On the motion of Viscount Mel-
bourne, the clerk at the table read the following paragraph from the Message which was delivered yesterday from her Majesty:—
The present state of the public business and the period of the session, when considered in connection with the law which imposes on her Majesty the duty of summoning a new Parliament within a limited time, renders it inexpedient, in the judgement of her Majesty, that any new measures should be recommended for your adoption, with the exception of such as may be requisite for carrying on the public service from the close of the present Session to the meeting of the new Parliament.
§ Viscount Melbourne
then said: My Lords, it is now my duty to call your Lordships' attention to the latter paragraph of her Majesty's most gracious message which I had the honour of bringing down, but which was postponed in order that no comment, observation, or proceeding whatsoever might mar the general feeling of condolence for the loss of his late Majesty. It is now my intention to move that your lordships do adopt an address in answer to that part of her Majesty's most gracious Message; and, if your lordships approve of it, to express our intention to pursue the course recommended by her Majesty. It is unnecessary for me to state to your lordships the actual state of the statute law on this subject, and the condition in which that law is. Your lordships are well aware that in former times—times anterior to the revolution—all authority being supposed to emanate from the Crown, emanating under the Sovereign's writ, was supposed to fall and become extinct by the demise of the Sovereign. All commissions, all authorities, all delegations, every thing ceased at once, and at once in that event Parliament was dissolved, and it was necessary to issue writs for the meeting of a new Parliament. This was a provision of the common law of the country, and this provision, which arose from the general nature and principles of that law, was found so generally inconvenient to the service of the country, and was found so peculiarly inconvenient in the time which succeeded the Revolution, when the succession was by no means so generally or decidedly established, or so generally recognised as it fortunately is at present—I say, my lords, that this provision was found so generally and peculiarly inconvenient, and so prejudicial to the public service, that in the reigns of King William the Third and Queen Anne acts were passed for continuing the puration of Parliament for six months after the demise of the Sovereign. In the 1566 case of the succession which immediately followed these acts of Parliament the period of six months, so allowed by law, was taken advantage of, and of those measures which were before the Parliament at that time sitting they dispatched those more urgent and immediate measures which were necessary to be passed, such as the settlement of the civil list, which was generally passed before the Parliament was dissolved. But on the occasions of the accession of George 4th., and his late Majesty the servants of the Crown at the time, pressed by strong reasons in favour of that course, in both cases recommended to the Parliaments of those times to depart from the course which had been formerly recommended, and to proceed only with that business which was necessary, absolutely necessary, for the public service of the country, and to leave all other measures, and amongst the rest the settlement of the civil list, till the meeting of a new Parliament. Upon these two precedents I call upon your lordships to proceed on the present occasion, and I think it is hardly necessary for me to point out to your lordships the great inconvenience that would necessarily result from following any other course. Your lordships are all aware what difficulties must attend the transaction of public business in a Parliament which must necessarily expire in the period of six months, and which probably would terminate before the termination of that period. With respect to the Parliament itself, your Lordships must be aware of the difficulties that would be found in obtaining the attendance of that Parliament and of obtaining the attention of Members to business in that Parliament, and the prejudice that might arise to the public service from the decision of such a House of Commons, and the want of that impartial and independent manner which ought to belong to all the decisions of the representatives of the people. I think it hardly necessary to expend much argument upon this subject: it is so perfectly self-evident that I feel I am not required to take up your Lordships' time with details of the inconvenience that must arise. I am very well aware that this course of proceeding being adopted, at the same time necessarily leads to the postponement of many measures which every body considers of great importance, and which I have myself acknowledged repeatedly to be of very great importance, and of peculiar urgency. I admit fully the importance of these measures; I admit 1567 their urgency, but I think that that importance must yield to greater importance, and that urgency must yield to greater urgency; and, therefore under these circumstances, I am unwilling to carry these measures into completion in the course of the present Session, and I think that her Majesty's Government is justified in recommending to your Lordships to forego the advantages of passing these measures. There have been, undoubtedly, upon former occasions difficulties in the way of this course of proceeding which do not exist on the present occasion. There have been difficulties arising out of the possible inconvenience in the case of the demise of the Crown during the interval between the dissolution of the one Parliament and the meeting of the next, and while the successor to the throne was yet under age. This is a contingency which it is not necessary to provide for on the present occasion. But, my lords, I apprehend there is another contingency which it is necessary to provide for, and which relates to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, who is the next in succession, and who is now an independent sovereign on the continent; and as the duties of that station, will necessarily call for the residence of his Royal Highness on the continent, it will be necessary to provide for the case that may arise out of the Crown during that absence of his Royal Highness. I apprehend that it will be for the public convenience to introduce and pass a bill for this purpose. My Lords, it will therefore undoubtedly be the course proposed by her Majesty's Government to pass the supplies of the year. If there are any measures which are likely to lead to discussion, which are likely to meet with any considerable resistance, or upon which there is likely to prevail any difference of opinion, of course it will be necessary to abandon them for the present Session, and to postpone them till the meeting of the new Parliament. But with respect to those measures about which there is a general concurrence of opinion, and about which there is a general feeling of the propriety of passing them immediately, of course it is the intention of her Majesty's Government to proceed with them. Upon these grounds, my Lords, I beg leave to move that an humble address be presented to her most gracious Majesty, acknowledging the communication which her Majesty has been graciously pleased to make to this House, and expressing to her 1568 Majesty the deep sense which this House entertains of her Majesty's consideration for the public convenience, and her Majesty's unwillingness to recommend to the House to adopt, in the present state of the public business, and at this period of the Session, when considered in connection with the law which imposes on her Majesty the duty of summoning a new Parliament within a limited time, any measures except such as may be requisite to carry on the public service from the close of the present session to the meeting of the new Parliament and only to bring forward such measures as without injury to the public service, will not admit of postponement.
§ The address having been read by the Lord Chancellor,
§ Lord Lyndhurst
entirely concurred in the address proposed by the noble Viscount and he agreed to the terms of that address on the grounds so distinctly and ably stated by the noble Viscount. He thought that in the present state of business in the other House of Parliament, the number of important questions depending there, and considering the period of the year, it might be considered almost impossible for their lordships to proceed with the whole of them, and many of them must of necessity be postponed. But when he considered the circumstance to which the noble Viscount had adverted, namely, the near prospect of a dissolution, which must of necessity remove from the metropolis a large proportion of the other House, who must look to their individual interests; and when he further considered that even of those persons who should remain there, many would have their attention engaged about other matters in which they or their friends were concerned, he could not bring himself to think that these important measures now under the consideration of the other House were likely to be deliberately and calmly discussed if her Majesty's Government should persevere in pressing the consideration and discussion of them during the remainder of the Session. He, therefore, agreed in the view of the subject taken by the noble Viscount. He also agreed in what had been stated by the noble Viscount with respect to the consideration of the question relating to the civil list. It appeared to him, first of all, adverting to the period of the Session, that there could not be without considerable inconvenience sufficient time deliberately to consider that important question, which in more instances than one had occupied several weeks of discussion. But he was 1569 not prepared on that ground alone to agree to the suggestion of the noble Viscount. It was because he thought it would not be fair to her Majesty, it would not be fair to the country, to bring forward the consideration of such measures upon the eve of a dissolution of Parliament. It was not necessary distinctly to state the reasons for this opinion: they had been alluded to with sufficient distinctness by the noble Viscount; and he for one would never agree to make a provision for her Majesty, a permanent provision, under these circumstances, and at a period when those persons who would take part in the discussion of these questions might be fettered by the situation in which they would be placed. Those questions were much more likely to be fairly, impartially, and satisfactorily discussed by independent Members at the meeting of a new Parliament. He agreed also in the prudence and propriety of making provision for the state of things respecting the succession to the Throne to which the noble Viscount had referred. It appeared to him, from the practice of former years, that no difficulty would be found in passing a Bill of this description. He was prepared, therefore, to concur with the noble Viscount, and to support his motion with respect to the succession. But he must at the same time be allowed to refer to the situation in which they were placed—he meant the situation in which they were placed with respect to the legislation of the country. They were now at the close of the fifth month of the Session of Parliament, and not a single important Bill had been yet passed into law. They had literally done nothing during the five months they had been assembled. As far as legislation was concerned—and it was one of the most important duties of Government—they had done nothing. Let him for a moment call the attention of their Lordships to the state of business before Parliament at that moment. His late Majesty in his speech from the Throne recommended the consideration of the improvement of the laws and the administration of the justice of the country. In pursuance of that recommendation, in the month of May, nine Bills for the improvement of the criminal laws were introduced into the other House by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. They were read a first time. They were read a second time, a Committee was appointed, the Committee was successively postponed from time to time until the 19th of June, the present month; and then, 1570 when these important measures were to come under the consideration of the other House for their final adoption, at a quarter past four o'clock the House was counted out, because there was not a sufficient number of Members present to attend the discussion of these important measures referred to in the Speech from the Throne. Her Majesty's Ministers were, therefore, not inclined, or it was out of their power, to obtain the attendance of a sufficient number of supporters to proceed with the discussion of those eminently important questions. He was incorrect in one particular. There was one, indeed, of these Bills passed—he meant the Bill for the abolition of the punishment of the pillory. But his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) stated, and stated truly, that no practical effect would arise from that Bill. The punishment was in effect already abolished by the judges, who by the former Bill had the power in the cases to which this Bill referred to substitute fine and imprisonment for the pillory, and this was invariably adopted. Literally, therefore, with respect to these nine Bills upon the subject of the criminal laws no progress whatever had been made. Again, a most important measure, the Imprisonment for Debt Bill, had come up to that House during the last Session: it had also come up to their Lordships during the Session preceding the last, but the measure came up at so late a period that their Lordships thought, and justly and properly thought, that it was impossible at so late a period that a question of so much importance could be properly considered. They had then refused—they had wisely refused—to enter into its consideration; but it was with the understanding that in the present Session of Parliament the Bill would be introduced at the earliest possible period. The Bill was introduced on the 6th February by the Attorney-General, within a week after the Parliament had assembled. It was read a first time; it was then read a second time; it was then submitted to the Committee, and it was adjourned from day to day, until at last upon the 18th May, the day upon which the Committee was to have sat, the House was counted out at a quarter past seven o'clock, and from that day to the present they had not heard one word about that Bill. This was the course of legislation pursued by the Government on this great and important question, and to the recommendation of the King in his Speech from the Throne, namely, that they 1571 should manifest their zeal in the amendment of all that related to the administration of the law and the justice of the country. Again, he wished to call their Lordships' attention to this. There was a Bill upon a most important subject that had passed their Lordships' House in the last Session of Parliament—it was the Benefices Pluralities Act. That Bill went down to the other House—it was taken up by the Government—it proceeded up to a certain point. Opposition was made to it in certain quarters, and the Bill was instantly abandoned by the Government—abandoned in consequence of some negotiations in private; and in consequence of some secret stipulations it was not proceeded with. This was done, although it had been introduced by a most rev. Prelate, supported by their Lordships, and advocated by the Government in the other House of Parliament. In consequence of what had passed at that period, at an early period in the present Session, upon the 2d of March, the Bill was brought in by the Government to the other House, and read a first time; but from that moment to the present—from the 2d March—not a single step had been taken with respect to that measure? Was this creditable? If they had not the evidence of it in the votes upon their Lordships' table no man could believe it. It was unnecessary to comment upon such a proceeding when they had the fact before them that there was ready to be submitted to their Lordships' consideration a Bill directed to the same object, which had been proposed by his noble and learned Friend, and which had been postponed by him for the purpose of seeing what it was that the Government meant to do with the Bill that had been introduced into the other House of Parliament. There was another measure to which he had also to call their. Lordships' attention, for all were of the same character. Their Lordships knew that two Sessions ago the question relating to the settlement of the Irish tithes was considered to be of such infinite importance, that early in the Session it was the first measure called for, and the first thing done was a resolution being proposed on the subject of "appropriation," as it was called. No time was then to be lost upon the tithe question; it was a question of vital importance to Ireland. It was a question upon which the tranquillity of Ireland depended, and they were told that it was a subject that must be settled without the least possible delay. And yet it was 1572 not until the month of April or of May that the Bill respecting such tithes was brought into the House of Commons. All the early period of the Session had been allowed to elapse without the attention of the House of Commons being called to so important a subject. The Bill had been read once; it was read a second time; it was proposed to be committed on the l6th of June; it was postponed from the l6th of June to the present day, and, if they were not misinformed, he believed it was now to be postponed to a future day. So that this important subject—admitted to be of such transcendent importance, not only in that, but in the other House—was, in the first instance, postponed to the period he had stated, and afterwards progressed in the slow and creeping manner he had just adverted to. There was one subject, in his opinion, more important than all the rest—he alluded to the great question respecting the Canadas. Certain resolutions had been proposed which were of the utmost possible importance. They had come up from the other House for the purpose of meeting with their Lordships' approval and support. On the 18th of May, after having been well considered in that House, their Lordships, too, adopted them. If he referred to the debate upon those resolutions—if he looked to the language in the protest of the noble and learned Lord opposite, their Lordships must feel how eminently important were the considerations involved in those resolutions. When resolutions of such a description were past, it appeared to him to be absolutely necessary that they should be followed up by a law giving force to them. How otherwise would they be considered in these colonies but as mere threats, and threats, too, which they had no intention to carry into effect? Nothing could be more impolitic—nothing could be more weak, than such a coure of proceeding. It was, too, still more objectionable, when they remembered that their Lordships had directed a Bill to be brought in to carry these resolutions into effect, and that both Houses had agreed to the propriety of that course. He had given these examples of the course of legislation pursued by the Government of this country. He said nothing of the question of Church-rates—nothing of various others to which he might call their Lordships' attention; but these were striking instances that he had stated of the weakness and the neglect of Government with regard to what was its duty in measures of legislation. He had 1573 stated facts in detail. He wished now to be allowed to call their Lordships' attention to another subject. They were then at the end of the fifth month of the Session—in four or five days' time they would have sat five months complete. And what was the complement of Bills disposed of by them since their assembling? During that time sixteen Bills had received the royal assent; but it was not to be imagined that because sixteen public Bills had received the royal assent, they had been busily engaged with all of them. Of these sixteen, there were six that were but trifling amendments on Bills that had already passed. There were eight of the sixteen Bills that were mere Bills of routine, and that passed during every Session—such as the Mutiny Bill, the Marine Mutiny Bill, the Transfer in Aids Bill, the Consolidated Fund Bill, and other Bills of this description. There were but two measures—but two distinct measures in legislation that had passed during the present Session of Parliament. One of these Bills was for regulating the Post-office contract; the object of the Bill, it might be recollected by their Lordships, was to transfer the contracts respecting the packets to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Lichfield). The other Bill was for an alteration in the law with respect to the punishment of sedition in Scotland, and which was agreed to without one word having been said upon this subject. These, then, were the only two special and distinct acts of legislation that had passed during the five months they had been sitting there. This was a most extraordinary state of things. There was at that moment seventy-five public Bills depending in the other House. More than thirty of these had been brought in by the Government and the officers of Government; and of these a portion—a very large portion—might have originated in that House, if it had been the object of the Government to have done that which was their duty with respect to legislation, faithfully, actively, and serviceably to the country. He had at that moment lying before him a paper of the business before the other House for that night. He had counted the number of subjects for discussion in the other House for that night. There were fifty-seven public Bills, besides the consideration of the Message of her Most Gracious Majesty, and beside which there was, too, the consideration of estimates in a Committee of Supply. Such was the state in which the business of the country was allowed to be under the admi- 1574 nistration of the noble Viscount. Was he not justified then in saying, that, as far as related to the most important duty of the Legislature, they were literally without a Government? Never was the state of business in the other House of Parliament in the situation in which it was at present—never did a Government so neglect so important a part of its duty, that which it had to discharge in Parliament, as the Government had done during the last five months. He had taken occasion, during the last Session, of stating to the House that which was his opinion, that the noble Viscount and his colleagues were utterly powerless. They were powerless alike is that and the other House; they were utterly inefficient and incompetent as servants to the Crown; and, he must add also, they were equally powerless, incapable, and inefficient, as regarded the people. This much he had to say as respected their duty in legislation; he could, if he wished it, refer to other topics connected with their domestic policy. He was not, however, on that occasion inclined to do it; and still less was he disposed to allude to the foreign policy pursued by the noble Viscount and his colleagues. He could only say of it, that almost every feasible and reasonable man had but one opinion—but one idea was entertained regarding their conduct. It elicited the pity of their friends, and excited the scorn and derision of the enemies of their country. He gave them a picture of the present—he had also given them a picture of the past. What, then, were their hopes for the future? From the noble Viscount, and his party, literally nothing. Were they to judge from the past? Were they to profit and benefit by experience? If so, they could entertain no hope. But he did not entirely despair. There was one ray of comfort and consolation shining in upon them from another question. From the experience that they had had—from the observations that they made of the conduct of their most gracious Sovereign, in the first act of her administration—from the steadiness of her conduct—from her complete self-possession, and from her dignity—he augured much; and he trusted that at no distant period they should find that no countenance would be given for the alarm and apprehension on account of the danger to which the Church Establishment in this country was exposed, and that perfect security would be afforded to the Protestant faith, to which the people of this country were so strongly 1575 attached, and respecting which so much alarm had been excited. He assured their Lordships that it was to that quarter he looked with hope and confidence. He was sure that the hope and confidence would be shared by their Lordships, and participated in by the country, and he was sure that they would not meet with disappointment. With these explanations he assented to the Address moved by the noble Viscount. It was perfectly proper, and ought to be adopted. He could not, however, with satisfaction discharge the duty that he owed to himself and their Lordships, if he had said less than he had done.
said, that in agreeing to the motion proposed by his noble Friend on the present occasion, he did not, he thought, pursue a line of conduct that was inconsistent with that which he had pursued upon a former occasion, when he had some years ago the honour of a seat in the other House of Parliament; and he did not think the present course inconsistent with that which the noble Earl on the cross benches had thought proper to take when the same question was before their Lordships in that House; for the grounds that were then adopted for resisting the proposition in either House were of a twofold character. In the first place, they were at that time unwilling, upon constitutional principles, that the Parliament should be dissolved before the question upon the civil list was brought before them; and, next, that the Parliament should not be dissolved until the more important question of the regency should be settled. To these two grounds there was to be added a third, namely, the state of the public business—that so little had been done, and that so much of an urgent nature remained to be done. Of these three grounds he certainly did not mean to deny that two now existed—the first and the last. The first was the same now as then—namely, the propriety of settling the civil list before the dissolution; and the last argument, that there were measures before Parliament, existing in a greater degree, and requiring a more speedy settlement now, than upon that occasion. As to the second objection that he had stated, that had been more eagerly pushed forward, and more importance was attached to it than to the others by the noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Grey). It was on this, too, that some of his Majesty's Government chiefly resisted the adoption of such a course. They wished to provide against 1576 the demise of the Crown in the absence of the heir presumptive. That was the line which was required to be adopted. That course was at present proposed. He did not think that on the present occasion his noble and learned Friend treated with much courtesey the arguments of his opponents. He certainly had not treated them very gently. In the first ground he entirely concurred; but he admitted that the course pursued in not bringing forward the civil list was one to which be objected. The not allowing Members of Parliament, and particularly Members of the other House, to debate that question before going to their constituents, was that to which he was opposed. He entirely differed from his noble and learned Friend on the other side as to this point. He took it that the constitutional doctrine was not that laid down by his noble Friend. He should like that the debates upon the civil list should take place in the face of a general election, and not at a time when Members often considered themselves as irresponsible, and were about to sit for a period of six years. He adhered to that opinion; but under the present circumstances, and for reasons to which it was not necessary to advert, he was inclined, on the whole, if not to support, at least not to offer any opposition to the motion of his noble Friend. That brought him to consider the state of business in the present Parliament. There could be no doubt that the fact was so as it had been put by his noble and learned Friend—all measures were to be postponed—all, too, very great and important, and some of urgent necessity. It was, no doubt, equally true that few, that hardly any, measures had been adopted in the whole of the five months that this Session of Parliament had lasted. But his noble and learned Friend had omitted from his catalogue one of the measures which did pass the other House of Parliament, which did come into that House, but respecting which he thought his noble and learned Friend might form some conjecture why that measure was not proceeded with. He thought he knew some Members of that House who could tell why that measure was out of the catalogue of great, important, useful, and necessary measures that ought to have passed—a measure towards which the expectation of one country had been directed very much, and which had not yet received the Royal Assent. Perhaps in the other House of Parliament 1577 they had heard by what means it was, that measure had been disposed of? What mode of proceeding had been adopted with respect to it their Lordships well knew, and none better than his noble and learned Friend? He was so little disposed to impede the public business in Parliament that he could not deceive the just expectations of the country in producing the delay that had taken place, and prevented the forwarding of that measure—a measure, too, it was to be remembered, which had proceeded to its second reading, and yet means were taken to prevent its becoming law. But he had lately, in moving for a Committee to consider the state of public business, discussed this subject so much at length that he was not inclined to enter upon it at present. He could not, however, but think that a great deal, if not the whole, of the delay in carrying on of the business—the obstacles that that business met with—was to be looked for elsewhere than to her Majesty's Ministers. He might add, he did not say it to their Lordships, he did not say it to a majority of their Lordships, but he was bound then in common candour and in common fairness to the House to admit, that with the exception—with that most important exception—the most important of the whole—but with that exception, of that one measure to which he had already referred, their Lordships were not answerable for the stoppage which had been brought upon the public business this Session. No doubt of it that the manner in which their Lordships had dealt with that one measure might be taken as of very great weight with others, and as affording to them a very distinct indication as to the manner in which other measures would be dealt with and dispatched, and hence in part the present complaint might have arisen. That, however, was no justification for the stoppage of measures in that quarter. What he complained of was the system; it was by that the interruption of public business had been occasioned. His noble Friend said, that at present there was all but a desperate aspect of affairs, but for a light which it seemed had broken in upon him from a high quarter. He, too, joined most respectfully, and reverently joined, in all that had fallen from his noble and learned Friend with respect to that illustrious individual; but, together with that beam of light he had spoken of, there was another, and he did not think a crossing, beam, but he hoped and trusted one that would be found moving in the same direction— 1578 he meant by one measure to facilitate that of which they had such auspicious promise at the present moment; that was, by dissolving the present and electing another House of Commons. And he could not help thinking, that if his noble and learned Friend really spoke out, and if he really were disposed to treat her Majesty's Government with that candour with which he treated the adversaries of her Majesty's Government, he would, instead of vituperating them—instead of charging them with incompetency—instead of denouncing them for their vacillations and their unfitness for discharging their duties, and declaring they were in such a position as to be the pity of their friends and the scorn of their political enemies. [Earl Fitzwilliam: The scorn of the enemies of their country.] And, as the noble and learned Lord had said, the scorn of the enemies of their country (now, being the scorn of the enemies of one's country is no disgrace to any Government;) but if, instead of levelling against them this vituperation, his noble and learned Friend had turned round to the Commons' House of Parliament, for there it was that he would find the cause of all obstruction, and therein he would find the reasons why it was impossible to carry on the public business; and if, finding that his noble Friend said to them, "House of Commons! you a House of Commons! I tell you you are no House of Commons; the Lords have done with you—the Lords will have other instruments than you to do their work—get you gone, and give place to better men"—if his noble and learned Friend had thus delivered his opinions, and thus directed his observations to that quarter, then he would have stated that which was not so distant from the fact as that which his noble and learned Friend had actually stated. His noble and learned Friend would thus have stated what he felt in his own mind but to be the truth; but which if he did not feel, then he (Lord Brougham,) without meaning to cast any discredit on the House of Commons, and not meaning to use any disrespectful expressions, but qualifying them so far, while he participated in such a feeling, would say, that he declared he looked forward to another House of Commons for supplying the present, and which would give to her Majesty's Government a real and efficient majority; for it had been the want of an efficient majority that was the cause of all the obstruction.
§ Viscount Melbourne
replied: The noble 1579 and learned Lord had taken the present opportunity of pouring forth his long-stored-up invectives. There had come from him one of those harangues which he was in the habit of generally delivering at the end of the Session. The noble and learned Lord had said that the course of their domestic policy was entirely condemned, and as to their foreign policy he had marked his opinion of it in a sentence that had been alluded to by his noble and learned Friend. He had no intention at that moment of entering into a discussion which the noble and learned Lord wished to provoke, nor should he give a contradiction to the many invectives that the noble and learned Lord had given utterance to. All he could do was to point out to their Lordships that the most of that which the noble and and learned Lord had delivered was composed of accusation—it was general abuse—an attack unsupported by any argument. He was sure that if the noble and learned Lord had any grounds for his attack it could not be otherwise than unfitted and unbecoming for the present occasion, although the noble Lord had taken care to deal out his invectives in an unsparing manner. With respect to the details into which the noble and learned Lord had entered as to the sitting of the Houses, and the business done by Parliament up to the present period of the Session—as to his stating how many bills had been brought forward and not proceeded with—it was, as far as the censure of the noble and learned Lord extended, one he must acquiesce in, because it equally applied to others, because he and his colleagues were not the only sufferers, and because the censure that was urged against them had been equally applied to the ministry of the noble Duke and the noble Lord. When they proposed the same measure that he had now the honour of proposing, he found in 1830 the noble Duke was reported to have stated: "My Lords, it is not necessary for me to draw your attention in detail to the present state of the business before Parliament; it is sufficient for me to request your consideration of the state of the votes of the House of Commons, and the state of the votes of this House, and your Lordships will see that so much business remains to be done, that were it all to be completed, and were any new business to be brought forward at this period of the Session, it must necessarily postpone the dissolution to a distant day." This was nearly a detail exactly of what might be said at the present day. 1580 But he found also that his noble Friend (Earl Grey), who had left his place on the cross benches, also said upon that occasion: "There is a necessity for an immediate dissolution, the noble Duke says. But why is there this necessity? Apparently it arises from the circumstance that during the long and afflicting period of uncertainty as to the issue of his Majesty's illness, when the minds of men have been directed to that event, the Ministers who have had the business of Parliament to forward, of whatever nature it may have been, have shown themselves quite incapable of conducting it." That was the argument urged against the present Government by the noble and learned Lord. The noble Earl continued—"The business of Parliament, at a period of the Session which, in ordinary circumstances, would be drawing to a termination—after five months' consideration, and though recommended from the Throne at the beginning of the Session—the business of Parliament has been in fact neglected." In fact the business of Parliament at the time alluded to by his noble Friend was nearly in the state that it was at present. The business of Parliament had yearly been going on in such a manner that the Houses of Parliament were actually unable to get through it, and to discharge it all in a manner that could be quite satisfactory to Members. It was not his intention to enter into a consideration of the various measures that had been referred to. That part of the subject had been ably handled by his noble and learned Friend. But the fact was, that discussions were conducted in the other House of Parliament—he must say it in defence of the other House of Parliament, that the mode in which its discussions were conducted afforded no proof of indifference to the subjects before it—that there was no want of proof of its diligence. They must believe that it had considered well the business that was before it—they had to look and to be guided by its long sittings. Perhaps it had been counted out upon particular occasions because there was an indisposition to hear a particular motion; or it might have happened in another manner—it might have been the result of fatigue. There were in the present Session no less than seven adjourned debates—some continuing for four nights, others of three, and all, of course, of two nights duration. Every one knew that on former occasions an adjourned debate was a thing of most unusual occurrence. It arose either from 1581 the greater importance of the business, or the greater anxiety of Members of Parliament to deliver their sentiments and opinions upon the subjects before them; and if it were an evil, and he did not know that it was—if delay were in fact an evil, then it was to be remembered that it was an evil that arose from the nature of things—it was inherent to the present state of society. It was an evil as matters stood at present, and it was impossible for them to find a remedy. He should not, however, make any statement as to the measures to which the noble Lord had alluded. With respect to one, he hoped the means would be found of preventing the evil that existed, and of carrying the intentions of Parliament into efficient execution. The noble Viscount concluded by saying: The noble and learned Lord has expressed great hope that he derives from circumstances that he particularly described. I do not think, considering the bitterness to be found in the speech of the noble and learned Lord—considering not only the vehemence but the acrimony that marked that speech—I do not think that the topic was very happily or very opportunely introduced; and I beg leave to say, that it was introduced in terms in which he, in his admiration for the present and the future, did in a great degree forget his respect for the past.
§ The Address was then agreed to.