HC Deb 23 March 1854 vol 131 cc1245-9

said, he would now beg to nominate the Committee to consider the Grand Jury Laws of Ireland. As the constitution of the Committee was objected to, and its proposed objects so completely mistaken, he would take that opportunity of stating that his object was to correct abuses, not to alter the law, and, therefore, that was the whole scope and tendency of his Motion. With regard to the selection of the names, his aim had been to select Gentlemen whose opinions were unbiassed in favour of any particular course, and in whose regard he felt assured that they would proceed to consider the subject in a fair and temperate manner, and who would make no recommendations which the House could not safely adopt. He had, however, been urged to withdraw his Motion, but he believed that in doing so he should not be fulfilling his duty to the ratepayers of Ireland. In that country, as hon. Gentlemen from England might not be aware, all the roads and public works were made and carried on at the expense of the ratepayers, so that whilst here in the year 1851 the average county rate was not more than 5d. in the pound, in Ireland, during the same year, it reached to a poundage of 1s. 6d. The whole of the expense of the gaols were also thrown on the county rate.


here interrupted the hon. Member, and said that in going into the whole question of the Grand Jury system of Ireland he was quite out of order, his Motion only extending to the nomination of a Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That the following Members be Members of the Select Committee on Grand Jury Laws (Ireland).


said, that the House was aware a promise had been made by the right hon. Baronet to the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he would introduce a Bill to improve the state of the Grand Jury Laws of Ireland in the course of the present Session. Under such circumstances, therefore, and after all the Committees and Commissions which they had had during the past twenty or thirty years, he was perfectly astonished at the proposition emanating from the hon. Gentleman opposite, and could only regard it as an attempt to cushion and retard immediate legislation. They had had a Select Com- mittee on the subject so far back as 1836, before which the hon. Member himself was a witness, and they had another in 1842, constituted of fifteen Members, eleven of whom were from Ireland, and on which no less than 3,600 questions were asked, and nineteen witnesses examined. It was quite evident, therefore, that further inquiry was superfluous; though, if it was conceded, he would not shrink from it, but would show that other classes of the community besides the ratepayers were affected by the injurious system at present in existence. He would call upon the House, therefore, not to bother the representatives of Ireland with needless investigations, but to press upon the Government the necessity of dealing with the ample materials before them and of introducing the requisite measures. He would move that the Order of the Day for the appointment of the Select Committee be discharged.


seconded the Amendment. He would put it to the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he would not, in consenting to the appointment of a Committee, be passing judgment on himself and the late Mr. Anthony Blake, both of whom had been members of the Commission of 1842. Twelve years had now elapsed since their Report had been made, and he would, therefore, beg the right hon. Baronet not to leave them once more at the mercy of chance legislation.

Amendment proposed— To leave out from the words 'that the' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'Order for the appointment of the said Committee be read, and discharged,' instead thereof.


said, he hoped the House would pause before acceding to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary (Mr. F. Scully). He might observe that at the moment he was interrupted by the right hon. Gentleman in the chair, his hon. Friend the Member for the county of Antrim (Mr. Macartney) was proceeding to observe on the Report of a Commission which had been appointed in 1842. Now that Commission had recommended most important alterations in the present Grand Jury system of Ireland, and which, if carried into effect, would involve a saving of not less than 160,000l. a year for the landed property of Ireland. The Report, however, of that Commission had been laid aside for twelve years, and the object, therefore, of his hon. Friend was to investigate how far their recommendations could be usefully carried into practice. He must say, in contradiction to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Tipperary, that the Grand Jury system of Ireland was, on the whole, an admittedly good system. He believed it was a mistake to say that the abuses which formerly existed in the Grand Jury system existed at present, inasmuch as great improvements had been made of late years in that system. He hoped that if the Committee was appointed, it would be limited in its inquiries.


said that the only way to deal with the Grand Jury system of Ireland was to get rid of the fiscal duties of the Grand Jury altogether.


said, he was placed in a somewhat difficult position on this question. He had stated that he was not prepared to consent to a Bill being laid on the table, but thought it desirable to see the result of the discussion on the measure regarding the county rates of England. When his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim proposed a Committee, knowing that he was one who had given great attention to the question, he (Sir J. Young) had acquiesced in the proposal; and he could not well withdraw his acquiescence. He had merely suggested the alteration of one name in those proposed for the Committee. He saw no ground for dissenting from the appointment of the Committee. It was said the question of religious toleration was involved, but he could not see in what way. Much was said about representation accompanying taxation; and he approved of the principle. The Act on which the valuation was founded contained a clause attempting to regulate the rating by the net rent. Adam Smith and other authorities laid it down that local rates were a part of the rent and should be deducted from it; and the Commissioners who reported on the local rates of England in 1844 said it was well known that landlords had nothing to gain by the shifting of rates from one class to another; they assumed that all local rates came out of the rent in one shape or other. Therefore, whatever the representation in a county, the landlords or rent receivers ought to have a predominance in the management of the rates, otherwise an injustice was committed. It was most important to oppose the erroneous notions which prevailed on this subject, by the dictates of common sense. There were many points in the present Grand Jury Laws which might be advantageously retained, though the constitution of the Grand Juries was altered. Boards of guardians might be delegated to act on the Grand Jury, but the owners of property, as the great ratepayers, ought to have a predominance.


said, that, under the circumstances, he was desirous of ascertaining with what view the Committee was to be appointed, and what were the precise subjects they were to inquire into? He thought the Committee ought to be agreed to as it was proposed by the hon. Member for Antrim, or not at all. The understanding upon which the proposition was at first made was, that it was to carry out the views of the Commission that had already reported on the subject.


said, he wished to state fairly that he did not understand that the Committee, as proposed by the hon. Member for Antrim, was to be limited in the way alluded to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.


said, this was a question which was sure to create great difference of opinion amongst Irishmen. The benefits of the Grand Jury system had been exaggerated, as had been its disadvantages. He doubted whether anything new would be elicited by the inquiry of another Committee. It would lead to dissension, and the expression of a variety of opinions, which would probably end in nothing. The number of notices now on the paper with reference to it showed that it would create great dissension. They would most likely have a division every day, and they would produce no Report of any value.


said, that with reference to the statement of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Young) as to the objects of the Committee's inquiry, he could not, as the promoter of the original Motion, assent to the view of the right hon. Baronet, because if that were adopted the entire question would be opened—a proceeding which he had never contemplated. He had never contemplated carrying out the Report of the Committee of 1842, which would have made practical improvements in the law as it stood, but he could never consent to make an alteration in the fundamental law respecting Grand Juries. Before, therefore, asking the House to proceed to a division, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intended to support the reference to the Committee of the instruction contained in his own Motion? [Sir JOHN YOUNG replied in the affirmative.] He saw so little chance of effecting a just settlement of this question, and of carrying out the Report of the Committee of 1842, that he was quite ready to agree to the discharge of the Order.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Order read, and discharged.