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Principles Of The Ministry

Volume 51: debated on Thursday 16 January 1840

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said, that before the question was put, he wished to address to the Government a question which he had asked on the eve of the last prorogation, when he had inquired upon what principles the new Cabinet was to be constructed. That inquiry he now repeated. Having been informed that several Cabinet Ministers had resigned, or were about to resign, he had thought it would be no outrage on common decency or common sense to put the question just before the last prorogation, and on that occasion a Member of the Cabinet, whom he regretted not to see now in his place—he meant the right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control—declared that the Cabinet was not to be reconstructed, and, therefore, there would be no alteration in its course of policy. Nay, the right hon. Baronet, not satisfied with that public declaration, condescended, with that courtesy which was characteristic of him, to cross the floor of the House, and to give as private information to him, that he had entirely misconceived the nature of the motion then before the House—that there had been no reconstruction of the Cabinet, and that he had been entirely misinformed. Yet, in a short time after the prorogation, nay, within twenty-four hours four Cabinet Ministers had either resigned or changed office, and among them was one not less eminent or distinguished than the noble Lord the Member for Stroud, who had been, and probably still was, the leader of her Majesty's Government in that House. Within a very few days after the proroga- tion, one of the new Members of the reconstructed Cabinet, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, meeting his constituents to celebrate the triumph of his re-election, laid peculiar stress upon the principles of that body of men he several times described as the new Cabinet; not satisfied with the phrase of a reconstructed Cabinet, which he used, the right hon. Gentleman several times called upon his constituents to give renewed confidence to the new Cabinet, of which he was a Member. He thought, therefore, the facts which had occurred justified him in the assumption that the Cabinet had been reconstructed. Four months the reconstruction had occupied, and a few days ago he read in the newspapers that a noble Lord, not one of the late Cabinet—not one who had changed his office—but who was in every sense of the word a new Member, had lately taken the oaths to her Majesty. Now, he held it to be the paramount duty of the House of Commons to ascertain who were the responsible advisers of the Crown. That seemed to be an unfashionable opinion in the reformed House of Commons; but at the present time, when Ministers may have incurred a very great responsibility, and it was proper that there should be a frank and manly declaration of Ministers in that House, it was neither decent nor decorous that the Members of that House should be left to ascertain who were the responsible advisers of the Crown, from the tittle-tattle of the clubs, or the gossip of the newspapers. And although it might be alleged that the information might be acquired from the London Gazette, in answer to that he would remark that many changes might take place in the Cabinet which never appered in the London Gazette. Why the present Ministers had deviated from a course that had been uniformly pursued by these who had preceded them in that House? He asked why there was any deviation from the usual course? A Cabinet was never changed or reconstructed without Ministerial explanations; and the greatest authorities had laid it down, and in particular Lord Grenville, that when a Cabinet is reconstructed, it was necessary to enter into explanations, even when an open change took place in the Government; but in changes of individual Members there was more necessity for explanation, to avoid the imputation of intrigue. Since the Reform Bill had passed, twelve Cabinet Ministers had resigned without affording any satisfactory explanations. He wished to know who were the respon- sible advisers of the Crown? He again asked who were her Majesty's Ministers? Would those noble Lords or hon. Gentlemen who were Cabinet Ministers hold up their hands? What place did the noble Lord the Member for Stroud fill? Was he still the leader of the Government in that House. Nobody could tell from the Gazette, and, therefore, he thought the present was a fit opportunity to repeat the question, and with anxiety he hoped to be favoured with an answer.

No reply was given.

Motion agreed to.