HC Deb 27 May 1835 vol 28 cc187-94

Mr. Loughlen moved the second reading of the Assize (Ireland) Removal Bill.

Colonel Conolly

begged leave to direct the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention to the county of Kildare, with reference to this measure.

Mr. Barron

rose to oppose it. He did so, first, because it gave an undue power to the Privy Council of Ireland. And, secondly, because the Bill did not represent the people of Ireland generally. He would let the House into the circumstances of the case. Some years ago the assizes had been removed to the city of Waterford, and the people of Dungarvon (the town which the right hon. Solicitor-General represented) had resolved to support no candidate who did not pledge himself to support the removal Bill. There had been meetings held, and petitions got up, it was true: but where were the meetings held? In the town of Dungarvon, and no person dated to oppose the measure there, for fear he should be beaten out of the town. But meetings were held in other parts of the county, and directly contrary petitions were adopted. He Would admit the town of Dungarvon was best situated of the two, in regard to the gentry of the county, the Members Of the Privy Council, and such persons: but this town, so much applauded for its "centrical situation," was actually situated at the corner of the county on the sea coast. He maintained, therefore, that though the Bill might be beneficial to the constituents of the right hon. Gentleman, it was not so to the great body of the people of Ireland; and he should therefore move as an amendment, "That this Bill be read a second time this day six months."

Mr. Wyse

rose to second the amendment. Most of the towns of Ireland were situated at a considerable distance from the extreme parts of the county; take, for instance, the towns of Wexford, Cork, Limerick, and many others, and did the fight hon. Gentleman propose to remove the assizes in these cases in the same way as in that of Waterford? And then, where was local taxation to end? One tax after another was thrown upon the counties of Ireland; the county cess, for instance, produced nearly 900,000l., almost one-fourth of the whole taxation of that amount the city of Waterford contributed, from nineteen to twenty thousand pounds; in addition to that they were burdened with a very considerable sum for the lunatic asylum, and other charities; and still with that vast taxation it was proposed to saddle them with the necessity of paying for new gaols and workhouses, which would be the immediate result of the Bill. Another point to be considered was, that the County Assizes were transferred from the city to Dungarvon (he took these merely as illustrations). Now, there were institutions in which the county and city of Waterford necessarily combined, which were supported by the Grand Juries of the county and of the city. What inconvenience must result from adding to the Grand Jury of the city and the Grand Jury of the county, that of Dungarvon, when their aim should be to consolidate the institutions of the kingdom as much as possible. But the hon. and learned Solicitor-General would find the opposition to his Bill extended to other counties besides that of Waterford. There was a general feeling of hostility to the Privy Council jurisdiction. He (Mr. Wyse) was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would think it better that the House should be umpire upon these occasions, instead of giving such a power to individuals whom the nation would not trust, and thus open a door to litigation in the several counties of Ireland, dividing one part of the council against another, and thus defeat the very object they had in view. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw, upon further consideration, his Bill for the present. They were burdened with numbers of public duties of far greater importance; and as for a local Bill of that kind, it was not at such a moment that it should be introduced; or, if introduced, persisted in. The hon. Member concluded by seconding the amendment.

Mr. J. Grattan

hoped the learned Solicitor-General would withdraw his Motion, till there was a general call upon him for it. It was mischievous, at such a period, to introduce such a Bill.

Lord Morpeth

said, he could not see why a measure, which had proved advantageous for England, should not prove equally so for Ireland. He thought the question of removals could be discussed before as disinterested a tribunal in the Privy Council as before that House. It had been urged that the hon. and learned Solicitor General might have been biassed by the peculiar circumstances and interests of his constituents. He (Lord Morpeth) did not believe that. But what he rose to suggest to the House was, that hon. Members who might be opposed to the measure would suffer it to be read a second time, on his undertaking, not only that it should not be pressed further till the hon. and learned Attorney-General for Ireland was in his place, but till they had had the opportunity of consulting the representatives of all parts of Ireland.

Mr. Walker

thought they should assimilate, as far as possible, the law of England and Ireland. But as to the Privy Council of Ireland no body could deny that they were tinctured, deeply tinctured, with intolerance. Now if they were satisfied that the Liberal Government would continue always, he, for one, would not object to giving the Privy Council the power proposed to be given them. But they knew that Government could change, and it might change still; he hoped while they continued true to their principles they would not change: but still they might. Now the Bill gave a power to the Privy Council of Ireland, which was not given to that of England, and therefore he denied that it was assimilating the law of the two countries. It had been said, "there was the control of the Grand Juries." But the Grand Juries were exactly constituted as the Privy Council. He defied any man to point out one liberal man among them. And who appointed the Petty Juries? who the Orange Sheriffs? Now, if the hon. Gentleman wished to assimilate, why did he not assimilate the Grand Juries, and the Petty Juries, and the Privy Councils of the two countries? The Bill was introduced merely for the sake of the electors Of Dungarvon, and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Bill.

The Attorney-General

said, the Bill was a copy of one which he had introduced for England, which had passed without opposition, and proved very beneficial. He hoped there would be no opposition, at least to the second reading.

Mr. O'Dwyer

could not help thinking that his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General had been dealt with rather harshly. Any one who knew him would be convinced that his motives were pure and disinterested. There could be no doubt that the Bill would be advantageous, particularly in such cases as the county of Cork, where there were parts of the county 70 or 80 miles from the assize town. He acquiesced entirely in the suggestion of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, but would beg leave to propose, that when a removal was contemplated, notice should be given, that on a certain day the Privy Council would entertain the question; and that any party might by counsel, or in person, appear before it, and show cause for or against the proposed removal.

Mr. Barron

was willing to allow that the matter was pressed on Mr. O'Loghlen by his constituents, and by reason of his connection with the town he could not avoid taking such a part in the question. However, if the House were willing that the Bill be read a second time, he was satisfied.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

was astonished at the nature of the opposition to the Bill, for there was no real foundation for such opposition. He heard two objections stated—one on the ground of Mr. O'Loghlen's connexion with the town, the other lay to the interference of the Privy Council in Ireland. Now he would distinctly aver that Mr. O'Loghlen did not deserve the unhandsome imputations cast upon the integrity of his motives. His character was far above them. The Bill was a very good one, and of great convenience to the inhabitants of the county. The assizes being held in certain county towns caused great inconvenience and loss to the people. Appeals from the Civil Bill Courts lay to the Judges of Assize. In these the poor were chiefly concerned, the sums under dispute varying from ten shillings to ten pounds. The expense to the poor, who in many cases had to go a distance of seventy Irish miles to the assizes, was attended with great hardship and expense. The attack in the Privy Council was equally unfair and untrue, for a more honourable body of men did not exist, either in Ireland or England. It consisted of men of all shades of politics and degrees of liberality, as it was called. Were the. Duke of Leinster and Lord Cloncurry men opposed to the popular interest? Was the Earl of Kenmare hostile to the interests of the Catholic party? In Ireland any member might attend a meeting of the Council without a summons. He believed it was usual in England that the members should be summoned. So that the decisions of the Privy Council might be considered as fair and impartial. He would support the second reading, as he was convinced that the Bill ought to pass.

Mr. Lynch

was an impartial witness on the occasion, although he had the honour to represent a town in which assizes were held; for that town was a county of itself, which necessarily caused the assizes to be holden there, and it was in the centre of the county in which it was situated—therefore there could be no fear in respect to Galway. He knew nothing of the disputes between Dungarvon and the city of Waterford, nor did he care for them; but he was convinced that the motives of his hon. and learned Friend in introducing the Bill were pure, and for what he conceived to be the public good; and this was the first time he heard it stated as an objection to an hon. Gentleman's bringing forward a measure, that in so doing he consulted the wishes of his constituents. It was with considerable pain he differed from his hon. and learned Friend, but he objected to the Bill, and to the tribunal to whose decision the Bill referred such important matter—for although he did entertain, with many other hon. Members, great respect for several individuals, Members of the Irish Privy Council, the question was, "had the people of Ireland confidence in that tribunal?" He had no hesitation in saying they had not. The case of England did not apply; the people of England might have confidence in their Privy Council—it was differently constituted, and there were not the same party and religious views. He was in favour of assimilating the laws of the two countries, as insisted upon by his hon. and learned Friend, the Attorney General, but he would commence the assimilation by giving to Ireland a good Reform Bill, a good Registration Bill, and a good Municipal Reform Bill, but he would not commence by any measure which would throw such increased power into the hands of Government. Could he be always certain that the country would possess, as at present, a liberal Government, these objections would, in a great measure, be removed. But another and a great difficulty would still remain—the increased taxation of the country—for, as admitted by his hon. and learned Friend, it would be necessary to erect new jails, and new court-houses. How could the country, in its present distressed and impoverished condition, bear increased taxation? This taxation, rendered necessary by the Bill, afforded the only check upon the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council; and he did not think that the people of Ireland had sufficient confidence in the Grand Juries of many counties in that kingdom to induce them to look upon their sanction as a sufficient safeguard. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, assured the House, that this Bill would not be pressed forward, if read a second time, until the sentiments of the people of Ireland were ascertained. He saw no difference between that and postponing the second reading, to which he prayed his hon. and learned Friend to consent. If particular circumstances called for interference, an Act of Parliament might be obtained, as in the case of Tullamore.

Mr. Finn

said, he had an instinctive distrust of the Privy Council, whose powers the Irish people would diminish as much as they could.

Sir Robert Bateson

remarked on the unusual want of harmony between the self-styled Liberals on the other side. Even on a question of liberality they could not agree, each individual claiming the palm of liberality and integrity to himself. But he (Sir R. Bateson) could not concede that those who assumed so much liberality were in truth liberal. It was by acts and not by professions, or assumptions, that liberality should be tested. The hon. Member for Wexford said there was no liberality in the Privy Council or Grand Juries. But could it be said that it was to be found among those who had so presumptuously arrogated it to themselves? He had been attending Grand Juries for thirty years, and he could declare that a more upright, liberal, and honourable body of men could not be found than those who were so foully, wantonly, and factiously maligned. In the Acts of Grand Juries there was certainly more liberality than in those of their accusers. He should, perhaps, have better consulted the dignity of Grand Jurors by treating the attacks upon them with silent indifference. As to the Question before the House, he thought the assizes should be held in a central town in every county. In the county of Antrim, for instance, the assizes were held in a corner of the county, and it was a great hardship on witnesses and jurors to attend them. So great was the inconvenience felt that most of the Gentlemen wished for a change. The conjoint approbation of the Grand Jury and Privy Council should be attended to.

Sir Richard Musgrave

said, the majority of the Irish Members were opposed to the Bill; and a public meeting, convened by the Lord Lieutenant, and several Magistrates condemned its provisions.

Mr. Shaw

vindicated the character of the Privy Council and Grand Juries. The Privy Council did not in the present case sit in open court, as they did when they sat judicially, but merely attended as a mere matter of form to give a sanction to the Act of the Government. The Act complained of was the Act of the Government, and the attacks on the Privy Council could only have proceeded from the grossest ignorance. He lamented that a simple Bill, having for its object the speedy and cheap administration of justice, should be thus made a Question of party. He would support the Bill.

The Bill was read a second time.