HC Deb 22 March 1836 vol 32 cc497-501

The House resolved itself into a Committee on the Municipal Reform Bill for Ireland.

On the 83rd Clause—Town-council to have power to make bye-laws.

Mr. Shaw

would merely point out that this and the two following clauses contained one of the most objectionable principles of the present measure, and though the English Act had the same provision, the objection rested on the essential difference between the state of society in the two countries. The effect of these clauses in Ireland would be to vest in the hands of a domineering faction, such as would constitute the town-councils generally under the Bill, the power at their will and pleasure to make bye-laws, and to impose penalties upon, mulct in pecuniary tines, the party opposed to them in politics; and who, while over-borne by mere numerical strength, would prevent the strongest temptation, in point of wealth and station, to the unjust and arbitrary exercise of such a power.

Mr. O'Loghlen

saw nothing in the state of society in Ireland to warrant him in departing from the principle laid down in the English Bill.

The Clause was agreed to.

On Clause 88,

Mr. Jephson

objected to the mode of assessment proposed by the Bill, and thought it most unfair to apply the principle of the 9th George 4th, to this measure. If the 9th George 4th had never been passed, the Attorney-General could scarcely have ventured to introduce such a principle into the Corporate Reform Bill at present. The learned Gentleman professed to take the English Bill as the basis of this measure, but in England a totally different mode of assessment was resorted to. Suppose the town-council in an Irish borough were to make a very high valuation, there was no appeal from that valuation except to the town-council itself. This surely was too absurd. What he (Mr. Jephson) proposed was, that property should be liable to assessment according to its value, and not by the ascending scale, 9th George 4th.

Sir Robert Peel

imagined, the clause as it stood would subject the borough to a borough rate, and also to a Grand Jury assessment.

Mr. O'Loghlen

said, it was not intended by the present Bill to interfere with the 9th George 4th. As to the 51. householders having great sway in the borough, when the schedules came to be discussed he would undertake to show that they would not possess any such preponderating influence. He had never heard that the borough had been improperly rated under the 9th George 4th, notwithstanding the existence of the 5l. franchise. The Grand Jury assessment was acreable, and therefore he thought that it could scarcely be felt by the inhabitant of the borough.

Sir Robert Peel

said, the objection was not so much to the amount of the assessment as the vexation attendant upon two assessments.

Mr. Shaw

said, that the words in the 86th clause, "other municipal expenses." might bear a very large signification; and by the effect of the 88th clause, the borough rate might be levied for all "the purposes aforesaid," so that these "other municipal expenses" were among such "purposes" and left it in the discretion of the town-council to levy a rate to an almost unlimited extent. He (Mr. Shaw) would also observe, that the appeal which the corresponding clause in the English Act gave from the town-council with respect to the borough rate, was omitted from this clause.

Mr. O'Loghlen

said, that the appeal was omitted because there was a reference to the 9th George 4th, which gave an appeal. But if the right hon. Gentleman did not think that sufficient, he (Mr. O'Loghlen) would introduce an amendment in the Report.

Mr. Lefroy

said, that the double assessment, when 9th George 4th was in operation, was the cause of much complaint The road assessment was the one most complained of. With respect to the 9th George 4th, if it worked well at present, it was because it was unconnected with politics, and confined to the mere business of paving, lighting, and cleansing the borough; but the present Bill would introduce all sorts of political subjects with discussion, and exclude real business.

Mr. Randall Plunkett

said, from the borough he represented a petition had been forwarded to the House complaining of the excessive taxation of the county of the town for Grand Jury rates and assessments. The situation of petitioners was very serious, as they had to pay, as a county, Grand Jury assessments, and also borough rates. The corporation had done all they could to alleviate their bullions, by applying a portion of the surplus revenue arising from the only fund they hold in trust, properly speaking, the tolls, namely, to assist in the diminution of the pressure of county cess. They were justified in this application of the surplus by the opinion of the late Lord Chancellor, Sir Anthony Mart. It would be most desirable on many accounts that the provisions of the 9th George 4th could be applied in Drogheda; and perhaps one of the best reasons for desiring its application in that town was, that it gives no political ascendancy to any party conferring only municipal and not political power and privileges.

Mr. Wyse

objected to the clashing there would be between the Grand Jury presentment and the borough rate, and instanced the case of the city of Waterford, in proof of his argument.

Mr. Goulburn

objected to the heavy expense that this power of rating would cast upon a borough where no corporate property existed. He wished to know how the salaries of the mayor and other corporate officers were to be provided, where there was no corporate property, and asked whether a rate was to be levied for the purpose?

Mr. O'Loghlen

did not think that a high salary, or any salary at all, in many instances, would be necessary for the corporate officers.

Mr. Lefroy

said, that in seventeen of these boroughs there was no corporate property whatever; and how, he would ask, were the expenses to be provided in such cases?

Sir Robert Peel

said, there was a clear distinction between a borough rate and a borough fund. He would call upon hon. Gentlemen who had local interests to protect to look well to this difference. The 86th clause provided that in case the borough fund should be more than sufficient, the surplus should be applied for the public benefit of the inhabitants. To this he did not object so far as by the borough fund was to be understood corporate property, but then the last words of the 88th clause provided that all sums levied in pursuance of such borough rate should be paid over to the account of the borough fund; so that the rate would go to the making up of the borough fund as well as the corporate property. This clearly could not have been intended, and ought to be provided against.

The clause was agreed to.

On Clause 97,

Mr. William S. O Brien

said this clause referred to collusive sales of corporate property. He wished to know whether such sales as that which took place in Cashel were to be confirmed by any part of this Bill?

Mr. O'Loghlen

said, certainly not. He intended to propose an amendment to the clause, to the effect that the validity of the sale should be liable to question by the town council of the borough as fully as if this Bill had never passed.

Mr. Shaw

said, if the object of the amendment was, that the present Bill should leave the law as it found it, without in any degree affecting the rights of parties as they now stood at law, he could not object to it.

Colonel Damson Darner

declared that Portarlington, the borough he had the honour to represent, having been harshly, and he thought unjustly, treated in the Report of the Commissioners, which report was commented upon and urged as authority by the learned Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland, he begged distinctly to declare, in the name of his noble relation, as well as in that of the corporation of the borough he had the honour to represent, that they did not shrink from any inquiry, and were desirous every investigation respecting the sales and leases of property alluded to in the report of the commissioners should take place, although the clause in question would not have a retrospective effect.

The clause 97 was then agreed to.

On Clause 102.

Mr. O'Loghlen

proposed an amendment to the effect that for the future the divisional justices of police of the city of Dublin, under the 48th George 3d. cap. 140, should be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant instead of by the new town-council.

Mr. Shaw

thought this an improvement in principle, but it must be admitted, that in this, as in many other instances under the Bill, his side of the House, in choosing the lesser of two evils, had consented to throw a great accession of patronage into the hands of his Majesty's Government.

Mr. Randall Punkett

begged to be allowed to suggest upon this clause, which contained an especial "provision" on behalf of Dublin, an alteration having reference, he admitted, principally to Drogheda, but so framed as to be applicable to any borough similarly situated. If he was asked why he did not bring it on before, he could only say that a very severe illness prevented his attendance. If he could not move it now he would give notice of the resolution, as an amendment, to be introduced on bringing up the report. His object was to continue the duties of those boards which now existed though the members of them were not liable to the borough tax. He admitted that the instance he should adduce in support of this amendment, was drawn from Drogheda, but was a very strong case. The board of Boyne commissioners in that town was one of great importance, not only to Drogheda. but to the great agricultural county of Meath, and other neighbouring districts which send their exports from Drogheda; its members might be considered as eleven and thirteen. There were of these, six who hold their seats at the board, quoad aldermen. Now, by the operation of the new Bill, they were most likely to lose their seats at the board, because they were very unlikely to be elected as aldermen; and, besides, some did not occupy, although they possessed, large warehouses, &c, in the town. Now, it was manifestly most unjust that those persons, who were possessed of by far the most considerable proportion of the property of the shipping and commercial interests of Drogheda, should be supervised and governed by persons having, probably, no such property at all. He should say more upon proposing his amendment, if it was objected to.

Clause agreed to.

The remaining clauses were agreed to and the House resumed.