§ Order for Committee read,
§ MR. VANCE
said, that in the absence of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Collins), he desired that the Committee should be postponed. ["No. no!"] There was an understanding with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock 1037 (Mr. E. P. Bouverie) that it should not be brought on. ["No, no!"]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will. To-morrow, resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill."
§ MR. M'CANN moved that the Order be discharged.
§ MR. DENMAN
seconded the Motion. He felt that the House had not been treated with courtesy in being kept there the whole evening upon some understanding between two Members, that if the Bill came on after a certain hour, it was to be discussed; and if before a certain hour, it was to be postponed. He knew there was a strong feeling on the part of several hon. Members that the Bill had been allowed to pass through its previous stages as it were, per incuriam, and that it did no credit to the House.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Order for the Committee on the said Bill be discharged,"—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. VANCE
believed that the present was the first occasion that advantage had been taken of the absence of an hon. Member who had charge of it to endeavour to discharge a Bill which had been only once under discussion. There was a distinct arrangement between himself and the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, who was to lead the Opposition to it, that it should not come on before ten o'clock; and he certainly did not think hon. Members opposite were acting with courtesy in adopting the course which they were pursuing in the absence of the hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Collins), who he knew would be in his place had he thought it probable the Government business would have terminated so soon. He trusted hon. Members would not persist in pressing a Motion which, if carried, would bring discredit on the proceedings of the House. ["Oh, oh!"]
§ MR. HUNT
thought, that considering the course which had been taken with respect to the Bill which stood upon the paper immediately before that under discussion (the Naval Medical Supplemental Fund Society Winding-up Bill, which had been deferred), it would be dealing out but scant courtesy to the hon. Member for Knares- 1038 borough if the Motion for rejecting his Bill were in his absence persevered with.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
denied that those on his side the House were acting in a way which could fairly be regarded as discourteous. It was a more discourteous proceeding to put a Bill down for discussion, and to leave the question of whether it should come on or not to depend upon the circumstance whether its supporters happened or not to have come back from dinner. He asked the hon. Member for Knaresborough yesterday whether he meant to bring in his Bill to-night, and he distinctly replied "Yes." The Bill had been read a second time; and it was highly disrespectful to the House to say, that if an hon. Member happened to come down to the House after dinner in time, the Bill should go on; but if not, that it should not.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ MR. WHITESIDE
thought there had been some slight mistake in the matter. He understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock, who was to oppose the Bill, had been consulted, and that there was an understanding it should not come on before ten. It could not be expected that the Naval Medical Supplemental Fund Society Winding-up Act (1861) Amendment Bill, would have been so speedily disposed of.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
was of opinion that some explanation was due to the House from the hon. Member for Knaresborough (who had now entered the House) on the subject. If he had intimated to his Friends on the other side of the House that the Bill would not come on that evening, then it was rather a want of courtesy not to have given a similar intimation to other hon. Members who were opposed to the measure.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, he had been distinctly informed that the Bill would not come on till after ten o'clock.
§ MR. COLLINS (who spoke amid much interruption)
said, he did not exactly know at what stage the proceedings had arrived. He might, however, state that it was his intention that the Bill should come on that evening. He, at the same time, knowing that it was a Government night, and not expecting that the Government business would be finished so early, had not deemed it necessary, having been occupied elsewhere, to come into the House before ten 1039 or eleven o'clock. It was, indeed, somewhat extraordinary that the programme laid down by the Government should have been exhausted by half past nine. He recollected no previous instance in which so formidable a programme had been so speedily disposed of. [Cries of "Question!"] He would be heard, and hon. Members might, therefore, call out "Question!" as long as they pleased. Such a mode of transacting Government business as that to which he was adverting was most inconvenient, inasmuch as it gave Ministers a control over the whole evening on Government nights. He knew, of course, that the theory was that hon. Members ought to be always in their places, but in practice they sometimes went to their dinners. The Government might, at any time they pleased, by postponing one or two of their Orders, bring on the Bills of private Members at a time when those who had charge of them, or those who were friendly to them, were not present. He was very reluctant to "speak against time," but he had been driven to do so by the course which had been adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Ministerial benches were well lined, while those on his side were almost empty. The hon. Member accordingly addressed the House at great length; but amid so much interruption and confusion that little consecutive argument could be heard.
SIR HERVEY BRUCE
denied that the Bill was a job, and thought it was not a proper imputation to make against those who had voted for it upon a former occasion. He would call the attention of the House to the difference between freemen in large towns and those in small towns. Was it fair that the freeman who lived out of town should be disfranchised because his residence was more than seven miles from I the centre of a large town, while if the town had been less extensive, the centre would have been within that distance of his house? For himself, he thought that the classes of freemen whom the Bill would revive was the class most free from corrupt influences.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
reminded the House that the Question before it was simply whether the debate should be adjourn- 1040 ed. He would suggest that that Motion should be withdrawn and that the hon. Member for Drogheda (Mr. M'Cann) should also withdraw his Motion for discharging the order, and then they could discuss the Motion for going into Committee. The hon. Member for Knaresborough (Mr. Collins) seemed to be annoyed at the course that had been taken, but it was he who was to blame. It was unprecedented that an hon. Member should complain that a Bill of which he had charge had come on at an unusually early hour. After the understanding that had been come to respecting the first Order on the paper, it was expected that the Government business would be disposed of at an early hour, and therefore many hon. Gentlemen who were anxious to oppose the Bill had remained in the House at some inconvenience; but when the Order was called, the hon. Member for Knaresborough was not present. It was natural, under such circumstances, that some annoyance and indignation should have been expressed. It would have been only in accordance with that courtesy that was almost universally practised in that House if the hon. Member had given notice to Members generally that he did not intend to bring on the Bill if it was called on at an early hour. He thought that the hon. Gentleman, in speaking so long "against time," had been wanting in that courtesy which was usually practised in that House. As he once heard said in this House, the rules of this House were made by gentlemen for gentlemen; and if those rules were to be disregarded, the sooner they were changed the better.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
thought that the proposal just made as to the course of proceeding was a perfectly fair one, and he hoped it would be acceded to; but he was bound to add that he thought the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was by no means fair. An attack had been made upon his hon. Friend (Mr. Collins), to which he was by no means open. That had happened to him which might at any moment happen to any Member of this House having charge of a Bill —the progress of public business was quicker than he anticipated, and he was not present when the Bill was called on. But neither was the right hon. Gentleman who had given notice of an Amendment present to make it; and if his hon. Friend had neglected his duty, the right hon. Gentleman had neglected it rather more, for he came into the House last. Altogether, 1041 he had never heard an attack which seemed to him to be in worse taste than that made by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. LIDDELL
protested against the remark that the whole body of freemen were corrupt. No doubt many of this class of voters had been corrupted, because they were poor; but the blame was upon those who corrupted them. The freemen who were not corrupt, or who were not likely to be corrupt, were the very men to whom this Bill would apply; and he asked the House of Commons to deal with the anomaly which had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Knaresborough.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
said, he was astonished at the arguments used by hon. Members who professed to be anxious to extend the franchise. If a £6 franchise were created, a large proportion of these freemen would become voters, and then he trusted that the language of hon. Gentlemen opposite would not be forgotten.
§ MR. BONHAM-CARTER
said, that as one of those who had been in the House from an early hour expecting that the Bill would come on, he must say he thought there had been an absence of the usual courtesy on the part of the hon. Member who had charge of the measure. When a Member was in charge of a Bill, the House might reasonably expect that he should be in his place when it came on, at whatever time that might be.
said, that on this question an appeal had been made by the hon. Member (Mr. Collins) to Scotch Members possessing a knowlege of Scotch law. He was a Scotch Member, but knew nothing whatever of Scotch law, the study of his life having been to keep out of all law, and especially of Scotch law. He knew the feelings of the Scotch people, however, and had no hesitation in saying that they wished that the number of Scotch voters should be increased. He regretted that the great Liberal party which sat opposite should have endeavoured to put down the hon. Member for Knaresborough when making a Liberal speech. His idea of Liberalism was that every person who was entitled to vote under the Reform Act should be permitted to exercise the franchise. As the Bill was intended to effect that object, he should give it his cordial support.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he had informed the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, that if the Bill should be called on before ten o'clock, it would be postponed; but that if 1042 it should not be taken till after that hour it would be proceeded with. No discourtesy had therefore been shown to the I right hon. Gentleman or his Friends.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Amendment, and Original Question, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. COLLINS moved that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, in order that the House might go into Committee on the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
proposed an Amendment, that the House should go into a Committee that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House; will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee," —instead thereof.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 139; Noes 182: Majority 43.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Committee put off for six months.