§ Sir R. Peel,
in answer to the question put to him by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), wished to state that his motive for naming Monday for the second reading of the Corn-law Bill was solely in reference to the public interest and the general convenience. He wished it should be known that what he was about to say, in answer to the noble Lord, was as to the course that he was desirous to pursue, and then he must depend entirely on what might be the pleasure of the House. He received daily communications which urged upon him the advantage of taking the earliest opportunity of stating what were the views of her Majesty's Government with respect to financial matters, and the commercial affairs of this country. He felt that there was much justice and force in these representations, and therefore it was, that he had given notice for voting the estimates that night for the navy and army in a committee of supply. Wednesday being the 23rd of March, they were to recollect that the following Friday was a day on which they could not meet. On the 24th, Thursday, there would then be a necessary interruption to their attention to Parliamentary business. He proposed, then, that the estimates for the army and navy should make such progress in committee of supply as would justify him in explaining the intentions of her Majesty's Government, both as to their financial and commercial affairs. Under all the circumstances in which they were placed, he was most anxious not to postpone his statement beyond that day week. Because, if he did, there might be a difficulty in the House coming to a definite judgment, with regard to his statement, before its separation. With reference to himself, he had no personal convenience to consult; but seeing the interruption that necessarily took place in commercial transactions, and that it must continue until all doubts were solved with respect to the intentions of Government, he should 58 be most anxious for the public convenience, and the public convenience alone, to m his statement that day week. He should not insist that the whole of the army and navy estimates should be voted before he made his statement. He wished to avail himself of no pretext for postponing it; but he thought it was of great importance that the House should pronounce an opinion on the main branches of the naval and military service, and whether the general views of the country coincided with what the Government deemed to be the necessary demand to be made upon it. It was of importance that the House should declare its opinion as to the amount of force to be kept up both in the navy and army. When the House had determined what they considered would be necessary for the maintenance of the navy, the number of its seamen, and for the upholding the military force—when votes for these purposes were reported, he should feel himself justified in proposing that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means, and on the foundation of the votes then passed, explain the views and intentions of her Majesty's Government. As he had said before, it was his own impression that the public convenience should be consulted by adopting the plan that he proposed. He earnestly hoped, then, that the House would affirm the proposal of the Government with regard to the amount of force necessary for the purposes of the country, and that he thus might be in a condition on Friday next of explaining the views of the Government, both as to their finances and commerce. If it were intended, however, to take a discussion on the principle of the bill, he could hardly hope the matter would be disposed of on Monday. It was, however, he deemed, better for him not to relinquish the hope of disposing of it on Monday, but if he were not able to bring on the bill early on Monday, and he would not propose it unless he could do so at an early hour, then he should name Wednesday next for the second reading. He did not mean, he repeated it, to propose the second reading on Monday unless he could bring it forward at such an early hour that it could be fully discussed.
§ Lord John Russell
considered it probable, that the navy estimates might be disposed of that evening, or early on Monday. After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that he was about to bring forward that which was of so much importance to the country at this moment, 59 he had a request to make of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir A. L. Hay), who sat near him, and who had given notice of a very important question for that evening. However important the question was—and it was, he admitted, of very great importance—still it was not of such importance as to justify his hon. and gallant Friend in preventing, under present circumstances, their proceeding with a Committee of Supply. He hoped, then, that his hon. and gallant Friend would be induced to postpone his motion, when there was not such a pressure, and allow them to have the financial statement of the Government before them.
§ Sir A. Leith Hay
felt very anxious to bring forward the question of which he had given notice; but as a wish had been expressed by his noble Friend, and as the statement of the right hon. Baronet, the First Minister of the Crown, was about to be made, he should, in no way; throw an impediment in that which was of such paramount importance to the country.
§ Viscount Howick
considered, that it would be most desirable that they should not hurry forward with the corn bill, even though the right hon. Gentleman did pro-raise them to make his financial statement. If the bill were printed to-morrow, there would be very little time for considering its details. It would be of great advantage, in his opinion, when they knew what was to be the policy as to their trade and commerce—it would be of advantage when they had the financial statement of the Government, to have this bill before them, as it might materially affect the question as to what sort of corn bill they ought to have. If the statement were made on so early a day as Friday, there would be no inconvenience in having the debate on the question of the Corn-law Bill postponed until they had the other measures before them.
§ Subject at an end.
§ The Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of Supply was read.
§ On the motion that the Speaker leave the Chair,