§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [23rd March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Butt.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, it had been his duty to look at the whole question, of which a part was raised by his Bill, and he was very doubtful whether the course proposed of assimilating the municipal law of Ireland to that of England not only with regard to administrative details, but also with regard to the franchise, was the best mode of dealing with it. The Irish Municipal Reform Act of 1840 had extinguished many old corporations, leaving but 10 in existence. In the 35 years that had since elapsed, only one other town had obtained a municipal charter; yet, if this Act had been really adapted to the requirements of the country, surely other large and growing towns would have followed this solitary example. They had, however, preferred to place themselves under the provisions of the Towns Improvement Act of 1854. The franchise under this Act appeared to be of a more popular character than the municipal franchise; a protection to owners of property being secured in municipalities—except Dublin—by the high franchise of £8 value, and in towns under the Act of 1854 by the limit fixed by that Act on the rating powers of the Town Commissioners. Objection might be taken to both of these provisions; he went so far with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Limerick as to say that to maintain the municipal 1189 franchise at £8 was not satisfactory, and to limit the rates which might be levied in towns might prevent their governing bodies from efficiently carrying out those objects for which they were appointed. Neither party in Ireland seemed to be satisfied with the working of the existing Municipal Acts; but the Bill of the hon. and learned Gentleman merely touched upon the fringe of the question, and in no way dealt with the government of towns, but provided that they should appoint their own sheriffs and their own clerks of the peace. There might be no objection to this proposal in itself; but as he believed—and the various Bills that had been introduced upon the subject confirmed him in the opinion—that the operation of the whole law relating to town government in Ireland required investigation, he did not think it advisable that the House should adopt a proposal which dealt with only a small portion of that law, and for which there was certainly no urgent popular demand. On the contrary, if the offices in question were to be dealt with at all, it seemed doubtful whether they might not be abolished; for if the recent recommendation of the Committee on the Jury Law were adopted—that the jury lists of the towns and of the counties should be fused—there would not be any occasion for town sheriffs to form the jury panels; while as regarded the clerks of the peace, the law with respect to their appointment, whether in counties or in towns, would, he hoped, soon be considerably modified. He hoped that the result of an inquiry by a Select Committee such as that he would propose as an Amendment to the Bill of the hon. and learned Member would, within a reasonable time, enable Her Majesty's Government to settle the municipal government of Ireland on a more uniform and satisfactory basis than at present. He begged to move, as an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill, that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the operation of the several Acts relating to the municipal government of Ireland.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the operation in Ireland of the following statutes: 9 Geo. 4, c. 82. 3 and 4 Vic. c. 108,
and 17 and 18 Vic. c. 103, and the Acts altering and amending the same, and to report whether any and what alterations are advisable in the Law relating to the Local Government and Taxation of Cities and Towns in that part of the United Kingdom,"—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BUTT
hoped the Motion would be agreed to. He objected to discuss the re-actionary policy of the Government at 20 minutes to 1 in the morning, and some hours at least should elapse before the right hon. Baronet should strangle the liberties of Ireland by obtaining the assent of the House to his Motion. The right hon. Baronet's proposal had for its object the extinction of all municipal privileges in Ireland, and contained the denial of the demand of the Irish Members for an equality of municipal rights in the two countries. He (Mr. Butt) maintained that the Government were pledged to pass the Bill, and that it was something very like a breach of faith on the part of this right hon. Baronet to bring forward such an Amendment as that proposed.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he would not object to the adjournment of the debate; but believing that this subject ought to be fully investigated by a Select Committee, he was anxious that the inquiry should be commenced as soon as possible. The adjournment of the debate would, he feared, much delay the settlement of the question; but the responsibility for that delay would rest with the hon. and learned Member for Limerick and his Friends. He simply objected to the Bill, because he believed further inquiry to be desirable. He further had to complain that the intentions of the Government on the question had been grossly misrepresented by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and must emphatically state on their behalf, that they had no intention whatever to interfere with the existing rights or privileges of the municipal corporations in Ireland.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
regretted the course which the Government had taken with regard to the Bill and thought it would not tend to exalt 1191 the estimate of the proceedings of that House which was formed by the Irish people. In proposing a Select Committee, after the consideration the measure had already received, he was afraid that the Select Committee was proposed simply for the purpose of defeating the Bill. He therefore supported the Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday next.