HL Deb 23 May 1845 vol 80 cc785-7
The Marquess of Breadalbane

presented a petition from the members of the London Conference against the Maynooth grant. The Conference was composed of deputies from various places in England, Ireland, and Scotland, consisting of 1,325 persons, and representing 411 places. The petitioners opposed the grant on religious grounds. They considered it as opposed to the interests of Protestantism, and contrary to every principle of civil and religious liberty; and in this view he concurred. There never was a measure propounded by any Government which went more directly to sap the foundations of the Established Church in this country, and to promote the voluntary principle to its fullest extent.

The Earl of Charleville

said, that as notice had been given of the second reading of the Maynooth Bill on the 2nd of June, he would take that opportunity of entreating Government to extend the period for the second reading for a short time longer. He had searched the precedents of their Lordships' House, and, with a few exceptions, he was unable to find so short a period allowed to intervene between the first and second reading of any Bill of so great importance as was this. He was aware that as to the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, he might be told that a still shorter space of time had intervened between the first and second readings. The reason given for that was, that the subject contemplated by that Bill had been so long and so fully debated, that the period allowed was quite sufficient for any necessary purpose. By the rules of the House they were prevented from receiving petitions against the present Bill until that day. The petitions already presented were petitions against any grant to the College of Maynooth, but against this particular Bill no petitions could be received until that day; and when they compared the different feeling which prevailed throughout the country at the present time, with that which was offered in opposition to the measure of Relief in 1829, he thought that, considering the numerous petitions which they had every reason to expect would be laid upon their Table with respect to this measure, four sitting days of the House afforded altogether too short a time to enable the people of this country—the Protestant people of the Empire—toexpress their feelings in the only legitimate and constitutional manner within their power, namely, by presenting their petitions to the House. In 1829, there were 264 petitions presented by the Protestants of this country, entreating their Lordships to pass the Relief Bill, and 654 petitions were presented by Roman Catholics in favour of the Act of Emancipation; numbering altogether 918. Against the measure then offered to their consideration were presented 2,950, showing about an average of three to one against it. Up to the 9th of May, the number of petitions presented against the Maynooth grant amounted to 8,753, signed by 1,106,772 persons; whilst, up to the same period, the petitions presented in favour of that measure amounted to but 61, being in the proportion of somewhat like 143 to 1 against, instead of, as in the former case, in the proportion of 3 to 1. The Bill now in their Lordships' House was likely to be attended with momentous consequences. It was a money Bill; and if they did not enact what it intended, it was not in their Lordships' power to alter one word in the Bill. They had, it was true, the right of objecting to the principle of the Bill, and they would have the opportunity of making that objection on the second reading; and he trusted their Lordships would consider that he had sufficient grounds for entreating the Government to take into consideration the strong feeling expressed by the Protestants of the Empire out of doors, and not to set at defiance their religious scruples, or, if they chose so to call them, their prejudices; and to give them, the Protest ant people of this country, time to express their opinions, to make their wishes known, and to present their petitions; and thus take away from them a justifiable ground of complaint, that, although their Lordships had every reason to expect the presentation of so large a number of petitions, they should still refuse to afford the petitioners time to let their wants be heard. He would, therefore, entreat the Government to give them one week more; and instead of the 2nd, to fix the 9th or the 10th of June for the second reading of the Bill.

The Duke of Wellington

said: The noble Lord has called upon me to postpone the notice which I gave about half an hour ago, for the second reading of the Maynooth Bill on the 2nd of June next. The noble Lord seems to have forgotten the period at which this Bill was introduced into the other House of Parliament. The Bill was introduced into that House on the 3rd of April, and we have now fixed the second reading in this House for a day which stands within only one day of being two months from the time of the first introduction of the Bill. Besides, from the present day until that appointed for the second reading, ten days will elapse; and I think that quite sufficient time to intervene under the circumstances. The noble Lord stated that there are only four sitting days left for receiving petitions against the Bill; but can there be any objection against petitions being presented during every part of the discussion? The discussion will not, I presume, be closed on the second reading. There are other stages through which the Bill must pass—the committee and the third reading—which may require a great many days, and give ample time for receiving every petition which it can be desired to present to this House against the Bill. At this period of the year—at this late period of the Session—and considering the length of time for which the measure has now been under the consideration of Parliament and the public, I do not think that I should be doing my duty to the House or to the country if I did not persevere in my intention of submitting to your Lordships the second reading of the Bill on the 2nd of June.

The Earl of Winchilsea

regretted that the noble Duke did not comply with the request of his noble Friend. He hoped that the noble Duke would yet have the kindness to acquiesce in the desired postponement.

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