HC Deb 24 May 1809 vol 14 cc668-70
Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald

called the attention of the house to a subject which he considered of great importance, and requiring the application of a speedy and effectual remedy; he meant the mode hitherto practised in the raising, expenditure, and accounting for the monies voted by the Grand Juries in the several counties in Ireland; the latter particularly of which was become a mere form, and wholly inoperative. The evils arising from the multiplication of oaths were universally felt and acknowledged. In the case of treasurers for counties in Ireland the mode of accounting was merely upon oath, before a single magistrate, and was found to be wholly nugatory. By the bill which it was his intention to move to bring in, he proposed to correct this evil, by making them, instead thereof, to account regularly, in open court, before the Judge of assize; which, he conceived, would prove a check upon them; and also that they should give security for the trust reposed in them.—Another evil which he conceived to call for redress was the way public works were carried on. By the present system any work voted by a Grand Jury at one assizes was necessarily executed, and the accounts passed at the ensuing assizes; this was attended both with fraud and imperfections in the execution of such work. The remedy he proposed for this, was a delay of a certain period of time, intervening between the execution of such work and the passing the accounts; for the purpose of affording leisure both for examining into the work itself, and the accounts of the expenditure thereon. With regard to the levying the money necessary for the carrying on such works, he proposed that this should, in future, be fixed at stated periods, that so the persons called on might not be taken by surprise. He also promised to introduce into his bill a power in those interested to traverse either the work itself, or the accounting for it, by the means of civil bill, before the assistant barrister of the county, as a check before the passing the accounts.—As a further improvement, he proposed that in future all proceedings of Grand Juries, on all subjects relative to presentments, should become matters of record, by being entered on their books, for the inspection of future Grand Juries, thereby enabling them to be acquainted with the past, and to be judges of the future. Another alteration he proposed was, the taking the power of passing the accounts altogether out of the hands of the magistrates, and placing it in those of the assistant barrister; subject, however, to appeal to the Judges of assize. He further proposed that all persons undertaking any public work, should be compelled to enter into a recognizance for the due execution thereof. The present system upon that subject was radically bad; by it, any person undertaking any public work, when finished, and his accounts passed, had no further interest in its preservation; and thus, for the saving of a trifling expence, it probably went to ruin. To prevent this evil he proposed that Grand Juries should be obliged to contract with such persons to keep such works in repair for a certain period after the work was finished. It was not his intention to press the passing the bill he proposed into an act during the present session, but merely to have it printed, for the purpose of its being considered during the vacation, in order to its amelioration against the next year. There was another subject, which he considered as in some degree connected with this, and standing in need of regulation; he meant the present mode of assessing the Land Tax in Ireland; but as he knew that this had very much occupied the attention of a right hon. friend of his (sir J. Newport,) who, he believed, had it in contemplation to propose a new survey, for the purpose of remedying the evil, he did not know but it would be better left in his hands rather than incorporate it in the present bill. He concluded with moving for leave to bring in a bill to amend the Grand Jury laws in Ireland.

Mr. Foster

observed, that as it was not intended to press any measure during the present session, he should, without pledging himself to agree to any thing specific, not oppose the bringing in the bill.

Sir J. Newport

declared, that he had it in contemplation to propose some new regulations, relating to the mode of assessing the Land Tax in Ireland. By the present system, the tax was assessed by plough lands, some of which might be only of three or four hundred acres, while others contained as many as thirteen acres, so that it followed that some paid as much as two shillings an acre, where others did not pay more than as many pence. It was therefore certainly desirable to ascertain the number of acres that should be taxed, in order to an equality of burden; and he intended to propose some measure for this purpose in the course of the next session.

Col. Barry

expressed himself adverse from any measure of this kind, which he considered as an innovation upon those who had purchased lands, subjected only to the present rate, and as such entitled to call for compensation.

Mr. Dennis Browne

coincided in opinion with the right hon. gent. opposite him, as to the necessity of some regulation in the mode of levying the tax, which was at present grounded upon what was called the Down Survey; since which there were ten acres for one in cultivation, and which, by the present system, were exempted from the tax.—Leave was given to bring in the bill.