HC Deb 05 March 1833 vol 16 cc199-202

Lord Ashley rose to move for leave to bring in a Bill to regulate the Labour of Children in Factories, of which he had given notice.

Lord Althorp

said, that considering the state of the business of the House, he wished to suggest, that all other business should be postponed, that they might immediately proceed to the Adjourned Debate.

Lord Ashley

answered that he had no wish whatever to appear discourteous to the Government, but he trusted, that the House would consider the situation in which he was placed.

The Speaker having announced the suggestion of Lord Althorp,

Mr. Cobbett

said, he had several petitions to present against the coercive Bill for Ireland, and according to the present arrangements, that Bill would be passed before he could present these petitions.

Mr. O'Connell

suggested, that on meeting on the next day to receive petitions, none should be presented but those which related to the Coercive Bill.

Lord Althorp

would make no objection to the suggestion on the understanding which had taken place last Session, that petitions should be presented, but no speeches made upon them.

Mr. Warburton

begged to call the attention of the House to the practice of Gentlemen putting down their names on the list for their turn to present petitions. In the list there were duplicate names, and in some instances triple ones; if these Gentlemen, whenever their turns came, according to the way the present list was made out, presented petitions, they would exclude other Members from that privilege, which had been the effect since the new arrangements had been made. The hon. Member submitted, that the better and more regular rule would be, that whenever a Gentleman presented a number of petitions, he should immediately strike his name out, and insert it again at the bottom of the list. By this means hon. Gentlemen would have ample opportunity of presenting those petitions intrusted to them.

Mr. Wilks

said, that during the days in which the new arrangement had been carried into effect, but sixty-four petitions had been disposed of. There were now above 300 names on the Speaker's list, and proceeding as they had done, all the petitions now down on that list could not be presented in six weeks.

Colonel Davies

remarked, that such must be the consequence, if Members would not exercise a proper degree of discre- tionary self-control, and refrain from speaking on the subject of every petition, when that subject must, in one shape or another, come before the House as a legitimate question for debate. If Gentlemen, on presenting petitions, would make long speeches, and by these speeches get up a debate, what could be expected, and what regulation could be adopted to counteract the evil? There had not been a petition presented upon which there had not been a long debate. He would, as an instance, call the attention of the House to what took place only on Friday last. The hon. member for Hull caused a long debate upon a petition for the better observance of the Sabbath, and another upon the Emancipation of the Jews, which caused a long speech from the hon. member for Oldham. Mr. Cobbett was always speaking about the rights of the people; but if the time of the House were to be taken up by such unnecessary proceedings, there would be no other business done at all. The hon. Member hoped, that the hon. Member would, for the future refrain from making long speeches on the presentation of petitions, and preserve them till an opportunity occurred when the question they referred to should come before the House. There were now 320 names on the Speaker's List. They increased at the rate of forty, and diminished at that of seven per day; and if they were to go on thus, he saw no end to their labours, nor any chance of all the petitions being presented.

Mr. Rigby Wason

was of opinion, that the petitions of the people, expressive of their sentiments, could never be heard or known in that House, unless Members would resolve not uselessly to express their own, but, to confine their observations to some statement of fact, impugning the petition, or defending it if impugned by others.

Mr. Cobbett

denied, that he had made speeches on Friday last. He had certainly made observations that were naturally suggested by the petitions then presented. He could suggest a remedy for the evil now complained of, and one that would satisfy the people. It was this, that all the petitions should be read at length, and Members make no speeches at all; and that all which they thought fit to receive should be printed. The people wanted to hear their own sentiments—not those of the Members. This would do away with the Select Committee, of which the people were properly jealous. If his suggestions were not adopted, he must continue to make speeches.

Mr. Littleton

thought some resolution should be passed, limiting the right of every hon. Member in speaking on the presentation of a petition to an exposition of the facts it stated.

Mr. Robert Palmer

thought it would not be possible strictly to adhere to that plan.

Mr. Littleton

presented the Report of the Select Committee on Public Petitions.

The Speaker

observed, that as the House would meet early to-morrow, and he should be punctual, and as a great body of the Members had heard what had just passed, it would be in their power to show what might be done as to facilitating the business of the House in presenting petitions. That would be much better than the further discussion of the subject now.

Leave given to bring in the Bill.

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