HC Deb 19 August 1846 vol 88 cc876-9

moved the Second Reading of the Constabulary (Ireland) Bill, the main object of which was to carry out the pledge given by Her Majesty's late Government, on the occasion of the discussion on the Corn Bill; and to take on the Consolidated Fund that portion of the charge of the constabulary force now paid by the counties in Ireland. He would add, that though he should be at any time reluctant to withhold a boon promised to the Irish counties, he would feel particularly so at the present moment, when they had just passed a Bill which threw on the property of Ireland the charge of relieving the distress consequent on the failure of the potato crop in that country. There was another point in the Bill to which he wished also to allude. The hon. Gentleman appeared to look on this measure as one of coercion. He had utterly to deny that there was anything of coercion in it, or that there was anything unconstitutional or anomalous in its provisions. It added to the Lord Lieutenant's powers of increasing the reserved force of the Irish constabulary; but whether that reserved force consisted of 200 men or of 400 men, involved no constitutional principle whatever. By the Bill as it now stood, if any district in Ireland became disturbed so as to require an additional police force, it was provided that the expense of that additional force, so long as it was required in the district, should be paid, as at present, at the expense of the county. Those were the main objects of the Bill; and he trusted that it would therefore receive the support of the House.


had to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his explanation. He perfectly recollected that when the Corn Bill had been introduced, there was a pledge that the counties of Ireland should be relieved from the expense of the constabulary force in the event of that Bill passing. It was, he thought, quite right that that engagement should be carried out, as Parliament was pledged to it; but at the same time he must say, that a great constitutional principle was involved in the Bill, to which the right hon. Gentleman had not at all alluded. The right hon. Gentleman said, that the reserved force was to be increased by 200 men; but he lost sight of the provision by which, in a district declared to be disturbed, the Lord Lieutenant should have a power to increase the police force to any extent that he should think proper. The right hon. Gentleman appeared not to have read his own Bill. It was not 200 additional men, but 2,000 or 50,000 men, that might be sent into any particular district by the Lord Lieutenant; and to increase in that manner such a force, which was virtually a military force, was, he maintained, unconstitutional. It was unconstitutional that the Lord Lieutenant should have the power of increasing a part of the standing army to any extent he thought proper, and of putting his hand into the public purse to support it. The Bill had been printed only that morning, when this unconstitutional principle was for the first time introduced into it; and he thought time ought to be given, both to the country, to Ireland, and to the House, to consider it fully. He would, therefore, move that the second reading be postponed for a week.


said, this Bill did not alter the law as it at present stood, under the Constabulary Act, by which the number of the constabulary force to be permanently employed in every county was fixed; so that beyond a certain maximum the Lord Lieutenant could not go. But by the existing law, the number of the force employed in any county might be increased temporarily in the following manner. On the representation of two or more magistrates met at sessions for the purpose, the Lord Lieutenant might increase the number of constabulary in any district. That provision of the law was continued in the present Bill. The Lord Lieutenant could not increase the police force in any district, without such a representation being made to him. But besides that, the Lord Lieutenant had a power of augmenting the number of the constabulary in a district without the consent of the magistrates, to the extent of fifty men; but it was understood that any such augmentation was to be altogether of a temporary kind, and only to continue while the district remained disturbed. The present Bill altered that arrangement, because it might happen that fifty additional men might not be a sufficient number to effect the purpose required. He would remind the House that in the late discussions on what was called the Coercion Bill, it had been alleged that the county of Leitrim was quieted by an extraordinary application of the military and police forces; and those who opposed the Bill argued, and as he thought truly, that by similar means, namely, an augmentation of the forces in the district, and proper patrolling, similar results would be accomplished in the other disturbed districts of the country. It was, however, thought that a limitation of the additional force to the number of fifty men, would not be sufficient in all cases; and it was accordingly proposed to put the necessary power into the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, to exceed that number should he think it required. There was, however, no intention to make that power permanent. Whenever the necessity should cease, and the proclamation should be withdrawn or should expire, the entire of the augmented force should be withdrawn, and removed to the reserved depôt in Dublin. It was proposed that the disturbed district should pay the expense of the additional force while it would be required; and that provision would, he thought, afford a security against the force being continued in the district longer than the necessity required.

Amendment withdrawn. Bill read a Second Time.