HC Deb 14 July 1843 vol 70 cc1191-200

On the question, that the Speaker do leave the Chair for the House to go into a committee on the Arms (Ireland) Bill.

Mr. W. S. O'Brien

moved as an amendment, that the further proceedings on the bill be suspended until the other measures relating to Ireland which are now before the House, be considered in all their stages. He thought that before this measure should be allowed to go further the House ought to know what was to be done with respect to the other Irish measures now pending. One of those measures was the Irish Poor-law Amendment Bill, which, he believed, he might say, that all the Irish Members deemed of paramount importance. That bad for a long time been cast aside to make way for the discussion of this bill. Next was the Irish Corporation Bill, which was introduced early in the Session, and which would, he believed, give general satisfaction if it were carried out. There was then the Pawnbrokers (Ireland) Bill, with respect to which many persons had come over here from various parts of Ireland, and were waiting for a considerable time at great personal inconvenience. It was a month since that bill was committed pro forma, but it had not yet been printed in its amended shape. The other bills put aside for the Arms Bill were the Fines and Penalties Bill, the Court of Exchequer (Ireland) Bill, the Law Courts Bill, the bill for reducing the 1s. duty on whisky, and the Charitable Loan Societies Bill. Now, he was sure that hon. Members on the Ministerial benches would approve the course taken by the Irish Members with respect to the Arms Bill. Well, he would put it to them—to the House generally, whether so many important measures as those he had named should be set aside on account of the trumpery clauses of this bill, which would not afford my security whatever for the objects for which they were introduced?

Mr. Hume

asked whether all the English measures now pending should also be delayed until this Irish Arms Bill was gone through? If they were, it was certain that many of them would be abandoned for want of time to carry them through. We were now in the middle of July, and he was sure, that with the utmost exertion t would be impossible to get the measures low pending through Parliament before:he end of August.

Mr. Ewart

said, the progress of the Ecclesiastical Courts Bill, the County courts Bill, and several other important measures was entirely delayed by the course which had been adopted by the Government with respect to the Arms Bill. If that bill were allowed to take precedence of all other business, the whole course of legislation would be obstructed. Were the Poor-law Bill and the Factories Bill, which he should have thought the right hon. Home Secretary would have abandoned, to be delayed merely in order that this odious Arms Bill might be inflicted upon the Irish people?

Mr. Wallace

hoped his countrymen would understand that the important mea sures in contemplation respecting the Scotch Church, which would effect an entire change in the constitution of that Church, were delayed in order that this obnoxious bill might be passed. He thought when those measures came before that House he should be fully justified in following the praiseworthy example which had been set by the Irish Members, and in offering every opposition in accordance with the forms of the House to their progress.

Sir R. Peel

understood that the Irish Members had disclaimed any wish to offer such opposition to the progress of this bill as that for which the hon. Member for Greenock gave them credit. The hon. Gentleman said that because he, as an individual Member of that House, entertained an objection to particular measures he would control and defeat the sense of a vast majority of the House by availing himself of its forms in order to obstruct legislation. It would be for the country to judge, whether such a course were compatible with the public interests; and whether, if other lion. Members—who had an equal right with the hon. Gentleman to object to particular measures—pursued a similar line of conduct, they would not abuse the privileges they possessed as Members of that House. Such conduct, if persisted in, would, indeed, involve a suspension of the functions of the House. The hon. Member might attach great importance to the objections he entertained to the measures to which he had alluded; but other lion. Gentlemen might entertain as strong objections to other measures not connected with Scotland, and if they adopted a similar course to that which the lion. Member for Greenock had expressed his determination to pursue, the utility of that House might be entirely defeated by the acts of one or two lion. Gentlemen. The course the Government was pursuing with respect to this bill was quite consistent with the usage of Parliament, and it was one which they adopted not from any personal considerations but from a sense of public duty. It was, however, very unusual when tile House was proceeding upon a bill in committee, to interpose motions of the nature of that which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Limerick. Of course he could not control the exercise of individual discretion, but when the hon. Member complained that the discussions on this bill interfered with the progress of public business, he must leave it to the country to judge whether the Government were responsible for the delay of measures connected with the interests of Ireland, of Scotland, and of this country, which the Government were most anxious to submit to the patient and deliberate consideration of the House.

Mr. M. J. O'Connell

thought the hon. Member for Greenock laboured under some misconception as to the course which the great body of Irish Members wished to pursue with regard to this bill. He should not be dealing candidly with the House if he did not admit that it had been suggested that some such course as that alluded to by the hon. Member for Greenock should be adopted in opposing the measure now under consideration; but the almost unanimous sense of the Irish Members was against such a proceeding. They considered, that however obnoxious some of the provisions of the bill might be, it was not of a character which would justify such extreme opposition, At the time the suggestion to which he had referred, was made, there were indications in the public journals and ' in other quarters, of a course being taken which might have justified his hon. Friends on that side in having recourse to any means of obstructing the progress of this bill which the forms of the house allowed. It was supposed that the Government entertained some intention of suspending that portion of the constitution in Ireland with which they considered the liberties of the people to be most vitally connected; and though, at that time, they came to no decision upon the point, the general opinion was that, if such a course should be adopted, it would be the duty of the Irish Members to adopt such a course as that to which the hon. Member for Greenock had referred. He did not, however, consider that the motion of the hon. Member for Limerick was of an obstructive character, though it might become so if a long debate arose upon it. He thought it was quite fair to say that, as several important measures with reference to Ireland were before the House, their whole time ought not to be devoted to this restrictive bill, but that those measures should be forwarded through the regular stages. The Poor-law Amendment Act was at least as important to Ireland as the bill now under consideration; and though he was desirous of avoiding such obstructions as that to which the right hon. Baronet had alluded, yet if the lion. Member for Limerick pressed his motion to a division, he should feel it is duty to vote in its favour.

Sir R. Peel

said, the hon. Member for Kerry must see that, if the consideration of other measures were interposed, this bill might be delayed for some time; and objections might. then be taken to its further progress on the ground of the advanced period of the Session. If the lion. Member for Kerry, and other hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, would give him any guarantee that there was a probability that this bill might be passed through committee in two or three days, and if they wished to have an opportunity of discussing the Irish Poor-law Bill, he would be prepared to take into consideration such a proposal, if made bonâ fide and not with any intention of throwing over the Arms Bill until a late period of the Session. There was an honourable understanding, in House which was as binding upon Gentlemen who entered into it as any formal engagement, and if the hon. Member for Kerry thought that in the course of two or three days this bill might be passed through committee, the discussion being taken on bringing up the report, or on the third reading, he was ready to meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite with respect to the other Irish measures before the House.

Mr. M. J. O'Connell

said, that for his own part, not to speak of other hon. Gentlemen, he could not enter into such an engagement. It was his full conviction, that, by this time, they would have arrived at least at the 20th clause of the bill; but difficulties had arisen as much on the other side as upon that on which be sat. The consideration of the 13th clause, which it was thought would have been unopposed, occupied the House until Ten o'clock last night; and they had not got beyond the second line of the 14th clause. He feared, therefore, it was impossible to enter into such an engagement as that suggested by the right hon. Baronet.

After a conversation in which several of Mr. O'Brien's Friends recommended hint not to press the amendment, it was put and negatived.

House in committee.

Lord Eliot

said, that the Government were desirous of meeting all fair and reasonable suggestions which were made to them, and they had endeavoured, in consequence of the discussion which occurred last night upon clause 13, to frame a definition of the term "arms." The definition was in these words, "That in the construction of this act, the word arms' shall be deemed and construed to include every description of fire-arms and air-guns, and no other weapon whatsoever." lie must say that he did not think his hon. Friend and himself were obnoxious to the censure which had been cast upon them, for in no former act of this nature had any definition been given of the word "arms." He would also state the nature of some amendments which it was proposed to introduce in clause 14. Some doubt had been expressed as to whether, if a person were brought before a magistrate under the operation of this clause, and entered into recognizances, he would be liable to the detention of his arms. It was therefore proposed to introduce a proviso, declaring that if security be not required, or if it be required and shall be given, or if the person apprehended shall be dis charged, the arms seized shall in that case be restored. It was also proposed to reduce the time during which a person apprehended might be detained in custody before being brought before a justice of the peace, from twenty four to twelve hours.

The I4th clause was then amended.

On the question that the clause as amended stand part of the bill.

The committee divided: Ayes 51; Noes 27; Majority 24.

List of the AYES.
Allix, J. P. Jermyn, Earl
Arbuthnott, hon. H. Jones, Capt.
Baillie, H. J. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E
Baring, hon. W. B. Lincoln, Earl of
Boldero, H. G. Lockhart, W.
Botfield, B. Mackenzie, T.
Bruce, Lord E. M`Geachy, F. A.
Buckley, E. Manners, Lord C. S.
Chetwode, Sir J. Manners, Lord J.
Cripps, W. Newdigate, C. N.
Darner, hon. Col. Nicholl, rt. hn. J.
Darby, G. O'Brien, A. S.
Denison, E, B. Pollock, Sir F.
Egerton, W. T. Pringle, A.
Eliot, Lord Rolleston, Col.
Flower, Sir J. Rush brooke, Col.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Smith, rt. hn. T. B.C.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Somerset, Lord G.
Goulburn, rt. hn. H Tennent, J. E.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Trench, Sir F. W.
Hampden, R. Vesey, hon. T.
Harcourt, G. G. Vivian, J. E.
Henley, J. W. Wortley, hon. J. S.
Hinde, J. H. Young, J.
Hodgson, R. TELLERS.
Hope, hon. C. Fremantle, Sir T.
Hope, 0. W. Baring, H.
List of the Noes.
Barnard, E. G. Muntz, O, F.
Bernal, R. Napier, Sir C.
Blake, M. J. Ogle, S. C. H.
Bowring, Dr. Power, J.
Browne, hon. W. Stuart, W. V.
Busfield, W. Thornely, T.
Chapman, B. Trelawny, J. S.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. T. C Turner, E.
Ewart, W. Wallace, R.
Fielden, J. Wawn, J. T. J
Fitzroy, Lord C. Wood, B.
French, F. Yorke, H. R.
Hatton, Capt. V. TELLERS.
Heathcoat, J. O'Brien, W. S.
Hume, J. Clements, Visct.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses to the 19th inclusive agreed to.

On clause 20, persons licensed to keep arms, selling or disposing of them, to give notice of sale under a penalty of

It was proposed to fill up the blank with the words "five pounds."

Mr. W. S. O'Brien

moved that the words be "ten shillings."

The committee divided on the question that the words be "five pounds; Ayes 6I; Noes 28; Majority 33.

On the question that the clause as amended stand part of the bill,

The committee again divided: Ayes 60; Noes 34; Majority 26.

List of the AYES.
Arkwright, G. Hinde, J. H.
Bailey, J. Hodgson, R.
Bailey, J. jun. Hope, hon. C.
Baring, hon. W. B. Hope, G. W.
Bernard, Visct. Hussey, 'T'.
Boldero, H. G. Ingestre, Visct.
Borthwick, P. Jones, Capt.
Botfield, B. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E
Buck, L. W. Manners, Lord C. S.
Buckley, E. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Clerk, Sir G. Newdigate, C. N.
Collett, W. R. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. O'Brien, A. S.
Cripps, W. Patten, J. W.
Darner, hon. Col. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Denison, E. B. Peel, J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Polhill, F.
Egerton, W. T. Pollock, Sir F.
Eliot, Lord Pringle, A.
Flower, Sir J. Repton, G. W. J.
Forman, T. S. Round, J.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Smith, rt. hon, T. B.C.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Tennent, J. E.
Greenall, P. Trench, Sir F. W.
Grogan, E. Trollope, Sir J.
Hale, R. B Vesey, hon. 'F.
Hamilton, G. A. Young, J.
Hampden, R.
Harcourt, G. G. TELLERS.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Freemantle, Sir 'T'.
Henley, J. W. Baring, H.
List of the NOES.
Armstrong, Sir A, Hume, J.
Barnard, E. G. Napier, Sir C.
Bernal, R. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Blewitt, R. J. O'Brien, W. S.
Bowring, Dr. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Browne, hon. W. Plumridge, Capt.
Buller, E. Power, J.
Chapman, B. Ross, D. R.
Collett, J. Smith, B.
Collett, J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Esmond, Sir T. Walkley, T.
Duncan, G. Wakley, T.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Wawn, J. T.
Forster, M. Williams, W.
Hatton, Capt. V. Wood, B.
Heathcoat, J. TELLERS.
Hill, Lord M. Clements, Visct.
Howard, P. H. French, F.

Clause agreed to.

On clause 21, a licensed person to pro- duce arms when required by justices at petty sessions.

The committee divided on the question that the clause as amended stand part of the bill: Ayes 72; Noes 29; Majority 43.

List of the AYES.
Arkwright, G. Hinde, J. H.
Bailey, J. Hodgson, H
Bailey, J. jun. Hope, lion. C.
Baring, lion. W. B. Hope, G. W.
Bernard, Visct. Hussey, T.
Boldero, H. G. Ingestre, Visct.
Borthwick, P. Jones, Capt.
Botfield, B. Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E
Broadley, Lincoln, Earl of
Buck, L. W. Manners, Lord C. S.
Buckley, E. Manners, Lord J.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Clerk, Sir G. Newdigate, C. N.
Collett, W. R. Nicholl, rt. hon. J.
Corry, rt. hon. H. Norreys, Lore
Cresswell, B. O'Brien, A. S.
Cripps, W. Patten, J. W.
Denison, E. B. Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C. T Peel, J.
Douglas, Sir C. E. Pollock, Sir F.
Egerton, W. 'F. Pringle, A,
Eliot, Lord Repton, G. W. J.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Round, J.
Flower, Sir J. Russell, Lord J.
Follett, Sir \V. W. Scarlett, lion. R, C.
Forman, T. S. Smith, rt. lion. R. V.
Gaskell, J. Milnes Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Stuart, W. V.
Gordon, hon. Capt. Sutton, hon. H. M.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Tennent, J. E.
Greenall, P. Trench, Sir F. W.
Grogan, E. Trollope, Sir J.
Hale, R. B. Vesey, hon. T.
Hamilton, G. A. Young, J.
Hampden, R.
Harcourt, G. G. TELLERS.
Hardinge Fremantle, Sir T.
Henley, J. W. Baring, Ii.
List of the NOES.
Armstrong, Sir A. O'Brien, W. S.
Barnard, E. G. Plumridge, Capt.
Blewitt, R. J. Power, J.
Bowring, Dr. Protheroe, E.
Browne, hon. W. Ross, D. R,
Chapman, B. Smith, B.
Collett, J. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Duncan G. Trelawny, J. S.
Esmonde, Sir T. Wakley, T.
Ewart, W. Wallace, R.
Forster, M. Wawn, J. T.
Hatton, Capt. V. Williams, W.
Heathcoat, Wood, B.
Hill, Lord M. TELLERS.
Hume, J. Clements, Visct.
Napier, Sir C. Crawford, W. S.

Clause agreed to.

On clause 22, justices may withdraw licences.

Mr. Ross

moved to insert the words "on account of any crime or misdemeanour connected with the use of arms." As the clause now stood a person guilty of a very trivial offence, a common assault for instance, might be arbitrarily deprived of his licence after having duly registered his arms.

Lord Eliot

contended that the clause was a mitigation of the existing law. The magistrates might now withdraw a license whenever they pleased. The clause did not make it imperative on the justices to withdraw licenses in the cases supposed, but merely provided that it "shall and may be lawful" for them so to do.

Sir R. Ferguson

suggested that the clause had better stand as at present; because, in cases of riot, it might be desirable to withdraw licenses to bear arms, although the parties bad not been guilty of felony. He thought, however, that the magistrates ought to state in their notice of withdrawal the grounds on which they proceeded.

The Attorney General

admitted the propriety of this latter suggestion, otherwise the notice given by magistrates might be altogether illusory,

Lord J. Russell

supported the clause. If the magistrates had not the discretion of withdrawing arms from improper persons, they would show much greater unwillingness to grant licenses in the first instance.

The committee divided on the question that the words he inserted; Ayes 46; Noes 95; Majority 49.

Clause, with verbal amendments, agreed to.

On clause 24, justices and constables to enter and search houses in which it is suspected that unregistered arms are kept,

Mr. Bernal

said, that this was a most important clause, and one great objection to it was that it. conferred the power of search upon a single magistrate. He proposed, as an amendment, the insertion of words which would place this power in the hands of two magistrates; observing, that this alteration would tend to afford greater security to the rights and liberties of the subject.

Lord Eliot

said, that it had been proposed to place this power in the bands of a single justice of the peace because, in many parts of the country it would be a matter of considerable difficulty to obtain the services of two magistrates. In consequence, however, of the objections which had been urged against the clause in its present shape, it was proposed to place the power of search in the hands of one stipendiary magistrate, or of two justices of the peace.

Mr. M. O'Ferrall

complained that this clause would have the effect of delegating to constables the duties of magistrates. The greatest excitement and ill-feeling had been occasioned by searches for arms having been conducted during the night, and he hoped some means would be adopted to prevent such proceedings in ordinary cases for the future.

Sir J. Graham

suggested that the hon. and learned Member for Weymouth (Mr. Bernal) should withdraw his amendment, in order that an opportunity might be afforded for considering the amendments which the Government proposed to introduce in this clause.

Amendment withdrawn. The House resumed. Committee to sit again.

House adjourned at a quarter before one 'o clock.