HC Deb 03 May 1925 vol 13 cc361-2
Mr. Denman

said, he held in his hand a petition in favour of the Catholic Claims, from the corporation of Nottingham; whose members, in common with many gentlemen in that House, had been made converts to that cause by the lights and information which had been recently afforded on that question. It was well known that this was a whig corporation, and that it had been at the Revolution the very first corporation to congratulate king William on his arrival in this country. He was happy, therefore, to see such a body petitioning parliament for the removal of those laws, which might have been rendered necessary by the circumstances of the time, but Which there was no longer an excuse for continuing. They prayed the House, that the Catholics should be admissible to the fullest possible extent of privileges which the constitution could confer; and, as they claimed the right of serving their country in every station which they shall be found fit to fill, so would they open the door equally to all classes of his majesty's subjects to do the same. The petitioners were quite satisfied that the penal laws now in force were unjust and unnecessary. They discovered danger only in the withholding of the measure. They called for no securities, being perfectly persuaded that none were required. Should any measures of regulation be thought necessary by parliament to accompany the bill of relief, they would leave it to the legislature to provide those measures. But, whatever might be the opinion of parliament, on that point, they should not change their conviction of the necessity and policy of granting the mea- sure of relief without delay. The petitioners observed a distinction, which unfortunately was too much forgotten in the discussion on this subject; namely that eligibility to office was a very different thing from admission to office. If Catholics were declared to be admissible to power, it by no means followed that any one of them would enter into office. The means of removing disability might, perhaps, be followed by the professional advancement of an individual of high distinction at the bar of Ireland, to a situation which the law at present prevented him from holding. This promotion, however, by no means followed as a matter of course, but must be regulated by the discretion of those in authority, who could as effectually keep back individuals from that promotion, as if a law of disability existed against them. He would remind the House that there was, for instance, an hon. and learned friend of his, (Mr. Brougham), who was perfectly eligible to honour any rank in his profession. Yet he was excluded from it; not indeed by operation of law, but because it seemed fit to the disposers of those honours not to put that gentleman in an office, which his experience entitled him to expect, and which by his abilities he was so well qualified to adorn. Was not this a proof that there could be no danger to the state, from the mere eligibility of Catholics, because, as was seen in the case of his learned friend, their admission to office could at all times be controlled by persons the most interested in, and the most capable of, understanding the source of danger to the state.

Ordered to lie on the table.