HC Deb 05 November 1830 vol 1 cc228-36

The paragraph in the King's Speech relative to the Estimates having been read,

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved that a Supply be granted to his Majesty.

Mr. Hume

said, that though he had refrained from opposing the motion for the Speaker's leaving the Chair, it had not been because he was satisfied with the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. That statement had not convinced him that the Government did not intend to go to war. The right hon. Secretary had not told them whether it would be necessary for this country to have recourse to arms. With regard to the observations which the right hon. Secretary had thought proper to apply to him, he must say, he considered that he had great reason to complain of them. Much more reason had he to complain of the speech of the hon. member for Callington (Mr. Baring). That hon. Member had charged him with making exaggerated statements. What were those statements? When had he made such? Why did not the hon. Member point them out? He complained, too, of the right hon. Secretary for having raked up an expression which he had used in the warmth of debate the other night, or rather morning (for it was past two o'clock, he believed), which expression he had immediately explained. Was this the liberality of the right hon. Secretary? But this was the way in which it was sought to blind the House and the country, to the importance and the necessity of the main question,—which question was, whether there should or should not be a reduction of the burthens of the people. Had he ever made, and been obliged afterwards to recant, such exaggerated statements as the hon. member for Callington made respecting the Bishop of London one night last Session, which he came down and recanted the next night? If he had ever made exaggerated statements, and he had been told of having done so, he had always explained his error, as he always should be happy to do for the future; but, he repeated, he had never been guilty of such exaggerations as the hon. member for Callington had, and that hon. Member, therefore, had no right to charge him with making exaggerated statements, and not explaining them. He would say, that to misrepresent him in this manner was calculated to produce dangerous consequences. He was not surprised at this misrepresentation from the hon. member for Callington, because, generally, when that hon. Member spoke upon any question, he (Mr. Hume) was always in doubt, at the conclusion of the hon. Member's speech, which way the hon. Member had meant to argue, and on which side he meant to vote. He called upon the hon. member for Callington to state what he had ever said that was calculated to inflame the minds of the people? Surely the hon. Member could not have been in the House when he had spoken, for he had then solemnly deprecated all acts of violence on the part of the people, and had declared that such acts were calculated, not to advance their interests, but to furnish new grounds for disregarding their wishes. Was it a fit return for that to hold him up as an incendiary? But the hon. member for Callington had not only complained of his exaggerating the distress of the country, but had almost declared that there was no distress at all among the people. The hon. Member had certainly said, that the country was better off now than it had ever been before during the last fifteen years, and this was about the most incorrect statement that could be made. It might, however, be very well for the hon. member for Callington, with a good rent-roll, and no want of money right and left, to suppose that there was not much distress in the country. But his complaint was, that words had been put into his mouth which he never used, and that the proceedings in former debates had been this evening revived for the purpose of censuring him. The rules of the House forbade this practice, and therefore the right hon. Secretary had been disorderly and irregular. So, also, had the hon. member for Callington been, in alluding to what he had said on a former night; and when he alluded to any,thing that had fallen from him that evening, he challenged the hon. Member to point out the expressions which were calculated to inflame the people. He had been misrepresented on more than one occasion. The other night, the hon. Alderman (Mr. Ald. Waithman) below him, having got "a bee in his bonnet," incorrectly attributed to him what he had never said, [Cries of "Question."] Now, if during this Session he ever heard that word "Question" called, for the purpose of interrupting an hon. Member in debate, he gave fair warning that he would move that the Speaker do leave the Chair, and if only a few Members would stand by him, he would put a stop to that indecent custom. Nothing could be more indecent and unbecoming than for a set of men, who were utterly unworthy of places in the House, to come down there [Cries of "hear, hear!"] yes, pardon him, their conduct justified him in calling them "unworthy," —to come down there to interrupt the Representatives of the people in the discharge of their duty. He did not mean to say that this cry came from Gentlemen connected with the Admiralty, but he had well remarked the corner from which the cry of "Question" constantly came, and he was determined, if the practice were persevered in, to bring the persons guilty of it before the Speaker by complaint. Yes, he would. Let them stay away if they pleased: he did not wish for their presence: but if they did come, let them conduct themselves like grave senators. The hon. member for Callington had told them that he had never heard of Members of Parliament being influenced by money, places, pensions, or sinecures. Good God! Where had the hon. member for Callington lived all his life? If the hon. Member thought that the system was all right, let him change his place in the House; let him take his situation behind the Treasury bench; but let them not have an enemy in their own quarters, and in their own camp. He did not like a snake in the grass. As to what the right hon. Secretary had said upon the same subject, he had only to remind the House, that in what he had said about clinging to the emoluments of office, he had not made any allusion to the bench on which the right hon. Secretary sat. It should, however, be recollected, that there were attached to office, rank, and power, and influence, which might make an impression on those who did not care for the emoluments of office. He would not detain the House any longer, and, after the unfair attacks that had been made upon him, he hoped it would not be thought that he had taken up time unnecessarily.

Mr. Baring

said, that if, in addressing the House, he had ever assumed a tone or appearance which savoured of presumption or arrogance, no man could be more ashamed of such indecorum—no man more anxious to apologize for it—than himself. He trusted, however, that he had never so far forgotten himself,—that he had never been so insensible to the respect which was due from him to the House. If, however, such impropriety of conduct could be fairly charged against him, still a lecture upon such a subject could not possibly have come from a more unfit person than the hon. member for Middlesex. From the manner in which that hon. Member thought proper to address the House, a stranger might suppose that there was no Representative of the people in it but the hon. member for Middlesex,—no one who understood the affairs of Government but the hon. member for Middlesex, and that the hon. member for Middlesex was privi- leged to dictate, on all occasions, and that, too, not in the most becoming language, to all the rest of the Members who composed this branch of the Legislature. He, however, could assure the hon. member for Middlesex, that however unreasonable it might appear to him, he should insist upon his right of forming his own opinion of the measures that might be submitted to the House. If the hon. Member proposed, as he frequently had, measures calculated to benefit the country, he should continue to support him; and if the hon. Member proposed, as also he frequently had, measures of a contrary character, he should still feel it his duty to oppose him, however the hon. Member might be displeased with those who did not happen to view every thing in the same light as himself. Let him also assure the hon. Member, that he should not ask his advice as to his parliamentary conduct, nor allow himself to be dictated to by the hon. Member as to the place in {he House he should occupy. He would not take the hon. Member as a guide, nor submit to him as a dictator. The hon. Member asked, of what exaggeration he had been guilty? To this he replied, without hesitation, that the whole tenour of his speech was exaggeration, and that it had a most inflammatory tendency. This, he thought, must, to the majority of the House, be as manifest as that, since the hon. Member had appeared in his new character, he had displayed himself, not as a debater, but as a dictator. But the hon. Member insisted upon an instance of the exaggeration charged against him. If it were worth while detaining the House with a repetition of the hon. Member's statements, it would not be difficult to give several instances; but this was not worth while, and he would content himself, therefore, with one instance. The hon. Member had represented that Members of that House, in voting money, were influenced by the desire of supporting corrupt institutions, and of feeding placemen and sinecurists. This was a misrepresentation, and one that was calculated to excite inflammation out of doors. If one-half, nay, if one-tenth—of the statements of the hon. Member were true, the Government of the country would be an Augean stable, that would not only require to be cleansed forthwith, but which would justify almost any measures that might be directed towards that object. These exaggerations and mis-statements,— this conduct on the part of men who ought not to be insensible of the consequences they were calculated to produce,—made others who were more prudent, but not less ardent lovers of freedom than themselves, pause before they concurred in reforms to which there would otherwise be no objection. Such language and such conduct displayed anything but a desire to consult the welfare of the community. Upon the subject out of which the present discussion had arisen, he was totally at variance with the hon. Member. He considered it to be prudent, and rational, and statesmanlike, to consider how much money was necessary for the service of the country, and to compare that with the amount of the revenue. If, upon such comparison, it should appear that there was a surplus of revenue, that ought to be applied to the reduction of taxation. A very different course was insisted upon by the hon. Member, who called upon the Ministers, in the first instance, to reduce the taxation of the country,—or, in other words, to take so much from the revenue, before it was known whether the amount of the revenue, as it now stood, was sufficient for the service of the State. For his own part, he could not consider this to be either prudent or statesmanlike.

Mr. Tennyson

said, that he was not in the habit of using strong language in addressing that House, let the subject of the discussion be what it might; and justice towards his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, required him to say, that he did not hear him make use of any expressions which he himself would not have uttered; and his expressions did not deserve the strong remarks which had been made on them. The language used by his hon. friend was not such as to inflame the minds of the people, but was merely a representation of that state of public feeling at this moment to which he was desirous of calling the attention of Parliament. He differed from the opinion entertained by the hon. member for Callington, viz. that it was expedient to soften down the statements of public distress, for he must know that the public ferment was very great. Indeed, no one could deny it, and such ferment would be better allayed by individuals who held seats in that House, stating openly, and even in strong terms, their sentiments upon the subject, (provided the language be not of an exciting character) than by the line which the hon. member for Callington would adopt. The discontented portion of the public would be better satisfied to find that their grievances were exposed in energetic terms. On a former evening his hon. friend did, in the heat of debate, use a word which, on its being censured, he instantly retracted.—[Sir R. Peel said, "No."] His hon. friend retracted it in every sense in which the right hon. Gentleman had a right to condemn it, by explaining, that he merely referred to the removal of Ministers from their places. He admitted that the word "vengeance" was an inappropriate expression, but the explanation ought to have been accepted, and no further observation ought to have been made upon it. With respect to the Motion before the House, he was surprised that the Government should not have come down with some proposition calculated to give comfort to the people. Instead of doing that, Ministers availed themselves of the earliest opportunity to declare that nothing would be done to meet their wishes. First, they were told that not the slightest measure of reform was to be granted, and then that the Government was not prepared to state whether or not any reduction of taxes is to be made. The country was entitled to know whether any, and if any, what reductions were to be effected in the burthens which pressed so heavily on the people. The right hon. Gentleman declined giving any specific information to his hon. friend on the subject, but the House ought to be informed of the probable course that Ministers intended to follow. It was expected throughout the country that a great reduction of taxation would take place this year; and the answer of the right hon. Gentleman would produce nothing but dissatisfaction. Surely, if he were disinclined to enter into particulars, he might say whether any reductions were contemplated—whether the public service would require the same or a less sum than last year; although, until he heard what the new Representatives of the people might say, he might deem it expedient to defer any statement as to the particular taxes to be removed or reduced—a matter which might be hereafter arranged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but the general refusal to answer shewed, either that Ministers were unprepared to meet Parliament, or were determined to keep the public mind in a state of suspense, not necessary for the public service.

Colonel Sibthorp

merely rose to say one word on the present occasion, as he had not an opportunity of doing so on Tuesday evening. If he had been able to attend, he should have supported the amendment of his noble friend, and should Lave expressed his opinion on the conduct of the Administration. He agreed with his hon. friend, the member for Bletchingly, that the country was entitled to know, whether it was the intention of Ministers to propose any reduction of taxation; the people ought to be informed what they were to expect; and before Ministers were entitled to ask for supplies, they ought to pledge themselves that reductions should be made. The people of England had never manifested the least indisposition to grant proper supplies to the Crown; they had always been willing to give their money liberally when they thought it necessary; but when it was demanded for the purpose of supporting-placemen and pensioners, or for building additional wings to Windsor Castle, they might justly desire, being themselves in distress, to keep it in their own pockets. The people of England had entertained Lopes that the Ministers would have come down to the House and proposed some great reduction in taxation. It would have been a subject of great pleasure to all, that such an announcement had been made in the King's Speech; which might Lave administered some relief to the agonies of an impoverished people. A right hon. Gentleman said, that the country was suffering under a passing cloud; but it would be long before the condition of the people was materially improved. He was determined to support the cause of the people. He would support the people, not in their riotous conduct,—for that he should be the first to oppose and put down,—but in their constitutional and legal mode of demanding a reduction of their burthens; and the Ministry not only ought, but would find they must do something more than they had hitherto done, for the relief of the people. He heard with considerable surprise the hon. member for Callington declare, that the country was in an improving condition, and that the people were better off now than at any period since the Peace. He denied the truth of that statement, and maintained that the distress became greater every day. Ministers were bound to relieve the country, and he would require them to work day and night in their offices, until they found some remedy for the present evils. The House had a right to insist that some hope should be held out to the people, and that there was a prospect of speedy relief. The taxes hitherto repealed had not benefitted the great body of the people. No good had been done by the repeal of a paltry tax like the Leather-tax, for shoes and boots were dearer than ever. The people expected the repeal of the Assessed Taxes, which pressed heavily on them. The Ministers and all the pensioners of the State ought to follow the example of his Majesty, and of a noble Marquis, in giving up a portion of their salaries and pensions. If they did that, and repealed a number of taxes, they might regain the confidence of the nation.

The Resolution agreed to; the House resumed.