HL Deb 21 June 1858 vol 151 cc66-9

Seeing the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) in his place, who put to me a question on Friday night with respect to the presentation to this House of the Resolutions which the House of Commons have agreed to with respect to the East India Government Bill, I have to say to the noble Marquess that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to lay those Resolutions upon your Lordships' table. Her Majesty's Government think that if at the time when these Resolutions were proposed to the House of Commons—Resolutions which did not proceed, as your Lordships know well, from the Government alone, but which emanated from two or three different quarters—if these Resolutions had been laid upon your Lordships' table at the same time that they were laid before the other House, there might then have been no inconvenience in their proceeding pari passu through both Houses, and to found the Bill thereon. But in the present state of the case these Resolutions having been come to by the House of Commons for their own convenience, and as a preliminary step towards the introduction of a Bill which the House of Commons thought could be more conveniently considered when founded on these Resolutions, and made to embrace, as it were, the opinions of different parties, under these circumstances, we think it would be very inconvenient if we were now to lay the Resolutions on your Lordships' table, and have debates going on in this House upon the Resolutions while similar debates were going on in the House of Commons upon the Bill which is founded on those Resolutions. I am not aware that there is any precedent for such a course; but if there were, I think it would be an extremely inconvenient one to follow at the present time, especially if it were done with the view of giving your Lordships an opportunity of debating them, Those Resolutions, no doubt, appear on the Votes of the House of Commons, and they are, therefore, within the reach of your Lordships' House, if you choose; but Her Majesty's Government refrain, for the reasons, I express, from seeking to obtain those Resolutions and to lay them upon your Lordships' table, as that course, we think, would only involve the House in greater difficulty. We have a confident hope that the Bill now in the House of Commons will be in your Lordships' House by the second week of July, and we trust, therefore, that your Lordships will wait till that important measure is before you, and that it will then engage your deliberate and most dispassionate consideration.


—When I put the question the other night, asking what was the course intended to be taken by Her Majesty's Government, neither then nor on this night did I press to have those Resolutions communicated to us on the score of precedent, because, though I certainly think that there have been cases very similar to the present, where the Resolutions of the Commons were communicated to us for our consideration—though not, perhaps, Resolutions which had been agreed to by the other House, and then made the groundwork of a Bill—yet I felt that Her Majesty's Government was at perfect liberty to take that course which appeared to them to be best. I only thought that as these Resolutions are said to have answered their purpose—I am sure I do not know what that purpose was—they might perhaps equally answer that purpose by their discussion on the part of your Lordships. But as Her Majesty's Government do not come into that view I am quite ready to let the matter rest.


I do not intend to oppose the course which the Government propose to take; but I venture to say that your Lordships have been put in a false position by the course which has been adopted in reference to this Indian legislation. If my memory does not fail me, when we learned that Her Majesty's Government intended to proceed by way of Resolution, after two Bills had been introduced, one by the late and one by the present Government, the question was put by a noble Baron behind me (Lord Monteagle) whether these Resolutions would be communicated to this House; and we were told that as soon as they had been disposed of in the other House they would be communicated to us. No doubt it was in the power of the Government to proceed either by Bill at once or by Resolutions on which to found a Bill. Her Majesty's late Government, after a good deal of deliberation, determined to introduce a Bill at once. But certainly the method of proceeding by Bill has one great advantage, that it enables both Houses of Parliament to consider with more deliberation a great and important question of this kind; and as it is, the discussion on the Resolutions in both Houses would greatly facilitate the subsequent progress of the Bill. The noble Earl now says that this Bill will come up early in the next month. But not withstanding the expression of that hope, I am afraid that this most important Bill will not arrive in your Lordships' House in time for us to give it that attention and consideration which so many of your Lordships, being well informed on this subject, are qualified to give, and that we shall find it impossible to discuss it at any great length. I must, therefore, say that I think this House has not been quite well treated by the course which has been taken by Her Majesty's Government.


I not only concur in the remarks which my noble Friend has made on this matter, but I must go further, and state that I understood the noble Earl who was lately at the head of the Board of Control to state that as soon as those Resolutions passed the House of Commons they would be communicated to us. I shall not, however, offer any objection to the course which has now been taken, though I must say I think it is extremely inconvenient. But what I wish to say at the present moment is this, that if unfortunately the hopes of the noble Earl should be disappointed, if the Bill shall not have arrived in your Lordships' House by the time he expects, I trust this House will not be asked in favour of an important Bill of this kind to waive the Resolution which, with the assent of Her Majesty's Government, was made early in the Session by the noble Lord (Lord Redesdale) opposite, not to entertain Bills of an important character after a certain date; and that after many noble Lords have left London, an attempt will not be made, in spite of that Resolution, to drive an important measure of this kind through its several stages. That would virtually be to deprive this House of an opportunity of expressing its deliberate opinion upon one of the most important questions it was ever called on to discuss.


I regret that I cannot concur with my noble Friend who has just spoken. I ask you to consider what will be the state of this question if you agree to separate without deciding what shall be the future government of India. Recollect all that has happened. By two Governments, by one House of Parliament, and on more than one occasion by this House, the East India Company and the existing Home Government of India have been condemned, and I think it would be a great misfortune if this Session of Parliament were to close without settling what the future Government of India is to be. It has become a matter of necessity that there should be some form of Government settled to which the servants of the Crown in India, and the people in this country and the people in India, may look as the Government of that country. I say nothing as to the merits of the Government Bill, but this great change has been accomplished without dispute, that the government of India by the Crown has been declared; and I for one think that Parliament ought not to separate till a Bill embodying that principle is passed into a law.

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