HC Deb 14 July 1857 vol 146 cc1501-2

said, he rose to move for a Select Committee, to "inquire into the duties, functions, and mode of remuneration of County and District Surveyors, and Assistant Surveyors in Ireland, and also as to the best mode of examination to be henceforth adopted in reference to such officers, with a view to establish a system of competition, and secure to the public the services of the best qualified candidates." As his right hon. Friend the Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was good enough to assent to his Motion, it would not be necessary for him to trouble the House with more than a few observations. The object which he had in view was this. He remembered it to have been stated many years ago, by Sir Robert Peel, that a Session never passed without an Irish Grand Jury Bill, and an Irish Fishery Bill. Since that statement, he believed he might say the same practice had invariably obtained, and in the present Session there was one Fishery Bill and two Grand Jury Bills for their consideration; but while these annual attempts at legislation were regularly made, they invariably failed, and the old system remained unaltered. The truth was, that the Irish Members differed amongst themselves as to the basis on which the grand-jury system should be established. While some contended that the existing system, if amended, should be maintained; others were in favour of abolishing that system altogether, and no agreement could be come to. He was glad therefore to see in the present Session a Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Westmeath, the object of which was to remedy the defects of the existing system, without touching the principle, inasmuch as that was precisely the object which he (Mr. G. A. Hamilton) himself had in view, in laying the foundation of this inquiry. The House might be aware that the establishment of county surveyors took place in 1830, under the 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 78, and which was extended by the 6 & 7 Will. IV., c. 16. Those Acts provided for the appointment of a county surveyor in each county in Ireland, and as a condition precedent that such officer was to be subject to an examination by certain officers therein described. Now, the functions of those county surveyors were extremely numerous and important. Those duties were set forth somewhat in detail. He would give the House merely an outline of them, such as was contained in a letter addressed by a committee of the county surveyors of Ireland to the predecessor of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland, and given in the Report of a Commission appointed in Ireland in 1842, to consider the whole subject of the grand jury laws. Those county surveyors had to specify the work that was necessary, to select the parties that were to carry it out, to report upon the works when completed, to report upon the state of all bridges, &c., and to superintend generally all matters relating to the office of county surveyor. It was quite obvious, from the extent of the county works in Ireland, that no single individual could perform efficiently those various duties; and, accordingly, the law provided that it should be discretionary for the grand jury to appoint assistant surveyors with a salary of £60 a year to each. That power had been exercised in some and not in other counties. He was anxious to call attention to the results which had followed from the appointment of county surveyors. In the year 1834, the cost of the maintenance of the roads immediately after the institution of the county surveyors was, on an average, £17 10s. a mile. In 1854, the cost, notwithstanding the great increase of wages and drainage, was reduced to £8 13s. per mile—less than one-half what it was at the former period. The cost of superintendence in 1834 was also about double what it was in 1854. He would give an instance of the cost of two counties with the view of showing the effect of the system of surveyors that was in operation. He would take a county in the extreme north, Antrim, and a county in the extreme south, Kerry:—