HC Deb 15 April 1861 vol 162 cc611-8

Order for Second Reading read.


said, it was unnecessary to enlarge on the importance of this subject. But in discussing the details of this Bill, he thought he might venture to compare its provisions with that which he had had the honour to submit to Parliament. In the first place, the Government scheme proposed that the information respecting births and deaths, should be collected by the Poor Law Commission, and be by them transmitted to superintendent registrars. By his Bill, on the other hand, it was provided that these facts should be obtained by the constabulary, and should be by them forwarded to the Registrars of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, through whom it would reach the Registrar General. Now he thought that these duties could not be sufficiently discharged through the agency of the Poor Law Commissioners and the Dispensary Medical Officers. He objected also to the application of that machinery to any other than Poor Law purposes. He (Lord Naas) further in his scheme proposed that the registrars should be paid no longer by fees but by fixed salaries. He thought that the police would be very efficient in the collection of the statistics of births and deaths. He had heard sentimental objections against the employment of the police in these duties; but these objections fell to the ground when it appeared that the police were successfully engaged in obtaining agricultural statistics as enumerators for the decennial census and in performing various duties of a similar nature. They were under the direct control of Government, and there was no work imposed on them by his plan which would interfere in the least with their ordinary duties. He further objected to the way in which his right hon. Friend intended to deal with the registration of marriages. He (Lord Naas) proposed to place the registration of Roman Catholic and of Protestant marriages on precisely the same footing. By the Bill which he (Lord Naas) introduced, the Roman Catholic clergyman was to send to the registrar, every quarter, accurate copies of the certificates of all marriages solemnized by him. By the Bill of his right hon. Friend, the returns of Roman Catholic marriages were to be made through the clerks of the unions. He thought his own plan much the simpler of the two; it would afford as much security, and make no distinction between the marriages of persons having different religious faiths. It would be better, however, to refer these Bills and the whole matter to a Select Committee.


had already suggested that these Bills should go before a Select Committee. He thought there were some merits in each Bill, and some imperfections. The real difficulty was as to the registration of mixed marriages. By this Bill the Roman Catholic clergyman was still to be liable to a penalty if he married a Protestant to a Roman Catholic, who had not previously been married before a registrar. He thought that nothing ought to be done in the registration of marriages until the question of mixed marriages had been put on a satisfactory footing.


said, he had heard with great regret the proposal to refer those Bills to a Select Committee. Ireland was said by Dr. Farr to be the only country in Europe which did not possess a system of registration of births, deaths, and marriages. It was high time that this national reproach should be removed, and he hoped the year of the Census would not be allowed to pass without an attempt to pass some measure of this kind.


said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman that it was unadvisable to defer legislation on this subject. Of the two Bills he preferred that of the Chief Secretary. He infinitely preferred committing the performance of the duty of registration to the medical officers than intrusting them to the police. The medical officers, by their position and their intimate connection with all ranks of society, were much more fitted for it. He regretted that some attempt had not been made while legislating on this subject to amend and assimilate the general law of I marriage in Ireland, and he hoped the Government would give some assurance of their intention to introduce a measure on this point at a very early period.


said, that as the difference between the two Bills was admitted to he one of details only, he thought they should both be referred to a Select Committee, and he believed that would be the case after all. It was the only way in which a good working Bill could he got. He urged upon the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) the prudence and propriety of referring them to a Committee, so as to have a Bill which should be acceptable to the country, and would not impose any large tax upon the people of Ireland.


said, the only question they had then to consider was the propriety of reading a second time the Bill immediately before them, and he saw no reason why they should not accede to that Motion. He entirely disapproved of the proposal in the other measure, which would hand over to the police the management of social arrangements of that description. It savoured more of the ré gime of Austria or some other despotic country than of this. All were agreed that a system of registration of births, marriages and deaths was required; and the question was which of the two Bills before the House should be selected; he thought a Committee of the Whole House infinitely superior to a Select Committee of Irishmen sitting upstairs.


said, that in referring a Bill to a Select Committee no power was delegated to that Committee to decide finally what should he its provisions; but where two Bills dealing with the same evil but in different ways came before the House, he thought that was exactly the case in which a Select Committee might be usefully employed. As he had presented petitions, night after night, from Ireland praying for some system for the registration of births, deaths, and marriages in that country, yet taking exception to almost all the details of the Chief Secretary's Bill, he was curious to know from whom the petitions presented by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the Bill proceeded. He found that they were nearly all the petitions of clerks of unions, the only persons benefited by the Bill, and that one of them came from a body of medical practitioners in Glasgow. Some parts of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill were objectionable in the highest degree. The Irish Poor Law was passed for a particular purpose, and had hitherto worked well; but it should be strictly confined to that purpose, for any extension beyond its legitimate object would be sure to end in breaking down the system. Under this Bill the charge for the proposed registration was to be paid out of the rates levied for the relief of the poor in Ireland. To this he most strongly objected. The analogy with what was done in England had no weight, because Poor Law charges in England were borne by the Consolidated Fund to an extent which was not the case in Ireland. They had heard it said that it was very desirable medical men should be employed to certify deaths at which they were present; but the conclusion by no means followed that they were the best persons to be registrars. Would not the registrars of marriages in Ireland be the proper parties to perform the registration of births and deaths, rather than the clerks to the Poor Law unions, who were wholly unfit for the duty? There would be great inconvenience in having two systems of registration for Protestant and Roman Catholic marriages, as was proposed by this Bill, and in having yet another system for mixed marriages as was proposed in a Bill introduced in "another place." His objections extended to matters which could not be discussed in a Committee of the Whole House, and, consequently, he trusted the Chief Secretary would agree to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, as proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Cork county.


was of opinion that the matter might be more satisfactorily settled by a Select Committee. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would concur in that course.


was gratified to find there was no opposition to the principle of the Bill, and that Ireland was agreed to wipe away the reproach of being the only country in Europe in which there was no registration of births, deaths, and marriages; and he took it for granted that the Bill would be passed this Session. His only reason for not copying the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas) on this subject was because it created forty salaried officers or thereabouts; in addition to which he objected to that measure on account of its centralising character, which would have rendered it extremely distasteful to the people, especially when they found that the machinery for the collection of the details was the constabulary. The machinery proposed by the Government Bill was similar to the machinery used for this purpose in England, and local administration and payment by local funds was the principle of the measure. The masters of unions would be the registrars. It was also proposed to make use of the machinery of the Medical Charities Act, and that the medical officers of the dispensary districts should be made available in collecting details. There were more than 1,000 of these officers, and they were poorly paid; so that it would be a most acceptable thing to them to have the opportunity of making some slight addition to their incomes through this source. As far as regarded marriages there was a kind of registration of marriages in Ireland now; but only of Protestant marriages. It was a part of the statutory duty of the registrars of marriages to perform that ceremony; and everybody knew that the Roman Catholics of Ireland, as of any other country in which the majority of the people were of that religion, would not cooperate in the registration of marriages which they did not consider properly performed; and he therefore proposed to adopt similar machinery for the registration of marriages in Ireland as already existed in England. He believed that to refer the matter to a Select Committee would endanger the passing of the Bill this Session. Certainly, if it were referred to a Select Committee, it ought not to be referred to the Committee to go into the whole of the marriage law of Ireland, as the hon. and learned Member for Belfast seemed to wish; it could only be a reference for the settlement of clauses. He would not oppose the second reading of the Bill of his noble Friend, and would fix the Committee for such a day as would give ample time to him to see what the state of the public business was likely to be, and what chance they had of passing a Bill this Session. He was not without hopes that some means would be found of settling the Bill on the floor of the House, which would, in his opinion, be a far preferable course to referring it to a Select Committee.


said, the reason which actuated his noble Friend and himself in introducing the Bill on this subject was obvious to every one who was acquainted with the system pursued in Ireland in regard to marriages. It frequently hap- pened that Roman Catholics especially had great difficulty in proving a marriage in their own church and the pedigree of the parties, because there was no law which made it obligatory on a Roman Catholic clergyman to keep a register. Although the clergyman might keep a book in which marriages were recorded, that book was not legal evidence before a court of justice. His noble Friend and himself, therefore, attempted to frame a Bill to remedy that evil. That Bill had been laid on the table, and was a much more rational measure, as he believed, than the Bill of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. It was framed upon the same principle, as regarded the registrars, as that of the 7 & 8 Vict. He had never heard from a Roman Catholic clergyman the objection to it put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. It was objectionable to give the Lord Lieutenant any more patronage; and the Bill of his noble Friend was, therefore, framed on the principle of employing existing machinery. There were 1,700 districts in Ireland in which the information required was to be collected. It was proposed by his noble Friend's Bill that that information should be collected by the constabulary, of which two-thirds were Roman Catholics and one-third were Protestants. The noble Lord's Bill proposed that a copy of the registry of all marriages should be sent to the Registrar General in Dublin; whereas, according to the right hon. Gentleman's plan, persons might be compelled to hunt up the books in the possession of every Poor Law clerk in Ireland. Nothing could be more inconvenient and unsatisfactory than such an arrangement. The marriage question also interposed a difficulty which could be best got over by a consideration in Committee. Nothing could be more reasonable than to refer both Bills to a Select Committee, in order to settle which of the machinery ought to be adopted.


thought that the House could better determine the question at issue than a Select Committee upstairs. He certainly preferred the machinery proposed in the Bill of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to that in the Bill of the noble Lord.


differed from the hon. Member for Waterford. He was of opinion that those matters of detail which occasioned such controversy, could be much better settled by a Select Committee than by that House. The measure proposed to throw upon the Roman Catholic clergy certain duties; but hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House seemed to have forgotten the very necessary point of consulting that clergy as to their willingness to act.


said, the simple question for consideration was, whether the machinery proposed by the Secretary for Ireland, or that proposed in the Bill of his noble Friend, should be adopted. It appeared to him that a Select Committee was a better tribunal than that House to try such a question. Both sides of the House were agreed that a measure on this subject was necessary, though they differed as to the precise nature of the machinery.


thought the clerks of the hoards of guardians would be perfectly able to perform the duties proposed to be assigned to them. Certainly, he thought, the less they placed their affairs in the hands of the police the better. He hoped, therefore, that the House would not agree to the proposition for sending the Bill before a Select Committee.


complained that no estimate had been given by the Treasury of what the cost of the system was likely to be. The local taxes of Ireland were increasing every day. He doubted whether it was proper to place the proposed registration upon the poor rate; and at the same time he protested against giving any more power to the police. The police might be very well as a body of indifferent soldiers; and it seemed to be the desire to make it more and more military. Speaking without any party feeling, he hoped that everybody who had the interests of Ireland at heart would support the Motion for sending the Bill before a Select Committee. They were in no such hurry for this registration. Let them take care that they did not allow the Poor Law to be made an instrument for fixing taxation upon Ireland. Let them take care that next year the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not come down with his bewitching eloquence and propose to make Ireland pay assessed taxes through the means of the Poor Law.

Bill read 2o

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."


moved that the Bill be sent for consideration to a Committee up stairs.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Committee of the whole House," in order to add the words "Select Committee,"—instead thereof.


entirely agreed with the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman.


said, the probable amount of expense to be incurred under the Bill would be £25,000. The amount of expense under the Bill of the noble Lord (Lord Naas) would probably amount to £30,000.


inquired on what data that estimate was founded.


said, the calculation was founded on the supposition that the expenses in Ireland would be analagous to those in England.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 94; Noes 100: Majority 6.

List of theAYES.
Adam, W. P. Gordon, C. W.
Atherton, Sir W. Gregson, S.
Bagwell, J. Gurdon, B.
Baring, T. G. Hadfield, G.
Barnes, T. Hankey, T.
Bass, M. T. Hassard, M.
Bazley, T. Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.
Beale, S. Heneage, G. F.
Beamish, F. B. Heygate, Sir F. W.
Bethell, Sir R. Heygate, W. U.
Black, A. Hodgkinson, G.
Blencowe, J. G. Hutt, rt. hon. W.
Bouverie, rt. hn. E. P. Ingham, R.
Browne, Lord J. T. Johnstone, Sir J.
Buller, J. W. Kingscote, Col.
Butt, I. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Caird, J. Lacan, Sir E.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Locke, J.
Carnegie, hon. C. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Castlerosse, Visct. M'Cormick, W.
Clay, J. Mackie, J.
Clive, G. M'Mahon, P.
Collier, R. P. Martin, J.
Collins, T. Massey, W. N.
Crawford, R. W. Mellor, J.
Davey, R. Moncrieff, rt. hon. J.
Dawson, R. P. Monson, hon. W. J.
Denman, hon. G. Montagu, Lord R.
Dent, J. D. O'Connell, Capt. D.
Dillwyn, L. L. Packe, G. H.
Dodson, J. G. Paget, Lord C.
Dunbar, Sir W. Pease, H.
Dundas, rt. hn. Sir D. Pigott, Serjeant
Dunne, M. Proby, Lord
Enfield, Visct. Puller, C. W. G.
Ennis, J. Roebuck, J. A.
Evans, T. W. Russell, Sir W.
Ewing, H. E. C. Seymour, Sir M.
Finlay, A. S. Shelley, Sir J. V.
Fortescue, hon. F. D. Sheridan, R. B.
Fortescue, C. S. Smith, A.
Freeland, H. W. Thompson, H. S.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Gilpin, C. Turner, J. A.
Goldsmid, Sir F. H. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Wemyss, J. H. E. TELLERS.
Westhead, J. P. B. Brand, Mr.
Whitbread S. Knatchbull-Hugessen, Mr.
Wickham, H. W.
List of the NOES.
Acton, Sir J. D. Hood, Sir A. A.
Annesley, hon. Col. H. Hornby, W. H.
Archdall, Capt. M. Horsfall, T. B.
Arnott, Sir J. Howard, Lord E.
Baring, T. Hume, W. W. F.
Barttelot, Major Knatchbull, W. F.
Beaumont, W. B. Knightley, R.
Beecroft, G. S. Leader, N. P.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Lefroy, A.
Bentinck, G. C. Lever, J. O.
Blake, J. Liddell, hon. H. G.
Bond, J. W. M'G. Lindsay, W. S.
Bovill, W. Longfield, R.
Bridges, Sir B. W. Lovaine, Lord
Brooks, B. Lygon. hon. F.
Bunbury, Capt. W. B. M'Cann, J.
Burke, Sir T. J. MacEvoy, E.
Cairns, Sir H. M'C. Maguire, J. F.
Calcutt, F. M'N. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Close, M. C. Monsell, rt. hon. W.
Cobbold, J. C. Montgomery, Sir G.
Cogan, W. H. F. Morris, D.
Cole, hon. H. Mure, D.
Cubitt, G. Naas, Lord
Daglish, R. O'Connor Don. The
Deedes, W. Onslow, G.
Dickson, Col. Osborne, R. B.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Pakenham, Col.
Douglass, Sir C. Peel, Sir R.
Dunkellin, Lord Pollard-Urquhart, W.
Dunlop, A. M. Powys, P. L.
Dunne, Col. Quinn, P.
Edwards, Major Ridley, Sir M. W.
Elphinstone, Sir J. D. Salt, T.
Estcourt, rt. hn. T. H. S. Smith, M.
Fellowes, E. Smith, S. G.
Fermoy, Lord Smyth, Col.
Fitzgerald, W. R. S. Somes, J.
Forde, Col. Stacpoole, W.
Gard, R. S. Stanley, Lord
Gavin Major Stuart, Lt. Col. W.
George, J. Torrens, R.
Getty, S. G. Upton, hon. Gen.
Gifford, Earl of Waldron, L.
Goddard A. L. Walker, J. R.
Greene, J. White, J.
Gregory, W. H. Whiteside, rt. hon. J.
Grogan, Sir E. Woodd, B. T.
Hamilton, Lord C.
Hamilton, Visct. TELLERS.
Hardy, G. Hennessy, Mr.
Hill, Lord E. Scully, Mr.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Select Committee.