HC Deb 04 December 1857 vol 148 cc143-5

On the Report of the Address in answer to the Royal Speech, which was brought; up by the Mover, Mr. W. MARTIN, being read by the Clerk of the table,


said, he must complain that the only Member of the House of Commons who was furnished with a copy of the Speech from the Throne was Mr. Speaker, and that all others were dependent on the audible manner in which the right hon. Gentleman read out his copy on his return from the other House for knowing what it contained when they were called on to frame an Address in answer to it. He would beg to suggest that on all future occasions copies of the Speech should be placed in the hands of the doorkeeper, at half-past four, from whom each Member might obtain one. Formerly the morning papers were furnished with a copy of the Speech, and Members might read it there; but that practice had of late years been very properly abolished, and now hon. Members had no means of reading the Speech until the next morning. With regard to the Speech itself he wished to ask for an explanation from the noble Lord at the head of the Government of that part of it which related to the amendment of the representation. That particular sentence was not by any means clearly worded. With regard to the laws relating to real property and the Criminal Law it was clear that measures were to be introduced for their amendment, hut with regard to the reform of the representation the words of the Speech were: Your attention will be called to the laws which regulate the representation of the people in Parliament, with a view to consider what amendments may be safely and beneficially made therein. And it was not at all certain from that language whether the Government intended to bring in a Bill or not. It was apparent from the answer given last night by the noble Lord to the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) that, at all events no measure would be laid before Parliament this side of Christmas, and if no further explanation were given the people must remain in ignorance until next February whether the Government meant to introduce a Bill at all, or merely to refer the subject to a Select Committee. On the 7th of May last the noble Lord had pledged himself not only to bring in a Bill, but to bring it in at the very beginning of the Session. His words were, Her Majesty's Government admit that it will be their duty during the period which will intervene between the conclusion of the present Session and the beginning of the next to take this subject into their fullest and moat serious consideration * * * and I hope—indeed I am confident, that at the beginning of the next Session we shall be able to propose to Parliament some measure which will, we think, be calculated to meet the just expectations of the country." [3 Hansard, cxlv. 66.] If, therefore, the Cabinet, as the noble Lord had promised, had given the subject its full consideration during the four mouths which had elapsed since last Session, there was no reason why the people should be left in ignorance until February whether any changes wore to he made in the system of representation, and, if such a determination had been taken, what the changes were to be. When the noble Lord did bring his Bill forward he must not complain if, after his delay and procrastination, that House refused to be hurried into passing it without the fullest consideration.

Address agreed to:—To be presented by Privy Councillors.