HC Deb 03 September 1835 vol 30 cc1322-8
The Chancellor of the Exchequer

moved the third reading of the Consolidated Fund, (Appropriation) Bill.

Mr. Hume

hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not press the third read- ing, as the House had no right to be much satisfied with the proceedings in another place. If this Bill were passed, the House might let slip the opportunity of withholding the Supplies and discussing the measure just sent to the Lords again; and, without farther preface, he moved that it be read a third time on Monday.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

objected to the Amendment, and if he stood alone would resist the postponement of the third reading. The hon. Member wished for an opportunity of discussing the Municipal Corporations' Bill, just sent up to the Lords again. He earnestly hoped that there might be no need to discuss it again; and that the measure would not be returned. This House had given it the most sedulous, candid, and conciliatory attention; and whoever was friendly to its provisions, and thought they were of any value, would wish that it might never come back to the Commons. If there were any decided enemy to its provisions, he could not do better than to promote its return. If it were returned, then indeed the opportunity of discussion which the hon. Member for Middlesex desired would be afforded; but at a moment like the present, pregnant with important interests, he entreated the House not, upon any imperfect and partial view, to take a step which would materially (and he spoke advisedly) most materially prevent the completion of its wishes. He did not resort to any obvious arguments founded upon the fact that to defer the Bill till Monday would necessarily prolong the Session for another week, but he relied upon the conviction, which he thought even the hon. Member for Middlesex must feel, that to adopt his Amendment would tend to defeat the very object he contemplated. He did not wish to avoid or to prevent discussion, should it become necessary by the return of the Bill from the Lords, but he trusted that the calm tone observed and the conciliatory spirit evinced by hon. Members—and which did them infinite honour, considering the strength of their convictions—would have its due effect, since a firm but respectful attitude and demeanour were not likely to be misinterpreted, and would recommend the measure to the serious attention of the other branch of the Legislature. He only asked hon. Members to persevere in this course, to be consistent with themselves, and, as friends to the Bill, to give it the best chance of being passed into a law. He, therefore, humbly entreated the House not to postpone the third reading of the Appropriation Bill, or rather he humbly entreated the hon. Member for Middlesex to withdraw his Amendment.

Mr. O'Connell

trusted that his hon. Friend would comply, since no reasonable advantage could be gained by insisting upon the Amendment. As to stopping the Supplies, that was out of the question: they had been voted by the House seriatim, and after having voted them, it ought never to be said that it had any ulterior thought of retracting them. He put it to the hon. Member for Middlesex, that whatever he could gain by his Amendment he would at all events gain equally when the Appropriation Bill had passed, if the Municipal Corporations' Bill were to be returned from the House of Lords. Nay, he would then have an additional advantage, for it would be seen that all had been done with temper and conciliation. If he were not afraid that his advocacy of the Bill would be injurious to its passing, he should say that he supported it heartily and unequivocally. If poor paltry considerations concerning this individual or that individual were allowed elsewhere to interfere with the sober consideration of a legislative enactment, it might be taken that the postponement of the third reading was an intended insult, and it might be urged as a reason for rejecting the Bill just sent to the Lords, that the Member for Middlesex had ventured to object to the Appropriation Clause. This might be taken as an indignity and the consequences might be most injurious. This country was come to an important and awful crisis, when it was to be ascertained, not in this Session, but in the next, whether every beneficial measure was to be checked and controlled by those over whom at present there was no check or control—whether measures of immense utility were to be stopped in their progress, not on the fair ground of their merits or defects, but on grounds that were too futile to be repeated. Let this House act so as to leave all the fault elsewhere, and abstain from anything like giving a pretext for a course which all dispassionate men must deprecate. He was sure that the country would not have less confidence in the hon. Member for Middlesex, who had followed one undeviating line of public conduct, because he forbore on this occasion, and allowed the Bill to pass.

Mr. Hume

was desirous of being informed of the use of passing the Bill; he had been told that it was of no use. If, as was said, the money had been voted, and could not be recalled, what good could the Appropriation Bill accomplish? If he were wrong, he wished to be undeceived and to learn whether the measure before the House was necessary to give validity to its votes? He did not wish the Municipal Corporations' Bill to be rejected; on the contrary, he had done all that was consistent with his public duty to secure its adoption as a law; he had been as ready as any man to yield on many points, but he wished to be in a condition—if the other House rejected the Bill, and did not estimate properly the condescension that had been shown and concession that had been made—to object to the final granting of the public money. He could not help looking back to what had occurred last year, when men in full possession of the confidence of the country had been excluded from office; by whose advice it had been done he knew not, but certainly not the individual who had been principally responsible in the new Government, for he was at a distance of some thousands of miles. There must, however, have been some adviser, and, for ought he knew, what had happened last year might occur again. He considered it the duty of the House to guard against the possible recurrence of such a transaction. The House had the power—or if they had not they ought to possess it—of putting the supplies into any hands they pleased. They had voted these supplies to a liberal extent to his Majesty; and in his opinion, lest his Majesty should be led by evil counsellors to repeat the course of last year, they ought to place the dispensing of the supplies in hands on which they could depend. He could not indeed go so far as to say that he contemplated the dismissal of the present Administration in the same manner as that of last year was dismissed, but at the same time he thought that they ought to guard against the possibility of such a proceeding. He wished the House not to do anything for the purpose of offending the House of Lords, but simply to exercise the management of their affairs, and postpone for a little while the reading of a Bill before them—which, as he conceived, might easily be done without giving any such offence to that assembly—in order that they might be able to judge whether any such proceeding might be necessary in the case of the Bill which they had sent up to the House of Lords being rejected. He made this proposal not from any want of confidence in his Majesty's Ministers, for he was perfectly ready to place that confidence in them now which he had always placed in them during the previous part of the Session. He hoped, therefore, that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would explain further why he wished the Bill to be read at once.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said that the second speech of his hon. Friend rendered it still more necessary to pass the Bill at once. His hon. Friend would have the goodness to recollect that he was not asking the House to do anything extraordinary, but simply to do that which was in the usual course of proceeding. If the proposition of his hon. Friend were agreed to, he would put it to the House and his hon. Friend, as men of sense and understanding, whether an impression would not be created that they wished to keep in their hands a power over the supplies, to be exercised in the event of the rejection of the Municipal Corporations' Bill as sent amended from this House? Now, that was a course which, of all others, would be most pregnant with danger. As had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin—do not let the debate in another place go off on a question of etiquette; let the discussion be one, and one only, on the merits of the Amendments we have made in the Bill. His hon. Friend had said that he entertained confidence in his Majesty's present Ministers. If such were the case, let him allow them, ledged as they were on the question of Municipal Reform, to fight their own battle, and take their own chance of success. The step which he proposed was eminently qualified to weaken the Government in the public opinion; and he called on the majority of the House, composing the friends f the Municipal Reform Bill, not to peril its success by crying out it was in danger. A very unfounded statement had been put forth out of doors, that he—the person charged with the superintendence of the finances of the country—had counselled, or taken a course which countenanced, he stopping of the supplies; and that had seen made an argument against the Government, and against himself individually, as a Member of it. It was scarcely necessary for him to say that he had never countenanced such a course.

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

wanted to know distinctly whether the House did or did not possess the power of stopping the supplies, [The Chancellor of the Exchequer: No!] There had been a great misapprehension existing out of doors that the House was in a situation to stop the supplies, and he himself had received a petition from a large portion of his constituents, with a request that he would vote for taking that course, in the event of the House of Lords rejecting or injuring the Municipal Corporations' Reform Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, it now appeared, told them that they could not stop the supplies; and such being the case, there would be no use in adopting the proposition of the hon. Member for Middlesex. As to its giving offence to the House of Lords, he could not see how the suspension of the third reading of one of their Bills could be fairly thought to have any such effect. He trusted that his right hon. Friend would state to the House the nature and operation of this Appropriation Clause; he himself had tried to explain it to his constituents, and had said to them, "Gentlemen, I believe it is too late to attempt to stop the supplies now." If they were indeed in a situation to stop the supplies by suspending the Appropriation Clause, he should give a vote in favour of the proposition of the hon. Member for Middlesex.

Mr. Warburton

observed, that if the House possessed the power of inserting a Clause for placing the money voted in the bands of Commissioners, without the consent of the other House—if they could of themselves give final effect to any proposition of that nature, then they would be able to exercise the check alluded to; but if they did not possess it, it would appear that that mysterious power of which his hon. Friend talked was entirely imaginary. Any course which they could take would have no effect. There were, already, in the hands of Government Exchequer Bills sufficient to carry on the functions of the Government until Parliament should again meet. If it were proper to exercise any power of stopping the supplies, it ought to have been resorted to before they were voted; there was no such power now.

Mr. Hume

referred to the form of the Appropriation Act of 1833, and said that he might easily move Amendments to the effect of granting the supplies for a term of nine months, instead of twelve months as proposed. If, however, his Majesty's Government were of opinion that the course which he proposed would, if adopted, have the effect of weakening the confidence reposed in them, or endangering the success of the Municipal Reform Bill, then he would not press it.

Lord John Russell

said that, as he understood the question, the effect of such a motion as that which the hon. Member for Middlesex proposed would be, to show a great want of confidence in the Government; and the support of the Motion which had been made by his right hon. Friend, the. Chancellor of the Exchequer—as the official representative of the Government on this occasion—appeared to him to be the only right and constitutional way of showing confidence in that Government.

Bill read a third time and passed.