was a difference between that and the ordinary run of petitions relating to bills—for the subject which he should bring forward was one to which the House could not immediately apply a remedy; though great benefit, which he expected would be the case, might arise from the discussion of it. In the other cases, however, much time might be saved, and greater facilities given to the despatch of the general business of the House, if desultory remarks were avoided.

Lord F. L. Gower

said, that he would now move that the Resolutions respecting Sir Jonah Barrington be taken into consideration on Saturday.

Motion agreed to.