HC Deb 23 March 1836 vol 32 cc521-33

Viscount Morpeth moved that the Constabulary Force (Ireland) Bill be read a third time.

Motion agreed to.

Mr. Jephson

The power hitherto possessed by grand juries is by this Bill taken away from them. I cannot but consider this as an insult to the grand juries, when such a power is taken from them without any just cause. I cannot understand why such a power as they had formerly is not still left to them, for the grand juries can have no possible motive whatever for decreasing the expense of the constabulary. While then they would be uninfluenced by any such motive, I cannot see why the power is not to be left to them of checking the accounts, and objecting to any improper items that may be found in them. We are obliged to pay one-half of the expenses of the constabulary; the English Members have to pay the other half. What, I would ask of the House is this?—that the grand juries who have to pay one-half of the expenses should have the power of checking the accounts. I do press upon the noble Lord the propriety of conceding this. I wish to have a clause added, declaring that judges of assize may have the power of disallowing items in the accounts of the constabulary that have been objected to by the grand jury. I cannot see any objection to a clause such as this. As to the noble Lord saying that the grand jury can strike out any item that is contrary to law. Does the noble Lord, I would ask, anticipate that the inspectors under the new Bill will make charges that are contrary to law? The hon. Member concluded by moving a clause declaring that judges of assize may disallow items in accounts objected to.

Clause read a first time.

On the question that it be read a second time—

Viscount Morpeth

I am very sorry I have not the power to consent to this clause. I mean no disrespect to the grand juries in removing from them their fiscal powers but, at the same time, I cannot help remarking that in the course of the discussion in the Committee upon this Bill, it was admitted that the power of deciding the amount of the police force, and the levying various sums for the payment thereof, should be placed in the hands of the executive government, and not in those of the grand juries. The clause brought in by my hon. Friend opposite gives the power of superintending the arrangements, disputing the items, and altering them to the grand jury. The hon. Member, too, gives a power to the judge of sanctioning the objections of the grand jury. Provided the sums presented are not warranted by law, the judge now has that power. But I could not think it right to constitute the judge of assize the person to determine whether there should be ten or twelve policemen in a barony. I would not give to the one the power of superintending or controlling the constabulary, nor to the other of determining the amount of that force.

Dr. Baldwin

I concur in opinion with the noble Lord. I think it is much better to leave the entire business in the hands of the executive government, than to trust it to grand juries who are irresponsible, and to judges equally irresponsible. I do not approve of the Bill altogether, except so far as it is an improvement upon the mode of managing the constabulary force. The time, I hope, however, is not far distant when the Government in Ireland will not be permitted to have a power entirely arbitrary. The time, I hope, is not far distant when both parties that are now contending in Ireland, and to whom the country is a common victim, and to whom, too, the prosperity of the country is sacrificed, will be completely quieted, and both made subject to the common law of England.

Mr. Hume

The check there ought to be on those accounts is, a return to this House of all the necessary expenses of the police establishment. I do not think that the judges ought to have any thing to do with it. What I must remark upon the clause now before the House is this, by the previous clauses full authority is given to the Lord-Lieutenant, both as to the regulation and number of the police; and this clause, therefore, is rather in contradiction to the rest of the Bill.

Sir Robert Ferguson

The powers which the grand juries have had hitherto, should, at least, be continued to them. In the county Donegal, it occurred at the last assizes, that the grand jury were required to pay an account incurred very nearly ten years ago. This account was incurred under the Peace Preservation Act; and for such an account it was only necessary to have it vouched upon affidavit before a magistrate, that 700l. had, upon such a voucher, to be paid. Now, accounts upon accounts are obliged to be paid that are voted upon the fiat of a secretary. I really hope that the hon. Member for Mallow will divide the House upon this clause.

Mr. Randall Plunkett

I have had some experience upon grand juries, and I must say, that I never knew a body of men look with more jealousy to the items of expenditure submitted to them. I have always had a difficulty in getting them to expend enough. If they have a fault it is too great a dislike to lay out money, even where it is required. I am bound to say, that the Bill, as amended in the Committee, has been altered so as to be completely changed from its-original form.

Viscount Morpeth

I have only to observe, when it is said by the hon. Member opposite that grand juries are too parsimonious, that he gives a good reason why they should not have that power over the police which this clause would give them. Our wish is to make the police force as perfectly efficient as possible. As the English Members have been desired to look at this Bill, because it enacts that one-half of the expenses is to be paid out of the consolidated fund, and the other half by the county, I would say that, if you enable grand juries to disallow certain portions of the expenses they may throw upon the consolidated fund more than a fair share of those expenses.

Mr. Fitzstephen French

I assure the noble Lord he is entirely mistaken, both as to the object and the meaning of the clause brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Mallow; the objection of the noble Lord is, that it probably would lead the grand juries to reject certain items, for the purpose of lightening the expense on their counties, through view of their anxiety to lighten the burdens on their counties, is certainly not in accordance with that wasteful expenditure which the noble Lord, in common with others at an earlier period of the night, seemed inclined to attribute to them; but if the noble Lord had attentively considered the clause, he would have discovered that were they even inclined to act in a manner which had he known them he would not have suspected them of a disposition so to do; no such power was vested or proposed to be vested in them; all sought for in this clause was, in the event of a case being made out to the satisfaction of the judge, of mistake, overcharge, or fraud, the power should be given to him of examining into, and if he thought fit, disallowing the item objected to; the power to object was to be vested in the grand jury; the power to decide in the judge. In addition to the circumstances brought forward by the hon. Baronet, the Member for Derry, proving the necessity of some such power as this sought for to be given, I will mention what had occurred in the county I had the honour of representing some few years ago. At the assizes, on looking over the certificate for the constabulary expense sent down from the Castle, it was remarked the sum was considerably larger than that of the year preceding, although no addition had been made since that period to the force stationed in the county. A reference was made to the Inspector-General, Major Warburton, who happened to be in the town, and a mistake of some hundred pounds was pointed out by him. As I have mentioned the name of that officer, I cannot refrain from bearing my testimony to the eulogy passed on him by the hon. and gallant officer, the Member for Sligo; whatever political differences there might exist in the province over which he so long presided, all joined in bearing testimony to his private worth and public efficiency. I am glad to find, if there is an arrangement, the country is to have the benefit of his services. I know-no person, from his intelligence and courteous demeanour, more likely to fill a public situation with credit to himself, and advantage to the public, than Major Warburton. It was true this mistake was corrected, but had the judge adhered to the strict letter of the law? He had no document to go on save the Castle certificate; he was expressly forbidden to fiat any presentment until the sum mentioned in that document was voted, and the grand jury would have been compelled to present for the entire sum, or let the whole of the fiscal business of their county drop. To give the judge a discretion in cases of this kind, is the object of the clause then before the House, and as I have I trust, satisfactorily shewn the objection of the noble Lord did not apply to it, I trust the opposition will not be persevered in.

Mr. Francis Baring

No injury occurred in the instance adverted to by the hon. Gentleman. There the mistake was rectified. The accounts are here to be laid before the Inspector, and the presentment is to be made in consequence. The presentment is to be made upon the authority of a responsible government officer. I certainly must object to the powers being given to a grand jury after the expense has been incurred to say, that it was one that ought not to have been incurred. With every respect for the grand juries, I must say, that I am afraid they would throw the payment of this force upon the public.

Colonel Perceval

The Secretary of the Treasury, it appears, would not desire to leave any power to the grand jury of even making an appeal to the judge, that judge having nothing whatever to do with the property of the county, or the payment of its rates. The judge could not be influenced by the motives which hon. Gentlemen opposite are disposed to attribute to grand juries. It is not to them, it is to be remarked, that power is to be given. Whether this clause will be adopted or not, I do not know; but I am prepared to support the hon. Member for Mallow by voting for it. I must take this opportunity for saying, that the grand juries of Ireland are calumniated upon all occasions for a vast expenditure of the public money, when much more than one-half of the sums levied in the counties, are settled by Acts of Parliament, and they are compelled to make presentments for them. I deny, Sir, that the Irish grand juries are justly liable to the imputations or insinuations made against them; that they are either too niggardly or too extravagant; that they in fact levy any sums that are not absolutely necessary. All that is now sought for on behalf of the grand juries is, to have the power of making out a case, to which, after all, the judge may refuse his sanction. I beg of the noble Lord to consider the imputation which is now cast upon the grand juries; that they would throw upon the consolidated fund sums that ought not to be paid by it, to save themselves expense. We pay the half of the expense, and therefore, we claim a fair investigation of the accounts, that we may fairly consider what ought, and what ought not to be discharged by us. It is certainly contrary to the opinions professed by those on the other side of the House, if they will not allow such a power as this to those who are the representatives of the people.

Mr. Sharman Crawford

The presenting Grand Juries should, in my opinion, be a responsible body; and if they were so, I would be entirely opposed to the power being conferred upon the Lord-Lieutenant of forcing the presenting body. But, in the present state of the grand juries, I am apprehensive that the clause of the hon. Member for Mallow would not remedy the mischief complained of, and it would be in collision with the other clauses of this Act. I do not see any benefit to be gained by leaving the matter to the decision of the judge. If the clause were so worded as to be consistent with the other provisions of the Bill, and to give a controlling power to the grand juries, it would be intelligible; but, leaving it merely to the judge, makes the clause such that I cannot support it. I would call upon the hon. Member to reconsider the clause.

Mr. Hesketh Fleetwood

This Bill gives the power to the Lord-Lieutenant of putting his hands in the pockets of the people, and making them pay certain expenses. Surely, the grand juries ought to have the right of considering the question of what money they ought justly to pay. This power, at least, should be conferred to the grand juries. As an Englishman, I certainly feel bound to support the Irish Gentlemen by my vote when their proposition is, that having to pay expenses, they ought to have the power of inspecting the accounts.

Mr. O'Connell

Does the hon. Gentleman know that it is competent for the judge to refuse his assent to a presentment if it be illegal. In the case of an illegal presentment, upon the grand jury showing that it is illegal, the judge will not fiat it; but, then, when the amount is disputed, how are you to ascertain the proper amount? Is it the judge who is to decide the matter of fact? Is it a jury of rate-payers who are to be summoned to determine the amount? Who is to he counsel for the rate? Nobody; but there are to he twelve counsel against it in the jury box. Really, Sir, the Irish Judges have enough to do at present. The Irish grand juries have also enough to do; those innocents, upon whom the hon. Member for Sligo has pronounced an eulogium, have quite enough to do, and they should not be troubled with any more business. Besides, if it so happened that by any chance the police in a particular county were active in a sense contrary to that which a grand jury thought (rightly thought, of course) they ought to be, there would be an infinitely more severe scrutiny into the accounts of that police force, and nothing would more gratify the grand jury than disallowing the items necessary for their maintenance. This is human nature, and I do not think that you possibly could, with safety to the Bill, admit this clause. A portion of the expenses, it is to he remarked, are to he paid out of the consolidated fund. You have, then, in this House the opportunity of seeing those accounts. You must have those accounts annually printed; and some Member, I am quite sure, will tale care to look at them. For my part, I think the entire sum ought to be paid out of the consolidated fund. I think that the general Government ought to pay for the peace of the country, and the expense not be placed upon particular districts.

Mr. Shaw

I think the principle is certainly in favour of the amendment, for I know no more just cause of complaint on the part of the Irish grand juries than the various compulsory presentments which were brought before them, where they could exercise no discretion, while they had to bear all the odium of the heavy charges of which those compulsory presentments constituted the principal part. He thought it but reasonable, that if there was an obvious mistake, or an improper charge in the police accounts, that there should be a power in the grand jury to bring such mistake or error under the consideration of the judge, and that if both the court and grand jury concurred in its impropriety, they should not be constrained to allow it. It was new in hon. Gentlemen opposite to object to this influence of popular control, and the noble Lord seemed so much in love with the increased power the Irish Government was to derive under this Bill, that he was unwilling they should be subjected to any control whatever.

Major Beauclerk

I think it is a great hardship upon the Irish grand juries that they are not to have any control over the police force. Supposing that we had, what we have not now, an arbitrary Government, and the police was entirely at the command of that Government, and it thought fit to increase that force far beyond what was necessary, who could be the proper persons to control them but the grand juries? I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that we ought to have a better control over the grand juries than we have at present, I should like to see them chosen by the people, yet I think it is only fair that they should have some check or control over a police force.

Mr. Lefroy

(Dublin U.) There ought to be some power given to the grand juries of reviewing and checking the accounts; one hon. Member has shown the advantage of such powers being exercised by grand juries. There might be a mistake to a very large amount,; and, if a grand jury can point out a very great mistake, surely it must be admitted that the county should not be charged with it. It is said, on the other hand,, that the consolidated fund is to pay one-half; but if there be any neglect in checking the accounts, and the consolidated fund has paid more than it ought, is that any reason that the county should be brought into like mischief? It has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, that items will be disallowed, of which there is prima facie evidence of their illegality. But how is the matter to be investigated by the grand jury? They are bound by the accounts furnished to them by Government. The whole onus then lies upon them of satisfying the judge of the mistake. What I desire is, that the grand jury should have the power of satisfying the judge that there has been a mistake in the accounts; that there are items for which the county ought not to be chargeable. I want the opportunity to be given to them of making that case, taking upon themselves the onus of satisfying- the judge. It is a most monstrous proposition that the county is to be chargeable with items that it ought not to pay. It has been said by the Secretary of the Treasury, that after the expense has been incurred, there will be a reluctance in the county to defray it. The grand jury will have no such power; but they ought to have the power of shewing that an improper charge has been made against them, as when there was a mistake of 700l. charged against the county. Surely, in such a case as that, it ought to be left to the grand jury to be able to show, to the satisfaction of the judge, that such a mistake was committed; at least, for the time, they ought to have the power of refusing the item, and affording an opportunity for revision; but the opportunity, at least, ought to be given to them.

Viscount Morpeth

The following clause appears to have been lost sight of in this discussion. The noble Lord then proceeded to read the clause, which was as follows:—

"That each such pay-master shall keep accounts of all sums received, and of all payments and disbursements made on account of the constabulary force in each county; and that such accounts shall be made up once in every month, and oftener if required, and transmitted to the said inspector-general; and that all such accounts shall be made up half-yearly, and a copy of each such half-yearly account delivered to the secretary of the grand jury at every spring and summer assizes, and be by him laid before such grand jury, who shall inspect the same, and if they shall so think fit, examine the said paymaster, on oath, as to any matter or thing contained in such account; and such pay-master shall, for that purpose, attend such grand jury, if so required, and submit to such examination; and the foreman of such grand jury shall transmit each such half-yearly account to the said inspector-general, with such re-marks thereon as such grand jury shall think fit to make." Now, I beg distinctly to disclaim any disrespect to the grand juries or judges of Ireland. All I say is this, that I do not think that the judges of Ireland are not as fit persons to confide the peace of the country to as the Government, nor are the grand juries of Ireland such competent auditors of accounts as the Lords of the Treasury.

Mr. William S. O'Brien

I think that the Accounts should be submitted annually to the Parliament. With respect to the clause proposed by my hon. Friend, I do not think that he can gain much by dividing the House upon it; and I express my hope that he will not divide the House. I think that the practicable operation of the clause read by the noble Lord will be equal to, and at least as great, as the clause brought up to-night.

The House divided on the question, that the clause be read a second time.

Ayes 18; Noes 60;—Majority 42.

Clause rejected.

List of the AYES.
Beauclerk, Major O'Brien, W. S.
Brownrigg, J. Perceval, Colonel
Cole, Lord Viscount Plunket, Hon. R. E.
Dunbar, G. Rushbrooke, Colonel
Fleetwood, P. H. Shaw, Rt. Hon. F.
French, F. Tennent, J. E.
Henniker, Lord Walter, John
Hindley, C. TELLERS.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Ferguson, R.
Lefroy, Rt. Hon. T. Jephson, C.
Maunsell, T. P.
List of the NOES.
Attwood, T. Fort, J.
Bagshaw, J. Grattan, J.
Baldwin, Dr. Hallyburton, D. G.
Barnard, E. G. Hawkins, J. H.
Barron, H. W. Heathcoat, J.
Barry, G. S. Hector, C. J.
Blake, M. J. Hobhouse, Sir J.
Bodkin, J. J. Hodges, T. L.
Brabazon, Sir W. Hume, J.
Bridgeman, H. Lennox, Lord G.
Brocklehurst, J. Lushington, C.
Brotherton, J. Lynch, A. H.
Bullet, E. Maher, J.
Butler, Hon. P. Maxwell, J.
Callaghan, D. Morpeth, Lord Visct.
Chalmers, P. O'Connell, D.
Colborne, N. W. R. O'Connell, M. J.
Cookes, T. H. O'Loghlen, Sergeant
Curties, E. B. Pendarves, E. W. W.
Duncombe, T. Phillips, C. M.
Ewart, W. Potter, R.
Ferguson, R. C. Poulter, J. S.
Foster, C. S. Pryme, G.
Rooper, J. B. Turner, W.
Scholefield, J. Wakley, T.
Sheldon, E. R. C. Wallace, R.
Smith, B. Williams, W.
Stewart, M. P. TELLERS.
Tancred, H. W Baring, F.
Trelawney, Sir W. Dalmeny, Lord.
Tulk, C. A.

On the question that the Bill do pass.

Viscount Morpeth

I must take this opportunity of repelling an attack made on a gallant officer and meritorious public servant, Sir Frederick Stoven, by the hon. Member for Londonderry. The charge was that of undue favour shown towards the Catholic portion of the police, at the expense of the Protestant. I felt upon the occasion that enough was said of the general character of the gallant Colonel, to satisfy every feeling he could entertain. With that keen susceptibility to reproach, in the discharge of his public functions, for which no one can condemn him, he is anxious to couple with an indignant denial of any improper motive, the fullest explanation of the minutest details of his conduct with respect to which I feel it due to him to submit to the House the following statement. The noble Lord read the following Document:— Ulster Police, February 25th, 1836. Protestants, total force 1,048; Catholics, 202; 1 to 5–30. Dismissals since Sir Frederick Stoven took charge in February, 1834:—Protestants, 91; Catholics, 25; 1 to 3–16. Total constables:—Protestant, 196; 1 to 5–48; Catholics, 24; 1 to 8–10 of total force. Constables disrated:—Protestants, 9; Catholics, 2; 1 to 4–1. Constables promoted by Sir Frederick Stoven:—Protestan'ts, 33; Catholics, 8; 1 to 4–1. Cause of promotion of the eight Catholics. One for taking a murderer. One as a reward for honesty, for returning Bank-notes found to the Director of the Provincial Bank, Armagh. One a discharged sergeant of the 65th regiment, taken for a drill, and a remarkably fine looking man, and most respectable in every way. One by the Inspector-general, for his appearance and intelligence, and on the recommendation of a magistrate. Four on recommendation of the sub-inspectors. In making this explanation, I think I have done more than was necessary. I need not disclaim the wish to revive any irritating discussion, especially as the person from whom the matter of accusation proceeded, is, it appears no longer living; but thus much I have said from a wish to do justice to the upright and high-spirited character, the professional reputation, and the official services of a person to whom I am the more willing to tender this expression of respect, as I fear the Government is likely soon to lose the benefit of his services.

Mr. Shaw

I am very sorry for the absence of my hon. Friend, the Member for the county of Londonderry (Sir Robert Bateson), the more particularly as it is caused by his indisposition; but I do not think the noble Lord has accurately represented the statement my hon. Friend has made on the occasion in question. He (Sir Robert Bateson) did not himself charge Sir Frederick Stoven with any act of partiality, but merely repeated an observation that had been made to him by a chief constable, that it would be in vain to make a complaint of some inferior officer because he was a Roman Catholic. This certainly might be understood to imply an accusation that there was not perfect impartiality observed, as between persons of different religious persuasions. I have not the honour of being personally acquainted with Sir Frederick Stoven, but I have always heard him considered as a military man, an officer of distinguished merit. I must, however, add that, politically speaking, it was the general impression in Ireland that Sir Frederick Stoven was in politics a strong partisan.

Mr. O'Connell

The right hon. Gentleman gave Sir Frederick Stoven the best possible character in everything, save that he was guilty of the crime of partiality. But he forgot to state that the Member for Londonderry did not name his informant until some time after. Now, the Northern Whig stated, that the man died so long since as the 5th of November, and it was not till the other day that the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Bateson) thought of hitting upon the dead man as his informant. It reminds me of the story that occurred at Canton. A native was killed by one of the crew of an East-Indiaman. According to the custom there, the man who slew the Chinese was demanded. His commander did not wish to give him up; but, luckily, another man died, and he was sent to the authorities at Canton, the captain of the vessel stating that he had put him to death in consequence of his having slain a Chinese. So it was with the hon. Baronet. When pressed for the name of his informant, he refers us to a dead body. With respect to the relative number of Protestants and Catholics promoted in the police under Sir Frederick Stoven, as read by the noble Lord, I am by no means satisfied with it, as I think the number of Roman Catholics bears no fair proportion to the whole number. But a new system was now about to be introduced, and he hoped all parties would have fair play for the future.

Colonel Perceval

The imputation sought to be cast upon my hon. Friend (Sir Robert Bateson) is most unjustifiable, and like most of the hon. Member's statements is not supported by fact. On the night the debate took place, my hon. Friend told me and other hon. Members near me at the time, that Mr. Curry was his informant; therefore, it was not an afterthought as insinuated by the learned Member for Dublin. My hon. Friend, the Member for the city of Londonderry, is incapable of such conduct. With respect to the statement of the learned Member, that the number of Roman Catholics in the police bears no fair proportion to their numerical force, I must call to the recollection of hon. Members, that no man could be admitted into the police until it was ascertained that he could write a despatch. Now, it is a notorious fact, and I regret it, that the generality of the poorer classes of Roman Catholics could not write at all; and, therefore, many a Roman Catholic who had been recommended for a situation in the police, was rejected in consequence of his being unable to write.

Bill passed.