HC Deb 28 June 1839 vol 48 cc1010-5

Upon the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Report of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Bill having been read,

Mr. Shaw

said, that up to the stage of the bill at which they had then arrived there had been no discussion of it, and as a great number of hon. Gentlemen at that side of the House were not prepared for having it brought on so soon, he trusted, that the discussion would not then be taken, but that they should proceed with as many of the clauses as they could select upon which there would be no difference of opinion, and that the discussion should be taken at a future period upon whatever day the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) should name. Upon the second reading of the bill some of those who were opposed to it merely stated their reasons for not opposing that stage of the bill, but it had not as yet been fully debated; in fact, it had been very generally believed, until within the last few days, that the Government did intend to proceed with the bill this Session. The bill had been allowed to pass the stage when discussion was generally taken—it had been allowed to be committed pro formâ but now they had before them a bill with several new clauses added, and which was in many respects different from the original bill, and containing a long appendix. This bill now contained 250 clauses, and the appendix contained a great many pages; and he, therefore, hoped that the noble Lord would have no objection to accede to his proposal. It was quite evident, that it would require some time to consider a bill which contained no less than thirty-four new clauses, which introduced changes in the former boundaries, and proposed to introduce a totally new principle with respect to the voting in towns, for the English franchise was he perceived now for the first time proposed to be adopted in that bill. He did not complain, that the noble Lord in thus bringing forward the bill had done anything more than what he had a right to do; but, with such a short notice, he hoped that the noble Lord would afford a little additional time to hon. Members on that side of the House, and that he would merely proceed with those clauses upon which there existed no difference of opinion. If those who acted with him, had known in time that the Government were serious in their intention of proceeding with the bill they would have been quite ready to take the discussion of it; but they had not really believed, that it was the serious intention of the Government to proceed with the bill this Session. Lord John Russell could not say, that he thought the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to make any great concession. The right hon. Gentleman said, in the first place, that he was ready to give up the right, which he and his Friends certainly had, of taking a discussion on the question that the Speaker do leave the chair, as had been done on former occasions. But the right hon. Gentleman should recollect, that last year, a different course was pursued with respect to this bill. Previously it had been contended by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, that it was better to extinguish corporations altogether, which was a principle entirely different from that of the present bill. Last year, it was stated by hon. Gentlemen on the other side, that they were prepared to consider the question of corporations founded on an elective or popular principle, and therefore that they differed only upon details. After such a statement, and especially after a discussion and division had taken place upon the second reading of the bill in the present year, he thought that there was no opportunity now for going back to a question which must be considered a dead and bygone question. The question now was as to the details of the bill, and when he proposed that the Speaker should leave the chair to go into Committee on the bill, he felt, that it had been kept a sufficiently long time before the House. It had been introduced in February, and had gone into Committee in April. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he was ready to allow them to go as far as five clauses of the bill; but he would retain the right of objecting to every word and syllable of the 245 clauses that remained. He did not think that the concession was to be received with any extraordinary gratitude. He thought it would be better to go on with the bill, and go at once into the clauses upon which there was the greatest difference of opinion—those with respect to the franchise—and leave the more complicated clauses until the right hon. Gentleman was prepared with his amendment. He would either do this, or go regularly through the bill, as the House should think necessary.

Mr. Sergeant Jackson

trusted the noble Lord would not press on the consideration of the bill, which many gentlemen on both sides of the House had believed the Government did not intend to proceed with this session. The bill, as amended, had not been in a printed shape beyond a fortnight or three weeks, and was increased from 216 clauses to 250. There was a series of thirty-four new clauses, beginning at the 184th., all having for their purpose the amendment of the Poor Relief Act. The qualification provided by this bill was different from what it had been in former bills. The qualification established by the bill was an 8l. qualification, but it was to last only for three years. After that, as he collected from the bill, every person who was assessed to the poor-rate, at however small a payment, was to have the borough qualification. If the 8l. qualification was to be permanent, he could understand how one series of clauses should be introduced; but as this qualification was to last for only three years, he could not perceive the object with which they had been inserted in the bill. The bill was, for some cause or other which he could not understand, encumbered with a series of clauses for the amendment of the Poor Relief Act, which ought to be the subject of another bill. He really, therefore, thought that the House ought to be allowed some little time for the consideration of the 250 clauses contained in the bill. He must observe, also, that the powers given to the town-councils by this bill, were extremely formidable. He would boldly state, that under this bill it would be in the power of the town-council to create any number of offices they pleased, to allocate any amount of salary they thought fit, and to supply any deficiency in the borough fund for those purposes by taxing ad libitum the inhabitants of the town. They had also the power of doing that in the most objectionable mode possible, under the act of the 9th of George 4, which gave a graduated scale of taxation. He saw nothing in the bill to prevent the corporation of Dublin making the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. O'Connell) lord mayor of Dublin, and giving him a salary of 50.000l. a-year, which they might make the citizens of Dublin pay. He had stated, that there was one series of clauses, the object of which properly related to the amendment of the Poor-law Act, passed last year. There was also another series, from clause 144 to clause 155, which involved a principle quite new. He was not saying, that these might not be very judicious clauses, but he maintained that they contained a perfectly novel principle, and that they did not appear in the bill as printed in February. Hon. Gentlemen who represented English and Scotch cities and counties, might not be aware how they managed fiscal matters in Ireland. In Ireland, all funds for local purposes were raised by the grand juries, but the bill proposed to transfer this power to the town-council in boroughs. This, therefore, was an innovation upon the practice hitherto established, and required time for consideration. The House should be cautious how it conferred such a power on a town-council, and at any rate it should take care to introduce proper guards against the dangers which might accrue from the town-council being armed with this new authority. He thought, that if this power were conferred upon the town-council, the franchise should at any rate be considerably extended. Votes should be given to the landlords of persons not holding leases, who would not have votes themselves. Again, the 193d section contained a provision, the object of which he confessed he did not understand. It provided, that all tenements in these boroughs should be separately valued. Time, therefore, was required to enable the House to look into that, and see to what purposes the clause might be applied. He would agree entirely to the introduction of provisions which would bring about a perfect valuation. The 6th clause appeared to him to have some particular object in view, as the clause could only apply to the city of Dublin. The clause seemed to point to that particular custom in Dublin which was put forward and established by affidavit in the case known as Hancock's case, in "The King v. the Corporation of Dublin." The corporation claimed to have a veto on the freedom of any individual, and a writ of mandamus was refused on the ground that the custom was a reasonable custom. There was no other corporation in Ireland to which such a right belonged; and it was therefore perfecily manifest that this clause had been introduced with a particular object in view. He would not detain the House further.

Viscount Morpeth

was inclined to think, from what had already occurred, that not much time would be gained if they proceeded now to discuss the bill in committee. He was quite ready to conduct their political differences in whatever mode would be most likely to advance the public business, and therefore, if the right hon. and learned Recorder still adhered to the objections which he had raised, perhaps he would allow the House to go into committee now, and take some of the unopposed clauses, postponing those on which considerable discussion was expected to arise, it being understood that the points likely to be discussed should be fully considered beforehand, and that notice should be given, if possible, of the amendments which it was proposed to make. If that arrangement were acceded to, he should hope that no further objection would be made to the Speaker's leaving the chair in order that the House might go into committee at once, and address themselves to the points not in dispute.

Mr. O'Connell

hoped there would be no preliminary objections previously to their proceeding to business. There was a lawyer in Dublin who undertook to speak during the whole term, and he succeeded, but he had nearly failed towards the end of the term, in consequence of the judges having ceased to interrupt him. When it had been suggested to him to rise to order upon the occasion of the preliminary speech which they had just heard he refused to do so, knowing that it would be a more effectual course of hastening the conclusion not to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Sir G. Sinclair

regretted that when the Government determined to postpone other measures, they had not included this amongst the number. He was sorry to find that this measure had not been given up, for he considered it to be a measure calculated to inflict great injury on the Protestant interest in Ireland. As there seemed to be an understanding at both sides to allow the Bill to go into committee without further discussion, he would not interrupt that understanding by stating his objections now. However, on bringing up the report he would be prepared to state at length the reasons why he opposed this bill, and why he felt bound to resist it with increased hostility as a measure which he considered fatal to the interests of the Protestants of Ireland.

House in Committee. Several clauses were agreed to.

House resumed.

Committe to sit again.