§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. HENNESSY
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, the grand jury secretaries were appointed under an Act of George IV., and the salaries were then fixed. Their duties had been greatly increased, and the price of provisions had become considerably higher, and the object of the Bill was to enable the grand juries to increase the salaries. The grand juries were in favour of the Bill, and a clause was inserted enabling the ratepayers to review the decision by which the salary of any secretary was raised. It ought to be a Government measure; and if the Government would undertake it, he would; withdraw this Bill.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the second time."
§ MR. BLAKE
was favourable to the principle of the Bill, but he rather objected to give the grand juries as they were now constituted any additional powers whatever. He understood that the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) had promised 1670 to bring in a Bill to reform the grand jury laws. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: No, no.] He hoped that such a measure would be introduced. If the constitution of the grand juries in Ireland was altered, he should have no objection to intrust them with these additional powers.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
disclaimed having foreshadowed any measure of the kind suggested by the hon. Member for Waterford. What he said was, that he should be glad during the recess to give a careful consideration to the whole of the grand jury laws. He was sure, that if he had introduced such a proposition as this on behalf of the Government, he should have been opposed by nearly all the Irish Members. On the part of the Government he was bound to give a decided opposition to the Bill proposed by the hon. Member for the King's County. There was no necessity for increasing the salaries of the secretaries of grand juries, as he could show that they were remarkably well paid and their duties very light. Every addition to their salaries would be an addition to the county cess, and they ought to deal cautiously with the amount of money paid to the county officers. So far from these gentlemen requiring an increase of pay, whenever there was a secretary's place vacant there were numerous applications for the office; and not only that, many were ready to give a handsome gratuity for it. This did not look like a state of things calling for such a Bill. It had been said that the secretaries had their time so much occupied that they could not engage in any other business. He had made inquiries on this point, and he found some of these gentlemen employed as treasurers to public bodies, connected with insurance offices, acting as agents; and one secretary styled himself a "perpetual commissioner for the transfer of property by married women." They were not only paid a salary, but received large emoluments from fees. He would take four counties to show what was the condition of these ill-paid officers. The secretary of the county of Donegal received a salary of £203; but he also received in fees on the applications for payment to contractors £223, making his total receipts £426. Yet this secretary asserted he was out of pocket by his office £150; he could not understand how this could be the case, when there were twenty gentlemen quite ready, not only to succeed him, but to pay for succeeding him. The secretary for the county of Down received as salary £203; but 1671 the total amount of his remuneration was £548. Would it be just to raise these salaries by another £100 a year? The secretary for Fermanagh received £244; the secretary for Kerry, £185 as salary; but, with the fees, altogether £345. Nothing could be more vicious than the manner of raising these fees; and if any Bill on the subject was required, it was a Bill to do away with them. The secretary for Donegal, it appeared, charged on each contractor's application for payment the sum of 6d.; the secretary for Down charged 1s. on the same document; the secretary for Fermanagh, 1s. 6d.; and the secretary for Kerry, 2s. So that in these four counties there were four different scales of fees charged for the same work. What necessity was there for a Bill materially increasing these emoluments? The hon. Member was, no doubt, anxious to do his duty towards those he considered an ill-paid class of officers; but, on the part of the Government, he must declare he thought them most amply remunerated. It would be unfair to other public officers to increase these salaries at the expense of the county cess. He could not assent to the second reading of the Bill, and he hoped the House would support him in rejecting it.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
thought the right hon. Baronet had made out a good case not only against the present Bill, but for the introduction of another, regulating the whole matter, which was in a most unsatisfactory state. The Secretaries received these fees without any control over the amounts charged. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would, at some future time, propose a Bill, not abolishing the fees, but regulating their amount and carrying them to the county fund.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
thought the right hon. Baronet had proved the inexpediency of the Bill. He was not prepared to give his assent to it.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said the landowners of Ireland were already over-taxed. They might be truly described as a body of encumbered proprietors charged with the support of a horde of paupers, placemen, and policemen. He admitted, however, that some grand jury secretaries were under-paid; but the present Bill, if read a second time, would require to be carefully considered in Committee.
§ MR. O'BRIEN
said, the fees to secre- 1672 taries to grand juries were not legally recoverable. They were perfectly gratuitous.
§ MR. HENNESSY
asked leave to withdraw the Bill seeing that the hon. Member for Waterford had announced his intention to introduce a general measure next Session.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.