HC Deb 24 May 1843 vol 69 cc847-8
Mr. Ross

moved the second reading of the Roman Catholic Oaths (Ireland) Bill.

Sir R. Inglis

opposed the bill. The oaths imposed on Roman Catholics had been framed as a certain security to be taken prior to voting at elections, and was tendered as such security at the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill. It appeared, according to the hon. Member, that conflicting decisions had been given since the passing the Reform Bill, whether the oath should be taken or not. Prior to the passing of the Reform Bill, there could be no doubt that the oath was to be taken. The doubt, therefore, might as easily be resolved in the affirmative as the negative. The bill resolved it in the negative, Now he should propose to resolve it in the affirmative, and require that every person professing the Roman Catholic religion should take the oath prior to voting at elections. Before dividing the House he waited to hear what decision her Majesty's Government had come to.

Mr. T. C. Smith

(Attorney-general for Ireland) said it was perfectly true that, from the time of passing the Roman Catholic Relief Bill down to the passing of the Irish Reform Bill, every voter was bound to take that oath; but the question was now as to the construction of the Irish Reform Act, and whether the oath required by the 10th of George 4th was repealed by that act. And, first, upon this there arose a question of construction upon the English Act. According to that act, registration was to be conclusive, and certain questions only were to be put, as to whether the voter held the same qualification, whether he was the party registered, and whether he had already voted. That act was open to the same question as to Roman Catholic voters as the Irish Reform Bill; but since the passing that act he did not find that a single Roman Catholic voter had been called upon to take the Roman Catholic oath in England. In the Irish Reform Bill, in the same way, there was a regulation that the certificate or original affidavit of registry should be conclusive, although the continuance of the oath was not altogether inconsistent with that act. Still it appeared to him that the construction of that act was to repeal the Roman Catholic oath—it had been so decided by two committees of that House; and in an instance where he had known the oath tendered, he must say that it had an unfair tendency to delay the polling of the voters. Under these circumstances he thought he was bound not to refuse his assent to the bill.

Bill read a second time.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes to seven.