§ On the Report of the Bill being brought up,
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, he wished to take that opportunity, as the third reading of this Bill was appointed for to-morrow, to refer to two Amendments which had occurred to him to be absolutely essential for the proper working of the measure. In the first place, he thought that they should retain the power, at any rate, of sentencing convicts for ten years, and transporting them, if the Crown thought fit. His reasons for that were these: As he understood the proposition of the Government, it was founded on the expectation that Western Australia would take 700 or 800 convicts a year. The returns showed, however, as he had stated on a former occasion, that the average number of convicts sentenced to transportation for periods exceeding ten years did not amount to that number. The hands of the Crown, therefore, would be unnecessarily tied when it might be advisable to carry on transportation. Again, if they passed a Bill allowing only those convicts to be sent to Western Australia who were now willing and anxious to go there, or those who were under sentence of fourteen years and upwards, it might induce the colonists to believe that the worst kind of convicts, and not the best, were sent there, and would be no longer willing to receive even that limited number. For these reasons he was anxious that the Government should consider the propriety of abolishing transportation only for seven years' sentences, and not for sentences be- 1601 yond that period, leaving the rest in the discretion of the Crown, but intimating the desire of the Crown to act upon the intentions of the Government, and not to carry out those sentences as a general rule. Another amendment which he thought of still greater importance was this: To provide means that when convicts in this country obtained a conditional pardon, they should not abuse the mercy of the Crown by committing again offences of a similar nature without being liable to a much more severe punishment. Unless that were done, he feared they would find that the worst kind of delinquents would be constantly sent back upon this country. Unless there was some check or power on the part of the Crown during the time of conditional pardon, it would undoubtedly operate very much to the detriment of the measure, and would prevent that deterring effect operating upon the minds of the convicts, which, combined with the hope that they might obtain a remission of their punishment, would do more to reform their character, and to render them useful members of society, than any other measure that could be devised. These were the two points which, after much consideration, he wished once more to press upon Her Majesty's Ministers. He would not take the sense of the House upon them, because he felt that it was a matter the responsibility of which entirely rested with the Government; but he considered that he should not have done his duty, entertaining the strong opinion which he did upon those two points, if he had not pointed them out to the House and to the Government before sanctioning this otherwise excellent and beneficial measure.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that the suggestions which had just been thrown out should receive the consideration due to the importance of the subject, and the respect to which anything that came from the right hon. Gentleman was so pre-eminently entitled.
Further consideration of the Bill postponed to Friday.