HC Deb 08 July 1857 vol 146 cc1132-7

presented Estimates to the amount of £500,000 towards the reimbursement to the East India Company of a moiety of the extraordinary expenses of the expedition to Persia (by command); also an Estimate to the amount of £500,000 for naval and military operations in China (by command), and moved that the said Estimates be referred to the Committee of Supply. The right hon. Gentleman also gave notice that in the course of the present month he should move a Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means with the view of founding upon it a Bill for continuing the present duties upon tea and sugar as fixed by the Act of last Session for two years from the 1st of April next.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Estimates be referred to the Committee of Supply."


said, he could not allow this opportunity to pass without protesting against what appeared to him to be a most unconstitutional transaction. A war had been declared, an expedition had been undertaken, a peace had been made, and the first intimation which the House of Commons received of the whole transaction was that a Bill was to be paid. He thought that the House would abdicate its functions, and that it would not deserve to be called the House of Commons of England if it did not mark with its reprobation such proceedings as he had described. In the whole history of the House of Commons, from 1640 down to the present hour, such, a thing had never happened. It had been reserved for a Liberal Government, and for the present Prime Minister of England, to throw that slur and stigma upon the House of Commons, and if the House of Commons submitted to it, it would show that the noble Lord had a better appreciation of them than he (Mr. Roebuck) had.


said, that he had understood, in answer to a question which he had addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the grant to be moved for the Persian war was £265,000. He wished to know whether the £500,000 now named in the Estimate was to be in addition to that £265,000, or whether the smaller sum were included in the greater. He had understood, also, that the Indian Government were to bear half the expenses, and he wanted to know, therefore, whether £1,000,000 would cover the whole expenses of the Persian war?


said, that it would be unusual and inconvenient for the House to enter into a premature discussion upon the Estimates being laid upon the table. He had merely laid the Estimates on the table at this time as a matter of convenience, and he would only state, in answer to the question of the hon. Baronet, that when he stated that the amount to be asked this Session would be £ 260,000, it was early in the Session, before the termination of the war, before the signature of the treaty of peace, and upon the best data to which he then had access. The sum which he now stated was inclusive of, and not additional to, that sum. It would be the entire demand to be made upon the House this Session, and it would replace the advances made by the India Company.


said, that by the peculiar form of the expression used by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, limiting his observations to the present Session, he would seem to infer that there was a further sum to be demanded in respect of this war upon a future occasion. When the right hon. Gentleman said that it was not usual to raise a discussion upon laying Estimates upon the table, he (Mr. Scott) must observe, that nothing could be more unusual than the course which the right hon. Gentleman himself had adopted with regard to this question. As the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had truly said, the first intimation of the affair which had been given to the House was, that there would be £260,000 to be paid, and that intimation was given to them after the war had been concluded, without any information having been afforded to the country that such a thing had been undertaken. Was not that somewhat unusual? The right hon. Gentleman complained that any one should call attention to the subject, because be had simply doubled the sum which he first stated that the country would be called upon to pay; and then he had guarded his answer to the hon. Baronet in such a manner, as to imply that even double the sum was but an instalment, and that in another Session the country would be asked for some unknown amount for this unknown war. He wished distinctly to be informed, whether this £500,000 was the whole charge which the country would be called upon to pay for the Persian war. He thought that the course which had been pursued with regard to the whole affair indicated more forcibly than anything that had before occurred, the servile condition of the House of Commons.


said, that he did not ask the House now to agree to any Vote. He had merely presented the Estimate, and had moved that it be referred to the Committee of Supply, which was the proper place for the consideration of the Estimate. When the Government asked the Committee to agree to a Vote upon the subject, they would give a full statement of the case, which would involve, among other things, an answer to the question of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down.

MR. BUCHANAN rose, and was about to address the House, when—

SIR JOHN PAKINGTON rose to order. Wednesdays were, by the rules of the House, devoted to the Orders of the Day, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, no doubt, not anticipating any discussion, had interfered with the regular Orders of the Day by making a Motion upon a most important subject, which was extremely likely to lead to a discussion, that Motion, moreover, being made without the slightest notice whatever, without being placed on the business paper, and when no one had the least reason to suppose that the question of the expenses of the war with Persia would be likely to come on. He begged to call the attention of the Speaker to the circumstances under which this Motion had been made, and he submitted that the proceeding had been in error ab initio. Under all the circumstances, he should move that the debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."


said, that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken no course in this matter which was not perfectly usual and regular. On presenting the Estimates he had made a merely formal Motion, which it was neither customary nor necessary to give any notice of. It was a Motion which never gave rise to any debate, and the only thing which had been unusual in the present case was, that on a merely formal Motion being made, a debate had arisen.


again rose, and was about to speak, but—

SIR JAMES GRAHAM rose to speak to the point of order. The opinion of Mr. Speaker had been asked on it by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, and he (Sir J. Graham) was about to suggest what he thought would have made this proceeding perfectly regular On a Wednesday. He agreed that it was unusual, on presenting an Estimate and moving that it be referred to the Committee of Supply, that a debate should arise, and he suggested that if the Estimate had been presented at any period after a quarter to six o'clock, the proceeding would have been perfectly regular. No debate, according to the rules of the House, could then have arisen. The Motion would have been taken as a Motion of course, and the irregularity into which they had now fallen would have been avoided. But certainly it was open, he imagined, to any Member to raise a debate on the Motion to refer so large an Estimate of expenditure to the Committee of Supply, presented under circumstances so unusual as those on which comment had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. He did not, think, therefore, that the Government could be surprised if a debate should arise under such circumstances, and it appeared to him to be almost challenging discussion to present the Estimate at a time when it was open to debate. Under the present circumstances, he thought that the proper course would be to agree to the Motion of the right hon. Member for Droitwich, in order that the House might proceed with the Orders of the Day.


said, that his right hon. Friend who had just sat down had implied that the course which had been taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was unusual. Now he (Sir G. Grey) believed it to be the universal practice of every Chancellor of the Exchequer, before the House proceeded to the ordinary business of the day, to present the Estimates which were intended to be considered afterwards in the Committee of Supply. The time for doing that was not, he contended, a late hour of the evening, or just before the adjournment of the House; but the period selected was always before the House proceeded to the proper business of the day. They had now been discussing for two hours a private Bill, which took precedence of alt other business, and immediately that discussion ended, his right hon. Friend presented the Estimates. He believed that the course which had been taken was perfectly in accordance with precedent, both with respect to presenting the Estimates and moving that they be referred to the Committee of Supply, because, unless they were so referred, the Committee could take no cognizance of them. [Sir J. GRAHAM: On a Wednesday?] Yes; on any day. During the twenty-five years that he had been in Parliament, he never remembered a discussion taking place upon the presentation of an Estimate, and upon the making of the necessary Motion to give the Committee of Supply cognizance of the Estimate.


said, that he had intended to present these Estimates on the previous evening, and that he had brought them down to the House for that purpose at the usual time, intending to lay them on the table before the business commenced. He mentioned his intention at the time to Mr. Speaker, and went down to the bar, expecting that he should be called. Mr. Speaker, however, did not see him, and therefore his name was not called, otherwise the Estimates would have been presented then. He might add, that he was not aware of any reason why the Estimates should not be presented on a Wednesday as well as on any other day.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer intimated his intention to present these Estimates yesterday, but not seeing him at the bar of the House before the commencement of public business yesterday, he omitted to call the name of the right hon. Gentleman. He believed it had been the universal practice, when a Minister appeared at the bar with an Estimate, that on his name being called by the Speaker he should be permitted to present the Estimate to the House; and the Motion that the Estimate be referred to a Committee of Supply had been considered as a Motion of course. Therefore he himself should have considered that what was new, if not irregular, on the present occasion rather was that a Motion so generally received as a Motion of course should have been turned into a Motion raising a debate. It was for the House to decide whether there was anything in this proceeding which interfered with the regular course of the business; but nothing struck him as being irregular in the Motion made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


proceeded, amid cries of "Order!" to call attention to the commercial inconvenience arising from constant alterations of the dates when certain duties on tea and sugar were to take effect—

SIR FRANCIS BARING rose to order. Mr. Speaker had already pronounced his opinion on one point of order, but a discussion on a notice of Motion given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to the tea and sugar duties would be even more irregular than the conversation which had just taken place.


trusted that the Motion for the adjournment of the debate would not now be pressed.


thought the Motion for the adjournment might be withdrawn, after what had fallen from Mr. Speaker and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.