HC Deb 13 June 1862 vol 167 cc619-25

said, he rose to call attention to the state of the Irish business now before the House; and to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland with which of the various Bills relating to Ireland introduced by Government it is intended to proceed this Session. On the 14th of February three Bills relating to Ireland were introduced by the Secretary, and were received with the greatest satisfaction, as being a first attempt to legislate for Ireland early in the year. One of these was the Fairs and Markets Bill, which had not yet passed through Committee. The Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill (No. 2) was in a transition state, and some of the important clauses relating to union rating would probably occupy a considerable period. Perhaps the result would be that legislation would be deferred till a more convenient period. As to the Poor Law Superannuation Bill, notice had been given of an intention to move that it be read a second time that day six months. The object of the Bill was to saddle a large number of officials on the land; and the Amendment would, he dare say, meet with a great deal of support. His object in introducing this subject was to facilitate legislation, and to save the time of hon. Members connected with Ireland, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would state distinctly what Irish Bills the Government intended to proceed with during the present Session.


did not think the Chief Secretary for Ireland was at all blamable with regard to the Fairs and Markets Bill, which had been brought before the House on several occasions. The Amendments introduced had rendered the Bill impracticable, and for those Amendments the right hon. Gentleman was not at all responsible.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman would announce the abandonment of the Fairs and Markets Bill and the Poor Law Relief Bill. He differed from those who would like to see the right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) again Chief Secretary, because he preferred in that office the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. Like all Irish Chief Secretaries, the right hon. Baronet was, however, surrounded by a clique. If he had gone to a body strongly represented in the City of Dublin—the commercial interest—he would have received good advice. He gathered round him the retainers and admirers of the late Sir Robert Peel. The present Chief Secretary made Protestant and Conservative speeches, but they were not followed by Protestant and Conservative actions. The recent appointments in Ireland were exactly similar to those of the late Chief Secretary, who was surrounded by an Ultramontane clique. The right hon. Baronet meant well, but there were obstacles in his way, and those obstacles were bad advisers.


said, he was much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his good opinion, but the hon. Gentleman was in error in supposing that he was surrounded by any clique. He should scorn to be under the dominion of a clique in the world, and certainly no clique in Ireland had endeavoured to domineer or interfere with the free action of the Government in reference to measures which were intended for the benefit of the country. The question raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman was so comprehensive, that he could not possibly condense his remarks upon it within two hours. It opened the whole question of Irish legislation. He had hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would begin at eight o'clock, and after speaking three-quarters of an hour allow him ample time to go seriatim through the whole of these measures, because he could not do justice to himself or to the Government in replying in a few brief sentences, as he was bound to do at that hour. The hon. and learned Gentleman said the Bills were introduced early in the Session. The complaint against his predecessor was, that he introduced Bills and referred them to Select Committees. His right hon. Friend adopted that course with regard to the Fairs and Markets, Births and Deaths Registration, and Poor Law Bills, and passed a County Surveyor's Bill. That was all that was done last year. But the three Bills which he (Sir R. Peel) had introduced this year were the result of the labours of those Committees. His hon. Friend complained that he had made little progress with Irish business. He flattered himself that he had made extraordinary progress. He had, on the 2nd of June, made more progress than was in the year 1858 made by his noble Friend and the right hon, and learned Gentleman opposite (Lord Naas and Mr. Whiteside) up to the 29th of July. He thought that the Government were entitled to great credit for the way in which they had forced on Irish business. On Wednesday, the 21st of May, his right hon. Friend opposite introduced the Judgment and Land Debentures Bills; on the following day there was an Irish education debate, which occupied the House from half-past four to twelve o'clock. On the Friday the House was engaged from five minutes past nine with Irish business. On the Wednesday following, the Irish Fisheries Bill occupied the whole day; on the Thursday, the Poor Relief Bill was before the House all night. The charge that the Government had not been desirous of forwarding the Irish business was most unfounded. The great difficulty which he experienced was, that Irish Members would not go on after twelve o'clock. The Scotch Members would sit until half-past one or half-past two o'clock, but he could not get a single Irish Member to support him in going on with business after twelve. The other night, on the Poor Law Bill, the adjournment of the House was moved at half-past nine o'clock, and two divisions were taken in order to compel him to give up a certain point. How was it possible for any man in his position to proceed with important business if he was exposed to such hostility? The Poor Law Amendment Bill was read a second time on the 21st of February; the Fairs and Markets Bill had gone through Committee by the 20th of March; and the Births and Deaths Registration Bill was read a second time on the 1st of May. That was very extraordinary progress, and such as no Govern- ment had made before. The Fairs and Markets Bill had been before the House for nearly ten years. Surely hon. Members had had sufficient time to consider it. If the commercial interests did not approve it, they could stop its progress; but do not let them throw discredit on the Government for the course which had been adopted with regard to it. The Poor Law Amendment Bill had been introduced in 1855, 1856, 1858, 1859, 1860, and 1861, and most of its clauses had been recommended by Chief Secretaries for Ireland, among others by his noble Friend and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin.


I never recommended the Bill.


Your name is on the back of it.


Not of your Bill.


said, that his Bill differed but very slightly from that in the introduction of which the right hon. Gentleman concurred. The great difference with which the right hon. Gentleman attempted to fix him was in the words "or otherwise," which had actually been before the House since 1858, when they occurred in the Bill of his right hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert). Yet the right hon. Gentleman had insinuated that he was endeavouring to endow convent schools out of the rates. Such an idea never entered his head; and the intention and object of the words were perfectly clear and simple. The Births and Deaths Registration Bill had also been frequently before the House, and the only point in which his measure differed from that of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) was, that he had preferred the plan of his noble Friend (Lord Naas), who was an Irish country gentleman supporten by the majority of Irish country gentlemen, and had proposed to employ the constabulary instead of the medical officers. His (Sir Robert Peel's) only object was to pass such measures as would be suitable to Ireland, and would prove beneficial to the interests of that country. There were other Irish measures also before the House. Among these were the Weights and Measures Bill, and the County Surveyors Bill, which stood for Committee on the 17th of June; the Poor Law Superannuation Bill, which was read a second time on the 15th of May; the Registration of Assurances Bill, read a second time on the 2nd of June; and the Bastardy Bill, which had not been read a second time, because he was desirous, if possible, of first passing the Poor Law Amendment Bill. He was desirous, if possible, of proceeding with the Fairs and Markets Bill, and he hoped the Irish Members would support him in his endeavour to pass it during the present Session. He hoped to pass the Poor Law Amendment Bill. With regard to the subject of registration, he should observe that he had intended to introduce a Bill for the registration of marriages, but he had refrained from doing so in deference to the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), who had a Bill for that object before the House. If the Irish Members wished it, he did not see why he should not be able to send the Births and Deaths Registration Bill up to the Lords by the beginning of next month. The Registration of Assurances Bill had been read a second lime on the understanding that it was to be referred to a Select Committee. After consultation with his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, he thought it would be impossible to proceed further with that Bill this Session. The Poor Law Superannuation Bill was one of great importance, and he did not see why it should not pass this Session. He also hoped to pass the County Surveyors Bill and the Weights and Measures Bill. During the recess between August and February he had applied himself, almost without intermission, to a consideration of this subject; and, whether in office or in opposition, he should lend his cordial aid towards passing those measures which he believed to be of importance to Ireland.


thought the House was indebted to the hon. Member who had put this Question, as they were now likely to be relieved of a great amount of labour. The upshot of the reply of the right hon. Baronet was this—that with the exception of the Fairs and Markets Bill, all the Irish measures were to be withdrawn. He gave credit to the right hon. Baronet for industry; but the real cause of his failure was, not any want of a disposition to do what was useful, but that he had no support—no party to back him. This was not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman, but that of the Ministry he served. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had acted wisely in withdrawing those Bills; for he inferred that right hon. Baronet felt he could not carry any of them. He thought the House would feel obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for having relieved their minds of the apprehension that any of his unfortunate measures would become the law of the land.


said, he did not hold the Chief Secretary for Ireland responsible for the present state of things. The period of the Session when several of those measures were introduced, was a proof of the earnest intentions of the Government; and the House would recognise the assiduity and attention of the right hon. Baronet to all Irish measures. He did not approve of all of them; and, looking at the little progress made in them, and the number of Amendments proposed, he augured unfavourably of the disposition to accept any legislation at the right hon. Baronet's hands. If the Session was to be thrown away as far as Irish measures were concerned, the fault would not be with the Chief Secretary. The failure arose from other causes.


complained of the waste of time caused by the discussion of measures which, he believed, the Government never intended to pass. He did not, however, attribute the blame to the right hon. Baronet—he thought that the failure of the Irish legislation was due to the unprecedented position of the Chief Secretary, who was without any legal assistance from the Law Officers for Ireland. The anti-Irish policy of the Government was so unpopular that they could not secure the return of any Irish Minister. It was the Irish policy of the Government that had caused the delay and complication of the Irish business.


thought, though the Fairs and Markets Bill was opposed by the agricultural population as well as by the Chambers of Commerce of Dublin and Waterford, that the weights and measures clause was a good one. He also approved the object of the Registration Bill. As to the Superannuation Bill, the right hon. Gentleman would not be able to pass it, for the people of Ireland could not and would not submit to it.


said, that last year something like a pledge was given by the Government that in the present Session an attempt would be made to pass an Irish Poor Law Bill. This was a subject which ought to be dealt with and which did not admit of any delay, and he should regret if the Government did not redeem their pledge. As to the other measures, he did not look upon them as of so much importance, though he hoped that the Fairs and Markets Bill would pass into a law.


thought that the right hon. Gentleman had made a bad choice in resolving to proceed with the Fairs and Markets Bill, which was objected to by the Chambers of Commerce throughout Ireland. He concurred in the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) that the right hon. Baronet should have elected to proceed with the Bills for the amendment of the Irish Poor Law.


hoped that whatever Irish Bills were pressed forward this year, some early day would be appointed for the discussion upon them. Irish Members could not he expected to remain in town much after the first week in July.


hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would persist in proceeding with the Fairs and Markets Bill.


looked upon the Poor Law Amendment (Ireland) Bill as much more important than the Fairs and Markets Bill.


differed from the hon. Member, and thought the Fairs and Markets Bill much more important than any other Irish measure.

House adjourned at half after One o'clock till Monday next.