HC Deb 08 July 1834 vol 24 cc1294-9
Lord Morpeth

, in moving the Resolution of which he had given notice, that for the remainde rof the Session, Orders of the Day should have precedence of notices, said that in bringing forward a Motion for the express purpose of saving the time of the House, he should not address it at any length; indeed the subject was one which, at this period of the Session, required little to be said in its support; however as he was determined to take the sense of the House upon it, he would briefly state the grounds on which he brought it forward. In the first place, for a precedent, he would refer to a similar motion which he proposed, and which the House adopted, last Session. Then as to the necessity for such a Motion, he thought that that was obvious. Whatever differences of opinion might exist as to the change that had taken place in the Constitution of the House, it would be agreed by all that it stood upon a totally different footing from formerly. Then the conducting of the whole business was vested in the leader of the two parties into which the House was divided. But now the House was divided into various and different parties, and there were numbers of stragglers—he meant not the phrase in an offensive sense—who considered themselves amenable to no party banner at all. Notices without number, and of every shade of variety, appeared on the books, not representing the concentrated views of a party, but the individual opinions and sentiments of the respective members who had given such notices. The result was, that now, approaching the dog-days, there was no diminution of such notices, and that the public business was in every way retarded. He thought, that under such circumstances Parliament would be justified in adopting some definite arrangement upon the subject for future Sessions. In his opinion the practice that had been adopted in regard to private business might be advantageously extended to the public business of the House. The Motion which he was about to submit was, however, limited to the present Session. As might be expected, each individual Member who had a notice on the books was always ready to admit, that the public business should take precedence of all other notices but his own. In fact, no one would give up his own Motion, and the public business was retarded. To get rid of such Motions the House was frequently counted out as on the 8th and 16th of May, the 10th, 17th, and 24th of June, and the 3rd of July, and thus in the very heart of the Session, a whole week was lost. On all such occasions too the House was counted out at an early hour. He could not be charged with having taken the House by surprise, and his proposition, which he should conclude by moving, was, "that for the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day should take precedence of notices of motion."

Mr. Hume

said, that if the House should adopt the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord, it would preclude the possibility of hon. Members bringing forward any new matter, however important, because the Bills which his Majesty's Government now had before the House would occupy every hour of the time which yet remained of the present Session. He hoped the House would hesitate before it adopted the Resolution, as it would drive hon. Members to the inconvenient alternative of bringing forward their Motions as Amendments upon the Orders of the Day. It had been very convenient for the Government to have the House counted out upon any discussion that was unpalatable to them, and the adoption of this proposition would enable his Majesty's Government to defer bringing in their Bills for the future until towards the end of the Session, and then get some Member to assist them by moving such a proposition as the present. For his own part, he would rather that the House should sit for the next two months than that so important a privilege of the Representatives of the people should be given up. He should therefore most certainly oppose the Motion.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that if he stood alone he would divide the House against the proposition. It was a curious coincidence that this proposition should be made just as it was proposed to hurry the Bill through the House which took away the liberties of the people of Ireland. He could tell the noble Lord, that his plan could not succeed if carried, nor should it succeed, for hon. Members would certainly take the more inconvenient course of moving the Motions which they contemplated by way of Amendments upon the Orders of the Day. Formerly motions always took precedence, but at length three days were appropriated to Orders, and now the remaining two days were sought to be added, though on those days when the Motions to be brought forward were unpalatable to the Government, the House had been counted out. The Government whipper-in had then stood at the door of the House to prevent Members from entering, and thus even now the House was deprived of its old constitutional mode of proceeding. He hoped either that the Motion would be abandoned by the noble Lord, or that the House would reject it.

Mr. Buckingham

had suffered from the House having been counted out; but he would not complain, though he conceived it to be a mean course of defeating or evading the discussion of a question. He deprecated such a practice on important motions such as that submitted by the hon. member for Liverpool on the subject of the East India trade, and that with reference to the currency. With respect to the Motion now before the House he should oppose it.

Mr. Poulett Thomson

repelled the charge, that the Government had obtained the counting-out of the House on the two occasions which had been alluded to. On both occasions he had been present, and with respect to one—he meant the Motion of the hon. member for Liverpool—he felt deep regret, that the discussion had been so interrupted, because it allowed the statement of the hon. member for Liverpool to go forth to the public without a reply on the part of the Government.

Mr. Tennyson

said, the Motion would interfere with the ancient and undoubted rights of the people conferred on their representatives. While he protested against the innovation upon the privileges of the House, he left it to hon. Members to use their discretion in bowing to the urgency of public affairs. If, however, the proposition were carried, he should make a point of submitting a Motion without any notice whatever.

Sir John Wrottesley

concurred in the sentiments expressed by the right hon. member for Lambeth. Parliament had, however, already sat five months, and in that period sufficient time had been given for hon. Members to bring forward any measures of importance. With respect to not making or rather counting out the House, he begged to say, that this step had last week been taken under peculiar circumstances. The House would remember, that the right hon. Gentleman who filled the chair had sat on the previous day from 12 to 3 o'clock, and again from 5 till half-past 4 o'clock in the morning; and though the right hon. Gentleman would be the last to complain, yet the House ought to pay some deference to his feelings, health, and convenience.

Mr. Robinson

objected to the Motion, though he hoped, as it had been submitted to the House, that hon. Members whose names appeared with notices of Motions on the Order-book, would be induced to suspend them. Rather than call for so fatal a precedent against the privileges of the House as would ensue from the adoption of this proposition, he trusted the noble Lord would, after this conversation, consent to withdraw it. If not, he should feel it his duty on principle to vote against the Motion.

Sir Robert Peel

did not think it unreasonable that, in the present state of public business, some course should be pursued by which the attention of the House should be devoted to it. He thought the public looked to the disposal of the Orders of the Day with quite as deep an interest as on any other description of public business, though no one ought to be prevented from bringing forward any Motion which might be important. This, however, ought to be left to the judgment, common sense, and good feeling of hon. Members themselves, for he could not believe that any good could result from such a regulation as was proposed. The Order-book at present contained so many notices for each night, that it was impossible to know which would be brought forward. The list for this night consisted of twenty notices, including notices of clauses; and though he had been assured last night by the hon. member for Sheffield (Mr. Buckingham), whose notice stood first, that he was determined to bring it forward this evening, yet he (Sir Robert Peel) had entertained somehow the internal conviction, that the hon. Member would not do so. True enough, his opinion was not ill-founded, and his confidence in the hon. Gentleman's good sense, which exceeded his confidence in the hon. Gentleman's promises, had been justified. He trusted, the noble Lord would leave the subject to the discretion of hon. Members, rather than call for a vote upon his proposition.

Mr. Secretary Rice

said, that much convenience would result from hon. Members not pressing motions which could lead to no practical effect. As to the imputation, that this Motion was made to favour the Government, other Members had as much interest in the Orders of the Day being admitted to precedence as the Government. For his own part, he was indifferent whether the noble Lord's Motion was carried, or hon. Gentlemen, in their discretion, consented to give way to the public convenience.

Mr. Baring

objected to the Motion. As yet the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had not brought forward his Budget, and in giving a general notice the noble Lord had fixed on no particular day, and he had in consequence been unable to move for certain Papers relative to the mode of conducting the financial business of the country. He had asked the noble Lord for those papers, but the noble Lord thought it his duty to refuse them.

Lord Morpeth

, in reply, said, that he really found nothing so difficult to collect as the sense of the House. He found that every Member felt the inconvenience which attended the fact of Motions having precedence, but was unwilling in his own case to give way. Whatever motives might be assigned to him, he had no wish but to consult the convenience of the House, and it was his opinion, after the experience of this and the last Session, that some such measure was absolutely necessary to expedite public business. As to his accidental co-operation with the Government, as the hon. and learned member for Dublin was pleased to term it, in hastening forward the Coercion Bill, he could not of course expect that the hon. and learned Gentleman would place more reliance on his verbal disclaimer than on the intimation he gave the hon. and learned Member; but he could say, that he gave notice of this Motion before the Government had determined to bring forward the Coercion Bill; namely, on the 18th of June. He was, however, willing to suspend his Motion for the present, if a farther experiment of the discretion of Members would be attended with any advantage.

The Motion was withdrawn.