HC Deb 21 February 1859 vol 152 cc661-6

LORD NAAS moved the Second Reading of this Bill.


said, that he entertained many objections to this Bill, but as so many Irish Members were absent, he did not intend to oppose the second reading; unless, however, some alteration were made in its principal provisions, he should feel it his duty to propose Amendments in Committee. The nominal object of the measure was to regulate existing markets in Ireland and provide better accommodation, but its real object was to impose tolls. A free market was as essential to agriculturists as a free port to merchants, but the Government proposed by the present Bill to establish something like the French octroi, and to subject buyers and sellers alike to imposts which, however small in amount, would still operate as a grievance of the most annoying character. He ventured to say that the agricultural Members would, to a man, stand up against the Bill, which would be supported exclusively by the representatives of the towns and boroughs. By the common law of England and Ireland, the buyer paid the tolls in all markets, but this Bill proposed to introduce a new system, and make every person who drove his pig to market pay at his entrance the tolls set out in the schedule. He trusted that as the noble Lord had abandoned half the legacy of the late Government, he would let this Bill go too, especially as, if it even passed the second reading, it must be considerably altered in Committee.


said, he belonged to a town which many years ago abolished tolls of every sort. They were abolished because they were not thought a fit mode of raising money. The collecting of these tolls not only caused trouble, but even rioting throughout Ireland. He was perfectly satisfied that the attempt to revive these tolls would only lead to dissatisfaction and disturbance. The Bill, too, proposed octroi duties, which were never heard of before in Ireland. such as tolls on geese, turkeys, chickens, eggs, and vegetables, and in his opinion the more free the ingress of articles into towns the better. One would almost think the noble Lord had taken a hint from the Emperor of the French in framing the measure. He trusted the noble Lord would not go on with the Bill.


said, he had hoped that the noble Lord the Irish Secretary would have made this Bill permissive, instead of compulsory. The compulsory powers given by the Bill would, in fact, prevent the holding of any market. He could well recollect the toll war to which the hon. Member adverted. The reason why tolls were abandoned was, that it was seen by the landlords to be for their own interest to discontinue them. This Bill, however, was more vexatious than the old system. When there was fair cause for a specific charge, as in the case of a bridge, he did not object to it; but, otherwise, it seemed very unfair that taxes should be placed upon articles of consumption. It was, however, more than unfair; it was absurd that a man should be first charged 9d. for bringing a cart of potatoes into the streets of a town, and then charged 2d. per bushel for every bushel of potatoes he sold. He thought that the noble Lord might permit towns regulated by the Town Commissioners Act to manage their own affairs. He would repeat the compulsory powers, if carried into execution, would create a great deal of unnecessary and uncalled-for agitation in Ireland.


observed that many of the details of the Bill were liable to great objection, and in some instances the tolls charged would be equal to 25 per cent. of the value of the articles brought to market. He, however, understood that the noble Lord Would postpone the Committee on the Bill until after the Irish assizes, so that the grand juries would have an opportunity of examining its details, and on that understanding he should not oppose the second reading.


said, he hoped that an endeavour would be made to embody such improvements in the Bill as would meet many of the objections urged against it. He also wished to ask the noble Lord whether he would take into further consideration the second clause, which vested markets in private individuals. The Town Commissioners of Dundalk and, he was informed, other Town Commissioners had presented a petition praying that they should be vested in the Town Commissioners.


said, he thought that the idea which had suggested the question of the hon. and learned Gentleman was founded on a total misapprehension of the Bill. He believed that there never was such a dishonest proposition as the proposition of the parties who put forward the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Bowyer) to ask that question.


said, he was astonished at the objections which had been urged against the principle of this Bill. In 1852 a Commission was appointed by the Government of which he was a Member to inquire into the state of markets in Ireland. The Gentlemen who served on that Commission travelled through the greater part of the country, and took a mass of evidence, and their Report disclosed such irregularities and fraud practised in the markets, and resulting from want of proper accommodation, that it must now become the absolute duty of the Legislature to interfere. Sometimes, they reported, two sets of weights were kept, one for buying and the other for selling; then there were false beams, slides for inserting a bar of iron into the scale, and springs for deceiving the buyer; or articles were weighed fairly, and then the weight was falsely entered by a clerk who was in collusion with the seller, and every species of ingenuity was displayed by both buyer and seller in their attempts to rob each other. This Report had never been contradicted: at the present moment these frauds were practised to their full extent; nor was there any remedy, except by providing a proper market place, where the buyer and seller could make their bargains, and where commodities could be weighed, if necessary, under the supervision of a responsible officer. This, however, could not be done without money, and power was therefore sought to levy tolls sufficient, and not more than sufficient, to provide the necessary accommodation. The Bill proposed, that in all cases where, at present, no tolls were levied in a market, a Commissioner should have the power of settling a schedule of tolls to be levied within the precincts of that market. The desirability of providing proper market accommodation in Ireland had been repeatedly recognized by the House, and his right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. H. Herbert) had last year brought in a measure which went even further than the present Bill, and which, having passed a second reading, was referred to a Select Committee, who appeared entirely to approve the principle now objected to. It was never intended by this Bill to give power to persons to levy tolls for private purposes, or for the purposes of corporations, but simply with a view to furnish the proper requisites for carrying on a market. Besides this, there was a valuable provision for obtaining market statistics, there being at present no means of ascertaining the quantity of agricultural province brought to market in Ireland. Other regulations of a less important kind were also proposed. For example, power would be given to justices to decide market disputes up to £30, and the constabulary would be authorized to keep order in the market. The principle of the Bill had in a great measure been derived from the Limerick Act, where the result of regulations very similar to those now proposed had given the greatest possible satisfaction. He should be ready to consider any Amendments in matters of detail, which could be suggested; but he believed that if the became law it would confer a great benefit upon the inhabitants, not only of the towns, but of the agricultural districts throughout Ireland.


said, the noble Lord had certainly not received much encouragement from those who had hitherto spoken on this Bill. He wished, however, to know why the Bill did not apply to fairs as well as to markets, the principle involved in the two cases being exactly the same. The provisions of the measure would, he believed, if properly carried out, afford security in their dealings both to buyer and seller; but, while that was his opinion, he could not approve the 29th clause, which rendered it compulsory upon all parties in that position to sell or buy in market.


said, he could not but express his surprise at hearing hon. Gentlemen opposite, calling themselves "friends of the people," objecting to a Bill which was only introduced to protect the people against fraudulent practices, in the places where provisions were sold for general consumption. The reason why fairs were not included within the scope of the Bill was, that in their case those evils did not exist which were complained of in the case of markets.


said, he should support the Bill as one whose object was similar to that of a measure which he had introduced last Session upon the same subject. There could be no doubt that some such measure was necessary to protect the people of Ireland from the grossest frauds in their markets and fairs. Proof of this was found to an overwhelming extent in the blue-book presented by the Commissioners who travelled through the country to inquire into the subject. In many places, although tolls were exacted, the buyers and sellers were left without the slightest accommodation. Let hon. Members read the evidence contained in the Report upon the subject, and they would find that there was scarcely a witness amongst the many practical men who were examined before the Commission who did not agree that the country people, although they would resist an arbitrary toll from which they received no benefit, were yet so sensible of the frauds that were committed from the absence of efficient control that they would gladly pay a reasonable sum for the accommodation proposed to be given by this Bill. In taking the course which he did with regard to the second reading, however, he must not be supposed to concur in all the details of the measure, and especially in the opinion that fairs ought to be excluded from the operation of the measure, although he was ready to admit that in dealing with a complicated question such as that under discussion, it might not be undesirable to ascertain, in the first instance, with what success legislation in the case of markets would be attended.


said, he believed that the lower classes especially, whose champions hon. Members opposite assumed to be, would feel every reason to be grateful to the noble Lord if the Bill passed into a law. The large mercantile community of the city he had the honour to represent (Limerick) had long seen the great abuses which existed in the markets of Ireland, and the gross frauds which were generally practised there, and they felt that some reform was necessary for the double purpose of protecting the farmer, who suffered by these frauds, and also of protecting the honest trader, who was placed at a disadvantage by the competition of the fraudulent trader. In his opinion the Bi11 was a just and equitable measure.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2o and committed for Thursday, 3rd of March.