§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ LORD NAAS,
in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said, that the law on the important subject of Valuation was in a most anomalous state as regarded Ireland. The present Valuation was based on two different Acts of Parliament, and on two different principles. The first was the 6 &c 7 Will. IV., c. 84, which was passed for Grand Jury purposes, in 1836, and the Valuation under which was founded on the price of agricultural produce at an antecedent period. Townlands were made the unit of the Valuation; and houses under 5l. a year were exempted from its effects. When, however, the Poor Law came into operation, the townland system was found insufficient for the purposes of that law; and, accordingly, the Act of 1846, 9 & 10 Vict., c. 110, was passed, based upon a totally different principle, and by which the townland was no longer the unit. This Act was generally adopted, Grand Juries exempting for the purposes of county taxation those houses that were under 5l., as in the preceding Act. Under the Act of 1846, the Valuation of five counties had been finished, and that of three more were nearly so. This was all that had been done in five years. But there were some grave evils connected with both Acts, one of which was that the town-land Valuation was based upon the price of agricultural produce in 1820. The other was the tenant valuation. He would read the remarks of the present Commissioners relative to the state of the Valuations. [The noble Lord here read an ex-tract to the effect that the system of Valuation was in an unsatisfactory state.] The great object to be achieved by the Bill was to make a uniform valuation for all local taxation throughout Ireland. The county and poor rates were levied on a comparatively correct system, and it was therefore proper the other question should 1206 be finally set at rest. The right hon. Member for Drogheda (Sir W. Somerville), with that view, had introduced a Bill last year; but so cumbrous were the modes of appeal in relation of townlands and tenements, that it was thought by the general agreement of all the Members connected with Ireland, the Bill would prove unsatisfactory, and therefore ought not to be supported. It would in his (Lord Naas's) opinion have been impossible to work that Bill with advantage, and therefore it was not proceeded with. The Bill, the second reading of which he was about to propose, went upon a somewhat different principle; at all events, it had one thing in its favour—it was simple and easily understood. The whole of the old tenement system of Valuation would be adopted, and reference had to the average scale of agricultural produce. The average would be taken in the only correct way, namely, by the prices quoted in the newspapers from market towns in Ireland. So that they would have a return for three years from forty of the principal market towns, giving from no less than 6,000 markets the average price of agricultural produce. That was the leading feature of the present Bill. It did away with the appeal to the Sub-Commissioners, and gave a simple and satisfactory mode of appeal to the First Commissioner of Valuation. If the appellant was not satisfied, he was at liberty to follow the appeal into the Courts of Quarter Sessions. With regard to lands, it was proposed to have a revision every three years; and with regard to houses, the Poor Law Commissioners were to have power to revise at stated periods. He had every reason to believe, if the House sanctioned the Bill, the Valuation of Ireland would be accomplished by the next five years—that the present enormous expense would be done away with—and that the expense under the new system would be only about l½d. per acre, instead of 4½d. or 5d. as under the present system. The urgency of the case required that something should be done. If, therefore, the Bill was delayed, he was satisfied the greatest difficulty would be found in coming to a decision upon a question which all desired to see settled, namely, an accurate and uniform Valuation in Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
§ MR. CLEMENTS
said, he was not all convinced of the simplicity of the measure 1207 from the statement of the noble Lord, but, on the contrary, he considered it a very complicated affair; and the noble Lord had omitted to state any reason why the House should entertain the subject upon the eve of a dissolution, and after an understanding that none but matters of urgency should be submitted to them. Many of the Irish Members who were more particularly interested in the question, would be absent, and the Bill could only proceed by the noble Lord forcing it through the House by the votes of English Members. He, therefore, must enter his protest against the Bill being pressed under the present circumstances. To show that this was not a simple measure, but one connected with a very complicated system, it was only necessary to state that altogether six Acts of Parliament had been passed with reference to the Valuation of Ireland since the year 1826. When, in that year, the first Bill was introduced upon the subject, he had no doubt the then Secretary for Ireland assured Parliament that it was one of a very simple character, and that the same assurance was made upon each of the five successive occasions when Bills were introduced to alter and amend previous legislation. But be that as it might, he was quite convinced, if the House had been aware of the number of years which would elapse before the Valuation would be finished, the House would have paused before proceeding with any of those measures. During the last Session of Parliament another Bill was introduced upon the subject, and he believed recommitted upon two several occasions. Very material alterations were made in it, and the whole principle of that Bill was opposed to the principle of the Bill of the noble Lord (Lord Naas). The House would judge of the principle of the noble Lord's measure when they heard that it proposed, now that twenty-six counties had been valued by one system, to value six counties by another system, and to remodel the valuation of the twenty-six counties, that the whole might be uniform. He (Mr. Clements) contended that the Valuation under the Poor Law, as conducted by the Board of Guardians, was, upon the whole, satisfactory and perfectly sufficient for all purposes of rating. He would strongly urge that Valuation for County Rate purposes be concluded upon the original scale, and the going on with the Poor Law Valuation under the Poor Belief Act, because the principle upon which the two Valuations 1208 ought to be conducted were totally different. The Poor Law Valuation ought to be upon a fair net value, and the County Rate Valuation according to a fixed state of prices. He did not suppose any one had practically gone so far into the subject as he had, and he believed enormous expense might be saved by adopting a sounder system of appeals. The only system hitherto in practice was that of appeal to the assistant barrister at Quarter Sessions. The assistant barrister had no sort of knowledge of the different circumstances of the various localities affecting the value of land; witness was brought against witness, and he had to decide upon their statements, and the whole Valuation was thrown into complete confusion. He believed that appeals to the magistrates at Quarter Sessions would be no improvement, and he could only suggest that a proper Board of Appeal should be created with Mr. Griffiths to preside over it. He thought that plan perfectly feasible; he was convinced it would be more economical, and would enable them to revert to what he could not but consider was a very desirable state of the law, for each locality to manage its own Valuation. Such a system as that could not be entered into during the present Session, nor could the present Bill be fairly discussed. He challenged the noble Lord frankly to say whether he could get half-a-dozen Irish Members unconnected with the Government to sit upon a Committee to consider this important subject. He believed the noble Lord would admit that he could not. The delay of one year could not be of any great consequence, seeing the number of years this Valuation measure had been dragging along. The Valuation of every county had taken four years to complete. Six counties were still uncompleted, and they could not be completed in less than five or six years; the Bill, therefore, could not affect the constituencies either in the next or in the succeeding year. He was prepared to show that the revision of the Valuation would be attended with very heavy expense; but, without entering upon details, he was satisfied, if the Bill were discussed as it ought to be, it could not pass in the present Session, and therefore begged to move that it be read a second time that day three months.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, he could not forbear from replying to some of the observations of the hon. Member for Lei-trim (Mr. Clements). The hon. Member had said that the Bill could only be carried by the English Members voting for it, and had based his opposition upon the late period of the Session. Now, he (Mr. H. Herbert) represented a part of Ireland where some measure of this kind was imperatively and absolutely necessary, and he should be ill discharging his duty to his constituents if he did not tender his thanks to the noble Lord (Lord Naas) for having brought forward this measure, even at so late a period of the Session. With regard to the time required to go into the details, this was just the very case of all others where Irish Members might copy the example of Scotch Members, who invariably placed themselves in communication with the Government when intricate and difficult questions were involved; and he had no doubt any suggestions of the hon. Member would meet with that consideration from his noble Friend which they deserved. When the hon. Gentleman talked of the Poor Law Valuation being a satisfactory Valuation for the purpose, he (Mr. H. Herbert) could only say, from all he had heard, from all he had read, and from all he knew, he believed that assertion, with all due respect to the hon. Gentlemen, to be at total variance with the facts. But assuming that the Poor Law Valuation in the north was a good one, it did not follow, nor was it correct to say, it was good also in the south. It was not inconsistent with a good valuation to have a difference of 30 or 40 per cent in different localities; but other principles must guide them when they only wanted a valuation for local taxation, and when they wanted it in relation to the Franchise Bill passed last year. The Franchise Bill made it absolutely necessary that some general principle should be adopted, and the Valuation made uniform throughout the country. From his experience he could prove by facts and figures, that undoubtedly the remarks of the hon. Gentleman did not in the slightest degree apply to the south of Ireland. Therefore, he entreated the House not to be guided by representations from one part of the country, where, he admitted, everything was a model which, truth compelled him to admit, might be advantageously copied by the county of Kerry at least, 1210 with which he was more intimately acquainted—but that they would consent to the second reading of the Bill of his noble Friend. He hoped the hon. Member would communicate to his noble Friend the suggestions which occurred to him, and that the Irish Members generally would endeavour to perfect a Bill for this long-vexed question.
SIR ROBERT FERGUSON
said, he considered that the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Clement's) figures were supported by facts. It was stated by a very high authority on such subjects, Mr. Joseph Kincaid, in his evidence before the Lords' Committee, that the Poor Law Valuation was, on the whole, sound and satisfactory. It was well known that the property which paid worst in Ireland was house property; yet it was now proposed to lay a heavy tax on houses under 5l. a year. He would throw out a suggestion to this effect, to exempt the north of Ireland from the Bill, and thus to save expense. He thought it would be apparent there was no hurry for looking into the system of Valuation adopted in the north; the urgency of the case was to be found in the south of Ireland; therefore, he said, let the present legislation be confined to the south. The Bill would have an unfair and an injurious operation in Ireland; it would tax the lower class of tenements very heavily; and this would be the more unjust, because no sufficient notice had been given of what was intended by Government. He should be sorry to oppose the Bill altogether; but as it did propose a change in the taxation of the country, he really wished the noble Lord would withdraw those portions of it which related to the parts of Ireland now under Valuation.
§ MR. VESEY
said, that in giving his support to the second reading of the Bill, he should take a different ground from that put forward by the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert). He should support it because it would be inoperative in the county which he represented. Under the Bill brought in in 1846, power was given to alter the townland valuation to a tenement valuation, which had been adopted, he believed, in the Queen's County. The hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Clements) said that the Bill was brought in against! the wishes of the Irish Members; but, in contradiction to his hon. Friend, he would mention a Resolution agreed to by the Committee which sat in 1844, and which reported that there ought to be but one 1211 valuation for all the purposes of local taxation, and that, in order to secure a correct, fair, and uniform Valuation, it should be made by valuators appointed by a responsible authority, and independent of the local, or, in other words, the Poor Law authorities.
SIR DENHAM NORREYS
said, the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland might depend upon it that whatever opposition was now given to the Bill, he would himself be grateful for it, when it became his duty to bring in a new Bill in the autumn of the present year. His hon. Friend (Mr. Clements) had forgotten that, in consequence of the Bill of 1844, Mr. Griffiths was obliged to bring forward another estimate to get out of the mess into which he had plunged himself. Last year Mr. Griffiths said that it was impossible to carry out a tenement valuation, and therefore he contended that a certain fixed value should be based on agricultural prices. He (Sir B. Norreys) was opposed to the present Bill, because he considered that this was not the period to introduce a new system of taxation in Ireland. Were hon. Gentlemen who approved of this Bill aware of the useless character of the last Valuation, which had cost the country 300,000l. He contended that it was unwise to introduce a new system of valuation at a period of the Session when it was impossible to command an attendance of Irish Members. The noble Lord was about to establish a scale of prices 25 per cent lower than the Town Land Valuation, which Mr. Griffiths himself had said was about 25 below the gross rental of the country. It was monstrous to suppose that the Government should base a valuation upon such a principle as this.
SIR DENHAM NORREYS
said, he had gone over the prices from 1832 to 1844, and he told the noble Lord that they did not justify the prices upon which he had made his estimate, because they were from 25 to 40 per cent less. He held in his hand a Return moved for by the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. French) of prices of oaths down to 1851, which did not support the present principle. The effect of this Bill would be to disfranchise a large portion of the constituency of the country. He heard hon. Gentlemen say that they wanted a fair Valuation; but 1212 what did they mean by a fair valuation? Hon. Gentlemen might depend upon it that the real and fair value of land, whether valued by Mr. Griffiths or not, would be paid for it. He believed the noble Lord had not estimated the cost of this system of Valuation. A perfectly good Valuation might be secured for 5s. per cent., whereas the cost of the Government Valuation averaged 2l. 9s. per cent. He hoped the Government would withdraw the Bill, as it could not pass through the House without great opposition and delay.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, he considered that the Government would be failing in its duty if it did not persevere in pressing forward this measure. The Bill had been maturely considered last Session by a Select Committee of most competent persons. [An Hon. MEMBER: That was a different Bill altogether.] It had at that time very nearly passed, and since then the different objections urged against it had been maturely considered, and the Bill as it now stood, had been reconstructed to meet those objections. Many observations had been made this evening which it would have been much fitter to make in Committee, since they did not affect the principle of the Bill; and the House ought not to wander into a number of points which did not touch that principle. A great deal, for instance, had been said with regard to the expense, which hardly touched the principle. The main expense of the last Valuation, he might say, however, had been occasioned by appeals, the greater part of which had not been substantiated nor followed up. The principle of the Bill was, that it established an uniform Valuation throughout Ireland. At present two systems of Valuation existed in Ireland, the Town Land Valuation, which prevailed in twenty-six counties, and which was based upon the scale of agricultural produce fixed in 1820, and the Tenement Valuation of the 9th and 10th of Victoria, which was adopted in six counties. Thus one form of Valuation prevailed in one-third of Ireland, and the other in two-thirds, and what was wanted was one uniform system. The Valuation contemplated by the present Bill was to be made with reference to a certain scale of agricultural prices from fourteen years to fourteen years, which would take away all inducement to an unfair local valuation. At present, the Townland Valuation was complained of as too high when compared 1213 with the Tenement Valuation, and much dissatisfaction was thereby produced. The noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland would be, he was sure, happy to receive any suggestions from Irish Members upon the details; but as the principle of the measure had been already affirmed, he trusted the House would be prepared to go into Committee on the Bill.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
said, he considered that this was the simplest and the best Valuation Bill which had ever been introduced into the House. There might be improvements effected in its details in Committee; but he believed that the measure would prove on the whole to be a very useful one. He saw no reason why they should then refuse to read it a second time, although he regretted that it had not been brought forward at an earlier period of the Session. It possessed over all other Bills on the same subject the great advantage of proceeding on a uniform system. With respect to the scale of prices, he should observe that the scale laid down was, to the best of his belief, that which had generally prevailed of late years in the north of Ireland. Under all the circumstances of the case, he should feel much pleasure in voting for the second reading of the measure.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
said, it was in no spirit of hostility to the Government that he intended to oppose the second reading of this measure. Several of the Irish Members had left town for the purpose of addressing their constituents with reference to the coining election; and he thought it would be unfair in their absence to press forward a measure in which they, as the representatives of Ireland, were deeply interested. If so important a Bill as this were pressed forward this Session, the Government would act in violation of the promise given by their chief, to the effect that no measures except such as were of absolute urgency, should be submitted to the consideration of the present Parliament.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he must protest against the argument, that because they were at present in the month of May, a sensible and useful Bill was not to be discussed. That argument would imply that the House ought to abdicate its functions, because the period of the Session was an advanced one, and because some Irish Members thought fit to leave London at a time when they ought to be in the House. No argument had been adduced 1214 against the principle of the Bill, which was one of a sensible, judicious, and economical character. He had been told that the proposed new Valuation would be effected for three farthings per acre, while the old Valuation had cost fourpence per acre.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, he thought they were much indebted to the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland for the introduction of the measure. In his opinion, his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland had shown that it was the only mode of obtaining a fair valuation in Ireland. He believed that, with the aid of morning sittings, they would have no difficulty in passing the measure through its several stages in the course of the present Session.
§ CAPTAIN JONES
said, he must deprecate the suggestion that they should dispose of this measure at morning sittings. He felt persuaded that a great deal of bad legislation had taken place at these morning sittings. It appeared to him that at the present advanced period of the Session, they could not proceed satisfactorily with a Bill of that description. Although he should vote for the second reading of the Bill, he hoped it would be referred to a Select Committee.
§ SIR JOHN YOUNG
hoped that no such reference would take place, for, even if it should, every clause would be afterwards submitted to the ordeal of a Committee of the whole House. As the Bill would, in his opinion, confer great benefits upon Ireland, it was of importance that it should be pressed forward.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
observed, that he differed from the Attorney General for Ireland, who had stated that this Bill was a mere Valuation Bill, and not a Taxation Bill. He regarded it as a Taxation Bill. Its sole object was to lay a basis to regulate all future taxation throughout Ireland. Therefore it was a mere Taxation Bill, to be effected by means of a Government valuation. He differed also from the assertion that this was a measure which could not possibly involve any political interest. He could easily conceive how its machinery might be put in motion by a Government officer to unfairly forward the ends of a Government for the time being. He thought also it might be converted into a political engine by improperly reducing the valuation of some tenements, or by unfairly lowering its scale of agricultural prices, so as to deprive many of the county 1215 voters of their elective franchise. What Ireland required was a fair and just valuation, to be ascertained under a well-considered measure of legislation, as perfect as might be capable of being framed, and such as would not require to be realtered in a few years more, after the waste of large additional sums of Irish money. He did not regard the present measure as being of that perfect character, although he considered it contained some useful improvements, which it would be adsirable to adopt. It would be right, in considering this Bill, to recollect, that there had been already no less than nine abortive attempts made to legislate upon this most difficult and important subject. There had been six Acts of Parliament for establishing a public system of general valuation, commencing with the Act of 7 Geo. IV., c. 62, up to that of 9 & 10Vict., c. 110, under which latter Act the noble Chief Secretary stated that Mr. Griffiths was at present acting, or rather that he had come to a dead lock. There was also the system of valuation established by the Irish Poor Law Act of 1 Vict, c. 56; and there were the two Valuation Bills of last year, namely, the Bill introduced in February, 1851, by the late Government, and the same Bill as amended in March, 1851. by a Select—or rather by a selected—Committee. He would not designate those Bills of last year in the strong terms of condemnation which they justly deserved; and certainly the present Bill was, in some respects, a great improvement upon them—being of a more simple character, and not incumbered with so many complicated clauses and impracticable provisions. He thought, however, there were some sins of commission, and several of omission, in the present Bill, and he hoped it would not prove the tenth abortive attempt to legislate properly upon a subject which, as a practical matter, was one of the most vitally important to the interests of Ireland. He thought it was not just or fair that Irish measures of this difficult and important character should be deferred until towards the very close of a Session, and then taken up and pressed forward by Government during the necessary absence of many Members representing Irish constituencies, and at a period when it would not be possible to afford sufficient time for the due discussion of all the details. The Attorney General for Ireland had deprecated all discussion of details at the present stage of this Bill, upon its being presented for a second read- 1216 ing—thus taking on this occasion the very opposite course from that recently adopted by him in regard to the Irish Tenant Right Bill, when he had occupied the House with objecting to each of the details of that measure. Now, he did not intend to follow that example by discussing the several clauses of the present Bill, which he had already admitted contained improvements upon the present valuation system. There were, however, some matters which others might look upon as details, but which he considered important principles of any Bill for establishing a perfect system of public valuation. In the first place, he thought that no new Valuation Bill ought to be assented to which did not secure to the Irish ratepayers some efficient mode for having a bon° fide account and audit of the vast expenditure of their money by an irresponsible Government officer. It appeared by a Parliamentary return, dated May 6th, 1851, that up to the spring assizes of 1851, no less a sum than 258,6,71l. 13s. 7d. had been expended upon this general valuation, and it had been stated that the expenditure was still proceeding at the rate of about 30,000l. a year. So that the total expenditure up to the present time could not be far short of 300,000l., for not one shilling of which vast sum had the Irish ratepayers received any sort of account or audit. By another return of June 17, 1851, it appeared that up to May 1, 1851, the sum expended upon this general valuation of the single county of Tipperary was 23,688l. 5s. Since that period the valuation of that county had cost some additional thousands, and it was still very incomplete. It has probably already cost near 30,000l., and would certainly, before its completion, cost far beyond that sum to the ratepayers of Tipperary, for which neither they, nor their Poor Law Guardians, nor their grand juries, will have received any account whatever. Every gentleman who had served on grand juries in Ireland knew that the sum demanded by Mr. Griffiths on account of his expenditure was always a compulsory presentment, and that the only information ever laid before a grand jury was contained in three or four lines, which simply certified the bulk sum expended. This sum constituted a portion of those compulsory presentments, which usually left but a very trifling percentage of the entire county cess in the discretion of an Irish grand jury. He should wish to obtain from the noble Lord the Chief 1217 Secretary for Ireland a distinct assurance that in case the present Bill were allowed to he now read a second time, a provision would be introduced in Committee for securing to the Irish ratepayers an effectual account and audit. In the next place, he objected to the principle involved in the seventh clause of the Bill, which transferred from the Lord Lieutenant, and vested in the Valuation Commissioner, an absolute and irresponsible power "to nominate and appoint, from time to time, any number of writing clerks and surveyors, or any number of persons to be valuators." Upon this enormous patronage, to be exercised at the expense of the ratepayers of Ireland, the only limitation contained in the Act was the provision in the thirty-ninth Clause, that no valuator or writing clerk should receive more than twenty shillings per day, besides such allowancess to cover his hotel and travelling expenses as the Commissioner might think fair and reasonable. It would be easy to suggest how this immense patronage might be abused in many ways by some future Commissioner. It would add to the evils of that system of bureaucracy which had already inflicted so much injury upon Ireland. Again, he should wish to known upon what fixed data had the scale of prices been made out which were given in the 11th Section, as the basis of future valuations for all land in Ireland. That section preserved the present principle of valuation in regard to houses and buildings, which were to continue to be valued upon an estimate of the net annual rent; but, in regard to lands, a different principle was now to prevail—for the value of all lands was to be based, not upon an estimate of the net annual rent, but upon an estimate of the net annual value, with reference to the average prices of produce given in the Bill. The principle of net annual rent being thus repudiated by the Bill, it was quite idle to suppose that, practically speaking, any valuation of lands based upon an arbitrary scale of prices, would be generally followed by landlords in Ireland to regulate their rents. It was plain, therefore, that should too low a scale of prices be adopted, the effect would not be to lead to a reduction of any of the rents of occupying tenants, but it would undoubtedly have the effect of lowering the poor-rate valuations, and of thus, perhaps, disfranchising many thousands of the county constituents. If, therefore, a very low scale of prices were adopted in the proposed 1218 Act, its effect should be counteracted by a corresponding reduction in the county elective franchise. It had been stated by the noble Lord that the scale of prices in the present Bill was taken from an average of prices mentioned in a return made out from the Irish newspapers by Mr. Griffiths. Now he was not aware of any return except that which had been presented to Parliament in the course of last Session. He would give a few specimens from that return, to show the mode in which the averages it contained for 1849 and 1850 had been struck by the present Bill. As to wheat the average price per cwt. in that return was 8s.0⅘d. for 1849, and 8s. 4d. for 1850, from which two sums, he presumed, there had been deduced the average of 7s. 6d. in the present Bill. As to oats, the averages in the return were 5s. 4¼d. and 5s. 10d., and that in the Bill, 4s. 10d. As to pork, the averages in the return were 35s. 8d. and 38s. 4d., and that in the Bill, 32s. And so as to the other articles of produce. But, really, that return itself was, perhaps, the most extraordinary statistical paper ever presented for the information of Parliament, to form the basis of an important practical measure; though, perhaps, its very blunders were some test of the honesty with which it had been compiled from the different local newspapers. About one-third of the items were not filled up, but were left in a blank state. Those that were given, exhibited the most incredible discrepancies in the prices of the same article in different towns. For example, in this return for the year 1850 the average price of pork was represented as being 53s. 10d. in Waterford, 37s. 4d. in Wexford, and 30s. 5d. in Cork; those three being all export towns, each possessing the same seaboard and equal facilities of sale. In 1849, pork was stated to have been 54s. in Waterford, and only 35s. 7d. in the adjoining town of Clonmel. In 1849, barley was 7s. 9d. in Clonmel, and only 4s. 6d. in Roscrea, both being towns in the same county of Tipperary. In 1849, oats were 8s. 4d. in Monaghan, and 3s. 7d. in Maryborough. Again, in 1850, 8s. 7d. in Monaghan, and 4s. 0¾d. in Maryborough. In 1848, wheat was 12s. 3d. in Limerick, and at Nenagh—distant from Limerick about eighteen miles—9s. 8d. Numerous other instances might be accumulated out of this return to show its utter fallacy as the basis of a fair and permanent valuation, or such a perfect measure of legislation as it would be desirable now to introduce for the pur- 1219 pose of finally superseding all previous systems. The absurdity of that return had been pointed out during last Session, and had, he believed, contributed in a great measure to the total abandonment of the amended Bill recommended by the Select Committee. For the Attorney General of Ireland was mistaken in supposing that that amended Bill was the same as the present Bill. It was not the same Bill, but the very reverse of that Bill; and this total dissimilarity was one of the chief recommendations of the present measure. He was aware that the right hon. Gentleman had suggested that the scale of prices was one of those details which might be considered and amended in Committee. But he would like to know what satisfactory information the House could expect to obtain in Committee. He did not anticipate that the noble Lord would be prepared to supply a satisfactory scale of prices in Committee, or that the right hon. Gentleman the representative of the University—or, as he had lately styled himself, "the representative of the Church"—would be able to furnish any useful information on the subject. He thought that an undertaking should now be given to introduce some proper measure, such as was partly promised last year, for establishing in Ireland a system of official corn averages similar to the English system. A correct system of corn averages was essential to any plan of valuation, such as it was now proposed to introduce, namely, a valuation based upon the prices of produce, and not upon the net annual rent. It had also long been required in order to regulate Irish tithe rentcharges and the rents payable under ecclesiastical leases. In Ireland there were no corn returns made in any town except Dublin, and even there the returns were merely voluntary and of a most imperfect character. With respect to the power of final appeal, the present Bill left it with the assistant barrister, or rather with the Quarter Sessions, which he confessed he regarded as preferable to an appeal to the Government commissioner, He thought, however, it might be well to consider whether some better tribunal might not be devised for obtaining a satisfactory and uniform valuation at a reasonable rate. He had shown the enormous expenditure incurred within the last five or six years in valuing the single county of Tipperary, being, as he believed, thirty times as great as the cost of a valuation under the Poor Law Acts. He had heard 1220 it suggested that one mode of obtaining a cheap and satisfactory valuation of any particular county or district would be to set it up to public competition, subject to subsequent revision by an appropriate tribunal, at the risk of the valuator, who should be bound to sustain his valuation at his own expense. He thought that suggestion worth consideration, having regard to the great expense of all past valuations, and to their unsatisfactory character. He did not conceive that the present Bill would very materially diminish the future expenses of the Government valuation of Ireland. It would certainly get rid of the useless expense of all appeals to Sub-Commissioners, and so far was a desirable measure; but nearly the same expense might be still incurred in appeals to the quarter-sessions courts. His great object in making these observations was to suggest the propriety of framing such a Valuation Bill for Ireland as would effectually obviate the necessity of legislating again upon the subject. He had mentioned some reasons for not thinking that the present Bill was as perfect a measure as might be framed, after full deliberation, by a Select Committee or a Committee of Inquiry composed of such of the Irish Members as were best acquainted with the subject, and who might assist their investigations by examining some intelligent witnesses. He was quite aware of the general objections to Select Committees, and of the course taken by the Select Committee appointed last Session, who had separated without making any report or examining any witnesses, after a mere conversational examination of Mr. Griffiths whose statements before them had not been published. But he thought that a Select Committee of Inquiry, such as he had described, might succeed in producing a valuation measure such as they could submit to the House after mature consideration, and be able to stand by in all its principles and details. He did not think it likely that a measure of that perfect character could be framed by this House when in Committee on the present Bill, especially at this advanced period of the Session, though he thought there was much to approve of in the Bill, which professed to introduce one uniform system of valuation for county cess and for poor-law purposes.
§ LORD NAAS
said, he was glad to hear from all quarters that there was no real objection to the principle of the Bill. He 1221 believed it was almost universally admitted that it was desirable to establish a uniform system of valuation. His hon. Friend the Member for Leitrim (Mr. Clements) recommended, as he (Lord Naas) understood him, that the different Unions should have the power of effecting Valuations for themselves, subject to the superintendence of a Government officer. But he (Lord Naas) was afraid that that arrangement could only lead to a continuance of the evils of the present system. He did not hold himself pledged to all the details of the measure, and he would be prepared carefully to consider in Committee any suggestions for its amendment. He could not agree to the suggestion of the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. V. Scully) that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. He had seen a great many measures referred to Select Committees, but had never known any good to follow from the adoption of such a course. He believed that in Select Committees hon. Members never changed their opinions, and were occupied there from day to day in urging arguments which they afterwards repeated in the House.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:— Ayes 89; Noes 6: Majority 83.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°.