HC Deb 22 May 1860 vol 158 cc1614-6

said, he had anxiously waited in the hope that some other Gentleman would have put the question which he was about to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government. A petition had been presented by himself from Ruabon, most numerously signed, praying the House to take some immediate measures for the protection of their undoubted privilege of originating taxation. He had also a notice on the books in reference to the subject, and he hoped the facts would in some respect justify his rising. He wished to know whether the communication which they have just received about Precedents, is all they are to hear from the Ministerial Bench in reference to the event which occurred last night of the Paper Duty Repeal Bill being rejected in "another place," and if so, when the House will receive some further definite communication, such as the House and the country can understand and act upon in reference to this unprecedented, or, at all events, most important step taken in "another place." That was the question which he ventured to put to the First Minister of the Treasury, or to any other Member of Her Majesty's Government, who would be good enough to take cognizance of it.


With reference to the question of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) I have nothing to add to what has been already said by my noble Friend, the First Lord of the Treasury; but, with regard to the question which the noble Lord (Lord Naas) has raised, my attention has been directed to the reports which he has cited; and I quite concur with him in thinking that the state of things, which these reports disclose, is one which requires the immediate and urgent attention of Her Majesty's Government. As far as the Home Department, which I represent, is concerned, there would be no difficulty in making arrangements for the disposal of the whole of the annual number of convicts, without sending any additional convicts to Bermuda, partly by means of other stations abroad, and partly by means of the convict prisons in England. The advantage which accrues from the annual supply which is sent to that island, arises from the public works in the nature of fortifications which are there proceeding under the direction of the Naval and Military Departments, and which would impose an additional charge on the public revenue for their continuance, if that supply were withdrawn, and the works continued. I believe that for some time no Irish convicts have been sent to Bermuda. The supply from Ireland has entirely ceased; and the convicts who have gone out have been convicts solely from Great Britain. Nevertheless, there is a certain number of Irish convicts there, and an affray of a sanguinary nature between the English and Irish took place in the course of last year. It was a sort of faction fight; and, much as it is to be deplored, it does not evince any general want of discipline. There is no doubt that the confinement of a large number of convicts in hulks at Bermuda, in consequence of the want of adequate prison accommodation on shore, is an objection- able system, and I am not about to defend it. But this question, like so many others which come under the consideration of this House, ultimately resolves itself into a matter of additional expense; and the proper time for considering this question will be when the convict Vote comes under consideration in Committee of Supply. The House will then have to decide whether they will incur increased expenditure for the improvement of the accommodation at Bermuda, with a view to maintaining an undiminished number of convicts there, or whether they will discontinue the public works on the present footing; in which case the excess of convicts not sent to Bermuda, can be received with facility elsewhere. In the meantime, I would say that I believe my noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Department is of opinion that it is desirable to send out a Commissioner, or some person charged with the function of inquiry into the present state of the convicts at Bermuda. I shall be prepared to concur in that course; and if the inquiry is made, the result will enable the House to come to a decision with fuller information than they at present possess.


observed that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was not altogether satisfactory. He said the question resolved itself mainly into one of expense; but it might much more properly be said to resolve itself into one of the departments which ought to have the control of these matters. He would put it to the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be better that all the convicts, whether engaged on public works at Bermuda or in the dockyards at home, should not be placed under the central authority of the Home Office.


said, he had understood the objection to be directed to the system of hulks altogether, whether they were under the Home or the Colonial Department.