HC Deb 19 May 1852 vol 121 cc793-802

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to be made to Question [11th May], "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the system of Education carried on at the College of Maynooth:—(Mr. Spooner); —And which Amendment was to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will resolve itself into a Committee, for the purpose of considering of a Bill for repealing the Maynooth Endowment Act, and all other Acts for charging the Public Revenue in aid of ecclesiastical or religious purposes"—(Mr. Chisholm Anstey)—instead thereof.

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

Debate resumed.


I understand it is now proposed to postpone the adjourned debate respecting the Maynooth inquiry to the 16th of June. That is a day on which many of us hope the House will be no longer sitting, and when, at all events, it will not be possible to commence a long inquiry in a Committee upstairs. The House has, therefore, a right to know from the hon. Gentleman who put the notice on the paper for the 16th of June what is his real intention. I was one of those who intended, if the adjourned debate had been resumed to-day, to offer some observations for the purpose of showing why I voted in favour of an inquiry. I should do so in the hope that it might be conducted in a fair and dispassionate spirit, and that it would lead to a result consistent with justice, believing that in that event it would do much to promote the public good; but now this is the state of affairs, that whereas this notice was first put on the paper on the 10th of February, exactly one week after the House assembled, it is now proposed to postpone it to a period at which it may not possibly come on before the House is adjourned. Every Member of Parliament, whether he be of the Catholic persuasion or of the Protestant— whether he be an opponent of the grant or a supporter of it—must see that while a fair and dispassionate inquiry, calmly conducted, might lead to a most beneficial result for the general good, we have a right to know whether this matter is to be merely held in suspense; and I think I am not putting an impertinent question, when I ask the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) to state what his intention is in regard to it.


said, that his hon. Colleague having met with an accident, had asked him to watch the proceedings on his Motion. He had taken all the pains in his power to ascertain when the discussion could with certainty he renewed, and, when a fair opportunity for discussion in a full House might he obtained, he had asked the Government to give him a day specially for this purpose. The Government had informed him that they could not afford him this opportunity of resuming the discussion. He had therefore had recourse to the Order-book, and having carefully examined it, had found that the only day on which he could bring forward the Motion for resuming the adjourned debate was on the 16th June. He had accordingly selected that day. With respect to the propriety of continuing the discussion on that day, he might remark that it was the wish of a large portion of the people of this country to have a decision on the question in the form in which it had been submitted to the House; because they wished to know whether or not the House would sanction the institution of an inquiry into the system of education pursued at the College of Maynooth. It was the opinion of his hon. Colleague, as it was also his own, that as this question had been brought forward, an opportunity should be given to the House of coming to some decision on the question. In the course he had taken he had acted in accordance with what he believed to be the wish of his hon. Colleague.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be adjourned till Wednesday, the 16th day of June next."


After what has been stated by the hon. Gentleman, it really appears that it must be obvious that it is a mere mockery to name the 16th of June as the day on which the House will appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the system of education in Maynooth College. If there be an inquiry, it cannot be by appointing a Committee that cannot meet until the 18th of June, or sit more than three or four days, or possibly a week after that date. This is a very grave subject; and if the hon. Gentleman really wishes for an inquiry into the system of education at Maynooth, it is not a thing to be begun and ended in a day. It is a matter of the utmost importance—it is a matter on which the feelings of the people of this country, of Scotland, and of Ireland are deeply interested; and to propose that on the 16th of June we should appoint a Select Committee on the subject, is treating it with disregard and disrespect; and I hope the Motion will not be brought forward on that day. I was prepared, if the debate was brought on to-day, to say I am not opposed to an inquiry into the system of education at the college of Maynooth; but I am not prepared to vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. It is one thing to say that there should be a grave and well-conducted inquiry whether the system of education at the college of Maynooth is such as it should be, supported, as it is, by a public grant; and it is another thing to question the very ground on which the grant was originally made. I am not prepared, after having heard the statement of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, to vote for an inquiry by a Select Commit-tee of this House. If an inquiry be instituted, it is better it should be instituted by Her Majesty's Government, according to the provisions of the Act of Parliament, which lays down precisely that there may be an inquiry either by means of the visitors appointed under that Act at their annual visit, or by the appointment of the Lord Lieutenant to make a special inquiry. But if the Government are not satisfied with that mode of inquiry, it is in their power to appoint other persons to conduct an inquiry of that nature. Such an inquiry can be proceeded with when Parliament is not sitting; and upon which Parliament can come to a decision when it is reassembled. With regard to the whole subject, I am prepared to say that I wish to maintain the grant to Maynooth. I think it is desirable that, if there be an inquiry, it should be an inquiry with the view of providing a remedy against any abuses, should such be proved to exist, and not with a view of subverting the grant. I think it desirable that the people of this country should be aware of the opinions of those who have taken part in the debate; and I regret that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was not such as to convey a clear opinion to the House as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I greatly lament that, upon a subject of so much importance as that of national education in Ireland, and the maintenance of the college of Maynooth, the Government should have chosen to throw these questions open; that they should have left their opinion to be debated and discussed daring the next six months, and that they have not given a decided opinion upon these subjects. If the Government are prepared to say that in their opinion the grant to Maynooth ought to be withdrawn, let them so declare it. But if they think it ought to be maintained, let them not excite public opinion on a subject which might lead to such serious importance. There can be nothing more undoubted than the truth of the observation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, that, supposing this grant were to be taken away by Act of Parliament—this small pittance that is now allowed for the Roman Catholic population of Ireland—the question with regard to ecclesiastical establishments in Ireland would not stop there; and that we should have presently a question raised as to what is allowed for the Protestant Establishment in that country. When I had the honour of holding office, it was my wish to keep the question of ecclesiastical establishments in Ireland in abeyance, and not to provoke Parliamentary discussion upon them. If the Government are determined that the grant for Maynooth shall be withdrawn, or even if, without being determined to withdraw it, they leave the question to be ventilated upon the hustings, without giving a decided opinion upon it, we shall be forced to go into the whole question of ecclesiastical establishments in Ireland. A course more dangerous and more full of difficulty than that which the Government is pursuing upon this question, I do not know; and I J really do hope that the Government will be prepared, before the 16th of June, to declare some decided opinion, whether their policy is to maintain or to withdraw the grant to Maynooth.


Sir, the Government are not prepared to abrogate the grant to the College of Maynooth, nor has any thing fallen from any Member of Her Majesty's Government that would at all justify that statement on the part of the noble Lord. I am in favour of an inquiry into the system pursued in that College, which is the Motion brought forward by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire; though the grounds on which he recommends that Motion are not such as I can concur in. My right hon. Friend to whose speech the noble Lord has referred (Mr. Walpole), expressed his opinion that although an inquiry should take place, still it should be limited to ascertaining whether the objects of that institution had been fulfilled. And I think that that was a very fair subject for inquiry. As to the best means of conducting that inquiry, that, no doubt, requires very grave consideration; but I cannot agree with the noble Lord that the best course would be to issue a Royal Commission. That Royal Commission would be open to all those objections which I heard the other night stated with reference to Royal Commissions upon other subjects; and though I am not bound to state to the House of Commons what course I should have recommended with regard to this question, brought forward by an independent Member, still I cannot agree with the noble Lord that it would be our duty to recommend to Her Majesty to issue a Royal Commission, during the recess, to inquire into this subject. That Commission would not possess powers so large as those which would be possessed by a Committee of this House; and I am convinced that the result of such an inquiry would be unsatisfactory. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite sneered when my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) alluded to his inability to obtain a day from the Government to pursue the discussion which has already commenced. My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire said that he had taken a straightforward course; and I think that whatever may be the difference of opinion upon political points entertained by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the hon. Member, they will agree that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Newdegate) was justified in making that assertion. My hon. Friend is a man incapable of stating an untruth. But the Government did not refuse to give him a day for resuming the discussion. It is all very well to allege that we wish to evade discussion upon this subject; but let us dispassionately consider the position in which we are placed with regard to the transaction of public business. It is almost impossible, especially from the opposition which we have experienced on the Militia Bill—it is almost impossible, even with the greatest sacrifices, and the greatest exertions, to bring affairs to that desirable point which it seems it is the wish of all hon. Gentlemen, even of those who throw the greatest obstacles in our way, we should attain. At this moment there is a Bill which it is absolutely necessary that we should expedite through this House, and that is the Bill to prevent Corrupt Practices at Elections. I told the noble Lord the other day, that as soon as we should get through the Committee on the Militia Bill, I should endeavour to go on with that measure in the first instance. That shows no disposition on my part to stop the progress of public business. We have, then, the New Zealand Bill, which it seems it is the general wish of the House should be proceeded with; and if it be not thought expedient that the House should legislate on that subject in the present Session, it will be necessary to bring in another Bill, and to continue the present state of things for another year. At the same time the Civil Estimates have not yet been discussed. On these, in accordance with the promise I gave a few nights ago, I am bound to secure, as far as I can, an opportunity to the hon. Members for Shrewsbury and Lambeth to submit their Motions to the House. If by any possibility the Government could have given a day to my hon. Friend (Mr. Spooner), there is no probability that the House would have come to a decision upon his Motion. Representations to that effect were made to me by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, and they were considered by the Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that there is no desire on the part of the Government to permit the adjourned debate on Maynooth College to be resumed; but let me remind them that it is in their power to secure that discussion if they will only agree to give up to it the Tuesday, which is at their disposal. If they really wish to secure further discussion upon the subject, they may be able to do so by making such an arrangement with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. I throw out this for their consideration, and by way of answer to some taunts which I think have been rather freely indulged in —and which are without any fair foundation—by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London.


The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken if he supposes that I recommended the issue of a Royal Commission for the purpose of inquiring into the system of education at Maynooth. All that I said was, that the Act provided a particular mode of inquiry, and that mode should in the first instance be resorted to, if it was not proposed absolutely to abrogate the grant.


said, the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the course taken by the Government, with respect to the Motion of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, were perfectly valid. But he (Mr. Osborne) had a suggestion to make. He was sure everybody admitted that both the hon. Members for North Warwickshire were perfectly sincere on the subject; but he was bound to say, that he was afraid that those hon. Gentlemen had not searched the Order Book with sufficient care. The hon. Member for Warwickshire had omitted to observe that there was one day open to him. If he had this Maynooth question so much at heart, why did he not fix Wednesday next for its resumption? ["Oh, oh!"] Those Gentlemen that cried "Oh, oh," could not be sincere about the Maynooth question. If they were, they would prefer the settlement of that question to visiting a race ground. He called upon the hon. Gentleman to fix Wednesday next for the resumption of the debate.


said, it was extremely unfair to the Irish Roman Catholic Members to postpone the debate till the 16th of June, because that day must necessarily be close upon the dissolution of Parliament, and at that period those Members would probably be engaged in addressing their constituents, in preparation for the coming election. Many of them had, in fact, left town to prosecute their canvassing, and if this subject were to be resumed on the 16th, they would be obliged to return to town. But it was not certain whether it would be resumed on that day; and as a matter of justice, therefore, he called upon the hon. Member to fix some day on which it was next to a certainty that the debate would be resumed. Once for all, let the hon. Member state distinctly whether it was his intention to bring on the debate again upon the 16th of June?


said, he was perfectly willing to discuss this question on a Saturday, which was an open day. If the hon. Member for Warwickshire should persevere in attempting to put off the debate till the 16th of June, he (Mr. Anstey), as an Amendment, would move that it be resumed on Wednesday next.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Wednesday the 16th day of June next, "in order to insert the words" Wednesday next, "instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words 'Wednesday the 16th day of June next' stand part of the Question."


said, his object was to bring forward the question on such a day as he thought would afford the fairest opportunity for discussing the question. Now, as he did not think that Wednesday would afford such an opportunity, he must decline the proposition of the hon. Member for Youghal. He should endeavour to consult with some Members of the House with the view of obtaining an earlier day than the 16th of June for resuming the debate.

And it being Six of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House till To-morrow, without putting the Question.