HC Deb 28 February 1862 vol 165 cc855-8

Sir, seeing the noble Viscount the leader of the House in his place, I wish to make an inquiry of him on a point connected with the course of public business, which I believe is of much interest to the House. The noble Lord is aware that my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge has given notice of a Motion on Tuesday, the 25th of March, to the effect that this House upon a subsequent day, to be then named, shall go into Committee of the whole House, to consider the mode of distributing the national fund for the purposes of national education. My right hon. Friend said that he would be prepared on the 25th of March to ask the opinion of the House whether it was desirable or not to consider the subject in Committee; and if they agreed to that Motion, he would before the day for going into Committee be prepared to lay his Resolutions on the table of the House. But yesterday some hon. Members sitting on the opposite benches seemed to be desirous that the Government should agree to the Motion, and pressed the Government to take that course. Some answers were given by various Members of the Government, which have occasioned, I believe, great ambiguity on the subject. The noble Lord must feel that this is a subject upon which a clear understanding is most desirable. I therefore wish to inquire from the noble Lord, what is the course which the Government are prepared to take upon the question? A right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench led us to infer that it was possible for the Government to agree to go into the question on the 25th.


I rise to order. If the right hon. Gentleman refers to what was said from the Treasury bench, of course those hon. Members to whom he alludes must have an opportunity of replying.


I only wish to make a few observations in order to render my statement clear. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks I am misrepresenting the case, he will have an opportunity of replying to me on a subsequent occasion. I wish now to put a question to the noble Viscount. I apprehend what both sides of the House wish to understand is this:—Are we, on the 25th of March next, to go bonâ, fide into Committee of the whole House on the question of distributing the funds for the purposes of national education? If that is the wish and determination of the noble Lord, my right hon. Friend has said that he will be prepared on a convenient occasion—so that the House will have ample time for consideration—to lay his Resolutions on the table; and, of course, any other hon. Gentleman who may wish to lay Resolutions on the table in reference to the same matter will also have full opportunity of doing so. Now, I wish to know what really is the intention of the Government in respect to this matter—whether they are prepared to agree to the consideration of these Resolutions in Committee? In that case, we shall, of course, go into Committee upon them on Tuesday, the 25th of March.


Sir, I was not here yesterday, but on reading the record of what passed, which is in the hands of everybody, it does not appear by me that there was any ambiguity in the answer given by my right hon. Friend, which the right hon. Gentleman imagines. But to answer his question, I have no difficulty in stating that Her Majesty's Government feel the subject of education as connected with the Revised Code and the Minutes of the Council to be a matter on which such great and extensive interest is felt that there can be no reasonable objection to consider in Committee of the whole House the proposals which any hon. Member may think fit to make on that matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge appeared to me to describe very accurately, and very succinctly, the course which he meant to pursue. I presume his Resolutions would be Resolutions bearing on the Revised Code, and on the minutes of the Committee of Council for Education; that they would bring on for discussion the questions which have been under consideration. There are two courses which he might pursue. He might either do that which I understand him to have indicated; that is to say, he might give notice that on a certain day he would move that on a subsequent day the House should resolve itself into Committee on that matter, and might state at the same time that he would not hang up his Resolutions for criticism till the time arrived for the House to resolve itself into Committee. That is the course he might adopt if he were very modest as to the nature of his Resolutions. The more natural course would be, that he should lay those Resolutions on the table of the House, and simply give notice—as I believe was done by my noble Friend Earl Russell on a former occasion—that he should, on a subsequent day, move the House to resolve itself into Committee on those Resolutions. But these are distinctions on a matter of form. Substantially, the Government will have no objection to have the proposals, whatever they may be, bearing on the subject of education as carried on by the Committee of Council, discussed in a Committee of the whole House.


Sir, from the answer just given by the noble Viscount, I infer that the Government would have no objection, if I laid my Resolutions on the table, as I said yesterday I should fee prepared to do, at least a fortnight before the day on which I am to make my Motion for going into Committee, that I might then move, instead of the House going into Committee on a future day, that the House should go into Committee on the day appointed for the Motion—namely, Tuesday, the 25th of March. Am I correct in supposing that the noble Lord would not then object to going into Committee? Is that what the Government are prepared to do? I believe that course would be the most convenient that could be adopted, for it would enable me to bring forward the question earlier than otherwise it would be in my power to do. Then, if the noble Viscount consents, I would first give notice of a Motion for this House going into Committee on Tuesday, the 25th of March, and then I would undertake to give notice of my Resolutions at least a fortnight before that day.


I do not think there is any objection to the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, as I understand he would lay his Resolutions on the table a fortnight before the day on which his Motion is to come on.

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