HC Deb 15 July 1837 vol 38 cc1916-9

On the Order of the Day having been read for the consideration of the Lords' Amendments to the Municipal Corporations Bill,

Lord John Russell

said, this was a Bill which had been under the consideration of Parliament for a length of time, and one to which the attention of the Lords in the present Session had long been directed. The Bill was sent up to their lordships on the 27th of February, and it was not returned till the 1st of June. Such a proceeding did not give any great promise, that had a number of Bills been sent up at an earlier period of the Session from that House, they would have been returned within a more reasonable period than the present had been. When this Bill was last under consideration, he had stated that there was only one point in regard to which their lordships differed with the Commons. That point related to the election of presiding councillors at borough elections, and although he still held his former opinion on the subject, the other portions of the Bill were of so much importance, that he would not carry his opposition further to the amendments of the Lords on that particular point. If the Bill did not pass in the present Session, the towns of Sunderland and Ipswich would be placed in a situation of the greatest difficulty, and under these circumstances he would move, that the House do not insist on rejecting the amendments of the Lords.

Mr. Hawkins

could not consent to such a motion, for were the clause, as amended by the Lords, to pass, Newport and Rochester would be most injuriously affected by its operation. The Bill might be of advantage to Ipswich and Sunderland, but it would be productive of the worst consequences as regarded Newport and Rochester, and, as the representative of one of those places, he could not consent that the amendments should stand part of the Bill. He was surprised that the noble Lord (John Russell) should consent to the Clause as it now stood, and he was amazed that some other person, instead of that noble Lord whose son was now a candidate for Rochester, should not have been found to propose those amendments in the other House of Parliament. He thought respect for public opinion might have prevented Lord Wynford from coming forward on the subject; and, as the representative of Newport, he (Mr. Hawkins) considered himself bound to protest against the amendment, and to oppose it by every means in his power.

The Attorney-General

said, the case was not Newport and Rochester against Ipswich and Sunderland, but Newport and Rochester against all England; for, although Ipswich and Sunderland would, from the peculiar situation in which they were placed by the Municipal Reform Act, derive great advantages from the Bill, yet the advantages were not confined to those two towns but would extend to almost every borough of England. He regretted the way in which the Bill had been treated by the Lords, but on the balance of evils he preferred taking the Bill as it stood to rejecting it altogether.

Alderman Thompson

hoped the hon. Member for Newport, would not press his opposition to a division. If the Bill did not pass, Sunderland would be put to great inconvenience and expense, and it was to be feared, that the greatest confusion would ensue.

Mr. Estcourt

would not enter at all into the merits of the Bill, but seeing no other Friend then present of the noble Lord whose name had been so unnecessarily introduced into the debate, he rose, however incompetent for the task, to answer the charge which had been made and to vindicate the conduct of that noble Lord. No Friend of that noble Lord was present, no notice had been given of the charge which had been brought against him, and under these circumstances he (Mr. Estcourt) thought he had a just right to complain that Lord Wynford's name had been introduced in the manner it had been by the hon. Member for Newport. Had any intimation of such a charge been given to the noble Lord, he had no doubt that some Friend of his Lordship would have been present to defend him, and that the noble Lord would have been able to give the most satisfactory reasons for the course he had pursued. But that intimation had not been given, and there was no Friend of the noble Lord present who was acquainted with his Lordship's reasons for acting as he had done and it was not therefore fair or just that a charge should have been brought against the noble Lord in a place where he could not have an opportunity of replying, and while no Friend was present capable of explaining the reasons of his adoption of the course which he had pursued in regard to this Bill, and of vindicating his character from the charge which had been brought against him. It was also an unusual course to introduce the names of individual Members of the other House in debates in that House in the way in which the name of Lord Wynford had been introduced in the present dis- cussion. He was not aware of that noble Lord's reasons for proposing the amendment which had been introduced; but this he would say, that if the noble Lord had thought the alteration unjust, improper, or such as was unfit for the Legislature to adopt, it never would have been proposed by him, for there was no man more incapable of doing what was not strictly honourable and strictly upright than Lord Wynford.

Mr. D. Barclay

then said, that he thought nothing could have been more fair than the proposition sent up by that House to the Lords in regard to the Bill then under consideration. He could not approve of the amendment which had been sent down, but upon the whole he considered the noble Lord (John Russell) justified in the motion he had submitted to the House.

Lords' Amendments agreed to.