HC Deb 18 April 1855 vol 137 cc1545-51

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of the Bill, said, it was too late (half-past four o'clock) then to discuss the principle or the details of the measure, but he appealed to hon. Gentlemen to consider whether, when almost every word of the Bill had received the assent of the House, after long discussion, and an inquiry by a Select Committee, it would be reasonable to oppose the second reading. He appealed to hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House whether it would not facilitate a proper settlement of the question to allow the Bill to be read a second time that evening, reserving all discussion until the Motion for going into Committee was made, and he likewise appealed to the Government whether, considering the peculiar circumstances in which he had been placed by the discussion that day it would not be possible to give him a Government night. The present Bill differed very little from that which received the assent of Lord Aberdeen's Government in that House, and did not differ materially from the Bills introduced by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) when he was Attorney General for Ireland under Lord Derby's Government.


said, that on the part of the Government, he fully admitted the importance of the measure, it being an embodiment of two measures which had already received the sanction of that House. He thought, therefore, that the House ought to give every facility to the hon. and learned Member in proceeding with the measure. As to the Government giving a day for the discussion of it, the next Government night was set apart for the Budget, and after that the Newspaper Stamps Bill would come on, so that until these important questions were got through, and which would no doubt occupy the House for some time, no other business could be allowed to interfere. But after those questions were disposed of, he should think that Government would be disposed to give every facility for proceeding with the measure. He would not give any pledge on the subject, but he had no doubt such would be the case. So far as the Government were concerned there could be no objection to have the Bill read a second time now, and take the discussion on its going into Committee.


said, he wished to explain to the House how the case stood in respect of this Bill. Some time ago he had put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government as to what was the intention of the Government respecting it; but to that question he had got no satisfactory answer. The measure was composed partly of his (Mr. Napier's) Bill of last Session, the Leasing Powers Bill, and partly of Sir John Young's Tenants' Compensation Bill, which latter measure, after being considered by a Select Committee of the House of Lords, was rejected by that Committee with the full concurrence of the Members of the late Government, many of whom were also Members of the present Government. Now, the question he wanted to be answered was, whether Ministers meant to support the present Bill, brought in by the hon. and learned Serjeant in all its entireness. The experience of last Session convinced him that the two Bills which came down from the House of Lords—namely, the Leasing Powers Bill and the Landlord and Tenant Bill—constituted as large a measure on this subject as the most sanguine could hope to pass through Parliament; but both of those Bills were most unexpectedly abandoned by Sir John Young, because he was pressed to do so by those Irish Members who placed confidence in the Government, and, as he (Mr. Napier) did not happen to be among that number, he was thrown overboard. Well, the hon. and learned Serjeant in framing his present measure did not take the two Bills which passed the House of Lords last Session, but he took a Bill which had been rejected by the House of Lords, and tied it to another which had passed the House of Lords, and thus compounded the present measure. Again, he wished to inquire whether those Members of th Government who assented to the rejection of the Tenants' Compensation Bill in the House of Lords were now prepared to support the present measure. In his opinion, the Bill was nothing but a delusion, because it could not be expected that it would ever pass through Parliament; and he certainly would be no party to a delusion on the people of Ireland. Would the Government support the Bill as it stood in all its integrity, in both Houses of Parlia- ment, and, if not, what course did they propose to take when the Bill got into Committee.


said, he did not complain of the right hon. and learned Gentleman availing himself of this opportunity of stating his objections against the measure, but he did think his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland had some reason to complain of his conduct. They were now arrived at within five minutes to five o'clock, and the time for discussion was, therefore, necessarily short. It was well known that the noble Lord at the head of the Government could not be present, as he was at Windsor, and he was sure every one would rejoice at the cause of his absence. Well, then, what had occurred? The House had been engaged for four hours most unprofitably, as he considered, in discussing a measure which had been rejected, and the promoter and author of which, being a warm supporter of the measure now before the House, it might have been supposed would have given way for the discussion of this important measure. That, however, he had not done, and it had not, therefore, been the fault of the Government that time had not been given for the discussion of this measure. Well, then, when it was brought on towards the close of the sitting, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had charge of the measure, seeing there was not time for the discussion of it, put it to the Government whether they would not give him a day for the discussion of it. In that appeal he was met by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland, who stated that he could not pledge himself now that a day would be given, but that he would use every exertion in his power, and give every facility for having the measure proceeded with. With that assurance the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny seemed perfectly satisfied. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin rose and asked what were the intentions of Government respecting the measure. Why did he not do so previous to his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Horsman) rising? If he had done so, he would have been told what the intentions of Government were on the subject when the question came properly before the House—it would then he quite time enough for the Government to say what they would do with the measure in that House, as well as in the other.


said, he did not think they ought to be satisfied with the attempt at explanation by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, but that they ought to consider whether they would allow the interests of Ireland to be systematically trifled with by an imbecile Ministry. The noble lord at the head of the Government was a member of the Committee which sat on this subject, and was the person who proposed the rejection of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, (Mr. Serjeant Shee.) The Bill had been styled mischievous and absurd by Members of the Government in the other House, but now the House had been told that the Government would support its second reading. The hon. and learned Serjeant, in introducing the present measure, plainly intimated to the noble lord at the head of the Government that if he voted for it he should remain Prime Minister; but if not, "I belong," significantly observed the hon. and learned Serjeant, "to a party on whom the fate of Ministries depend." He believed that the noble lord had taken counsel with the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Hayter) as to the number of votes which might be acquired for the Government by taking a certain course, and was now, as far as the statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland could be understood, prepared, in order to strengthen his ricketty Administration, to support provisions which he had formerly opposed. He asked Irish Members whether they believed in the sincerity of the Government, in their promise to support the measure, and whether the Government were not practising on the country a delusion and a sham. He emphatically denounced the conduct of the Government as an imposture. But the Bill could not pass the present House of Lords, and he asked whether the hon. and learned Serjeant believed in the sincerity of the noble lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) and conceived that that noble lord would advise Her Majesty to create peers for the purpose of passing a measure which would enable tenants to demand compensation for what had been done in the time of their grandfathers. He had actually been informed by an attorney that this Bill, if passed, would apply to all estates purchased under the Encumbered Estates Act. If that was the case they would have petitions from every purchaser under this Act against ex post facto legislation of so iniquitous a character. Allusion had been made to the conduct of the Government of the Earl of Derby on this subject. He might tell the House that when Lord Derby was asked, on the day on which the opinion of the House was to be taken on the Budget of his Government, whether he would support the Bill of the hon, and learned Member for Kilkenny, that noble lord answered plainly that he would not; upon which a gentleman said to him (Mr. Whiteside) that that was a foolish answer, because it had lost Lord Derby twenty votes. It was, however, a declaration in accordance with the spirit of the English people, who liked straightforward and candid conduct, and very different from the language held by the present Ministers, whose purpose appeared to be to cajole the Irish and Liberal members of that House, and in the event of a dissolution to get up an election cry for Ireland. He protested against dilly-dallying with a measure of this kind in that House, and which if sent up to the other House, would assuredly be opposed and rejected. They ought to know distinctly what Government meant to do with the Bill. Let a day be fixed for the discussion, and they would appeal to the House to put an end to a system of delusion which was bringing discredit on Parliament, and which would inflict the greatest injustice on Ireland.


said, that this was not the first time that he had heard the two hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite make speeches such as they had just delivered; and, if he were not mistaken, he had heard the same observations, word for word, fall from them last Session. The Government were accused of intending to support a measure which was denounced as a sham and imposture; but he might remind the House that a measure quite as extensive was introduced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) when Attorney-General for Ireland. It was, indeed, that right hon. and learned Gentleman who first introduced what it was now convenient to call a sham and imposture. That right hon. and learned Gentleman's measure contained not only the principle of giving compensation to tenants for improvements, but also a clause retrospectively affecting, without any limit as to time or the nature of the improvements, the relations of landlord and tenant. The Bill to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred as having been rejected by the Lords was the Bill brought in last Session by the hon. and learned Serjeant (Mr. Serjeant Shee) and, after reference to a Select Committee, modified by amendments proposed by Sir John Young then Secretary for Ireland. The imputation of shilly-shallying, if it was attributable to anybody, was attributable to the Government of which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been a member, for the Compensation Bill which he introduced in that House was almost immediately condemned by several supporters of his Government in the other House, who intimated their intention to offer it all the opposition in their power. The course pursued now by the right hon. and learned Gentleman was neither consistent nor convenient, and he trusted it would not be supported by the House.


said, he hoped the House would now read the Bill a second time sub silentio, on the understanding that the discussion should be taken on going into Committee, when, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General for Ireland had promised, the Government would be ready to state their intentions with respect to it.


said, he wished to say that the Bill originally introduced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin and the Bill now before the House were totally and essentially different. He feared that the people of Ireland were now further than ever from the boon they had hoped to obtain. He must say he thought the House ought not to consent to the second reading until the intentions of the Government were made known.


said, he thought that the second reading should be disposed of at once. If any more time were put off, the Lords would have the usual excuse that the Bill came up too late. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) would induce the other Members of the Government to allow it to come on on an early day.


said, he thought that a Bill of this kind ought not to be allowed to pass a second reading without a division. It was too bad to bring on a Bill of such importance when only one Member of the Cabinet, the right hon. Baronet the First Commissioner of Works (Sir W. Moles-worth) was present.


said, he must charge the Opposition with violently opposing out of office a measure which they had supported when in office. With regard to the opposition of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), he rather preferred being opposed by an hon. and learned Member who was always placing his party in ridiculous predicaments. He (Serjeant Shee) had crossed to the Government side of the House in order that he might see the hon. and learned Gentleman's relative (Mr. Napier) blushing for the reckless indiscretion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and tugging him by the tail of the coat, and imploring him for God's sake to sit down. The hon. and learned Gentleman was a perfect Barabbas to his party. He was clamorous for justice to his constituents when out of office, although when in office he denied them the smallest meed of commiseration. The principle of retrospective compensation to tenants was contained in the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin; but he had afterwards used all his influence to prevent the Tenants' Compensation Bill passing through the House of Lords, and he was now endeavouring to play the same game, simply because the Bill was supported by the present Government, and was not introduced by a Government of which he himself was a Member.


said, he must call upon the House to reject the propositions of the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, on the ground that the House was in ignorance of the intentions of the Government with respect to it.


rose to address the House but it being now a quarter to six, Mr. Speaker interfered, and the Debate was adjourned till Friday.