HC Deb 27 February 1846 vol 84 cc225-8

, seeing the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury in his place, would at once rise to put the question to him of which he had given notice. The right hon. Baronet had not chosen to answer the question last night. Now, he did not complain of the absence of that courtesy which he was always anxious to receive as an independent Member of that House. To himself personally it was quite indifferent; but to the large and respectable constituency which had done him the honour of sending him there as their Representative, he felt that he was entitled to receive an answer to any question he felt it his duty to put. He owed it to that constituency to put the question of which he had given notice. It had been last Session his painful duty—yes, he confessed it—his painful duty to withhold his support from the right hon. Baronet, and to state that he no longer had any confidence in the right hon. Baronet; but still he was entitled to receive an answer to any question he might find it necessary to put to the right hon. Baronet. So, last night, having seen the Treasury bench in a situation in which he had never seen it before, and in which he hoped he should never see it again, he had felt it desirable to inquire when the vacant offices would be filled up? As the House knew, many of the most important offices were not filled. The Secretary for the Colonies—a Gentleman for whose talent and attainments he had the highest respect, was not in the House. Then there was the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland—a noble Lord whose private character he estimated most highly—but who certainly ought to be in that House to answer any questions which at the present moment might be put to him respecting the condition of the country. He had no seat in the House. Then there were the two learned Gentlemen, the Attorney and Solicitor General for Ireland—no unimportant officers—to whom Members of that House might wish to put questions. Seeing that those hon. Gentlemen were not filling any situation in Parliament, he had determined to put the question. He had last night asked the right hon. Baronet whether they would have an early opportunity of seeing any, or all, of those hon. Gentlemen in seats in that House? The right hon. Baronet, for reasons best known to himself, had been silent, and he therefore was now compelled to repeat the question. His duty to the House, to the country, to his own constituency, compelled him to do so. The question he wished to put was, whether there was any probability of an opportunity being afforded to the Members of that House, by the early appearance of these honourable Gentlemen, of putting any questions to them respecting the state of public affairs? If the right hon. Baronet was not disposed to answer the question, he should draw his own inference; and no doubt the House would do the same.


I hope that neither the gallant Officer nor any other Member has any just ground of accusing me of want of courtesy when they put questions connected with the public service. I cannot charge myself, even in the heat of political contention, with any want of courtesy; but I do assure the hon. and gallant Member that he concluded his speech last night without putting his question. He made rather a long speech on a particular Motion, namely, that the debate be adjourned, though the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had objected to advantage being taken of that Motion for the purpose of making a speech. The hon. and gallant Member did, however, make a speech, seasoned with that quantity of vituperation which is not unusual, and perhaps is to him natural. Some persons may have thought, even, that the cleanliness of the language of the hon. and gallant Officer was in danger on the occasion. Having already spoken in the debate, I did not think it right to take advantage of the Motion in order to trouble the House again, knowing that other opportunities would soon present themselves, when, if he thought proper, the hon. and gallant Member might put his question. He imputed to me a want of courtesy arising out of some attack he made last Session. I can assure him that I had not only completely pardoned that attack, but that I had utterly forgotten it. The gallant Member gave notice that he would put a question which was perfectly regular and legitimate, namely, whether certain offices are at present filled? I came down prepared to answer that question, and to state what offices under the Crown were vacant. I was prepared to inform him that the only office actually vacant is that of First Commissioner of the Woods aud Forests, and to add, that only a very few days would elapse before it was filled. Two hon. Friends of mine, Members of the Board of Treasury, have signified to me that a sense of duty will compel them to vote against the Government, and they have tendered their resignations. Those resignations will be accepted; but the offices are not yet vacant, and will not be vacant until new patents are made out. In the mean time, my hon. Friends are perfectly ready and able to execute their Ministerial duties. They have resigned; but they have consented to discharge their functions until they are relieved by their successors. Therefore the public service, for which the hon. and gallant Officer is naturally so anxious, has sustained no inconvenience or detriment from delay. That was the question I thought the hon. Member meant to put, and of which he gave notice; but now he asks a question that at any rate is unusual, if not unconstitutional—namely, when certain Gentlemen, holding office under the Crown, will be returned to the House of Commons? The hon. and gallant Officer complained last night that my noble Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, was not here; why he is not here is a matter for which the gallant Member is much more responsible than I am. He did what he could to oppose my noble Friend's return. It may be some satisfaction to the gallant Officer to know that, if his tenants were not influenced, they followed his example, and voted against my noble Friend. If he had taken another course, and as strenuously supported my noble Friend, as he vigorously opposed him, the objection he has taken would never have arisen. I do not know any rule by which Members holding these offices should necessarily be Members of the House. I do not deny that there is inconvenience in officers holding high situations not being Members; but the present case hardly seems to afford the hon. and gallant Gentleman an opportunity of questioning the prerogative of the Crown in making these appointments. He has said that the office of Secretary for the Colonies is vacant. That is not the fact. [Colonel SIBTHORP: No, no.] He said, as I understood him, that the office of Secretary for the Colonies is vacant. I am not aware that such is the case; on the contrary, a right hon. Friend of mine is in the daily discharge of its duties. True, my right hon. Friend is not a Member of the House, and it is impossible for me to say when he may be. I must also say that, when a noble and gallant Friend of mine relinquished his prospects of military promotion, and became Clerk of the Ordnance, I believed that he concurred in the general policy of the Government. He is not a Member of this House, and when he appealed to me, I did say to him, "I will not advise the Crown to deprive you of your situation." It is true that three or four persons holding office under the Crown, and usually in Parliament, are not now Members of the House of Commons; but this I will say, that one of the main reasons why they are not is this—that I have such confidence in the policy and wisdom of the measures which the Government have submitted to Parliament, and such confidence in the calm deliberation and ultimate just decision of the House of Commons, that I am content to forego that advantage which, in ordinary times, the Crown possesses.