House Of Commons
Monday, February 5, 1849.
MINUTES.] NEW MEMBER SWORN. For Derby, Lawrence Heyworth, Esq.
PETITIONS PRESENTED. From William Bullock, of Biggar, Lanarkshire, for the Adoption of Universal Suffrage.—By Mr. Parker, from Sheffield, for an Alteration of the Law respecting the Church of England Clergy.—By Sir W. Somerville, from the Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland, for an Alteration of the Law respecting Marriages (Ireland).—By Sir R. H. Inglis, from the Bath Church of England Lay Association, against the Endowment of the Roman Catholic Clergy.—By Sir W. Molesworth, from Merchants, Planters, Traders, and Others, of the Island of Ceylon, praying for Reformatory Measures for that Colony; also from Inhabitants of the same Place, for a Reduction of the Duty on Coffee.—By Mr. Ellis, from Members of the Congregation of the United Christian Church, Marturia Chapel, Reading, for a Reduction of the Duties on Tea, Sugar, and Coffee.—By Mr. F. O'Connor, from John Dillon, for Inquiry into his Case.—By Sir W. Somerville, from the Board of Guardians of the Union of Kilmallock, in the County of Limerick, for an Alteration of the Law respecting the Leases for Lives (Ireland).—By Colonel Dunne, from the Borough of Portarlington, and its Neighbourhood; and by Mr. W. Fagan, from the Board of Guardians of the Cork Union, for Inquiry into the Working of the Poor Law (Ireland).—By Mr. Tufnell, from the Parish of East Stonehouse, Devonshire, for an Alteration of the Sale of Beer Act.—By Mr. Shafto Adair, from Wood-bridge, Suffolk, for Referring War Disputes to Arbitration.
Alleged Breach Of Privilege—Lord Clarendon's Letter
said, he did not know whether that was the time for submitting to the House a matter which he considered to be a breach of privilege. He wished to draw the attention of the House to a document he held in his hand, and which he must say, under all the circumstances of the case, he really did hope would turn out to be a breach of the privileges of that House, and a fabrication. A copy had been left at his residence of a printed paper, purporting to be presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty, and to be a letter from the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, He should conclude his remarks, by moving
"That William Clowes, the Printer of this document, be called to the bar of this House, to answer for himself and his instigators to such a breach of privilege."
The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned to me his intention of making a Motion of this description, and I was not aware, till he rose, of the nature of the paper of which he complains: but I understand him to allude to a paper presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty. It cannot, therefore, in any way be a breach of the privileges of this House.
I beg to say it is an authentic document, passing between two Members of Her Majesty's Government, and presented to both Houses by command of Her Majesty.
said, he was then reduced to moving that the House do now adjourn. ["Oh, oh!"] He believed he was perfectly in order, and that he could now proceed with his observations. He must denounce the paper of which he spoke as a most unconstitutional document. It was hardly creditable that a paper containing such propositions should have proceeded from one Member of the Government, or that it should have been sent to another. At the risk of his unpopularity he had no hesitation in saying that the document was unconstitutional, yet they were assured by the First Minister of the Crown that it was authentic.
I rise to order. I beg to know if the hon. Member's observations relate to the question of adjournment?
Certainly the observations we have just heard from the hon. Member do not relate to the question of adjournment.
thought the question involved in the document, of such grave importance that the dignity of the House would be best consulted by an immediate adjournment, for the purpose of giving consideration to the document which he had to bring under their attention. And he put his Motion on that ground; therefore, being in order, he must bog to say that if the House did inherit any of the spirit of its predecessors, the present was the occasion on which it could be best displayed. History informed him that the House of Commons had always been nobly jealous of the liberty of the subject, and of the integrity of the constitution. If the liberty of the subject was not a mere pretence, he must then say that there were serious grounds for considering whether there was not matter enough to frame an impeachment of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. If the fatal precedent now offered was accepted—if the liberties of Ireland were to be complimented away at the beck and will of one man, where, might be ask, were the Irish people? It was an entire mockery of admitting the Irish to equal rights, if such a document as he had to bring under the notice of the House was admitted. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had shown himself completely ignorant of the condition of the country which he governed. He had been guilty of grave misdemeanor in giving vent to such recommendations as he had done with regard to the people of Ireland. The Lord Lieutenant called upon the Legislature to agree, out of compliment to him, to vote away the liberties of the Irish people. Now, let it be clearly understood, he (Mr. J. O'Connell) did not deny the capacity of the noble Lord; but he denied his merits as a governor of Ireland. What was it that the document of which he had to express his condemnation contained? The head of the Executive Government in Ireland was therein seen to take upon himself to declare that a constitutional object was unattainable in Ireland, and therefore that the people of Ireland were to be deprived of their constitutional rights. In the sixth paragraph, the mask was thrown off. There was a plain confession that the Lord Lieutenant recommended the destruction of the constitution of Ireland—that the high privilege of personal security was to be done away with—and this, in order to put an end to political excitement and agitation. The words used by the Lord Lieutenant, in his letter to the Home Secretary were to the effect, that, in order to procure for Ireland a respite from the agitation for a repeal of the Union, it was necessary to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act. Who was it that had told the noble Lord that a strictly legal object was not to be attained by means of agitation? Was it not monstrous that any Member of the Executive should propose to Parliament an interference with the constitution, with a view to prevent the people seeking for the attainment of a constitutional object? Would the House do what that nobleman called upon them to do, and say that the people should not agitate for the repeal of an Act of Parliament? Would the British House of Commons, jealous of the liberties of the subject, the guardians of the British constitution, asserting themselves to be the legislators not only for England, but also for Scotland and Ireland, consent, on the mere personal recommendation of that nobleman, to trample upon that constitution, and to make a distinction between Englishmen and Irishmen? The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was seeking to put down an agitation which was already out of itself—which was utterly extinct. Not a spark of the ancient fire was now to be seen; the agitation had no vitality in it; and the Lord Lieutenant called upon the House to inflict that gross outrage on the whole of the Irish inhabitants, without even a pretence that the agitation existed at that moment. He (Mr. J. O'Connell) asked for the adjournment of the House, in order that Members might have time to consider the document in question. If Members thought that this matter did not come home to them at this moment, it would, ere long, if this precedent were established. They themselves thought that there could not have been a worse indication exhibited of the regard of England for Ireland. He contended that there was one law for Ireland and another for England. There was a legislative Government for England, and a dictator and a despot for Ireland. He implored the English representatives to think well over this letter, and not to sanction the unconstitutional and tyrannous propositions which it contained. Something was due to those Irish Gentlemen who had done their best to prevent the Irish insurrection of July last; and for himself he could say, that he had had the proud satisfaction of being able to refer to the testimony of one of those who were engaged in that insurrection, in a letter written from America, that even he, humble individual as he was, had prevented many people from rushing headlong into the vortex. If the Irish people wished for agitation, the recommendations contained in that document would form an excuse perhaps for entering upon it. That document would be the only thing which could revive the scattered elements of that agitation which had wrung Catholic emancipation from a British House of Parliament. It would be a stain and a blot upon the House of Commons if they adopted the recommendations of Lord Clarendon. [Laughter.] They might laugh and jeer as they pleased. It was their hour now, but Ireland's hour would come, and they should remember, in the language of the poet—
"Nought can escape the vigil long
He looked upon this document as most unconstitutional and tyrannous in its nature; and when Ireland's hour should come, the people of that country would hold it in bitter remembrance. He should conclude by moving, that the House do now adjourn.Of him who treasures up a wrong."
then rose, but as he commenced by stating that it was not his Intention to second the Motion, he was immediately met by loud cries of "Order, order!" The hon. Gentleman, however, was endeavouring to proceed, when
said: The hon. Gentleman is out of order. There is no question before the House.
then resumed his seat, and the Motion fell to the ground for want of a seconder.
rose for the purpose of moving the Sessional Resolutions; and as it was proposed to adopt some alterations in them, at the suggestion of the Committee which sat last year on the despatch of public business, he would take the liberty of saying a few words in Introducing the Motion to the notice of the House. The first resolution was that which had been in operation in former years, giving Orders of the Day precedence of Notices of Motion on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and to this resolution he believed no objection would be offered. The 2nd and 3rd Resolutions, giving Mr. Speaker power to direct the Orders of the Day to be read at the proper time without any question being put, and the orders to be disposed of in the order in which they stood on the Paper, the right being reserved to Her Majesty's Ministers of placing Government orders at the head of the list on the days when Government Bills had precedence, had both been adopted last Session, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume); and he did not know that any complaint had been made as to their working. He did not, therefore, think it necessary to make any observations with reference to them. The 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Resolutions had been likewise in operation for some years, and did not, he believed, require any particular notice. The 9th Resolution was one that had been agreed to by the Committee on Public Business of last Session, and was to the effect—
That was also a resolution which he hoped would not be objected to, and which tended to facilitate the transaction of public business. The 10th Resolution was—"9. Resolved—That when any Bill shall be presented by a Member, in pursuance of an Order of this House, or shall be brought from the Lords, the Questions 'That this Bill be now read a first time,' and 'That the Bill be printed,' shall be decided without Amendment or Debate."
That was a resolution, the adoption of which, he thought, would be of considerable advantage, without leading to any material inconvenience; and he certainly did not sec why Committees of Supply should be on all occasions limited to three days in the week—namely, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. He hoped, therefore, that this resolution would meet with the approbation of the House. The 11th Resolution was to the effect that—"10. Resolved—That the Committees of Supply, and Ways and Means, shall be fixed for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and for any other day on which Orders of the Day shall have precedence of Notices of Motions, of which notice shall have been given on the preceding Friday."
It had been found to be a very inconvenient practice, and one that certainly did not tend to the despatch of business, that after the House had resolved, perhaps after considerable debate, to go into Committee on a Bill, and had gone through, he would suppose, some one, two, or three clauses, the House should have again to discuss whether they would go into Committee on the Bill, before the remaining clauses could be considered. That practice had led to great inconvenience and to much interruption of the business of the House; and the only advantage to which it could lead was, he thought, provided for by the words introduced at the end of the resolution, making an exception in case a Member gave notice of an instruction to such Committee. The 12th Resolution was—"11. Resolved—That when a Bill or other matter (except Supply or Ways and Means) has been partly considered in Committee, and the Chairman has been directed to report progress and ask leave to sit again, and the House shall have ordered that the Committee shall sit again on a particular day, the Speaker shall, when the Order for the Committee has been read, forthwith leave the Chair without putting any Question, and the House shall thereupon resolve itself into such Committee."
The object of this resolution was to provide against the inconvenience arising from the practice of considering separately the report on the Bill itself, and on the Amendments made to it; and if the resolution were agreed to, the House would be asked merely to agree, conditionally, to the whole Bill as amended, leaving the further consideration of the Bill to another day. He hoped the resolution would be agreed to, as he regarded the practice of entangling the Amendments made in Committee with the principle of the Bill as one which had led to great inconvenience. The next resolution was one of more importance, and had reference to the question of privileges. But the fact was, that the privileges of that House had been very carefully considered by the Committee, and their suggestions had at first gone much further than the resolution now to be proposed. The Resolution was as follows:—"12. Resolved—That at the close of the Proceedings of a Committee of the whole House on a Bill, the Chairman shall report the Bill forthwith to the House, and when Amendments shall have been made thereto, the same shall be received without debate, and a time appointed for taking the same into consideration."
"13. That with respect to any Bill brought to this House from the House of Lords, or returned by the House of Lords to this House, with Amendments, whereby any pecuniary penalty, forfeiture, or fee, shall be authorised, imposed, appropriated, regulated, varied, or extinguished, this House will not insist on its ancient and undoubted privileges in the following cases:
"1. When the object of such pecuniary penalty or forfeiture is to secure the execution of the Act, or the punishment or prevention of offences:
"2. Where such fees are imposed in respect of benefit taken or service rendered under the Act, and in order to the execution of the Act, and are not made payable into the Treasury or Exchequer, or in aid of the Public Revenue, and do not form the ground of public accounting by the parties receiving the same, either in respect of deficit or surplus:
In reference to this resolution he might remark, that his hon. Friend who was Chairman of the Committee of Public Business last year (Mr. Evelyn Denison), had written to him that day, expressing his great regret at being unable to attend in his place in order to give his support to this resolution. The only remaining resolution was the 14th, which provided that after Tuesday the 1st day of May next, Orders of the Day shall have precedence of Notices of Motions on Thursdays, the right being reserved to Her Majesty's Ministers of placing Government Orders at the head of the list, as on Mondays and Fridays. It certainly appeared to him that those who represented the Government in that House were obliged, in the early part of the Session, to labour under great disadvantage, as it had been the custom for many years past—though not in former times—to look to the Government, not only for moving Committees of Supply and of Ways and Means, but also the House expected from them the duty of bringing forward the principal measures of public business. Now, for all those purposes, the Government had only two days of the week at their disposal, while other Members of the House were given three days. That rule had always to be departed from at a late period of the Session; and after the time fixed in the resolution, it was not, he thought, unreasonable that the Government should be allowed three days in each week, as compared with two days allowed for other business. They would also endeavour to attain the object sought for through this resolution by other moans, such as sending a proportionate number of Bills to the House of Lords when they would have a chance of being fairly considered in the Upper House, and pressing forward other measures with as little delay as possible. He believed that the resolutions which he had now the honour to propose would load to the more easy transaction of public business, without at the same time interfering with the power of discussion so necessary in that House; and he would much rather submit them all to the general sense of the House now, at the beginning of the Session, than leave the adoption of each resolution till such time as it would become immediately necessary. The First Resolution was then read—"3. When such Bill shall be a Private Bill for a Local or Personal Act:"—
"1. Resolved—That in the present Session of Parliament all Orders of the Day, set down in the Order-book for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, shall be disposed of before the House will proceed upon any Motions of which Notices shall have been given."
On the Motion that the Resolution be adopted,
said, that he thought there were some alterations which might be judiciously introduced into the resolutions, and which would aid in carrying out the object which the noble Lord had in view—that of facilitating the despatch of public business; and it might be more convenient if he were to state the purport of them at that stage, instead of waiting until each resolution was proposed. With regard to the 3rd Resolution, which had been somewhat hastily adopted last Session for the first time, the language of it was, he thought, rather obscure. By it the right was reserved to Her Majesty's Ministers to place Government Orders at the head of the list in the rotation in which they were to be taken, on the days on which Government Bills had precedence; but then the difficulty arose, what was a Government Order, or a Government Bill? Was it intended to apply only to Bills introduced by the Government? He thought it would be desirable to alter the wording of the resolution so as to leave Her Majesty's Ministers at liberty to have all Orders taken in the order in which they were placed on the Paper. The next alteration which he would suggest was in the 10th Resolution, which relates to the appointment of Committees of Supply and of Ways and Means. He believed that the former arrangement had been made in order that Members might know when votes on particular subjects, in which they felt an interest, were likely to come on; but at the same time he (Mr. Goulburn) quite agreed with the noble Lord, that from the practice of discussing notices of Motion on going into Committee of Supply, the Government business was very materially impeded. But he thought that by a slight alteration in the resolution, both objects might be secured. He would suggest that the 10th Resolution should stand as follows:—
By the adoption of this arrangement, hon. Members would have from Friday until after the following Monday to arrange for attending in their places, and the danger of any votes being carried by surprise would be guarded against. With respect to the next resolution, which provided that the House having once gone into Committee on a Bill, the Chairman should not be again required to put the question on going into Committee on the same Bill, he entirely ccncurred in the propriety of such an arrangement. It was, in fact, only applying to a public Bill the practice which now prevailed with regard to private Bills, as when a private Bill was once sent before a Committee upstairs, the Committee had power to meet from day to day, until the business was disposed of. He would, however, recommend that the concluding words of the resolution, as read by the noble Lord, "unless a Member shall have given notice of an instruction to such Committee," should be omitted. Such a notice could only be necessary when a Member intended to introduce a clause at variance with the principle of the Bill; and it surely was not too much to require that a Member, having such a resolution to propose, should make up his mind with regard to it before the Chairman first took the chair. The only other point on which he would trespass upon the time of the House was with regard to the last resolution. He doubted whether it was right to fix at present the period after which the Government should take a day in each week from the notice of Motion days, until they had some experience in the first instance of the probable progress of public business. He had thought it necessary to throw out these few observations for the consideration of the House and of the noble Lord, as tending to promote the object which they all had alike in view, that of facilitating the transaction of public business."That the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means may be appointed to sit on any Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, or on any other day of which notice shall have been given on the preceding Friday."
said, that on the first resolution he apprehended there would be no difference of opinion. There would also be probably no opposition to the second and third resolutions. As to the fourth resolution, he did not exactly understand it, and he thought it would be better if the apparent ambiguity was explained. The Fifth Resolution—
was one of a more important character. He was perfectly aware of the immense convenience which the adoption of that resolution was to individual Members, and to the officers of the House; and how important it was for them not to be forced to the necessity of sitting up every night in the week to such late hours as on last Thursday and Friday, for instance; but still he always felt the strongest objection to the House and its several Committees sitting at the same time on the same day. It was so contrary to the original intention and rule of the House, that, whenever the House mot at Twelve, its special leave must be obtained "for the sitting of Committees notwithstanding the sitting of the House." Yet the resolution now proposed provided, that, on Wednesdays at all events, the House should always sit at the same hour with its Committees. He did not know in what way this evil could be remedied, except by the House resolving to limit the nature of its business on those days, and especially to limit the number of those Bills that stood for second reading on Wednesdays. If Her Majesty's Ministers wished to reject a Bill, they should, he also thought, make up their minds to divide against it on the Motion for leave to bring it in; and thus put the Member introducing it out of pain, by letting him know its fate at once, instead of suffering it to pass that stage without a division, and then taking the sense of the House on a subsequent stage. He should say nothing as to the next three resolutions; but with regard to the ninth resolution there appeared to be some ambiguity, because he had heard it contended for by one individual that day, that it would give to Members the privilege enjoyed in the other House of Parliament, of presenting a Bill to the House without first asking its leave. Having, however, consulted the highest authority in the House on the point, he (Sir R. H. Inglis) was aware that the intention was not so; but still he thought the wording ought to be made somewhat more intelligible by introducing some such phrase as, "provided always that leave shall have been given for the introduction of such Bill," and order passed accordingly. He would wish to alter the twelfth resolution, by substituting the word "received" for "agreed to conditionally without debate." The most important question in the whole of these resolutions was that involved in the thirteenth resolution; and with reference to it, he might be allowed to remind the House, that a resolution suggested by the highest authority in that House, of a much wider character than that now proposed, had been adopted by the Committee of last Session; and he would wish, not for the convenience of the other House of Parliament, but for the sake of promoting the public business, that that resolution should be now adopted. The meeting of the Committee at which the resolution to which he referred had been adopted was attended by the following hon. Members (and he mentioned their names in order to satisfy the House that they included Gentlemen who had paid considerable attention to the subject):—Lord John Russell, Sir James Graham, Sir George Grey, Mr. Disraeli, the Lord Advocate, Mr. Goulburn, Mr. Bernal, Sir Wm. Heathcote, Mr. Cobden, Mr. Brotherton, Mr. Henley, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Greene, and himself, besides the Chairman, Mr. Evelyn Denison. The Resolution was—"That the House do meet every Wednesday, at Twelve o'clock at noon, for private business, petitions, and orders of the day, and do continue to sit until Six o'clock, unless previously adjourned,"—
The highest authority in the House, in recommending the adoption of that resolution, expressed himself as follows:—"That in order to facilitate the passing of Bills through Parliament, this House will not, after the present Session, insist upon its privileges in respect of any Bills, clauses, or amendments, which may be brought from the House of Lords, whereby tolls, rates, or duties are authorised, imposed, or regulated, provided the same shall be assessed and levied by local authorities, and for local purposes, and shall not be applied to the public service."
In that opinion he (Sir R. H. Inglis) most cordially concurred; but it so happened that a few days after the resolution had been agreed to in the Committee, a meeting of the Committee took place, at which Sir R. Peel and Mr. Hume attended, Lord John Russell and others being absent; and then, though the meeting was a much smaller one than the preceding meeting, the former resolution, on the motion of Mr. Hume, was rescinded. Hoping that the resolutions would be submitted to the House, seriatim, and calmly considered, he would not trespass farther on their indulgence for the present."I believe this House, with the most perfect safety, might abandon the privilege of insisting that all Bills imposing local rates and taxes should commence in the House of Commons, and that the effect of such a relaxation would be, that the business of the Session would be distributed more evenly between the two Houses; that the House of Commons would not be incommoded, as at present, by a great mass of legislation, private and public, at the commencement of a Session; and that many Bills, such as Railway and Canal Bills, Turnpike Bills, Highway Bills, Poor-law Bills, and other Bills of that character, might be matured in the Lords, and come down in a more perfect state for the consideration of the House of Commons later in the Session. I must here observe, that we have frequently been obliged to waive our privileges with regard to Poor-law Bills and to Municipal Bills. We were obliged to waive our privileges on the English Poor-law Bill, on the English Municipal Bill, and on the Irish Poor-law Bill. There is a Bill just returned from the Lords, called the Evicted Tenants Bill, which has been amended by the Lords, and this House cannot entertain those amendments without waiving its privilege. It has, therefore, been found so impossible to maintain this privilege, that I believe the wisest course would be to abandon it."
The First Resolution was then agreed to.
On the question that the Second Resolution be adopted as follows:—
"2. Resolved—That at the time fixed for the commencement of Public Business, on days on which Orders have precedence of Notices of Motions; and after the Notices of Motions have been disposed of on all other days, Mr. Speaker do direct the Clerk at the Table to read the Orders of the Day without any Question being put;"—
said, that this resolution had been originally submitted by him to the House as an experiment, and though he certainly considered such a step necessary at the time, he felt bound to admit that many hon. Gentlemen who usually acted with him had subsequently expressed their regret that the order had been agreed to. Many of these hon. Gentlemen concurred with him, that the best mode of saving the time of the House would be by limiting the duration of speeches. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen who cried "hear" would perhaps be surprised to learn that when he brought forward a resolution to that effect in the Committee, though there were seventeen Members present, he could not "ret one to second his Motion. He was still of opinion that a limit should be put to the length at which individual Members impressed their views on the House; and if the period were fixed at one hour, they would no longer have any necessity for retrenching other privileges which they now found it necessary to abandon. It had been stated, that there were seventeen different stages in which a Member might have an opportunity of making observations on a measure as it passed through the House, and he thought half the number of these stages would be quite sufficient for all practical purposes. But if the House were to agree to the limitation of time he had proposed in Committee, and which he did not mean at the present time to press upon the House, as it had met with so little support in Committee, he thought that they would then be able to allow as many opportunities as at present for Members to join in the debate, and thus avoid the interfering with the privileges of the House. It was not his intention at present to move a resolution on the subject; but at some future time he might try how the opinion of the House agreed with his.
The Resolution was then put and agreed to.
The Third Resolution was—
"3. Resolved—That the Orders of the Day be disposed of in the order in which they stand upon the paper; the right being reserved to Her Majesty's Ministers of placing Government Orders at the head of the list, in the rotation in which they are to be taken on the days on which Government Bills have precedence."
wished to explain that the object of this resolution was, not to give the Government the power of disposing of their Motions before those of private Members, but to give the Government the power of placing their own Motions in such an order as they pleased.
said, there might be some difficulty in understanding what were to be considered as Government Orders, as there were many Bills to which that character was given, though they might as well have been introduced by private individuals as by the Government. Of course, there could be no difficulty with regard to Bills of Supply or similar orders; but there were many other Bills which might be improperly attempted to be covered by this word Government. It was hardly a Parliamentary expression at best; and though he did not venture to suggest any alteration, yet he thought the phrase was too vague and loose.
said, that having taken part in this subject formerly, he might state, that by the phrase Government Orders was understood any Bills of which Her Majesty's Ministers had charge, and the public Bills which they brought forward. That was the interpretation which was put upon it at the time; but whether it was a right one or not, he did not pretend to say.
considered that this resolution was defective on one point, to which he wished to call the attention of the House. There might be twenty Orders of the Day, which Her Majesty's Ministers might have a right to arrange in a certain order; but his suggestion was, whether it would not be wise to limit the time within which orders were to be entertained. Anybody who had watched the business of last Session must know that a great number of new orders were introduced after twelve o'clock at night; and he himself saw a Bill, containing more than one hundred clauses, pass through Committee in ten minutes, when there were not more than eleven Members present. He thought that a time should be fixed, after which no fresh order should be taken up, and he thought that it should be provided that no discussion should take place on any Order of the Day after twelve o'clock.
said, to his mind the expression "Government Orders" perfectly conveyed the meaning it was intended to convey—that was to say, it meant all Bills introduced by Government. But he thought it would be better if the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Cambridge University were adopted, because that would give the Government the power of putting-forward Bills introduced by other Gentlemen.
thought that at all events the days on which Government Bills were to have precedence ought to be left out.
said, that this resolution was precisely similar to the one adopted last Session, and no difficulty had been found in its practical working.
said, this proposition had been made with a view to give facilities to the public business; but he thought it would be of still greater utility if they dealt with Government as they did with private Bills, which was to fix a certain time beyond which no Government Bill should be received, unless in cases of emergency. Hitherto the practice had too much been to allow the Session to go on with very few Bills, and then towards the close to introduce a great number. Let a day be fixed after which the Government would not be allowed to introduce a Bill; and if any emergency should afterwards arise, it would be easy for the House to suspend its Standing Orders. But if the Government were aware that after a certain day they would not be allowed to introduce any new Bills, they would then pay more attention to their business, and the House would not so often be taken by surprise. A great deal of the crude legislation which had been of late so much complained of, had arisen from the practice of bringing in Bills when the Members of the House were engaged with Committees, and, consequently, very few hon. Members had scarcely time even to read, much less consider them. He thought Her Majesty's Government ought to take it into consideration whether such a resolution would not even be of advantage to themselves, as it would induce those under them who were intrusted with the preparation of their Bills to use more diligence in bringing them forward.
had great objections to the last proposition of the hon. Gentleman. In the first place, he thought it was unwise in them to debate a rule which they foresaw must often be suspended. There was always a great tendency to relax the authority of a rule which was liable to frequent suspension; and any one who had experience in public business must foresee that if they laid down a rule that all Government Bills must be introduced by the last day of March, there would be constant applications for the suspension of that rule. Unforeseen events were constantly occuring, and no doubt could be entertained that in that case the rule must be suspended. But, besides this, he doubted the policy of introducing a great number of Bills at once; he thought it was much better that the Government should introduce only a few Bills, which the Government were determined to pass, rather than to distract the attention of the House with a great number at a time.
said, he had no wish to perplex the attention of the House with a load of business at a time. On the contrary, he recollected that the opinion of the Committee, of which he was a Member, was unanimous that when a Bill was once introduced it should be prosecuted de die in diem, instead of allowing it to stand over for several days while other subjects were introduced. He had no wish, therefore, to cumber the House with many Bills before them at once; but what he wanted was, that Government should let them know in reasonable time all that they intended to bring forward. He did not fix upon the 1st of March: he would say the 1st of August, or the 1st of July. He did not mean to press the suggestion; he only wished to lay his views before the House.
The Resolution was then agreed to.
The Fourth Resolution was—
"4. Resolved—That no Notice shall be given beyond the period which shall include the four days next following on which Notices are entitled to precedence; due allowance being made for any intervening adjournment of the House, and the period being in that case so far extended as to include four Notice days foiling during the sitting of the House."
The Resolution, after a few words from MR. HERRIES, was agreed to.
The Fifth Resolution was—
"5. Resolved—That the House do meet every Wednesday at Twelve o'clock at noon, for private Business, Petitions, Orders of the Day, and Notices of Motions, and do continue to sit until Six o'clock, unless previously adjourned."
said, he wished to make a suggestion with regard to this resolution. He ventured to submit that it was desirable to except from the Orders of the Day, which might be discussed on Wednesdays, such Bills as involved the repeal of public statutes. The greater part of the Wednesdays last Session had been taken up with discussing measures of this nature, when Members were harassed by being continually brought down to the House to discuss a Bill on which nothing was determined, owing to the uncertainty of attendance of Members on Committees. If a measure was of importance enough to be pressed forward on Wednesdays, the Government ought either to take charge of it, or at least to express their opinion fully with regard to it. He submitted that it required a full attendance of Members whenever it was proposed to change an existing law; and therefore, it was a very improper measure to be brought forward on a Wednesday, when numbers of Members were excluded by other important business from attending. He ventured to suggest that they ought to except from this resolution all Bills the object of which was to repeal the public statutes.
rose to observe, that Wednesday was a day generally appropriated to the smuggling of Bills through the House, and to the malappropriation of the public money. The Members of Government usually came down on that day, and availed themselves of an empty House to smuggle through their Bills or to malappropriate the money of the public. He had seen business of the utmost importance going on in the House when there were not more than twelve or thirteen Members present. He had been too lenient, too gentle, too merciful, he would say, to the malappropriation of public money, and to the desire of Government to smuggle their measures through the House. He agreed with the suggestions of his right hon. Friend, and he hoped that he would attempt to restrain these proceedings of Government, in taking advantage of the thin attendance of Members for their own ends.
thought, that if the objections of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Law) were of value, they ought to be carried further, and to apply to all business of an important nature that was brought before the House. In opposition to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he would place the recorded opinion of the Speaker, who stated before the Committee, that of all days in the week, the debates on Wednesday were conducted in the most satisfactory manner; and he particularly cited the discussion on the Factory Bill, as one where there was the most close attention to the subject, and the greatest amount of well-balanced argument that he had ever listened to. For his part, he was content with this expression of opinion, and he saw no reason whatever for the proposition of the learned Recorder.
The Resolution was then agreed to; as were also the following, without discussion:—
"6. Resolved—That when such business has been disposed of, at Six o'clock precisely, notwithstanding there may be business under discussion, Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without putting any Question.
"7. Resolved—That whenever the House shall be in Committee on Wednesday at Six o'clock, the Chairman do immediately report progress, and Mr. Speaker do resume the Chair, and adjourn the House, without putting any Question.
"8. Resolved—That the Business under discussion, and any Business not disposed of at the time of such Adjournment, do stand as Orders of the Day for the next day on which the House shall sit."
On the Ninth Resolution—
"9. Resolved—That when any Bill shall be presented by a Member, in pursuance of an Order of this House, or shall be brought from the Lords, the Questions 'That this Bill be now read a first time,' and 'That the Bill be printed,' shall be decided without Amendment or Debate."
said, as this was the first of what might be called the new resolutions, he wished now to express his opinion that he did not think that this resolution standing alone, would answer the end which the House had in view. There was no one question which so much occupied the attention of the country, at the present day, as the despatch of public business. He thought that the appointment of the Committee, which was proposed by an hon. Member, whom he did not now see in his place, was an excellent one; but its appointment was so late in the Session—the month of July—that they had come to a somewhat hasty decision, and he thought that Committee might be reappointed with advantage during the present Session. In their report the Committee had thrown the burden of the subject upon the Government, and the Government seemed now to have thrown back the burden upon the Committee, for they confined themselves entirely to the suggestions which the Committee had made. In these resolutions they proposed to alter the old laws which guided the proceedings of the House; but they did not alter the old causes which delayed the despatch of business. He would venture to say, that if they examined the pages of Hansard, they would find that very few debates indeed had taken place on bringing in a Bill, but the delays had taken place on the excessive adjournments, and the speaking of the same Members on the various stages of a Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) had made a suggestion, that if the adjournment was moved before all the Orders of the Day were disposed of, such Motion should not be entertained, unless twenty-one Members stood up in their places to signify their assent to the Motion. What happened on that proposition? The Committee decided upon it, six to six: among those in favour of it, were the noble Member for London (Lord John Russell), for Liverpool (Mr. Cardwell), and the West Hiding (Mr. Cobden), and other Members of influence. The numbers being equal, the Chairman gave his casting vote in its favour, and it was accordingly carried, yet it was not reported to the House; and it now appeared that Her Majesty's Government had not taken it up. He hoped, however, that his hon. Friend would himself bring the matter before the House. He repeated, that their attention ought to be directed, not so much to shorten the stages through which Bills were to pass, as to curtail those monster debates which now took place upon almost every subject. He would also suggest to Her Majesty's Ministers, that though they had drawn a line of separation between Order days and Notice days, yet he hoped they had not so much separated between them in their own minds but that they might avail themselves of Notice nights, when there was no business, to bring on their own orders. In the month of February, last Session, the House rose at from six to seven almost every Tuesday evening, and all these days were lost to the business of the country, which might have been avoided if Government had put down their own business for transaction on each of these nights. Even on the nights when the House was counted out, he still thought the blame ought to rest on the Ministers, because if they had business to transact they would keep a House. He thought the proposition of the hon. Member for Montrose, limiting the time allowed to speakers, was deserving of attention, and he trusted he would persevere in bringing it before the House.
said, he should be happy to bring his proposition before the House, if he thought it would meet with general support. What he wanted was to prevent hon. Members from moving the adjournment of the House merely for the sake of discussing some question which they could not otherwise introduce; he thought that was wrong, and that the House would do well to adopt some resolution to prevent it. He did not complain of the Committee for not reporting his resolution to the House; for he thought it was not a desirable thing to alter old established rules, except with the general concurrence of the House. If he found reason to believe, that a great majority of Members were in its favour, he would press it upon the attention of the House.
said, that any proposition to curtail the privileges of debate, should receive from him the most strenuous opposition. This was the only place where a debate was practicable—it was the only place where a one-sided opinion could not be got up—it was the only place where men were made to listen to things they did not like to hear. The real fact was, that the Duke of Wellington had never received an answer to the question he had asked long ago—how, under the Reform Bill, was the Queen's Government to be carried on? and now, as part answer to the question, Her Majesty's Ministers came forward to tell them they were in a dead-lock, and that they did not know how to get out of it. He did not think, however, that the blame of this ought to rest upon Ministers so much as upon the forms of the House. In the first place, what was the use of that thing called the Speech from the Throne, except so far as it related to a plain statement of facts? and, still more, what was the use of debating it? They had boon summoned to attend there on Thursday last, and up to that period they had literally done nothing. He must say he differed—he did it with great reluctance—from his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth; but he certainly thought that Her Majesty's Ministers ought at the outset of the Session to declare what measures they intended to bring forward. He admitted that circumstances might arise which would justify the departure from the ordinary rules; but the ordinary rule ought to be that all their measures should be brought forward at once, that they might know what they had met about. But he had a stronger objection than this. Their first business was to audit the public accounts; all their other business stood second to that; and if there was not time allowed for that, then he thought the rules of the House did not work well. How that was best to be accomplished, however, was a subject which would require considerable discussion.
said, by this resolution three stages of a Bill were going to be merged into one. He had not the least objection to that; but he would suggest to the noble Lord whether it would not be more advisable to return to what was an old standing order of the House, and to say that no Bill should be presented to the House unless a copy of it had been left with the clerk at least three days before it was moved in the House. Such an order had been agreed to in 1651, and he thought if it were now adopted it would give Members an opportunity of seeing and considering the Bill before leave was asked to bring it in. In this way two advantages would follow: first, no Member would bring in a Bill unless he had first well considered the subject; and in the second place, when a Bill was introduced the House would no longer be loft to the vague statement of its contents given by the Member who introduced it.
thought the hon. and learned Member had misunderstood the order of 1651, which had no bearing upon the subject. If this proposition were agreed to, the opponents of a Bill would be apt to go into minute points of detail on the second reading, which would render the debates inconveniently long. He thought they must take the statements of hon. Members on the Bills they introduced, as the material on which the House was to form its judgment.
thought that any measure would be desirable which would induce hon. Members to give some attention to their own legislation. The crude state in which many measures were brought forward was one great cause of delay. The Resolution was then agreed to, as were the following with some verbal amendments:—
"10. Resolved—That the Committees of Supply, and Ways and Means, shall be fixed for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and for any other day on which Orders of the Day shall have precedence of Notices of Motions, of which notice shall have been given on the preceding Friday.
"11. Resolved—That when a Bill or other matter (except Supply or ways and means) has been partly considered in Committee, and the Chairman has been directed to report progress and ask leave to sit again, and the House shall have ordered that the Committee shall sit again on a particular day, the Speaker shall, when the Order for the Committee has been read, forthwith leave the Chair without putting any Question, and the House shall thereupon resolve itself into such Committee.
"12. Resolved—That at the close of the Proceedings of a Committee of the whole House on a Bill, the Chairman shall report the Bill forthwith to the House, and when Amendments shall have been made thereto, the same shall be received without Debate, and a time appointed for taking the same into consideration.
"13. That with respect to any Bill brought to this House from the House of Lords, or returned by the House of Lords to this House, with Amendments, whereby any pecuniary penalty, forfeiture, or fee, shall be authorised, imposed, appropriated, regulated, varied, or extinguished, this House will not insist on its ancient and undoubted privileges in the following cases:
"1. When the object of such pecuniary penalty or forfeiture is to secure the execution of the Act, or the punishment or prevention of offences.
"2. Where such fees are imposed in respect of benefit taken or service rendered under the Act, and in order to the execution of the Act, and are not made payable into the Treasury or Exchequer, or in aid of the public Revenue, and do not form the ground of public accounting by the parties receiving the same, either in respect of deficit or surplus.
"3. When such Bill shall be a Private Bill for a Local or Personal Act."
wished to call attention to the resolution originally proposed to the Committee of last year upon the subject of Money Bills in the House of Lords. He considered that the fact of the majority of the Committee having agreed to the resolution of the 17th of July was primâ facie evidence of its superior fitness to meet the exigency of the case, and he therefore thought that it should be substi- tuted for the one before the House. Considering the great interest in the better despatch of public business which was excited out of doors, and the great discontent that existed upon the subject of the delays which had latterly taken place, he thought it very desirable that they should give the other House of Parliament an opportunity of introducing Bills, even although some of the measures so introduced might appear to trespass somewhat upon the privileges of that House. He thought it would be well to permit the other House to interfere with money privileges, so long as it did not affect the general burdens of the State, and he therefore should move, as an Amendment, the resolution originally submitted to the Committee. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving an Amendment—
"To leave out from the word 'That', to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'in order to facilitate the passing of Bills through Parliament, this House will not insist upon its Privileges in respect of any Bills. Clauses, or Amendments which may be brought from the House of Lords, whereby tolls, rates, or duties are authorised, imposed, or regulated, provided the same shall be assessed and levied by local authorities, and for local purposes, and shall not be applied to the public service.'"
could not then state the precise nature of the objection to the resolution proposed by the hon. Baronet when it was originally submitted to the Committee. He could only say that, after a discussion of two hours' duration, these words were rescinded. He, therefore, hoped his hon. Friend would postpone his Amendment for the present.
said, that when the question first came before the Committee, he certainly thought the resolution now proposed by the hon. Baronet would not be objectionable. But the more it was discussed, the more difficult did it appear for the Committee to recommend it. For instance, it was suggested that there were cases in which the House of Lords might introduce a Bill by which a tax might be levied, which, although applied to local objects and not to the general service of the State, might nevertheless affect the subjects of the country generally. Let them suppose, for example, that in Scotland a rate should be levied for the support of schools exclusively for Church purposes, from which Dissenters should be excluded, the object would be local, yet the effect would be generally felt. There were various other cases in which similar and very considerable difficulties might arise. He, therefore, thought it would be much better to adhere to the resolution before the House.
withdrew his Amendment, and the Resolution was agreed to.
"Resolved—That after Tuesday, the 1st day of May next, Orders of the Day shall have precedence of Notices of Motions on Thursdays, the right being reserved to Her Majesty's Ministers of placing Government Orders at the head of the list as on Mondays and Fridays."
said, that the resolution distinguished itself very materially from others, inasmuch as it was proposed to the House by Her Majesty's Government that a power should be surrendered entirely to them which was usually heretofore given only when the pressure of public business required it. Now, to such a course he thought there was very great objection. When the requirements of public business needed the grant, it would be time enough for Her Majesty's Ministers to ask the House for it; but at present he thought they were asking rather too much. Would it not be wise to leave it, as in former Sessions, to the discretion of Parliament, for there really seemed no reason for adopting it at the present period of the Session?
should beg to call the attention of the House to the very great change that had taken place of late years in the mode of conducting public business in it. At the beginning of the present century, although public business was by no means so pressing as it had become of late, Orders of the Day had precedence on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thurs-days, and Fridays; and it was only now and then that notices of Motion appeared. It was then found that the notices of Motion increased so much that it was no longer possible to carry on business in the existing form; and the House appropriated two days, Mondays and Fridays, exclusively to Orders of the Day, Government business having precedence on those days. But that was done chiefly for the purpose of securing nights for Committees of Supply. And there had been a still greater change since then. Thus, when measures of importance were brought in, whatever might be the Government in office, it was the general opinion that if there were to be legislation on any great subject, it should be undertaken by the Government, and that individual Members had nothing else to do than to approve or to criticise the merits of such measures. That being the case, the House enabled the Government to introduce the estimates, and the supplies for the year; and not only this, but they allowed them to introduce all Bills of importance. This, then, was not a fair distribution of the business. It was not fair that they should have only two days in the week allotted to them; or rather, in other words, that the Government should have only eight days in the course of the month allotted to them, whilst other hon. Members had twelve. He, therefore, thought it would be well if there were some resolution carried at an early period of the Session, giving that which was usually given at some period to the Government, namely, the Thursday. The House would be merely pledged to give at a certain period that which he thought was a very fair demand—means to enable Bills to be sent up from that House to the other House of Parliament in time sufficiently early to enable a fair and full consideration to be given to them. In the present circumstances, he feared that they would find that the Government business could not make any great progress when before the House only two days of the week; but at the same time, if there were attention merely called to the subject by the printing of the resolution, he should be satisfied for the present. He did not wish to press it if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herries) thought it would be better postponed to some future time. He (Lord John Russell) had stated his views to the House; and he thought that when, at a future time, he should ask the House to consent to the resolution, he could not be charged with taking them by surprise.
was about to put the question upon the withdrawal of the resolution, when—
rose and said, he thought that was the proper time when they should take into consideration a Motion for the limitation of hon. Members' speeches. The subject was a novelty, and therefore he did not wish to go the length of limiting speeches to half an hour or forty minutes, although he thought about forty minutes would be the best period for limitation; but he would propose, in the first instance, one hour, by way of commencement. If the noble Lord was about to withdraw the resolution, he would, if permitted, propose it as an original Motion: or, if it did not interfere with the views of the noble Lord regarding the resolution, he would move as an Amendment—
A resolution to the same effect had been proposed in the Committee by the hon. Member for the West Riding, but it had been rejected by them. He (Mr. Milner Gibson) hoped his resolution would find more favour with the House."To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'the Speeches of Members be limited in duration to one hour; but that the introducers of Original Motions, and Ministers of the Crown speaking in reply, be exempted from this rule.'"
asked if the right hon. Member for Manchester objected to the withdrawal of the resolution, or consented to it?
, before he could consent to the withdrawal of the resolution, wished to know if the House would allow him to propose his as an original Motion? The subject was before them, and they might as well waive forms and decide upon it at once.
wished to offer a few observations upon the subject before the resolution was withdrawn. In the last Session of Parliament there were no less than forty-nine Bills read a first time after the 1st of August, and there were seventy or eighty Bills passed during the mouth of August. They had crowded their Statute-book with Acts; and he did not understand that that subject had been brought before the Committee last year. He did not see the weight of all the objections made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the limiting of the days for introducing new Bills. There was no occasion for naming a very early day. They might name the 1st of August, for instance; and one of the results would be that when the period was limited, and the day arrived on which the last introduction of Bills could take place, the Session would be felt to be drawing to a close, and that very fact might tend to shorten the Session.
having again put the question, upon the withdrawal of the resolution,
said, that he should object to the Motion being withdrawn, in order that he might move his own resolution by way of amendment; and, that the House should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion solely upon the merits of the Amendment, he should move to leave out all the words of the noble Lord's resolution after the first word "that."
seconded the Amendment.
said, that he should not occupy many minutes in discussing the question, and he, therefore, should not transgress the rule of one hour. When the matter had been discussed in the Committee, it was felt by the majority that it would not be convenient to introduce such a rule. He (Lord J. Russell) must confess that sometimes when the House had been teased by the garrulity of some Members, he felt that a time might come when the House would adopt some rule with regard to the limitation of time. He owned, however, that he did not think they could make any condition with regard to Members introducing original Bills, or Ministers of the Crown. He did not think it sufficient to say that Ministers of the Crown, or Members introducing original Bills, should be excepted. Let them suppose a Member of the House urging charges of criminality against another Member of the House who was in office, or who might have lately been in office, or against an individual who, indeed, might not be a member of the House. Would it be fair that a Member should so come forward, and go through a whole history of the conduct of the Governor General of India, or the Board of Admiralty, or the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, for three hours together? going through the events of a long period of time, and making various charges with every advantage of eloquence and address and great proportion of matter; and then that the other Member himself, or the accused not being a member of the House, the advocate of that person, should not be permitted to employ an equal time in his defence. He (Lord John Russell) did not see how they could make such a definition as would enable them to do justice to all parties. If they confined every person to one hour, he thought it would be a better rule than allowing any exceptions to the stringency of the rule. But, at the same time, if it were to be adopted, he begged to submit to their consideration what a loss it would be on many occasions when a great subject was to be opened—when a great financial plan was to be developed, or when some considerable change was to be proposed in the constitution of the country, that the Member proposing it should not have more than one hour in which to propose it and to state his views. And yet if you did not limit everybody you would hardly do justice to the individual, while, if you did limit every one, you would hardly do justice to the subject to be treated. He would not take up the time of the House further upon the subject, but he thought it was possible the time might come when such resolution might be entertained. He hoped, however, that the discretion of the House itself would prevent them from arriving at any such determination, and that in future, as in past times, complete freedom of debate would be one of the greatest privileges of which they could boast.
said, that he thought the love of speaking had increased very much with the perfection to which shorthand writing had attained, and that the House was greatly indebted to those gentlemen up at the back of the chair for the length as well as the accuracy of the debates. It was an inducement to hon. Members to speak when their speeches were sent through the country; and he hoped those gentlemen (the reporters) would use a little patriotic discretion in distinguishing that which was worthy of being reported.
did not go the length of the noble Lord. The noble Lord trusted to the discretion of hon. Members, but hon. Members had no discretion. He thought speeches should generally not exceed half an hour; and no one should go beyond an hour. He was perfectly satisfied that any one could express all that he had to say in that time.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has a strong feeling that every speech would have been greatly improved if it had been limited to an hour. I must say, I have often heard the hon. Member himself exceed an hour in his speeches. But I quite agree with him that we have all been delinquents in this matter. I think there has been a tendency of late to make speeches of undue length; and I think there are few speeches that would not be improved if they were of less length, and more condensed in argument. I think if there were a general feeling to that effect, it would be much better than a special rule of limitation. If hon. Members should be limited to an hour, I am very much afraid that many would think they had a vested right to that time, and that they would be doing a great favour to the House when they occupied anything less than the full hour. But I am sure I have heard a great many speeches during the long time I have been in Parliament which I should be very sorry to have found subjected to such a rule. Surely there have been speeches made by Mr. Burke, when he was neither proposing a new measure, nor speaking as a Cabinet Minister in reply, which every one would have re- gretted having been limited to an hour. I have heard speeches from Lord Plunkett exceeding an hour in duration, that I am sure there was not one single extraneous word in—speeches from Mr. Canning, in which there was not one word too much. And, therefore, in attempting by these formal precise rules the limiting of some excesses, you are running the risk of depriving the people of great instruction. My hope is, that we shall all act upon the principle of speaking more briefly, and though some may wish to give effect to a peroration, there might be some condensation of argument. And if the arguments used in the preceding part of a debate were not repeated, a great saving of time might be effected. It would be better, too, if all those hon. Gentlemen who intend to take part in a debate, would take the trouble to attend for the first one or two days of it, and observe the arguments used, replied to, and disposed of. That would be a means of effecting some reform much more useful than a dry rule. I agree with the noble Lord that it would be better to have a rule that would apply universally—that we ought to have no distinction between private Members and the Ministers of the Crown. Above all, make no distinction between those hon. Members who trouble the House with original Motions, and those hon. Members who speak for or against those Motions. Such a plan would be a perfect premium for Motions, as enabling those who brought them forward to speak two hours, whilst those who followed in debate could speak only one. Why, Tuesdays and Thursdays, at least, would always be occupied with Motions, intended to ensure two hours' speeches. But, then, what is the meaning of a "Minister speaking in reply?" Does the phrase include every Minister who replies to a charge, or only the Minister who follows the hon. Gentleman who brings that charge forward? A Minister speaking in reply is to be allowed to speak more than an hour. What does this mean? Suppose a Minister to speak immediately after the speech of an hon. Gentleman attacking the policy of Government—suppose he had spoken more than an hour—is any other Minister to have the same privilege, or is it to be confined to one? I think, Sir, that the adoption of a rule of this kind, without anything like mature consideration, would involve us in the greatest perplexity and embarrassment; and so, on the whole, admitting that there exists a general feel- ing that we consume rather too much time in discussion, and rather too little in furthering the progress of practical legislation—believing, I say, that opinion to be well founded, and believing it to embody the general sense of the House—witness the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume), who has offered himself as a sacrifice in the first instance—[Mr. HUME: If you will confine yourself to the rule, I will.] The hon. Gentleman then virtually does acknowledge that he has been in the habit of wasting the time of the House; but seeing, I repeat, that the general feeling of the House is as I have stated it to be, and in the hope that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) will set us all a good example, and will not be offended if, as he trespasses upon the fiftieth minute in his own addresses, we give him some token of warning that he is approaching that limit which he wishes to set up—seeing, I say, that such is the general feeling of hon. Members, I think that their wishes will be better carried out by appealing to their sense of fitness and discretion, than by the institution of any arbitrary rule.
said, the professed object of the hon. Member for Manchester was to save the time of the House. But how was that illustrated? It was proposed that one Member should speak upwards of an hour, and that another should speak upwards of an hour, and so on. They would thus multiply speakers and not save time. They would make the maximum time allowed to one Member the minimum time to another; and then every Member would consider himself justified in speaking as long as he was permitted. He hoped the Motion would be negatived.
said, that as he had taken part in the Committee on this important subject, he would take the liberty of stating to the House the grounds upon which he would support the Motion. In the Committee there had been a general admission that there was a great grievance in that House, owing to the long delays which took place in carrying on public business; but he believed everybody came out of the Committee with a belief that they (the Committee) had done very little by their report to remedy the evil. He made a Motion in the Committee which had the support of four Members out of the twelve. That Motion was substantially the same as the one now before the House. There had not been a strong feeling against it, nor was there a strong feeling against the system of clôture, the plan adopted in the French Chambers, but there was a feeling that the Committee should consult public opinion. The right hon. Member for Tamworth now rested his hope that Members would limit themselves to a certain time. He (Mr. Cobden) confessed that he had no faith in any such understanding as that, and he believed they were launching themselves on another Session, in the course of which they would have a waste of time. The right hon. Member for Tamworth was quite right in saying that some of the Members of that House were in the habit of repeating the arguments which had been made use of by other Members. He (Mr. Cobden) could speak for himself, and declare that dozens and scores of times he had intended to address the House, but that when he found others said what he intended to say he abstained from speaking. But this was not a general rule. They were flooded with repetitions in that House, and that was the cause of the delay. Then, with reference to the argument made use of by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) about the necessity of permitting Members of that House to have an unlimited time because a charge might be made upon an important Motion respecting the character or conduct of some absent individual, why that could not be a personal charge, or it could not engage the attention of that House. It must be a charge founded on public policy, and, if it were made on public grounds, the party would either be there to defend himself on public grounds, or it would not rest on one individual to defend him, for there might be a dozen or a score of individuals to defend him. Then, with respect to the proposed privilege of permitting Ministers of the Crown to speak upwards of an hour, why there was some justice in that, for it sometimes happened that the Government were attacked by many Members, and that the Ministers had to sustain an argument against a large party in the House. And, though the whole Government might speak in the course of a discussion in which they were charged, still the Government formed a small fraction of the House, and, therefore, there was no injustice in giving them an unlimited time. But, if they limited the time of speaking generally, they would improve the quality of the speeches—for he might be allowed to say that the fault was, they were much too diffuse—that they did not keep sufficiently to the question before them, and that they overlaid their speeches with too long quotations from Hansard, or from books or reports to which all the Members had access as well as the Member making the quotations. A Member frequently entered the House and read and recited long extracts from an armful of books, to which all the Members had access, as well as the Member who read and recited them. He believed, therefore, that if they limited the time of speaking, they should very much improve the quality of their speeches; and of this he was quite sure, that if a Member had anything to say, he could say it in an hour. It was when a Member had nothing to say, or did not know what he was going to say, that he would have occasion to speak for more than an hour. The right hon. Member for Tam-worth had referred to the case of Mr. Burke. That was an unhappy instance, for it was well known that Burke generally emptied the House. He was called "the dinner bell;" and it was said that—"
And he thought if his speeches were cut into four they would read much better than they did. He would limit the time of speaking, for the purpose of saving the time of the House, and the reputation of the House with the country; and, therefore, he would support the Motion.He went on refining", And thought of convincing while they thought of dining."
said, he was in favour of condensing their discussions, but that he was surprised at the quarter from which the present proposition for the arbitrary limitation of speeches to a certain length of time, without reference to the matter contained in them, emanated. Did they not know that the hon. Members for Manchester and for the West Riding had established a system and means for discussing questions out of that House? And it seemed strange that the hon. Member for the West Riding, after repeating the same arguments against the corn laws for seven years, and having succeeded by so doing, should now complain of repetition. It might be disagreeable to him to discuss those questions in a place where there was a difference of opinion; but surely that was salutary for the public, since the laws to which they were to submit were based upon these discussions, which could not but be partial if only one side was heard. He (Mr. Newdegate) had been much struck by an observation which lately appeared in one of the daily publications, which are now so well written, in which it was said of that House "that discussion was going out of doors." He begged the House to consider that great questions would be discussed elsewhere, if not there; and that if the House would not entertain the full discussion of them, they would encourage a system of collecting assemblages elsewhere, who would consider discussion of these great questions their sole province, and that House would become the mere record office for enactments virtually passed elsewhere. He could not pass unnoticed a suggestion which one hon. Member had ventured to make to those who recorded and made public what passed in that House. That hon. Gentleman had ventured to propose that only partial fragments of their discussions should be conveyed to the public. He (Mr. Newdegate) had known some instances in which the speeches on one side only of the discussion had been fully reported; but he trusted that those who fulfilled the important function of imforming the public of what passed in that House, would afford the public fair opportunities of judging of the arguments used on either side in discussion, and of the conduct of their representatives.
The House divided on Mr. Gibson's Motion:—Ayes 62; Noes 96: Majority 34.
List of the AYES.
|Adair, R. A. S.||Kershaw, J.|
|Alcock, T.||Lacy, H. C.|
|Bernal, R.||Littleton, hon. E. R.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Bright, J.||Meagher, T.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Brown, W.||Moffatt, G.|
|Busfeild, W.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Mowatt, F.|
|Childers, J. W.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Clay, J.||O'Connor, F.|
|Cobden, R.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||St. George, C.|
|Copeland, Ald.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Sidney, Ald.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Duncan, G.||Stanley, E.|
|Ellis, J.||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Ewart, W.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Fagan, W.||Sullivan, M.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Tennent, R. J.|
|Fordyce, A. D.||Thompson, Col.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Thornely, T.|
|Guest, Sir J.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Haggitt, F. R.||Tynte, Col. C. J.|
|Harris, R.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Hastie, A.||Wilson, M.|
|Hastie, A.||Wood, W. P.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Wyld, J.|
|Hope, A.||Hume, J.|
|Humphery, Ald.||Milner, G.|
List of the NOES.
|Anstey, T. C.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Masterman, J.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Matheson, A.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Bankes, G.||Miles, W.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Morgan, O.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Morison, Sir W.|
|Bennet, P.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Norreys, Lord|
|Blair, S.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Bunbury, E. H.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Charteris, hon. F.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Clerk, hon. Sir G.||Parker, J.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Patten, J. W.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Craig, W. G.||Pinney, W.|
|Drummond, H.||Plowden, W. H. C.|
|Dunne, F. P.||Pugh, D.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Raphael, A.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Rich, H.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Floyer, J.||Sadlier, J.|
|French, F.||Sandars, G.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Sandars, J.|
|Grace, O. D. J.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Granger, T. C.||Spooner, R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Stafford, A.|
|Grey, R. W.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Hawes, B.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Heald, J.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Urquhart, D.|
|Hogg, Sir J. W.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Hood, Sir A.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Hornby, J.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Horsman, E.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Wilson, J.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Legh, G. C.||Young, Sir J.|
|Lincoln, Earl of|
|Lockhart, A. E.|
|M'Gregor, J.||Tufnell, H.|
|Maitland, T.||Hill, Lord M.|
The Fourteenth Resolution was then withdrawn, and the Sessional Orders, as amended, were read over by the SPEAKER, and agreed to.
Address In Answer To The Speech
having brought up the report on the Address to Her Majesty,
rose and begged to be indulged with the attention of the House for a few minutes. He laboured under a very strong conviction that the Speech of Her Majesty did not convey a fair representation of the condition of the country with reference to the manufacturing interests and the agricultural districts. He was anxious to make a very few remarks upon that paragraph in the Royal Speech which related to the reductions proposed to be made in the estimates of the country. That paragraph was, "The present aspect of affairs has enabled me to make large reductions on the estimates of last year." Now, he was quite sure that every Member of that House must be most anxious, as far as it was fair and practicable, to reduce the estimates of the present year; but he might be allowed to ask this question—how was it that they were able in the present year, in consequence of the "present aspect of affairs," to reduce the estimates, when last year they had increased them? He had waited to hear, but he had not as yet heard, any reason assigned for a difference between the year 1848 and the year 1849. The Government had not confined themselves to the question of the estimates; but the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in his speech the other night stated that he proposed to reduce the Army and Navy. He (the noble Marquess) again asked Her Majesty's Prime Minister to say, what was the distinction between this year and last? What was "the present aspect of affairs?" The noble Lord said last year there was a convulsion, but there was no convulsion when the noble Lord then proposed an increase of the Army. On the contrary, it was just at the period the hon. Member for the West Riding had made his celebrated prophecy of universal peace. Well, but what was "the present aspect of affairs?" Why, he found in this very Speech the following paragraph:—
Again, he found in the same Speech the following paragraph:—"A rebellion of a formidable character has broken out in the Punjaub, and the Governor General of India has been compelled, for the preservation of the peace of the country, to assemble a considerable force, which is now engaged in military operations against the insurgents."
Again, although it was, unfortunately, not mentioned in the Speech, yet there was not a Member present who did not know that the state of our colonial empire was most distressing. All of them knew that many of these dependencies were on the very verge of insurrection. Then, he asked, was it safe and prudent at such a time as this to make large reductions in our Army and Navy? With respect to the omission of all allusion whatever to the distress in the agricultural districts, he could not suppose that Her Majesty's Government were altogether ignorant of the reality and the depth of that distress. What, then, could be their object in making no mention or allusion to it in the Speech from the Throne? Did they think that the conviction which was brewing in men's minds that the free-trade system had been a complete failure, would be crushed by such an omission? He recollected the prophecy made at the time of the passing of those free-trade measures, that wages were to be raised, and that bread was to be had at half-price. How had that prophecy been fulfilled? He held in his hand a statement of the condition of the agricultural classes in the neighbourhood of the county where he lived; and as it was very short, perhaps the House would allow him to read to them the difference in their condition now, and what it was before the free-trade measures passed. The wages in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire were now reduced from 12s. to 10s. He took a family of five individuals—a husband, wife, and three children—and he presumed that they consumed half a stone of coarse flour per week. The price of flour, when the wages were 12s., was 2s. 2d. per stone, making for those five individuals 5s. 5d. The la-hour would consume three pounds of meat a week at 6½d. That would be 1s. 7½d. a week. The total expense, therefore, of the flour and meat would be 7s. 0½d. He now took the prices at the present moment, the wages being 10s. The two and a half stone of flour now, at 1s. 10d. per stone, would be 4s. 7d.; and the meat at 5½d., would be 1s. 4½d., the total being 5s. 11½d. The reduction, therefore, in the price would be 1s. 1d., but the reduction in the man's wages was 2s.; so that he was worse off now than he was before by 11d. per week. The truth was, what was required to meet the evil of the present day was employment; but all the legislative measures of late years had tended to reduce employment at home, and to transfer that employment to the foreigner. How could the farmer be expected, with wheat at 45s. per quarter, to lay out capital upon his land, particularly now when competition was staring him in the face. He deeply regretted that Government, if they did not see fit to retrace their steps in relation to their free-trade policy, had not at least thought proper to insert in the Speech from the Throne some expression of sympathy for those classes who had suffered so seriously by their recent legislation."The insurrection in Ireland has not been renewed, but a spirit of disaffection still exists, and I am compelled, to my great regret, to ask for a continuance, for a limited time, of those powers which, in the last Session, you deemed necessary for the preservation of the public tranquillity."
said, he wished to take that opportunity to put one or two questions to the Government. He did not see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his place, but perhaps the noble Lord at the head of the Government might know something of the matter on which he wished to obtain information, He (Mr. Bankes) had seen in a newspaper that day—the Morning Herald—a statement to the effect that the Government of Brazil had raised their customs duties on imports from this country to an almost unlimited amount. Now, he wished to know whether that was the fact, and if so, what were the articles thus virtually prohibited. He wished, also, to know whether any accounts had been received since the end of last Session from Portugal and Spain relative to the tariffs in force in these countries. Information upon that point had been promised last Session; but he believed it had never been given. Now, with respect to Portugal, this deficiency of information was very strange. With that Power, at least, our friendly relations had never been disturbed, and we had a competent person at the Court of Lisbon to represent this country, and to obtain any information desired by Parliament. As regarded Spain, although our intercourse with her had certainly been interrupted, there was, he believed, still at Madrid a consul, who had been described by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary as being quite capable of discharging all duties, and watching over all interests there connected with the trade and commerce of this realm. And now, speaking of Spain, he would answer an inquiry made by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) the other night. The noble Viscount had asked him whether, in revenge for the affront which we had received, he (Mr. Bankes) would recommend our going to war with Spain? The noble Viscount had also assured him that he (Mr. Bankes) must not assume to himself the credit of having expelled the Minister of Spain from London. Now he begged to assure the noble Viscount he had neither assumed, nor did he wish to assume any credit in that respect; for, in his opinion, a more bungling mode of proceeding than that adopted by Government on the occa- sion in question had never been pursued. For what were the facts? After our Minister had been insulted in Madrid—after he had come home—a living symbol of the greatest insult which one nation could inflict upon another—the Minister of Spain had been allowed to remain here for many days. Now, had he (Mr. Bankes) had any control in the matter, that Minister should not have staid here, as Minister, for so many hours as he had remained days. It would have beeen quite competent for the Government, with all due respect for the person of Senor Isturitz, who was, no doubt, a gentleman of the highest character, fit to represent so gallant a nation, to have intimated to him that he ceased to be an Ambassador at this Court from the moment that the intelligence of the expulsion of our Ambassador from Madrid had become known to the British Cabinet—particularly, considering that the latter gentleman had been so expelled only for fulfilling the orders of those who had employed him on his mission. As to the Spanish Minister here, indeed, he doubted whether he would have been dismissed at all, had it not been for the House of Commons. In reply to the question of the noble Lord, however, he had to say that he would not have gone to war with Spain about the matter in question, had he had the power; but this he (Mr. Bankes) would have done—he would have discovered the real originator of the insult offered to us, and he would have perhaps found him, not in Spain or in Madrid, but in London sitting on the Treasury bench. The noble Viscount was pleased to say that he (Mr. Bankes) and his friends had become the war party in that House. Perhaps they might be amenable to such a charge; but he thought it came with a very ill grace from the noble Viscount and his Colleagues. The party with whom he (Mr. Bankes) acted were chargeable with having last year voted for estimates which they believed were necessary for the public service; and they certainly had assisted the noble Viscount in carrying those estimates through the House, at a time when, had a different course been pursued, the plans of the Government would have been defeated, and their seats in the Cabinet perhaps tranferred to others. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) bad said that the House had not boon asked to congratulate the Throne with regard to the commerce, manufactures, and improving revenue of the country. But that noble Lord had asked the House to express its satisfaction; and it was only in accordance with that spirit of complaisance which was usually exhibited on such occasions that the House could concur in an expression even to that limited extent. He could feel no satisfaction with respect to the commerce of the country, when he found that every alteration in the tariffs of other nations was of a hostile nature. How could the House he expected to congratulate the Throne on the state of our manufactures, when not a single manufacturer in that House had stood up to show ground for such congratulation? Were the hon. Members for the West Riding of Yorkshire and for Manchester prepared to say that manufactures were in a state which could be pronounced prosperous? What was found with respect to our revenue according to the balance-sheet which had been laid upon the table of the House that day? Why, an excess of expenditure over income of 796,419l. Again, he found an item of 539,305l. for China money, a casualty which could not be counted on for this year. There was also another item of 380,415l. for old stores. That was an item which ought not to have appeared in the account at all, and which could not be reckoned upon in the year to come. He would ask the House how satisfaction could be fairly expressed at "a progressive improvement in the revenue," when there was such an excess of expenditure over income? But that was not all. There was also the revenue proceeding from the corn duties—an amount not falling far short of a million—which would be struck out from our receipts. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had bound himself, in the speech he had delivered, not to resort to that source of revenue again. That was not a source of satisfaction to those with whom he (Mr. Bankes) acted. There was a source of satisfaction, however, arising from the speech of the noble Lord, to those who had sometimes been taunted with not having accepted the fixed duty of 8s., as formerly proposed by the noble Lord; for the noble Lord seemed to intimate in the speech now delivered by him, that the fixed duty could have been no fixed duty at all, but would have come by this time to a vanishing point. Did he misconceive the noble Lord? [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: We should have had it still.] Then he (Mr. Bankes) had some hopes of the noble Lord, and should not quite give himself up to despair. When the noble Lord had no more China money or old stores to look to, he might possibly return to the first object of his love—the fixed duty. He (Mr. Bankes) agreed with his noble Friend (the Marquess of Granby) that we were only entering upon our calamities; and yet it was at such a time that the House was called upon to make new grants to Ireland, and deliberate upon the means of meeting the distress which prevailed in that country. For the reason he had stated, he thought that the party with whom he acted were justified in withholding the language of congratulation towards that part of the Address which spoke in terms of satisfaction of the state of trade, manufactures, and, above all, of revenue.
said, he believed it to be true, as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bankes) had stated, that this country was threatened with differential duties by Brazil, and that Brazilian trade was not in so satisfactory a position, or the personal rights of English merchants in Brazil so well respected as they ought to be. But he (Mr. M. Gibson) thought this was to be attributed to that hostile policy which this country had pursued towards the Brazils with respect to the slave trade. At the present time we were acting hostilely towards the Brazils under the authority of an Act which had no foundation in treaty, but was the mere assumption of might over right. We were acting towards the Brazils in a manner calculated to excite hostile feelings in that country; and to our conduct might be attributed the unsatisfactory position in which our merchants engaged in the Brazilian trade were placed. He would ask any Gentleman in the House whether it could be matter of surprise that trade had still difficulties to contend with, considering the restrictive policy which had for years been pursued by this country—whether it could be wondered at that there should still remain some of the difficulties which had been created by a system of restriction? The country had not yet entirely got over the effects of its past restrictive policy. With all respect for country Gentlemen and the agricultural party in that House, he must tell them that he thought they had occupied rather a peculiar position during the debate on this Address. Disclaiming any thing like levity of tone in the expression of his opinion, he must say he thought that, with respect to the tenant occupiers, those honourable Gentleman had taken a very extraordinary course. First of all, they did not openly ask for protection. Hopes had been held out elsewhere; but it was to be remarked that the honourable Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) had not mentioned "protection," but talked of "reciprocity." The question of a return to protection was evaded. But while those Gentlemen evaded protection, they proceeded to censure the Government for proposing a reduction in our armaments, and for attempting to economise our public expenditure. Let them answer the question of the hon. Member for Montrose, and say what it was they proposed; what it was they wanted for the fanner. They came forward as the friends of the tenant-occupier, but quarrelled with the Executive when they hinted at retrenchment. With respect to the malt tax, he heard parties asking for its repeal. A gentleman who had that morning come from Kent, had told him that his object was to make an appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to repeal the hop duties. But how could they ask this burden to be removed, and at the same time object to retrenchment? He warned those hon. Gentlemen who pursued such a policy, that the country would make them responsible for their advice. Many lectures had been read in that House and elsewhere, upon the impropriety of agitation. He should, himself, be sorry to see agitation carried on beyond the point necessary for giving due instruction, and awakening the public mind with respect to the subject on which they were interested. He approved of instruction to the public, because he did not think that there could be any safe legislation which was not founded on public opinion. In the Speech from the Throne reference was made to attachment to our institutions, and to a constitution founded upon principles of freedom and justice. Lofty though the terms were in which that allusion was made, he admitted that we enjoyed great blessings under that constitution. But he could have wished the tone of the Speech to have been a little more qualified. He did not like the "matchless constitution" doctrine, for that constitution had faults as well as virtues. For instance, it could not be said that the Roman Catholic population were attached to the Protestant Church, and he did not think the Dissenters in this country were enamoured of our ecclesiastical system. In considering the merits of our constitution, therefore, we should keep these qualifying clauses in view. He would ask the hon. Member for Essex how much of the good things we enjoyed under this constitution was the spontaneous gift of Governments, and how much had been wrested from those Governments by the people? In his opinion, the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), in awakening the public mind to the enormous amount of expenditure which was going on, was only assisting the Executive, and presenting a support upon which they could lean. The Government were pressed by their friends; the different services were urging on the Executive to a lavish expenditure; and the public mind had to be awakened and drawn to the subject, in order to prevent a reckless extravagance in the administration of the public funds. He would not detain the House further than to express a hope with respect to the commercial policy of the country. He trusted that all differential duties would be removed, and that the principle of competition would be carried out. He trusted, with the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles), that free trade would be carried out with respect to every interest in the State. He hoped that the Government would pursue that policy, and that the navigation laws would be dealt with as boldly and completely as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tam-worth had dealt with the corn laws. If they did so, he felt assured that their conduct would be appreciated by the country.
said, having lately attended an enormous meeting of the tenant-farmers and agriculturists of this country, he wished to make an observation or two on that occasion. He had nothing whatsoever to do with the getting up of that meeting, but he acknowledged that two things at it astonished him much. The first was the great numbers which attended it; and the second was the language held at it, and the confirmed manner in which the speakers expressed their respective views upon the state of this country. They had spoken at that meeting against the carrying out of those principles of free trade which the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Milner Gibson) advocated, but which a Chancellor of the Exchequer might find so very inconvenient. He was aware that it was disrespectful to vote against an Address to the Crown; but he had been brought up in the school of the two noble Lords opposite. He well remembered how those noble Lords were in the habit of tearing to pieces Royal Speeches in days gone by. The omission of all mention of the colonial and agricultural interests of this empire from the Royal Speech, he considered as in some sort an attempt to trade upon the forbearance of the two sections of party into which his side of the House was unfortunately divided. It was very true they had not the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) sitting on the Treasury benches, although he had been offered office, as they knew; but he thought it was a little unfair that those who came from the Manchester school should claim to themselves the merit of representing the public opinion of this country. And it was strange that the Government should also fancy that that party which arrogated to itself the task of instructing the country should represent the voice of the country. The Gentlemen representing the manufacturing interests had called upon the protectionists to state what it was they wanted. He would ask the men of the Manchester school to tell the Parliament what country it was they wished to imitate, or what they were driving at. It appeared that in the late meetings to celebrate the triumph of former political questions, a strong under-current prevailed, which was to set in in favour of financial reform. If the hon. Member for the West Riding had not held out a budget which it was not very creditable to the Government to have accepted to so great an extent, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in all probability would not have taken the wind (to use a common phrase) out of the sails of the Manchester school. The Chancellor of the Exchequer knew very well he could depend on that (the Opposition) side of the House to keep up the estimates. In 1835 the Secretary at War and Sir Robert Peel had been most closely examined before a Committee as to the expediency of increasing the Army and Navy Estimates, and their opinion had been that the great colonial empire of this State demanded such an increase. What confidence could they in future have in Chancellors of the Exchequer if they came forward to trade upon the divisions existing in that House, in order to carry their respective measures? But they, at his side of the House, could not be justly accused as the promoters of war; although they should assert that the financial and official statement made by the Government showed that this country was in a condition of great alarm and uneasiness. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden), seemed to think it necessary to vamp up his character as a prophet; but he (Sir J. Tyrell) was surprised to find Her Majesty's Government adopting hastily and with little decency, the crude doctrines of the hon. Member. It was only fair under such circumstances that the hon. Gentleman should at once receive a seat on the Treasury benches; and he thought the hon. Gentleman ought in justice to himself to insist on his claims to that position. He wished to remind the Members of the Manchester school, that they themselves enjoyed a protective duty of 10 per cent in favour of many of their manufactured articles. [An Hon. MEMBER: Not in favour of cotton manufactures.] The hon. Member who interrupted him, seemed to think there was nothing in the world but cotton. He wished to give fair notice to Her Majesty's Government, that he would not for the future support their estimates; and he would tell the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he should henceforth look after him more carefully than he had been wont to do.
wished to express his entire concurrence in all that had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (the Marquess of Granby). He could not but agree with him that the Speech from the Throne, and the Address of the House in reply to that Speech, had been framed in a too congratulatory tone, and were not justified by the circumstances in which the country was placed. He felt it his duty distinctly to declare that there was at present a prospect of continued suffering among all classes connected with the occupation of land. In all parts of the kingdom the agricultural interest were exposed to losses and to perils of the most serious character, and which might have been entirely averted, or, at least, greatly mitigated, if more wisdom had been shown in our recent commercial policy. He found that in the year 1841, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in submitting to the House his proposal for a fixed duty on corn, had used the following language:—
Now he felt surprised that a statesman, who entertained that view of the subject, could have lent his name, and his influence to so crude a measure as that which had been proposed in the year 1846, under the auspices of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, and carried in both Houses, in a manner discreditable to Parliament, and most disastrous in its consequences. It was not the owners of land only that suffered from the change; the farmers suffered still more; but the class which suffered most of all was the agricultural labourers—a class whose condition had been taken into consideration by a Committee which had sat in the year 1824, over which the noble Lord had presided. He had no hesitation in saying, that nothing could exceed the folly and imprudence of the measure passed in the year 1846; and be believed that the experience of the operation of that measure would soon force on every unprejudiced mind the same conviction."He thought likewise he could have shown that a fixed duty had been supported by some of the ablest writers, who considered the subject I not with a view to popular applause, but calmly in their closets, and with a view to the improvement of the people."
said, he believed the noble Lord the Member for South Durham (Lord H. Vane), who bad moved the Address, was a Sussex proprietor, and, what was more, the noble Lord was, as be understood, much against his will, a Sussex farmer. Some years ago, the noble Lord bad purchased an estate in that county, and a considerable portion of it had since been thrown on his hands, and remained still unlet. But, as one well acquainted with the state of property in Sussex, he could assure the noble Lord if his farms had become vacant in the year 1845, he would within a single week have found good and substantial tenants for them. He could quote many similar instances in that part of the country, where there were at present many farms unoccupied which could not be let even at greatly reduced rents; and he believed the hon. Member for West Kent, whom he did not then see in his place, could state many similar cases in the district which he represented. The fact was, that farmers were at present losing their capital in attempting to keep their land in a state of cultivation. He hoped that the noble Lord the Member for South Durham (Lord H. Vane) would join the Members of the protectionist party in impressing on Her Majesty's Government the state of the farmers in the weald of Sussex, and throughout the country generally. He could assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it would be perfectly impossible for the Government to collect the bop duty during the ensuing spring. He had been that morning in conversation with a very ex- tensive farmer in that part of the country, who said be was satisfied that if the collection of the hop duty were to be enforced during the spring, half the farmers would have to be sold out, and even then the whole of the duty could not be collected. He really hoped that Her Majesty's Government would be induced to pursue the same course which bad been pursued in the year 1822 by the Government of that day, when one-half of the hop duty had been remitted. Without some such concession, the farmers in the hop-growing districts would be absolutely ruined.
desired to offer a few words in explanation of what bad fallen from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with respect to some observations of his (Mr. J. O'Connell). He (Mr. J. O'Con-nell) had referred to a report that Lord Minto, during his mission to Italy, had invited Count Sterbini to a dinner, and that, at that dinner, encouragement was given to the outrage which afterward occurred in Rome. He (Mr. J. O'Connell) had made that statement according to the report which bad reached him; but, of course, was unable to vouch for its accuracy. He believed, however, that Lord Minto was receiving Count Sterbini, and a son of Cicerachio at the very time the rioters made their appearance in the streets.
said, he certainly felt surprised that no allusion had been made to the state of the agricultural interest in the Speech from the Throne; and he also felt bound to complain of the little attention paid in the House to that interest. At a recent meeting held on the borders of Cambridgeshire many statements had been made of labourers thrown out of employment in consequence of the low and unremunerating prices of corn. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Bunbury) could bear testimony to the present depressed state of the agricultural interest. He could tell them that good wheat was sold in that town a fortnight since for 38s. a quarter, and that the best wheat in the market had not brought more than 40s. a quarter, He had himself seen those prices paid. In a great many districts the smaller farmers were not able to employ labourers on their land, and the union workhouses were rapidly filling. It appeared that the word "protection" was not palatable in that House; but the farmers hoped that for purposes of revenue, if not of protection, something like a fixed duty would be imposed on foreign corn—a project which the party opposite, and especially the noble Lord at the head of the Government, had so constantly and so warmly supported, and which, he (Mr. Bennet) believed, he even now in his heart espoused, would be restored, with the view of affording due encouragement and support to the industry and labour of our own countrymen, and of re-establishing that confidence in the agricultural resources of the country which their recent commercial policy had done so much to destroy.
said, that some doubt had been expressed as to the present condition of the manufacturing interest; and, he confessed, he was much surprised at the want of information which had been exhibited by some hon. Members opposite. This was a subject on which he was able to speak with confidence; for he was connected with manufacturing establishments in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Glasgow, and Belfast, and was also a very extensive exporter of manufactured articles to all parts of the world. He could assure hon. Gentlemen—and he was certain the House would hear it with great satisfaction—that the manufacturing interest was now in a state of considerable prosperity. The evidences of this on all sides were so unmistakeable, that any person who would take the trouble to inquire might satisfy himself that a great degree of prosperity was dawning over the manufacturing interest, and that it had already commenced.
said, he wished to take that opportunity of stating what, in his opinion, the Government ought to have done, in conformity with the wants and wishes of the country. But before he passed to that subject, he would tell the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Frewen) and his party what they ought to do for the relief of the agricultural interest. The hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex (Sir J. Tyrell) had candidly acknowledged that he and his friends had voted for the maintenance of our enormous establishments, and that without them the Government could not have carried their budgets. Then he (Mr. Hume) and his friends were justified, upon the hon. Baronet's own authority, in attributing no small share of the culpability of the long-continued extravagance and intolerable burdens under which the people groaned to the country Gentlemen. Now, if those hon. Gentlemen seriously wished to benefit the farmers, he would recommend them henceforward to vote for a diminution of that taxation which pressed so heavily upon all classes. The corn of this country was now exposed to competition with foreign corn, and he hoped that every thing else in this country would be left to contend with foreign competition. He (Mr. Hume) certainly considered the request of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Essex (Sir J. Tyrell) perfectly fair and legitimate—that the same principle of competition which had been carried out with respect to agricultural produce, should also be extended to every branch of manufacture. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Bankes) asked the Government to do something for the agricultural interest. Let him state what they were to do, or what they could do. What could they do for the tenant farmers, except to lessen the burden of general and local taxation, by reducing the expenditure of the country to the lowest rate at which the Government could be carried on? Owing to the artificial state in which agriculture had been long kept, most unfortunately for the country, farmers were now exposed to a severe competition from all parts of the world; and they would be entitled to protection if it was afforded to any one branch of manufactures. Still he was convinced that a free trade in corn was the best for all classes. He rejoiced to hear from his hon. Friend (Mr. Henry) of the improvement in the manufacturing and commercial world, and perfectly concurred in the paragraph of the Address which expressed the gratification of the House on that subject; but he could not admit that that expressed all that the Government ought to do. The Royal Speech ought to be a plain statement of what Ministers meant to do during the Session. Such was the case now in Belgium, in France, and to an extraordinary degree in the United States. Let Government state what the country wanted, and what they meant to do, and not gloss over important questions. Home matters were too much passed over; the first five paragraphs were devoted to foreign policy, and the debate on the Address had almost wholly turned on that point. The noble Viscount at the head of the Foreign Department had, he must do him the justice to say, made a very clever speech for the purpose; but if it meant anything, it was that the English people were called upon to act as the police officers of the whole world, and that whenever kings quarrelled with their subjects, and subjects with their kings, it was our business and duty to interfere to keep the contending parties quiet. This was why they had to maintain costly establishments—to keep peace between the King of Naples and other persons. Why, they would next have to keep peace between the Grand Sultan and his subjects, and every body else. This was the policy to which he (Mr. Hume) had always objected, because it divulged the secret of why the estimates had risen to such an enormous extent, and why the people of England were ground down by a crushing weight of taxation. With these views he meant to place on record what he thought ought to have formed part of the Speech. Last Session there were between two and two and a half millions of petitioners for Parliamentary reform, and a largo number for reduction of the excessive burden of our unequal taxation. The following was the number of petitions presented to the House of Commons in 1848 on these subjects, and the number of signatures attached to them:—
|9,005||For an extension of the elective franchise||290,559|
|5||For reform of Parliament||222|
|3||For the Charter||2,018,080|
|5||For vote by ballot||4,736|
|6||For retrenchment of expenditure||42,710|
|5||For revision of taxation||40,837|
|167||For retrenchment of naval and military expenditure||162,864|
|38||For ditto and militia||15,854|
|1||For reduction of Army||34|
And at the end of the twelfth paragraph, the following addition:—"And we assure Your Majesty, that we shall also without delay, direct our serious attention to the consideration of the rebellions which have unhappily occurred in the course of last year in the Island of Ceylon and at the Cape of Good Hope, in order to ascertain the extent, as well as the causes, of those rebellions; and we shall endeavour to trace the causes of the distress and discontent that exist in British Guiana, in the Mauritius, and in other British Colonies."
"But we are, at the same time, compelled earnestly to represent to Your Majesty that the amount of Taxation is excessive, and the burdens more than the industry of the Country can support; that millions of the people are thereby affected both in their physical and moral condition, causing great privations and consequent discontent amongst Your Majesty's faithful people:
"We desire to inform Your Majesty, that numerous Petitions presented to this House, and recorded in its proceedings of last Session, complain of the present system of National Taxation being unequal and unfair in its bearing on the several classes of the community; that the system, therefore, requires a complete revision, with a view to a more fair and equal distribution for the future:
In the present state of the House he did not wish to take a division, no notice having been given by him; but when the House came to the paragraphs he had pointed out, he should move these Amendments. The Address was then read by the clerk at the table. On his arriving at the eleventh paragraph,"Our duty to the people further requires, that we humbly represent to Your Majesty, that great and well-founded anxiety exists in this Country respecting the Elective Franchise and the Constitution of this House; that millions of Your Majesty's loyal and industrious people preferred their Petitions for a great extension of the Franchise, and for protection to the Electors, with other measures of reform, by which this House might be so constituted as to fully and fairly represent the people."
MR. HUME moved the above Amendments.
seconded the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose with respect to the colonies, because it was essential that they should mention in the Address what was both publicly and privately known with reference to the calamities that had occurred in the colonies specified, and which, if they were to believe the papers, had certainly occasioned a very great loss of life—a loss far exceeding any that had occurred in Ireland. He certainly concurred with the hon. Member for Montrose, that matters such as these ought o have been noticed in the Speech from the Throne, unless those Speeches were a mere form. Although the hon. Gentleman did not intend to divide the House, he (Mr. Bankes) would certainly have been quite prepared to vote with him if he had. There was a great difficulty about giving notice of any intention to move amendments of this kind, because parties could not get at the secret of what the Speech would contain beforehand, but must wait until it was brought under discussion. He (Mr. Bankes) mentioned this to excuse the absence of his friends on the division the other night; and he was sure that if they had had the option of giving notice afforded them, they would have had a much greater number of votes on their side at the division.
thought the Amendment too important to be allowed to fall to the ground without ascertaining what number of Members Mould vote in support of it. He therefore appealed to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) not to permit it to be swamped in that way, but to take the sense of the House upon it.
said, he had already pledged himself not to go to a division under the circumstances he had stated; but it was competent to any other hon. Member to act as he chose in the matter.
The other paragraphs were agreed to.
Address agreed to.—To be presented by Privy Councillors.
Poor Law (Ireland)
said, he rose pursuant to the notice placed on the Paper, for the purpose of proposing the appointment of a Select Committee, with a view to inquire into the operation of the Irish Poor Law. It would be in the recollection of the House that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne), proposed a similar Motion in the course of the last Session. That Motion did not meet with the sanction of the House; and the Government were blamed for the course they took with respect to it. He did not think that blame was deserved. He thought then, as he thought still, that any inquiry into a law, which it was no exaggeration to say had not then been fairly tried, must have been founded on insufficient information, and could not have led to any satisfactory result. Any legislation founded on such information, while the operation of the law was still comparatively untried, must have been unsatisfactory, and would have probably only led to the appointment of a fresh Committee to serve as the basis of fresh legislation. But the case was far different now. A year had elapsed since that period; and though in the working of a law of such vast importance, a year was not a long period, nevertheless it was hardly too much to say, that the experience of many ordinary years was crowded into the eventful one which had just passed. He could therefore now redeem the pledges given by the Government on that occasion, that if the law was not found to work satisfactorily, he would propose a Committee of Inquiry. He had hoard with surprise the disapprobation expressed from different quarters at the course pursued by the Government. It was said, that instead of proposing a Committee of Inquiry, the Government ought at once to propound their measures. He did not think so. If the Government pursued that course, they would have been justly chargeable with a breach of faith. And he would have expected to have heard, and he had no doubt he would have heard, eloquent and vehement declamations against the Government, for having forfeited the pledge they gave, on more than one occasion, during the last Session. But, independently of this consideration, it was desirable that hon. Gentlemen connected with Ireland, and particularly with such parts of it as were much deranged and embarrassed, should have an opportunity of stating their views with respect to the operation of a law of so much importance to every individual in Ireland; and not only to Ireland, but to every portion of the united kingdom. He would not now stop to inquire whether those derangements and embarrassments were to be attributed to the operation of the poor-law or not. It was certain, at all events, that the operation of that law must have an important bearing upon those districts, and therefore it was not unfair or unreasonable that an opportunity should be given to hon. Gentlemen connected with them to state their views on the subject, and to produce any evidence which might tend to throw light on the particular opinions they might entertain. Even if it should appear, on inquiry, that these views were not well founded, their rejection would be more readily acquiesced in after inquiry than if the Government were now to propose a measure without previous in- vestigation. It might be true that Government had superior means of information on this subject; but that was no reason why persons connected with Ireland should not have an opportunity of fairly stating their views, and why those views should not undergo a most patient and careful investigation. On the present occasion, he would abstain from discussing the disputed points connected with the poor-law, being of opinion that it would be better to leave them for the consideration of the Committee. He was attached to the main principle of the law; but still he thought many improvements could be introduced into it. He would not now state what those improvements were, as he would have an opportunity of doing so before the Committee. It was said, that the course proposed by the Government would solely have the effect of delaying legislation on the subject. As far as Government was concerned, he thought he had given proof that there was no intention of that sort on their part, for this was but the third day of the Session, and he came forward to propose a measure with a view to speedy legislation. He would undertake to say, on the part of the Government, that no efforts would be wanting on their part to bring the proceedings before the Committee to a speedy termination. And if any further legislation (said the right hon. Baronet, in conclusion) shall be thought necessary to place the law on a more satisfactory footing, every effort shall be used on the part of the Government to bring forward those measures. I have no doubt the same anxiety for the improvement of the law will animate every hon. Member who shall be placed on that Committee: and I cannot despair that we shall come to a satisfactory conclusion, and effect such improvements in the law as will I prove generally useful. The right hon. Gentleman then proposed the appointment of a Select Committee on the Irish Poor Laws.
said, that as an Irish Member, and as an individual who had from the first represented the ruinous consequences which must follow from the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government, he hoped the House would allow him to make one or two observations. His right hon. Friend had taunted the Irish Members on account of their hesitation to acquiesce in the appointment of that Committee for which they had struggled with so much unanimity last Session; but the House must recollect that last year their object was to direct the attention of the Legislature and of the country to the ruinous and destructive effects of the legislation which had been pursued; and that the case was now quite different. Now, that it was well known that the property of three-fourths of the landlords was confiscated, that a great portion of the capital of the farmers had melted away, that the strength of the peasantry was destroyed, and their domestic affections nearly obliterated, what had they to prove—what object had they to gain by the appointment of the Committee? On the other hand, those who had experience in that House knew very well that a Motion referred to a Select Committee was a Motion put aside for the Session. It was true his right hon. Friend (Sir W. Somerville) had stated that, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, there was every desire that the inquiry should be brought to a speedy issue; but had not his right hon. Friend also told the House that every latitude was to be given to every Member of the Committee; that every man was to be allowed to proceed with his own nostrum; and they had heard that at a recent meeting of nine Irish Members in Dublin, there were five different opinions on this subject. Then it was said, that when the Committee was appointed, the House ought to confide in it, and be governed by the wishes of the Irish people; but every one who knew the history of this very law, must be well aware that the opinion of the Irish people would be of little weight if it differed from that of the Government or the Poor Law Commissioners. He begged the House to recollect that in 1838 this law was forced upon Ireland in opposition to the expressed opinions and wishes of the Irish representatives, and in opposition to the report of the most able men in Ireland appointed by the Government, including the Archbishop of Dublin, Mr. More O'Ferrall, and others; it was forced upon Ireland upon the authority of the report of Mr. Nicholls, which would have possessed no great authority if it had not been stamped by the sanction of Her Majesty's Government. That report contained an assurance that the expense would not exceed 300,000l. a year, but last year it amounted to 2,000,000l. Had the Government then exhibited any displeasure towards the individual, who, through ignorance or design, had so misled them? Far from it; the same individual had received one of the most lucrative places which became vacant upon a change in the Poor Law Department in this country; and there was, therefore, no reason for supposing that Her Majesty's Government at all regretted the course which it had pursued. He would pass now to the Extension Act of 1847, which could hardly be said to have come into operation before the 1st of October in that year, as, until that time, the Relief Act was in operation. By that Act, for the purpose of calming the excited, alarmed, and, he might say, irritated feelings of the people (for to no other motive could he attribute it), outdoor relief was again forced upon Ireland, in defiance of the authority of the recorded evidence of every individual of eminence in that country—in opposition to the statements of every eminent political man in that House, in any way connected with Ireland, and notwithstanding a report of the Committee of the other House, stating that outdoor relief was dangerous alike to the interests of the community at large, and to those of the class for whose benefit it was intended. In defiance of all authority that fatal step was taken; and the ruin of half the country had followed. This law was universally detested; he would venture to say, that there never was a law in any country so universally detested, both by the ratepayers and the recipients of relief. This state of things was not confined to the provinces of Connaught or Munster, but extended to Ulster and those provinces which more nearly resembled this country; for he had been recently told that, unless some remedy was found, before twenty months was passed, all the men of capital in the north of Ireland would have left the country. In the province of Connaught the rated property was 1,321,065l.; the inhabitants, 1,448,000; and last year the relief given amounted to 372,649l.; of which the amount of rate collected was only 187,271l. In Connaught the average rate was 5s. 8d. in the pound; in Munster, 3s. 7d.; and that upon a valuation very nearly double what it ought to be; whilst, in England, 2s. 4d. in the pound was about the highest amount of rate. In the Castlebar union, 44 per cent of the population were on the rates; in the Ballinrobe union, 58 per cent of the population; and in the Clifton union, 62 per cent. These facts showed the state to which the country was reduced; but, further, the rates were almost invariably collected by military force; cavalry and infantry, and even artillery, were frequently obliged to be brought up; and the farmers said, would it not be better to leave the land untilled than to have it torn from us by the soldiers for the support of these houses, where the idle and worthless are maintained? The result of the present state of the law, therefore, was to diminish cultivation and increase pauperism. Under such circumstances, all of which were known to the Government, he thought that they were fully justified in expecting the Government to state what remedy they proposed. One step, indeed, had been already taken, and a very judicious one, for the purpose of reducing the poor-law districts to manageable limits, which were now so much larger in proportion than the English districts, that there was four times as much to do in the one as in the other. He felt that it was absolutely necessary that Her Majesty's Government should declare whether they intended to propose such changes as had been suggested by the Commissioners. It must be borne in mind that land in Ireland was not purchased or inherited subject to this tax, as it was in England. It was very well to say that they did it for the sake of uniformity with England; but why should they take the property of the landlords alone? Why should the mortgagees and annuitants escape? Why should professional incomes escape? If they took the entire property of the country, the landlords would willingly bear their share of the burden. In England the income-tax fell upon incomes of every description. By taxing the country upon that principle, an adequate fund might be raised, which would not exceed 1s. in the pound; outdoor relief should be abolished, and the workhouses should be made self-supporting; the ablebodied poor should be made, by their labour, to maintain the aged and infirm; and the expense might then be reduced to 500,000l. a year. Then let a tax be laid upon all property in Ireland—for, from the capabilities of Ireland, he desired to see Ireland developed—a sufficient tax to employ the ablebodied, and to develop the resources of the country; and he was convinced that it would be cheerfully paid. In that way only could the difficulties of this important question be settled. At all events, it was impossible that the present system could be continued; the intelligence and capital of the country were being driven out; property to the amount of 10,000,000l. had left Ireland within the last fourteen months; and if the system were continued, the result must be to generate an ulcer in one corner of the country which would, at no great distance of time, spread over every part of it. He would not longer occupy the House on that occasion; but he felt that it was of very great importance that some declaration should be made by Her Majesty's Government calculated to restore confidence to the agricultural body; for he could assure the Government of this, that if the present feeling was allowed to continue, two-thirds of Connaught and a great part of Munster would remain unsown.
said, it was very unfortunate that the forms of the House required that his hon. Friend (Mr. J. O'Connell) should introduce his Amendment into the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, (Mr. Disraeli), in order to its being at all received. Under the circumstances the House was not disposed to attend to an Irish debate, while another and more agreeable, because a party one, was pending. Still the topics having reference to Ireland were too important to be passed over; and therefore he looked for the indulgence of the House while he made a few short remarks on the three points in the Speech from the Throne which had reference to Ireland. The Speech states somewhat too vaguely that great distress exists in some parts of Ireland owing to the failure of the potato crop. If this vague sentence indicates an intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to ask the assistance of Parliament for relief of the districts alluded to—then, though he felt very unwilling to come, in any mendicant form, to ask aid from the Imperial Exchequer, he would support such a proposition, because of the utterly hopeless and deplorable condition of the south and western districts of Ireland. To sustain the destitute population in these parts, imperial aid is requisite—the entire income of the land is absorbed in some places, and still is inadequate for the purpose. In was the case in Con-naught—it was so in some portions of the county of Cork, in Bantry, and Skibbereen, and also in the remote districts of Kerry. The House may easily judge how inadequate to meet the present emergency are many unions in Ireland, when he stated that some electoral divisions are valued so low as 9d. per acre—that the ratio of the population is three to every one pound of value, and that according to the census of 1841, there is a population of over 10,000 to the square mile of produce in some of the west coast divisions, in their ordinary normal condition. What then must be the distress in these parts now, when that produce had in a great degree failed, and how impossible is it for the land there to support its enormous population? In truth the whole of Ireland is nearly in the same condition. Nothing can prove this better than the state of the circulation in that country. The banks of Ireland are permitted to issue something over six millions, without the necessity of having by law gold in their tills for any portion of the issue. Yet such is the prostrate state of Ireland that that circulation is reduced one-third, and the circulation in the hands of the public is still further reduced by hoarding; for a state of panic now exists in Ireland somewhat similar to that in October 1847 in this country. The consequence is that trade is at an end, that prices have fallen one-half, that the whole country is broken down and prostrate. The whole condition of the country is then deserving the attention of Parliament, with the view to some permanent and effectual remedy. He next came to the question of the Poor Law: and here he must say that he altogether differed from his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. J. O'Connell), when he said no inquiry was necessary before legislation on this all-important question. He felt it was imperatively called for, and he considered it would be most inconsistent on the part of the Irish Members now to say no inquiry was necessary, when last year they were loud in their complaints throughout the length and breadth of the land, because such inquiry was refused them. The great difference of opinion which exists both outside and inside the House proves that such inquiry was called for. There was a meeting of Irish Members in Dublin a few days ago. The number assembled was nine. The question discussed was the poor-law, and there were five distinct and separate opinions expressed at that meeting. Again, in the present debate, mark the various opinions. For example—he was now and at all times in favour of a poor-law for Ireland. His hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. J O'Connell), was opposed to it, so was the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Grattan). Therefore, he considered inquiry necessary; but he hoped, and from what had fallen from the noble Mover, he believed, that that inquiry would have for its object the making the law more efficient for the protection of the destitute, and the preventing wealthy proprietors of the soil shirking their responsibilities and placing the burden on other shoulders. He now approached the subject of his hon. Friend's Amendment. Had he ventured to speculate on what would have been the reference made to Ireland, he would have anticipated that Her Majesty would have congratulated Parliament on the perfect tranquillity which existed in Ireland; and as they had always heard that agitation was the bane of Ireland—that nothing could be done for her while it continued—that extensive amelioration would be the consequence of its non-existence, he did hope that enlarged measures for the social benefit of that country would be recommended in the Speech, by reason of the perfect quiet that reigns in Ireland. Yet now for the fifth time, within almost twelve months, they were to have coercion, and the constitution was to be suspended without just cause, for he denied that there was, as the noble Mover of the Address (Lord H. Vane) stated, disaffection in Ireland. Where was the proof of it? He asserted that all political feeling was dead in Ireland—that the people were sick of agitation, and though in some districts in the north disorganisation existed, still he believed there was much exaggeration—much of false statement and of absolute hoaxing in what was going on there; and in the part of the country with which he was acquainted, he asserted that there was no justification for the demand for new powers on the part of the Lord Lieutenant. The noble Mover said, that this was a vote of confidence in Lord Clarendon. Now, he fully admitted—for he would never disguise a conviction he entertained—that Lord Clarendon had exercised the powers entrusted to him with great moderation. But he was not disposed to give him his confidence so long as he defended, by his station and his talents, the jury system in Ireland. [A laugh.] Yes, he would call it the Irish jury system—for that meant the jury packing system. Would that House believe it, that on a late occasion out of a list on the jury book of 2,900 Catholics, and 1,600 Protestants, the sheriff selected a panel of 177, of whom there were not more than twenty-five Catholics, after deducting those who were dead, or could not attend, or were otherwise objectionable; and of these twenty-five, nineteen were placed amongst the last sixty names, and therefore, had no chance of being on the jury, who were to try a Roman Catholic for a political offence. This system of exclusion he protested against—this abolition of the Act of Emancipation—this setting class against class; and until it was remedied, Lord Clarendon could not hope for the confidence of the Irish people. A trial was shortly to take place in that country. Let a new system be adopted—let the jury be fairly and indiscriminately selected, and he, for one, was disposed to overlook the past, provided redress was afforded at the eleventh hour for the wrong heretofore inflicted on the Catholics of Ireland, and on the accused, by the jury packing system of Ireland. Coercion and jury packing were not the way to govern Ireland. Do her justice—improve her social condition—give her people an interest in her soil and in her institutions—make the interest of one class the interest of the other; and then, and not till then, will you obtain the confidence of Ireland.
expressed his satisfaction at the course pursued by the Government, and he trusted that one result of the inquiries of the Committee would be to show that Irish Members in asking for an investigation had not been actuated, as they had been accused of being, by a wish to get rid of the poor-law altogether. He could answer for the majority, not only of Irish Members but of Irishmen, that they had no desire to shift from their own shoulders the burden of supporting their own poor. Their sole reason for asking for inquiry last year was, to stimulate as much as possible the energies of the people and the labour of the country. The great object to be kept in view was the development of the agricultural resources of the country; whereas hitherto employers had found that by giving labourers employment, they had not relieved themselves at all from the burden of taxation, which had, at length, become intolerable. In amending the poor-law, care should be taken to adapt it to ordinary years, to what he hoped would be the condition of Ireland. A great difference of opinion naturally prevailed amongst Members representing different districts. The amount of destitution varied. In some parts it was frightful, while in others it was comparatively light, He recollected hearing a gentleman observe at a meeting held in Dublin, that the poor-law must be working very well in a certain district of Wicklow, seeing that there were no complaints about it. The ex- planation of this was, that in Wicklow there prevailed remarkably little destitution. A similar difference of opinion would, under similar circumstances, prevail in England.
said, although he had no fault to find with the appointment of the Committee, but, on the contrary, was of opinion that, considering the feeling which prevailed in Ireland, it would be wholly unjustifiable to refuse inquiry, yet he was anxious to state his belief that Irish Members deceived themselves when they fancied that the evils from which they suffered resulted from the working of the corn law—[Laughter]—he meant the poor-law. Hon. Members opposite had spoken so much of late respecting the corn law, that his mistake might be excused. The great complaint made by Irish Members was that an excessive amount of pauperism existed in certain parts of Ireland. The English poor-law was at present comparatively little complained of; but if pauperism existed in any English county to as great an extent as it did in some parts of Ireland, the English law would be complained of just as loudly as was the Irish. The hon. and gallant Member who spoke last (Major Blackall), had declared that Irish people having property were not indisposed to support the poverty of their country. He was exceedingly glad to hear that statement; but he believed that the labours of the Committee would lead to the conclusion that no shifting of the burden of poor-rates in Ireland from one district to another, and no readjustment of the poor-law staff, however expensive it might be at present, would save Ireland from absolute ruin, from a state of things in which one half of the population would oat up the other, which was, in fact, nearly the existing condition of many parts of the country. The hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French) said he did not see why mortgagees and annuitants should not bear a portion of the burden. Was not the hon. Member aware that if any one borrowed money of a capitalist in this country, he must, as a matter of course, pay the rate of interest bargained for; and that if he required a mortgagee to pay a portion of his rates, the only result would be, cither that he would be obliged at the same time to offer a larger rate of interest, or else that he would be unable to obtain the loan? There was, in fact, no more helpless delusion than that of supposing, as many hon. Members did, that they might by such means as these get rid of the pressure of the poverty by which they were surrounded. He did not know whether or not the Committee would be allowed to go into other questions besides that of the poor-law itself; but the attention which he had paid to the subject—though not an Irish Member, and though he had not lived in Ireland, the question was one which had not been neglected by him—had led him to the conclusion that, unless the resources of Irish land were developed, the people, having no power of supporting themselves by their own industry, Irish landlords would remain for a time in their present position, and would in the end infallibly be eaten up. There was no one here who could relieve them; there was not wealth or industry enough in Great Britain to save them, if they were able to do nothing for themselves. He had no doubt whatever that there were many districts of Ireland—that there were, in fact, many counties—which, at that moment, were in such a position through incumbrances, mortgages, and settlements of various kinds, that it was quite impossible for the land, in the present state of things, to support the population. Last year a Bill had passed through Parliament for which the Government took great credit. When that Bill came down from the other House, where it encountered many difficulties, the Solicitor General made several beneficial alterations in it. At the last stage, however, of the measure there was a clause added to it which referred to the service of certain notices, which clause had the effect of destroying nineteen-twentieths of any good that was likely to be derived from it when it came from the hands of the Solicitor General. He had understood that that clause was inserted for the purpose of ensuring the passing of the Bill in the other House of Parliament. He did not positively affirm that such was the case, but he had heard the statement on pretty good authority. He now asked the Government if they were aware of any case in which the measure, having been put in force, had done one particle of good in the direction in which it was intended to operate? They could not, he thought, point out a single instance. He had heard of one instance, in which there having been an attempt to put the Bill in force, it was found impossible to do so. Another case of attempt he had been informed of, in which considerable mischief had arisen; and he believed that no one had derived the slightest benefit from the measure except the Irish lawyers. Unless the House could grapple with the land question, no Landlord and Tenant Bill, no Poor Law Bill, and no shifting of taxation from one district to another, and no taxing of mortgagees or proprietors of moveable property, could produce any beneficial effect. The people must be set to work by some means or other, or else the pauperism of Ireland would eat up its property.
said, that it was not often he had the satisfaction of hearing a speech from the hon. Member for Manchester in every word of which he most entirely concurred. It was his most decided opinion, that unless they dealt at once with the land question in Ireland, and made a poor-law which would develop the resources of the country, they would do nothing, and would have to come down year after year for million after million of the public money, which would impoverish even the resources of this great empire, and, instead of affording real and lasting relief to Ireland, it would only tend to perpetuate the very evil in question. The Economist of last week contained a little anecdote, to which he would call the attention of the House, as showing the effect of the present condition of things in that country. A Scotch farmer, upon being asked why he would not go into Ireland and embrace some very tempting offer, and invest his capital there, and employ his skill and industry, made this answer, "I want to go where I can farm, and not to pay poor-rates." This answer really involved the whole question to be considered by the House. It was not that Scotch farmers or English capitalists objected to bear their fair share of the burdens of poor-rates; but when they invested their money, they wanted to know, with some sort of approximation to the truth, what the returns to the capital would be. He would give the House an instance of the beneficial operation of capital, when something like a return to it could be calculated. In the very worst union of an electoral division in the worst county of the worst province of Ireland, there was an island called Arran More. Upon this island was such a nest of paupers, that it was impossible to know how to deal with it. A Belfast capitalist came forward and said, "I will buy the island" (the island belonged to a noble Marquess), "but I demand, before I buy it, not that any Government money should be advanced to it; not that it may be relieved from the payment of poor-rates; not that it may be dealt with as a special case; but that it may be made an electoral division of by itself." The board of guardians, anxious to get rid of this worst part of their district, wrote to the Commissioners to ask leave to avail themselves of the powers granted under the Act, and make the island an electoral division. The Commissioners acceded to the request; the island was made an electoral division, purchased by the capitalist, and the work of imporvement was now fast progressing on the island. Now here was a case in which the resources of the land were developed. It was not a case of religious or political triumph, but a mere matter of business, a calculation of "what return shall I get for my money?" The House would perceive then that it would be extremely difficult to deal with such cases as these. Hon. Gentlemen would be very much surprised if they were to awake some morning and discover that a line had been drawn through their estates, and that thus one half the land was thrown into one parish and the other half into another; yet such was the case in Ireland, and that entirely in consequence of the manner in which the Commissioners had drawn lines over extensive districts. He was not giving utterance merely to his own theories on the subject; he told the House what was the case where the resources of the land were allowed to be developed. He knew it might be said that there would be great difficulties in dealing with these cases. It might be said by persons who managed their own property well, "We manage our own property, and attend to our own poor; let the remainder be provided for by other and more general means." Those parties, however, who advocated the small area of taxation were perfectly willing to bear their portion of a burden of a rate in aid, over and above a certain amount which might be expended by themselves. The difficulty in that respect would therefore cease upon the adoption of such a plan. The whole system of electoral divisions required revision. Nothing could be more arbitrary than the manner in which the Commissioners, sitting perhaps in their carriages, on the nearest road, marked the country out into off-hand divisions, wholly regardless of parks, or properties, or parishes, or unions, or baronies, or even of counties. He was aware that a Boundary Commission had been appointed in 1847; it would be premature to state what they intended to do, but it would not be premature to state that the tendency of the report of that Commission would be, unless public rumour very much belied them, to make a very considerable reduction in the area of taxation for poor-law purposes. He should have wished to have known what portion of the poor-law the Government were prepared to maintain. He trusted that the Government would not be open to some severe blame, when this debate was concluded, on the ground that they had refused to specify upon what portion of the Irish poor-law they were determined to take their stand. The right hon. Member for Drogheda (Sir W. Somerville) had said that they were prepared to take their stand upon the main points of the poor-law. That was merely begging the question, for he did not state what those "main points" were. Were the Government prepared to stand to the system of outdoor relief to the ablebodied? Were they disposed to support the taxation upon the tenant? Would they continue their support to the quarter-acre clause? Were they disposed to make any alteration in the present existing boards? Did they propose to make any alteration affecting the interests of immediate lessors? In what manner did they propose to consider the question of tithes in reference to the incidents of the poor-rates? Were these subjects to be meddled with or not? If not, let them state it. If they were to be touched, he maintained that the Government would shrink from its responsibility if it did not openly avow its intentions on the subject, and their conduct would give rise to unfounded hopes and vague misapprehensions in the minds of the people of Ireland, and would tend to confirm the report, very generally and widely spread, that the Government had had recourse to this Committee because they were, upon the subject of the poor-law of Ireland, a divided Government; they gave no reason to the people to believe that the proceedings of this Committee would be brought to a satisfactory determination; and the general opinion would be, that they delayed legislation upon the matter because they found themselves incompetent to perform the task.
observed, that the resolutions to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fagan) had referred, were not, in point of fact, resolutions, but simply suggestions, emanating from various parts of Ireland. There certainly had been much difference of opinion at the meeting in question, even more than had been stated, for there being nine gentlemen present, there had been declared ten differences of opinion, so that one gentleman must have differed in opinion from himself, as well as from the other eight gentlemen. He considered that the Government were adopting a wise course in appointing this Commission. In the course of the last Session, he had the honour to move for a Select Committee on the same subject; but he was then told that his Motion was premature, that the measure had not yet received a fair trial. The measure had now received a fair trial; and he was grateful to the Government for the course they now proposed to take on the subject. He was firmly persuaded that the result of the inquiry of the Committee would be most beneficial. No poor-law could ever be framed with such an amount of talent and judgment as to enable it to supply the wants of some of the districts in the west of Ireland. Where the valuation of the property was insufficient to support the population resident upon it, some other remedy must be sought for. The hon. and gallant Member then referred to the union of Skibbereen, which had a population of 104,508 persons, while the property of the district was valued at 98,255l., being about 17s. or 18s. a head. The whole property of the country was melting away, and Ireland would become one mass of pauperism unless some remedy were applied. The poor-laws of England and of Ireland were in many respects essentially different, both in their principle and their operation. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) had already referred to the disruption of districts which had been parcelled out in the most capricious manner; and he had also to complain that the poor-law returns were got up in a very imperfect way. He must impress upon the Government the necessity of making a marked distinction between support inside and outside of the workhouse, without which there never would be any improvement in the administration of the law. One of the great defects in the conduct of the Irish Poor Law had been the mixing up two questions essentially different: the one, the ordinary poor-law, applicable to a sound state of society; the other, that relief of destitution which was necessitated by the exceptional application of a general dearth. These cases should be treated upon wholly different principles. One enormous evil of the present system was, that it inflicted double oppression upon the very men who most earnestly applied themselves to the improvement of their estates. The hon. Gentleman referred in particular to the cases of Sir Charles Coote and Lord Farnham, who having no paupers whatever upon their own properties, but on the contrary giving constant employment to several hundreds of men, were, by the unjust distribution of the taxation area, made to pay enormously beyond anything like their fair proportion. The whole thing, in fact, needed thorough revision. The ordinary practice must be completely remodelled. In the returns, too, there must be a careful adherence to the facts. As to the present returns, they were almost all of them mere deceptions, mixing up figures and statements having no sort of connexion, except in the purpose of the parties advancing them for their own purposes. He said, therefore, that it was necessary to have an inquiry; and if that inquiry should be carried out in the spirit which his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland had announced, he (Colonel Dunne) should give him his most cordial support.
said, he could not forget that the extremely onerous and important duties of Secretary for Ireland, conjointly with those of a Poor Law Commissioner, and a law officer of the Crown, all devolved upon the right hon. Baronet (Sir W. Somerville) opposite, for whom he felt disposed, therefore, to make very great allowances. He hoped, however, that those pertinent questions which had been put by his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) would be distinctly answered before the close of the debate; and in the meantime he must complain that the Irish Secretary had altogether abstained from laying before the House those matured views upon the question which he should have thought he must have formed as the head of the Irish Poor Law Commission. He should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have shown them something of the unanimity that prevailed amongst his Colleagues, and that the opinion of Mr. Twisleton would have been laid before the House. He trusted, moreover, that some Member of the Cabinet would explain to the House the principle upon which the poor-rates were at present collected in Ireland. As he understood the matter, it was done something in this way—The guardians met and discovered that the sum, say of 5,000l., was necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act. They consulted their clerk, and inquired what rate would be necessary in order to realise that sum. He would respond, perhaps, 1s. in the pound. That rate would be accordingly struck, and the collectors would go forth to collect it. In seven or eight weeks the collectors would return, but instead of having received 5,000l., they had probably not got in more than 3,000l. What was then to be done? Another rate must be struck, perhaps of 4d. in the pound. Again the collectors go forth, and after another lengthened absence they return with 1,500l., and this second sum has been collected almost entirely from the very persons who paid the first rate; whilst those who evaded the first rate, evaded the second also. This was a direct encouragement to a certain set of miserable landlords, whom he need not further particularise, to have upon their estates a class of tenants who were able to pay rack rents, but could not pay the poor-rates. Some years ago it was looked upon as one of Ireland's grievances, that there was no provision in that country for the registration of births, deaths, and marriages. When he (Mr. Sadlier) asked the noble Lord at the head of the Government a question upon that subject last Session, he stated he had all the materials necessary for the introduction of the Bill, and felt that it was a very desirable measure, still that he was not prepared to bring it forward at that time. This was a measure which, in his opinion, was intimately connected with the operation of an efficient poor-law in Ireland; and it was impossible to consider the question whether a law of settlement should be retrospective or not, unless they ascertained the intentions of the Government on that subject. With respect to mortgagees, he thought it very desirable that it should not go forth to the public, that there was any intention to make them contribute towards the poor-rate, as nothing could tend more to prevent the introduction of capital into Ireland. He hoped that in the present Session, a Registration Bill would be introduced by some Member of the Cabinet; for it was evident that the English Bill must he perfectly futile, unless the registration also extended to Ireland. Some allusions had been made to the subject of the area of taxation, which would be one of the most important subjects that could engage the attention of the Committee. Let the House compare England with Ireland in this respect. In this country there was a cultivable area of about 25,000,000 acres, whilst in Ireland the cultivable area was something above 13,000,000 acres. In England there were 533 unions and union houses; but in Ireland the law was expected to work successfully with about 132 unions and union houses. Of these 533 in England, only 42 exceeded 100,000 acres in extent, whilst in Ireland there were 107 with an area exceeding 100,000 acres; and of those no less than 25 exceeded 200,000 acres. The average population of the English unions did not exceed 23,400; but the average of the Irish unions was something above 62,000. In Ireland there were ten unions whose population exceeded 100,000; in England there were only six. This showed the great social differences of the country, and he wanted to know from the Government how they proposed to dispose of the surplus agricultural population. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had expressed his deliberate opinion, a very short time ago, that the introduction of outdoor relief into Ireland would not remove any of the difficulties or distress, but was eminently calculated to perpetuate them, and to fix them where they were. He had heard the noble Lord talk of large pasture farms, of a yeoman tenantry, and the value of having in Ireland a peasant proprietary; but he had never seen the noble Lord come forward with any practical, direct, and well-digested system of legislation, by which they could meet the real difficulties of the case. At the same time, it was perfectly plain that it was never intended that the landed property of Ireland should be subjected to the operations of the poor-law without the contemporaneous introduction of auxiliary and adjunctive measures of a remedial nature. He trusted they should be informed, before the debate closed, whether it was the intention of the Cabinet to insist on a system by which they should have the ratepayers represented by elected guardians, and associated with some persons who would represent the poor-law guardians. If the Government were to take into their immediate consideration the system upon which Ireland had been cast into unions, they would find that no alteration or amendment that could take place would have the effect of relieving the destitution, or of giving a stimulus to industry in Ireland. It ought to be remembered that when the poor-law was introduced into this country, the system of parochial divisions was adopted. The most remarkable feature in an existing district in Ireland was this. In Tralee, the population in some electoral divisions did not exceed 1,300, whilst in other electoral divisions in the same union they exceeded 23,000. The area of some of the electoral divisions in the Tralee union did not exceed 3,186 acres, whilst in others it was 23,321 acres. He hoped the Committee would take this subject into their serious consideration; he trusted they would insist on a review of the entire system on which the unions and electoral divisions had been formed; and if the Committee should omit to consider it, he trusted that the Government would see that the unions and electoral divisions in Ireland were so constructed that they should approximate to the size, and character, and circumstances of the English unions. Instead of 132 or 133 unions in Ireland, they should have double that number. In the north of Ireland, the sizes of the unions and electoral divisions were more uniform. He complained very much that the Government had not come forward and stated explicitly what measures they meant to introduce of a remedial character for Ireland. He thought they ought to introduce some measure to provide for the more effectual recovery of the arrears of poor-rate in Ireland.
observed, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sadlier) had adverted to a variety of topics, all of them of great importance; but with respect to the details of the operation of the poor-laws, they were better fitted for a reference to a Committee; and he thought it would be much more convenient for the despatch of the business to abstain from following him in the consideration of those details. There were a few portions, however, to which he would refer. First, as to the collection of rates. The hon. Member had said that an estimate having been made of what was required for a given parish, the collector who had gone to collect the rates had returned to the guardians stating that a considerable portion had remained uncollected, not from positive inability to pay them, but from an evasion of the law, and that the law had not been enforced. [Mr. SADLIER: From both causes; chiefly from their destitution.] They could not frame a law for the collection of rates where there was a positive inability to pay. [Mr. SADLIER: Yes, from the land.] The hon. Member would find no indisposition on the part of the Poor Law Commissioners to enforce the poor-law to the utmost in the collection of rates. With respect to the Boundary Commission, he had to state that the first report of the Commission had, within the last few days, been transmitted to the Government and laid on the table. He believed that many hon. Members who had been in communication with these Commissioners could testify to the diligence and patience with which they had discharged their duties. He would not state from recollection the general tenor of their report, as it would be in the hands of Members in a very short time. He would only say that the report had been referred to the Poor Law Commissioners, that they might report on the expediency and practicability of carrying its recommendations into effect. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sadlier) stated that the unions in Ireland had not been made on a uniform principle. In that he quite agreed; and it was because he agreed in that opinion that the Boundary Commission was appointed. He had decided upon appointing that Commission before the Motion was made by the hon. Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne), and he had so stated himself to a deputation of Irish gentlemen. In Ulster, he believed, the Commissioners did not find that any alteration in the unions was generally desired. In other parts of Ireland, these unions were formed on a different scale; and he believed there was a tendency to assimilate them to those of Ulster. As to electoral divisions, he could not encourage the principle of the reduction of the area of taxation to the size of the townlands. The Committee would be in possession of the report of the Boundary Commissioners; and he would now only express a hope that the report and the evidence on which it was founded would tend to abridge the labour of the Committee, and save them much trouble. The hon. Member (Mr. Sadlier) seemed to expect that the Government should be prepared to give explicit answers on all points connected with the proposed amendments of the poor-law; and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) found fault with the Government for not at once producing a Bill of their own on the subject. He believed that if they had done so, the result would have been, it would have been attacked by all the Irish Gentlemen, even though each of them differed from the other. He was not pre- pared to answer all the questions which had been asked; but he would say, in reply to the most important question addressed to him by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire that Government were going into the Committee without any intention of altering the principle on which the poor-law was founded, or the principle of relief which was embodied in the Act of 1847. As to their falling back on the original law, or taking away the power of relieving the ablebodied under any circumstances, he felt it right to state that Government entertained no such intention. Their object was, to facilitate the operation of the law, at the same time keeping the main object in view, which was, to preserve from starvation thousands of the people of Ireland; for he believed that, had it not been for the poor-law, thousands would have perished during the past year.
said, that it was not his intention to enter into any details as to the working of the poor-law: both the hour of the night and the occasion rendered that course inexpedient; but he might be permitted to say a few words to explain why he had determined, with great reluctance, to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Grattan). He had come to that determination in consequence of the declaration of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, that the Ministers were not prepared with any measure to remedy the abuses of the present Irish Poor Law. It was stated in the proposed Amendment, that a feeling of discontent, augmented by the distresses of the people, still exists. He thought that too self-evident a proposition to be denied, and he confessed that he shared in that discontent, and that it was much augmented by the declaration of the noble Lord. The reason that the noble Lord had given for doing nothing, namely, the want of unanimity among the Irish Members, had, he thought, no weight whatever. It had been stated, that at a meeting of Irish Members in Dublin, at which only nine attended, there were five distinct plans proposed for the alteration of the poor-laws. This appeared to him to be only an additional reason why Her Majesty's Government should have come forward with some distinct proposition of their own upon the subject. If the noble Lord said, that he would wait until the Irish Members agreed amongst themselves, that was tantamount to a declaration that there should be no legislation at all, which declaration would, he believed, be received with a feeling of discontent and dismay in Ireland.
deprecated the delay of the Government in taking the alteration of the poor-law into consideration.
said, that the real difficulty which that part of Ireland with which he was connected, had to struggle with was, the flight of those tenants who possessed capital, and the consequent danger of a great portion of the land becoming waste. He did not object to the Committee, as he thought it might perform many important services; but at the same time, he trusted that Government would not delay submitting the report of the Commission to the House for consideration. If they did they might depend upon it they would have to propose a grant next year for Munster, which would by that time he in as had a condition as Connaught. He begged the attention of the House while he read a few sentences from a letter he had recently received from a gentleman, better able than any man he knew to come to a just conclusion as to the actual state of the south of Ireland. The hon. Member proceeded to read the letter in question, the substance of which was, that multitudes of large holders of land in Ireland were throwing up their farms; that thousands of acres were being surrendered—that a large extent of land must consequently be unproductive—that the owners had no money, no capital, and no credit wherewith to carry on their pursuits—that, to a great extent, the better class of farmers were leaving the country and emigrating to America—that many more were winding up and remaining at home, waiting the issue of events; and that by and by these latter might resume their former holdings, or take others at more moderate rents than heretofore. He (Mr. Monsell) assured the House that there was a vast emigration now going on from the south of Ireland, particularly from the port of Limerick, and that that emigration consisted not of the cottiers, or of persons without capital, but, on the contrary, that the capitalists were the persons who were going away, and that the persons for whom employment must be found were remaining. It was most important that some steps should be taken to remove the panic which was the cause of such a disastrous state of things. Was it not necessary, then, to avert the panic which was causing the evil? He thought that Her Majesty's Government ought to be prepared in a very few days to introduce some measure to accelerate the division of the electoral districts, and to divert the poor-rates to the purposes of emigration, otherwise the capitalists would continue to go away: those of them who remained would be left with incumbered estates, and a miserable class of unemployed paupers would have to be employed, not from the exhausted resources of the country, but from the funds of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
observed, that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) laboured under a mistake if he supposed that the evils of which he complained existed only in the county of Limerick, for they were general in Ireland. The capitalists were going away from every part of the country; and if the principle were to be adopted of leaving the ablebodied to be fed on charity, then the owners had better leave the country at once. The right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) seemed to be a sort of red republican; for he appeared desirous of carrying out in Ireland measures which had utterly failed in France. If the Government did not change their policy, they would have to feed a population of eight millions.
begged it to be distinctly understood that he had not said anything to lead the hon. Gentleman to suppose they would attempt to feed eight millions of the people. The Government were determined to adhere to the principle of the Bill, and had no intention of retracing their steps.
said, the reason the farmers of Ireland were emigrating and carrying away their money, was because they had no security for the investment of capital in that country. He wished to call the attention of the Government to this point—that as an accompaniment to any amendment of the Irish poor-law, a measure must be introduced to give security to the farmer for the improvement of the soil, which security he did not now possess. Industry would only exist where it had a right to that which industry created; and, in a country where the industrious man had no prospect of receiving a return for his labour, there could be no industry and no employment. A want of employment was the cause of all the evils in Ireland, and employment would be given if the necessary security were afforded to the industrious.
said, he wished to remark that much of the bad working of the poor-law was owing to the 4l. valuation clause. He thought that every man should be liable for the poor-rate for his own holding; but under the law as it now stood the Commissioners wished to get the name of the immediate lessor on their books wherever they possibly could succeed in doing so.
expressed a hope that the Committee about to be appointed would be supplied by the Government with all the necessary statistical facts that would throw light on the affairs of Ireland, for facts were much more important than mere opinions delivered in the House. He hoped that the returns, of which notice had been given for a future day, would be submitted, tending to show the movements which had taken place among the population of Ireland during the last few years. The effect produced by clearances throughout the country during several years past should be stated, otherwise the Committee would scarcely know the effect of the narrowing of the area. The Committee should know how many tenants were evicted from their holdings for the last few years; they should also be made acquainted with facts relative to the condition of the people, the amount of emigration, and the number of vagrants passing through the country; and as these several returns were of essential importance to enable a right judgment to be formed, he hoped the right hon. Secretary for Ireland would furnish them.
said, it was impossible to produce all the returns to which allusion had been made, but that every return he could give, calculated to throw light upon the subject, he should have great pleasure in producing.
Question put, and agreed to.
Troops In Ireland
MR. GRATTAN moved—
"That there be laid before this House, Returns of the number of Troops of the Line or other Forces employed in the Insurrection in Ireland, as mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne; together with the list and names of the killed and wounded, and the number and description of forces engaged on both sides:—And, of the amount of expenses and cost in sending Troops from Great Britain to Ireland, and in moving the several regiments and other armed forces in various parts of Ireland on the occasion of the said alleged Insurrection."
said that, from the manner in which the army in Ireland was disposed, the manner in which the officers had commanded, and the forbearance of the troops, no collision whatever had taken place between them and Her Majesty's subjects, and therefore he could give no return of killed and wounded. With reference to the expense of sending the troops to Ireland, he hoped the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Grattan) would not put the Government to the trouble of searching the Admiralty and Commissariat Departments for the various items, as the search would occupy considerable time, and, if successful, would not convey any information of interest to the public. He had no objection to give a return of the number of troops stationed in Ireland during the three months of the anticipated outbreak.
said, his object in moving for the returns was to show that the word "insurrection" in the Queen's Speech did not mean insurrection.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Arrests Under The Suspension Of The Habeas Corpus Act
"For a return of the number and names of persons arrested under the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, the length of imprisonment, and if let out on bail or otherwise."
said, there was no objection to grant this return. He could not give the offences charged against each individual, but the number and names of the persons arrested under the suspension of the Act would be laid on the table tomorrow.
Motion agreed to.
The Rajahship Of Sattara
MR. HUME moved—
"For copies of any Despatch or Correspondence, secret or otherwise, from the Court of Directors of the East India Company to the Governor General of India in Council, sanctioned by the Commissioners for the Affairs of India, and communicating the decision of the Court on the question of the disposal of the Sattara State, in consequence of the death of the late Rajah; together with all Correspondence, secret or otherwise, between the Governments of India, from the 14th day of October, 1847, and not already laid before Parliament; as also, Copies of all Minutes recorded by Members of Council in India, and Dissents, Protests, or Minutes recorded by any Member or Members of the Court of Directors on that subject."
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at half-past Twelve o'clock.