HC Deb 07 July 1862 vol 167 cc1496-502

said, that as he saw the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his place, he wished to ask him a question in reference to the Irish business before Parliament, and more especially with respect to the Bills which appeared on the paper for that evening. With a view to put himself in order, he would conclude by moving the adjourn- ment of the House. The matter was a very important one, not only as regarded the convenience of the Irish Members, but also as regarded the conduct of the Irish business. He hoped that the English Members, who were anxious to get to the Thames Embankment Bill, would allow him a few moments for a matter of great interest to Ireland. He wanted to know distinctly and unequivocally from the right hon. Baronet what he intended to do with the four important Irish Bills which appeared upon the paper for that night, and which he had observed upon many papers—a fact which had brought down the Irish Members night after night to their extreme inconvenience and positive physical injury. The Bills he alluded to were the Markets and Fairs Bill, the Weights and Measures (Ireland) Bill, the Poor Belief (Ireland) (No. 2) Bill, and the County Surveyors Bill. The Markets and Fairs Bill had been constantly set down. It was originally brought on upon the 1st of May, contrary to what he conceived to have been the understanding, at a time when several Irish Members were absent, and on the day when the Great Exhibition was opened. Since then it had appeared, re-appeared, and disappeared, only to appear again. He did not complain of its being put down for that night; but what he wanted to know was, would it be brought on, or was it intended that there should be any result from it being put down? It might be great sport to the right hon. Baronet, who lived hard by, who could postpone it, and who knew at any hour of the evening whether he intended to bring it on, but who never communicated, directly or indirectly, anything that could be relied on to any one on that side of the House. It was out of courtesy to the right hon. Baronet that he took the course he was now about to adopt, and which he admitted was an unusual one. The Irish Members had remained in attendance in the House so long, night and day, that some of them had succumbed to it, and had returned to Ireland. He (Mr. Scully) had given notice of his intention to have the Markets and Fairs Bill re-committed, and it was important to know what were the bonâ fide intentions of the right hon. Baronet with respect to that Bill. He had told them frequently during the last week that it was his wish to proceed with it, and he had placed on the paper certain Amendments which he wished to intro- duce into it. The Weights and Measures Bill was an extraordinary and mischievous attempt at legislation. It appeared by the paper that there were notices to take certain clauses out of the Markets and Fairs Bill, and insert them in the Weights and Measures Bill. [Cries of "Order!" and "Chair !"] He appealed to hon. Gentlemen to allow him to proceed, and he would go at once to what occurred on Friday night, or, more properly, at an early hour on Saturday morning. He was, of course, also limited in speaking of this subject by the rules of the House, and he would be the last person in the House to violate any of its rules or orders. This was the first time he had availed himself of the privileges given by those rules to make a statement of this description, and he would not do so but that the circumstances were extraordinary and unusual. ["Order !"] He was quite at liberty to refer to what occurred, although, as he was aware, he could not quote the precise statements made by the right hon. Baronet. The sitting of Friday was the very longest of the present Session. They had a day sitting, commencing at twelve o'clock, and by the records of the House it appeared that they sat until a quarter to three o'clock; in fact, they sat continuously twelve hours and three quarters. At half-past two o'clock in the morning attempts, and successful attempts, were made by the opposite side of the House to alter an important clause in the Poor Law Bill, which had been adopted after two or three months of discussion. That attempt was made in the absence of hon. Members who took a deep interest in the subject, and decisions were come too which could not be altered while the Bill remained in that House. At the sitting on the 29th of May, a very important question arose as to retaining the words "or otherwise." A long debate took place on that occasion, and the words objected to were ordered to be retained, by 125 to 76, in a very full House for a morning sitting. That was a very emphatic expression of opinion; but, notwithstanding the decision so arrived at, it was on Friday night, or Saturday morning last, suddenly, and by surprise—although, perhaps, not to the surprise of the right hon. Baronet—reversed, after a rambling discussion of a few minutes, by a majority of six. This was a matter which concerned not merely Ireland — which was more immediately affected by the decision —but also the whole conduct of business in the House; because, if it were to be set up as a precedent, the decision of any majority of the House might be reversed at three o'clock in the morning by a minority taking advantage of an accidental opportunity for doing mischief. The right hon. Baronet was, in his opinion, to some extent responsible for what had been done on. Friday night, because he should have protested against the attempt of a minority opposite to obtain an accidental triumph. On the 20th of June, the Committee on the Poor Belief Bill passed a clause limiting the number of proxies to be held by a single individual to ten; but at daybreak on the morning of the 5th of July the minority, who had been defeated on the 20th of June, succeeded by a surprise in getting the word "ten" struck out, and "twenty" inserted instead. He submitted that this was a matter which affected the general conduct of the business of the House. It all arose, as he could show, out of the horrid mode in which the Irish business was conducted. On Tuesday last there was a morning sitting for Irish business only—the business on the paper being the Poor Belief Bill. There were other Bills for the evening sitting, including the Weights and Measures Bill, the Markets and Fairs Bill, the Births and Deaths Registration Bill, and the County Surveyors Bill. On Thursday the Poor Relief Bill and the County Surveyors Bill were again on the paper; but nothing was done with them, although the Irish Members were watching them for twelve hours and a half. On Friday, at the day sitting, the Irish Members were kept in attendance, waiting for the Drainage Bill, which was now a Government measure, because they had entered into a compromise with the hon. and gallant Member for Limerick (Colonel Dickson), and had consented to take up the Bill on consideration of the important Motion on the subject of the Irish Constabulary having been withdrawn. The Fisheries Bill was on the paper for the evening sitting, but no progress was made with either measure. There were no fewer than fifteen Government Bills, none of which, with the exception of the Poor Relief Bill, were of public advantage. There were, in addition, seventeen other Irish Bills promoted by private Members, some of which were good and some bad. The Peace Preservation Bill was a most mischievous measure of the Government. This Bill, together with the Summary Jurisdiction Bill and the Unlawful Oaths Bill, had become law. There was, then, the Assurances Registration Bill, the Births and Deaths Registration Bill (which proposed to make policemen registrars), the Bastardy Bill, the Poor Law Officers Superannuation Bill, the County Surveyors Bill—a useless measure, the object of which seemed to be to transfer the examination of surveyors to London—the Weights and Measures Bill, the Fairs and Markets Bill, and the Poor Removal Bill. Among the seventeen Bills in the hands of private Members were the Marriages Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), the Donations and Bequests Bill of the hon. Member for Waterford—a Bill which had also been taken up by the Government—the Grand Jury Secretaries Bill, which was withdrawn; the Land Debentures Bill, which had been upset by the Chief Secretary having gone over to the Opposition side of the House, where he wished the right hon. Baronet had stopped; the Debentures on Land Bill, which was as like the Land Debentures Bill as live fish was to fish alive; the Drainage Bill, the Fisheries Bill of Mr. Hennessy, the Elections for Counties Bill, and the Bills of Exchange Bill, brought in by one of the hon. Members for the City of Dublin; the Chancery Regulation Bill, the Tralee Savings Bank Bill, the Irish Barristers Bill, and one or two others. In consequence of the necessity of attending to this mass of business, he had been obliged to give up all English business. His whole time was taken up, in fact, in endeavouring to obstruct dangerous legislation. He hoped the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland would confine his attempts at legislation to the Poor Removal Bill and to the better portion of the Fairs and Markets Bill. In his opinion the right hon. Baronet was the wrong person in the wrong place. He thought he should transfer his talents to some other place, where they would be more appreciated. During the last thirty years there had been seventeen Chief Secretaries. They were all still alive, and he hoped that so far the right hon. Baronet would follow their example, and live a long time too. He, however, hoped that the noble Lord who had thrust the right hon. Baronet upon the country would remove him again. The noble Lord gave him, and perhaps the noble Lord would take him away. In that event, the right hon. Baronet would be entitled to com- pensation for all he had gone through, and therefore he hoped he would be elevated to the rank of Baron Tarn worth, or, perhaps, to the more appropriate distinction of Earl of Donnybrook. He (Mr. Scully) had attended in his place night after night, at the risk of his life. If he had not the constitution of half-a-dozen individuals, he would have had to follow the example of the hon. and learned Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield), and obtain leave of absence for the rest of the Session. The noble Lord at the head of the Government generally made his appointments with much tact, but why he sent the right hon. Baronet to Ireland was a profound mystery. The fact was, that the Chief Secretary had set the whole country in a flame. He (Mr. Scully) dreaded the coming recess, when the right hon. Baronet would have uninterrupted possession of Ireland, and could carry on his proceedings without any Parliamentary control. Let the right hon. Baronet make himself scarce in Ireland, and he would have his (Mr. Scully's) best wishes. He could not deny that the right hon. Baronet had great natural talents; and if he turned his abilities in another direction, he would succeed better; but he was not the man to judge of the wants, wishes, and feelings of the people of Ireland. It was with regret he found himself obliged to make a statement of this nature, and he only did so on the promptings of urgent duty. He had never done so before, and he hoped he would never have to do so again. To put himself in order, he now begged to move the adjournment of the House.


said, he was already obliged to his hon. and learned Friend for his great courtesy towards him, and for the unequivocal terms in which he was good enough to refer to him in connection with his official duties during the present Session of Parliament. He (Sir Robert Peel), however, did not think that the House generally, or the other hon. Members from Ireland, would coincide in the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that he had manifested any intention of proceeding unfairly with the Irish business he had introduced. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been kept to a late hour at night waiting for those measures to be brought on, he did not suffer that inconvenience alone. He (Sir Robert Peel) was also a sufferer in that respect, having been also compelled, night after night, to remain until a late hour in order to advance business as far as possible. No doubt a great number of changes in the office of Irish Secretary had taken place within the last half century, and therefore if the same system were to continue his tenure of office would indeed be short. He wished he could say the same thing of the hon. and learned Member for Cork. If that were the case, the hon. and learned Gentleman's tenure of office would certainly expire at the end of the Session, and that House would not have the pleasure of seeing him in the next Session. Now, in reference to the Bills upon the Paper. The Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill, he trusted, would receive a third reading that night. The County Surveyors (Ireland) Bill was a measure of great importance, and one which was much wanted in Ireland. [Mr. SCULLY: No, no !] The Fairs and Markets (Ireland) Bill, he had at one time thought would be passed this Session. It was a measure which had been much discussed, and one which would work a great deal of good in Ireland. He, however, did not now think it possible to pass it through Parliament this Session, but there were two principles contained in the Bill which he hoped would be adopted by the House in another form. Those principles were the establishment of a uniform standard of weights and measures in Ireland, and the abolition of the charges for weighing in the markets. He proposed to introduce two clauses bearing upon both points in the Weights and Measures (Ireland) Bill. The adoption of two such principles would, he thought, prove of the greatest advantage to the small farmers in Ireland as well as to all other persons interested in the matter. He therefore proposed to drop the Fairs and Markets (Ireland) Bill—a step, he confessed, he took with the greatest reluctance. He did not think it would be possible to proceed that night with the Weights and Measures (Ireland) Bill, but he hoped he would be able to proceed with the County Surveyors (Ireland) Bill after the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill was disposed of.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.