§ On the Order of the Day being read for going into Committee of Supply,
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
rose and said: Perhaps the House will permit me to make a few observations with reference to the conduct of public business. When the House last met, before adjourning for the holidays, I agreed that the adjourned debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) for an inquiry into the system of education at Maynooth College, should be resumed to-morrow morning. Since that time representations have been made to me by hon. Members from Ireland, who complain that this is not a fair arrangement for them. I regret very much that they did not make those representations at the time that I made my suggestion. Had they done so, I should at once have acceded to it; for when the personal convenience of any considerable number of Members is involved in any arrangement over which the Government have control, I shall ever regard it as a duty and a pleasure to promote the wishes of those hon. Gentlemen so far as it may be in my power to do so. I could have wished that the request of the hon. Members to whom I in this instance refer, had 1371 been made at an earlier period; but it is in itself so reasonable, that even now I cannot think that I should be justified in declining it. We, therefore, propose that the debate on the Maynooth question shall be resumed at the morning sitting on Tuesday, instead of Friday. The Government are anxious to follow what they believe to be the feeling of the majority of the House upon this subject; but it is due to the House and to ourselves that I should state that after Tuesday it will not be possible for us to make any other arrangement to facilitate the conduct of that debate. I shall propose to proceed to-morrow morning with the Estimates in Committee of Supply, and I propose that to-morrow evening, with the consent of the House, we shall go into Committee on the New Zealand Bill. My first idea was, that we might have gone into Committee on that Bill to-morrow morning, but I find that several hon. Gentlemen who take an interest in that question are engaged upon Committees of great importance in the morning; and, although the public business is now extremely urgent, I have felt it my duty to defer to their representations, being desirous that we should have the advantage of their presence at the discussions in Committee on the Bill. Perhaps the House will permit me to take this opportunity of impressing upon them the necessity of considering the gravity of the public business that remains yet undespatched, under circumstances in which, as every hon. Gentleman present must be aware, despatch is of the utmost importance. The public business that remains to be despatched, is really, generally speaking, not that sort of business that a Ministry can throw over, in the hope that on a future opportunity they may, under happier auspices, again submit it to the consideration of the House. The Bills at present before the House are generally measures of a very urgent character, relating to matters of the utmost importance, and in some instances proposing to continue laws which are about to expire, the expediency of which nobody can question. I do not despair, that with the assistance of the House, and with becoming energy, we may complete the business that is before us, and at the same time not interfere with that ulterior result at which we are all anxious to arrive. I hope, however, the House will permit me to say, that while Her Majesty's Ministers feel it their duty to submit nothing to the consideration of the House, but matters which they 1372 believe to be of urgent and paramount necessity, they do hope that hon. Gentlemen generally will be actuated by the same feelings. I am myself always most anxious not to interfere with the privileges of independent Members. I highly estimate those privileges; I have myself, in opposition, availed myself of them, and I wish in no way to diminish the opportunities afforded to hon. Gentlemen for bringing important and interesting subjects before the House. But I may remind the House that on Friday last, when we attempted to go into Committee of Supply, the whole evening was occupied—I will not say with subjects of no importance, but certainly not with subjects of that urgent necessity which I thought ought alone to be brought forward by such extraordinary means in the present Session. There are now a variety of Amendments on the paper to be proposed on going into Committee of Supply. Under ordinary circumstances, and in the usual state of affairs, there is not one of those Amendments to which the Government would not feel it their duty to give the fullest attention and consideration which the subjects themselves deserve; but they do not relate to matters of that urgent character which this House generally has recognised as those which ought, under present circumstances, alone to be put forward. It would greatly facilitate public business, and would materially assist that consummation which we all desire, if hon. Gentlemen, with a becoming forbearance, and with an abnegation which I assure them the Government would duly appreciate, would resolve not to bring forward, in the way of amendment or representation, in Committee of Supply, topics which are not really of a very urgent character. I hope the House will excuse me for making these observations, and that they will assist Her Majesty's Ministers in facilitating the progress of public business. It is only by such a course that we shall be enabled to close the Session at the period we all desire, and at the same time carry those measures upon the paper which it is important for the interests of the country should become law.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Sir, I am anxious to take this opportunity of addressing a few observations to the House 1373 as to the state of public business; and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has anticipated me in calling attention to the subject The right hon. Gentleman has said he hopes some forbearance will be exercised towards the Government with reference to making Motions before going into Committee of Supply. I, on the other hand, on behalf of hon. Members generally, do think that we are entitled to some forbearance on the part of the Government in respect to the measures which they press upon our immediate consideration. I suppose that there can be but one feeling in this House, as I am sure there is but one feeling in the country, that our labours in the present Session should be brought to a close within the shortest possible time, consistent with the great interests committed to our care. It therefore becomes, as it appears to me, a question of primary importance to consider what are those measures which it is indispensable for us to discuss in the course of the remainder of this Session, which cannot, I imagine, from all accounts, be of very long duration. Now, just let me call the attention of the House to this fact—that there are no less than twenty-seven "Orders of the Day" upon the paper for to-day. There are, I think, four notices of Motion to be made before Mr. Speaker leaves the chair on going into a Committee of Supply—a practice which certainly I very much regret, as needlessly and disadvantageously, in my opinion, occupying the time of the House, inasmuch as it gives rise to an infinite variety of debates, during the same evening, leading to no practical conclusion; but I am bound to say, on the part of independent Members, greatly as I deprecate the practice, that just in proportion as the Motion days are diminished in number, and the opportunity afforded to independent Members for bringing subjects under consideration are thus curtailed, it must necessarily ensue that the practice of making Motions upon going into Committee of Supply will be more generally adopted. Allow me for a moment to call the attention of the House to some of the leading measures which we are now asked to consider. I admit the urgency of some of those measures; but with respect to others, while I admit their importance, I deny that there is any urgent necessity for deciding upon them in the present Session. I may classify them, with the view of considering them more easily and satisfactorily.
1374 I will take first, the branch of law, and let us see what are the questions with reference to the administration of justice which, on the 3rd of June, press for our decision, or rather, I should say, which we arc pressed to decide upon. There is, first, the Common Law Procedure Bill, which comes down to us from the other House, after ample discussion, and after a reference to a Committee of the most learned persons. The other House has bestowed much time upon the consideration of this Bill which contains no less than 230 clauses; but we are called upon to decide both upon the principle and the details of the measure during the remainder of the present Session. This Bill is to affect our Courts of Common Law. Then let us look at the Equitable Jurisdiction of the country. I had the honour of serving upon a Commission which made the utmost possible exertions to report upon that entire subject before the commencement of this Session; and our Report, going at large both into the principle and details of the alterations which we unanimously recommended, was in the hands of the Executive Government at the commencement of the Session. The other House has had ample time to consider two most important Bills, the Master in Chancery Abolition Bill, and the Improvement of Equity Jurisdiction Bill; these Bills, in the main, embody the recommendations of that Commission. I say in the main, because in some important particulars there were deviations from our recommendations. Not one step has yet been taken in this House with regard to anyone of these three Bills beyond their introduction. Is this all the business before us with respect to the law? No; there is a Bill relating to Suitors in Chancery, and a Bill, which has made some progress, for the alteration of the law respecting Bills. Now, it is impossible to exaggerate the magnitude, the difficulty, and the importance of these questions. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has alluded to the New Zealand Bill. By the courtesy of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies I received private intimation that the arrangement which I thought had been made for resuming the discussion upon the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) relative to the College of Maynooth, to-morrow morning at 12 o'clock, had been altered, and that it was proposed to proceed with the Committee on the New Zealand Bill at that hour to-morrow. Hav- 1375 ing accidentally met with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington), I had the opportunity of stating to him how much I objected to that arrangement for discussing the New Zealand Bill at a morning sitting. The business before the House is of great magnitude; but there is pressed upon us in Committees upstairs business of, if possible, still greater and more urgent importance. There is a Committee on the whole question of the renewal of the East India Company's Charter, which meets to-morrow at one o'clock. There is also a Committee intimately connected with the good government of Ireland, with reference to Crime and Outrage in that country. We are in the midst of the consideration of our Report, and we are called upon to meet tomorrow at twelve o'clock. Now, if such Committees sit to-morrow, it will be impossible to proceed with the New Zealand Bill to-morrow, without notice, at a morning sitting. That, however, is only a single measure. There is another Bill before the House which has hitherto been unexplained, though I believe it has been read a second time, and which involves principles of the utmost importance. I allude to the Hereditary Casual Revenues Bill. That measure, in connexion with the discovery of important mines in South Australia, and the application of casual revenue—of which, I believe, gold and silver ore form a part—becomes one of primary importance. With reference to the Church in the Colonies, there are no less than three measures on the table, which claim the most attentive consideration of the House. There is the Colonial Bishops Bill. There is the Bishopric of Quebec Bill, relating to the subdivision of that diocese—a matter which I believe will be found to trench more or less on a question exciting great interest in Canada, and which the late Government introduced specially to our consideration, namely, that of the clergy reserves. There is also the New Zealand Bishopric Bill, to which I will not now more particularly allude. Here are Bills of vast importance to the Colonies, lying on our table for consideration. And now let us look at certain Bills of renewal, which are really urgent, and upon which it is impossible, even in the present Session, to escape coming to some decision. There is the renewal of the Poor Law Board, both in England and in Ireland—two separate Bills. There is another Act, which is connected with the subject of the inquiry I have already adverted to, with respect to crime and out- 1376 rage in Ireland—a matter to which the late Government attached the greatest importance; and the Act I allude to, for the Prevention of Crime and Outrage in Ireland, expires with the Session, I believe, and must be renewed, but no step has yet been taken to renew it. I see the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has given notice of a measure which is not a mere Bill of renewal, and not of the urgent character of that class of Bills—a Bill for the consolidation and amendment of the Whiteboy Acts and the Acts against Unlawful Societies—a subject of the utmost difficulty and of great importance, but one which it will not be found possible to investigate or bring to a conclusion to the satisfaction of Ireland or of this country in morning sittings during the present Session. There is also the Encumbered Estates Act, which, I believe, expires with the present Session, and which, if it is expedient that it should be renewed, must be renewed in this Session, and we must have all the discussion which it will entail. Then there is a Bill introduced by the Admiralty, which I have not yet heard explained, but which is also of the greatest importance and of some difficulty, involving an entire alteration of the scheme of Navy Pay—the mode of payment of Her Majesty's fleet. Take some other department—take the Department of the Woods and Forests'—what are the measures now on our table to be discussed in this Session? There is a Bill, the Metropolis Building Bill, with 79 clauses, the object of the Bill being to amend an Act of about 250 clauses. There is the question of Extramural Metropolitan Interment, the whole scheme of which was fully discussed, and, as I thought, settled in a former Session; but a Bill has now been introduced by the noble Lord the First Commissioner of Works (Lord J. Manners), subverting that scheme in all its most important parts. There is also a Bill for the better regulation of the Supply of Water—a Bill which has been before a Select Committee, but which still, if discussed in detail in this House, will, I am satisfied, inevitably occupy a great length of time. The noble Lord has also introduced a Bill relating to the administration of the Woods and Forests and Land Revenues, and, though of minor importance, two other Bills in reference to local improvements, all of which Bills, however, are likely to lead to discussion. [An Hon. MEMBER: There will be a Sewers Bill.] I am reminded of a Sewers Bill. The Sewers Commission is expiring: I be- 1377 lieve the subject of its continuance has not yet been brought before us. Then, how do we Stand with respect to Supply? There are, I think, about 200 Votes yet to he taken in Committee of Supply; and the hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. Anstey) has given notice of opposing forty-six of these Votes. We are on the 3rd of June: it is announced that there is the utmost desire on the part of the Government and of the House to bring our labours to a close. I should be glad to know how it is possible for all these various subjects to be satisfactorily disposed of within the period contemplated by the Government for the duration of the Session. But, numerous as are the items which I have cited, I bog to say that I have not as yet exhausted the various subjects which are still reserved for our consideration; nor shall I trespass so far on the attention of the House as to attempt to do so. Surely, the time has arrived when it is not unreasonable to ask the Government to consider and state on an early day—perhaps they would do it on Monday—what are the measures they will still press on our consideration, and in what order they will take them. I feel strongly upon the matter. I have the greatest apprehension that if we do not take care, we shall bring the institution of the representative government itself into disrepute. It will appear that we cannot transact business, and that even the business which is before us and under debate we cannot close so as to come to a decision. I allude especially now to that Motion which has been twice before us, and for which I am much concerned to find the Government has just proposed a day—the Motion relating to Maynooth College. The hon. Member who has just proposed that Motion avows that for any practical purposes that Motion will be utterly unavailing. [Mr. SPOONER: No, no!] Most assuredly I did understand the hon. Gentleman to have admitted that, let the fate of the Motion be what it might, inquiry in the present Session was utterly impossible. [Mr. SPOONER: Hear, hear!] Well, then, a proposition for an inquiry which must be fruitless, and the discussion of which, as I believe, being fruitless, is fraught with the greatest evil to the peace, tranquillity, and concord of the country, is kept open, with the consent of Her Majesty's Government, and in that state of affairs is still allowed to occupy our attention. I will not speak with disrespect of regulations which the House has adopted, but as for taking a question of that sort at 1378 a morning sitting, it appears to me that if you wished to come to no decision, this is the exact course you would take; and the evil is greatly aggravated by the regulation adopted the other day, that at four o'clock Mr. Speaker closes the morning sitting, and the business not then disposed of is to be put at the bottom of the list of Orders of the Day; in point of fact, an adjournment, in the present state of the Session, sine die. If we are to have a debate upon the Maynooth question, and to come to a decision upon it—and observe I do not deprecate such a decision, but what I would deprecate is endless and profitless discussion, without a decision—I conceive that it can never, in the present state of the Session, be determined at a morning sitting. It will occupy morning after morning—the excitement created by it, and the discord, will go on, and be aggravated; the public will suffer from it, and no possible good can arise from it. If Her Majesty's Government think it is for the public good that that question should he discussed and decided, I should say let them by all means, even in the present state of public business, give an evening sitting for the purpose. I am very sorry to have occupied the House at this length; but, with the utmost respect and regard for the reputation of this representative Assembly, I do feel that in the course which we are now pursuing, if we can come to no decision upon a question of the greatest public interest, this Assembly, which has been the great landmark of representative government, and the great example of representative assemblies throughout the world, will be brought into disrepute. I hope by Monday the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will he prepared to state what measures he intends still to press upon our attention, and in what order he will take them.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he was not going to be drawn into a debate upon the Maynooth question, but he wished to put the right hon. Baronet right upon one point. The right hon. Baronet seemed to think it was admitted that there could be no practical good in again bringing on the Maynooth question. [Sir J. GRAHAM: What I said was, that it was admitted there could be no practical result.] He (Mr. Spooner) had admitted that the inquiry could not be entered upon at this period of the Session, but there was something else besides that; he wanted to have the determination of the House, ay or no, whether the subject 1379 was worthy of inquiry. He wished to have a division upon that point. The country called for that division; and if Gentlemen who had so often declared that they did not shrink from it would consent to end the debate next Tuesday, when he understood it was to come on, he, for one, would throw no obstacle in the way, and would give up his right of reply. He wished the House to declare—was there a system of education carried on at Maynooth which demanded inquiry? Having "Ay" or "No" to that question was a practical result for which the country looked, and would be greatly disappointed if the House of Commons should be prevented coming to a decision.
§ MR. STANFORD
said, he had given notice that on going into Committee of Supply he would draw the attention of the House to the necessity of some legislative enactment to meet the demoralising and ruinous effects of "betting-shops;" but after the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham), he should not feel himself justified in detaining the House. He trusted, however, if he withdrew his notice in order to facilitate the despatch of public business, others who had notices on the paper would do the like; and he hoped he might have a more favourable opportunity of bringing forward a subject of interest, and stating facts which he had been at some pains to collect.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will, to-morrow or on Monday, consider the statement that has just been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham); for indeed it is a matter which deserves the most serious attention of the Government. I cannot say that I am much surprised that the Votes should present a numerous array of Bills, many of them important, and many presenting strong claims on the consideration of the House, for I know that about this time of the Session there is usually such a jostling of measures of different kinds as renders it no easy matter to select those which may be fairly considered of the greatest importance. This is the case every year; but this Session it is specially incumbent upon the Government not to press on the consideration of the House any measures that they do not believe to be of paramount importance, and calculated to lead to some practical good. Having said this, I wish to advert for a moment to what has been 1380 said by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner), on the subject of the Maynooth debate, and the hon. Gentleman's assertion that he is anxious to have the decision of the House upon the question whether or not there ought to be an inquiry into the system of education adopted at Maynooth; but I would take leave to remind the hon. Member that this is not the question before the House. If the hon. Gentleman will propose that question in distinct terms to the House, we may, perhaps, decide upon it; but what the hon. Gentleman is about to propose is nothing more or less than this, that on the 8th of June this House shall resolve to inquire, by a Select Committee, into the System of Education pursued at Maynooth. Every one must see, that that is a totally different question from that on which the hon. Member now declares himself as anxious to take the sense of the House. One hon. Member may think that, regard being had to the period of the Session and the time of the year, it would be useless to appoint a Select Committee; but that the Motion for inquiry by a Select Committee might, as a declaration of opinion, be properly agreed to. Another hon. Member may say, with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn), and as I am disposed myself to say, it is right and proper to have an inquiry, but it will be better to have it by the means which the Crown has already at its disposal, rather than by a Select Committee of this House. Another hon. Member may say, let there not be a Committee on the 8th of June; and this he may say quite, irrespectively of the question, whether it is or is not expedient to inquire into the studies at the College of Maynooth. Therefore, it appears to me that the hon. Gentleman has not put the question fairly. For my part, I certainly shall not be disposed to decide on Tuesday next upon the issue which he now raises. On the contrary, I shall then take occasion to explain that the next question for our consideration is not that which he has stated, and that, if there ought to be an inquiry respecting Maynooth, the hon. Gentleman has taken the very worst method that could possibly be devised for obtaining it. With respect to Supply, I hope it will not be supposed that I am saying anything unfriendly to the Government, when I state, as the result of my experience, that the best way to proceed with Supply, is to set it down on the Votes for several consecutive days, for I have 1381 always observed that when this practice is adopted, and after one or two intervening Motions have been disposed of, there is always a disposition on the part of the House to proceed with Supply. The Miscellaneous Estimates are the only Votes which still remain to be taken, and these will naturally lead to more discussion than the Naval and Military Estimates, as the only question affecting them was, what the establishments of the year should be. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer wishes to proceed as it is most desirable the House should proceed, as speedily as possible with those Estimates, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider it desirable to appoint days, without any interruption, on which the Committees of Supply should be fixed, so that the House, after disposing of the immediate Motion before it, may go at once into Committee of Supply.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that perhaps the House would allow him to say one word. He had already stated his intention next Monday to explain the views of the Government upon the business before the House, and, after the observations of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), he would still defer until Monday the making that statement. He would merely say now, that upon calmly considering the business before the House, the Government might not be able to accomplish all that they had expected. In explanation he would add that the noble Lord misconceived what he had said about the Committee of Supply, It was not his intention for one moment to deprecate the fullest discussion of the items which would be brought forward—it would be most unreasonable and most improper on his part were he to do so. All that he did deprecate, under the present circumstances, was hon. Members taking advantage of the Motion for going into Committee of Supply to bring forward questions which, however important, wore not urgent, and generally had no particular reference to Supply itself. He had already followed the mode recommended by the noble Lord with regard to the Militia Bill, and he intended to pursue the same course with the Committee of Supply. He hoped to go into Committee of Supply every day without interruption until the Estimates were gone through, and on Monday next he would make a statement to the House, as he originally intended, with respect to the business before it.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, perhaps it would be convenient if the right hon. Gentleman would state what business he proposed to proceed with on that night after the Committee of Supply. Three of the Bills with respect to Colonial bishops were very much opposed, and two of them stood for a second reading that night. As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies intended next Session to legislate upon these matters, and as all these Bills were opposed, he hoped the Government would at once say they would not proceed with them either this evening, or during the course of the present Session.
§ MR. V. SCULLY
said, that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland had given notice for leave to bring in a Bill to continue the Act 11 & 12 Vict., c. 2, for a limited time, and another Bill to consolidate and amend the Whiteboy Acts, and the Acts against Unlawful Societies; he wished, therefore, to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would proceed with those Motions to-night.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
in answer to the hon. Member for Cockermouth, said he did not anticipate the House would go into any business tonight except the Committee of Supply, and it was not his intention to bring forward any Orders of the Day. Generally speaking, it would be more convenient to leave until Monday any questions as to the business before the House, when he should be prepared to give the intentions of Government.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
said, he must complain that the right hon. Gentleman had not answered the question of the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. V. Scully). He thought that some Gentleman connected with the Government, either with greater knowledge or greater courtesy, should be induced to do so. The question was a very intelligible one, and ought to have an answer. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would not bring forward the Orders of the Day. These were notices of Motion, and his pledge did not affect them. He wanted to know if they would be brought forward at a late hour, or at any hour that night?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he did not think the hon. Member had understood his answer, or he would not have charged him with a want of courtesy. He would not proceed with 1383 any business after twelve o'clock, which would lead to any discussion.
§ Subject at an end.