HL Deb 02 August 1836 vol 35 cc756-8
The Duke of Wellington

said, that since this subject had been last under the consideration of their Lordships, he had perused the Report of the Commissioners of Ecclesiastical Inquiry for Scotland, and he had no hesitation in saying, that in his opinion the recommendations of that Report ought to be carried into execution, and that the Bill which had been entertained by their Lordships was calculated to carry those recommendations into effect. At the same time, they were aware that the Bill had made a considerable impression on the northern part of the kingdom, and that there were several persons who were extremely anxious to have further time given them for its consideration. He would, therefore, under these circumstances, suggest to the noble Viscount the propriety of postponing the Bill till next Session.

Viscount Melbourne

observed, that although the Bill was not in its present form as good as it might perhaps be made, he thought it was efficient for its objects; but at the same time, for the reasons given by the noble Duke, he would not object to a postponement of the Bill till next Session, reserving, however, to the Government the power of taking any measures which they might think necessary for the purpose of carrying into effect the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commissioners.

The Earl of Aberdeen

was well pleased to hear the noble Viscount consent to a postponement of this Bill, although he thought the measure one which might safely be adopted. He believed the Crown possessed all the powers which this Act professed to confer, but at the same time, great as those powers were, he would not venture to define their precise extent, as their limits were by many persons considered matters of doubt. The consequence would be, that if the Crown were advised to exercise those powers, they would be questioned in the courts of Scotland, and instead of obtaining them easily and without dispute, as under the Bill, the right to exercise them would be denied and contested. There could be no doubt that this would be disadvantageous to the Universities themselves, as well as injurious to the authority of the Crown, and he, therefore, could not help recommending the noble Viscount, as the noble Duke was satisfied with the Bill as it now stood, as well as with the recommendations of the Commissioners, and there could be no doubt of the passing of the Bill, to wait till the time the noble Duke had suggested, and the country, which already had begun to change with respect to this Bill, and whose alarm had greatly subsided, would, he felt quite assured, be perfectly satisfied with the measure. Indeed, he had little doubt that in another Session of Parliament there would be no opposition to it, except on the part of those who had an interest in maintaining the abuses for which this Bill provided a remedy.

The Earl of Haddington

was under- stood to say, that almost every objection to the Bill was now removed, except that which was founded on the unknown character of the Commissioners. He should be perfectly ready, in the course of next Session, to show that the measure was deserving the confidence which this Session it had not received, and he expressed his unqualified satisfaction at the postponement of the Bill, because, in his opinion, time only was wanting to enable the country to take a proper view of the case. He trusted, however, that the noble Viscount would consider well before he issued a royal Commission, for he was apprehensive that taking such a course, instead of removing alarm and allaying excitement, would lead to nothing but litigation and irritation. He should not abuse their Lordships' indulgence by exposing, which he should have done if the Bill had gone to a third reading, certain misstatements which had been made respecting the effect of a clause which he had introduced into the Bill, and he should only remark, that he gave no power to the Church of Scotland which it did not already possess; and that, so far from giving any power to the visitors, which it was stated he had done, he had taken away the power they had.

Bill postponed sine die.