HC Deb 27 June 1856 vol 142 cc2087-90

said, that in rising to ask the question, of which he had given notice, of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, he would avail himself of the Motion before the House to accompany it with one or two explanatory observations, when his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, on the second reading of the Church Rate Abolition Bill (on the 5th March), explained the grounds on which Government had decided to support the second reading; the right hon. Baronet stated also the Amendments which Government thought necessary, and the acceptance of which would be the condition of their future support. The Amendments of his right hon. Friend were laid on the table immediately before the Easter recess, and very shortly after the recess Government was informed privately by himself, and the House was informed by his reply to a question from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord R. Cecil), that the Government Amendments would be accepted by the Member having charge of the Bill. On the one hand, therefore, there was the support of the Government given on certain conditions; on the other, the acceptance of those conditions by the promoters of the Bill. Now, those circumstances, in his opinion—and in the opinion, as he believed, of the House—in the opinion, as he felt certain, of the country—amounted to an adoption of the Bill by the Government. Looking to the fact that the Government had for two or three years past intimated their intention of bringing in some Bill on the subject of church rates—that they had not done so—that they gave their support to the Bill he had had the honour to bring in on certain conditions, and that those conditions were accepted—it seemed to him impossible not to suppose that they considered the Bill now before the House as the redemption of their pledges on the subject, and the best practicable mode of dealing with the question, the settlement of which was admitted on all hands and by all parties to be a matter of urgent and imperative necessity. Accordingly, as the question was not one to be trifled with, or lightly taken up and laid down, he had expected that Government would have afforded facilities for bringing the Bill, in its various stages, under the consideration of the House. He felt the more entitled to expect this, as the Amendments proposed by the Government, by introducing new and important elements into the measure, widened the field of debate and enhanced the difficulties of carrying through the various stages of the Bill. In fact, the attempt of a private Member to carry through the Bill as amended by the Government would have been hopeless and absurd. In these expectations, however, he regretted to say he had been disappointed. Three months had elapsed since Easter, and he had not yet been able to induce the noble Lord to name a day for the House to go into Committee on the Bill. When last (some fortnight or three weeks since) he asked the noble Lord a question on the subject in that House, he had understood him to say, that he would give a day whenever he could do so consistently with the progress of the Bills brought in by the Government itself. He presumed, however, he must have misunderstood the noble Lord—as he observed that the morning sitting of Tuesday next (a Government day), was given to the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Marquess of Blandford) for the Committee on the formation of Parishes Bill. His noble Friend, in reply to the representations he had thought it right to make on his own part and the part of many Members of the House, was very kind in expressing his intentions to afford facilities for the progress of the Bill; but somehow it so happened that these kind intentions produced no fruit; and now, almost in July, and the end of the Session approaching, no day was named for taking even the next stage of the Bill. He felt himself called upon to state these facts in justification of himself, in order that he might stand clear with the large party, as well within as without the walls of Parliament, who had given him their confidence in this matter. He did not presume, of course, to dictate to the noble Lord the course he ought to pursue; but he considered that he was entitled to ask, or rather the House was entitled to know, what that course was. If the noble Lord would frankly and explicitly avow that he considered the Government bound to attempt to carry through the Bill,—then no doubt there was time to get through the remaining stages of the Bill before the time fixed by the other House, beyond which they would not receive Bills from the House of Commons. If on the other hand the noble Lord did not feel inclined or enabled to give that assurance, then it would be better at once to abandon the Bill, and not trifle further with the time and patience of the House and the expectations of the country.


Sir, as my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) has already addressed the House on the question of adjournment, I will answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets. It is the duty as well as the desire of the Government to press forward as speedily as possible the various measures which they have themselves introduced, and for the conduct of which they are directly responsible. One of them has already been referred to by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) as having an imperative claim on the attention of the House, namely, the Bill relating to the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords. There are other measures of a similar nature, for the discussion of which it is necessary that the Government should assign the earliest days at their command. I fear, therefore, that it will not be in our power at present to fix any day to be devoted to the consideration of the Bill of my hon. Friend. I can only assure him that, at the earliest period when an opportunity presents itself, the Government will be ready to set apart a day for the measure which he has introduced. At the same time, I must be permitted to observe that my hon. Friend is under a misconception in supposing that this is a Bill which has been adopted by the Government. All that has occurred is, that my right hon. Friend at the head of the Home Department has given notice that he will, at the next stage of the measure, move the insertion of certain clauses. That stage has not yet arrived; and no opportunity has been afforded my right hon. Friend for making that Motion. Therefore, until these clauses have been, engrafted on the Bill, with the assent of the House, it would be impossible, by the most liberal construction of the word, to say that the Government have "adopted" this measure. That is the explanation which the Government have to offer, and they are perfectly willing to appoint the earliest available day for the consideration of this subject.


said, he would only say, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he should abandon the Bill.