HC Deb 28 May 1845 vol 80 cc942-4
Lord J. Russell

said, that the first Order of the Day on the Paper was the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, while the Adjourned Debate upon the Resolutions he had submitted to the House stood last; he trusted, therefore, that hon. Members who had Bills likely to create opposition would give way in order that the Adjourned Debate might go on.

Mr. Watson

said, he was most anxious to proceed with the Roman Catholic Relief Bill; but he was willing to take whatever course was most in accordance with the feeling of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman moved the Second Reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill.

Sir James Graham

hoped that the hon. and learned Gentleman would not press the Second Reading of this Bill now. On a former occasion he (Sir J. Graham) had stated, that he had reason to believe the Criminal Law Commissioners were on the point of reporting upon the subject to a much greater extent than it was dealt with by the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The Report of the Commissioners would embrace the whole subject of the penal law of Great Britain and Ireland, not only with respect to Roman Catholics, but Protestant Dissenters. In the course of a very short time a comprehensive Report on the entire subject would be laid before both Houses, and under these circumstances it would surely be better to deal with that Report.

Mr. Roebuck

said, that the Report would be valueless unless some legislative enactment were to be built upon it. Would the Government guarantee that this should be done?

Sir James Graham

said he could not ask the hon. and learned Member to postpone his Second Reading, upon the condition of promising to introduce a measure to be founded upon a Report not yet made.

Lord J. Manners

said, that under those circumstances he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to proceed with his Bill.

Mr. Watson

thought the Bill ought certainly to proceed one stage. Four weeks ago he had postponed the measure. All he now proposed was that the second reading should be taken to-night, and that there should be no debate until the Report was received. It was exceedingly difficult for individual Members not connected with the Government to get forward a Bill. The principle of the measure had been to a great extent acknowledged during the last Session. No doubt when the subject came to be debated a wide range would be taken; and it might be a question whether a larger measure of relief should not be given, and it would be a question also whether this measure should or should not pass; but no human being could be injured by the second reading being taken to-night; and with the permission of the House he would fix this day fortnight for going into Committee, as he understood from the right hon. Gentleman that the Report of the Commissioners would be in the hands of Members in a few days.

Sir J. Graham

was bound to say, that there was a part of the Bill to which he decidedly objected, while he was friendly to the general principle of the measure. It could not be imagined that he was disposed to inflict any penalties upon his Roman Catholic fellow citizens; but the Bill extended to the repeal of certain enactments which formed part of the relief measure and general arrangements of 1829; he did not feel disposed to give his assent to disturbing those Acts. He thought it desirable that the House should postpone this discussion, until they saw the mode in which the entire subject was treated by the Commissioners. There was a particular provision in the Relief Act regarding monastic orders, to which he alluded. However, there was reason to believe that the whole subject, of which this Bill affected only a branch, was clearly and fully discussed in the Report of the Commission; and when in the course of about eight days that Report would probably be on the Table, he thought it not unreasonable to ask for a delay.

Lord J. Russell

observed, that the right hon. Baronet was friendly to the general principle, and with respect to that part to which he had expressed objection as affecting certain enactments of the Relief Bill, he did not think that the existence of that clause ought to be conclusive against the second reading of the Bill. It certainly was a most important branch of the subject, and he was not himself prepared to vote for that part of the Bill without further consideration; but the Bill might, nevertheless, be read a second time.

Bill read a second time.