HC Deb 07 May 1861 vol 162 cc1719-27

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2,


said, that he objected to centralization, and did not see why the counties should not decide for themselves in respect to tramways as well as with regard to common roads. He would have the tramways put on the same footing as common roads. If they gave the county the power of making short tramroads he did not see why they should not manage that matter as well as the matter of ordinary roads.


said, they were arguing the principle of the Bill of last year on the clauses of the Bill before them. The clause under consideration would do away with all the securities of the Bill of last year, which had been well and carefully considered in Committee. It was true that the Bill of last year was altered in "another place," but the second clause of the present Bill did not apply to anything which had been so altered. Its effect would be to deprive the country gentry of the only protection they had against private speculations. He hoped the House would adopt the Amendment and reject the clause.


said, Ireland was well furnished with trunk railroads, but not with branch railways, and the object of the Bill of last Session was to enable small towns which lay at a certain distance from railways, and which could not afford to have a Bill of their own for the construction of a railway, to have such railway constructed, and the plan was, as in the Health of Towns Act, for the Secretary of State to make orders for these railways, which had no legal effect till they received the sanction of the House in a general Bill. The question was whether the matter should come before the grand jury twice? It appeared to him that by the Bill the landowners would be placed with regard to those roads in the same position that they were in with regard to ordinary roads, and that the clause should not he expunged, but that another clause should be inserted to give the landowners the protection of the grand jury and the privy council in Ireland.


said, that the Bill would require to be considerably altered before it could meet with general adoption.


said, he would undertake, if the Amendment were not pressed, to alter the clause as suggested by the right hon. Chief Secretary for Ireland before bringing up the Report.


said, he thought that the best mode would be to refer the Bill to a Committee, where the details could receive that amount of consideration which they could not receive in the Committee of the House.

Question put, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 157; Noes 106: Majority 51.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 3,


expressed a hope that the third clause would be omitted. He was anxious to place the powers under the Act in the hands of a Grand Jury, instead of the Lord Lieutenant in Council, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, would endeavour by this and other Amendments to render the measure more perfect than was unfortunately the case at present.

MR. BUTT moved that the Chairman report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.


observed, that he had never seen Irish Bills promoted in any satisfactory manner by right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Benches. They had the misfortune to be ruled in Ireland at present by a gentleman who knew nothing whatever of the country, and whose conduct of Irish business, as evidenced by his proceedings with reference to the Bill under consideration, had struck him (Mr. Hennessy) with astonishment. He, for one, protested against reporting Progress. The hon. Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt), who was a sort of unofficial Attorney General, might think proper to make an arrangement with the Government in order to facilitate the progress of Government business, but that was no reason why they should report Progress. Night after night the Committee on the Bill had been postponed; and now, in presence of a full House, when the best possible opportunity was afforded for the discussion of the Bill, they were, forsooth, again to postpone the Bill to suit the convenience of the Government.


said, he thought that there was no such urgency in regard to the business before the House to justify the postponement of notices of Motion on a Tuesday night in favour of the Orders of the Day. Tuesdays were always devoted to the business of private Members, and it was very hard that their privilege should be attempted to be abrogated. If the hon. and learned Gentleman did not persevere with the measure now, he could not hope to carry it through this Session.


said, he was exceedingly anxious to go on with the Bill. He had moved that the Chairman report Progress, not because of any understanding with the Government, but because he owned he had lost his temper, and felt that the Committee on their part were hardly in a temper to consider the Bill.


said, he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman ungrateful. In his experience he had never seen the House in so amiable a mood, and he had no doubt if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland threw his usual energy into the matter they might get on with the Bill.


said, it was bad encouragement to private Members, after assenting for the benefit of the Government to the new arrangements for facilitating public business, to find that on the very first night afterwards the Bill of a private Member was to be thrust aside for the purpose of Government business.


said, he wished to know whether the extraordinarily full attendance of hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite was for the purpose of discussing an Irish Tramway Bill?


said, he for one could assure the hon. Baronet he had come down solely for the purpose of discussing the Irish Tramway Bill.


said, from the nature of the business before the House, he did not expect the Bill would be brought on that evening; and he was, therefore, unprepared to discuss the Amendments of which he had given notice.


said, that the point at issue had gone beyond an Irish question. It was from what had occurred that evening evident that a great deal more than met the eye underlay the changes in the proceedings of the House which had a few nights ago been introduced. The policy of the Government in making those changes was now apparent. They hoped by their means to seize for their own purposes all the valuable hours of the Tuesday nights, leaving the hours when hon. Gentlemen were occupied in dining, and the House was comparatively empty to private Members. That was an attempt which, in his opinion, it became the interest not only of Irish Members, but of private Members generally, to resist at the very outset. It had reference to ulterior steps to be taken with respect to the Budget, and was of a piece with the devices by which that scheme had been characterized from beginning to end—devices by which it was proposed to wreak the vengeance and spite of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the House of Lords—devices, he might add, more worthy of an attorney than of a statesman. If the right hon. Gentleman sought to force his Budget on before the proper time it was, of course, open to him, backed by a majority, to do so; but he was sure such tactics as those to which it would seem he was condescending to resort for the purpose would neither advance his own reputation nor tend to expedite the progress of his measures.


said, he ventured to say that a more unjustifiable or more unwarrantable attack than that of the noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) upon the right hon. Gentleman had never been made in that House. It was perfectly true that the Government was anxious to bring on the consideration of the Budget, but it was equally evident to every dispassionate person that hon. Members on the other side were doing all in their power to prevent it.


observed that the discussion appeared to be characterized by a great deal of unnecessary heat. He did not find fault with the Government for desiring to advance the public business intrusted to their charge by every legitimate means which the course of Parliamentary proceeding enabled them to adopt. He had pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the previous evening, in no spirit of hostility, the course which he thought, upon the whole, it would be most convenient the House should adopt in reference to the progress of his measures, consistently with affording hon. Gentlemen those occasions for the due discussion of business—especially business of great importance, which no Minister ought to grudge the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman had not, however, concurred in the suggestions on the subject which he had thrown out, as it was perfectly competent for him to do; but, it nevertheless, behoved hon. Members to consider the peculiar circumstances under which they were assembled that evening. It was the first evening on which the new rules regulating the mode of proceeding with the business of the House had come into force, and it was, therefore, both for the interests of the Government itself, and the maintenance of that good feeling and temper which, notwithstanding party conflicts, it was the duty of every hon. Gentleman to uphold who valued the character of the House of Commons—most desirable that those rules should not be misunderstood or the conduct of the Government in taking advantage of them open to suspicion. For his own part he was quite willing to take his share of the responsibility of having supported the new regulations in the Committee, while he acquitted the Government of any preconceived intention of bringing about the particular state of things in which the House now found itself. He could not at the same time help regarding it as a somewhat unfortunate circumstance, that changes which had been framed with the view of carrying on the public business for the public advantage should seem, on the first occasion on which they were brought into operation—and on a Tuesday night too, which it had been constantly urged in the Committee was a night on which the privileges of private Members were never to be interfered with—give rise for a single moment to the feeling that the Government were disposed to avail themselves of those opportunities to advance the Government business, and that too in dealing with measures which necessarily created great excitement. He was ready to admit that it might have been perfectly fair for the Government to whisper into the ear of the hon. Member for Dungarvan that he had better not bring on the subject of the Ionian Islands that evening. Had they even, by some contrivance, saved the House from travelling to Jersey he would have been disposed to pass over the arrangement without comment. The postponement of the discussion on belligerent rights was, indeed, urged for reasons in which he could not concur; and he could not help thinking that it was unfortunate that his Motion on the subject had not been brought forward by the hon. Member for Liverpool, for the debate upon it would, in his opinion, have tended to the advantage of the country and to the reputation of the House of Commons. He did not, however, mean for a moment to contend that the Government, in expressing an opinion favourable to delay in the matter, had been actuated by any other motive than a sense of public duty, while he could pardon any Minister who might have recommended the hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) not to submit to the notice of the House the claims of the Baron de Bode, or the Danish claims which had been made the subject of discussion for the last thirty years. But when he came to a practical subject such as that before the House, which involved a reform important to the Irish people, which was brought forward by an hon. and learned Gentleman who seemed to possess the confidence of the Government, and brought forward, too, with such general sympathy on the part of the House that upon a division a commanding majority expressed the high favour with which it was regarded, he could not help regretting the course in reference to it which had been pursued. He hoped the House would not under the circumstances sanction the Motion to report Progress which the hon. and learned Member so deeply concerned in the fate of the Bill had made; but, on the contrary, would proceed with the discussion in Committee, and permit a valuable measure to be advanced a stage.


said, that he wished to remove a misapprehension which seemed to exist in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman as to the regulations which had been recently adopted with reference to the conduct of public business. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to intimate that, in consequence of the new regulations, the Report of Ways and Means was to be brought on that night; but the right hon. Gentlemen must remember that it was the usual practice, when a Committee of Supply or Ways and Means had been taken on a Monday, for the Report to be fixed for the following day. That was a practice sanctioned by the House from time immemorial. It might be a question whether, if a discussion was likely to arise, the Report should be brought on at a late hour; but Tuesday was quite as open for the purpose as any other day, and the Government had not availed themselves of any new privilege in fixing the Report of Supply and of Ways and Means for that night; nor was there, as the noble Lord had said, something more in the proceeding than met the eye.


It is not often that an hon. Member who has been in a minority of, I think, ninety-eight against two hundred or more, finds himself in so short a time in a position which clearly proves that the minority were right and the majority wrong. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buck inghamshire that the Government are entirely free from blame in this matter, but I think the observations which have fallen from my noble Friend the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) are perfectly justified. The case is simply this:—The hon. and learned Member for Youghal has brought forward a measure which he was able to carry through the House by successful majorities, yet at half-past eleven o'clock the hon. and learned Member, without the slightest reason, suddenly proposes that the Chairman should report Progress. It is not for me to say what were the arrangements which led to this proposal to report Progress; but this I will say, that it is quite unprecedented for any hon. Member sitting immediately behind the Treasury bench to make the proposition which the hon. Member opposite has done. I hope that hon. Members on this side the House are determined to maintain the right of private Members, even of those Members who were ready themselves to abandon their rights, and not permit a course of proceeding at variance not only with the practice of the House, but with the rule laid down by the noble Lord at the head of the Government when he proposed the Resolutions relative to the business of the House.


I very much agree with what has just been stated by the hon. Member (Mr. Bentinck) that the proceeding now going on is totally unprecedented. I have often seen at a late hour of the night that the Gentlemen on that side of the House have insisted upon reporting Progress on a Bill the promoter of which wished to go on with it; but I never have met with an instance in which, at a late hour of the night, on the mover of a Bill proposing to report Progress, the zeal and enthusiasm in its favour should be such as completely to overpower all the tendencies of hon Members to retire to their respective homes at a certain hour, and lead them vigorously to resist the proposition of the mover to report Progress and to continue the proceedings on another occasion. I quite agree that that is quite unprecedented. It has been observed that there must be, indeed, a great interest in this Bill to have brought so large an attendance together. It cannot be said that the House cares nothing for the interest of Ireland. But still, as my hon. Friend is desirous of postponing till another evening the long discussion which is announced by the Amendment upon the Paper, I should hope that on another evening we shall have the same attendance to debate the measure which stands in the name of my hon. Friend.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The Committee divided: —Ayes 181; Noes 79: Majority 102.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Thursday.