HC Deb 10 March 1856 vol 140 cc2188-93

On the Motion for bringing up the Report of Supply.


said, I wish, Sir, to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I am informed that in the early part of the evening some understanding was come to between the noble Lord and the hon. and learned Member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger) as to the terms of the order of reference of the Local Dues on Shipping Bill to a Committee. I want to know what that understanding is? I have been informed that the Commissioners' Report is to be entirely superseded, and that an inquiry is to take place as if that Commission had never existed. I wish to ask the noble Lord whether he has agreed to any such proposition?


Sir, what passed in the early part of the evening was this:—I stated to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir F. Thesiger) that, on comparing the terms of the Motion of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) with the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, it appeared that the terms of the Amendment comprised nearly everything that we thought essential, and therefore that we ready to agree to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman—that Amendment being, that a Committee should be appointed to whom it should be referred to inquire into the matter which the Commissioners had been appointed to examine, and that to that Committee should be referred the Report of the Commissioners.


I am not quite satisfied, Sir, with the description which has been given by the noble Lord of the conversation which took place at the commencement of this evening; and, as there appears to be some doubt upon a question which has excited considerable attention, perhaps the House will allow me to give my version of the course which the Government have taken. After the defeat of what I may call the Ministerial attack upon the property of the corporations, the noble Lord at the head of the Government intimated to the House that he should propose a Committee of Inquiry, and he did so, in a tone which conveyed to my mind that he would endeavour to capture indirectly that which he had not captured directly, and that he would attempt to succeed by sap where he had failed by storm. Now, Sir, every thing depends upon the precise terms and meaning of the Motion under which it is proposed to refer this question to a Committee; and although I ventured at the time generally to express my disapproval of the course proposed, I reserved to myself the right of giving a more mature opinion upon the proposition of the Government at the proper time. When notice was given of an inquiry by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade, it appeared to me to be of a very alarming and dangerous character. I thought from the language used that the only inference which could be drawn from it was, that the Vice President of the Board of Trade was about to propose a Committee of the House which should, in fact, virtually approve the recommendations of the Commissioners, which we had induced the House to reject. That course appeared to me to be open to as grave objections as the original proposition of the Minister; and upon it an Amendment was given notice of by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger), which I thought was a wise Amendment, which perfectly maintained the principles and policy which we had asserted and defended on this side of the House. All that we said was, that, as it was a question of very great importance, and as we were confident of the justice of the principles which we had vindicated, we did not shrink from inquiry. My hon. and learned Friend, therefore, agreed to the appointment of a Committee of the House to inquire into the general question, but, altogether repudiating the idea that we were in any way to be influenced by the recommendations of the Commissioners, whose recommendations were notorious, and were founded upon principles which we conceived to be most injurious to the country and utterly indefensible and inconsistent with our notions of the rights of property. My hon. and learned Friend proposed that there should be a Committee to inquire into the subject of passing tolls and dues; but the Motion of the Government was, that there should be a Committee to inquire how the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners should be carried into effect, and to what degree. I now understand that the Government to-night have withdrawn the original Motion, and have wisely assented to the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend, that the subject generally of passing tolls and dues should be investigated by a Committee of this House, and not in any way sanctioning the recommendations of the Commissioners which we had persuaded the House not to adopt. Under these circumstances, I certainly have withdrawn my opposition to the Motion of the Ministry, on the understanding that that Motion is limited merely to the appoint- ment of a Committee of this House to inquire into the subject of passing tolls and dues.