HC Deb 25 February 1840 vol 52 cc612-5
Lord J. Russell

Sir, the motion I have to make is to enable the House to proceed with the bills before it after the 1st of June next, so as to obviate the reproach cast upon us that we send measures up to the other House of Parliament when there are no Members in town to consider them sufficiently. Many bills to which this House paid a great deal of attention have been postponed from session to session on that ground. Mondays and Fridays would be occupied in supply by the government, and Tuesday would be, therefore, necessary to be added for the purposes of furthering the bills before the House. Under these circumstances I move, "That after the 1st day of June next, orders of the day take precedence of notices of motions on Thursdays."

Sir R. Peel

—Sir, I am not at all disposed to throw any difficulty in the way of the noble Lord if on any occasion he shows a special cause to call for the motion he now proposes; but to make such a motion at the present period of the session, without such cause shown, is, I think, to begin rather too early. I can easily see what it will end in. If this motion be agreed to now it will form a precedent to regulate the business of the House in all future sessions, and thus hon. Members will be deprived of an opportunity of bringing forward measures which may be necessary in their estimation for the good of the country. As I have said, on special circumstances being shown, nothing whatever should prevent my acceding to the motion; but they have not; and the noble Lord, in a speech of less than three minutes, calls on us to relinquish a portion of our rights without reason assigned for so doing. At this early period, the 25th of February, I think the House can hardly decide what may come before it, and therefore I think it should not be asked to agree to such a proposition. There will, in my opinion, be a great advantage derived to the House if the noble Lord postpones his motion to a later period of the Session, when we shall be in a position to form a better judgment on the subject it involves. But, as I have said, to adopt it now would be to establish a precedent for future times, and that which is proposed for June this year, may be proposed for May next year, and so on for every year after in a decreasing ratio. Under these circumstances, I think the noble Lord should at least wait a little longer, until he sees what course the business of the House will take, before he brings on this motion.

Mr. Hume

said, the motion of last year had taken him by surprise, and he hoped that the noble Lord would be satisfied with putting the present as a notice. If he did so it would serve all the purposes of Members and the Government, giving the former the opportunity of bringing on their motions in due time, and enabling the latter to go on with the business of the country.

Lord John Russell

as it occurred to me that no hon. Member would bring forward any motion after the 1st of June, I did not consider that it would at all interfere with their rights. The right hon. Baronet had said, that no special circumstances were shown, and that I should wait till such arose; but the right hon. Baronet knows as well as I that they may arise and do arise every day. It is quite a common thing on going into the business of the country for hon. Members to bring forward motions which last two or three hours, and then to deprive the Government practically of the power to proceed with it by occupying so much time. For six weeks an hour and a-half a-day has been the average which the Government have had for the business of the country. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that if this motion be adopted, it will form a precedent for future years; nor do I think that the encroachments which he suggests will ever take place. I must say, however, that something to remedy the present state of things is much needed; and I think, that the objections of the other House, though I regret the loss of measures which have passed this House, are reasonable, on the ground of sitting for months without getting any bills from this. It is for that reason I proposed this resolution. But if it be considered better that I should postpone it until before the rising of the House at Easter, I can have no objection to bring it forward then in preference to pressing it now.

Sir Robert Peel

—This is a question entirely affecting the independence of the House of Commons, and we should not under any circumstances agree to it on light grounds. A Member may have a motion calling in question the conduct of the Government, yet by the motion he will have the chance of bringing it forward greatly diminished, while the Government will derive in the same degree additional impunity. I can, as I have stated, conceive that special circumstances may make it advisable to allow only one day a-week for motions, but those circumstances have not been shown in the present case; and in any case the House should be extremely cautious how it adopted such a resolution as that proposed by the noble Lord. I am, however, glad that the noble Lord has adopted my suggestion with respect to postponement, and I would advise the noble Lord further, not to bring it forward at any time when, by possibility, any hon. Member may have it in his power to say that it would intercept his motion. The chief ground of my my objection to it, however, is, as I have stated, the fear lest it should be drawn into a precedent, and the House of Commons deprived of a right on the ground of a temporary convenience.

Motion withdrawn.