HC Deb 17 January 1832 vol 9 cc557-60
Mr. George Dawson,

in moving for a return of the number of warrants for the Commission of the Peace which had been issued in Ireland since the 1st of January, 1831, up to the latest period that the said return could be made out, and for a return of the fees payable upon the same, said, that though he did not see the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland in his place, he would take the liberty of asking an hon. and learned Gentleman connected with the Government of that country (the Solicitor General) one or two questions on the subject. A general order, it seemed, had been issued for making out new Commissions of the Peace for every Magistrate in Ireland. He, therefore, wished to know, first, upon what authority that order had been issued; and secondly, what was the intention of his Majesty's Government with respect to the fees payable to the Lord Chancellor's Secretary upon the renewal of those Commissions? He saw that, by an Act of George 2nd., the Secretary was entitled to a fee of 2l. 6s. upon each warrant for a new Commission, but he did not see why he should receive that fee for 1,500 or 1,600 Commissions, where there was a general remodelling of them. If that were the case, the Lord Chancellor's Secretary would put 3,000l. or 4,000l. in his pocket by this lucky windfall. He was sure that this was not intended by the law; or, if such was the effect of the existing law, it ought to be remedied by a short Act. If it became necessary to renew these Commissions, in consequence of the Act appointing Lord-lieutenants of counties in Ireland, this charge ought not to fall upon individuals. The exaction of this fee had occasioned a great outery in that country, and he wished to ascertain what measures the Government were disposed to take to remove the evil complained of.

Mr. Crampton

said, that if he had been aware of the right hon. Gentleman's intention, he should have taken care to provide himself with full information on the subject. He could answer one of the right hon. Gentleman's questions; namely, upon what authority of law the order was issued—the authority was that of the Crown, growing out of the necessity of the case, and the Common-Law of the country. By the demise of the King, all commissions were entirely at an end at the expiration of six months after such an event, and it was only under the sanction of an Act of Parliament that Magistrates were continued in office. It had therefore, now become necessary to issue new Commissions. The right hon. Gentleman said, he believed correctly, that there was a cry in Ireland against the Government on account of the fees charged upon the new Commissions. He could only state, that the fees, whatever their amount, were payable by law, and not according to the pleasure of the Lord Chancellor, or of any other officer in Ireland. They were payable under a law, which was made the law of the land, not by the present Administration, but by those who preceded them; and these fees had in fact been reduced from about 10l. to less than 3l.—so that there never was a more unjust or unfounded cry against a Government than this one. As to what might be the intention of his Majesty's Government relating to a short Bill, he was unable to answer the right hon. Gentleman's question on that point.

Mr. Spring Rice

said, his hon. and learned friend had accurately described the necessity that had arisen for the issue of the new Commissions. As to the amountof fees charged upon them, he begged to inform the House, that a correspondence had taken place between the Treasury and the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland, which had led to those fees being very much reduced in amount. Their legality having been once admitted, the parties claiming them had a right to compensation.

Mr. Hume

complained of the partial and oppressive, operation of the regulations made by the late Government with respect to fees. The intention of the Bill to which allusion had been made, the intention of his motion, and the understanding of the House were, that no fee ought to be charged beyond what would pay for the parchment and the expense of transcription; but the late Government had, notwithstanding, sanctioned the exaction of heavy fees. If one person more than another was to blame for that, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dawson), who had been a member of that Government, was the person. As a proof of what he had asserted, he must refer to a statement made during the last session, by which it appeared that the Yeomanry of the Guard were compelled to pay 3l. 15s. for the transcript of a Commission of the size of a common sheet of paper. However, that did not warrant the present charge; and he hoped that the Ministers would not follow a particular course because it had been adopted by their predecessors. The gentlemen who were compelled to take out these Commissions ought to resist the payment of such fees: the Act of Parliament would give them ample protection. They should meet together, and combine and resist the payment, and let the question be decided in a Court of Law.

Mr. Leader

was astonished at the at- tempt to charge the present Government with having encouraged the exaction of these fees, when their endeavours had really been directed to allay the disgust which had been caused by their previous exaction. That this was the real state of the question, was fully made out by a resolution published by the Magistrates of the county of Cork which declared them to be an unreasonable imposition.

Mr. George Dawson

said, that he was told by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that it was necessary these fees should be paid, as they were sanctioned by Act of Parliament, but he thought they were abolished by the Act alluded to. All he asked was, that the Magistrates in Ireland should be placed on the same footing with the English Magistrates. He was informed that the latter paid a fee only of 5s. He would take an opportunity of bringing the question regularly forward.

Mr. Mackinnon

said, that he had qualified himself as a Magistrate in the county in which he resided in the country, and also at Westminster. He had paid no more than 5s. in the one place, and 7s. 6d. in the other.

Mr. O'Connor

said, the hon. Member who had just sat down, stated that he was a Magistrate for two counties in this country, and that for the renewal of his commissions he had to pay but 5s. each. Now, I take leave to state, on the other hand, that I am a Magistrate for two counties in Ireland, and that for the renewal of my two commissions I am required to pay between 5l. and 6l., though I paid originally 17l. for them, in the reign of George 4th.

Mr. Goulburn

said, the hon. member for Middlesex had forgotten the words of his own Act of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman said, the meaning of the Act was, only to allow the expense of writing and transcribing the document, but in fact, the Act really stated, that other charges incident to the preparation, examination, and signature of the commissions were to be charged. He must further assert, that the late Administration did not deserve the reproaches which the hon. Member had directed against it. If the hon. Member thought proper to bring forward any charges in a regular manner, he (Mr. Goulburn) should be fully prepared to meet them.

Returns ordered.

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