HC Deb 15 July 1856 vol 143 cc863-6

Sir, I beg to move that the House at its rising adjourn till Thursday next.


I do not rise, Sir, to oppose the Motion of the noble Lord, but I must protest against the new system which has now been introduced of the Minister of the day giving holidays to the Members of the House, and paying for their entertainment out of the public purse. It is a precedent, I think, Sir, which ought not to be admitted, and the House ought to take an opportunity of showing that it does not approve it. I should have thought that the experience of the last treat which the Government gave us would have deterred them from following that example. But, however, as the First Minister of the Crown has thought fit again to announce his gracious favours to the House of Commons—and I suppose the other House will be allowed to share in the enjoyment—I will not at this period of the Session formally ask for the opinion of the House upon it, but as far as I am personally concerned, I protest against the system. I certainly thought last night it was not at all dignified for the First Minister of the Crown to be informing the House how they were to repair to this entertainment, and what arrangements had been made for the Commissariat, and other matters of that sort. I again assert that it is not at all a desirable thing that the Minister should give holidays to the Members of Parliament, and, without any sanction whatever, afterwards entertain them at the public expense.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to have forgotten to mention the remarkable generosity of the Government in giving away what did not belong to them—the Wednesdays. Now, hon. Members might recollect that this was the third Wednesday which they had given away this Session. He wished to know whether there would be any objection to allowing ladies to use the tickets which Members of Parliament did not feel disposed to make use of?


said, he should like to ask the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) from what fund it was intended that the expenses of this entertainment should be paid? The House had had before it neither Estimate nor Vote upon the subject. Complaints had been frequently made of the misapplication of money voted for one purpose and applied to another; and if it was by that means that this expense was to be defrayed it would be most objectionable and most unwarrantable. He for one should not accept the bounty of the noble Lord, although, if every one paid his own expenses, he might be disposed to spend the holiday like other hon. Members. This system of treating the Members of the two Houses was quite new, and people out of doors said it was nothing but a paltry bribe on the part of the Government to influence Members in their favour.


I really think, Sir, the House will not enter into the constitutional jealousy which has induced my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. W. Williams) and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) to think that these occasional military and naval reviews will corrupt the House of Commons, especially after what happened last time. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be very unfit that upon trifling and frequent occasions the Government should propose to the House to adjourn over any business day, and that arrangements should be made for the pleasure of the two Houses of Parliament; but I think every one will feel that to the occasion of the great review of the naval forces which had been assembled with a view to warlike operations, but which fortunately were not required for that object, and to the present occasion, when our brave troops have returned from the Crimea and when so much interest has by every one been displayed in them, that objection will not apply. I really think, Sir, that these criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman are not in good taste. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that it was unbecoming of a person who has the honour to fill the situa- tion which I now hold to explain the arrangements which had been made. The time was very short, and I think that, if I had not taken the opportunity of giving that explanation, I should have been reproached with keeping Members in ignorance of the steps which they ought to take in order to be present at the review which Her Majesty is about to attend. With regard, Sir, to the question of my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel French), I am afraid that it has not been in the power of the War Department to make arrangements for the conveyance of ladies. It has been difficult to obtain carriages to convey the Members of the two Houses from the railway station to the camp, and I am afraid that ladies, unless they took their own carriages, and were thus independent of the assistance of the Government, would be exposed to great inconvenience. With regard to the fund from which the expense is to be defrayed, my hon. Friend (Mr. W. Williams) must be aware that there is annually voted a considerable sum on account of civil contingencies, to provide for unforeseen expenses. That is the Vote out of which this very small expense—I can assure my hon. Friend that it will be very small—will be defrayed. We shall be exceedingly sorry not to have the pleasure of my hon. Friend's company to-morrow, but I hope he will relent and accept the treat without feeling that he will lay himself under an obligation to the country by availing himself of the special train.


I must say, Sir, that I for one enter my protest against the payment of expenses of this sort by the Government. It is making a beginning. If the House chooses to adjourn for a particular festival or for any great spectacle, well and good. That is for its consideration according to the business which it has to perform; but I very much agree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) on a former occasion. I think that if we go as a House we ought to go as a body; if we go as private gentlemen we ought to pay our own expenses. If we may compare great things to small, we are getting very much into the way of that with which so much fault was at one time found—churchwardens and overseers having a dinner at the expense of the parishioners. I do not think we ought to make such a beginning, and I for one protest against it, because, what is very becoming to-day, lays the foundation for something less becoming to-morrow, and so we go on. I, therefore, cordially agree with all that has been said by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli), and for one object to the payment of these expenses by the country.


said, he thought that the objections would be met by each Member paying his own railway fare.

Subject dropped.