HC Deb 01 May 1862 vol 166 cc1111-4

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said, he should propose a Resolution to prevent the employment of the police in collecting information under this Bill. The course now suggested in the Bill was quite different from that pursued in England or in any other country, and the only result of employing the police would be to render that force highly unpopular. Neither were ordinary constables qualified for the duty. In one of the forms appended to the Act a cause of death was described as "pneumonia," and the form was signed "John Cox, constable." But what did "John Cox, constable," know about pneumonia? Probably he would be unable to spell the word. In the Bill a provision had been copied from the English Act, and it proposed that any sub-constable or other policeman who should mislay a leaf of the registration-book, which he would be bound to keep, should be liable to a penalty of £50. That was a ridiculous provision. There were other persons who could be employed upon those duties with more advantage than the police, as, for instance, the dispensary officers. There were also the clerks of the Poor Law Unions. Nothing would be more unpopular than the employment of the police, and it would put the police themselves in an unpleasant position, and make them still more unpopular. He hoped the Irish Members would support the Resolution which he would move, That this House is of opinion that it is not expedient to employ the Police as the Registrars of Births and Deaths in Ireland.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that it is not expedient to employ the Police as the Registrars of Births and Deaths in Ireland, —instead thereof.

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


said, he regretted that the registration of marriages was not proposed to be dealt with by the Bill. He acknowledged the difficulty of dealing with that part of the question, owing to the prevalence of religious differences in Ireland, but he regarded the system at present in operation as so unsatisfactory that he should view with gratification any measure, from whatever source it came, which should deal with the question of registration in all its branches. To the general principle of the Bill before the House he should give his support; but, considering the many burdens already borne by the county cess payers, he regretted that the cost of the proposed machinery was not to be discharged by the Consolidated Fund. He should have preferred to the present Bill the arrangements proposed last year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, believing as he did that the medical officers of dispensary districts would be more trustworthy agents in the collection of statistics with regard to births and deaths than the constabulary force. Those officers were necessarily present at almost every birth in their neighbourhood; and by fulfilling the accessory duty of registrars, they might have increased their present scanty incomes. But as the Bill would diminish by one-third the expenses of the former system of registration, the medical officers probably would not think it worth their while to accept the office of registrars. Under all the circumstances, therefore, he did not hesitate to accept the measure as the most efficient and cheapest that could be devised. It would help the constabulary to add to their small remuneration.


said, he strongly objected to the employment of the police in the capacity of registrars under the Bill. A system of registration was much wanted in Ireland; but in selecting the persons to work that system, their ability to perform the work, and not the lowness of the salaries they would require, ought to be the main consideration. No system of registration could ever be successful unless it were carried out by the agency of medical gentlemen. That remark applied especially to the case of Ireland. The people of that country would revolt against permitting a common policeman to enter their houses for the purpose of registering the birth of a new-born child. A. few nights ago objection was taken to the military character of the police of Ireland. Much as the Irish people objected to the police discharging military duties, they would object still more to their discharging the social and domestic duties which by this Bill would devolve upon them. He considered that the best men to perform the task would be the medical men; and if the House was not in a position to remunerate those gentlemen properly for the work, let it wait till it was.


said, he also considered that the police were not the right body for the employment. He did not wish to say a word against the force, but he did not wish the peasantry of Ireland to find the police set to do everything. If the constables had not enough to do, let their number be reduced.


said, the Amendment struck at one of the main features of the Bill; and if it were approved, it would necessitate the proposal of some other plan. Having given attention to the suggestions offered, he had come to the decided opinion that no body of men in Ireland were so capable efficiently and satisfactorily to discharge these duties as the constabulary. The medical officers would not undertake it for the money. Postmasters would be unequal to the task. Ecclesiastics of different denominations would not accept the responsibility. Persons being nominated by the Lord Lieutenant would throw too much patronage into the hands of the Irish Executive, and persons being elected by Boards of Guardians would lead to all kinds of jobbery. Upon the whole the constabulary were the best fitted for the purpose. They were very popular in Ireland, and had been engaged in preparing the census, in obtaining agricultural statistics, and in other duties of a kindred nature. The question, however, as to the persons who should be employed to carry out the measure was premature; it ought to be reserved until the Bill reached Committee, and therefore he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not persevere in his Amendment.


said, he should gladly support a Bill for a system of registration, but he could not adopt the worst possible machinery that the ingenuity of man could devise. In evidence before a Committee of that House, Mr. Senior had stated that the employment of the police for purposes of this kind was monstrous and unconstitutional. It was true, on the other hand, that Colonel Brownrigg had said that the constabulary would best carry out the scheme; but he added that it would be an auxiliary in the detection of crime. Would that be likely to render it popular? A Bill like the present would fill the public mind with suspicion, and raise up every man of the humbler classes in Ireland to defeat it if possible. Again, why should the multitudinous duties of the police be still further augmented? He believed the medical officers, the clergymen, or clerks of unions would better discharge the duty than the policeman. It had been boasted the other night that the police were great proficients at the rifle; and he would ask the House what they thought of a policeman, with a rifle in one hand and a pencil in the other, going into a man's house to ask him when his child was born or his wife died? He wished to warn hon. Members against adopting the present machinery of the Bill.


suggested, that the system should be applied in Ireland which had been adopted in this country—of the appointment of special persons for this purpose. Without such amendment the plan would never be popular in Ireland.


said, that the course adopted by those who moved the present Resolution was not very consistent with the opinions they had expressed with regard to the Bill. They professed themselves exceedingly anxious to have a system of registration in Ireland, but when the Government called upon them to affirm that principle, by agreeing to the second reading, they interposed a Motion which did not belong to that stage of the discussion, and which was perfectly fit to be proposed in Committee. He trusted, therefore, they would allow the Bill to be read, and when they came to the clause in Committee relating to the machinery they could discuss that question.


objected to having the police being appointed to carry out the objects of the Bill, acting as they did under a central authority; but he did not see why they might not be appointed by the Boards of Guardians.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday next.