HC Deb 03 May 1871 vol 206 cc124-6

Order for Second Reading read.

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


, on the part of the Government, objected to the Bill being read a second time, on the ground that the subject of Private Bill legislation ought to be considered as a whole, and not merely as regarded one part of the United Kingdom. The Bill proposed to make certain alterations in regard to the Private Bill legislation of Ireland only; but that legislation as regarded England and Scotland required amendment. He expressed his regret that the hon. Member who had introduced the measure should not have thought it necessary, in moving the second reading of the measure, to offer any remarks in support of it.


begged to be permitted, after the observations that had been made by the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to make a statement which would show the necessity that existed for some change being made as regarded the private business for Ireland. The present system was most expensive and inconvenient, and led to great delay. The expense and inconvenience attending Irish Private Bill legislation were most excessive. It was difficult to judge whether the delay or the expense inflicted most injury to the public interest. Thus the expenses connected with the passing a town improvement Bill for Sligo exceeded £14,000, which had to be paid from the rates—the expense of the Dublin Trunk Railway Bill in 1866 amounted to upwards of £54,000; while the attempt to pass the most simple private Irish Bill through the House involved an expenditure of from £2,000 to £5,000. The sound principle was that Imperial business should be transacted at the centre of government, and local business in the locality where it arose. There were this Session before Parliament between 30 and 40 Private Bills relating to Ireland, and the great delay, inconvenience, and expense attending their prosecution before Select Committees of the House would be much diminished if they were dealt with by Judges of the Superior Courts in Ireland. There were precedents for what was now proposed in the Improvement Act for Scotland, passed in 1862, which enacted that the sheriff of the county should conduct the local inquiry, draft the provisional order, and report to the House. The Act which transferred to the Judges the trial of election petitions was also another precedent in point. It might be said that this was part of a much larger question, and that a measure of that kind ought not to be limited to Ireland; but the experiment he advocated might be advantageously made where the evils of the present system pressed most severely. It was now impossible for any Irish country town to obtain, power to regulate its fair or market without applying to Parliament for the purpose at an expense of at least £1,500; and the cost incurred by Irish railway companies in getting extension Bills passed was enormous.


strongly condemned the system of Private legislation generally, as not only ruinous to the promoters of Private Bills, but utterly incompatible with the efficient discharge of their more public duties by the Members of that House. A remedy for these abuses had been attempted as far back as 1852, but without effect. As an illustration of the costliness of the system, he mentioned the case of a Welsh railway of only 18 miles, the Parliamentary expenses of which amounted to £70,000.


thought it was impossible at that hour to discuss that important question satisfactorily. He would therefore only state that when he held the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, and since, he had directed his special attention to that subject, and he was bound to say he believed his noble Friend the present Chief Secretary for Ireland had taken a correct view of the difficulty of dealing with it. No doubt the expense of prosecuting Irish Private Bills was heavy; yet the instances just quoted were perfectly trifling compared with the outlay incurred by parties promoting Private Bills connected with distant parts of England and Scotland. The only proper way of handling that question was to treat it as a whole, and not to legislate upon it for Ireland alone. He had himself tried to work out a reform in the Private Bill legislation of that House, but he had failed; and the matter required a much more serious attention than it could receive at the close of that afternoon. If the House felt inclined to take up the subject and to deal with it as a whole, he would suggest that a Committee should be appointed to consider it. It would prejudice the question materially if they attempted to legislate for Ireland apart from the rest of the Empire, and he would advise the promoter of that Bill to withdraw it, in order that at a future time the subject might be treated in reference to the United Kingdom.

MR. BAGWELL moved the Adjournment of the Debate.

Debate adjourned till Wednesday 14th June.