HC Deb 02 April 1852 vol 120 cc588-91

On the Motion that the House at its rising adjourn to Monday next,


said, he thought that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer should make some announcement of the manner in which he proposed to proceed with the business before the House after the Easter vacation, and he wished the Militia Bill to be postponed beyond the first day of meeting after the holydays.


said, that on moving the adjournment of the House for the holydays, he would state the arrangement which he proposed the House should adopt with respect to public business. The Government was anxious to expedite the public business as much as possible.


said, the Militia Bill was too important a measure to be proceeded with on the first day after the holydays, when a numerous attendance of Members could scarcely be expected.


said, that to meet the wishes of hon. Members then, he would fix the second reading of the Militia Bill for Friday, the 23rd of April.


Sir, I think, with the right hon. Gentleman, that the business of the House ought to be expedited, and I have no objection to the postponement of the Militia Bill to the 23rd instant, provided that, if it be then read a second time, the Government proceed with the measure without delay. While on this subject I am desirous of addressing a few words to the House on a matter connected with it. Much apprehension has existed in the public mind during the last few days from a belief that some circumstance has arisen to alter the intention of the Government to advise a dissolution of Parliament as soon as the state of public business would permit that course to be adopted. I will not particularly advert to the circumstances under which that apprehension has arisen. I feel the inconvenience of adverting to words supposed to have passed in a conversation elsewhere, at which no Members of this House may have been present. At the same time, I think it desirable that before we enter into Committee of Supply on Monday, some explanation or statement on the subject should be made by the Government. I feel myself the more bound to require this course to be taken, because, relying on the accuracy of reports of what had passed in another place on a former occasion, and being assured by many noble friends of mine that what they had heard was perfectly satisfactory to them, I advised those with whom I act on this side of the House not to do anything which would have the effect of postponing or delaying the Supplies, but to proceed at once to vote the money for the Estimates. This side of the House certainly complied with that request most cheerfully, and no less than 14,000,000l. has been voted with a rapidity perhaps without a precedent—the House being induced to do so by the assurance, which I must suppose appeared to them satisfactory, that the immediate measures before Parliament would be expedited as much as possible, and that the present Parliament would not be called upon to consider any other measures than such as were urgently necessary for the Government of the country. I feel that I am responsible to many Members for having recommended that course, and, without further adverting to the circumstances which may have given rise to any misunderstanding now existing in the public mind, I cannot refrain from expressing a hope that, on Monday evening, before going into Committee of Supply we shall have such a statement as will put us in complete possession of the intentions of the Government.


Sir, I have no wish to interfere with any discussion which the House may legitimately think fit to entertain with respect to the conduct of Government on going into Committee of Supply on Monday next; but, as I have no desire that any misconception on this important subject should unnecessarily remain until Monday, perhaps the House will allow me now to make some observations on what has fallen from the noble Lord opposite. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that it is most inconvenient to have controversies in one House respecting the exact meaning of expressions reported to have been used in the other; but, having necessarily, from my position, an intimate and complete acquaintance with the views and feelings of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown with respect to the subject to which the noble Lord has referred, I have no hesitation in saying—without waiting till Monday—that very great misconception has existed within the last two or three days with respect to the intentions of the First Minister of the Crown, and that the noble Earl at the head of the Government never intended in any way to convey to the Parliament or the country the impression that his opinion on the subject of the dissolution of Parliament was in the least degree changed. It is not in the slightest degree changed. It is the intention of the Government—as it was the intention of the Government—so soon as those measures are passed which we deem necessary for the service of Her Majesty, and for the security and good government of her realm, humbly to counsel Her Majesty to dissolve the existing Parliament; and we shall take this course, also, with the full intention of recommending Her Majesty to meet Her new Parliament in the course of the present year, under circumstances which will afford it an ample and complete opportunity of deciding on the character and policy of the existing Government. In saying that, I think I have said all that the Government can say. We have never for a moment hesitated or faltered in that intention. As for any Government pledging itself to recommend a dissolution at a particular and specific period, it is a course which I think no Member of this House, which I am sure no person who has ever been in the service of the Crown, will call for. I cannot believe that the noble Lord will demand such a pledge from us. It is impossible for us to name a particular hour, day, week, or even month, when the dissolution will take place: circumstances might occur to render it most impolitic, if not impossible, to dissolve Parliament at any period which might be named. All I can say is, that so soon as such business as we deem absolutely necessary and indispensable shall be transacted, we will humbly recommend Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament; and, in order to prevent any misconception, I will add, with the full intention of advising Her Majesty to summon Her new Parliament in the course of the present year—I mean for a bonâ fide sitting—in which the policy of the Government may be decided on. I am now only repeating what I intended to convey to the House before, and what, I am sure, it was the intention of the First Minister of the Crown to convey by his communications in another place. These are the intentions which we have always had; and it is unnecessary for me, after the declaration I have made, to assure the House that we will endeavour loyally to fulfil them.


said, that there was one thing required in order to give satisfaction to all parties, and that was a statement of what those measures were which the Government thought necessary. He must state to the right hon. Gentleman that an idea prevailed that there existed an unwillingness to give that information to which he thought the House, under the circumstances, was entitled. Though, when first assuming power, the Government might not have been able to state what those necessary measures were, surely after this lapse of time the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and the rest of the Cabinet, must have made up their minds on the subject.

House at rising to adjourn till Monday next.