HC Deb 30 June 1831 vol 4 cc570-2
Mr. Stanley

said, that at that late hour he should not feel him self justified in bringing before the House a question of such importance as the Reform of the Representation in Ireland, if it was likely to lead to any discussion; but as there had been an understanding that the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills should be brought in during the present week, and as there were no alterations from the Bill of last Session, which were likely to impair the effectiveness of the measure, he would trespass on their attention, though not at any length. In the first place, he had to state that his Majesty's Ministers had abandoned the machinery by which they intended to have carried the registration of freeholders into effect, and to apply the machinery already in force in that country. The only alteration of any consequence was with respect to leaseholders. It was originally intended that the right of voting should be given to those who held leases for twenty-one years; but it was found on investigation that this would exclude many, particularly those who held Church and Corporation leases, and, therefore, they determined to extend the vote to the holders of leases for nineteen years. It was also found that there would be a large number of persons in Ireland who held valuable interests, but did not pay as much as 50l. a-year, or near that amount. Besides, though this amount of rent in England might be a fair criterion of the interest possessed, he believed it was not so with regard to Ireland. They therefore pro- posed to take three alternative propositions: A lease of nineteen years, if the rent and fine together, amounted to 50l.; and again, a leaseholder at 20l. a-year, having a beneficial interest for nineteen years, to be deemed sufficient. [Here Mr. O'Connell observed, that 20l. was too large a sum.] Still it was an approximation to the wish of the hon. and learned Gentleman, so far as it went, for it enlarged the franchise beyond the extent originally described in the Bill. With regard to the main provisions of the Bill, there was no alteration; he therefore felt himself justified in stating, that they had not deviated from the original principle of the Bill, or given any just cause of alarm to those who felt apprehensive of too great an enlargement of the constituency. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave "To bring in a Bill to amend the Representation in Ireland."

Mr. O'Connell

protested against the injustice done to Ireland, compared with England, as it appeared on the face of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, particularly as no measures were taken to remedy the injustice of having disfranchised the 40s. freeholders. In England they had 40s. freeholders and 10l. copyholders. In Ireland they had none of these. They might call it a franchise if they pleased, but it was one that placed Ireland in a worse condition than this country.

Mr. Shell

said, that the subtraction of voters in Ireland, was taken out of a small constituency, while in England it was taken out of a large one. The constituency of an Irish county, consisting of freeholders of 10l. profit was necessarily far smaller than in England, where the 40s. freeholders was to be preserved. Of that constituency, the freeholders in towns formed the most intelligent and independent part, but the Bill cut the boroughs out of the county, and thus subtracted the most considerable and best portion of the electors. Those remaining were, of course, exclusively agricultural. The Government rated the leaseholder's qualification too high, when it assumed 20l. profit above his rent. Surely the object ought to be to let in a counterbalancing constituency, and it seemed anomalous to make 10l. profit the qualification of the freeholder, and 20l. that of the leaseholder. He would not further discuss the measure at the present time.

Mr. Walker

quite concurred in what had been said by the hon. member for Louth. In the county of Wexford, which he had the honour to represent, a large proportion of the constituency was supplied from the town of Wexford and the borough of New Ross. When, therefore, this portion of the franchise was taken from the county, the consequence would be, the Representation of it would be placed in the hands of the aristocracy.

Bill brought in, and read a first time.