HC Deb 20 August 1831 vol 6 cc333-7

Mr. Stanley moved the third reading of the Irish Lord Lieutenants' Bill.

Mr. Hume

thought, that the third reading was not to take place to-day, and had so stated to an hon. Member who had intended to oppose the Bill.

Sir John Newport

was anxious that the discussion on this Bill should take place at an early hour on whatever day should be appointed for it, as he wished to make some observations on it, and his state of health did not permit him to attend at a very late hour. It was a measure of primary importance.

Mr. Lambert

agreed that it was a measure of great importance, and therefore thought, that the sooner it was passed the better. They ought to proceed with the Bill without delay.

Lord Althorp

observed, that it was highly desirable that the Bill should pass without delay. Ample notice had been given that the third reading was to be moved this day.

Mr. Hume

observed, that if due notice had been given, he had no more to say.

The question put, that the Bill be now read a third time.

Sir John Newport

observed, that the object of the Bill was to create responsible officers in Ireland, of a description the best fitted for corresponding with the Government. At present there were in some counties of Ireland, three four or five governors, who gave different opinions as to the persons most proper to be placed in the Commission of the Peace, and recommended different appointments. The Lord Chancellor was, in some measure, responsible for the persons appointed to the magistracy; but the Lord Chancellor might or might not be personally connected with Ireland, and might be obliged to trust to the representations of others. In a communication with the late Lord Lieutenant, on the subject of the Irish Magistracy, the very first recommendation which he had given him was, to have Lord-lieutenants of counties appointed instead of Governors. This advice he had given, although not at all connected with the Administration. It was of the utmost importance, that some high and responsible individuals should be appointed to give proper information and advice to the Crown, instead of continuing the present system, under which different governors gave totally different accounts as to the state of their counties—one representing a county to be in a state of tranquillity, and another representing it as being at the same time in a state of disturbance. He cordially supported the Bill.

Mr. O'Connell

did not mean to trespass long on the attention of the House, in moving, that this Bill be read a third time this day six months. He thought the Bill would do harm instead of good, and protested against it. That alteration and amendment were required in the present system in Ireland was certain. It was certain that the system was bad, and worked badly. Frequent complaints were made by the people against the Magistracy; and it was clear that the Magistrates did not enjoy the confidence of the people. Great dissatisfaction with the Magistrates prevailed all over Ireland, but particularly in the northern counties. How far the complaints of the people were well founded he did not take upon himself to say; but the complaints, if not universal, were very numerous; and if there were no grounds for them, he could not conceive how they should have prevailed to such an extent. Another grievance was, that the communications with the Castle were carried on by interested adventurers. Admitting the badness of the present system, he felt himself bound to oppose this Bill, which, instead of being a remedy, would only aggravate the evil, and have the effect of neutralising the advantages of the Irish Reform Bill, if, with the amendments made in it, any advantages should result from it. The object was, to get good Magistrates, and he did not see how that object could be attained by giving the power of recommending to all the appointments in a county to a single individual, who would always have a party in the county. There was, for example, a resident nobleman of high character in the county of Fermanagh, who, in all probability, would be considered the most proper person to be intrusted with this responsible situation, and yet it would be a terrific prospect, in the eyes of the Catholics, if that nobleman, however excellent in many respects, should be appointed Lord-lieutenant of the county. Some similar circumstances existed in every county. A similar repugnance would be felt by the Catholics all over Ireland, and he did not see how this objection could be got over. None would be recommended for the Magistracy but partisans, while the present system afforded some compensation for its badness, by the scramble going on between the different parties for these appointments. There was nothing to prevent the Castle from receiving communications, from whatever quarter they came, and there was in the present system, some security for the propriety of the appointments, in the different representations made by the different Governors; but under this Bill, the Lord-lieutenant would have the whole power, and get whom he pleased appointed. There would be a little despotism established in each county, and the Lord-lieutenant would be the star by which all those would steer who aspired to Government patronage and favour. He had received information that the Lord-lieutenant system was far from working well in England, and that Tory Lord-lieutenants had been multiplied in a most undue degree, under the late Tory Administrations. There was at present in Ireland a rough kind of responsibility in the Lord Chancellor, and public opinion bore upon him in some degree; but no public opinion would bear on a Lord-lieutenant, who would always get his own partisans appointed, and partisanship was the crying evil of Ireland. Suppose that a complaint were sent to the Castle against a recommendation made by the Lord-lieutenant, that functionary would immediately write a letter, setting forth that the complaint was utterly groundless, and the production of that letter would be held a sufficient answer to any charge that might be made in this House. The great cure for the evil was, to identify the Government with the feelings and the interests of the people. It had been said, that the Ministers had been induced to propose this measure on account of the patronage it would afford them, and, no doubt, these thirty-two appointments would afford them some patronage; but he believed the Ministers to be perfectly clear of blame in this respect. They certainly were not liable to the charge of being over anxious to get possession of patronage, in order to bestow appointments on their own friends. That was not a kind of ambition with which they deserved to be taunted, for, with one or two exceptions, they appeared to prefer their opponents to their supporters, and gave the most valuable appointments to their bitterest enemies. There was a valuable Irish Bishopric—that of Derry—at present vacant, and he certainly was not particularly anxious that it should be filled up; but if it was to be filled up, why was not the Bishop of Killaloe, a most excellent Prelate, who was held in the highest estimation by his own order, and by the country in general, appointed to the See of Derry? Had the Ministers not courage enough to promote their own friends, merely lest they should be taunted with self-interestedness? It was not doing justice to themselves, nor was it fair to their friends, thus to lose the advantages which were thrown in their way. He would conclude by moving, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months.

Colonel Conolly

supported the Bill. The Government experienced very great embarrassment at present from the conflicting statements made by the different Governors. He had no wish spargere in vulgum voces ambiguas, about the present Magistrates, but he was satisfied that this measure would be preferable to the existing system.

Mr. Jephson

said, the proposed system would exclude political partizans, chief constables, and other suspicious authorities, from communicating directly with the Government. It would be a great improvement upon the old customs in that respect, and therefore it should have his support.

Mr. Blackney

conceived, that any system would be better than the present partial one which prevailed in Ireland, and he would support the Bill.

Sir Robert Ferguson

supported the Bill, because he knew, that the general opinion in Ireland was in its favour.

Sir Robert Peel

also thought, that the measure would be advantageous to Ireland. It was of considerable importance to have one great responsible officer for every county, instead of trusting to several governors, and to a stipendiary police. The measure would likewise have a tendency to encourage residence on the part of great proprietors. The mere production of a letter from a Lord-lieutenant would not, in these times of searching investigation, be considered as sufficient to meet a charge made in this House. He had some doubts, but on the whole he approved of the measure.

Lord Althorp

put it to the hon. and learned Member, whether he would proceed to a division on a measure which was supported by so great a majority of the Members on both sides of the House?

Lord Killeen

thought it very desirable to assimilate the law in the two countries, and supported the Bill.

Mr. Lambert

considered the Bill a most beneficial measure.

Amendment negatived without a division, and Bill read a third time and passed.