said, he would, as shortly as possible, introduce to the House the motion of which he had given notice, with respect to the distribution of business, and the hour at which, under existing circumstances, the House ought daily to assemble. He was well aware that any hon. Member who attempted to introduce a system, with regard to the course of proceedings in that House, contrary to that which had long prevailed, ought to be able to advance very strong reasons in support of his proposition. Many Gentlemen, who had not had the same experience in the House which had fallen to his lot, might think, and indeed did think, that the rules and orders which governed the proceedings of the House at present, were complex and unnecessary; and in the truth of that proposition he was inclined to agree. In his opinion, the fullest and fairest latitude of discussion should be allowed to every question that came before them. It appeared to him, that no discussion that ever took place on any subject that was introduced to the House could be considered unnecessary—because it was right, that the utmost care should be taken to give to every person an opportunity of stating his sentiments, for the purpose either of defeating, or supporting and improving any given measure that came under their consideration. With that conviction on his mind, it might be asked, why he was about to propose an alteration in the existing system? He meant to propose no alteration with reference to the stages of a bill, but only with 702 respect to the time to be selected for its consideration. According to the principle on which discussions proceeded in that House, no day was originally fixed for Orders; but he who was able to catch the eye of the Speaker might bring forward any measure with which he was connected. He thought, however, that a subsequent Resolution, by which Orders of the Day and Notices were specified to have precedence of each other on stated days, was conducive to the despatch of business. That Orders of the Day should take precedence of Notices of Motion, on certain days, was an annual Resolution of the House; an order placed in their hands, which they might alter or vary as they pleased, in considering the most effectual means of expediting the business before them. Since he came into Parliament, two days had been set apart for orders; and Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays were generally left open for notices. In this session an innovation was made, by agreeing that Wednesday should also be an order day. Thus it stood, that Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were order days, when orders were to take precedence of notices, and Tuesdays and Thursdays alone were appropriated to notices; since which Saturday had been added, not permanently, but on account of the pressing business at present before the House. At present, therefore, notices of motion, no matter what the importance or unimportance of the subject, might be brought forward on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, so as to stop any proceeding in furtherance of the Reform Bill. This had occurred on Tuesday last, when the motion of the hon. member for Cricklade wholly occupied the time of the House, and prevented them from making any progress with the Reform Bill. Now, knowing that much time must yet be occupied in the discussion of this Bill, knowing also the anxiety of the public mind for its completion, he would ask, whether it was not fitting that they should adopt measures to expedite and press forward that important Bill? Was it not known to every Gentleman, that, in consequence of this Bill, all public business in that House was at a stand? They had not been able to legislate on the subject of wines, of sugar, of stamp duties, and a long list of other important questions remained untouched. No one public measure connected with the trade, the 703 commerce, and the finances of the country, had been brought forward in this session, and he would venture to assert, that none could be brought forward until this great and paramount measure, towards which the attention of the whole empire was directed, was settled and disposed of. They were sitting there, pretending to transact the general business of the country; but they were not transacting, and could not, under existing circumstances, transact that business. Would it not be better, then, if they devoted their whole force and energy to this one question, and avoid other business till it was finally settled? They then could, with far greater advantage proceed with the general business of the nation. That they ought to proceed thus, was not his solitary opinion; it was the opinion held by many thousand intelligent people. A general meeting had been held at Bristol, at which a petition was agreed to, calling on that House to proceed with the question of Reform, to the exclusion of debates upon (in comparison with that great question) petty interests. He had at home two petitions from London to the same effect. In short, in every part of the country there appeared to be a simultaneous wish, on the part of the people, that such a measure as he was about to propose should be adopted. If it were not adopted, the consequence would be, that the whole business of Parliament, public and private, would be stopped, and the mischief to the country would be incalculable. There was not one of the measures connected with the finances and commerce of the country that ought to be passed without the fullest and fairest discussion; and he would ask hon. Members—he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the experience of the last five weeks before him, what hope he had that subjects vitally affecting the interests of the country could, in the present moment of excitement, be calmly and carefully discussed? If he now asked the House to depart from its usual course of proceeding, it was only for a time—it was only until this most important Bill was disposed of. The King, in the exercise of his royal prerogative, dissolved the last Parliament, and called a new one, for the purpose of taking the opinion of the country on this measure; and, he believed, in the hope of carrying this measure. Was he not, then, justified in asking the 704 House to proceed earnestly and seriously to the decision of that one vital question, for the consideration of which he would say, that Parliament was almost specially assembled; and, by the decision of which alone, they could hope to proceed successfully with the other public business? With respect to the delay which had taken place, he did not mean to challenge the motives of any hon. Members for the part they had taken in the course of the discussion. Every hon. Member had an undoubted right to adopt that course which he conceived to be most fitting, either in furtherance of, or in opposition to, any measure that was brought before the House. Still it could not be denied, that great and most inconvenient delay had taken place, and it appeared to him, that the business would be best disposed of by that House meeting earlier, even, if it were necessary, at ten o'clock in the morning, when men had their faculties about them, instead of proceeding to business after dinner, as many hon. Members were in the habit of doing. He did not mean to insinuate anything unfair or improper. But he would ask, whether, after a good and plentiful dinner, or without any dinner, a man was likely to be in a fit frame of mind for legislation? Though this was the second Parliament to which this question was submitted, still he would assume, that the discussion in both Sessions took place on the same Bill. Now, looking to the number of hours and days which the House had been employed about this, the first, Bill—considering the immense portion of time that had been taken up, and the small progress which had been made—recollecting that there were three Bills to be discussed, and he supposed that they must be passed, or settled in some manner, before Parliament separated—calling these circumstances to mind, it appeared to him, that if, hereafter, they proceeded with no greater rapidity than they had already used, that a whole year would not be sufficient for the completion of their labours. He would now briefly, from a calculation which he had made, point out to the House the time that had already been consumed in debating this measure. The motion for leave to bring in a Bill, which was brought forward on the 1st of March, 1831, was debated for seven days. The motion for the second reading occupied two days, and that for going into a Committee also 705 two days. There were thus eleven days' debate on the question in the last Parliament, and the number of hours consumed was ninety-two. In the present Parliament, the motion for introducing the Bill was made on the 24th of June. The debate on the question for the second reading occupied three days, that on going into Committee two days, and they were now in Committee twenty-nine days, making a total of thirty-four days' debate in the present Session, the number of hours consumed being upwards of 250. A great deal of labour and time had thus been expended to little purpose in the two Sessions. The average duration of the debates was seven hours a day in this Session, and they had now only arrived at the twenty-first clause of the first Bill. In the two Sessions, they had debated for no less than forty-five days, and consumed 342 hours and a half in the consideration of this measure, and yet they had made comparatively little progress. After this statement, he would ask whether, at this rate of proceeding, there was any hope of their finishing the Bill now before them, and the two other Bills, in the course of the present year, unless more time were devoted to the subject—unless Gentlemen were called on to attend the House at an hour when they were fresh for work—and unless hon. Members abstained from interposing other questions for debate? He knew very well that, even if his proposition were agreed to, it would be in the power of any hon. Member, on the motion "that the Speaker do leave the Chair," to defeat his object, by moving, as an Amendment, any question which he might think proper to introduce. But if that were the case—if any hon. Member by that means arrested the progress of the Bill—there would be at least this consolation, that the House and the country would know who that Member was. He admitted, that he had himself interposed a motion of very great importance, relative to the allowing Representatives to the colonies, which occupied the House three hours the other evening. He admitted the fact; but, important as the subject was, if he had been aware, at the time, of the consequences which followed from the example that he had thus set to others, he certainly would not have interposed that motion. He had, however, all through these debates, except on that one occasion, been silent. During these 350 hours of debate, he had not, he be- 706 lieved, taken up five minutes of the time of the House. Considering the state of excitement in which the country was placed, knowing that hon. Members began to perform their present duties with reluctance and regret, and that they looked forward almost with dread to the prospect before them, he thought that he was warranted in calling on the House to come to that speedy result which he recommended. There was no other mode likely, in his opinion, of arriving at that speedy result, except the one which he now proposed. If he succeeded in his first motion, he should then submit a proposition as to the hour at which the House should daily meet. He knew it would be said, that Gentlemen would find it very difficult to attend in their places for twelve hours. For his own part, he had often found it necessary to attend for twelve hours, and that, too, without dining. He saw no difficulty whatever in the House meeting at twelve, and sitting till the same hour; Gentlemen would have ample opportunity for dining, and, as they pleased, some could indulge for a shorter, some for a longer, time. He was well aware, that it was impossible to submit any proposition of this kind to which some objections might not be offered; but, under all the circumstances, they were, he thought, warranted in making the trial. He would say, let the House meet at twelve, and let no petitions be presented, on five days of the week, except such as regarded this vital question. He would say, let the general public business stand over until this paramount measure was settled. His proposition was, "that Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, should be Order Days." The effect of this arrangement would be, that Monday would be open for discussion of any kind, and there would be five days left for the despatch of the Reform Bill, the House meeting at twelve o'clock each day. It had been suggested to him, that if the House met at twelve, they might proceed till six in Committee, with the Reform Bill; that the Speaker might then take the Chair for an hour, to receive petitions, and that the consideration of the Reform Bill might afterwards be resumed. But if the main proposition were agreed to, it would not be difficult to settle the details. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—"That in this present Session of Parliament, all Orders of the Day, set down in the Order-book for 707 Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, shall have precedence of all notices set down for those days."
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that for himself he would fairly and openly say, that it did not appear to him that the Motion which his hon. friend had made would have any great effect in expediting the business of the House. There was one class of persons, those connected with public business, to whom the proposition for meeting at twelve o'clock would be extremely inconvenient. Individuals placed in his own situation would frequently find it difficult to comply with such a regulation. He did not say this with reference to any inconvenience to which he might be put. He was perfectly ready to encounter that inconvenience, if it were the wish of the House, or the desire of those who were anxious for the success and the speedy progress of the Bill, to adopt the proposition of his hon. friend. He very much wished, however, to hear the opinion of the House on the subject.
reminded the noble Lord, that the motion before the House did not relate to the hour of meeting, but to the giving precedence to orders on three additional days.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he objected very much to the mode and form of that proposition, especially as the benefit that was contemplated by its adoption could be secured in a different mode. If the House sat at twelve o'clock on those days, they might proceed for a certain number of hours, till three or four o'clock, with the Reform Bill, like a Committee up-stairs, and afterwards take notices. He could not consent that Orders of the Day should entirely exclude Notices. He conceived that such a proposition was objectionable in principle, and would not be beneficial in practice. The preferable mode would be, to go on in the early part of the day, for a certain number of hours, with the Reform Bill, and then to proceed with other business; before proceeding further, however, he would much prefer to hear the opinions of other Gentlemen.
said, the noble Lord had acted most candidly and fairly to the House. He had expressed his desire, before proceeding further, to hear the opinion of the House on the hon. Member's proposition. He, however, believed, that it was the universal wish of the House to 708 listen to the opinion of the noble Lord in the first instance. He gathered, from what had fallen from the noble Lord, that he was really opposed to both parts of the hon. Member's proposition. He concurred entirely in the observation of the noble Lord, that the early meeting of the House was not likely to promote that acceleration of business which the hon. Member expected. When the noble Lord stated, that so far as he was concerned, he was ready to make any personal sacrifice to the discharge of his duties in that House—that he was willing to bear the additional fatigue which the necessity of coming down to the House at twelve o'clock must inevitably impose upon him—when the noble Lord said this, he (Mr. Herries) must observe, that there were two parties to be consulted upon that point. Not only the noble Lord and his colleagues, who would be required to come down to the House to discharge their parliamentary duties, but the great body of the public. The interests of the public service must be consulted, and he was certain they would greatly suffer if such a plan were carried into effect. If he knew any thing at all of the duties of public office—if he, by his limited experience, was at all competent to form an opinion on that subject—then he would contend, that great public inconvenience must be the necessary result, if a Minister of the Crown were obliged every day to come down to that House at the hour proposed by the hon. Member. Very serious inconvenience must accrue to the public service if such a system were admitted. Upon these public considerations, and leaving out of the question those of a personal nature, as connected with the convenience of individuals in office, he could not agree to the second proposition which the hon. Member intended to move if he succeeded with the first. The first proposition, which was now before the House, laid it down, as a general and invariable rule, that orders should always, at least in the present Session, take precedence. In this he could not concur; and even if the Resolution were agreed to, it would avail nothing; because, in practice, it would be competent for any hon. Member, at any time, to interrupt this arrangement; and on an infinite variety of occasions, it might he proper, and sometimes indispensably necessary, for Members, in the pursuit of important information to interfere with it. Were they to be prevented by a Resolution 709 of this kind from making inquiries with respect to subjects deeply interesting to this great country? Were they to be precluded, when events of the utmost importance were passing before their eyes, from making motions connected with the public service, and with the public policy? When cases of the utmost urgency arose, were they to remain silent, because, forsooth, there was one subject to which alone their attention should be directed, and which must, therefore, take precedence of all others? This was an entirely mistaken view of the case—a false and erroneous estimate of this subject, as compared with many others which were of a more pressing nature. The Reform measure was not one of immediate operation, but of prospective improvement. It could not be carried into effect in a day, but would take a long time, if it ever were agreed to, before it was matured and called into operation. There was, he contended, business of much greater and more pressing importance before the House—business which much better deserved to be attended to instanter than this Bill deserved to be passed instanter. If it ever were passed, it was to be hoped that it would first assume a more intelligible form—that it would appear with fewer "imperfections on its head" than were at present observable in it. The hon. member for Middlesex said, that he imputed to no Gentleman a desire to encourage unnecessary delay, and he was sure that the hon. Member had meant what he said. Now, the noble Lord had observed, that, in his opinion, early attendance would not promote the object of the hon. Member—that of expediting the Bill. But it was, he supposed, not only the object of the hon. Member to pass the Bill, but also to pass it in as perfect a form as possible. How, then, was that object most likely to be effected? Unquestionably, by bringing to its consideration the greatest possible amount of talent and knowledge. If this were the case (and who could doubt it?) then he would say, that the plan proposed, for meeting at twelve o'clock, was more likely to defeat that object than to forward it. There were a great number of Gentlemen, who could give valuable assistance in effecting that object—namely, in rendering the Bill more perfect—who could not come forward if the hon. Member's proposition succeeded. Those Gentlemen did not 710 possess the Herculean strength of the hon. Member, which enabled him, without any inconvenience to labour night and day. Although possessed of as sound a judgment, and of as acute faculties, as the hon. Member, although they were perfectly capable of affording great assistance in the discussion of the Bill, yet they were physically unable to undergo the hardship that would be imposed on them, if they were called on to attend every day at twelve o'clock; and, therefore, the Bill would pass without that temperate but extended discussion, which every one must wish that it should receive. The hon. member for Middlesex stated, that out of 350 hours which were passed in debating the Reform Bill in that House, he had only taken up its time about three hours. The hon. Member, however, had added another hour this evening; so that he had occupied four hours altogether; and if every other Gentleman in the House occupied as much time, instead of 350 hours, the debates on this Bill would have occupied 2,630 hours. Though the hon. member for Middlesex, therefore, took credit to himself for having occupied so little of the time of the House, it was quite clear he had his fair share of the discussions on this Bill. He put it to the noble Lord opposite, whether it was advisable to press the measure to a sudden termination, when it was acknowledged that the Bill was at present in an imperfect state. He agreed with his right hon. friend, the member for Tamworth, that the discussion of the measure should be deferred for the present; their object should be, not so much to accelerate the progress of the Bill, as to render it perfect, or at least as free from imperfections as possible. But the noble Lord and his colleagues advocated the measure, not that they conceived it a wise one, but that it was necessary to satisfy the wishes of the people. They said, that nothing less than this Bill would satisfy the people. But the Members of the Opposition differed from the noble Lord and his colleagues, both on the wisdom of the measure, and the extent to which the people desired it to be carried. The people were now wiser, and entertained more rational opinions on the subject, than three months ago. If the noble Lord would consent to postpone the measure for another three months, according to the suggestion formerly made by his right hon. friend, and permit the public mind to 711 dwell coolly on the matter, he was ready to say, that the noble Lord would not venture to assert at the termination of that postponement that the people would not be satisfied with any thing short of that Bill. At all events he was convinced, that the people, after they had given the subject mature consideration, would see the folly of the measure. The people would then cease to be influenced by the delusion which had been practised on them, and the House would decide upon the merits of the measure by their own unbiassed judgment, without being influenced by the inclinations of the people. He was anxious to express his opinion, and to offer his advice upon the subject. He would assure Gentlemen opposite, that if he were in the situation of the noble Lord and his colleagues, he would act precisely as he had recommended them to do. By postponing this question, they would be better able to ascertain the real sentiments of the people. He should certainly dissent from the Motion, as he thought it would prove an injury to the public service, and an unconstitutional interference with the functions of the House.
§ Sir John Newport
could not suppose that either the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, with whom the proposal originated, or the right hon. Gentleman who had just repeated it, could be in earnest when he proposed the adjournment of the discussion on the Reform Bill for three months.
rose to order, and complained, that the right hon. Baronet was putting an erroneous interpretation on a proposition which he assured the House he had urged most seriously and sincerely.
§ Sir John Newport
thought he had a right to put his own interpretation on the right hon. Member's proposition, and he confessed it appeared to him to be too ludicrous a proposition to be entertained for a moment by any one who had the carrying of the Reform Bill at heart, though he admitted it was natural enough coming from those who wished to defeat that great measure. What occasion was there to have recourse to an adjournment, to discover the sentiments of the people on the question? It was stated in the King's Speech from the Throne, that the motive for dissolving the last Parliament was, to ascertain the sense of the people on this subject. The people had already expressed their opinion of the Bill in a 712 constitutional manner, but not, perhaps, in a way agreeable to the right hon. Gentleman. He was not at a loss to discover a reason for the right hon. Member's anxiety for delay. Members for nomination boroughs were no doubt anxious to protract the period of their existence in that House; for when that Bill passed, the right hon. Member, and several other hon. and right hon. Members, might find it difficult to get back again into that House. He thought the measure of Reform one of paramount importance, and entitled to have precedence of every other. In his opinion, if they met at twelve o'clock in the day, they would be in a much better condition, both with regard to health and temper, than they could be by sitting up until one or two o'clock in the morning. He thought that other subjects should give way to this important question, which was called for by the anxious wishes of the people, who were every day more and more desirous of seeing it brought to a successful issue. No man who knew the feelings of the people, could assert, that it would not create great irritation and exasperation if the further discussion of the Bill was postponed for three months. It being his anxious desire to satisfy the just wishes of the people on this subject, he should give his hearty assent to the motion of the hon. member for Middlesex.
could assure the right hon. Baronet, that he was perfectly serious in making his suggestion; and he could, also, assure that hon. Member, that he never had made, and never would make, a suggestion which he did not seriously think deserving the attention and support of the House. He hoped that the right hon. Baronet would, therefore, see the propriety of withdrawing the imputation he had thrown out on him, of not being serious.
Mr. Keith Douglas
thought that meeting at twelve o'clock, so far from facilitating the progress of the Reform Bill, would render the discussion of it interminable. He objected to deferring to public opinion on the subject, as the noble Lord seemed inclined to do; and he recommended the noble Lord to adhere steadily to the rules and practice of the House. As well as adopt the proposition of the hon. Member, they might suspend all the Orders of the House, and send the Bill to the other House at once; but if that were done, 713 would the people be satisfied that the measure was a good and proper measure? He knew, that many Gentlemen who were sent to the House to press the Bill thought the measure not so perfect as it ought to be. That was a common opinion among its supporters. They, however, hurried the Bill on, wishing, he was afraid, to throw all the odium of rejecting it on the other House of Parliament, which was neither just nor fair. In society the Bill was generally condemned, and therefore he did not approve of hurrying it through the House. As it was proposed to sit all day and all night, there ought to be a double Chairman and a double set of Members; for he did not conceive, that any set of men could hold out without some rest or relaxation.
§ Mr. Protheroe
thought the proposition of the hon. member for Middlesex reasonable. He would have no objection to postpone other matter, with a view to expedite the Reform question. He would, however, recommend that an interval of two hours should be allowed for dinner, after which they would be better prepared to resume business [a laugh.] Though Members might smile, it was, notwithstanding, necessary that their wants should be supplied. He would support the Motion.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
rose to second that Motion, as he could not say, that either of the other propositions before the House had his approbation. Even the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, admitted that meeting at twelve o'clock in the morning would not facilitate the business which he thought should supersede all others. The hon. member for Bristol (Mr. Protheroe) thought they should sit from twelve in the day until twelve at night; but then they must have a parenthesis to dine in. The parenthesis, however, would be long or short, according to the strength and appetite of the diners, and he much doubted whether the discussions would always be carried on so satisfactorily, or so quietly, after this parenthesis. Seriously, however, he thought it would be a loss of time, and that whether their sitting was in the day or at night, it ought to be continuous. His 714 chief objection to the motion of the hon. member for Middlesex was, that it would put the discussions of that House entirely under the control of Ministers. If such a motion was agreed to, the deliberative functions of the House of Commons would be superseded, and its independence prostrated and made vassal. But there was another objection to the Motion. Supposing the Bill was to pass, when was it to be carried into effect? The towns were not yet made—the counties were not divided—the commission for determining on these matters was not yet appointed. No elections, he ventured to assert, could take place under this Bill for at least twelve months after it had passed; and why should the House be called upon to adopt an unprecedented and unconstitutional proceeding, in order to facilitate the discussion on a Bill, which must lie by for ten or twelve months after it was passed before it could be carried into operation? But then it had been said, that this Parliament was called expressly to pass the Reform Bill. That, however, was a most unconstitutional doctrine. The Crown could not call a Parliament to pass any measure. The principle was, indeed, adopted in the tyrannical age of James 2nd, when the Crown dissolved one Parliament to call together another, which it was intended should become the creature of the Crown; but he hoped so bad a precedent was not now to be acted upon. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Waterford, had stated, that the call for the Bill was every day more urgent; that the public impatience for its passing was rapidly increasing; in short, that the public was more than ever enamoured of the Bill. He should be glad to know, however, where the right hon. Baronet picked up his opinion as to this increased amatory disposition. It certainly was not on the banks of the Liffey, for the city of Dublin, which, three months ago, sent two stanch Reformers, had now returned two Anti-reformers. It might be said, however, that this was only an evidence of the change of public opinion in Ireland; but had not the same change manifested itself at the recent elections in England? At Weymouth an Anti reformer was returned; and at the late election for Great Grimsby, two Members who had been smitten with the love of the Bill were superseded by two others by no means enamoured of it. But it did not rest here. Even the Livery 715 of London, and he wished to speak of all persons with respect, but the livery of London, which was about to meet a few weeks ago to petition Parliament to accelerate the Bill, and was about to cashier one of its Representatives for voting for inquiring into a part of it, had sent down two of its Representatives last night to protest against clause twenty-one, which would let in upon the citizens an influx of voters, under the description of lodgers, who, without taking upon themselves any part of the civic burthens, would enjoy all the rights of the freemen in voting for representatives. The two worthy Aldermen had properly protested against such an infringement on the rights of the city, and properly called upon his Majesty's Ministers to alter the clause so as to protect the rights of the citizens. The Bill, therefore, he believed was rapidly retrograding in public opinion everywhere, even in that primum mobile of liberalism, the meetings of the livery of London. One word as to the hon. member for Middlesex, who took so much credit to himself for not lengthening the discussions on the Reform Bill as much as other hon. Members had done. If the hon. member for Middlesex had thought fit to be so abstemious as that he only spoke three or four hours on the Reform Bill, he had indulged pretty freely, and he (Sir C. Wetherell) admitted, very usefully, on the various other topics connected with the army and navy, and every branch of finance. Three or four hours was but a small proportion of the time which the hon. member for Middlesex occupied, properly and usefully, in discussing questions in that House; no matter whether the subject was wine or Windsor Castle—beer or Belgium—sugar or soap—molasses or militia—
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
thanked the hon. Member for that hint, and he would give him another alliteration for it, Church or Chancery fees—tea or tithes—there were no two subjects, whatever might be their discrepancy in initials, or their alliterative qualities, which the hon. member for Middlesex had not constantly spoken upon, to the great benefit of the public, but with no inconsiderable expenditure of the time of that House. The hon. Member, therefore, had no right to take credit to himself for not speaking very often on the Reform Bill, or to complain greatly of others who 716 had done so. He could not help remarking, that hon. Members who had spoken on this motion had noticed all other speakers but the Speaker in the Chair. His health seemed to have been unattended to, and yet the House ought to have some consideration for the fatigue undergone by Mr. Speaker. The House was entreated to be more diligent; but he would remind the hon. member for Middlesex, that there was a diligence called the socordia diligentiœ, which, by affecting to do something, did nothing at all. The House would not preserve its own dignity if it permitted external pressure, from any class of persons whatsoever, to have any influence on its proceedings.
§ Sir John Newport
said, that the hon. Gentleman had put words into his mouth which he had never used. He had never stated, that the Ministers of the Crown had caused Parliament to be dissolved in order to pass the Reform Bill. What he had stated was, that his Majesty had dissolved Parliament in order to ascertain from the people what was their opinion upon this momentous subject. That was his statement, and he repeated it. He would leave it to the House to judge how far it was the object of the senior Alderman of Bristol (Sir Charles Wetherell) to promote or retard the Reform Bill.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that he had before stated, that he felt considerable doubt whether a sitting in the morning would accelerate the progress of the Bill. He did not think it possible, that the House would be able to do more by sitting in the morning than it did now, when it gave daily about eight hours continuous attention to the Bill. He could not agree to exclude entirely all other questions; but it had been the case that other questions had been, in some degree, excluded. It was best at once to state what had really prevented the House giving eight hours a day constant attention to the Bill. It was, that there had been long discussions and debates on petitions, without any immediate result. That had frequently prevented the House beginning business at five o' clock, as had been intended. If that could be avoided, the House would gain much time. Would the House proceed more expeditiously in the morning than in the evening? The House had had some experience of morning sittings. They did make some progress on one or two Saturdays, when they postponed questions upon 717 which discussion was likely to arise; but, when that was not the case, the advantage was not so great as some Gentlemen had imagined. Having stated this, he wished to be guided by the feelings of the House. When he talked of pressure, he did not mean the pressure out of doors: the pressure on him was pressure in doors. Many Gentlemen thought, that a great advantage would be gained by sitting in the morning, and he felt some deference for the opinion of those Gentlemen. His own opinion was, that if the House was really to commence business at five o'clock, and sit till one or two in the morning, business would proceed as quickly as if the House sat at one in the afternoon. He wished that the hon. member for Middlesex would withdraw his motion, upon the understanding that in discussing petitions, Gentlemen would not go to so great a length as to interfere with the public business. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had made an allusion which it was impossible to omit noticing. He had alluded to the labour which the Speaker underwent. No man appreciated the exertions of the Speaker more than he did; but, practically speaking, this question did not increase the labour of the Speaker to the degree that it would if the House was not generally in a Committee.
Sir Robert Peel
wished he was able to exercise some influence on his side of the House. That influence would then be exerted in favour of the suggestion of the noble Lord, for he never saw business conducted in a manner which more entitled the individual conducting it to every deference. As it was quite evident, that the sittings of the House were protracted to this season with reference exclusively to the Reform Bill, he would take the liberty of earnestly advising every Gentleman, as far as he felt it consistent with his duty, to avoid every other business which should interfere with the progress of the Reform Bill. He considered that it was not only convenient to Members, but advantageous to the public interests, that Gentlemen should be enabled to return to their seats in the country. That object could only be effected by devoting as much attention as possible to the Reform Bill. He hoped, that the example set by Ministers would be followed, and that the suggestion to curtail the debates should be adhered to. He had not the slightest objection to meet at twelve o'clock; but it 718 was a dangerous experiment to make, and a great interruption of existing habits. Even now the House got sometimes so bewildered with the introduction of words into the clauses—particularly when the Chairman had the first edition of the Bill, and the rest of the House the second—that it was often impossible to know what words were to be introduced. If the House closed its sittings at eight o'clock in the evening, four or five hours would be lost, because the habits of the House had been formed upon the plan of sitting till one o'clock. Let the noble Lord persevere in the course he was now taking—let him appeal to the House in the way he had now appealed to it—and he (Sir Robert Peel) would venture to say, that not a single Member would be found to oppose him.
Sir Francis Burdett
never heard the hon. Baronet with so much satisfaction as he had heard him on this occasion. He had come to the House with his mind made up to support the Motion of the hon. member for Middlesex; but, after what had fallen from the noble Lord, he rose to express a hope that the hon. member for Middlesex would not persevere, but withdraw his Motion, and thus terminate the discussion in a way the most desirable.
§ Mr. Briscoe
promised the House he would take up a very short time. [The hon. Member made several efforts to proceed, and, as often as he repeated the words "If I rightly understand," he was interrupted by a prolonged and united cry of "Oh," which stopped all further attempts to speak.] He merely wished to know, whether it was the intention of the hon. member for Middlesex to withdraw his Motion. If it were his intention, he (Mr. Briscoe) would not trouble the House.
felt at all times anxious to meet the wishes of the House, but when he found that the hon. Members who opposed the Motion were those who opposed the meeting on Saturday, he thought their opposition was only to stop the progress of the Reform Bill. If he thought that by the adoption of his proposal, the Bill would be impeded, instead of promoted, he would not for one instant press it. It was because he thought this the only way in which the measure could be carried forward, that he was anxious his Motion should be acceded to. After the request of the noble Lord, he undoubtedly felt pain in proceeding. The grounds the noble Lord 719 had stated for the postponement of the Motion, were the very grounds upon which he (Mr. Hume) pressed it. He could not comply. After the manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had expressed his opinion, he would leave it to the House to decide as they pleased.
§ Mr. Briscoe
said, it was his opinion, and he had been anxious to express it, that the Motion before the House had been misunderstood, it being a Motion, not for sitting at twelve o'clock, but that the Reform Bill should take precedence of all other business on five days of the week. He should recommend the Ministers not to take any advice from the opposite side of the House, however friendly the Gentlemen opposite might profess to be. Their conduct ought to put Ministers on their guard; and if Ministers were misled by advice from an enemy, it would be their own fault, for his own part he would say,—"timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.
hoped, as the hon. Member refused to withdraw his Motion, that he would undertake, if he carried it, to attend in his place, because, during the discussions on the Reform Bill, the hon. member for Middlesex had been more absent than almost any other Member of the House. The hon. member for Middlesex had said, that Members went to dinner, and never returned. He could not help thinking that the hon. member for Middlesex had refrained from taking part in some questions most materially affecting his constituents. The hon. member for Middlesex was absent when the question as to 7,000 copyholders was, at one o'clock in the morning, forced through the House. He permitted two Members to be given to Surrey, and two to Kent, without saying one word for Middlesex, though an additional number of Members might fairly be given to the county of Middlesex. He hoped the hon. member for Middlesex would resume his old position, and abandon the place he had taken at the Bar, where he acted the part of Under-Secretary to the Treasury—marking Members in and marking them out—pairing Gentlemen off, and so on; very useful occupations, but not generally performed by a county Member.
rose to order. The gallant Gentleman's speech had nothing to do with the question, but was merely a per- 720 sonal attack upon the hon. member for Middlesex. He wished to know how far this applied to the question.
§ The Speaker
said, that if the hon. Member had asked him how much of the discussion for the last hour and a half applied to the question, he should have been compelled to say, a very small part of it indeed.
observed, it was of no consequence to him personally at what hour the House met. The Ministers were the persons chiefly interested, and he should support them whichever way they voted.
wished to say a few words, after the charges brought against him by the gallant Colonel. He never before heard a Member make a speech so altogether unreasonable, and altogether untrue. He challenged the gallant Colonel to point out any division, with the exception of one, where he was absent. It was true, that during three days he was extremely unwell. The other part of the charge, that he neglected his constituents, was equally incorrect. He had his instructions from the hustings what to do. He told his constituents he should support the Bill, and, as the Bill then was, do every thing in his power to press it through the House—even if his Majesty's Ministers, as they now did, were slack in their proceedings. When they called upon him to give a pledge, he rejected that pledge. As far as regarded his constituents, he was meeting their wishes, and acting as they desired. He was in the House every day the House met. He belonged to four Committees, and had always been at one of those Committees. He would venture to say, that he was even at prayers as often as the gallant Colonel. He thought his charges altogether unfounded. First, he said, that he had been absent; and then added, that he had been at the bar.
hoped the hon. Member would recall one word he had used—"untrue." He did not mean that the hon. Member was absent from the House; but that he was absent from his usual place, and did not take part in the discussion.
§ Lord Althorp
could not let one expression which had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex pass without observa- 721 tion. The hon. Member had stated, that because Ministers were slack, he should press his motion. But he would appeal to the House and the public, whether Ministers had shown any slackness in forwarding this question. If he did not agree with his hon. friend in the proposition he now made, it was not because he was slack in wishing to press this measure forward, but because he did not think that the Motion would have any such effect. On that ground he wished the hon. Member not to press his motion to a division, as he appeared determined to do. He thought the measure would be got forward without the proposed change in the hours of sitting. He was, however, given to understand, that the hon. Member intended to press his motion, and he must even risk the imputation of slackness, or any other imputation which might be put upon him; but he would not be deterred from doing what he thought right, and it was, therefore, with regret (for he knew what he should render himself liable to) that he should vote against the Motion.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, that the moderation and temper with which the noble Lord had endeavoured to expedite the passing of the Bill, was the only efficient way in which it could be expedited; any other course of proceeding would generate a factious spirit, and tend to increase the delay.
was satisfied, that the good temper and good feeling with which the noble Lord had conducted the Bill, had done more to expedite its progress than hon. Gentlemen were aware of. It was impossible to over-rate the noble Lord's services. He thought it particularly the duty of the Reformers to express their opinions on the subject. If the public knew how much the noble Lord's conduct had tended to promote the success of the Bill, they would acknowledge the obligations they were under to the noble Lord. He came down to the House prepared to support the Motion, but, after listening to the discussion, he was convinced that, by supporting it, he should, in truth, be doing nothing to forward the measure. It must be obvious to every one that the House could not sit to transact real business for more than eight hours a day.
§ Lord Ebrington
denied, that there was the least ground for charging the Minis- 722 ters with slackness in their exertions for carrying the Reform Bill. The steady manner in which the noble Lord below him had supported the principles of that Bill, through good report and through evil report, ought to have screened him from such an imputation. He thought, that the discussion which had taken place clearly proved, that they should gain nothing if the motion were carried, and he should therefore recommend the hon. member for Middlesex to withdraw it.
was ready to admit, that he had committed a lapse in saying, that the Ministers were growing slack in pressing the Bill. He ought rather to have said that such an impression prevailed out of doors, which certainly was the fact. He could assure the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that no one could hold his character for integrity and consistency in greater estimation than he did, and that he should be the last man to say any thing in disparagement of the noble Lord. After all that had passed, and particularly after the recommendation of the noble Lord who spoke last—than whom there was not a better reformer in the House—he could not help feeling that he ought to yield, and withdraw his motion, though he did so with great regret, since the discussion of it had now occupied two hours.
§ Motion withdrawn.