HC Deb 12 February 1847 vol 89 cc1317-20

rose to nominate the Select Committee on the Navigation Laws, viz.—Mr. Ricardo, Mr. Alderman Thompson, Mr. Hume, Sir Robert Peel, Mr. Milner Gibson, Mr. Hutt, Sir George Clerk, Mr. Brownrigg, Mr. Bright, Mr. M'Carthy, Viscount Sandon, Mr. Brown, Mr. Lyall, Mr. Mitchell, and Mr. Thomas Baring.

On the Motion that Mr. Ricardo be a member of the Committee,


wished to know whether the Government had given their assent to the names on the Committee, and whether they considered it a fair selection?


did not know of any objection to the names of the Committee. He certainly, on the part of the Government, wished it to be a fair and an honest Committee; and if the hon. Gentleman could make a valid objection to anyone of them, he would have no hesitation in changing it.


, looking at the names of the Committee, could not but perceive the animus of their appointment. It was not, in his opinion, a just and honest Committee; and he had no hesitation in saying that it was appointed as it was sought for, to extend and establish the principles of free trade, and sweep away the only remnant of protection that existed. There were twelve free-traders on it, and only three protectionists. It was packing a jury; hanging first, and trying afterwards. The House, however, would not accept those names; and unless the Government interposed, he should move the substitution of others.


denied the inference of the hon. Member, that a free-trader was necessarily in favour of an abolition of the navigation laws; and instanced the case of the hon. Member for South Shields as one in point.


was sure his noble Friend at the head of the Government only wished for a fair and honest Committee on the navigation laws; but it was the fact that eleven out of the fifteen names selected by the hon. Member had voted for the Motion for inquiry into those laws; and it was also the fact, that the shipping interest, from one end of England to the other, looked upon every hon. Member who had voted in favour of that Motion as hostile to their interests. He could assure his hon. Friend and the House, that, whatever those hon. Members connected with the shipping in that House might say, it was certainly the general feeling of that interest that those hon. Members who voted for inquiry on that occasion, were not to be fully trusted in respect to it. He hoped, therefore, that a more fair division of names would be made than the present of four to eleven.


said, that what his noble Friend had stated explained the opposition that was offered to the Motion. He, however, differed from his noble Friend; for he did not consider that those hon. Members who voted for inquiry should be looked upon as partisans. Looking at the list of the Committee, he thought that there were four who would uphold the navigation laws or whatever else might be adverse to the wishes of the Committee; while, of the rest, he would say four had made up their minds to have the navigation laws repealed. Of the remaining seven, he found it difficult to say what was the course which they would take on the occasion.


considered, when the noble Lord said that four of the Committee would vote for the abolition of the navigation laws, there was, to say the least of it, packing in that Committee. He had another reason for complaining of the selection made in the appointments of these Select Committees. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in appointing the Select Committee on the law of settlement, nominated a majority of Members who act on "the same" side of the House as those Gentlemen did who usually opposed the Government. Now, he wanted to come to some understanding as to what "side" of the House hon. Gentlemen sat who usually opposed the Government. It was quite time to come to some understanding as to the position of parties in the House. There was a small section of Members who usually sat near the Members of the Government, but who gave them as it were a sham support. Now, he begged of that small section or party of Gentlemen to act with common honesty: nay, he would go further, and say common decency, and assume their proper places, and allow Committees to be fairly appointed, and not in majorities one way or another.


only wished to have a fair Committee; and he protested against the assertion of the noble Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), that the majority of the Members named were opposed to the shipping interests of the country. If the noble Lord, or any other hon. Member, opposed the Committee as they were named, he would stand by his proposition. There were eight Members selected from one side of the House, and seven from the other. [Laughter.] He did not exactly understand what the laugh he had just heard meant, because he did not acknowledge Gentlemen who had seated themselves on a certain bench this Session, to take the direction of matters. He had endeavoured to name the Committee as fairly as possible.


said, that the hon. Member who had last spoken, must have greatly misunderstood his noble Friend the Member for Lynn, if he thought that the noble Lord asserted that the majority of the Members of the Committee were opposed to the navigation laws. His noble Friend had only stated that the shipping interests of the country were of that opinion. He did not rise for the purpose of prolonging the discussion of this subject. On the contrary, he was anxious to put an end to it as soon as possible, and he would suggest that the four Members named to serve on the Committee, whose opinions seemed to be known as favourable to the maintenance of the navigation laws, should, in order to ensure delightful harmony on the subject, decline to answer when their names were called. The hon. Member for Stoke-upon-Trent and the Government would then have the matter all their own way.


thought it desirable that there should be as fair a Committee on the subject as possible; and as there seemed to be some difference of opinion with respect to the constitution of it by the Members already nominated, he proposed that the question should be postponed till Monday.

Motion withdrawn.

House adjourned at half-past Twelve o'clock.