HC Deb 12 August 1835 vol 30 cc396-400
Lord John Russell

moved the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Municipal Corporation (Ireland) Bill.

Mr. Shaw

said, that as he did not mean, for the reasons he had stated the other night, to take any part in the discussion of the measure itself, but would wish, on the mere reading of the Order of the Day, by way of preliminary objection, to enter his earnest protest against, the forcing of such a Bill through the House at the present period of the Session; and without the necessary documents for discussion being yet printed. He protested first, because the noble Lord had, soon after the formation of the present ministry, given the House reason to suppose that the present measure would not be brought forward this Session; secondly, because even if the House were in possession of the necessary materials for the discussion, it would be impossible in the absence of almost all the leading Members, who usually sat at that side of the House, that the measure could be fairly discussed—but his strongest ground of protest was, that the Corporation of Dublin, comprising, in point of numbers and interests, (by the statement of the Attorney-General for Ireland) about one-third of the whole Corporations of Ireland had not yet had an opportunity of even seeing a copy of the Report, under which the Bill proposed to deprive them of their charters, privileges and property, which they as a body had enjoyed for about six centuries and a half; during which time they had received the praises and thanks of almost every successive monarch for their inviolable attachment and unwearied fidelity to the British Crown and Government; and were they now receiving British justice in return in being condemned upon what he might call an indictment which they had not heard? If even a statement in the Report were incorrect, they were not afforded the opportunity of a counter statement; and that such was likely to be the case might be judged from what he (Mr. Shaw) had already seen in the part of the papers that were printed, where he (Mr. Shaw) in a cursory reading, had discovered some incorrect statements respecting matters which he was personally acquainted with. Was that, then, he would ask, such a sound mode of legislation as the noble Lord or his Majesty's ministers expected the country would approve? No. The noble Lord might be constrained against his own judgment to force on the measure, but the noble Lord well knew it could not receive due consideration or deliberate discussion. Could such a measure, involving interests and consequences so important, be possibly discussed in the other House of Parliament, after these two great measures to which the noble Lord had alluded were disposed of? The noble Lord well knew it could not—though having the Bill thrown out there, might serve as a sop to the clamorous and to increase the clamour. While he said this, he wished to guard himself against being considered as the defender of corporate abuses or as opposed to all Corporate Reform. The reverse was the fact. He would not defend such abuse as that stated by his right hem. Friend the other night, respecting Cashel—but if it existed, he apprehended it was a case where the ordinary tribunals would afford redress, He denied that there was even an allegation of corrupt misapplication of the funds of the Corporation of Dublin to any personal object. There might possibly be just such an application as hon. Members opposite liked, but that was not the question. As to what might be termed political exclusiveness, he admitted that existed in the Dublin Corporation, and he had his own opinion on the subject, but would not now enter upon it. This much, however, he would say, that even supposing one party in Ireland had a large share of corporate influence, that was no reason for throwing the whole to the opposite party, and if individuals of high rank and station in the country had enjoyed too large a share of municipal authority, that could be no ground for throwing it all into the hands of one individual, as the Irish Reform Bill had done away many nomination boroughs, and vested all in one great borough monger, the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. He would take no further part in the discussion of the Bill, but leave to the Government the whole responsibility of passing it through that House, in the form, at the time, and tinder the circumstances, that they had introduced it.

Mr. Charles Barclay

declared himself hostile to the provisions of this Bill, and must enter his protest against it. The measure would throw the whole of the Corporations of Ireland into the hands of the Catholics; what they would do might be conjectured by the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, who set up his own authority as superior to that of the House. He impugned the decision of a sworn Election-Committee.

Mr. O'Connell

rose to order. Would the House submit to hear a justification of the Carlow election committee on a Motion relating to the reform intended to be made in the constitution of the Corporation of Dublin, and of other Irish Corporations? He thought that the House ought not to submit to it; but if the House should be of a different opinion, he was very ready to enter into the discussion.

Mr. Charles Barclay

was not going to enter into any such discussion. The object of the present Bill was to hand over the corporations of Ireland to the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, in whom he, along with other respectable members of society, could not place any confidence. The hon. and learned Member for Dublin had obtained the information respecting the decision of the Carlow Committee on which he founded his censure, from a near relation of his own, who was a member of it.

Mr. O'Connell

did not know whether he ought to defend himself against the horrible charge that the hon. Member had brought against him. That charge was, that the Corporations of Ireland ought not to be reformed, because the hon. Member and his friends had no confidence in him. The hon. Member had eulogized himself, and he wished the hon. Member joy of his eulogy. He had nothing to say against it, except that he did not believe it, as it was not in accordance with facts. He denied the assertion that he had received any information respecting the decision of the Carlow Committee from a near connexion of his own, who happened to be upon it. He had, however, reason to believe that his relation was not altogether satisfied with the decision of the Committee, which raised the elective franchise in Ireland from 10l. to 30l. a-year. The 10l. freeholders of Ireland would one and all be disfranchised, if the decision of that Committee were allowed to stand, and if the House did not interfere to reverse it. In saying so, he had not attributed any improper motives to the Committee. This however, he must say, that the Irish Reform Bill was brought in to prevent such a decision as that to which the Carlow Committee had come, and that a debate, which took place on one of its Clauses, put that point clearly beyond all doubt. He begged to remind the House, that on the Carlow Committee there were eight gentlemen who entertained Conservative opinions, and only three who entertained contrary opinions. He thought that no tribunals could be worse constituted than the committees appointed under the Grenville Act, and he was sure that the recent decision of the Carlow Election Committee would not rescue the character of those committees from the opprobrium under which they laboured.

Mr. Anthony Lefroy

did not mean to enter into any discussion upon this Bill. He would only say that he was not opposed to any reform that had a tendency to make these Corporations answer the purpose for which they were instituted; but to ascertain what those purposes were the House ought to have a copy of their charters before it. He repeated, that he should not enter into this discussion—he should confine himself to protesting against proceeding at this late period of the Session with a measure which had for its object the destruction of all the vested rights of corporations in Ireland. It was a measure of injustice, and, without intending to speak disrespectfully of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, he must say that it was a measure of tyranny to press on with such inconsiderate speed, a Bill which, though it suited their desires, was opposed to the feelings of a large portion of the people of Ireland.

Bill read a second time.