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Monastic And Conventual Institutions Bill

Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1876

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Notice being taken of the language contained in the Petition from Newark Street, Leicester, in favour of the Monastic and Conventual Institutions Bill:—

moved—

"That the Order that the Petition do lie upon the Table, be read, and discharged, on account of the unbecoming language used therein."
The hon. Gentleman said, it was true that considerable liberty was given with reference to the language of Petitions; but when an hon. Member presented a Petition containing charges of an awful nature he ought within a reasonable time—certainly within a month—to found some Motion on that Petition. Six weeks had now elapsed since the presentation of this Petition; but the hon. Member for North Warwickshire had not founded any Motion upon it. The Petition, among other things, stated that in many of the convents the inmates were put to death and that the nuns became the victims of horrors that far surpassed anything that entered into the minds of the public generally. Upon the ground, therefore, that the language of the Petition was unbecoming, he moved that the Order of the Day that the Petition from Newark lie upon the Table be read and discharged.

trusted the House would pause before accepting this Motion, because it involved a question in respect to the right of petitioning which was entirely novel. He had carefully read this Petition, and although he should have recommended the petitioners to withdraw many of the expressions in the Petition, yet the statements contained in it were strictly and historically true, and could be proved verbatim et literatim by evidence such as hon. Members were in the habit of acting upon.

thought it could not be denied that the expressions used in that Petition were very improper, but, on the other hand, they were bound in every possible way to protect the right of Petition; and as that particular Petition had, he believed, been received and printed by the Committee on Petitions, it would be a virtual censure on them to reject it without first hearing their explanation of the matter.

said, it had been before explained by the Chairman of the Committee on Petitions that that Petition, or one similar to it, had been printed by pure inadvertence, owing to the very great number of Petitions which came in on the same day.

confirmed this statement, and said that what had oc- curred in that case would cause the Committee to observe great caution in future.

observed, that all must feel that the right of petitioning was a very sacred one, and one with which they ought to be careful how they interfered. It, however, must be borne in mind that there were necessary Rules to maintain the proper position of the House, and one of them was that Petitions should be couched in temperate and respectful language. Ordinarily speaking, the House trusted to the judgment of the Committee of Petitions to reject any Petition containing language of a character which ought not to be laid on the Table. But they could understand how, under the circumstances just mentioned by two Members of that Committee, those particular Petitions had escaped notice and been inadvertently received. On the whole, he thought the House had better adopt the Motion for the discharge of the Petition.

Motion agreed, to.

Ordered, That the Order that the Petition do lie upon the Table be read, and discharged, on account of the unbecoming language used therein.—(Mr. Callan.)