§ On the question that the Orders of the Day be read,
§ Mr. T. M, Gibson
said, he was desirous of having some explanation of the course which her Majesty' s Government seemed to be pursuing in reference to certain important bills they had introduced into that House. He would first ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman respecting the Factories Bill. That bill was introduced 1524 into the House in the beginning of March; it was read a second time during that month; and notices were given that the committee on the bill would be taken on a certain day, several times previously. Now, he wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether, if it were the intention of her Majesty's Government to abandon this bill—and he (Mr. Gibson) had no wish that it should be brought on at all, he was very desirous that it should be withdrawn altogether—but he asked whether it would not be more candid and more open to say so at once, than by putting notices on the paper for postponing the measure when the day arrived, thus to bring the measure down to so late a period of the Session that it could not be carried on, and would drop through without appearing to be abandoned. If Government meant to abandon this measure, they ought at once to say so, and relieve the country from the suspense, and the Members of that House from the inconvenience of repeatedly coming down when it was expected that this measure was to come on. If her Majesty's Government intended really to bring on the measure, he wanted to know what reason there was why it should not be brought forward on the day on which notice was given? What was the use or meaning of a notice given before Whitsuntide of a measure to be brought on upon the 19th of June, if it were not afterwards adhered to? The consequence of this system must be that Members would disregard notices, and feel that whether a minister intimated that a measure would be brought on or not was a matter of complete indifference; and then, perhaps, a measure might be brought on, at a late period of the Session, in the absence of those who would otherwise be present. He thought, therefore, for the sake of regularity in public business, it was necessary that some very excellent reason should be afforded when a measure was not brought on after notice given. The same remarks he had applied to the Factories Bill were applicable, also, to the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, That bill had been before the House during the whole of the present Session, and had been postponed some time ago, because gentlemen, who were members of the legal profession, were absent during the assizes, and could not be present during the discussion. It seemed as if this bill were to be postponed to a period when the assizes 1525 would again come on, and the same plea would be put in, that legal gentlemen could not be present, and then the measure mutt either be passed during their absence, or be carried at the end of the Session, with the bustle with which bills were then generally disposed of. The same remarks applied to the Local Courts Bill, He had himself felt, and he could speak also for other hon. Members, that he had been exposed to the greatest inconvenience from having been told one day that a measure was to be brought on at a particular time, and then being told incidentally that it was put off for an indefinite period. He called upon the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he meant to go on with the Factories Bill or not, and whether he meant to take the factory regulation clauses alone, or with the educational clauses attached, instead of continually misleading the House by notices postponed from time to time, to make it appear to the country that the bill had not been given up, but that it had fallen through the lateness of the Session.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department would state on the next day the course which he meant to take with regard to the Factories Bill, and the hon. Gentlemen would therefore excuse him if he postponed until to-morrow making any special announcement regarding that measure. He wished the hon. Member would ensure the means of taking a certain bill on any given day. The hon. Gentleman complained of the grievance of being obliged to attend in the House of Commons. If that were a grievance, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would have some commiseration for persons like himself, who in the discharge of their public duty, were obliged, in addition to official business, to attend regularly in that House for eight or nine hours every evening; he could not, therefore, have much sympathy with the particular grievance of which the hon. Gentleman complained. The hon. Gentleman ought to recollect the various contingencies which might occur to prevent a particular measure from being brought on. Ministers had given notice of certain measures, some to make important reforms in the administration of justice, others to make some provision for the education of the people, but it was impossible for them to specify the exact period at which any bill would come 1526 on. There bad been constantly adjourned debates—he did not wish to make any complaint of these adjournments, which were necessary to give hon. Gentlemen a full opportunity of expressing their opinion, he was not at all insinuating that there had been adjournments for the purpose of delay, but when they took place for four or five nights in succession, of course they must interfere with the arrangements made for getting through the business. The hon. Gentleman would not forget that subject in which he took, a deep interest, the discussion on the Corn-laws, on the motion of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. He (Sir R. Peel) thought it of importance, that on a great question of that kind, the House should not proceed at once to the expression of its opinion; the Government, therefore, acceded to the wish felt by several hon. Gentlemen for adjournment, and they had thus been deprived of two nights in that week. He had taken the same course on other debates, but he had done so, simply from a desire to accommodate those who had charge of the public business, and from a belief, that on the whole, it was most consistent with the public interests. But it was rather hard, after he had taken that course, to charge him with not fulfilling the arrangements which had been entered into. With respect to the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, Government bad a strong wish to proceed with it, but there were other measures of greater importance necessarily brought under the consideration of the House. He never had moved an adjournment at twelve o'clock; he was ready, on the contrary, at all times to devote ten or twelve hours, instead of eight or nine, to the disposing of the public business; but it was quite impossible for him to control the deliberations of the House, or ensure a particular measure being brought forward at a given time. The delay with respect to the measures to which the hon. Member had adverted, had arisen in a great degree from the wish on the part of Government to ascertain the views entertained regarding them, and give those who took an interest in them an opportunity of submitting their opinions to Government, in personal conferences before they were brought forward.
§ Sir G. Grey
wished to state, with reference to his motion from referring the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill to a select com- 1527 mittee up stairs, that considering the progress made with that bill, and the period of the Session to which they had arrived, it was not his intention to persist in that notice of motion. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department had said, that the bill now stood for Friday week the 23rd of June. There was now no chance of a select committee and it would be still more hopeless to carry the bill through a committee of the whole House.