HC Deb 07 February 1859 vol 152 cc140-2

I wish to put a question to the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the subject of the Reform Bill. On the first evening of our meeting the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Government were ready with their new reform measure; but the right hon. Gentleman also added ("Order!")—I am trying to make my question intelligible to the House.


The hon. Gentleman must not enter into any argument in putting a question.


No, Sir, I am not doing so. I am only stating the reasons why I ask the question. The right. hon. Gentleman added that the Bill would not be brought in until other more important business of the country was disposed of. That has led to some misconception and some misunderstanding on the subject, and to considerable misgiving in the public mind as to when the Bill will be introduced. As I have no doubt all this can be removed, the question I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman is, whether it is the intention of her Majesty's Government during the present month to introduce their Bill for the amendment of the representation of the people?


The only question which was addressed to me the other night upon the subject was, whether the Government were prepared to bring in their Reform Bill immediately; to which I replied that it was not their intention to bring it in immediately, as there was other important and urgent business which required the attention of the House. I indicated at the same time some portion of that urgent business; and though it would be presumption to say how long that business would occupy the attention of Parliament, the natural inference from what I said when I referred to the Navy Estimates and to some Votes being taken in Committee of Supply to enable my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Pukington) to make his statement, and to bring forward the measures which he deems necessary, was that the delay would not be very considerable. There is also other business also of an urgent character, of which my noble Friend near me (Lord Stanley) has given notice. The House can probably form an opinion of how much time will be occupied in the discussion on Indian finance. The House is as good a judge as I am of the time which these measures will require for their fair discussion. When they are settled, it is my intention to give notice of a day when I shall have the honour of bringing forward a measure for amending the representation of the people. The hon. Gentleman will understand that it is not in my power to fix the day; but, taking a general view as to what will be the progress of business, not only is it our intention that it shall be brought in before Easter, but we contemplate taking the opinion of the House upon the second reading before Easter. As Easter is rather late this year, if the second reading meets that reception which we fondly anticipate, the House will have the opportunity even of making progress in Committee on the Bill before that time.


Perhaps I may be allowed to ask another question. Permit me to say that what the public require is time to consider the Bill before it comes to a second reading. That is an essential thing. I would therefore recommend—("Order!") Well, if I may not recommend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I will ask him whether he will name a day now, or state when he will name a day, when the Bill will be introduced? Because I presume that not more than one night will be taken up in the introduction of the Bill.


I think I have clearly answered the questions that have been put to me. It is not in my power to name precisely the day when the Bill will be introduced; but I shall give fair notice, and shall take care that there is ample opportunity for consideration between the introduction and the second reading.