HC Deb 15 April 1836 vol 32 cc1083-7
Lord John Russell

said, that before he moved the order of the day, as his hon. friend the Member for Lancaster had said that he would persevere in the motion of which he had given notice, he wished to state what was the position in which he stood, and in which the hon. Member stood, respecting this question. It was his intention, as he had stated before Easter, to proceed on this day with the second reading of the Bills for the registration of births and the celebration of marriages. He had moved for leave to bring in these Bills early in the month of February, and that on the registration of births had been ordered to be printed on the 17th of February. They were Bills on the subject of which great interest was excited among the Dissenters, and the Government had been often asked, for several years past, to interfere and remedy the grievances they were intended to remove. In the course of last year he had been very much pressed by those representing the Dissenting body to bring forward measures for their relief; but on his representing the impossibility of passing them through the House in the then state of public business, they had, with the utmost fairness and honourable feeling, acceded to the delay, with a strong expression of hope, however, that Government would introduce some measure on this subject early in the present Session. Having now brought those Bills forward as early as he possibly could, and after other business of importance had been disposed of, having given notice before Easter that he would on this evening propose their second reading, his hon. Friend (Mr. P. M. Stewart) interposed, and would not permit the order of the day to be read without going into the general subject of what he called "the aggressions of Russia." To the bringing of that question before the House he (Lord J. Russell) had not, on former occasions, presented any unreasonable obstacle. It might have come under discussion on the first day of the Session, in the debate upon the answer to the King's speech; it might naturally have been brought under consideration in the debate on the navy estimates; and a noble Lord (D. Stuart), the Member for Arundel, thought fit to bring forward a special motion on the subject, when the whole question was gone into, and a most elaborate statement, historically as well as with reference to its more novel circumstances at the present time, was submitted to the House. Upon a subsequent occasion, too, a right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stratford Canning), upon the reception of intelligence respecting Cracow, called the attention of the House to the subject; and, as the intelligence had but recently been received, and the postponement of the question might possibly deprive it of its interest, he had purposely moved the order of the day for supply, in order to enable the question to be raised, and accordingly the debate occupied the whole evening. Having thus afforded every possible opportunity for the discussion of this question, he thought he had some ground in reason and right to ask his hon. Friend, for the sake of the public interests, as well as for the convenience of the House, not to persevere in bringing it again forward on the present occasion. Undoubtedly his hon. Friend had a right to take his own course, but he could not see that any urgency existed to justify him in persevering; and if every Gentleman were to insist on his extreme right, he might be obliged to adopt a course which would, he feared, be most inconvenient to the House—for instance, when any hon. Member got up to move on Tuesdays or Thursdays, it would be competent for him to say he had an order of the day of urgent importance, and move as an amendment, that the orders of the day be read, thus setting aside or indefinitely postponing motions, just as his hon. Friend's course would the orders of the day. It was, therefore, obviously for the convenience of the House that he wished his hon. Friend not to persevere, and allow this question, having reference to the Dissenters' grievances, which was one of so much domestic interest and great public importance, to be proceeded with. He might then give notice for some other day, when the general subject of Russia, involving so many questions of foreign policy, might be conveniently brought forward without interfering with Bills not important merely for the sake of the Ministry but to the great mass of the people in the country. He begged leave to move that the order of the day for the second reading of the Registration of Births and Marriages Bill be now read.

Mr. Patrick M. Stewart

said, he should have offered no opposition to the noble Lord's request had he not felt himself compelled, by the present state of the question, to persevere in his motion. No doubt there had already been two discussions on the subject in the course of the last two months, but its aspect had, in the interval which had since elapsed, materially changed for the worse; and every day new circumstances were occurring to render it more necessary that the attention of Government should be called to the question, in order duly to impress them with the serious responsibility which devolved upon them in consequence of the events which unfortunately were still taking place in the East of Europe. Petitions were now waiting to be presented from every individual of character in this country connected with the trade of Turkey, praying for that very discussion of which he was the humble advocate. On the two former occasions no definite or practical conclusion had been come to from which any benefit could arise; whereas it would be his endeavour to bring home to the Government the state of jeopardy in which our foreign relations stood, and practically fix them with the responsibility of what is new occurring in the East. But if it should appear to be the sense of hon. Members present that he ought not at present to persevere in his motion, he would be the last person to contravene their wishes in that respect; but differing as he did from the noble Lord as to the comparative importance of that subject which he had taken in hand—regarding it as paramount to many of those home subjects which so frequently engrossed their attention—he did think it most important that they should, before the Session was much further advanced, come to some cool and mature determination with respect to it. He therefore felt most reluctant to give way. [Cries of "Withdraw."] He felt quite at a loss what to do. [Renewed cries of "Withdraw."]

Sir Robert Peel

said, the hon. Gentleman seemed to invite an observation on the position in which he found himself. It appeared to him that the hon. Gentleman had himself furnished a most conclusive reason why he should adopt the course recommended by the noble Lord. In reply to the noble Lord's observation, that the question had already undergone discussion on two recent occasions, the hon. Gentleman said, that those discussions led to no practical result, and he proposed that the present discussion should lead to such a result. If that was the object of the hon. Gentleman, he should say, let them have fair notice of the motion. Let the hon. Gentleman give notice that he intended to call the attention of the House to the aggressions of Russia, but do not let him invite them to come to a resolution, and then say that he meant to follow it up by a practical result for which they were not prepared. That might involve the House in a very serious difficulty. If the hon. Gentleman wished that the discussion should be decisive, that it should be of a very different character from the two preceding discussions, and that it should end in some practical issue—if he desired to call for the determination of the House with regard to the relations of this country with Russia, then let him give at least two or three days' notice of the precise motion he intended to bring under the consideration of the House. He was glad to hear the noble Lord protest against the practice of bringing forward questions of foreign policy on motions for proceeding to the orders of the day. If Gentlemen who were in the habit of supporting the Government, took that course, which he and his Friends on his side of the House had always discouraged, as not fair to the House, he could not answer for it that he and his Friends might not consider it expedient to follow the example.

Mr. Patrick M. Stewart

begged leave to say, after what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet, that the motion he had given, arose from the answers he had received to three questions put to the noble Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, every one of which had been most unsatisfactory, both with reference to Cracow, and the still more important events which had recently occurred, throwing obstructions in the way of British commerce in the Black Sea. In giving way to the noble Lord upon the present occasion, he trusted one day next week would be given him for bringing forward this motion, and he pledged himself to shape his notice so as to meet the views of the right hon. Baronet opposite.

Mr. Thomas Attwood

begged to ask the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) whether it was true that 250 of the Polish refugees had been given up to Russia? He would also take the opportunity of saying he had heard, that in Birmingham an order was given, two or three months ago, for 800 large guns, professedly for the Turkish Government; they were to carry balls of from sixty pounds to two hundred and sixty pounds each. There was a very prevalent opinion that those guns were intended for the Dardanelles. He wished to ask the noble Lord, whether the Government had an eye to that circumstance—whether they had given their consent that these terrible engines of destruction should be allowed to proceed from this country to complete the fortifications of the Dardanelles? He hoped the Government were not asleep on this occasion; the Russians, he believed, were wide awake.

Mr. P. M. Stewart

postponed his motion.