HC Deb 12 March 1852 vol 119 cc971-3

On the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Parliamentary Representation Bill,


said: With respect to this Bill, Sir, I do not at all intend to make any observations which can have the effect of provoking a debate. I only wish to say that I brought in this Bill as the Minister of the Crown, and in pursuance of a recommendation contained in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne. I do not think that I should be able, as an individual Member of Parliament, to carry a measure of such importance through the House with success. For this reason I do not propose proceeding with the Bill in the course of the present Session; but it is to be understood that, by this determination, I shall not preclude myself from any opportunity of moving (if I should think right to do so) any resolution on the subject of the extension of the suffrage, and the amendment of Parliamentary representation. I beg to move that the second reading of this Bill he postponed until this day three months. With regard to the Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill, I do not intend to withdraw that measure.


said, he could not but regret the course which the noble Lord had determined to take with respect to the Parliamentary Representation Bill. That measure he had introduced in his capacity of Minister of the Crown, and if the measure was indeed a valuable one, the change in the position of the noble Lord could be no argument in favour of its withdrawal. He (Mr. Hume) confessed that he regarded it as a very defective measure, but it nevertheless was a step in the right direction, and it might have been improved in Committee. He could not understand why the noble Lord should not, by persevering in the measure, have afforded that House an opportunity of recording its opinion on the subject of reform. The country had reason to complain that, after nineteen years' experience of the inadequacy of the Reform Bill, some measure had not been introduced by the noble Lord to remedy the defects of that law, and to enlarge the franchise of the people. The noble Lord ought certainly to have persevered in his Bill, if only to ascertain the true feeling of the House on the subject of reform.


was quite sure that the course proposed by the noble Lord would give universal satisfaction, for never was there a measure proposed which gave such universal dissatisfaction. He was glad to hear, however, that the noble Lord had not abandoned the cause of reform, though he had abandoned the Bill, and he hoped that, when he next brought forward a measure of reform, it would be a better one than the last.


said, he also regretted that the Bill had been withdrawn by the noble Lord, though he thoroughly acquiesced in the opinion that it was a most defective and unsatisfactory measure. The Bill, bad as it was, was not perhaps so hopelessly worthless that it might not, perhaps, have been susceptible of amendment in Committee. It was no new practice to put one Bill in Committee, and to bring out a totally different one. The Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, of which the noble Lord and his Colleagues were now, perhaps, thoroughly ashamed—at least he hoped so—had come out of Committee with scarcely a vestige of the original Bill being left in it. Why should not the same thing occur in the case of the Parliamentary Representation Bill. It was the noble Lord's own Bill, and he, of course, had a right to do what he liked with it. Why did he not either proceed with it, or withdraw it at once? Why did he propose to postpone it only for three months? The fact was, that the noble Lord had no faith in the measure. He knew that it was utterly valueless, and that, like his own Cabinet, it would fall without awakening a single regret, and without a single hand being stretched out to save it. He (Mr. Duncombe) did not mean to say one word to disturb the repose which, by general understanding, was to be accorded to those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who delighted in the designation of the "country party." The members of that party were to be left in perfect tranquillity until Monday, on which day it was to be hoped that they would come down to the House well prepared to receive the compliments of the Session, which no doubt would be bountifully prepared for them, and gracefully tendered. But he would take leave to ask those Members who were not connected with the country party, whether this question of Parliamentary Reform was to stop where it now was The House would recollect what happened last year when the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. L. King) brought in a Bill to assimilate the borough and county voters, which was carried by a majority of two to one. On that occasion the noble Lord said, "Don't press this measure, and I will undertake to bring forward next Session a more comprehensive scheme of reform." Upon that-understanding many of the Gentlemen who had voted for the second reading of the hon. Member's Bill turned round and kicked it out; and now here we were. It was true that in Schedule B there was a mass of corruption and abomination which had disgusted everybody, and it was equally true that there were many questions in the Bill which ought to have formed distinct and separate enactments. At that time he reminded the noble Lord that delays were dangerous; but, however, on the understanding that we were to have in the present Session a good Reform Bill, the measure to which he alluded was kicked out, and now, what with that Bill lost, and the present Bill withdrawn, what chance had we of reform from the hands of those who had declared against all reform? Were they to wait until the noble Lord came to office again? Assuredly not. It was not by waiting until a Ministry might find it convenient to introduce a popular measure that the noble Lord had achieved any reputation he possessed as a Parliamentary reformer. Before 1830, the noble Lord was always bringing in Reform Bills in the teeth of Lord Liverpool's Administration; and now he hesitated to pursue a similar course, although there was a party in power who had always been more inveterately hostile to reform than ever Lord Liverpool was. That party hoped to get an accession of Protectionists at the next general election; and was it to be expected that, if they succeeded in that object, the prospects of Parliamentary reform would; be improved by such an event? He believed that nothing would give satisfaction to the country unless the noble Lord introduced the Bill himself.


said, he was not able to congratulate hon. Members on the Opposition benches upon their unanimity, or upon "following their leader." The noble Lord was, in his opinion, quite right in abandoning his Parliamentary Reform Bill, because it did not satisfy any single soul of either party.

Second Reading deferred till this day three months.