HC Deb 29 June 1855 vol 139 cc358-63

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that he was strongly opposed to the irresponsible manner in which provision was made for the erection of lunatic asylums in Ireland, no estimate for the construction of those establishments being furnished in many instances, previous to their erection by any responsible authority. He thought also that the Government ought to appoint a Committee to inquire into that subject; and as he understood that they were not prepared to accede to such a proposal, he should move that the House should resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill on that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee," instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question."


said, he thought the Irish Members had been unfairly treated with respect to the Bill now under discussion, and that a breach of faith had been committed by the Government. It was not understood that the Committee were merely to inquire into a question of technical legality, but that any illegal and useless expenditure should be taken into consideration by the Committee, and afterwards by the Government. He put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether the Bill ought to be pressed, and whether a Committee of Inquiry ought not to be appointed?


said, that the question involved in the Bill was a simple and narrow one. Certain loans were advanced from the public Exchequer to Irish counties under the provisions of the Lunatic Asylums Act, and the question was, whether those loans should or should not be repaid? Some additional grants, beyond those contemplated in the original Act, were made, and they required the publication of Orders in Council by the Irish Government. Those Orders in Council were not issued, and hence a technical irregularity which the Bill now before them proposed to remedy. The matter was referred to a Select Committee, fairly constituted, who examined evidence and made their Report, and the present was the Bill which had received the sanction of the Committee. The offer of a Commission was rejected and the alternative of a Committee was accepted. It was impossible now to suspend the passage of the Bill, and he must therefore decline to acceed to the issuing a Commission.


said, he must deny the imputation sought, to be placed upon the Irish Members by the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they wished to avoid the repayment of the loans which had been advanced for the purpose of lunatic asylums. He thought, however, that the present opportunity should be made available for compelling the Government to inquire into the gross mismanagement and irregularities which had taken place by the Government in connection with the advance of these loans.


said, he must beg to remind the House that the assurance given to the Irish Members had been not that the Bill should be referred to a Select Committee, but that the whole question should be referred to a Select Committee. He would appeal to hon. Members opposite, English as well as Irish, whether that was not the understanding. Well, that being so, what had the Government done? They contented themselves with referring merely their Bill to a Committee, and although they acknowledged the question at issue was an architectural and a legal one, they satisfied themselves with calling as a witness, not an architect, not a lawyer, but an inspector of lunatic asylums, Dr. John Nugent—an officer appointed by themselves. He would, therefore, maintain that the Irish Members were justified in opposing the further progress of the Bill, on account of the breach of faith on the part of the Government.


said, that as Chairman of the Committee, he would observe that the Committee, in conducting their inquiry, had only been actuated by a desire to do impartial justice to the people of Ireland, and they were totally unbiassed by anything that had previously taken place between the Government and the Irish Members. It was now to be regretted that the inquiry was not more extensive, but it could not have been carried further than the terms of the reference admitted. Certainly, a Committee of that House was not a proper tribunal for deciding architectural questions; and the case of the building in which they were now sitting, the original estimate of the cost of which had already been trippled, was a sufficient illustration of that fact. There was, however, no reason why the Irish Members should not be allowed to transact their own affairs, subject to the same responsibility as that which rested upon the representatives of other parts of the kingdom; and in the particular case; before them the same principle should be adopted which had been acted upon when complaints having been made in regard to the advances for drainage works in Ireland, a remission was made on account of the mistakes that had been committed by the Government officers.


said, he felt bound to justify the conduct of Irish Members with respect to the measure, and at the same time he must contend that there had been gross and shameful blundering on the part of those representing the Government. It was too much to ask an overtaxed and poor Irish county to pay for the blunders of the irresponsible servants of the Government.


said, that his recollection of what occurred on the occasion when the question respecting the application of the money was under discussion was that the whole subject should be referred to a Select Committee; not to inquire as to the legality of the expenditure, because, on that point no doubt seemed to be entertained that an illegality had been committed, but as to whether the money had or had not been profitably, though illegally applied. He should have thought that the best tribunal for trying that question would have been a Commission, but upon the whole it was considered better to refer it to a Select Committee.


said, that he had had several communications with the Government on this subject, and it was a distinct understanding, to which the Government were parties, that the question to be inquired into, whether it was referred to a Committee or to a Commission, was to be whether the money had been properly spent or not; and it was his opinion that the Government had not acted fairly towards the Irish Members in the matter.


said, he regretted very much the course which the Government had taken on the occasion. Testimony had been given from all parties that the understanding come to was that the whole subject should be made matter of inquiry, and he thought it hardly fair to insist upon the further progress of the Bill founded upon an inquiry so limited as that which had taken place before the Committee.


said, that his recollection of what had passed at the interview between himself and the deputation of Irish Members on the subject was very distinct. On that occasion he had offered the deputation the alternative of a Commission or a Committee. He remembered impressing upon them that a Committee would not answer the purpose which they had in view, inasmuch as it would be impossible for a Committee to inquire into the architectural question. The Commission, however, was refused, and a Committee was moved for in the House. That Motion was carried without any remark being made [ Cries of "No,"]—at least so far as he was concerned.


said, he thought the best course for the Government to adopt would be to grant a Commission to inquire into the whole subject.


said, he also concurred in recommending that a Commission should be appointed.


said, he could confirm the statement of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to what had passed at the interview with the Irish Members. As to the proceedings of the Committee, the reason why the general question had not been gone into was, that the Committee itself had decided that the order of reference did not justify so extended an inquiry.

MR. MACKINNON moved the adjournment of the debate.


said, he would appeal to the hon. Member (Mr. Mackinnon) to withdraw his Amendment and allow some decision to be arrived at.


said, if the House would consent to the adjournment of the debate he would take into consideration the propriety of renewing the offer he had formerly made for the issue of a Commission. [A cry of "A distinct pledge."] If the House would consent to adjourn the debate for a week he would then be prepared to propose a Commission.


said, he could not under stand the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to say he would grant a Commission, then it would be satisfactory; but when he only said he would consider the matter, it was not sufficiently definite,


said, he would be prepared to accede to the issue of a Commission in some form or other before that day week, but he was unable at that moment to state the precise manner in which the Commission should be issued.


said, he would suggest that at that late period of the Session it was hopeless to expect any Report from a Commission which could be reduced to practical legislation during the present year, and, therefore, he thought it would be better to withdraw the Bill.


said, he thought hon. Members would do well to accept the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer who proposed to communicate with the Irish Members and endeavour to meet their wishes, If the Bill were summarily dismissed there would be no Commission, and next year, the same Bill would be reintroduced under, perhaps, different circumstances.


said, he would recommend the Irish Members to accede to the proposal of the Government.


said, he did not wish to triumph over the Government by an adverse vote, and would therefore advise his friends to accept the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Debate adjourned till Friday next.

The House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock till Monday next.