HC Deb 17 June 1856 vol 142 cc1573-9

Order for Committee read.

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


objected to pressing forward this Bill in the absence of Irish Members who had given notice of Amendments. The measure was most objectionable in principle; but if it were to remain in the state in which it came down from the Lords, he might not have opposed it; but the measure would be rendered still more obnoxious by the alterations proposed to be made in the measure by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland. He was, however, opposed to the measure as being wholly unnecessary. There was no pretence for such coercive measures now for Ireland, inasmuch as that country was admitted to be in a more peaceable state than it ever before had been during the last century. This measure was but a renewal of the Crime and Outrage Bill, which had been enacted at a time of great inquietude in Ireland, and was intended only to meet a particular crisis. It was but a sample of the old illiberal spirit in which the Whigs had ever legislated for Ireland. He moved that the Bill be committed this 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.


said, that the Bill was now precisely in the form in which it passed the House of Lords, with the exception of those clauses which his right hon. Friend would, in Committee, propose to restore. Those clauses were purposely omitted by the Lords on account of their being money clauses, which it was not competent for their Lordships to pass. The hon. and learned Member had sought to create a prejudice against the Bill by characterising it as an illiberal and unjustifiable measure. On a former occasion he (Sir G. Grey) had stated the grounds on which Her Majesty's Government thought it right to propose a renewal of the Act 11 & 12 of Vict., commonly called "the Crime and Outrage Act," at the same time omitting some of the clauses which were not thought any longer necessary. The Bill was therefore drawn up in such a way as to ensure the peace of Ireland, without inflicting the slightest injury or inconvenience on any individual; and he was happy to say that the present peaceable state of Ireland enabled the Government to dispense with powers which in former years it was found necessary to retain.


said, his objection to the Bill was, that it did not express what it was it professed to do, and he thought it would be better to repeal the existing Act altogether, and to bring in a new measure. He particularly objected to the fourth clause, which continued this Act for five years. Hitherto these Bills had never been enacted for more than one year; and he trusted the Government would consent to limit this Bill to that term.


did not think there was anything in the present state of Ireland which rendered it necessary to bring in a Bill like the present. There was nothing to lead to the apprehension that the peace would be disturbed in that country. The Bill had two objects—first, the registration of arms, and, secondly, the empowering the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to send additional police force into any district which he might consider to be in a state of disturbance, and to impose on that district a heavy taxation for the purpose of paying that additional force. When the Bill came down from the Lords it did not contain the latter provision. Under that circumstance he did not object to the second reading, although he on principle objected to any such Bill altogether.


considered the Bill to be absolutely necessary. It would not do harm to the peaceable and well disposed, and it would enable the Government to put down the crimes and outrages which unfortunately existed in some parts of Ireland. The disturbed state of some parts of Ireland marred the prosperity of the rest. In his own county there was less crime and outrage than in any part of the United Kingdom. Why, then, should his county be obliged to keep up a constabulary force? The reason was that there existed in other parts of Ireland the Riband system, the members of which society intruded themselves into the peaceable counties, so that it became necessary for the inhabitants of those counties to be protected. He therefore was of opinion that no measure could be too strong to suppress the crimes which that and other illegal societies committed.


was opposed to all Bills brought in in this way. The Bill did not define the extent of those powers proposed to be committed to the authorities in Ireland, except by reference to a previous Act. He objected to this exceptional legislation, and he objected to legislation made for the whole of Ireland, which could only be applied to disturbed districts. This Bill would oblige the Government to proclaim peaceable districts as well as disturbed places. He thought it would be much better for the Government to introduce at once a Bill for the registration of arms in Ireland. He was particularly opposed to those clauses of the Bill which gave such powers to the constabulary.


said, the only question was, whether or not they ought to go into Committee upon this Bill. He was of opinion that the Government would have incurred a very serious responsibility if they had not proposed this measure, which was only intended to meet a contingency which might or might not arise. He strongly recommended the House to assent to the Motion for a Committee, when the provisions of the Bill could be more properly discussed.


said, that their whole experience of Ireland demonstrated that they could not safely govern that country without some power on the part of the Government to put a check upon the possession of arms by the people. This necessity arose from the existence of secret societies. In 1846 the Government tried the experiment of leaving the Lord Lieutenant without such a power, and what was the result? The result was, that public auctions of arms took place, and the state of Ireland the next year was marked with outrages of the most serious character. Still there were strong objections entertained by the people against the power given to the Lord Lieutenant of proclaiming districts. It was exceedingly galling to many of the respectable farmers of Ireland that such an exceptional power should exist, even as a matter of police. But it was a power which might be exercised also for political purposes. In 1848 almost every district in Ireland was proclaimed entirely for political objects, the effect of which was to disarm nearly the whole of the population. There was one clause in the Bill to which he had a very strong objection—namely, the fourth clause, which would continue the Bill for five years. These powers ought not to be placed beyond the control of Parliament for so long a period. What reconciled him very much to the provisions of the Bill generally was, that notwithstanding these powers there were many districts in Ireland where no restraint whatever had been imposed on the people in regard to the possession of arms.


said, the county of Cork—the largest county in Ireland—and the county of Waterford—another large county—were two of the most peaceable districts in Ireland. Now if, as his hon. and learned Friend had said, it was galling to the respectable farmers living in districts which had been proclaimed, how much more galling must it be to the large portion of the population of those districts where no crime had been committed? If the House went into Committee, he should move that the Bill be limited to one year.

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

Main Question put and agreed to.

House in Committee; Mr. FitzRoy in the chair.

On Clause 1,

MR. HORSMAN moved that Clauses 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, of the Act 11 & 12 of Vict., should be inserted. These were money clauses, which it was not competent for the House of Lords to enact.

Amendment agreed to; and Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 (Certain Sections of 11 & 12 Vict. c. 2, continued).


complained of the defec- tive way in which the clauses of the Bill were drawn up. Some of the sections of the Act of Victoria which were to be repealed he thought were highly necessary, in order to carry out the objects of the Bill; he would, therefore, propose an Amendment, by which the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th clauses of the Act of Victoria would be continued in operation. The Bill in itself was a bitter pill, although it was disguised under the gentle character of a Peace Preservation Bill. He thought it would be the simpler course for the Government to propose the renewal of the 11 & 12 Vict. for such a period as they deemed advisable.


said, the clauses referred to by the hon. Gentleman were in conformity with the preamble of the former Act, but that portion of the preamble to which those clauses related had been omitted from the preamble of the present Bill. He was happy to bear testimony to the fact that crime and outrage did not at present prevail in Ireland; the Bill, therefore, had very properly been named a Peace Preservation Bill; for although such crimes did not at present prevail, it was deemed necessary by the Government that precautionary powers should be placed in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant. He believed that a great majority of the Members for Ireland wished to arm the Lord Lieutenant with those powers. Within the last seven months three instances of crime had occurred—two of actual murder and one of an attempt to murder—all of them in the open day, and in the vicinity of a great number of people, and yet in two of those cases the murderers had escaped. He was certain hon. Gentlemen would much rather that the perpetrators of those deeds should be apprehended; therefore, all that the Government asked was, that where it was possible that outrage and crime might be committed the Lord Lieutenant should have the power of preventing them, and, if attempted, to put them down. He could not conceive that any serious objection would be made to the Bill being passed in the shape in which it was proposed.


urged the importance of continuing in operation some of those sections of Victoria which this clause proposed to repeal.


explained the reasons for the repeal of those sections of the Act of Victoria, which had been referred to. It should be recollected that the Bill of Victoria was framed to meet a special state of things, and enacted very severe punishment for offences that would now be considered scarcely breaches of morality.

A very rapid discussion followed, of which it was impossible to take more than the general purport—that the Bill was very generally objected to by a part of the Irish Members, who wished that it should be recommitted for the purpose of being remodelled; in which case they would not object to the enactment of a modified measure. On the right hon. SECRETARY for IRELAND refusing to accede to this proposal,

COLONEL GREVILLE moved the omission of the clause altogether. He would not, however, press his Amendment, if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland would declare his assent to the limitation of the operation of the Bill to one year.


declined to say anything as to the duration of the Bill until they came to the fourth clause, which provided for the time the measure should be continued in force.

Question put, "That Clause 2, as amended, be agreed to."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 98; Noes 53: Majority 45.

On Clause 3,


said, that after what had occurred, he should no longer trouble himself by offering any objections to the Bill, except as to the time of its duration, but he did, in the face of the country, denounce the obstinacy of the right hon. Gentleman in refusing to yield to the general feeling of the Irish Members.

Clause agreed to.

On Clause 4, which enacted that the Act should come into operation on the 1st of July, 1856, and continue in force till the 1st of July, 1861, being proposed.

MR. I. BUTT moved that the operation of the Bill be limited to two years.


said, he still preferred five years to two, but as there was undoubtedly some weight in the objections which had been made to the form of the Bill, he was ready to assent to the Amendment of the hon. Member.

Amendment made.


said, he was not disposed to consent to passing even for two years a Bill which was so insulting to the feelings of the people, and so derogatory to the character of the country. When crime and outrage actually prevailed in Ireland, the Government were satisfied with having a Bill of this description for one year only; and there could be no reason why, in the present state of things, this Bill should be extended to two years. He moved that the Bill be limited to one year.


thought the Government would have acted more wisely if they had adhered to the term they had originally proposed.

Amendment negatived: Clauses, as amended, agreed to: Other clauses, the schedules, and preamble agreed to.

House resumed. Bill reported, as amended.

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