HL Deb 11 April 1854 vol 132 cc834-6

said, that before their Lordships adjourned, he must request their indulgence whilst he put a question to the noble Earl with reference to a measure relating to the Parliamentary representation, which it had been stated it was the intention of the Govern- ment to introduce. Since entering the House, he (the Earl of Hardwicke) had understood that in the other House of Parliament a statement had been made leading to the belief that the measure was abandoned. He should be glad if the noble Earl would state to their Lordships whether the Bill was abandoned or not, as it would be desirable that their Lordships should receive such information from the Government, and not through the medium of the public papers? It was stated in the other House, by the organ of the Government, when the Reform Bill was introduced, that a circumstance so light as that of war should not interfere with the progress of Parliamentary reform. He was, therefore, desirous of asking the noble Earl whether it was true that the Bill was now abandoned; and if so, upon what ground it had been abandoned? He was aware, in asking this question, that the answer would probably afford a pleasure to him which might not be shared by other noble Lords.


My Lords, I have always thought it desirable not to trouble your Lordships upon the subject of a measure not formally before you. The measure to which the noble Earl has referred was introduced into the other House of Parliament; and though I am ready to answer any question which the noble Earl may wish to put, I did not feel it incumbent on me to bring it before your Lordships' attention. In answer to the question of the noble Earl on this subject, I have to state, what I have stated more than once, that in complance with the declaration and recommendation made by Her Majesty in Her Speech from the Throne, that a measure for the reform of the representation of the people in Parliament should be introduced, Her Majesty's Ministers prepared and introduced a measure which, in their opinion, was likely to fulfil the object indicated by the Queen in Her Speech, and the expectations which the public had entertained with respect to it. They have seen no reason to alter the opinion they entertained respecting the character of that measure so introduced. It is true, as the noble Earl says, that the measure has been, I will not say abandoned, but withdrawn for this Session—not in consequence of any change of opinion with respect to its importance or character, but from what must be manifest to all your Lordships, that, in the interest of reform itself, this was clearly not the time when it was advisable to press it on the attention of the House and the country. Whether that war which has prevented its progress be light or not, as the noble Earl has said, this is clear, that though I, for one, must maintain the existence of a state of war is no sufficient reason in itself for not proceeding with the consideration of measures essential and important for the interests of the country, still I must admit that, if that state of war so indisposes Parliament and the country from giving that indispensable attention to an important subject, it is quite impossible to press it upon their attention. Under these circumstances, and without in the least diminishing the importance of the subject, of which we continue to entertain the same views, or of the measure we have introduced, of which we also entertain the same opinion, we have thought it indispensable to withdraw the measure for the present Session, reserving to ourselves full power for renewing either this or some equivalent measure, as may be thought expedient, as early as the state of the public mind and of Parliament will enable us to do so with a prospect of success.


observed, that as the noble Earl (the Earl of Hardwicke) had intimated that the announcement of the withdrawal of the Reform Bill for the present Session would by some of their Lordships be heard with regret, as a friend of reform, as a friend of the present Government, and as a friend of the British empire, he (Lord Campbell) rejoiced in that announcement, and considered the postponement as manly and sensible.

House adjourned to Thursday, the 27th instant.