HC Deb 23 June 1857 vol 146 cc251-66

said, that he was about to ask leave to bring in a Bill for the better management of the fiscal affairs of counties in Ireland, though he must at the same time admit that he had little hope of being able to remove the prejudices of the Secretary of Ireland in favour of the present fiscal system. The object he had in view was to carry out in Ireland the recommendation which had been so strongly urged by a Royal Commission appointed a few years ago to inquire into the management of county rates in England; namely, the formation of Central County Financial Boards. Now, if for some years back there had been considerable agitation in this part of the kingdom in favour of the establishment of such Boards, and if, with the present system of managing the county rates in England, there had arisen a demand for reform, how much greater was the necessity for such reform in Ireland, where the system was so inferior to that in England. Instead of the management of the county rates being vested in the magistrates, men of position and character, and whose office was continuous, under the system which prevailed in Ireland, taxes amounting to nearly a £1,000,000 a year, were imposed by a few gentlemen selected as a grand jury at the caprice of the high sheriff? Now it might be supposed that the gentlemen who served on a grand jury were popular in the county; but that was far from the fact, that the most popular men were those who were least likely to be placed upon it. The body, too, was an ephemeral body. Its existence numbered only a few days. No responsibility whàtever attached to its proceedings, for its members might never be required to serve in that capacity again. One of the most extraordinary of their functions was, that they appointed another Board, called the Board of Associated Ratepayers, which had to act to a certain degree in controlling the grand juries themselves. The grand jury were selected by the high sheriff, and the associated ratepayers were selected by the grand jury. In this way the grand jury selected from 100 of the highest ratepayers in every barony a certain number of persons to be the representatives of that barony. Of the number so nominated, one half are selected by ballot, who, together with the magistrates, are called the associated ratepayers. There was, therefore, no responsibility on the part of the grand jury, except to the high sheriff; and no responsibility on the part of the associated ratepayers except to the grand jury. In fact, to use the words of the Commissioners, these associated ratepayers were the nominees of the body which they were called upon to control; for there is nothing to prevent the grand jury from nominating those only who were of the same opinion with themselves on any one question whatever. With such a body in control, and such a body to make presentments, it was in the power and management of the high sheriff to accomplish any job which he wished to accomplish. Indeed, in his younger days it used to be a matter of courtesy on the I part of the grand jury to pass any job that the high sheriff wanted. The whole system was one of clanship and partiality. He held in his hand a book written by a county surveyor containing many condemnations of the system, and such descriptions of its operation, that, as an Irishman, he was ashamed to read them. He did not hesitate to say that the grand jury system had done more to demoralize Ireland than any other institution could have effected. It was to put an end to such a system, under which £1,000,000 of money was expended, that he asked for leave to bring in a Bill on the subject. The House of Commons, the Municipal Corporation, and the Colonial Legislatures, had been reformed, and they had even made a feint at reforming the Corporation of London. What then, was there so sacred about the grand jury system in Ireland that they dared not attempt to improve it? Now, there was an organization in existence in Ireland which managed an expenditure similar in amount to that at present regulated by the grand juries, and which was found to work harmoniously. He alluded to the poor law system and to the boards of guardians; and he saw no reason why an analogous system to that should not be adopted on this subject. This would be a, very simple arrangement, and one with which the people were well acquainted; and under it every man would vote for his road warden in the same way as he now did for his guardian. In the boards thus formed every part of the county would be represented by its warden; and instead of being ephemeral bodies like the grand juries they ought to be continued in office for a period of three or four years, in order to give them a feeling of responsibility. When men were elected by their fellow citizens to manage their roads and bridges, and would feel that a serious public responsibility rested upon them, and there would be some security that they would act fairly. An additional guarantee for their impartiality and efficiency would be afforded by the association of the gentry and the educated classes of their district, the magistrates being ex officio members of the board. If ex officio guardians frequently neglected their duties, at least this class of guardians were as inefficient in England as in Ireland, as was proved by the Return of the Preston union; but he believed that if a system of the kind he proposed was established there would always be a sufficient attendance on the part of magistrates and gentlemen interested in keeping down the expense of the roads of the country. A system, exactly similar, was now in existence in Belgium, and worked admirably; and since the year 1848 a like system had been in operation in Canada—in the last named country every township containing 100 or more freeholders was constituted a body corporate, and endowed with very Full powers. His proposal, therefore, was nothing new. He believed that as the proposed councils would represent the property, the intelligence, and the honesty of the country, much larger functions than those connected merely with roads and public buildings might safely be entrusted to them. He was in favour of confiding to them, under certain restrictions, some of the powers now exercised by Committees of that House, which were often necessarily ignorant of the wants and feelings of the particular localities on the interests of which they had to adjudicate. This, however, formed no essential part of his Bill, into which it would be open to hon. Members to introduce such Amendments as they deemed expedient. All he asked the House to do that night was to pass a vote of censure upon the present grand jury system, and to affirm the principle that representation should be combined with taxation. Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the Management of the Fiscal Affairs of Counties in Ireland by Electoral Boards.


said, he was prepared, notwithstanding the hard words which the hon. Member for Mallow had spoken against the grand jury system, to meet him face to face in its defence. The Irish Members had frequently permitted the hon. Member's Bill to be printed, but never till now was there an opportunity for debating it. There was no chance of the hon. Member obtaining a second reading for his Bill, and he (Colonel French) would therefore meet the present Motion with a direct negative. It was very generally admitted that, in some minor respects, Ireland possessed advantages over this country. One of the greatest of these advantages was its excellent fiscal system for county purposes. That system, which began about a century ago, and was improved some years since, was simple and economical. It had given satisfaction to the country gentry, the large landowners, and the small occupiers; but the hon. Member proposed to destroy it, and substitute a cumbrous and expensive system, of which it was evident that he himself (Sir D. Norreys) had not a clear idea, and of whose expensiveness he defied him to make even an approximate calculation. The hon. Baronet had referred to the management of the highways, but he (Colonel French) thought that no better evidence could be afforded of the efficiency of the system than existed in connection with this point. The present system had enabled Ireland to construct and keep in repair her roads better and more cheaply than any other country in Europe—whether France, in which country the roads were first made by the State, or Belgium where they were made by communes, or this country, in which they were made by private subscriptions. Under it Ireland kept in excellent repair 43,000 miles of road, in respect of which not one shilling was due, while in this country, under a different system, 26,000 miles of road were in a bankrupt condition for the sum of £9,000,000. The amount annually raised in Ireland for the construction and maintenance of highways was only £367,000; and, while the preliminary expenses attendant upon the making of a road in this country were £600 or £700, in Ireland they were only about 50s. The hon. Member for Mallow had said that the Irish grand jury system was nothing but a vast "job," but he (Colonel French) denied that any jobbing did exist, or could exist under that system. Of the whole sum annually levied with the consent of the grand jury—namely, about £900,000, only a small portion of it (between £300,000 and £400,000) was under their control. All the private, as well as the main roads, were kept in good repair under the existing system, and instead of there being that extravagant expenditure of which the hon. Member spoke, it was really surprizing that so much work was done with so small a sum. The grand jury could not originate anything. They had no independent power of levying any money. They could merely exercise the power of vetoing the propositions of the associated ratepayers. Ample opportunity was given of appealing against those propositions. If the appealing party were not satisfied with the decision of the judge appealed to, the matter might, by means of a traverse, be submitted to the opinion of a jury of the district proposed to be benefited. The levying of the road rates was, in fact, in the hands of those who were most interested in the roads being kept in an excellent state of repair, and in an economical expenditure of the rates; he alluded to the chief farmers of the country, whose object was to have their produce despatched to market quickly and economically. The construction of works was submitted by advertisement to competition, and the lowest tender had to be accepted. Presentments were made in open court, in the presence of the residents of the barony, of the county surveyor, and of an officer appointed by the Executive Government. Under such circumstances jobbing was impossible; in fact there was no room for it. No system was so perfect but he admitted that it was open to improvement; and he (Colonel French) had no objection to reform, but this Bill did not reform; it only substituted a cumbrous and expensive, for an easy and inexpensive system: and while, in appearance, it admitted the representative principle, by its provisions for divisional councils and other arrangements of the same character, in reality it was one of the most autocratic measures ever propounded in that House, for it would hand over altogether the power of the grand juries to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The cost of working the measure of his (Colonel French's) hon. Friend would be £140,000 a year, in addition to heavy law charges and expenses for 288 travelling Members of these councils, together with compensation for reduced offices as a matter of course. His hon. Friend was entitled to great credit for industry and ingenuity, but he had collected together a set of most unmanageable details, and had succeeded in producing the most objectionable measure he (Colonel French) had seen during an experience of twenty years. He trusted, therefore, that the Government would not sanction the measure, and for his own part he felt bound to meet it with a direct negative.


said, he thought this question relating to grand juries was one which must be very soon entertained by Parliament, and which could not remain much longer in abeyance. In reality the system was perhaps the greatest anomaly which existed at the present day. Grand juries could at any time overrule the cesspayers, and the result was that in this case there existed a system of taxation without representation. Under these circumstances, though it was too late to attempt to legislate on this subject in the present Session, he did hope that now they had as Chief Secretary for Ireland an Irish gentleman who had been for many years conversant with this subject, the right hon. Gentleman would either himself bring forward or would support such a measure as would meet the wishes of the people of Ireland on this subject. He was sorry that he felt obliged to vote against the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Mallow (Sir D. Norreys), but that hon. Gentleman would make a bad system ten thousand times worse by his proposal.


said, that the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon had not applied himself to the question before the House, which was, not "Aye or No, is the proposition of the hon. Member a good one," but "Aye or No, is the grand-jury system worthy of support?" Now, from Thom's Statistics, it appeared that this species of taxation had been constantly increasing. From 1836 to 1849, when the charge for the constabulary force was removed, the county cess was never less than £1,000,000, and sometimes much more. Now, although a charge of £500,000 for the constabulary force had been removed, the amount of cess in 1855 was as much as £978,000. In 1854 the entire revenue of Ireland was about £5,000,000, so that the tax in question was a fifth part of the whole revenue of the county. It was more than the whole revenue of Switzerland and twice that of Greece. He was firmly persuaded that there was not a man out of Roscommon who was satisfied with the present grand-jury system, and he could quote to almost any extent from the evidence of witnesses from Armagh, Tyrone, and other parts of Ireland, given before the Devon Commission, to show that the county cess was a most intolerable grievance, which required to be remedied. But the greatest number of complaints against the present system came from the county of Kerry, which was represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Even in the province of Ulster the county cess was considered the greatest grievance of the country. Mr. O'Hara and Lieutenant Colonel Blacker gave evidence against it. Mr. Sproule said it was the most grievous tax the country laboured under, and an intolerable burden which required redress. The House must recollect that the cess was imposed by gentlemen who happened to be chosen by the High Sheriff; and even the High Sheriff could not always exercise his own discretion in the appointment of those gentlemen, for it was not many years ago that a High Sheriff had been horsewhipped for not putting a person on the grand jury. The fact was that this was an old standing grievance, to remedy which little or nothing had been done for upwards of a quarter of a century. So long ago as 1830 the Select Committee on the state of the poor in Ireland expressed their decided opinion that, in order to impose some check upon the expenditure, the occupying tenant should be released from the burden of paying the whole of the county assessment, and that such assessment should, in whole or in part, be paid by the landlord. That was the view which was all but universally entertained in Ireland, the people being quite agreed either that the landowners should pay half the cess, or that the class who imposed the rate should be elected by the ratepayers. In England there was a representation as a check on the expenditure, but that was not the case in Ireland. It had been said that a great improvement had taken place in the system since the appointment of associated cesspayers, under the 6 & 7 Will. IV., in 1836; but the fact was, that those persons were named by the grand jurors, who usually nominated, not the best financiers in their neighbourhood, but the men who were the most facile and most likely to concur in any job that might be proposed. Previously to 1835 the county cess in Ireland had never, but upon one occasion, amounted to as much as £1,000,000; but since that year it had always exceeded that sum, and in 1849 it reached £1,300,000. The cesspayers, therefore, so far from contributing to reduce the rate, were only made the cloak for more jobbery and increased expenditure. He was satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland could not confer a greater benefit on the country than by acceding to the Motion of the hon. Member for Mallow; and, if he did so, it would be then open to the Government to appoint a Committee, or a Commission, in the vacation, to consider the whole subject. Whatever the House might do, however, he trusted that they would not, by agreeing to the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon, proclaim that the present grand-jury system of Ireland met with their approbation.


observed, that he should vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Mallow without committing himself to all the details of the proposition. The affirmation of that Motion would be merely an expression of disapproval of the present system of grand juries in Ireland, and that a representative system should be substituted. In the presentment sessions it was notorious that the voice of the elected ratepayers was always overborne when any question came forward in which the gentry of the county were interested. On a recent occasion a presentment for a large sum, of money, £3,000, was applied for in the county he represented. The elected ratepayers for fourteen baronies appeared, and out of the fourteen baronies nine voted against the presentment and five for it; but thirty-five magistrates came down, many of whom had seldom or never attended petty sessions, and the presentment was passed, against the wish of the ratepayers. Therefore some remedy ought to be applied to this state of things, and he suggested that some system might judiciously be adopted similar to that of a board of guardians, composed partly of elected and partly of ex officio members. The expenditure would then be more economically administered, and great advantage would result from the association together of different classes of the community. He thought the county cess should be distributed between the occupier and the owner. He trusted the Government would give an assurance that the grand-jury system would receive their consideration, and that they would at some future period introduce a measure to remedy the evils which on all hands were acknowledged to exist.


said, that the hon. Member who introduced the present Motion described him as entirely prejudiced in favour of the grand jury system, and said that he was so accustomed to rule everything according to his own way in his own county, that he would hardly fail to cling to a system, the incidents of which were demoralizing and under which jobs of every description were sanctioned. He must deny altogether the possession of any such influence. There existed in his county a body of gentlemen quite as independent as himself, and therefore incapable of being influenced in the way described. He was not prepared to state that the grand jury system was all perfection. It had certain defects, and he should be glad to do all in his power to remedy them, but he could not agree that they were of such a nature as to justify the very strong description given by the hon. Gentleman He bad been for twenty years a member of a grand jury, and he had seen, year by year, great improvement in the condition of the roads in his own county, combined with more economical management of expenditure. The system, with all its imperfections, worked on the whole exceedingly well. He was quite willing to admit that, with respect to the formation of baronial-road sessions, he should like to see a more popular system of election introduced, and therefore the hon. Member would see that he was not so bigoted as the hon. Member had supposed in favour of everything connected with the grand jury system. He would be satisfied if they got for those sessions as popular a system of election as was established for boards of guardians; but if the hon. Member meant to say that no such thing as a job was perpetrated by the Poor-law Boards, he must express his dissent, while I admitting that the poor-law system had generally worked well in Ireland. At the same time it must be recollected that, according to the existing practice, all works originated with the road sessions, and not with the grand juries. While stating that he was ready to accede to a liberal modification of the grand jury system in the point he had adverted to, he would guard himself against being supposed to adopt the views expressed by the hon. Mover of the present Motion on that part of the subject. With regard to the incidence of the tax—theoretically it might not be quite just; but if a new arrangement of it were made it would have to be on a principle different from that under the Poor Law. He did not think it would be fair to take away all power from the grand jury, and at the same time to fix them with half the taxation. It was true that that principle was adopted with regard to the poor-law taxation, but in that case there was this distinction, that the poor-law rate was an entirely new tax, whereas the grand jury cess was an old one, and lands were let and taken subject to it. The hon. Member was also unfortunate in his allusions to England, because not only were the highway rates in that country paid by the occupier, but also the whole of the poor rate. The hon. Member had alluded to the Report of the Commission; but if he had read more of it he would have found that the Commissioners were far from recommending the extensive change which he proposed, and that what they recommended was something totally different from the sweeping away of the whole system and the substitution of another in its place, a change the benefit of which was extremely doubtful. The want of continuous action between one grand jury and another had been also referred to. It was perfectly true that when grand juries were broken up they could not supervise the expenditure of the counties, but the remedy recommended in the Report was not the abolition of the grand jury system, but the creation of financial committees, to be entrusted with certain powers. He must remind hon. Gentlemen that the grand juries had no power whatever of originating taxation, and that when they appealed to English notions with regard to the abuses of the grand jury system, they spoke of a system which no longer existed, for the Act of 1836 provided that all taxation should originate with the body of cess-payers, and much embarrassment was frequently occasioned by the stringent wording of the law, which rendered it impossible for grand juries to take the initiative with regard to measures of taxation. The Bill of his hon. Friend was so voluminous that he would not attempt to enter into its details. He (Mr. Herbert) did not mean to say the grand jury system was perfect and incapable of improvement, but it was impossible that so voluminous a measure, containing 190 clauses, introduced on the 23rd of June, could have any chance of passing into law during the present Session; and, if his hon. Friend was simply anxious that his propositions should be known and considered, he had already had the opportunity of printing and circulating his Bill. If, therefore, his hon. Friend pressed the Motion, he (Mr. Herbert) would deem it his duty, without any discourteous feeling, to vote against the introduction of the measure.


said, he had expected more from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland. The admissions of the right hon. Gentleman, however, proved that the hon. Member for Mallow has rendered a public service in bringing this subject, Session after Session, under the attention of the House. He (Mr. Maguire) believed, however, from the experience he bad had on such matters, that, if any amendment was to be effected in the grand jury law of Ireland, it must originate with the Government, and he thought it was the duty of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herbert)—whom as an Irishman he (Mr. Maguire) was glad to see in his present office—in conjunction with his hon. and learned Colleague who was well acquainted with the subject, to devote his attention to it during the recess, with the view of preparing a measure which might be submitted to Parliament next Session. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Roscommon had intimated that the grand jury system was popular in Ireland, but he (Mr. Maguire) ventured to say, that there was scarcely any institution in that country which was at the present moment more unpopular. In proof of this fact, he might mention that at the last election nearly forty Liberal Members were returned, who were pledged to their constituents to endeavour to effect some improvement in the grand jury law. He (Mr. Maguire) could state, that the associated ratepayers regarded their functions as a mere farce, and were disposed to shrink from their discharge. The fact was, that they had no real power, for six, or eight, or ten, associated ratepayers, might be overridden by a "whip" of some thirty or forty magistrates. The great principle of the British constitution was, that taxation and representation should be co-existent, and he believed that if the principle were fully carried out, the ratepayers would discharge their duties as anxiously and as assiduously as the humblest members of the boards of guardians. It would be well for the public interest, if there was a popular form of election; and he called on the Secretary for Ireland to put a Bill on the table next Session in which that principle was recognized, believing, if the right hon. Gentleman did so, that every Irish Member on both sides of the House would give in his adhesion to such a measure. He (Mr. Maguire) could conscientiously say, on his own knowledge, that the existing system was unpopular, and that the right hon. Gentleman would do a most meritorious act, if he gave this subject his serious consideration in the recess, and came prepared in the next Session of Parliament with a matured measure for dealing with it. He (Mr. Maguire) should feel it his duty to vote with the hon. Baronet (Sir D. Norreys) if he pressed his Motion on this occasion to a division, but he thought at the same time that the hon. Baronet, having done a great deal to advance the question, might fairly yield to the suggestion of the Secretary for Ireland, and withdraw his Bill, without seeking the additional triumph of a small minority.


said, he could assure the House that the grand jury system was quite as unpopular in that part of Ireland with which he was connected, as it had been described to be in other districts of the country. He had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland would have been prepared to announce that the Government was about to take up this subject and deal with it in some way calculated to allay the existing discontent. Not a single hon. Member who had spoken during the debate, not even the hon. Member for Roscommon, had ventured to deny that it was capable of reform. He (Mr. Greer), while approving the principle of the Bill of the hon. Baronet (Sir D. Norreys), thought, at the same time, the hon. Baronet would do wisely not to press his Motion to a division after the speech of the Secretary for Ireland. But, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herbert) had said, the grand jury system required reform, he (Mr. Greer) thought the right hon. Gentleman was bound to urge the matter on the attention of the Government, so that a, remedy might be applied to what he admitted to be a manifest grievance. With respect to the associated ratepayers, he did not think so ill of them as some hon. Members who had taken part in the debate. He believed that in some districts they were useful in many respects, and especially in preventing jobs, but they were not a sufficient check on the profuse and unnecessary expenditure of money by the grand jury. For his part, he should like to see the grand jury itself an elective body, chosen directly by the ratepayers, after the example of the poor-law system, which had worked so well in practice. There was also another matter to which he wished to direct attention. Many items of expenditure the associated ratepayers had no control over. For example, there was in each county a treasurer, at a considerable salary, although the money was received and all payments made by the Bank, and the treasurer never received a farthing of the funds. This abuse and many others connected with the grand jury system called loudly for some remedy.


said, that after reminding the House that he himself brought it a Bill on this subject during the last Parliament, he wished to observe that the Secretary for Ireland had admitted that would be desirable to introduce the principle of representations into the road sessions. In doing that, the right hon. Gentleman had conceded the principle of representation; but if that principle were right and proper with regard to the road sessions, why should it not be so with respect to the grand jury itself? He was told that the expenditure originated with he road sessions, and that the grand jury had no power to originate anything; but it ought to be remembered that, under the existing system, the Lord Lieutenant, as he representative of the Government, appointed the sheriffs, the sheriffs appointed the grand jurors, the grand jurors appointed the associated cesspayers, and the associated cesspayers had to determine what were the proposals which should be submitted to the consideration of the grand juries. Now, that system appeared to him to resemble a vicious circle; and he certainly thought that it ought to be amended at the earliest possible moment. It would, no doubt, be an improvement if the associated cesspayers were elective, but he wanted to know why the grand jury should not be elective also? It had been said during the debate that the grand jury system was one of great purity, but in answer to that be could state that in the county of Louth, with which he was connected, it had not that reputation, but, on the contrary, gave great dissatisfaction. He contended that if even it did not give opportunities for jobbery, the system was wrong in principle. He was told—though he was not in the House at the time—that the hon. Member for Roscommon, while opposing the Motion before the House, still conceded the principle of representation. Why, that was the very principle on which the Bill of the hon. Member for Mallow (Sir D. Norreys) proceeded, for it provided that those who managed the cess should be elected by those who paid the cess, and he (Mr. Bowyer) confessed he wag disappointed at not having heard a fuller recognition of that principle by the Secretary for Ireland. If the hon. Member for Mallow pressed his Motion to a division, he (Mr. Bowyer) should go into the lobby with him, because he had no doubt the principle of his Bill was a sound one. He had, however, a notion that it was too complicated a measure, and was in that respect not so good as the Bill which he (Mr. Bowyer) himself introduced last Session, in which he endeavoured to avoid the evil of complexity by dealing only with the want of representation in the grand jury system.


could not agree in the justice of the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Greer) as to the great unpopularity of the grand jury system in the north of Ireland. He (Lord C. Hamilton) had enjoyed extensive opportunities of becoming acquainted with the opinions of the grand juries and the farmers in that part of the country, and he could state that, as far as his knowledge went, the Members of both those classes considered the Bill before the House to be as absurd a measure as it would be possible to devise. The hon. Member (Sir D. Norreys) had omitted the effects of publicity in moderating any mischievous tendencies in the grand jury system, and without publicity his new boards would be nests of jobbing. The Act of 1836 was, no doubt, an improvement, but it had been followed by an increase of expenditure, and would not the same result follow the adoption of the hon. Gentleman's Bill? He would admit that of late years the practice had been for the grand jury to select the associated ratepayers, but he denied that the practice was according to law. The reason was that farmers now attended more to their own affairs, and it was difficult to get respectable farmers to come to a baronial sessions, and still more to lose two or three days in a county town at assizes. Therefore, practically, the grand jury were obliged to nominate the associated ratepayers, but they would be delighted to see the farmers take a more active part in the management of county affairs. It was said that the associated ratepayers were sometimes overwhelmed by the magistrates, but in the case alluded to by an hon. Member (Mr. Cogan) the presentment was one made by the county at large. It would, however, be so contrary to everything right and proper for the magistrates to come to the baronial sessions and overwhelm the associated ratepayers that such an interference could not fail to be visited by the severest condemnation of the public press. He should be glad to see some changes in the grand jury system, but he protested against the wholesale condemnation of that system which the House had heard from the hon. Member for Mallow.


remarked that he would advise his hon. Friend the Member for Mallow to leave the matter in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, who, he trusted, would be prepared before next Session with a measure on the subject.


said, that he had forborne to make any statement condemnatory of the grand jury system upon his own authority. The Commissioners stated, so long ago as 1840, that the associated ratepayers were selected by the grand jury, and that they did not attend except to agree to some job or other. There could, therefore, be no connection between the practice of selection by the grand jury and the present prosperity of the agricultural interest, as had been suggested by the noble Lord (Lord C. Hamilton). He had no great hopes of any efficient measure from the Secretary for Ireland. He was a Liberal, and had shown a disposition to act liberally, but he doubted whether he would touch the grand jury class, to which he himself belonged. The discussion that had taken place that night would, however, go before the country, which would judge between him and the right hon. Gentleman. He had only to add that he would accede to what appeared to be the wish of the House, and did not intend to press his Motion.

Motion by leave withdrawn.