HC Deb 15 July 1833 vol 19 cc650-62

On the Motion, that the Order of the Day respecting the East-India Bill, be read,

Sir John Wrottesley

rose to bring forward his Motion for ensuring the attendance of hon. Members on Thursday next, in case the two Houses of Parliament should come into collision upon the subject of the Church Temporalities (Ireland) Bill. It might, perhaps, be made a question why he did not bring forward such a Motion at an earlier period; but he had thought it adviseable to postpone it until it could be in some degree ascertained what course the other branch of the Legislature was likely to pursue. He thought it now desirable, with the means which they at present had of judging what the intentions of certain persons might possibly be, to enable the House to have the earliest possible means of calling upon the absent Members to give the speediest attendance in case the crisis, which there was now much reason to anticipate, should arrive;. He did not consider, that a Motion of this sort called for many arguments to support it; but as some hon. Members did not think, that a Motion of the kind which he was about to propose should be adopted without some reasons, he would state a few of those which occurred to him. At the commencement of the Session his Majesty had told them in his most gracious speech, that there never was a period in which subjects of such immense importance as those which they would have to consider had come under the attention of the British Parliament. All would agree, that the topics upon which they had been occupied during the present Session corresponded to the description in his Majesty's Speech. There were still three subjects of the greatest importance before them—the East-India Company's Charter, the Bank Charter, and also the important question of West-India slavery. All these would still require the anxious attention of hon. Members. It might be said, that these did not afford a sufficient excuse for making a Motion, which would have the effect of recalling to London all those Members who had absented themselves, as nothing but the details of these measures remained to be considered. There was, besides these, one measure which had passed that House, and which he looked upon as exceeding all the others to which he had alluded in interest and importance, and on account of which he thought himself justified in pressing for the adoption of his Motion. No one was more fully convinced than he was of the necessity of paying a due regard to the privileges of the other branch of the Legislature. He was persuaded, that they could not do better, if they wished to have due respect paid to their own privileges, than to behave with all due attention to those of the other House of Parliament. The measure to which he alluded, however, was, the Church Temporalities (Ireland) Bill. The duty of this House, after a Bill had passed them, did not terminate with respect to it, as soon as it had left its messenger's hands. The House of Commons had an undoubted right to watch over the conduct of the other House of Parliament, and to be guided in its proceedings by the votes in that other House upon bills which the Commons had passed; in the same manner as they had a right, if the Bill was passed by the Lords with Amendments, to adopt or reject those Amendments, upon the message being brought from the House of Lords, desiring their concurrence in them. It was impossible to conceal the fact, that a Bill which had passed the House of Commons by a large majority had been termed by persons elsewhere a measure of spoliation. It was also well known, that individuals of great influence in the country had declared, that they were not only dissatisfied with the details of the measure, but had decided objections to its principle. If this measure alone were concerned—however great and important he considered it to be; and believing, as he did, that it would tend to secure the Church from the dangers which threatened it, and to render it efficient for the purposes for which it was originally intended—he (Sir John Wrottesley) could not but look with anxiety to the fate of the Bill, even in that point of view; but if that were all, he should, perhaps, have less uneasiness upon the subject. It was his opinion, that if that Bill were rejected, it would be the rejection of the great principle of Reform, by which the Members of the present House of Commons had been fixed in their seats. If it should be found, that the principle of Reform could not be carried into effect in the Church, hon. Members would not receive the approbation even of the most moderate of their constituents. He thought, therefore, that they were bound to call upon those Members who were absent to be at their posts, and to be prepared, in case any great event should occur respecting this Bill. They were only doing their duty when they inferred, that such might possibly be the case; and if any difficulty should arise, the public would undoubtedly expect that their Representatives would be at their posts. He felt obliged for the attention which the House had given to his observations; and would merely conclude by moving, "that the House be called over on Thursday next."

Sir Robert Peel

felt it his duty to take advantage of that earliest moment, first, to deprecate all discussion on the Motion of the hon. Baronet, and next to deprecate the Motion itself being persisted in. The hon. Baronet had assigned two reasons for bringing it forward, which a moment's consideration could entirely dissipate. In the first place, said the hon. Baronet, there are very many important measures before the House, not yet advanced through all their stages, and which should be discussed only in a full House. But how could it be said, that the House had neglected to attend the progress of these measures? Was it not a fact, that the principles and provisions of all those named by the hon. Baronet had been expounded and discussed before an unusually full attendance of Members? The Bank Charter had been so discussed, the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) having yielded to the sense of the House, and postponed those portions which would require a full attendance. If the attendance upon the Committee on the East-India Charter Bill was comparatively thin, was not the fair inference that little or no opposition would be made to its progress, its general principle and provisions having been approved by a full House? And as to the West-India question, he never witnessed a fuller attendance than that before which its principles and provisions were minutely detailed. No charge, therefore, could be made of non-attendance in reference to the important measures cited by the hon. Baronet. But if even it was not so, he knew not how a call of the House could remedy the evil; for after the form of that call had been complied with, it must be left to every hon. Member's discretion to bestow or neglect that close attention to the proceedings which the call was intended to enforce. However, the hon. Baronet had not rested his Motion on the necessity of a full attendance in reference to this measure. The hon. Baronet had told them, that his Motion was meant to apply particularly to a measure then before the other House of Parliament; and he gave as a reason for the House's acceding to it, that he had seen in the public prints statements to the effect, that one noble person had characterized the Irish Church Bill as a "measure of spoliation," and that other noble Lords had declared they were opposed to the "principle" of that Bill. Now, he implored the House not to adopt such rumours as the foundation of their proceedings. They owed it to their own dignity; they owed it to the dignity and independence of the other branch of the Legislature. He did not mean to say, that an occasion might not arise when it would be necessary for them to meet and express an opinion in reference to some act of the House of Lords; but he must deprecate their anticipating the possibility of such an event on a mere rumour, or adopting any proceeding which must appear only as an attempt to control and menace the proceedings of the other House of Parliament. What pretext was there for such an unprecedented proceeding? The Irish Church Bill had been sent up to the House of Lords; it was read a first time; it was appointed to be read a second time; the day for that second reading had not yet arrived. Were they, on mere flying rumours and vague assumptions, to anticipate the probable result of that second reading? Such conduct would be most unwise, and in the teeth of all rational precedent. It would be more—it would be placing themselves entirely in the wrong. They knew nothing, and constitutionally could know nothing, of the intended acts of the other branch of the Legislature, only as itself communicated them. They owed it to themselves, to their own privileges and character, to respect the privileges and character of the other House of Parliament; and they were not to anticipate any result which might imply, that the Members of the other House were not men of honour, and men who did not exercise their privileges—not as privileges given them for their own personal advantage, but for the benefit of the people. When the occasion arose, let them assert their rights, but let them not lower themselves by anticipating such an occasion on mere vague rumour and assumption. He trusted, therefore, that the hon. Baronet would with draw his Motion, and he also earnestly trusted, that the discussion on its subject matter would here terminate.

Colonel Hay

expressed his hope, that the hon. Baronet would not withdraw the Motion; and if no other Member should take it up, he himself would.

Mr. O'Connell

also expressed his hope, that the Motion would not be withdrawn. The hon. Baronet ought to stand by his Motion, it was right that Members should be at their posts, if any crisis should arise to call for their united efforts. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had said, that the measure was one for which there was no precedent—forgetting that, for the last century, it was impossible that there should have been any precedent; for the House of Commons, during that period, had only been another instalment of the House of Lords. They could not quarrel with their masters; but the present House of Commons had no masters. If any Government were sure of being opposed the moment they attempted to do a popular act, it was unquestionably the duty of the Members of the House of Commons to be at their posts, and to do their utmost that the good of the people should be the only object of both Houses of Parliament. There was no one less attached than he was to the Church Temporalities Bill. He considered it only a miserable instalment towards the payment of what was justly due to the people of Ireland. Still he would have it rather than nothing at all. He would give the Motion his hearty support, and he trusted, that the House would show itself determined to do justice to the people.

Colonel Evans

expressed his surprise at seeing his two hon. friends, who had both voted against the Bill in question, now such strenuous advocates for it. He was convinced that the public were no more alarmed about the passing of the Church Temporalities' Bill than any other Bill. No doubt there was a strong feeling in its favour in that House, but it was not shared by the public.

Mr. Robinson

observed, that it would be the greatest hypocrisy to pretend to conceal that the attendance in the House of Commons had fallen off lately; but the present attendance showed that there was no relaxation of the efforts of the House. He thought that, upon the whole, the most prudent course would be to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), and wait, till they should see what course the House of Lords adopted. If a crisis should arise, it would then be time to have recourse to the other measure. Could it be intended as a direct manifesto against the House of Lords? Would the people consider it in any other light? How could they consider it otherwise? He would neither vote one way nor the other if the Motion were pressed to a division, but he hoped that the hon. Baronet would withdraw it.

Mr. Evelyn Denison

thought that the course proposed was wrong. He had never heard before of a Motion anticipatory of a decision of the House of Lords, and he considered it unwise. He thought it would imply a great misgiving of the other House of Parliament, and that it would be a great departure from their own dignity to anticipate what would be the course of their Lordships' proceedings. If the House of Commons overstepped its privileges, it would be an invitation to all other assemblies, legally or illegally constituted to overstep theirs; and if they agreed to this measure with the view of over-awing the House of Lords, he sincerely believed that they would be pushing their privileges too far; but he also sincerely believed that they would not pass the Motion. He hoped the hon. Baronet would be induced to withdraw it. That, in his opinion, was the wisest, the safest, and the most dignified course.

Lord Ebrington

said, the House surely had a right, on the occasion of a measure which they considered just—and no one who looked at this without prejudice would say that this was not just—to make inquiries on the subject of the rumour which had prevailed, particularly during the last two days, and he considered that rumour was sufficient ground for a Motion, which simply went to secure a full attendance of the Members, and ensure the performance of their duty to their constituents and to themselves. He confessed that he considered the rumour so incredible and absurd, that it would obtain no credence among Members of that House; but it was calculated to produce an impression upon their constituents, particularly in distant parts of the country. Their constituents must wish, and feel, that it was the duty of their representatives to be at their posts if a crisis should arise, which common report led them to expect? He should be the last man to advocate any measure of intimidation towards the House of Lords; but his sentiments were in accordance with those of the hon. mover. It must be recollected that the Bill had been brought forward in concurrence with the Coercion Bill; and Ministers were consequently compelled to stake their existence as a Government upon the success of it. What, then, would be the consequence of the rejection of the measure by the House of Lords? It would necessarily produce their resignation. He would not argue whether the Ministers had constituted a good or a bad government. It was the duty of the representatives of the people to express their indignation, if such a step as throwing out the measure in question were attempted by the other House of Parliament. On that account he considered it not only the undoubted right, but the duty of any hon. Member to call for as numerous an attendance as possible of Members on so important an occasion; and he should, therefore, support the hon. Baronet's Motion, and trusted it would be adopted by the House.

Lord Althorp

gave the fullest credit to his hon. friend for the motives by which he had been actuated in bringing forward the present Motion; the principle of which was unquestionable. It was undoubtedly true, that, on the passing of the measure alluded to his Majesty's Government had pledged their continuance in office. But it was equally true as had been stated, that the effect of his hon. friend's Motion might be that of appearing to throw out a menace to the other House of Parliament. Now his hon. friend had admitted, that, in the present state of public affairs, his Majesty's Government had no easy course to pursue; and he was sure that his hon. friend and his noble friend who had supported the Motion would not wish to do anything calculated to increase the difficulties under which his Majesty's Government laboured. He had no doubt that, without any stimulus, there would be a full attendance of Members in that House on the night in question. But, feeling that there were some difficulties in the course which his hon. friend proposed, he, instead of joining with his noble friend in urging his hon. friend not to withdraw his Motion, was, much more inclined to request him to withdraw it. He was quite sure, that whatever might be the supposed theoretical benefit of persevering in the Motion, a great practical benefit would arise from withdrawing it; and he therefore trusted that his hon. friend would be induced to withdraw it.

Sir John Wrottesley

said, that, as far as he was concerned, he was perfectly ready to withdraw the Motion; nothing being farther from his wishes than to do anything likely to embarrass his Majesty's Government. He certainly had conceived that the dignity of the House would be best consulted by the course which he recommended; at the same time he was quite disposed to accede to the suggestion of his noble friend; and if the hon. Gentlemen who had expressed their intention to divide with him concurred in that acquiescence, he would withdraw his Motion, not otherwise.

Major Beauclerk

was favourable to the Irish Church Temporalities' Bill, not because it supported the Church Establishment, but because he thought it would assist in destroying that Establishment, The noble Lord seemed to think that the storm had blown over.

Mr. Tennyson

declared, that whatever reflected honour upon the noble Lord would give the highest satisfaction to him. He had wished anxiously to hear the opinions of his Majesty's Government upon this question, because he could not believe, that the Ministers of the Crown would lend themselves to a Motion which it was plain from what had fallen from the hon. Mover was intended as a menace to the other House of Parliament. In such a menace he could never concur. Whatever might be thought of his political views and his conduct in that House he was determined to hold by the Constitution, and could not consent to a step, the ultimate object of which was to place the other branch of the Legislature under the entire control of one political party in the State. He did not concur in the opinions of the present House of Lords, but, because he did not, was he prepared for a revolution? Was he prepared to take a step which would tend to place the House of Lords in utter subserviency to that House, and the political body which governed that House? With respect to the particular measure which induced the hon. Baronet to bring forward this Motion, he believed that the public took no interest in it whatever, and, although the noble Lord and his colleagues had staked their existence as an Administration upon it, those at least with whom he was in communication did not think that the measure followed up effectually the promise of Church Reform, or contained within it those principles which they had hoped to see adopted as the foundation of the measures of the present Government. He had objected to that measure, and he therefore could not support any plan for forcing it upon the other House. But there was an important measure, of which he had given notice, and upon which he wished to have a full attendance, and, if the House persisted in carrying this question to a division, he should vote for the hon. Mover—[Loud laughter]. He had himself a Motion for a Call of the House, and he asked those who laughed whether he could with any consistency vote against this Motion?

Mr. Secretary Stanley

said, that having expected from the foregoing part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that he was about to oppose the Motion, it was with no inconsiderable surprise that he had heard the short turn the right hon. Gentleman took at the close of what he addressed to the House. He had some difficulty in conceiving the grounds upon which the right hon. Gentleman came to a conclusion apparently so much at variance with his own sentiments, until he explained, no doubt much to the satisfaction of the House, his desire that his own important, and he presumed practical Motion, should have a full attendance of hon. Members. He was not surprised as the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken to submit a Motion on the 23rd of July, for a Repeal of the Septennial Act, concluding that that question would be adequately discussed and brought to some practical issue this Session—he was not surprised that under such circumstances the right hon. Gentleman should be anxious for a large audience. The right hon. Gentleman had advanced two doctrines of which he could not of course dispute the sincerity, but which he found some difficulty in reconciling with each other. The right hon. Gentleman professed the greatest anxiety to promote whatever could tend to the honour and credit of his noble friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and declared his great regard for him as a member of the Administration. He had not had the pleasure of being present at three o'clock, and he did not know whether there was then a sufficient audience to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman's wishes, but he understood that the right hon. Gentleman then made the most violent attack that had yet been made upon the whole conduct of his Majesty's Government throughout the Session. The hon. Gentlemen who sat near the right hon. Gentleman, and had cheered his regard for the privileges of the other House of Parliament, were not perhaps aware, that the right hon. Gentleman expressed an ardent and earnest desire for the return of a Tory Administration. But lest hon. Gentlemen should feel themselves too much flattered by this mark of the right hon. Gentleman's good will, it was necessary he should add that the right hon. Gentleman expressed his conviction that a Tory Administration could not subsist a week; so that the only consequence of turning out the present weak and miserable Ministry would be to bring in one indisputably worse, which, in one short week, was to make way for something more suitable to the taste of the right hon. Gentleman. But perhaps a new Government might include within it men of sound and upright principles—men who would never, on any occasion, fall short of the full extent of any abstract principles they advocated—men whose merits had been most singularly and unaccountably disregarded by the present Administration—men, who in happier, though not more peaceable times, would "ride on the whirlwind and direct the storm." Perhaps by a new Government the views of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends might be accomplished, and that most desirable object effected of bringing about a reconcilement of the conflicting opinions of that and the other branch of the Legislature. The right hon. Gentleman would forgive him if he said that he did not think the result desirable, nor the means likely to benefit the country. The right hon. Gentleman told the House, that he possessed a scrupulous delicacy, and would stand forward as the guardian of the privileges of the other House; that nothing should tempt him to infringe upon the constitutional principles of the House of Lords. How was this to be reconciled with a former notice which he found upon the Journals of the House in the name of Mr. Tennyson, to the effect that "A communication be made to the Peers, requesting their Lordships to review their privilege of voting by proxy?" That, of course, was no threat—no intimidation. It was merely a delicate hint as to the course which the House of Lords should pursue, if they wished to secure the approbation of the right hon. Gentleman. Were this notice and the right hon. Gentleman's scrupulous anxiety for the privileges of the other House, and his great regard for the present Administration quite consistent with each other? But to turn to the more serious and more important part of the subject. He would most anxiously and earnestly suggest to his hon. friend the member for Staffordshire, to accede to the recommendation which had been made by so many hon. Gentlemen, especially pressed as it was by his noble friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to withdraw his Motion. He confessed he was astonished, and perhaps the House would be equally so, to find that the most active and determined patty in supporting the Motion was the hon. and learned member for Dublin, who, now, for the first time, or rather now again, took under his fostering protection, and insisted upon the adoption by the Lords of that measure of which he had so strongly disapproved. He (Mr. Stanley) attached as much importance as any Gentleman in the House to that Bill, and infinitely more than the hon. and learned member for Dublin. With regard to the present Administration, he could not too strongly, or too emphatically repeat what he had already declared over and over again, that he considered their existence as a Government bound up with their power of carrying that Bill. But he appealed to his hon. friend, whether, in the present circumstances of difficulty, he would not accede to that course, which, in the judgment of his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of all his colleagues around him, was the most likely to lead to the satisfactory result which he desired, and whether, in the sincere anxiety which he knew his hon. friend felt to support the present Government, he would not place confidence in his Majesty's Ministers, when they told him plainly and sincerely, that in their judgment, and upon their responsibility, the withdrawal of the Motion was the most likely to carry, as the pressing it was the most likely to defeat, the object he had in view. He trusted his hon. friend would place credit in the judgment of his Majesty's Ministers, as he did most unfeignedly in the entirely friendly feeling towards them, which had induced his hon. friend to bring forward this proposition. Calmness at the present moment was not inconsistent with the most determined conduct hereafter, but let not the House anticipate a case, which might not, and which he ventured to express a hope, would not arise. If it did not, the House would have to thank his hon. friend, and to congratulate itself that it had not taken any precipitate course, but awaited with calmness and firmness, the adjustment of present differences, and the passing of a measure which all considered an important one.

Mr. Tennyson

said, that what had fallen from him had been misrepresented. He had not expressed any wish for a Tory Administration. What he had said was, that it would be easy to form a better Administration than the present, and that if a worse were formed, in his opinion, it could not endure for a week.

Sir John Wrottesley

said, he was most anxious to comply with the wishes of the House, particularly considering by whom those wishes had been expressed on both sides of the House. No man could have a stronger regard than he had for the present Administration, That feeling was only secondary to a consideration for his own character; and if those Gentlemen who supported him in the early part of the debate, should call upon him to press the Motion to a division, he should feel himself bound in consistency to do so.

Mr. O'Connell

objected to the Motion being withdrawn.

Lord John Russell

wished to say a few words in explanation of the vote which he should feel bound to give upon this question. He could not vote in favour of the Motion, because, although such would not be the fair interpretation, it would be understood pretty generally to be meant as a threat, previous to a vote to be given in the other House of Parliament. He thought that it would not be becoming in that House to do, nor becoming in the King's servants, to join in doing, any act which might have that appearance. But he could not vote against the Motion without disclaiming the feeling by which the hon. member for Surrey seemed to consider his Majesty's Ministers to be influenced. It was not because the storm was blown over, that he was ready to consent to the withdrawal of the Motion. On the contrary, he saw no reason to believe that the storm was blown over, and he slated it as his opinion, that if the Bill was not to be destroyed at one blow, the most valuable parts would be taken out of it. In giving his vote against this Motion, he did so with no notion of any sort of compromise. According to his notion, the Bill had been reduced to the utmost limit of moderation which was consistent with any measure of reform whatever, and the utmost had been done to satisfy the most scrupulous objections. Where there could be honest scruples, he had gone as far as he was able to go; and in voting against this Motion, he did not do so for any purpose of conciliation. In conciliation he had already done a great deal, and he could not go a single step further.

Mr. Hume

did not care about the Church Temporalities Bill, but hoped his hon. and learned friend, the member for Dublin, would not press for a division; if, however, his hon. and learned friend did so, he should vote for the Motion.

Mr. Abercromby

supported the Motion. By it the House was taking a step which pledged only its own body, and there were peculiar and unprecedented circumstances which called upon them to do so.

Mr. O' Connell

persisting in demanding a division.

The House divided: Ayes 125; Noes 160—Majority 35.

List of the AYES.
Abercromby, J. Duncannon, Lord
Adam, Admiral Dunlop, J.
Aglionby, H. A. Ebrington, Lord
Attwood, T. Edwards, Colonel
Atherley, A. Etwall, R.
Baldwin, Dr. Evans, G.
Bannerman, A. Ewart, W.
Barry, G. S. Faithfull, G.
Beauclerk, Major Fellowes, Hon. N.
Bellew, R. S. Fellowes, H. A.
Bewes, T. Fenton J.
Bish, T. Fergusson, Sir R. C.
Blake, Sir F. Finn, W.
Blake, M. J. Fitzgerald, T.
Blamire, W. Fleming, Admiral C.
Briggs, R. Folkes, Sir W.
Brocklehurst, J. Gaskell, D.
Brotherton, J. Grey, Lieut.-Col.
Brougham, J. Grey, Sir G.
Browne, D. Gronow, Captain
Buller, C. Grote, G.
Clay, W. Hall, B.
Codrington, Sir E. Handley, B.
Cornish, James Hasland, W. C.
Cotes, J. Hawes, B.
Davenport, J. Heathcote, J.
Divett, E. Hill, Lord M.
Hume, J. Russell, W. C.
Jephson, C. D. O. Ruthven, E.
Kennedy, J. F. Ruthven, E. S.
King, E. B. Scholefield, J.
Lefevre, C. S. Scale, J. B.
Lister, E. C. Sharpe, General
Macleod, R. Sheil, R. L.
Macnamara, Major Stanley, E. J.
Macnamara, F. Stawell, Colonel
Marjoribanks, S. Staveley, J.
Marshall, J. Strutt, E.
Martin, J. Sullivan, R.
Martin, T. B. Talbot, J. A.
Maxfield, Captain Talmash, A. G.
Methuen, P. Tennyson, C.
Molyneux, Lord Thicknesse, R.
Morton, Hon. H. Tooke, W.
Mostyn, Hon. E. Tracy, C. H.
Murray, J. A. Troubridge, Sir T.
O'Callaghan, C. Turner, W.
O'Connor, F. Tynte, C. K.
O'Connell, D. Vigors, N. A.
O'Connell, J. Walker, C. A.
O'Connell, Morgan Walker, R.
Ord, W. H. Wallace, T.
Ormelie, Lord Walter, J.
Oswald, R. Warburton, H.
Parrott, J. Ward, H. G.
Pendarves, E. W. Waterpark, Lord
Peter, W. White, S.
Perrin, L. Wigney, I. N.
Phillips, Sir G. Wilbraham, G.
Philips, M. Wilmot, Sir E.
Pringle, R. Winnington, H.
Richards, J. TELLERS.
Roe, James Wrottesley, Sir J.
Romilly, E. Hay, Colonel L.