HC Deb 31 May 1847 vol 92 cc1338-45

On the Order of the Day for the consideration of the Lords' Amendments to the Landed Property (Ireland) Bill,


said, that the Speaker had already stated to the House that some of the Amendments in this Bill were such, that it would he inconsistent with the privileges of that House to agree to them; but there were others which he admitted to be improvements of the Bill. The power now given of applying a portion of the money to be advanced to the construction of grist mills and various buildings, for which it was not originally designed, was, he understood, one of the Amendments to which that objection principally applied. With regard to the construction of grist mills, he would only observe that the whole sum of l,500,000l. had already been applied for the original purpose to which it was destined, viz., the drainage and reclamation of land; and he certainly considered these latter as improvements of the greatest practical importance. If, however, before the next Session, there should appear any surplus, not applied for those purposes, it would then become a question for consideration whether that surplus should not be applied to the construction of mills, or works of that sort; but in the present Session, he thought it better to confirm the application of the loan to the great purposes for which it was originally intended.


said, that he understood from the right hon. Gentleman that claims had already been made to the full extent of 1,500,000l.; but he (Mr. French) asserted that it was totally unavailable to one-fourth of Ireland, as the right hon. Gentleman must know from the statements of the officers of the Board of Works. In the west of Ireland, where the distress was most pressing, and works most required, this measure would give no relief, because no portion of the west of Ireland could be made to exhibit an immediate improvement to the amount of 6½ per cent. He knew the fact from the statements of officers of the Board of Works, as well as from his own knowledge; and yet the Government would not grant the loan, except upon a report that an immediate and permanent improvement to the amount of 6½ per cent would be the consequence. The Bill did not expressly require it; but he understood that the right hon. Gentleman did not think it would be advisable, on the part of the Government, to make any loan, when such an improvement would not be the immediate result. And, besides, the Board of Works had a direct interest in reporting in favour of the works to be executed by themselves.

On the Motion on the 4th Clause, that the House do disagree to the Amendment of the Lords with regard to the construction of grist mills, Motion agreed to.

On the Amendment to the 28th Clause, giving the Board of Works power to extend the time for completing works and making payments,


asked for a statement of the reasons why the Government proposed to negative the Lords' Amendments. He thought that the House had been taken by surprise with regard to the last vote.


said, that could hardly be, for the hon. Member behind him had actually spoken on the question; and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had already stated that his reason for resisting the Amendments was that they violated, according to the decision of the Speaker, an important privilege of that House.


said, that he certainly had understood the right hon. Gentleman to move that the House do agree to the Lords' Amendments instead of "disagree;" but as to the merits of the case, there seemed to him little difference between the cases of the English Poor Law and the English Municipal Law and the case of the Irish Poor Law, though he entirely agreed with the Speaker that no precedent could be found. But there must be a beginning. Up to the year 1834, no precedent was to be found for admitting any alterations by the Lords in any Bill at all involving taxation; but at that time a precedent was formed with regard to matters of local taxation; and though this was the case of a loan, the other was the case of a tax upon the people; and all the language used on that former occasion by the noble Lord now at the head of the Government was perfectly applicable to the present case. It would be stretching their privileges to a most inconvenient extent, and would in effect prevent the House of Lords from ever improving any Bills of this sort, if they should refuse to assent to those Amendments, which could not, in any event, add to the taxation of the country or the amount of the loan, but only altered the distribution of it. The noble Lord opposite, on the occasion to which he had adverted, and on a measure which altered altogether the taxation of the country, had recommended the House to agree to the Amendments of the Lords, on the ground that they —"did not alter the total amount of the burden, and that it would be very vexatious and very inexpedient to insist on their privilege on the ground of such an objection. Whilst, therefore, he conceived that there was no precedent for this course; neither in 1834, was there any precedent for that then pursued; for formerly that House did not allow the Lords to introduce any alterations even into a Road or Canal Bill, and not a criminal penalty even to be added or altered. But the present Amendments were not intended in any way to add to the burdens of the people, but only to vary the distribution of a boon granted by Parliament, so as, in the opinion of a large portion of the representatives of Ireland, to add greatly to the value of the boon itself. For these reasons he was prepared to vote that they should wave their privileges, and assent to the Amendment of the Lords.


said, that if he wanted arguments for not waving the privilege of that House, he found them in the speech of the noble Lord. The noble Lord said, that there must be a beginning; that the House had relaxed its practice with regard to the application of local rates, and the noble Lord used that as an argument for further relaxation; but he, on the contrary, considered it the very strongest argument for insisting on their privileges, and he thought that it was of vital importance that they should keep in their own hands the application of money levied by general taxation. It was clear, that if they waved their privilege on that occasion, the House of Lords would on all future occasions exercise the power of altering the distribution of any tax which that House might impose; and he hoped that the House would refuse to depart from its ancient practice. He placed his resistance to these Amendments entirely on the ground of privilege, because, as to the question itself, he thought it of no very great importance whether the construction of mills, or even farm buildings in peculiar cases, should or should not be included in the purposes to which this loan was to be devoted; and his right hon. Friend had already stated, that though the money was exhausted by the applications which had already been made, if a surplus should arise, the question would then be open for consideration; but he did trust that the House would not part with that which was no mere matter of form, but a most substantial privilege of that House, involving largely the liberties and interests of the country. The distinction between the application of local rates and of the proceeds of general taxation, seemed to him very broad; and considering how constantly the House of Lords pressed upon them, whenever they waved any privilege, they ought to be warned by experience, and resist any such attempts as the present.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman had based his claim to the privilege of that House upon so narrow a foundation, that it could hardly stand. If their privilege rested on so narrow a ground, that they were bound to resist amendments as to local distribution of money, raised by general taxation, whilst they consented to amendments as to the application of rates so locally collected, the ground was unworthy of that House. He must say, that the indignation of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to him very uncalled for, because the principle of allowing the Lords to interfere in matters of local taxation had been often recognised; and although this particular fund was not to be levied by local assessment, yet taxation was the same, whether levied by local or by general assessment, and he therefore could not oppose the Amendments on any such ground.


could not agree with the view of the hon. Member for Warwickshire, for he thought that these Amendments did involve most seriously the most valuable privileges of the House. By the Bill as it went up to the Lords, there were certain purposes to which the money to be paid out of the Consolidated Fund was to be applied; but in the Lords, other purposes had been added, and particular amounts specified which it might be in the power of the Government to give, thereby applying to a service which was not intended, money which had been distinctly applied to another, and withdrawing it from that other. But let them see what would be the consequence. In any Appropriation Bill, the House of Commons might have voted 5,000,000l. for the Army and 5,000,000l. for the Navy; but if the Lords could alter that distribution, they might say, "We prefer giving 6,000,000l. to one and 4,000,000l. to the other service;" and if that were so, he asked any one who had considered the relative positions of the different branches of the Legislature, whether that would not be a most fatal violation of this important privilege? The effect of the argument used by the noble Lord was, that they had made a great mistake in allowing the Lords to interfere with questions of local taxation, and that, therefore, they had better proceed further, and give up the privilege altogether.


said, that the point under argument had been already decided upon the 4th Clause; and they were now upon the 28th Clause, giving the Commissioners power to allow two years to complete works, and he certainly did not think that that Amendment affected their privilege in any way.


said, that if this 4th Clause was so great a violation of the privileges of the House, what opinion ought that House to entertain of Her Majesty's Ministers in the House of Lords, who had made no objection to it, but had generally spoken of it as an improvement, although it was now said to be so flagrant an infringement of their privileges, The clause had certainly been passed under a misunderstanding, without the knowledge of the House; but if the present clause would raise the same question, he should certainly vote in favour of assenting to the Lords' Amendment.


said, that this clause would not raise the question, for it related only to the extension of time for completing works and making payments; and although it came within the objection stated by the Speaker, because it related to the distribution of the payments, it in no way bore upon the other question, as to the construction of mills and farm buildings. It would be useless, therefore, to divide the House.


Then what was the use of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of Ireland?


said, that the 4th Clause had certainly been decided; and with regard to the present clause, he objected to it on the merits of the Amendment, as well as on the ground that it was inconsistent with the privileges of that House.

After a few words from ME. LEFROY,


admitted, that the attainment of the objects specified in the Lords' Amendment was desirable; but as he deemed the privileges of the House to be of greater value, he would vote for disallowing the Amendment, and he hoped that on a question of so much importance, hon. Gentlemen would not divide the House.

Amendment disallowed.

Other Amendments considered seriatim, some agreed to, and others disagreed to. Committee appointed to draw up reasons to be offered to the Lords at a conference for disagreeing to their Lordships' Amendment.