HC Deb 18 July 1832 vol 14 cc526-30
Mr. Stanley

moved the third reading of the Reform of Parliament (Ireland) Bill.

Bill read a third time.

Mr. Crampton

proposed two clauses, for the better regulating the mode of registration, which were agreed to, and added as riders to the Bill.

Mr. Mullins

moved the addition to the first clause of a proviso to the following effect:—That the lessee claiming to register shall not be disqualified by reason of any abatement made by the lessor, of the amount of rent payable by the said lessee for the lands or tenements out of which he shall so claim to register, provided the rent payable by said lessee for said lands or tenements, after such abatement, shall not be less than a solvent and responsible tenant could afford at the time to pay for the same."

Mr. Crampton

assured the hon. Member that the Bill as it stood would effect all the purposes of his Amendment.

Amendment withdrawn.

Mr. Mullins

then moved the insertion of a clause to the effect, "That joint occupiers of lands or tenements in counties, shall be entitled to vote in the election for counties, in case the clear yearly value of such lands or tenements shall be of such an amount as, when divided, shall give a beneficial interest of not less than 10l. for each and every occupier."

Mr. Stanley

opposed the clause as uncalled-for and unnecessary. It was also much too important to introduce at that stage of the measure.

Mr. Mullins

wished, that the laws which affected the 40s. freeholders should be done away with, as they had been disfranchised.

Mr. Crampton

suggested, that the best way for the hon. Member to accomplish his object was, to move to repeal the Act of 1823.

Mr. Ruthven

supported the Motion. He did not see why the restrictions laid on the 40s. freeholders should be extended by this Bill to other freeholders. His hon. friend had, he thought, no other alternative than to press his Motion.

Clause negatived.

Mr. Jephson

moved a clause for the division of the larger counties into districts for polling.

Mr. Stanley

opposed the clause, which was, in fact, a species of new bill. He was convinced, that the additional legal agency which would be rendered necessary by the operation of the clause, would create more expense than would be incurred by bringing the voters immediately to the ordinary place for polling. It was assuredly too late, on the third reading of the Irish Reform Bill, to discuss the propriety of a clause which was at variance with the provisions of the English and Scotch Reform Bills.

Mr. Power

supported the clause, which would, in his opinion, have the effect of reducing the election expenses at least by one-third.

Colonel Perceval

was inclined to think that it would increase the expense, for if such facilities were given, not only the voters, but their friends and families, would proceed to the polling places before the election began, and stay there until it was finished.

Clause withdrawn.

On the Motion of Mr. Stanley, several verbal amendments were agreed to.

Mr. Leader

wished to change one word in the Bill, the word "ten" to the word "five," or, in other words, to make a 5l. qualification in boroughs instead of a 10l. qualification. He had often heard Gentlemen express anxiety to know what was required to tranquillize Ireland. He had always stated in answer, that the two grand requisites were Parliamentary Reform and Church Reform. It behoved them, therefore, to make the Parliamentary Reform as complete as possible. The county qualification had been much improved by giving leasehold property its due weight. Under the present system, Ireland had 100 Members, and the sixty-four county Representatives were returned by a large constituent body, ten others were returned by cities having a popular constituency, and eight from open towns, which, with a member for the University, would make in all eighty-three Representatives returned to Parliament by the voice of the people. In truth, at the present moment, there were only seventeen boroughs in Ireland to which it was necessary that Reform should be extended, and of these there was little doubt that popular exertion would have emancipated at least seven. With respect to the remaining ten nomination boroughs, there was no doubt that the proprietors would have gladly surrendered their monopoly on receiving 15,000l. each, which was the standard of value fixed at the Union. He mentioned these circumstances to show how small was the boon which Ireland was to receive. She should not be put off by a miserable bit-by-bit Reform, if the people were to be satisfied, but the constituency of the towns should be so extended as to render the electoral body perfectly independent. If that result could not be obtained by the 10l. qualification, the qualification should continue as it was settled by statute, in the cases of Newry, Downpatrick, Dungannon, and other places. He would take Belfast out of the number of boroughs, because its wealth and commercial importance gave it a sufficient constituency. But what were the circumstances of the other twenty-four towns? It appeared, by the official returns on the Table of the House, that they possessed a population exceeding 200,000 inhabitants, that the number of houses exceeds 32,000, and that the number of rate-payers was more than 18,000; and yet the whole of the constituency of these twenty-four towns would not, under the Bill, exceed 7,500. That was a mere mockery of Reform, which would never content the country; and of what value would be Reform if it did not inspire confidence and fill every heart with exultation and gratitude. Was it possible that these towns could possess an independent constituency when it was so limited? In Athlone, the number of electors would be 220; in Coleraine, 188; in Bandon, 240; in Portarlington, 185; in New Ross, 246: in Cashel, 200: in Mallow, 200; in Ennis, 250; in Downpatrick, 220; and in Dungannon, 210; making for ten towns a total of 2,159 electors. These were indisputable facts, and, under such circumstances, was it unreasonable to call for a 5l. constituency, in order to extend the suffrage? He would enter into no comparison besween the two countries; what was attainable in England could not be accomplished in Ireland; the one was a wealthy nation; and if the qualification was large, the means of the people were proportioned to the amount. The qualification proposed, however, was too high for Ireland, and the day of election would not be a day of exultation and joy to the people, who were precluded from becoming co-partners in the advantages of the Reform which had been obtained for the other partners of the empire. He moved, that the word "ten" be left out, and the word "five" inserted instead thereof.

Mr. Hume

seconded the Amendment. An equally substantial Reform ought to be given to Ireland as well as England. The proposed amendment, looking to the circumstances of the two countries, would not do more than place Ireland on a level with England, and he, therefore, should support the Amendment.

Mr. Stanley

said, that his Majesty's Ministers had proceeded in this instance, with regard to Ireland, precisely on the same principles as they had acted upon with regard to England and Scotland, in their respective Reform Bills. An uniform constituency was established throughout the three kingdoms, which was one of the great objects of the Reform measure. If the hon. Member had shown that the number of 10l. householders in the towns of Ireland was smaller in proportion than in the towns of England, he would have established something of a case, though not a sufficient one to justify the House in departing from the uniform rule which had been applied to the whole empire. He had taken some pains to inquire, and he found that the number of 10l. houses in the towns in Ireland, was as large as in the English boroughs. The assertion of the hon. Member who brought the question forward, that the Bill made no addition to the borough constituency of Ireland, was really monstrous; for every one knew that, at the present moment, the Irish boroughs possessed no constituency whatever. It was true, that in some of the boroughs, the constituency, under the Bill, would not be very large, but it would bear the same proportion to the whole number of houses as it did in England, and Scotland. He would prove that to the satisfaction of the House. The boroughs in schedule C of the English Bill possessed 142,000 10l. houses out of 369,000, or about two in five. In the boroughs contained in schedule D, the number of 10l. houses was 16,000 out of 60,000, or one in four. In the smaller places of England, the number of 10l. houses was only 6,000 out of 29,700, or about one in four and a half; whilst, in the small boroughs in Ireland, the number of 10l. houses was 10,075 out of 32,500, or one in three. In this respect, therefore, Ireland possessed an advantage over England. In the larger places, however, the advantage which Ireland obtained was still more manifest. In Dublin, for instance, out of 19,000 houses, 16,000 would qualify their inhabitants to vote under this Bill. Could it then be said, that the Ministers had not done justice for Ireland? It was very easy for the hon. Member to talk of satisfying the people of Ireland. He would take upon himself to assert, that the main body of the people of Ireland would be satisfied with the measure proposed. They were bound to do justice, and to give fair play to Ireland; but when claims were made for Ireland which had not been conceded to England and Scotland, they would betray their duty if they were to yield to them. He opposed the Motion.

Mr. Hunt

said, that Ireland had been as fairly dealt with in this instance as England and Scotland.

Mr. Leader

stated, that he should not trouble the House by dividing.

Motion negatived.

Several other verbal amendments were then agreed to.

In answer to a question from Mr. Lefroy, with reference to the registration, so as to confer a right of voting for the University of Trinity College, Dublin,

Mr. Crampton

said, that under the statute, the Vice Chancellor possessed the power to appoint Commencements at any time he might think fit, for the purpose of conferring degrees so as to be in time to give a right to vote.

Mr. Jephson

said, that he much doubted the accuracy of this statement by the hon. Gentleman, the Solicitor General for Ireland, and, therefore, it was, that he thought that means should be taken in this measure to put the question beyond doubt.

Bill passed.