HC Deb 28 May 1830 vol 24 cc1193-5

Sir R. Peel moved the order of the day for the Committal of the Sign Manual Bill. On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,

Lord Althorp

said, that when the subject was before the House yesterday, he had expressed a wish that the physicians should be examined; and though they were informed of the King's health upon the responsibility of those who, from their situations, were bound to be scrupulous, yet he still confessed he should rather have had the testimony of the physicians. Upon reconsideration, however, he thought that as the intended duration of the Bill was very short, he would not press for the hearing of evidence by the House; but should it become necessary to renew the Bill between this and the close of the Session, he should feel it proper to call upon the House to hear the testimony of the physicians: at present he should not give the Bill any opposition.

Lord John Russell

said, the only question that called for any remark was the effect of the Bill as a matter of precedent. As the indisposition under which his Majesty at the present moment unhappily laboured did not affect the Royal mind, he considered that the safeguards establish-ed offered sufficient security. As forming a precedent, care should be taken to guard against its being used as a pretext under which, in the event of the Royal mind suffering in any future reign, the Ministers for the time being might keep the King away from the members of his family, or otherwise abuse so great and important a power. He should have thought, therefore, that the examination of the physicians would have been advisable, and in all future cases that course, in his opinion, ought to be pursued. He was perfectly satisfied with the securities provided by this Bill; and if at any future time valid objections should be raised against it, the means of obtaining further securities would be still accessible. The Bill was now understood to pass under the full conviction of Parliament, that it had been informed, upon the responsibility of Ministers, that the Royal mind was not affected by the malady under which his Majesty was suffering, so as to incapacitate him from signifying his pleasure in any case where the Royal signature was necessary.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

entirely concurred with the noble Lord who had just sat down, in thinking that the present Bill was chiefly important in the light of a precedent. It was important to mark the distinction between a new method of signifying the Royal pleasure and a delegation of the Royal authority. It was important, too, that the Bill should not be made to extend beyond a mere case of bodily incapacity for affixing the Sign Manual, and by no means to reach a case wherein the Royal mind might be affected, nor even a case where it might be necessary to delegate the Royal authority in consequence of its being thought material to the recovery of the Sovereign that he should altogether withdraw his mind from business. In such a case it would, of course, be quite right that the Ministers should call for the aid of Parliament in such delegation; but that was a remedy perfectly distinct from the present. As to the existing state of the Royal mind, they had abundant evidence in the form of the Bill, that it was not affected, while that form prevented abuse in case of mental incapacity; for the language of the Bill is, that the Royal assent must be given by word of mouth, which distinctly implied that it was to be given by a person completely cognizant of the nature of the instrument to which he was giving his assent. Hereafter it might be found that other precautions were necessary—and if so, they might be added—whether they were found necessary for the better prevention of abuse, or to guard against the present measure being drawn into any evil precedent.

The House resolved itself into a Committee. The Bill was ordered to be reported, without amendments; the House resumed; the Report was brought up, and the question put, that it be read a third time.

Sir Robert Peel

wished to say in reply to an observation made last night, respecting the crime of forging the Royal Signature stamp, that in the Regency Act there was a clause, enabling his present Majesty, then Prince of Wales, to sign "George, Prince Regent," and the Act did not make the forging that signature treason, but forgery. On the present occasion, the precedent afforded by that Act, was strictly followed; and most hon. Members, he had no doubt, would consider the punishment of forgery abundantly sufficient for such a possible offence. The other precautions contained in the Bill better provided against forgery than would any extraordinary severity which they might introduce in the nature of a penal enactment.

The Bill was passed, and immediately carried up to the Lords by Sir R. Peel.

Back to