HC Deb 05 August 1834 vol 25 cc994-6

Mr. Littleton moved the Third Reading of the County Bridges' (Ireland) Bill.

Mr. Jones moved the third reading that day three months.

The House divided.—Ayes45; Noes7: Majority 38. Bill read a third time.

Mr. French moved, that the words, "a moiety of the expenses of such work should first be granted in aid of the Commissioners of Public Works," should be inserted in the fifth clause.

Mr. Littleton

objected to the words being inserted, on the ground that they would render the Bill inoperative.

Mr. French

was rather surprised at the change of the right hon. Gentleman's opinion. It was not his object to render the Bill inoperative; on the contrary, his intention was, and the effect of his Amendment, if adopted, would be, to render the Bill what, if this clause remained unaltered, it had little chance of becoming,—useful and effective. By the Bill as it now stood, the Lord-lieutenant was empowered to issue a commission to inquire into the expediency of building or rebuilding any bridge connecting two counties, and to direct that the expense should be levied off these and whatever other counties should be declared by them interested in the execution of the work, provided the Grand Jury of one of these counties should present a sum to defray the expense of that Commission, and request him to issue it. Now, did the right hon. Gentleman imagine that any Grand Jury would be so foolish as to hand over then power of taxation to the Lord-lieutenant—to leave their counties liable for any amount he or his Commissioners might think fit to appoint, no control being left to them, nor specification, expenditure, or execution; no community of interest, nor any pecuniary assistance afforded them? They never would consent to it. The object of the present Amendment was to soften down the opposition of the Grand Juries, to render it their interest to take the preliminary steps, by declaring that before this power should be exercised by the Lord-lieutenant, it should be necessary for the Commissioners of Public Works to signify their intention of granting in aid a moiety of the expenses of the work, as they were empowered to do by the let and 2nd William 4th. Compulsory presentments were always objectionable, particularly so in the present instance, where the person by whose order the money was to be levied had no pecuniary interest in watching over and controlling the expenditure. Hitherto an interest of that kind had always been deemed necessary, where such a power had been demanded—witness the cases where it existed. The police expenditure—half that was borne by Government. The roads under the direction of the Commissioners of Public Works, were originally constructed at the sole expense of Government; it was but fair the counties should be required to keep them in order, but in the case before them neither the whole nor a half was contributed. The House was aware, that, of late years, a considerable outcry had been raised in Ireland against the amount of money levied under the sanction of Grand Juries, the increase of which had been erroneously attributed to the jobbing of individuals, whereas, in reality, it was owing to the amount of presentments they could neither regulate nor control, and which were laid before them merely as a matter of form. In the return made by Mr. Griffith, he found the sum raised for compulsory presentments in the year 1830 amounted nearly to 500,000l., considerably more than half the entire expenditure of Ireland. In the county he had the honour to represent, the presentment over which the Grand Jury could exercise control was 7,344l., while upwards of 15,000l. was required for compulsory presentments. Referring to another return, he found that in Roscommon, establishments, such as gaols, infirmaries, &c., salaries of public officers, such as Clerk of the Crown, Peace, &c., for which thirty years ago 1,600l. was sufficient, now required by Act of Parliament upwards of 12,000l. He trusted these facts would show how necessary it was to keep a jealous eye on presentments of this description. He admitted the tight of that House to lay on taxes, the power of the people to tax themselves for local purposes, through certain bodies, such as vestries, Grand Juries, &c., but he had yet to learn that it was in accordance with the spirit of the British Constitution to vest the power of taxation in any one individual.

Amendment negatived, and the Bill was passed.