HC Deb 19 July 1866 vol 184 cc1143-5

Sir, in rising to move that the Orders of the Day for going into Committee on these Bills be discharged, I have to say a very few words in explanation of the course that I have now finally taken with reference to them. I did not on the resignation of the late Government, at once move that the Orders should be discharged, under the conviction, which I shared with my Colleagues, that it was our duty to allow those Orders to stand until our successors had taken their places, in order that they might have an opportunity of stating either their general intentions or any special matter connected with their views in relation to the Bills, or to the subject of Reform. But the declarations made by various leading Members of the Government in another place, and likewise in the country, have satisfied us that it is not their intention to take any steps in reference to these Bills. And I beg it, Sir, to be understood, that I by no means make that circumstance a subject of complaint against them in the present state of facts. We, however, hereupon determined to propose that the Orders of the Day should be discharged, and the Bills dropped. But in making that proposal, I did not think it right to treat the dropping of these Bills as a matter of course; and, therefore, I gave previous notice of my intention to move that the Orders be discharged, so that any Members of the House might have an opportunity of expressing their opinion as to the Bills, and as to the question whether any attempt ought to be made by the present Government to deal with them. It being now two hours past midnight, I will not long detain the House at such a period of the sitting; nor, indeed, would I have detained you, Sir, long at an earlier hour, upon this subject. I do not think that, under the circumstances in which I am placed, it would be advisable for me to attempt any further proceeding with these Bills; but, after all that has happened, it may be expected that I should say one word with respect to the future. The great subject of the amendment of the representation of the people is not any longer primarily in my hands, nor in the hands of those with whom I had the honour to be associated. It is of course to Her Majesty's Government, in the first instance, that the country will look for its decision with respect to this important matter. I do not press the Government upon the question; I do not make any complaint against the Government for having declined to give any definite opinion upon it immediately on their assumption of office. I shall only say with regard to our successors in office, that it will be a matter of great satisfaction to myself and my Colleagues when the Government shall feel themselves in a position enabling them to deal with this question in an effectual manner. I do not ask from them, nor am I prepared to give on my own part or upon the part of those with whom I have the honour to act, any pledge with regard to the particulars of these Bills or either of them, or with regard to any particular provisions in these or any other Bills dealing with Parliamentary Reform. This is not a time when the matter should be so handled; but I may say thus much; we shall in the future be glad, irrespectively of all narrow and selfish considerations, to support any measure which we may deem to be at once prudent and effectual, if such a measure should be introduced by those who may be more successful than we have been in the attempt to settle a great Im- perial question. We shall sincerely congratulate them upon a result so happy for the country. At the same time, I also feel it my duty to say, without reflecting in any way upon those who have been opposed to us, that we shall feel bound to resist to the utmost of our power any illusory or reactionary measure. Beyond what I have now briefly stated, we only desire that our intentions with reference to Parliamentary Reform should be estimated from what we have already said and done during the past Session; and whatever course we may feel called upon to take with regard to any Bill which may be introduced by the Government, we trust it may be found consistent with the spirit of our previous conduct. With these few words I beg leave, Sir, to move that the Orders of the Day for going into Committee on the Representation of the People Bills be discharged.