HC Deb 04 February 1842 vol 60 cc73-4

The Earl of March brought up the report on the Address in Answer to her Majesty's Speech.

On the motion that it be agreed to,

Mr. O'Connell

said, he did not mean to detain the House for many minutes, nor did he rise for the purpose of exciting any difference of opinion on the reception of the report. The Speech from the Throne was itself sufficiently comprehensive to insure his concurrence to a considerable extent. He would not anticipate any of the topics contained in it, but would "bide his time" until Wednesday next, when they would be put in possession of the plan contemplated by her Majesty's Ministers. Indeed, he would not have addressed the House at all if he had not found one paragraph in the Speech, and in the Address, which gave him some alarm. He alluded to that paragraph which related to the registration of voters, which seemed to him to be brought in with some very strong design, otherwise he did not know how that subject could have found its way into a speech which the right hon. Baronet had himself characterized as relating to matters of awful importance in the present state of the country. The introduction of that topic created an alarm which he should not have felt had it appeared in a speech that was not said to involve matters of such high importance. He was sorry to perceive that there was no allusion made to any intention of facilitating in the way in which, in his judgment, it ought to be facilitated, the system of registering voters, either by defining the nature of the franchise, when it was doubtful, or by making it co-extensive in both countries. Either the one or the other of those plans would be quite consistent with the finality of the Reform Bill, which, he presumed, was the doctrine of the right hon. Baronet and his Government. To equalize the franchise in the two countries would be quite consistent with the Reform Bill—to define it, when it was doubtful, would also be quite consistent with the bill. So that, without violating their principles, either mode of relief might be adopted by the Government. But, finding this phrase single and by itself, without allusion to any of the means by which a salutary registration might be effected, he could no but view it with considerable apprehension. He was sorry to say, that no period of history had ever occurred in which, when the Tory party had the power to diminish the rights of the Irish people, they had not availed themselves of it. They had the power now—whether they would so avail themselves of it the country would speedily see. This might be the subject of angry discussion hereafter, and he would say nothing more on the subject. With every other part of the Address he cordially agreed.

Address agreed to; to be presented to her Majesty at one o'clock on the following day.