HC Deb 19 June 1865 vol 180 cc508-12

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Robert Peel.)


said, he opposed the Motion. If it were really necessary at this late period of the Session to pass a measure on the subject it ought only to be a continuance Bill for a single year. Let a Bill for the registration of arms be separately introduced; and let them no longer be compelled, as they had been at the Tipperary assizes, to convict lads simply for having percussion caps or bullets in their pocket.


said, he opposed this Bill, as he had constantly done for years, believing that it degraded the people of Ireland. Originally this had been called a Crime and Outrage Bill. The necessity for it had long passed away, and the only effect of it was to irritate the people and to perpetuate the oppression of which they justly complained. There were trials going on under it in Ireland that would disgrace any part of the world.


said, he opposed the Bill, on the ground that it was an instance of exceptional legislation for which no necessity whatever had been shown.


said, he thought it highly satisfactory that the Bill had been opposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell), a resident proprietor in Tipperary, who would have been the first to support the Bill had there been any real necessity for it. When the Bill was brought in the Chief Secretary admitted the peaceable state of the country, and therefore the right hon. Baronet ought at least to make the concession suggested by the hon. Member for Clonmel.


said, he had voted for the Bill on a former evening, but hoped now the right hon. Baronet would be content to pass it for one year.


said, that the Bill was proposed to be passed for the smallest possible period, that was to the end of the next Session. As to the general state of the country, everybody would admit that it was most peaceable. For instance, in 1853, there were a thousand prisoners in gaol in Clonmel, but in the present year there were only sixty-three. That showed conclusively the great improvement which had taken place in the county of Tipperary. This Bill was proposed to be reserved only by way of precaution. There were certain baronies in Mayo, Galway, and Monaghan, and after communicating with the magistrates the Lord Lieutenant in Council would be prepared to take away the proclamations from those baronies. He trusted the House would consent to pass the Bill.


said, he wished to inquire whether the right hon. Baronet would consent to withdraw the proclamation from the county of Tipperary, which he had stated to be so peaceable?


said, the magistrates of Tipperary had made no representation on the subject.


said, the right hon. Baronet had given a most admirable description of the state of Ireland, and it was well that the fact should go forth to the English people, because it was said that capital was kept away as there was no security in Ireland. The peaceable state of Ireland, however, was no justification for a coercion Bill. The existence of former Governments depended on the introduction of such a Bill, but now the Chief Secretary rose and proposed a coercion Bill as easily as he performed the very homely personal function described the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). Persons engaged in an illegal marching at Ballincollig had some time since been brought before Mr. Justice Keogh, and the common law of the country was found sufficient for their punishment. It would be wise policy of the Government to show their increased confidence in the people of Ireland by not again passing this measure, as there was no necessity for it. If the Government could show no necessity for the Bill, hon. Gentlemen were justified in opposing it. As the right hon. Baronet had not consented to limit the operation of the Bill he should move that it be read a second time on that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Maguire.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that the hon. Member (Mr. Maguire) in the earlier part of the Session had made a statement that there was great disaffection in Ireland, and that being so, it was a sufficient justification of the Bill.


said, that he had waited with the greatest anxiety to hear what grounds the Chief Secretary for Ireland would allege in defence of a Bill which he could not help denominating a very exceptional and unconstitutional one, and the only reason which he had heard him assign for adopting this measure was that it had been in force before, and, therefore, it might as well be continued. He had paid some attention to the judicial statistics of Ireland, and they certainly afforded no justification for passing such a Bill as this. When a district was proclaimed by the Lord Lieutenant, any man who had in his possession any part of a gun or an ounce of powder was liable to twelve months' imprisonment; any body who met another body upon the road with such a thing might take it from him, and any policeman might search any man, woman, or child, turn them up, and see whether they had anything of the kind about them. The Government could, by means of these proclamations, put a perpetual blister upon any part of Ireland in the shape of an extra police force to be paid by the district. He was surprised to hear the Chief Secretary say the other night that the noble Lord the Member for the county of Mayo had told him that the gentlemen of that county thought that a proclamation now in force there might be removed, and that, therefore, he should write to the Lord Lieutenant on the following day to ask him to recall it.


said, that what he had said was, that he had communicated with the noble Lord, who said that he would make inquiries of the magistrates, and let him know whether they thought the proclamation might be withdrawn.


said, that the words of the right hon. Baronet, as he understood them, and as they were reported in The Times, which generally pretty accurately reported the debates in that House, were that he— Had been in communication with his noble Friend the Member for the county of Mayo upon the subject of the proclamation, which had been in force since 1861, and he intended to inform the Lord Lieutenant that in the opinion of the gentlemen of that county there was no reason why it should not be revoked. If this was the way that proclamations were recalled, perhaps they were sometimes issued under parallel circumstances. During the five years preceding 1851 the number of criminals indicted in Ireland was 130,000; during the five years ending 1863 the numbers had dwindled down to about 29,000. This was a most remarkable change. The people were flying from the land as if it was a pesthouse, and was that to be wondered at when such laws as this were in force? In Ireland there was a policeman to every 420 people, while in England the proportion was only one to every 880 or 890. Surely with such a force of police and the powers given to them by the ordinary laws the Government could preserve the peace of the country. As he had heard no reason for the passing of this Bill, he should vote against the second reading.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) had not correctly apprehended the argument of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary What his right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) said was that it was the intention of the Lord Lieutenant, in communication with the lieutenants and magistrates of counties, to see how many of the proclamations now in force could be safely withdrawn; but that was a very different thing from allowing them all to lapse by the expiration of the Act of Parliament which this Bill was intended to renew. Such neglect might be attended with the most disastrous consequences. All that was now asked was that time might be allowed for the further consideration of the state of Ireland with a view to see whether it would be necessary to retain that Act. The Government hoped that it would not, but that must depend upon the state of the country. In the meantime the continuance was only sought for a year, and till the end of the then next Session of Parliament, the shortest period for which it was the practice to take annual continuance Bills.


said, that under this Bill the Act would remain in force during the whole of] 866 and until the end of the Session of 1867—that was, till August, 1867. The proposal which would satisfy everyone was that it should be renewed only till the end of 1866.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: —Ayes 76; Noes 29: Majority 47.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Tomorrow.