HC Deb 24 May 1805 vol 5 cc112-6
Mr. Vansittart

rose, in pursuance of the notice he had given, to move for leave to bring in a bill to appoint commissioners to enquire and examine into any irregularities or abuses that may have taken place in con- ducting and managing the paving, the cleansing, and lighting the streets of Dublin, and also to provide for the suspension of the powers and authorities of the present board for cleansing, lighting, &c. the said streets, the same in other persons during such suspension, and for better conducting and managing the business of the said board. He said, he felt the disadvantages under which a person must labour who was not locally acquainted with the place to which he wished to apply regulations: but he had been informed that the grievance which he proposed to remedy was of so pressing a nature, that a delay in bringing this subject before parliament would be attended with great inconvenience; and he had the good fortune to be surrounded by gentlemen who would give every possible information, and correct him if he was wrong. It was necessary for him to state, that the present board in Ireland originated in an act of parliament proposed by a noble lord (De Blaquiere) in 1784, by which a former commission was deprived of its powers, and great powers were vested in the new board. This act appeared to him to have been drawn with great attention; it appointed six directors and six commissioners; the former were to have no salary, and the latter to be paid only in proportion to their attendance. It had, however, turned out that this board, either through mismanagement or from unfortunate circumstances, had got very considerably into debt, and the situation of the streets of Dublin was now absolutely disgraceful. It was not now necessary for him to examine who was in fault, because the existence of the evil was sufficient to justify him in proposing the enquiry. When the present board was instituted, their predecessors bequeathed them a debt of 45,000l.; that debt was now 84,000l. It was there evident that to go on in the same system, without increasing the revenue or applying some remedy, would only increase an evil already of such magnitude. With regard to any mismanagement which might have taken place, he had not sufficient information to enable him to speak positively but he had sufficient to be satisfied that an enquiry was necessary. It was also his intention to propose that a power should be given to the lord lieutenant (in case the year commissioners of enquiry now to be appointed should so advise him) to suspend he present board, and to appoint a new one for the conduct of this business. but the house must be aware, that whether the present board was continued, or a new board appointed, the evil must increase, unless some funds were provided; he should therefore propose to the house to give a power to the treasury of Ireland to advance a sum of money for the present exigency. But as he was anxious not to act with any precipitation upon this subject, he should propose, after the bill was brought in, to fill up the blanks in a committee, with a view to its being recommitted, and, in the mean time, it should be sent to Ireland for the consideration of the Corporation of Dublin. This mode of proceeding he thought most candid and proper. He concluded with moving for leave to bring in the. bill.

Lord De Blaquiere ,

as a member of the Paving Board, rejoiced that the time for enquiry had arrived. He agreed that the shameful state of the streets of Dublin required something to be done immediately, but he denied that the Paving Board had been guilty of any misconduct; their crime was their poverty; the expenditure of the corporation greatly exceeded their income; many of the most essential articles in their work had trebly increased in their price, while the taxes remained the same, and without means it was impossible for them to do their duty to the public in the manner that was expected.—He approved of the commissioners, but thought they should be appointed in the house of commons, and not by any one out of it, and that their enquiries should extend to the investigation of the grounds upon which the unfavourable report made three years since of the Paving Board by the commissioners of imprest accounts was founded.—The noble lord stated also some details proving the inadequacy of the funds of the board to the fulfilment of their contracts. He said, the principal part of the debt had been contracted by the former corporation; the debt incurred by the present board arose from the great increase in the price of every article; oil, for instance, was more than double the price it was, when the board was first instituted, and the sum they paid for cleaning the city had increased from 1600l. to 5000l. a year, and for this they were only allowed 2000l a year. He approved very much of the enquiry, because, if the present board had acted wrong, it ought to be destroyed, but he hoped new commissioners of enquiry would be appointed by parliament— He complained of the report made by the commissioners of imprest accounts, which he said contained unfounded charges against the present board. And he added, that he had been at the board from its first institution; that he had framed the act, and for 15 or 16 years he had given it his constant and most sedulous attention; and that having left Ireland soon after the union, it was his intention to have resigned his situation, but that he thought it neither. honourable or manly to do so when he found that a cry was raising against the corporation.

Mr. Dennis Brown

said, it was very extraordinary that the report of the commissioners of imprests had been laid upon the table of parliament 6 years, and no notice had been taken of it. Much had been said to a friend of his in praise of the administration of lord Hardwicke; but as his friend was walking with him through the streets of Dublin one night, he, with some surprise, exclaimed, that there was nothing but darkness, danger, and desolation.

Mr. Alexander

said there was something irregular in the conversation, as they all agreed in the principle of the propriety of appointing commissioners.

Sir John Newport

defended the conduct of the present commissioners. They had pointed out the means of remedying several abuses, and no insinuations ought to be thrown out against them till the house saw the report of the new committee.

Mr. Foster

approved the principle of the bill, and vindicated the conduct of the commissioners for auditing public accounts, who had made three reports unfavourable to the Paving Board. The right hon. gent. said that those commissioners were bound by the most solemn oath to investigate abuses, and must of course discharge their duty. He could also speak from personal knowledge of the gentleman who was at the head of that commission, and confidently declare that no man was more justly distinguished for character, integrity, and the rectitude of his conduct.

Lord De Blaquiere

in reply, said he did not see the necessity of the observation made by the right hon. gent; he had never questioned the character or honour of any of the gentlemen who composed the Board of Accounts, he had respect individually for every gentleman in it; for some, the sincerest friendship. What he said was, that the report made by the commissioners of accounts was not as he thought warranted by the evidence which lay on the table, and as for the oath, the directors and commissioners for paving were equally bound upon oath for the discharge of their trust.

Mr. William Ponsonby

said, that a great. part of Dublin was covered with darkness, and was deserted in consequence of the union; and it would be difficult to raise a fund for bettering the police without contributing more to the evil that already exists.

Mr. Vansittart

said, he was happy to find that his motion met with the approbation of so many gentlemen from Ireland. With respect to the wish expressed by some gentleman, that the commissioners should be appointed by parliament, he did not at present see any objection to it, but he did not wish to pledge himself upon the subject; he would, however, consider it, and state his final opinion when the bill came into a committee.—Leave was then given to bring in the bill. The right hon. gent. then brought up the bill; which was read a first time, and ordered to be read a second time on Monday. He then gave notice, that he should on Monday move the house into a committee to consider of the propriety of empowering the lord lieutenant to direct the lords commissioners of the treasury to advance a certain sum for the purposes of the said act. —Adjourned.

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