HC Deb 29 January 1818 vol 37 cc111-3
Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald

rose to move for leave to bring in a bill, to suspend the operation of the Irish Grand Jury Presentment act, which had been passed in the last session. The reasons for his calling upon the House to take this step were, the impossibility at the present time to carry the provisions of that act into effect, from the great difficulty of finding proper persons to undertake the office of county surveyor. No time would be lost between now and the spring to endeavour to carry that desirable measure into effect; but it was highly necessary to look at the qualifications of the persons who offered themselves; and for that purpose, the government had been particularly careful in selecting such persons as judges, as could be most depended upon. He would now simply move, for leave to bring in a bill to suspend the operation of the act for regulating the Irish Grand Jury Presentments.

Mr. Abercromby

thought it an ill omen, that the right hon. gentleman had not stated any intention to propose a substitute for the measure which he meant to suspend. This was to be lamented the more, as the system of Irish Grand Jury Presentments was confessedly such as called loudly for some legislative remedy. But after the reports from two central committees, every man must be impressed with the necessity for such a measure. He could not doubt the sincerity of the right hon. mover, who was the original author of the act which he now proposed to suspend, nor the disposition of the Irish government to carry it into execution; but it seemed strange, that where there were places to dispose of in Ireland, there should not be found a sufficient number of candidates. Yet the difficulty of finding 32 surveyors, was one of the main causes alleged for this motion; for the other cause, namely, the limitation of the grant of presentments to the summer assizes, might be easily removed, without suspending the present act.

Mr. Fitzgerald

assured the learned gentleman, that he felt extremely anxious for the success of this measure, but finding so many difficulties in the way of its execution, and the government consequently embarrassed, he thought himself bound in candour to propose its suspension; which, however, it was to be observed, was only to continue during the present session, within which period he hoped that a more practicable measure would be devised. The learned gentleman might be assured, that he was not disposed to withdraw from the principle of the measure to which his motion referred, but, to render that principle effective, he must look for the support of other gentlemen, who felt an interest in the concerns of Ireland.

Mr. Peel

vindicated the conduct of the Irish government, who were decidedly anxious for the principle of this measure; but to render that measure effective, 32 fully competent surveyors were necessary. In order, then, to ascertain the competency of the candidates for this office, three respectable commissioners were appointed, and the result of their examination was most discouraging, therefore it was found necessary to suspend the measure, and he hoped that the disposition of government could hardly be questioned, when it was recollected, that in abandoning the measure, it abandoned the pa- § tronage of appointing thirty-two officers, some with 300l. and many with 600l. a year each.

Sir H. Parnell

agreed in the propriety of the proposed suspension, not so much for the reasons stated by the right hon. mover, as from other considerations; but he hoped that another and more efficient measure would be brought forward by some one connected with the government; for if it came from any other quarter, its success would be problematical. He trusted that such a measure would be speedily proposed, for if delayed until a late period of the session, he foresaw that it would fail. As to the difficulty of providing competent surveyors, he believed that several could be easily found in this country. This he was led to conclude from the fact, that the surveyor who superintended the operative part of the great road to Holyhead, had for two years only 150l. a year. Surely, then, this person, and many such could be found in England, would not be unwilling to go to Ireland upon salaries of from 3 to 600l. a year. But the Grand Jury system in Ireland was notoriously so productive of corruption, fraud, and perjury, that the legislature could not, without a gross desertion of duty, allow such a system to go on. Under this system, no less than half a million was annually levied in Ireland; and the error of parliament heretofore had been, that it thought too much of those who imposed the tax, and too little of those who paid it. This system was, in fact, the perpetual cause of discontent in Ireland, for it led to the greatest exaction and injustice, especially towards the peasantry, and therefore he trusted the session would not close without some effectual measure to rescue Ireland from such a grievous calamity.

Leave was given to bring in the bill.