HC Deb 26 November 1847 vol 95 cc248-52

rose to submit the Motion of which he had given notice, and the object of which was to give to Orders of the Day precedence over Motions until the Christmas holidays. He was unwilling to make his Motion without assuring those hon. Members who had given notice of Motions, that he had not the slightest intention of treating them with disrespect. It was also necessary he should state, that he brought forward the proposition without any previous communication with the Government. It was, however, his firm opinion that the Motion, if adopted by the House, would tend much to promote the general convenience of the House. It would, doubtless, be a deviation from the general practice, but one that was very desirable. No notice had been given by any independent Member of the House which might not be postponed to the usual Session next year without the slightest inconvenience to the public service. He would not except from that opinion even the bill of indictment preferred against the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, for certain high crimes and misdemeanors; for, indeed, it seemed not unreasonable to suppose that, to use a phrase often heard in the county courts, the noble Lord's trial might be respected will the next session without any material injustice to the public. Considering the state of Ireland, and the position of commercial affairs generally throughout the empire, Ministers had acted properly in causing Parliament to assemble; but, when they were convened at an unusual period to consider a particular subject, it was desirable that their time should not be wasted by the obtrusion of other questions of a dissimilar nature upon their attention. When the usual Session commenced, hon. Members would have an opportunity to propounding their crotchets to the House—perhaps he should have some of his won to bring forward; but it was desirable tat, at present, the House should apply itself exclusively to the consideration of the business for which it had been specially assembled. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that Orders of the Day should have precedence of Motions on Tuesday and Thursdays.


said, it appeared to his that the Motion was very important one, and one of the a most singular nature; and, under those circumstances, it was hardly possible the hon. Baronet could object to postpone it till next week. The proposition was one which ought not to be confirmed expect in a full House, which their places on account of the important business which was to be brought forward by the Government. For his own part, he was prepared to meet the Motion with a direct negative. It was hardly possible to conceive a more extraordinary proposition than one which, at the commencement of the Session, would throw the whole business of Parliament into the hands of the Government. In that House Ministers were known only as Members of Parliament, and all Members had an equal right to submit to the House any propositions they might think fir to bring forward. It appeared to him, that in a constitutional point to view the hon. Baronet's Motion ought not to be entertained at all; but, at all events, it ought not to be pressed to a decision without due notice having been given. Such a move if made at the end of the Session might operate beneficially because it would be idle for Members to bring forward propositions at a period when it was impossible they could lead to any practical result; but it was monstrous to propose to suspend the power of independent Members to take the initiative in legislation at the very commencement of the Session. To show how the hon. Baronet's Motion would operate, he begged to refer to his own case. He had given notice of a Motion relative to the office of President of the Poor Law Commission, which would admit of no postponement. The other night he asked the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether an appointment had been made, to the office; and the answer he received was in the negative. Now, the Act under which the appointment should be made, had been passed five moths; and as the office had not been filled up during that time, he felt that he was justified in assuming it to be unnecessary, and, therefore, he meant to propose an Amendment to the Act, which would have the effect to dispensing altogether with the President of the Commission, and supplying his place by the Lord Privy Seal; that noble Lord having at present nothing to do. He was now spending his time in Italy, and interfering, as some thought, mischievously, in certain matters. He wished to find employment for the noble Lord at home, and he thought that, with the assistance of the two secretaries, his Lordship would do the work of the Commission very well, and the country would save 2,000l. a year by the arrangement. Now, if the hon. Baronet's Motion should pass, he should be unable to bring forward that proposition, which certainly was of some importance to the public. He had referred to his own case only for the purpose of showing how the hon. Baronet's proposition would operate; but he objected to it upon constitutional grounds, and would meet it with a direct negative.


expressed the pleasure with which he had listened to the observations of the hon. Member who had just addressed the House. It was surprising that the hon. Baronet should have submitted to the House a proposition which, if adopted, would have the effect of preventing the Members of the Commons from "offering that advice and assistance" to the Throne to obtain which, Her Majesty had told them, was her object in assembling Parliament at the present time. A more unconstitutional proposition than one which would leave Ministers at liberty to introduce only what measures they might please to bring forward, and tie up the hands of every other Member of the House, was never broached in parliament. It was his opinion that the business of the House was much better conducted twenty years ago than it was at present. None of the restrictions now imposed upon the free action of Members existed then, and the discussions which took place upon petitions were Very advantageous to the public, because the topics were such as were suited to the occasion, and they frequently influenced the course of the Government. When the hon. Baronet gave notice of his Motion he thought that he had been in communication with the Government, who had given him to understand that they were desirous to get through with certain business, and no other; but that did not appear to be the case. Being of opinion that the proposition was an improper one to be made at any time, but more particularly at the commencement of a new Parliament, he hoped the hon. Baronet would withdraw his Motion, and not give the House the trouble of dividing upon it.


was surprised at the disapprobation with which the Motion was received, because, when he suggested it on a former evening, it appeared to meet with unanimous assent. If it was the determination of Members to look upon this as the commencement of an ordinary Session, and prevent Ministers from passing their measures until after Christmas, be it so. ["No, no!"] The hon. Baronet's Motion had been made without any concert with the Government, and solely with a view to the public interests; but, as a proposition of that nature could not be carried into effect without something like general assent, he would recommend the hon. Baronet to withdraw it, although he feared the result would be that Parliament would continue to sit from November to Christmas without doing anything.


said, that the House seldom violated any of its rules without having cause to repent it. Perhaps, as a compromise, the House might be induced to assent to the hon. Baronet's Motion, if it should be made applicable to only one of the two days to which it now referred.


said, that a Motion of this nature could not be adopted without the general concurrence of the House. If the House should be of opinion that it would tend to promote the public convenience to make the proposed alteration, it was quite competent to them to do so; but, as he had before said, it would not be desirable to adopt it without a general expression of opinion in its favour. Perhaps, after what had passed, the hon. Baronet would withdraw his Motion without attempting to divide the House upon the question. However, as the question had been raised, he would take the liberty of suggesting to hon. Members who wished to bring forward Motions, that unless they were of a very pressing nature, they should withhold them on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and allow the Orders of the Day to have precedence. It would be of great public convenience to finish the business for the consideration of which Parliament was specially assembled at this time before Christimas; and he believed that hon. Members themselves would not like the House to be adjourned on the 24th of December to meet again in a week.


agreed in the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Salford and the noble Lord, that it would be undesirable to carry the Motion without the general concurrence of the House; but he was certainly very much surprised at the strong opposition which was offered to his proposition; for nineteen out of every twenty Members with whom he had conversed in private had expressed their approval of it. He concurred with the noble Lord in hoping that hon. Members would not retard the progress of business by the interposition of useless Motions.

Motion withdrawn.