HL Deb 23 March 1804 vol 1 cc1004-8
Lord Hawkesbury

moved the first reading of the Volunteer Consolidation Bill; accordingly the title and breviate of the bill was read by the Lord Chancellor.—The noble Secretary then moved, that the bill be printed for the use of their Lordships. He observed, at the same time, that the forms of the House did not allow the second reading of a bill, to be regularly moved until the prints were before the House. However, as there was every probability that the prints would be ready for delivery to-morrow, he should now give notice, that on Monday it was his intention to move for the second reading of the bill.

Earl Spencer

rose, not, he said, for the purpose of opposing the measure, or to throw any difficulties in the way of his Majesty's government in the present circumstances, but merely to suggest to Ministers and to the House the consideration, whether a bill of the peculiar nature and importance as that, the heads of which had just been read, a measure, the principle of which was not only so very important, but in itself embracing such a variety of detailed provisions, could be maturely considered so far as to make up their Lordships minds, as to that species of discussion required at a second reading, in the very short interval between the delivery of the bill and Monday next: he thought it could not. He deprecated the idea of any improper haste being used in the progress of the bill in that House. Their Lordships would recollect the extraordinary length of time it was under consideration in another place, the repeated dis- cussions the measure had undergone, and the variety of amendments which had been made to it. It was therefore incumbent on their Lordships to give the measure a full and mature consideration in all its branches and details; the measure, in the present circumstances, was one of the greatest importance: the character and dignity of the House were implicated in the consideration: they should evince to the public their determination to give the measure a full consideration, and that no improper haste should be used on the part of their Lordships in passing the bill.—Under these impressions, he begged leave to suggest to the noble Secretary, that Tuesday should be the earliest day fixed upon for the second reading.

Lord Hawkesbury

observed, it was by no means the wish of his Majesty's ministers to use any improper haste in the progress of the bill; on the contrary, it was their wish that the measure should undergo a full and thorough investigation. At the same time he could not avoid observing to the noble earl, that the detailed and repeated discussions the bill had already received, rendered its contents pretty well known to the public, and perhaps to a great number of their Lordships; however, though his wish was, that a measure of such peculiar importance in the present circumstances on the country, should receive as little delay as possible, under what had been suggested, he had no objection to take Tuesday as the day for his moving the second reading.

Earl Fitzwilliam

made a few observations, principally in support of what fell from the noble earl near him (Spencer); he urged the propriety of giving the bill a full and mature consideration in that house, he adverted to the deliberate discussions it had undergone in the other House of Parliament, and the many alterations and amendments it had been found necessary to make in the measure as originally proposed to that House.

Earl Darnley

expressed his coincidence in a great deal of what fell from the noble earls on his side of the House; but at the same time he must avow his opinion, that in the present circumstances of the country, the bill should be delayed as little as possible in its progress. No lord could more highly estimate the character and dignity of that House than himself: there were certain regulations in the bill which it would be expedient to carry into effect as soon as possible. He was however an advocate for a full and thorough discussion of the measure; on that ground he had no objection to the proposed delay; but if he thought there was a probability of their Lordships being able adequately to discuss the measure previous to the intended Recess, he should have no objection to the day first named by the noble Secretary of State.

Lord Hawkesbury,

in explanation, assured the noble lords there was no intention of the part of ministers to hurry the progress of the measure. He was equally aware of the various and complicated nature of the measure, as of its peculiar importance; it certainly embraced many detailed considerations, each of which involved a principle in itself; it was then right that the whole should be fully and maturely considered, and if such could not be done previous to the recess, they had no particular desire to urge its passing before that period.

Lord Harrowby

made a variety of observations, not only on the bill itself, but on a great part of the conduct of his Majesty's ministers relative thereto. In one point of view, it was his wish that the bill should receive the sanction of the legislature as speedily as possible, as it Contained, in particular, one provision of which he approved, namely, that which held out a bounty for the encouragement of volunteers to perfect themselves in military discipline and exercise. This part of the bill, when he considered the critical circumstances, with respect to pending invasion, in order to be of real service, should be carried into effect as speedily as possible, for on a short approaching interval muck may depend. The noble lord then adverted to the delays which he conceived ministers had suffered to take place with respect to the measure in question, and censured their conduct on that head. Much time had been lost. This was the only measure they brought forward for the defence of the country, and as little time should be lost as possible. He deprecated the idea of losing any time in consideration of a recess, but if such a proceeding was resolved upon, he hoped it would be for the shortest period possible, not extending beyond the Monday, which would follow the second reading of the bill. His Lordship then alluded to some parts of the bill, which, from their questionable nature, as well as on account of the conduct of ministers in these respects, he deemed to require mature consideration and thorough investigation on the part of their lordships.

The Earl of Carnarvon

warmly deprecated every idea of hurrying the progress of a bill of such importance as the present through the House: an attempt of the kind militated against the letter and spirit of certain standing orders. He knew there were certain precedents for speedily pushing bills through the House, but he hoped they would not be acted upon; it was the duty of the House fully and maturely to consider and investigate the measure. He fully agreed in what had been stated by a noble earl of the nature of the bill; it was one of an intricate kind, and should not be hastily proceeded with: its effects on, and connexion with other measures proposed by ministers in the last session, should be also considered, as well as the length of time which they suffered to elapse before they came forward with the bill in question. The noble earl, after animadverting on the conduct of ministers in these respects, contended for the propriety of discussing the measure in the most cautious and deliberate manner.

The Lord Chancellor

quitted the woolsack, and delivered his sentiments upon the occasion. He adverted to the irregular turn which the debate had taken, but which to observe upon, as he then felt it proper, he must necessarily fall into the same irregularity himself. The question he conceived was, whether the bill should be read a second time on Tuesday; and in considering this, the noble and learned lord commented on what had fallen from a noble earl then near him, and from a noble lord who had spoken rather at length on the opposite side of the House: the inconsistency of whose arguments, as operating either in favour of delay, or on the contrary, for expedition, were pointedly remarked upon by his Lordship.—With his noble friend he agreed in the propriety of maturely and deliberately considering the measure before them; it was irregular in point of form, as well as an erroneous way of considering the case, to go upon an assumption of what the House in its wisdom may resolve upon with respect to the ensuing period of recess. He seemed to think the latter day mentioned, the preferable of the two, as, in common with several of their Lordships, he knew but very little of the detailed provisions of the bill, save from that description of them which his duty on the occasion of the first reading of the bill rendered it necessary he should read to the House; and he was fully convinced of the propriety of duly and thoroughly discussing the measure in question.

Earl Darnley

spoke in explanation, and Lord Minto seemed inclined to speak, when.

Lord Walsingham

deemed it incumbent on him to remind their Lordships of the obvious irregularity of the present discussion. There was, strictly speaking, no question before the House, as in point of form, the second reading of the bill could not regularly be moved for, until the prints were before their Lordships.—The correctness of this remark was acknowledged by the Lord Chancellor; and Lord Hawkesbury, in the course of a short explanation as to the point of form, reminded their Lordships, that what the Noble Lord had observed, had been conceived by him in the first instance. He then observed that it was his intention to move for the second reading of the bill, on Tuesday.

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