HC Deb 29 July 1831 vol 5 cc521-9
Lord Althorp

, in rising to move the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Reform Bill, stated, that it was considered desirable, for reasons with which he believed all the Members of the House were acquainted, that the House should not sit on Monday. But, as the important question of the Reform Bill was in the course of discussion, Ministers did not think that they ought to adjourn the House for so long a period, as from Friday to Tuesday; and they therefore proposed, as there would be a royal Commission to-morrow at twelve o'clock, to form a House at that hour, and proceed with the Reform Bill until six o'clock. His Lordship then moved the Order of the Day.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

said, that though it would be, doubtless, very agreeable to his Majesty's Ministers to partake of the hospitality of the city of London on Monday next, yet he did not think it would be fair in the House to put parties who were interested in the proceedings of the Carnarvon, the Coleraine, the Dublin, and the Great Grimsby Election Committees to great expense by sitting to-morrow. If the House met to-morrow at twelve o'clock, it was quite plain, that no business could be done by the Election Committees. He thought, that it would have been nothing but justice to have given a longer notice to the parties who had retained counsel, and who were obliged to pay the expenses of witnesses, that the House would sit to-morrow. The Reform Bill was not of such importance as to render it imperative on the House to proceed with it de die in diem, because it seemed that the Reform Question must give way, in order to allow his Majesty's Ministers to dine in the city on Monday; but yet it was so important, that the House was to be called upon to sit to-morrow, a course of proceeding fraught with all the inconveniences which he had mentioned, in order to make up for the time lost by his Majesty's Ministers in attending a civic festival.

Mr. Dixon

informed the House, that no inconvenience would result, as far as the Coleraine Election Committee was concerned, from the House sitting to-morrow, because that Committee had already determined to meet at ten o'clock, and to rise at twelve o'clock.

Sir G. Warrender

had no wish to impede the Reform Bill unnecessarily; but he thought, that Ministers had better give way on this point, for he was sure that they would lose more time by debating the proposition, than they would gain by carrying it. He requested to have a holyday to-morrow, and he was of opinion that the House ought to allow some leisure to the Speaker.

Lord J. Russell

did not think, that the circumstances mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Wynn), formed any objection to proceeding with a measure of so much importance as the Reform Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that Ministers were unwilling to give up going to dine in the city on Monday, notwithstanding the importance of that Bill; but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget, that, the Reform Question never came under discussion on a Monday. He considered it of so much importance to proceed with the Reform Bill, that he thought that the House would do right by meeting to-morrow morning. He admitted, that some inconvenience would arise from the interruption of the proceedings of Election Committees; but he considered the delay of the Reform Bill the greater evil of the two.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

said, all he proposed was, that the Government should give up to their duty, those more agreeable engagements which they had formed elsewhere.

Mr. Hume

recommended the noble Lord to do as he would be done by. He was as anxious as any body to promote the success of the Reform Bill, but he could not avoid recollecting how much the labours of the Election Committees would be retarded by the meeting of the House on Saturday. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wynn) had attempted to cast a slur on those who proposed to partake of the public breakfast (not dinner) in the city on Monday next. Now he was one of those who intended to go; and he believed it was the general opinion of others in the same circumstances, that they went there as a mark of respect to the Sovereign, and not for the sake of what they would get in the way of refreshment; for many of them had ordered a dinner at home when the business was concluded. He believed, too, that the Committee looked on the presence of the Speaker of that House, and the members of the Government, as necessary to give effect to the ceremony, and to do honour to his Majesty.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

repeated, that he merely wished the Government to do its duty, rather than subject the petitioners on elections to unnecessary expense.

Mr. Alderman Venables

said, that the Committee had extended their invitations to all the number which could be accommodated; and he hoped that no soreness was felt on account of unavoidable omissions.

Sir C. Wetherell

recommended the noble Lord to abandon his intentions with respect to Saturday, and to sit one hour earlier each day of the ensuing week.

Colonel Sibthorp

had heard the Ministers were anxious to be in the city, because a Common Hall had been convened, and they anticipated being opportunely in the way, to receive some Representation from that august body, upon the improper conduct of his side of the House, in its attempts to discuss at length, and so delay, the favourite measure of Reform.

Lord Althorp

denied all design of that kind. He knew there was to be a meeting, but he did not know on what day, and he believed some of his colleagues had never heard a word on the subject. He was afraid he could not agree to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, as the Members thought they sat long enough each day already; and he conceived, that on an occasion when his Majesty went in state to the City of London, it was the duty of his Ministers to accompany him, so that it was not convenient that they should sit on Monday.

Lord Milton

conceived, that the House should meet to-morrow, but at two instead of twelve o'clock.

An Hon. Member

said, that the progress of the Reform Bill would not be retarded by the House not meeting either to-morrow or on Monday, because, if the House were to sit on Monday, the Estimates, and not the Reform Bill, would, according to the arrangement which had been agreed on, be the subject of discussion.

Sir Charles Forbes,

said, if they met at noon to-morrow, the Election Committees must adjourn, and the parties would thus be injured.

Sir Edward Sugden

said, there were many professional men in the House, who were not the least efficient members of a Committee which was to make such important changes. And as they had also important duties to perform elsewhere, it would not be convenient for them to attend, and they could not sacrifice the interest of their clients. Other Gentlemen had made arrangements to go out of town to-morrow, and were those engagements to give way to the noble Lord's convenience, or was the Reform Bill to be hurried through in their absence?

Lord Althorp

did not think, that protracting the time for the sitting of the House would be of public advantage. He thought he offered a fair compromise, when he proposed to sit from two to eight o'clock to-morrow.

Sir Charles Wetherell

said, this arrangement would interfere with the previous arrangements of hon. Members. It was proposed last week they should sit on Saturday, but he understood it was only for the reception of petitions; he, therefore, wished they should agree to sit tomorrow week for the discussion of the Reform Bill.

Sir James Scarlett

said, the Reform Bill would lose nothing by the House not sitting on Monday, because other business was transacted on that day. He also objected to the proposed arrangement, be- cause the motion was brought forward without notice.

Sir John Sebright

never understood Monday was to be entirely devoted to Supplies, and that the Reform Bill was not to be discussed on that day, if there was time. The sitting on Saturday was necessary, because hon. Gentlemen repeated the same arguments so frequently that time was wasted. His patience was wholly exhausted, listening to their repetitions. He had no objection to listen to new reasons against the measure, if they could be adduced. He agreed to the propriety of meeting to-morrow, and most certainly would attend.

Mr. Wrangham

protested against the injustice of the course which the noble Lord proposed to pursue. The Ministerial side of the House would to-morrow be crowded with official persons and Members at the command of Ministers, whilst, on the Opposition side of the House, there would, in all probability, be a very thin attendance. He sincerely believed, that he could make out such a case in favour of Sudbury as would induce Ministers to take it out of schedule B. If the House should proceed with the Bill to-morrow, he would contend, that his constituents had not had fair notice of trial.

Mr. Pringle

would recommend, that to-morrow should be wholly occupied by petitions; they could, by that means, have a longer time to discuss the Bill on Tuesday.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, the Committees sitting on election petitions had been alluded to as being unable to take their places, but, by the arrangements made, they would be able to attend at two o'clock.

Mr. Croker

was of opinion, that the proposition of the noble Lord would put many hon. Gentlemen to great inconvenience. They had generally appointed Saturday to transact their own affairs, and it was not fair, without notice, to interfere with their arrangements.

Mr. Hodges

said, it was not right, at eight o'clock in the evening, to propose to depart from the arrangement which had been made with respect to the Bill. He had intended to go into the country, but must, in this case, put his journey off.

Sir Richard Vyvyan

said, it was understood they were to devote four days in the week to the consideration of the Reform Bill; but, by the proposed arrangement, they would devote five days. If this was pressed, some Members would be driven to the unpleasant alternative of moving an adjournment when the Committee was to be gone into.

Mr. G. Dawson

said, some Gentlemen had paired off having understood that the Bill would not be brought on tomorrow; others had left town until Monday; it would be unfair, therefore, to proceed in their absence.

Sir John Walsh

asked, as the noble Lord proposed to proceed with the Reform Bill to-morrow, did he intend to proceed with the Committee of Supply on Tuesday?

Lord Althorp

intended to propose they should go on with the Reform Bill on that day.

Sir C. Wetherell

said, that if any Member would move an amendment, he would second it.

The Speaker

put the question, that the House should resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.

Mr. Croker

said, that he wished to know what the noble Lord meant to do on the subject.

Lord Althorp

said, that at two o'clock to-morrow he would move the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill, and, in consequence, he would propose, that the House should not sit later to-night than twelve o'clock.

Colonel Lindsay

said, that a certain degree of repose was absolutely necessary to enable Members to bear the fatigue to which they were subjected. He would take the sense of the House upon the question.

Mr. Briscoe

complained that the time of the House was wasted in useless discussion; they had already been three hours employed in this way.

Mr. Praed

thought, that the objection which the hon. member for Sudbury had urged against the course proposed by Ministers was cogent and insuperable. If it should appear from the state of the House to-morrow that it was impossible for the case of Sudbury to be impartially considered, he would resort to every legitimate means in his power to prevent the Committee from coming to a decision on that case.

Lord Althorp

said, that any Member might take the decision of the House upon the question, when the Chairman of the Committee should report progress, and ask leave to sit again.

Mr. J. L. Knight

was of opinion, that it would be acting unfairly to proceed with the Bill to-morrow, because doubtless many professional and mercantile men had fixed upon that day for the transaction of business, upon the faith of the understanding to which the House had come, that the Bill should not be discussed on Saturday.

Mr. D. W. Harvey

said, that Members whose professional avocations interfered with their duties in that House should vacate their seats.

Sir G. Murray

was not actuated by any desire to delay the business of the House. His objection to the proposed arrangement was, that he never heard of it until the moment the noble Lord rose. If it had not been the Reform Bill, but any other measure which had been in progress, he should have considered the course proposed as equally objectionable.

Mr. Attwood

said, that he would, to save the time of the House, move, as an amendment to the motion, "That the House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider further of the Reform of Parliament (England) Bill;" that "all the words after the word 'that' be left out," for the purpose of inserting "this House, at its rising, do adjourn to Tuesday next." The matter would thus be fairly brought to issue, and the time of the House and the strength of hon. Members would be saved. He was sorry that two hours, which might have been devoted to the discussion of the Bill, had been spent in trashy and useless debate.

The question having been put,

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, he thought it necessary to suggest to his hon. friend the propriety of withdrawing the motion of adjournment to Tuesday, as Saturday was the day on which it was appointed to give the Royal Assent by Commission to the Queen's Dower Bill, and an adjournment over that day would have the appearance of disrespect. Whatever party feeling might exist in that House, there was but one feeling, and that a feeling of the highest respect, towards the exalted individual to whom he alluded; and he was convinced that his hon. friend would be the last man to persevere in any course which was liable to the objection just mentioned. He (Sir H. Hardinge) had intended to go into the county of Kent on Saturday, and he knew that there were several Members who were anxious to leave town at the same time, but he could not, therefore, support the amendment.

Mr. George Robinson

thought it would be advisable to adjourn till Tuesday, and he hoped the noble Lord would coincide in the suggestion.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the House ought to sit on Saturday, if it were only for the purpose of showing to the public that they sat every day. The public would doubtless hear of the delay which had already taken place that evening, unnecessarily and vexatiously protracted as it had been. They were aware of the general delay which had taken place, and he hoped they would strongly respond to the appeal of the advocates of the Bill in that House. It was the duty of the public, if the important business of the House was improperly delayed, to knock at its doors, and call, by petitions, for the consummation of the measure. A right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the sacrifice which he was willing to make by not going into the county of Kent on Saturday; but what a sacrifice were the Members of the Sister Kingdom making, without muttering a complaint, by leaving their professions and avocations for months. He hoped the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would, by all means, persevere in his motion.

Mr. J. L. Knight

said, that his observations did not apply to the personal convenience of professional individuals; but he had argued, and he would still argue, that the public were interested in the engagements of professional men.

Mr. Praed

declared, that he should feel himself called upon to vote for an adjournment to-morrow, if it were proposed to disfranchise any borough which should appear likely to escape on farther examination. He was aware that it was unusual to persist in such a course, but cases might arise in which it was necessary to adopt it.

Lord Stormont

knew several Members who were interested in the boroughs which were likely to come before the House tomorrow, and who had left town under the impression that no business would be done. Two days in a week was not too much to allow them; he, therefore, appealed to the noble Lord to alter his arrangements.

Mr. Attwood

withdrew his amendment, declaring that, when the Chairman moved to report progress, he would move, that he should ask leave to sit again on Tuesday.