HL Deb 30 July 1839 vol 49 cc973-6
Lord Brougham

said, that as some doubts seemed to have been entertained as to whether he should proceed with his motion on the subject of crime in Ireland, in performance of the promise he had given to their Lordships, he would now state, that upon considering the matter, after conversing with several noble Lords upon it, and finding that there were only about forty or fifty pages of the report to which his motion would refer, he should most undoubtedly on Tuesday next bring forward his motion.

The Marquess of Normanby

expressed a hope that the noble and learned Lord would give notice of the resolutions which he meant to propose. He understood that the noble and learned Lord's motion would relate to forty or fifty pages of evidence; but it might be his duty perhaps to make some general observations on the state of the country as arising out of the proof brought before that committee. His opinion was that any general discussion on the subject at this period would be physically impossible. He had commenced reading the evidence, but had made very slow progress with it. The committee had sat forty-four days; they examined witnesses for three or four hours each day; and there was, therefore, nearly 150 hours of work; so that if any noble Lord wished to make himself master of the evidence before the discussion came on in that House, he would not only have to employ every hour of every day, but nearly every hour of every night. It was quite out of his power to do anything like justice to the evidence in so short a time, but if the noble and learned Lord chose to persist in his motion, he was quite in the hands of the House; but he was sure noble Lords must see the unfairness of taking up particular parts for discussion.

Lord Brougham

intended to lay his re- solutions on the table of the House on or before Friday.

The Earl of Wicklow

would repeat what he had before asserted, that the course proposed by the noble and learned Lord was unjust to all parties. It was unjust to the committee to confine the discussion to one subject, and if he had been a member of the committee, no consideration on earth should induce him to consent to have any thing less than the whole question brought before the House. Since it was the determination of the noble and learned Lord to bring on his motion, he was sorry that he had been prevented by any circumstances from laying on the table of the House the paper which he had prepared referring to the topics of his resolutions, because all the clue which he now had to search for them in the evidence was a surreptitious publication, professing to be a draught of propositions to be submitted to the committee. How that got before the public he could not conceive; he thought there must have been some very great breach of confidence, and the matter ought to be investigated. It was a most extraordinary thing that private draughts of papers brought down to a committee should be made public, no one knew how, and that before they were laid before Parliament. [Lord Hatherton.—And these papers marked "private and confidential."] They were published in the newspapers of Dublin. [Lord Brougham—Before the evidence was laid before Parliament:] Yes, certainly. He saw them first in the Dublin Evening Mail, which professed to have them exclusively, and to have been furnished with them by a private friend. He did not know who that private friend was, but he thought that the matter should be inquired into. However, it was by means of that draught alone he must endeavour to get at the facts of the evidence proposed to be discussed by the noble and learned Lord. But the more he thought of that proposition, the more convinced he was that it was unjust to the committee, who had laboured for so many months, as well as to the whole question itself.

Lord Brougham

said, if he thought that there was anything unjust to the subject in his proposition, and above all to the noble Marquess, he should not persevere in it. There was abundance of time to read the whole evidence, with a view to that part to which he should refer. There was a precedent for the course he had proposed in the evidence taken on the orders in council with respect to slavery, which occupied two or three months in taking, and yet the House went into the subject at ten days' notice.

Viscount Melbourne

said, it was quite impossible for any noble Lord to make himself master of the evidence, or of any of those parts on which the noble and learned Lord grounded his resolution, in so short a time. He felt that it was a difficult matter for any Member of the Government to speak on this point, but he should not say anything which might have the appearance of deprecating or wishing to put off a motion which might be supposed to affect the Government, or any Member of it. At the same time, if resolutions were to be proposed affecting the existing authorities in Ireland, or tending towards an alteration in the administration of justice there, it would be decidedly objectionable to entertain them, when there had not been time enough to consider the evidence on which they were grounded.

Lord Brougham

said, his resolutions would be such as might be adopted without reading one tittle of the evidence.

The Marquess of Londonderry

said, be did not see why their Lordships should be influenced by the desire of the noble Earl (Wicklow) for postponement. How did the matter stand before the public? The secret committee had been sitting for three or four months, and it was generally understood that a report was to be made. Then certain noble Lords presented a certain epitome of their own opinions; but that plan was knocked on the head. Then it was decided that the evidence merely should be reported. Then, a fortnight ago, the noble and learned Lord gave notice that he intended to call the attention of the House to the administration of justice, and his noble Friend behind him gave notice of his intention to call the attention of the House to another part of the report; and now gets up one noble Lord, and says, there is no time for considering the evidence—in that another noble Lord joins him, and very likely the matter would end for the Session. He would not say there was any manœuvring about this, but he must say that to him it had all the appearance of it. It was the same course as was taken upon the Canada question. Three months ago noble Lords opposite threatened to bring serious and grave charges against the noble Earl, but the other night the noble Earl the late Governor of Canada paid all sorts of compliments to the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government for the manner in which he had managed the bill before the House; and there they were, no doubt very well satisfied as to their future proceedings. The noble and learned Lord said last night, that he did not intend to be present during the first part of the ensuing Session, and, therefore, if this motion were postponed, it would stand over to the end of that Session, and the same objection on the ground of lateness would be then applicable. He feared that postponement would have the effect of making this question be treated in the same manner as the Canada question was. But he must say, that if he had been in the situation the noble Marquess had occupied, no earthly consideration whatever should induce him to remain silent under the charges made in that report, without calling upon Parliament to investigate the matter; and he thought it was due to the character of the noble Marquess that it should be investigated without delay.

The Marquess of Normanby

was not astonished at what had fallen from the noble Marquess, because it was in strict conformity of what upon a former night he stated, that he was quite ready to come to a decision though he could not have read the evidence. When persons were about to pronounce an opinion on his conduct, he was desirous that they should first read, study, and digest the grounds on which that opinion was to be framed. He had all along stated, that as soon as their Lordships had so prepared themselves to come to a decision, the better, as far as he was concerned. He was not in the least afraid of any particular points in the details of that evidence which the noble Marquess or any other noble Lord might choose to lay before the House: but he thought there were parts of the evidence which it would be inconvenient to introduce so soon into the general discussion.

Conversation dropped.

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