HL Deb 23 July 1833 vol 19 cc1082-4
The Earl of Radnor

rose to present a Petition from the Political Union of Glasgow, praying that, in consequence of the course which the Bishops had taken recently, on the decision of some most important questions in that House, their Lordships would repeal the Act of Charles 2nd. by which they had been restored to their seats in Parliament.

The Earl of Haddington

doubted very much whether they could receive any such petition. It applied personally to certain Members of that House; and its prayer was, in effect, that those parties should no longer be allowed to sit in Parliament. And for what?—because they had performed their duty. Surely such a petition ought not to be received.

The Bishop of Chichester

observed, that the right reverend bench, to which he had the honour to belong, were willing that their conduct should be scrutinized. It was, however, a question of parliamentary form, how far such a petition as this was in accordance with their Lordships' orders.

The Earl of Radnor

thought, that the petition ought to be received. If the petitioners had referred only to those circumstances which were recorded in their Lordships' Journals, undoubtedly the petition might have been received. He hoped their Lordships would not reject it on account of any informality.

The Earl of Haddington

must again express his opinion, that the petition was of such a nature, as, in his judgment, precluded their Lordships from receiving it.

The Lord Chancellor

said, there might be good grounds for refusing the prayer of the petition; but, if a petition were couched in respectful language,—if it were decorous to that House, their Lordships had no right to reject it, unless some specific grounds of objection were fairly stated for taking such a course. It was not a good ground for rejecting it at once, because it reflected on the conduct which individuals had pursued in that House, in their public capacity. No member of that or of the other House of Parliament was privileged from having his legislative conduct discussed. His Majesty's subjects had a right, a most undeniable right, to canvass the conduct of individuals in their legislative capacity. That, however, to which he objected in the petition was, that the petitioners had taken notice of that of which they could have known nothing, without a breach of the privileges of that House. They could not know, strictly speaking, in what manner individuals had given their opinions, or how they had given their votes. If, however, the conduct of a member of the Legislature, in presenting a Bill, for instance, which did come regularly before the public, were animadverted on, however severely, in a petition, still, if it were couched in language decorous to the House, the subject of the petition itself did not oppose a good objection to receiving it. Whatever appeared on their vote, admitted of public animadversion and petition. He certainly, for his own part, never wished to see the day when a respectful petition, with reference to matters occurring in either House of Parliament, to which the public had regular access, should be rejected on account of its prayer, however proper it might be to refuse that prayer.

The Earl of Aberdeen

agreed in what the noble and learned Lord had said with respect to the informality of alluding to the votes given by members in that House; but he denied the noble and learned Lord's proposition, that any proposition not involving that consideration might be received by the House, provided it were respectfully worded. The noble and learned Lord said, it would be sufficient not to comply with the prayer of any objection- able petition. He differed from that opinion. At present the petitioners confined themselves to calling for an exclusion of spiritual Peers from that House; but they might require the abolition of the House itself, or they might demand that the crown should be taken from the King's head. Now, he asked, could their Lordships receive such petitions as those, however respectfully worded? Fie contended, that the mere refusal of the prayer of the petition was not sufficient; it ought to be rejected altogether.

The Earl of Haddington

begged to call their Lordships' attention to one passage contained in the Petition which he thought would preclude the House from receiving it. It alleged, that on several recent and important occasions the Bench of Bishops had evinced, by their votes, an utter forgetfulness of the spirit of the religion which they professed to teach, and that, therefore, they should no longer be permitted the exercise of legislative functions. Such language, he submitted, was not only not decorous or respectful, but amounted to a breach of privilege.

The Earl of Radnor

said, that as the sense of their Lordships seemed to be against receiving this petition, he would, with the leave of the House, withdraw it.

Petition withdrawn.

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