HC Deb 30 April 1852 vol 121 cc7-9

wished to put the question of which he had given notice to the Attorney General of Ireland. It was generally understood that Lord Clarendon, during his administration in Ireland, had employed Major Brownrigg, one of the chiefs of the constabulary force of that country, to make a tour through the north of Ireland, with the view of inquiring into the origin and working of the Ribband system. The present Government had also continued the services of Major Brownrigg in the same' mission: and it was reported that that officer had recently made his report, which was alleged to have furnished the chief materials for the new Coercion Bills which were now being forged upon the anvil of the Attorney General for Ireland, and his hon. and learned coadjutor (Mr. Whiteside). It was stated that Major Brownrigg had reported to the Government that the shops of the licensed victuallers, not in Ireland only hut also in England and Scotland, were the focuses and hotbeds of the Ribband conspiracy, and suggested certain alterations in the law and in its administration, and the infliction of certain pains and penalties on the licensed victuallers of the United Kingdom, which he considered calculated to entirely eradicate the evil. [The hon. Member here read a paragraph from the Weekly Telegraph to the effect stated.] Now he (Mr. Reynolds) believed that this was a wholesale calumny and a base libel upon the licensed victuallers and retail grocers of Ireland; and his constituents had protested against the unfounded aspersions of a professional inquisitor being made the ground for the passing of a coercive measure that must prove their ruin. In the city of Dublin there were 1,202 licensed vintners and retailers, and during the troubled times of 1848, although the closest possible scrutiny was held over them, there was not one instance found where they harboured persons of the description in question. He begged now to ask the hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland whether such a report as that to which he had referred had been made by Major Brownrigg, and whether it was the intention of the Government, acting upon that report, to introduce such a Bill against the licensed victuallers of Great Britain and Ireland as was recommended by Major Brownrigg? And in asking that question, he begged to be understood as not confining the attention of the Government to this or any future Session; but he wished to know, for the satisfaction of the trade, whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce such a Bill, under any circumstances, in connexion with any Bill that they might deem it advisable to introduce for the repression of Ribband Societies in Ireland?


said, that when the Select Committee was appointed to inquire into crime and outrage in Ireland, he had thought it his duty to ascertain what officers had been sent down by the late Government into the disturbed districts, with a view to their examination before that Committee. He had thought it due to the late Government to refer to those gentlemen, and, knowing that they were men of great experience and capacity, he could have no hesitation in taking Major Brownrigg amongst others as a witness. Major Brownrigg appeared to have very largely inquired into the state of the various districts he was directed to examine, and had prepared a report in writing. He (the Attorney General) had never continued that gentleman, or had any communication with him since his own accession to office; but Major Brownrigg came over and gave his evidence before the Committee in question. Having prepared a statement of his views in writing, he was asked by the Committee whether he had any objection to produce it, and accordingly it was given in. He might observe that in consequence of certain evidence before the Committee having been very injuriously paraphrased in a number of the same paper to which allusion had been made upon the very same day, the attention of the Committee was drawn to it, and a special order was made that no further publication of any evidence should take place, and an order was posted outside that no stranger should be admitted. With respect to the intentions of the Government as to any Bill, he could only say that, not having yet heard the whole of the evidence, as Chairman of the Committee it would be a gross breach of duty on his part to form any opinion or to make any declaration with reference to the measure which might result from the inquiries of the Committee. All he could say on the part of the Government was this, that when they had heard the whole of the evidence, and the Committee had reported to the House, he should endeavour to prepare and bring in such a measure as might be satisfactory.