HC Deb 13 August 1835 vol 30 cc476-8
Viscount Morpeth

moved, that the House resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill.

Mr. Sharman Crawford

felt compelled to oppose this Bill. He knew that it was founded on the Report of a Committee of that House, but what he complained of was this—that there were other provisions recommended in that Report besides those which were incorporated in this Bill. For instance, there was a recommendation for a provision for guarding ejected tenants from the consequences of wanton ejectments, and also a recommendation for a provision for the helpless and unemployed poor. He objected to this Bill, because it selected those recommendations of the Report which provided punishment for the people, and omitted those which recommended protection, support, and employment. He contended that coercive measures had been rendered necessary in Ireland, because the Legislature had not given to the poor of that country that Charter which they enjoyed in England. The hon. Member quoted several extracts from Sir Frederick Eden's History of the English Poor Laws to prove, that the state of England as to crime, and as to the moral habits of the peasantry, was much worse before the Act of the 43rd of Elizabeth than the state of Ireland was at present. What peasantry in the world could now be compared with that of England? and yet how demoralized and ruffianly were they before the passing of the Poor-laws. He argued, that as the introduction of Poor-laws into England had been attended with effects so beneficial to England, there was every reason to believe that the introduction of a similar system into Ireland would be productive of results in that country equally advantageous. The preamble of this Bill recited that tumults existed in Ireland. Now there were no tumults in that country at present. But there was great distress; and yet the House was on the point of passing a Coercive Bill for Ireland, without giving the Lord-lieutenant power to relieve that distress? What was it that had excited all the disturbance and agrarian violence of Ireland? Distress. Why, then, did not the Government, even at this late period of the Session, introduce measures to relieve that distress? It was also proposed to continue the duration of this Bill for five years. He thought that it would be better to limit its duration to one year, for then Ministers would have to come forward every year to obtain its re-enactment on their own responsibility. It was impossible to tell into the hands of what Ministry the powers of this Act might fall before the close of the next five years. He also objected to the summary convictions under this Bill, and to those clauses in it which compelled a man to prove his innocence even where the evidence for the prosecution did not establish his guilt. He therefore called upon the House not to enact such a law as this. If, however, they were determined to legislate in this manner, let them make some provision for the helpless poor and the ejected tenant. If this Bill went into Committee, he should certainly move Clauses to that effect. In the mean time, he protested against the Bill as unnecessary. Never in his recollection was Ireland more free from agrarian disturbances than at present. He therefore called upon the House to pause before it passed such a measure, or if it would not pause, to mingle remedial with its coercive enactments.

Viscount Morpeth

hoped that the hon. Member would not consider that he treated him discourteously, if he did not follow him into the arguments which he had advanced in favour of introducing Poor-laws into Ireland. The House would, he hoped, go at once into a Committee on the Bill.

Mr. William Smith O'Brien

did not approve of this Bill, though he should not divide the House upon it. He doubted the necessity for it. He should propose in the Committee a Clause limiting its duration to two years instead of five.

Mr. O'Connell

thought, that this Bill would be of advantage to Ireland. During the discussions on the Coercion Bill, he had suggested the propriety of trying such a Bill as the present, as the best means of checking disturbances in the outset. He therefore could not vote with his hon. Friend, the Member for Dundalk, on this occasion. He should support the Motion, that the Bill be committed.

The House went into Committee on the 17th Clause.

Mr. William

Smith O'Brien moved a Clause limiting the duration of the Bill to two years.

The Committee divided on the Clause: Ayes 4; Noes 89—Majority 85.

The Bill went through Committee, and the House resumed.