HL Deb 30 March 1832 vol 11 cc1090-4
Lord King

presented a Petition from the Members of the Council of the Political Union of Bradford, praying for Parliamentary Reform. The petitioners entreated their Lordships to pass the Bill now upon their Table; and they said, that had it been passed forty years since, the country would not now labour under that dreadful amount of debt and taxation with which it was so much oppressed.

Lord Wharncliffe

said, he would avail himself of that opportunity to ask the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government whether he had any objection to the postponement of the second reading of the Reform Bill from Thursday in the next week till the following Monday. The reason for his suggesting this postponement was, that it might be inconvenient for many noble Lords to attend so early as Thursday, on account of the duties which they had to perform at the Quarter Sessions. A delay of two or three days was not material, and, besides, Thursday was not a very convenient day, since, if the debate commenced on that day, it would, in all probability, be necessary to adjourn it over to the week following. He wished for no unnecessary delay, but this delay would not be very material, and would be attended with a great convenience to several noble Lords.

Earl Grey

was decidedly opposed to any unnecessary delay in the progress of the Bill, but on the ground, and for the reason stated by the noble Lord, he would not object to this delay for two or three days, it being understood, that, after this postponement, no further delay should be required. He was aware, that for the reason stated, it might be attended with some inconvenience to several noble Lords to attend on Thursday, and on that ground, he agreed that the second reading should be postponed till Monday se'en-night. He hoped, however, that this circumstance would be considered when they came to fix the time for going into the Committee; and, that after the Bill should be read a second time, as he trusted it would be, as little delay as possible should take place in going into Committee upon it.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that he was quite surprised to hear the noble Earl consent to the delay asked by the noble Baron. Surely the noble Earl should have inquired, before he fixed the time for the second reading, whether any other public circumstance, be it Quarter Sessions or not, was likely to interfere with the day fixed; but, having induced the House to agree to a day of his own selection, it was extraordinary to find him postponing, on such slight grounds, a discussion of so important a nature, on which, according to the noble Earl's own account, the fate of England depended. He should have recollected that the House of Commons permitted no trifling on the subject, and that it devoted even Saturdays to the Bill, in order that its arrival in that House should not be delayed a moment longer than was necessary. The convenience of a few noble Lords might be consulted by the change, but the great body of the Members of the House would have reason to complain. Peers were coming from every part of the kingdom in consequence of the appointment of the noble Earl, and they would think it not a little extraordinary to find the convenience of a few persons preferred to that of the great body of their Lordships. If there was a third party in the House, who had raised themselves into what they thought was consideration in the country—he would not designate them as they were designated in the public Press—who had brought themselves into notice by their wavering declarations and vacillating counsels, it was fit they should be told they had no right to alter the day fixed for the discussion of a great subject to suit their convenience. He did not know what other noble Lords about him might think on the matter, but as an independent individual, he was ready to de- clare his opinion, and he thought the request of the noble Baron and the assent of the noble Earl equally extraordinary; and he thought that they would both be received in the country not in the most palatable manner. He would not pretend to speak for others, but, as far as he was concerned, he protested against the delay.

The Duke of Wellington

said, the postponement from Thursday to Monday could be a matter of no great consequence, particularly if the convenience of any noble Lords who were disposed to take a part in the discussion of the second reading of the Bill would be consulted by it. On that point he was indifferent, but he hoped that the noble Earl would grant a reasonable portion of time between the second reading (if the second reading should be carried) and the going into Committee on the Bill. That was a matter on which he hoped some explanation would be given, and he trusted the noble Earl would feel the necessity of not hurrying the measure to a Committee, if he should be so fortunate as to induce the House to read the Bill a second time.

Earl Grey

said, that in answer to the noble Marquis, he had only to state, that it was no wish of his to delay the second reading beyond Thursday, but at the same time he could not refuse the courtesy which was usually granted, of postponing a measure at the urgent request of some of their Lordships for three or four days. Besides, it was not for the convenience of the noble Baron or his immediate friends that the request was made, but for the service of several noble Lords who were engaged in discharging important public duties in their respective counties. The noble Marquis charged him with neglect of duty in not knowing that the next was the week for the holding of Quarter Sessions—certainly he ought to have known it, but surely, as the fact had escaped him, he could not be blamed for now postponing the discussion of a measure which he had unfortunately appointed for an inconvenient day. With regard to what had fallen from the noble Duke, he had to assure him, that he listened with much attention to all his suggestions, and he would be happy to comply with them as far as it was possible. He had already declared, that if the second reading of the Bill was agreed to, he would not delay the going into Committee, as he imagined that a long time had already been given for the con- sideration of the subject, and he believed that the House and the public would agree in the justice of that opinion. He was the last person to limit the time for deliberation, but he was equally convinced of the necessity which existed of the Bill not being delayed. The subject was, after all, in the hands of the House. If the second reading should pass—as he hoped, and had every reason to think it would—he would propose an early day for the going into Committee; and any noble Lord who wished for further time might make an application to that effect, and their Lordships would deal with it as they thought proper; but he would be no party to an agreement for delay.

The Earl of Malmesbury

could not help saying, with reference to the reason assigned by the noble Baron as the grounds of his request for the adjournment of the second reading, that he considered the duty of any noble Lord, as a Peer of the realm in that House, was paramount to any other service whatsoever; and, if the question was put to him individually, he would say, that he preferred discharging his duty in that House to attending at Quarter Sessions or elsewhere. However, the adjournment of a few days could make no great difference; for, even if the second reading were agreed to, it would be impossible for the House, from the nature of the Bill, to get through the Committee before Easter.

Lord Wharncliffe

, while he admitted that the attendance in the House was the first duty of every noble Lord, could not see what objection there could be to the consulting the convenience of those noble Lords who were willing to discharge their duty there and elsewhere, and he believed that the postponement of the second reading from Thursday to Monday would be attended with no ill effects. With respect to what the noble Marquis at the Table had said about a party in the country, he could only say, that it was not his intention to take any notice of the remark at present. When the debate came on, if the noble Marquis proposed to attack him, or his motives, personally, he assured him, that he should be quite ready to defend himself.

The Marquis of Londonderry

said, he would only make a single observation. He was not conscious that he had said anything personal, nor did he intend to do so, but he felt that he was at liberty, on the discussion of the Bill, to state what he thought of the noble Baron's late explanations to the House, as well as that of a noble Earl. In doing so, he did not mean to attack them personally, but to comment on their sentiments which they had declared to the House. As to personal attacks, he altogether disavowed them.

The second reading of the Reform Bill postponed accordingly.

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