HC Deb 29 June 1842 vol 64 cc752-5
Sir J. Graham

said, the House would recollect that a bill was passed which had been sent down from the other House for the purpose of limiting the jurisdiction of magistrates at quarter sessions. Now, it was of the utmost importance that the commission for giving the Royal Assent to this and certain other bills should be signed immediately. This bill had been inserted in this commission about to be issued for giving the Royal Assent to a variety of bills, and could not now be excluded from it. The commission would probably be signed in forty-eight hours. Now, it so happened that the quarter sessions were sitting at this moment throughout England and Wales; and therefore it was desirable that this bill should not take effect until after those sessions had terminated. If this course were not adopted, important convictions might take place at the sessions, and questions of law might arise as to the legality of those convictions, if this bill by receiving the Royal Assent, and thus altering the magistrates' jurisdiction, came into immediate operation. To meet this difficulty a bill had been introduced, providing that the Justices' Jurisdiction Bill should not take effect till the 15th of July, after the usual time for holding the quarter sessions had expired. He proposed, therefore, that they should on this occasion dispense with the standing Orders, and that the bill should be advanced so many stages as would enable them in the course of to-morrow to return it to the other House of Parliament. He proposed that the bill should be now read a first time, and that it should also be advanced another stage.

Lord J. Russell

was not satisfied with the explanation given by the right hon. Baronet. He saw no reason for passing the former bill in such a hurry. Great fault had been found with the late Administration for errors of legislation, but it appeared that their successors were not entirely infallible. It seemed to him, that in this case great neglect must have existed somewhere, and he could not avoid adverting to the fact, as the House must recollect that great severity of criticism was exercised by hon. Members opposite in the course of last Session when similar neglect was charged upon the then Government. He did not, however, mean to oppose the motion. The measure certainly appeared to him to be necessary, and he could only hope that such an occurrence would not again happen.

Sir J. Graham

gave the noble Lord joy of the opportunity which he had afforded him for the expression of some of those feelings which he had been so much in the habit of indulging since his retirement from office. He did not claim any exemption from official infirmity, and he was glad that the resentment of the noble Lord would not lead him to interrupt the passing of a measure, the necessity of which was obvious.

Bill read a first time.

On the motion that it be read a second time,

Mr. T. Duncombe

said, although they had been told long ago that the present Administration never stumbled over stones or fell into puddles, yet he conceived that many instances might be adduced in which they were not more vigilant than their predecessors. He, however, rose for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to something more important than even the hasty legislation in question. He had that morning received a letter containing a notice which had been issued by the board of guardians of the city of Norwich, which was well worthy of observation. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Master of the Mint, had stated, within a few days, that they doubted whether there was any scarcity of silver in fact. Now, what occurred on Monday last at Norwich? A notice, which he should presently read, was issued (of the legality of which he would say nothing, except that it was entirely illegal) which proved not only the greatness of the distress that prevailed there, but showed the immense inconvenience that was experienced in consequence of the state of the silver currency. The notice ran thus:— Notice is hereby given, that, in consequence of the great scarcity of silver and copper coins, the guardians of the poor of this city have been compelled to issue tickets of 1s. and 1s. 6d. each, in payment of relief granted to poor persons. Any tradesman or other person advancing money or goods, or both, upon such tickets, may receive the full value thereof, on presenting them at their office in Bridge-street, in amounts of not less than 10s. J. BECKWITH, Governor of the Workhouse. Now, what was the effect of this? The poor were relieved by one shilling and eighteen-penny tickets issued by the guardians, and the guardians issued a notice that they would not receive their own tickets back unless they came before them in amounts of more than 10s., thus enabling the guardians, in point of fact, to give the tradesman a light half-sovereign. Now, if this system were permitted to one set of guardians, what was to prevent others from following the example? In that case, the country was likely to be inundated by a small paper currency of one shilling and eighteen-penny notes. Surely this was a state of things well worthy the attention of her Majesty's Ministers. No one could deny that it proved the great scarcity of silver. When he looked to the state of the poor in Norwich, he found that the poor-rates had, for a considerable time, been greatly on the advance. The cases of out-door claimants were increasing every day, and the workhouse was quite full, though the city had been mulcted to the amount of 2,000l. monthly for poor-rates only, and yet distress and destitution were daily on the increase. Now, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would take some effectual means to prevent the sort of issue of paper announced in the Norwich notice of the 27th of June, 1842. He begged leave to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he was aware of the scarcity of silver alluded to? and if so, whether any means had been adopted to put an end to it?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

had had no information whatever of the circumstance alluded to, until the hon. Member for Finsbury had made his statement. Though he had received communications from different quarters of the country as to the scarcity of silver, he had not received any intimation of the kind from Norwich. The Mint had been for some time at work in order to supply the deficiency of the silver coinage, and Government would take every measure in its power to remedy the inconvenience complained of.

Bill read a second time.