HC Deb 09 March 1855 vol 137 cc379-81

Order for second reading read;

Motion made, and Question proposed, "that the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he should give his utmost opposition to the Bill, unless the Government made a candid statement of their intentions.


said he must also demand an explanation from the Government, and he should therefore move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now,' stand part of the Question."


said that he thought the most satisfactory way of dealing with the Bill would be to allow it to be read a second time that evening. Before it went into Committee such alterations might be made in the Bill as would meet the views of the Irish members, whose suggestions for rendering it more effective the Government would be happy to receive.


said, he thought the course which had just been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman would scarcely prove satisfactory, inasmuch as the suggestions of the Irish members might have no weight in inducing the Government to alter those opinions with reference to the Bill which they had no doubt conscientiously formed. For his own part, he thought that the best course to adopt would be, to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.


said, he hoped the Government would give them a Select Committee on the subject, and if they acceded to that proposal he trusted his hon. Friend (Mr. Pollard-Urquhart) would withdraw his amendment.


said, his desire was to contribute to the settlement of this question, and, therefore, he had suggested that there should be a conference between the Government and the Irish Members on the subject. If the result of that conference should not be satisfactory to the Irish Members, he did not deny their right to move for a Committee, or to take any other course which might appear to them to be necessary. After the conference those hon. Gentlemen would stand in the same position as they did at present. All he wished was that an intermediate conference should be held in order to see whether the grounds of difference could not be arranged.


said the Bill appeared to him to be a Bill of indemnity to the Government. Such a Bill, if not viewed with suspicion, ought at least to be looked at with considerable vigilance by that House. Some hon. Members, it appeared, thought it would be convenient to discuss the matter at the Treasury Chambers, imagining that the difficulties which now existed would then disappear, and that was evidently the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but in the mean time he asked the House to read the Bill a second time. He (Mr. Disraeli) did not object to the propriety of Ministers of the Crown cultivating a frank acquaintance with Members of the House; but it was preposterous, when difficulties arose, that a Minister should propose to make those difficulties vanish by private communications behind the Speaker's chair or at the Treasury, asking the House at the same time to assent to the principle of the measure. The proper course would be to postpone the second reading of the Bill until the difficulties could be settled. Nothing could be more inconvenient and unconstitutional than the habit, which was growing into a practice, of conducting public affairs, not with reference to the opinion of the House of Commons or the House of Lords, but by an understanding to be arrived at between Ministers and private Members of Parliament under the influence of official quarters. If the right hon. Gentleman really believed that grave objections existed to the measure, and that they might be removed by frank explanations of a private character, he was justified in taking the course which he proposed; but he was not justified in now pressing the Bill to a second reading.


said, if he understood the matter rightly, this was not exactly a Bill of indemnity to the Government. He believed the irregularity had been going on for a considerable time, and was equally applicable to other Governments. The difference which existed was more in appearance than reality. The Bill could not be referred to a Select Committee until it had been read a second time, and, therefore, in order to attain the object sought by hon. Members, it was necessary that the Motion for the second reading should be agreed to. If no agreement were come to between the Irish Members and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would then be as competent for any Member to move the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee as it was at present.


said, he thought that there ought to be a distinct understanding that if an agreement were not come to, the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee.


said, he would add his voice to that of the Irish Members, in hoping the Government would adopt the reasonable course suggested.


said, there had been some misunderstanding on the subject; if, on a conference with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman did not think it necessary to make the desired changes in the measure, there would be no objection to refer it to a Select Committee.


said, upon that understanding he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Friday next.

The House adjourned at Eleven o'clock till Monday next.