HC Deb 17 June 1834 vol 24 cc492-5
Mr. George

Wood moved the Order of the Day for the second reading of this Bill.

Mr. Goulburn

really felt himself compelled to take advantage of the opportunity which the present Motion on the Orders of the Day presented to him, in order to submit to the hon. Member whether he really could think it consistent with fair discussion to introduce the subject of the Universities' Admission Bill under the present circumstances of the House. For his part, when he considered the extraordinary nature of the subject, and the character of the Motion itself, he really could not bring himself to consider that the hon. Member had moved the Order of the Day with any other object in view than that of postponing his Motion to a future opportunity. He repeated, that he could not induce himself to believe that the hon. Member wished otherwise than that the question should be fairly and fully discussed, or that he would be a party to any arrangement which must preclude the possibility of a fair discussion of such a very important subject. If any intention had existed of pursuing the subject to a final discussion on this day, there ought not to have been any permission given to Committees to proceed on their business. He had himself to attend to a Committee on the tea-duties, in which there was under consideration an important point of discussion. Another Committee was at that moment sitting upon the salaries of Judges in Scotland, and the subject involved an important consideration, and it was desirable that hon. Members who were particularly interested in the administration of justice in that country should not be absent from the Committee. There were Committees sitting on the East-India trade, the Islington Market, upon Railroad Bills, and upon other subjects on which the Members of that House were particularly engaged. He (Mr. Goulburn) could not but think the present the best opportunity of stating his objection to the discussion of an important subject, when it was barely possible that any discussion could be entered upon with satisfaction. The hon. Members knew that, by the arrangements adopted with reference to morning sittings, they must terminate at a particular hour, and that a Gentleman must bring his arguments and his speeches within a limited time, whilst those who might think it necessary to answer one, and refute the other, must be interrupted in the body of his argument, and have his speech postponed for a considerable period. If the morning sittings were to be dedicated to the discharge of the ordinary business of the House, care ought to be taken that the business was of that character that it was a fair presumption that the question might be disposed of within the time allotted for debate. A most unfair impression might be made on the public mind, even with respect to facts, if discussions were allowed to proceed, when only a small part of the House could by any possibility be present. What experience had not the House had of the inconvenience of not following this rule. He would appeal to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, himself upon the subject. The noble Lord had chosen the early sittings for the Committee on his Poor-laws' Amendment Bill, thinking that the insulated and unconnected points of the Bill could be brought to a termination within the limited sittings of two hours; and what had been the result? The noble Lord had not persevered on finding that even insulated questions could not be brought to a conclusion in one morning sitting. He had made no progress, and, notwithstanding this, the House was now called on to take into consideration on that morning one of the most important questions that could be brought forward. Let the House see how such a proceeding would work, By the regulations of that House, on three evenings every week the Government business had precedence of all other. On those three evenings, Gentlemen who conducted any public Bill could have no chance of getting through with their business. If the University Admission Bill were to be proceeded with upon that day, there would be an adjourned debate. On Thursday the question would take precedence of all others, and if it were not then concluded, it would likewise have precedence over all other subjects on Tuesday, so that on every Tuesday and every Thursday no other Gentleman could bring forward any question in the morning, whilst the priority of Government business would prevent them bringing forward anything in the evening. The House could not but recollect, that the discussion upon the University Petition had lasted a whole week, and that it would not then have terminated, but for the intervention of the holidays, which had in fact prevented the renewal of the subject. If the debate had then been upon a general principle, like the principle of the present Bill, did the hon. Gentleman imagine, that even the holydays would have terminated the discussion? On the lowest possible calculation, five days having been devoted to the Petition, it must be calculated that if they began the proposed discussion in the morning sitting of that day, the House would be occupied for many weeks in the discussion, to the prejudice of all other questions however important, if they were not, strictly speaking, Government measures. He (Mr. Goulburn) trusted, that this was a proposition to which the House would not give its assent. Let the House fix some day for the discussion of this question, upon which there could be a hope of bringing it at once to a termination.

Mr. George Wood

was not aware on what ground it could be assumed that it was not his intention to persist in the Bill this morning. Had the right hon. Gentleman put the question in private, he should certainly have told him that it was his intention, and the time of the House might have been spared. It was not his fault that the question had not come earlier under the notice of the House. He gave notice early in the Session; the Bill was read a first time before the Easter holidays; and he had endeavoured unsuccessfully to bring the subject on on several previous occasions. If the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was to prevail, the House could never grapple with any question that might be supposed to occasion a debate that must necessarily be adjourned.

Sir Robert Inglis

was not anxious to connect the Government with this measure, but he could not help thinking they were called upon by its great importance to devote one entire evening to its discussion. The present measure involved a question of principle, which ought to be discussed with as little interruption as possible.

Sir Robert Peel

said, there was no limitation to the period devoted to the debate in the evening, and it was resumed on the next day, when the recollection of the House was fresh with regard to what had taken place on the preceding night. This, however, could not be the case with an adjourned debate from one morning to another. As an illustration of the inconvenience of devoting the morning sitting to business that must necessarily be adjourned, the House would recollect that the speech of an eminent and learned professor was sliced in two a few mornings ago, by the Speaker leaving the chair, and the remainder pronounced on a subsequent day. There were twelve Committees now sitting, six of which he (Sir Robert Peel) had that day to attend. He trusted the noble Lord would consider they were called on to determine on a question of the greatest importance. The morning sitting was understood to be devoted entirely to the reception of petitions, many hon. Members were intrusted with 50 or 100, and sought every opportunity to present them; if, therefore, the whole three hours were to be taken up with the discussion of most important measures, which made it incumbent on every Member to attend, one of the duties they owed to their constituents must be consequently neglected.

Lord Althorp

said, that the only object he had in view in pressing forward the measures of Government was, that the public business might be despatched with as little delay as possible. If he gave up one of the Order-days, it would be a great injury to the public service.

Second reading postponed.

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