HC Deb 31 August 1831 vol 6 cc944-8

On the proposition, that 50,000l. should be granted to his Majesty to defray the expenses of Criminal Prosecutions in Ireland,

Mr. George Dawson

expressed an opinion, that the 2,400l. a-year paid to Major Woodward and Major Farmer, as visitors of the jails of Ireland, might now be readily dispensed with. The objects for which those gentlemen were appointed had long since been accomplished, and the propriety of abolishing their situations had engaged his attention while he was in office. He feared, however, that an Act of Parliament would be found necessary for this purpose.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, that he had urged the abolition of those offices, and divided the House on the subject. The responsibility of keeping them up rested, therefore, with the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since he had opposed the continuance of this office, it had been made efficient and less expensive. Since he came into office he had directed his attention to the nature of the appointments, and found that they could not well be dispensed with, if it were desired to keep the prison discipline in the good state in which it now was; but he intended to reduce the salaries to the amount allotted at the time of the creation of the offices.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the present vote was for a very large sum; but, large as it was, he thought that Government would not be justified in asking for less. The Government asked for this sum to enable it to carry into effect its constitutional object of governing Ireland, by means, not of brute force, but of the Trial by Jury. He would take that opportunity to express his thanks to Government for having appealed to the law, and not to Insurrection Acts, for the government of Ireland. There was, however, one grievance of which he thought that the people of Ireland had a right to complain, and that was, that promotion at the Bar depended not upon the personal merits of the barrister, but upon his party politics. He thought that such a system of party patronage ought to have ended with the late Government. On his own circuit, he contended, that the Attorney General for Ireland had abused his patronage, by passing over an experienced counsel who was at its head, and by putting Crown prosecutions into the hands of men much his juniors, for no other reason than this, that they were furious party politicians.

Mr. Stanley

was also of opinion, that in all legal appointments the Government ought not to be guided by party feelings, but by the merits of the individuals on whom the appointments were conferred. He had heard something of the appointments to which the hon. and learned Member had referred, and had, in consequence, desired that inquiry might be made into them. He was afraid that the amount for which he then asked a vote would not be sufficient for the service of the year. He had found, upon entering on his present office, that there was an arrear of 27,000l. due under this head from the public. He had hoped that he should have been able to get rid of a large part of that arrear in the present year; but the peculiar circumstances of Ireland at this juncture, and the special commissions in Galway and Clare, convinced him of the fallacy of that expectation.

Mr. North

defended the appointments which had been made on the circuit of Mr. O'Connell; he knew the individuals personally, and could declare, of one particularly, that he was a most moderate man in politics, and both were most estimable and honourable gentlemen, free from any charge of party violence. He was afraid that the hon. and learned individual merely attacked those who held these appointments, because they were not of his own party in politics.

Mr. O'Connell

disclaimed any such imputation. He had no desire whatever to tarnish the reputation of any gentleman; he had only asserted, and would again assert, that the Attorney General was a party man; and that his appointments were tinged with his political feelings. Every such appointment was connected with party; even the Chief Baron had voted at a contested election against the Government.

Mr. Crampton

denied, that any legal appointments had been made by the Attorney General for Ireland on political grounds alone.

Mr. Lefroy

said, the Chief Baron did not deserve the imputation that was insinuated against him by the hon. and learned member for Kerry. He had only done what various Judges, both in England and Ireland had done several times, and had no idea of partizanship. He had voted for the candidates alluded to, solely out of private friendship.

Mr. Henry Grattan

said, no places were bestowed in Ireland, but on the ground of political partizanship. It was a farce to tell the House it was not so.

Mr. Leader

supported the grant with great satisfaction, because it was a charge for enforcing the law in a regular and constitutional manner. That was what had long been wanted in Ireland. He would take the present opportunity to remark, that, the disturbances in the south of Ireland had been put down by the police and the military, without any assistance from the Yeomanry, which was a proof that no partizan force was required, and he hoped the lesson would not be lost.

Mr. Maurice O'Connell

wished to correct his hon. friend. The peace in Clare had been restored by the regular troops alone, without any aid from the police. Whenever the latter attempted to interfere, the excitement and disturbance was increased.

Mr. Hunt

said, all the legal gentlemen connected with Ireland seemed delighted with the fact, that the sum of 50,000l. was to be expended for law proceedings in that country. He thought the sum a great deal too much, and felt disposed to move that it should be reduced to 30,000l. As the hon. and learned member for Kilkenny had told them, that he supported this grant, because it was a constitutional application of the law for preserving the peace of the country, perhaps he would also say, whether the expenses of the prosecution against the hon. and learned member for Kerry was included in it, for as he (Mr. Hunt) considered that prosecution unconstitutional, he should not feel disposed to sanction any grant for it.

Mr. Hume

said, these votes for legal expenses had increased very much of late, owing to the expenses of maintaining witnesses being thrown upon the public, instead of the counties where the prosecutions took place. The Committee which sat upon this subject had recommended, that the legal expenses only, should be paid by the public. He, therefore, wished to know if their recommendation had been attended to in the amount of the present vote, as it would make a difference of 15,000l.?

Mr. Spring Rice

assured his hon. friend, that the suggestion of the Committee had been attended to. One cause of the large amount of the present grant was, that it included arrears of former expenses.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that he approved of this vote, because it went to put down a sort of agrarian disturbances which had heretofore caused an enormous expense, by special commissions, police constables, yeomanry corps, &c. They had been guilty of many acts of great personal severity. By the present practice, there was substituted for all these, the regular and ordinary tribunals of the country. It was to the expenditure incurred from this change that his observations, and those of other hon. Members applied. They considered it a more effectual, cheap, and constitutional measure than any that had before been attempted to restore tranquillity. If it was any satisfaction to the hon. member for Preston to know, he could inform the hon. Member, that the expenses of the prosecution against himself (Mr. O'Connell) were included in this vote.

Mr. Hume

said, he was happy to hear that the expenses of witnesses was not to be defrayed by the public, and he also thought, the public ought not to be called upon to pay the expenses of prosecutions by Government of misdemeanors.

Mr. O'Connell

said, this sort of prosecutions were generally attacks on the press. If the expenses were paid by the public, the items would come before that House, and be more under the control of Parliament than if such expenses were paid by the counties.

Mr. Hume

wished to be informed, whether the whole of the counsel for the Crown were engaged in every Crown prosecution, and if they were paid whether they were absent or not?

Mr. Crampton

said, there were generally four counsel for the Crown employed in each case, and they were not paid unless they were in the assize town where the case was to be tried.

Vote agreed to.