HC Deb 28 March 1855 vol 137 cc1279-81

Order for Second Reading read.


moved the second reading of this Bill, explaining that its object was to prevent the necessity of any person vacating his seat in Parliament, and presenting himself again to his constituents for re-election, on removing from one office of profit under the Crown immediately to another office of profit.

Motion made, and Question proposed—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


conceived that the Bill would interfere very materially with those constitutional rights of electors which had been exercised for two centuries. He saw no reason for the proposed change, and should oppose the Bill.


was inclined to agree with the last speaker in respect to the constitutional part of the question. Be thought, too, that the present was not precisely the time when such a proposition was likely to meet with most favour, for, with respect to many places, hon. Members did not know whether they were vacant or not, and one of the means of obtaining that knowledge was by the Motion for new writs. He certainly wished that every Member, on the occasion of his receiving a new appoint- ment, should go back to his constituents. The trouble to himself would be very small if the electors approved of his conduct; and, as to the expense, the House had endeavoured to make that as little as possible, though, whether the Act passed last year for that purpose had operated as intended, a recent return presented to Parliament with respect to one of the metropolitan boroughs was calculated to create doubts.


said, the sole object of the Bill was to promote the public convenience, and it only enforced a provision which had been suggested on several occasions before without any objection being urged against it. As to the knowledge which the hon. and learned Member desired to have with respect to the appointments to new offices, that information was usually contained in the Gazette.


thought the experience of the last two months, during which there had been such a shifting of the Members of Government from one department to another as was neither conducive to the character of public men, nor to that of the Government, afforded sufficient argument against the Bill.


opposed the Bill. If they began to fritter away the constitutional principle little by little, they would by and by get rid of it altogether. He moved, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


seconded the Amendment. The question was not whether a Minister should be allowed to go from one office to another in the same Administration, but whether he should be permitted to accept a new office, with an entirely different set of men for his colleagues, without being obliged to go back to his constituents, and giving them an opportunity of deciding whether or not they would re-elect him as their representative.

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


had heard no good reason in favour of the Bill. No doubt some inconvenience might arise to a Member of a Government in consequence of finding a difficulty in being re-elected; but that was a reason why the present constitutional rights of the electors should be retained.


thought it was not desirable that a person holding an office of profit under the Government should vacate his seat merely on being transferred to another office under the same Government; but when a Member left one Government to serve under another, he conceived that the constituency were then constitutionally entitled to pronounce an opinion on his conduct.


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument went too far for his purpose, and, as far as the approval of constituents was concerned in respect to the change of office by their representative, he (Sir G. Grey) did not see the force of the distinction attempted to be drawn. There was no doubt that there might arise great inconvenience if a Minister changing from one department to another, and being at the head of the department, should be absent from his place in Parliament for a week or a fortnight during his re-election for a county.


pointed out to the opponents of the Bill that the existing law did not oblige a Minister, who continued to hold office, though in a new Administration, to go back to his constituents, provided he retained the same office. It struck him that the present state of things, which the Bill proposed to alter, created great inconvenience, for, as almost every Member of Government since the passing of the Reform Bill was obliged to represent a popular constituency, it practically too much embarrassed the prerogative of the Crown in the choice of its servants and proved an impediment to putting the right men in the right places.


should vote for the Bill, because he thought it would prove advantageous to the Crown in respect to the choice of its Ministers, and in the case of large counties, such as Yorkshire, he believed that re-elections, on account of the change of one office for another, would be deemed extremely inconvenient.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 73: Majority 4.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for six months.