HC Deb 12 May 1875 vol 224 cc539-42

Order for Second Beading read.


, in moving that the Bill he now read a second time, said, he felt some surprise at hearing that the measure was to he opposed; and as he had no doubt the opposition to it originated in a thorough misconception of its provisions, he would now attempt to explain what was the real object of the Bill. Its real object was simply to remove a great hindrance which existed in the way of those who were entitled to the franchise obtaining the exercise of it, and to put it on the same footing as it was in England. That being the object of the measure, he hoped that, considering the number of days they had spent in providing for Ireland a measure of coercion, they would not hesitate to send after it this measure of enfranchisement to serve as a kind of equivalent. The Bill only proposed to deal with the question of rates. In Ireland the franchise depended upon two conditions. The first was, that the property out of which the vote was claimed should be rated to the poor; and, secondly, that the occupier himself should be rated. In some parts of Ireland it was the custom for the landlords to pay all the rates and taxes, and therefore the occupiers were not rated, and, as a consequence, could not vote. They certainly had a remedy for this, but it was a very cumbrous and inconvenient one. For instance, an occupier who wished to be placed upon the electoral roll might make an application to be rated; but then the application had to be accompanied by a tender of all the rates due up to the date of his making the application. To say the least, it was very unjust that they should have to pay those arrears, whether they arose in the qualifying year or not. In the case of England, in 1869, when they had to consider the case of that troublesome gentleman "the compound householder," Mr. Jacob Bright introduced and carried a measure, providing that the man formerly liable for the rates, although another paid them, should be put in possession of the franchise; and the only and sole object of this Bill was to assimilate the law of Ireland to the law of England in that respect.

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


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, that although the hon. and learned Gentleman professed that it only dealt with the question of rating, it led up directly to a municipal and Parliamentary reform in Ireland, and would place the franchise in the possession of those who paid 5s. or 10s. in the way of rates. ["No, no!"] Well, if that was not its object, it had no object at all. If the hon. Member's object was to place on the registry men who were owners, and were qualified for being rated above £4, he could have gone about it in a much simpler manner, and in a much shorter Bill; but household suffrage, and not that, was his object. He had brought that question distinctly forward in a Bill which he had withdrawn; but this Bill was introduced to effect the same purpose in a covert way. It was, in fact, a new Reform Bill, which, if introduced at all, should be brought forward on the responsibility of the Government.

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

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


supported the Bill, and hoped the House would not be induced by anything which had fallen from the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Vance) to reject this measure, which was a simple endeavour to render the law in Ireland as regarded the franchise the same as it was in England. If, while the scope of the Bill was such as to meet with general approval, there were any matters of detail open to objection, those could be attended to in Committee. Certainly, the objection to the Bill that it was one which ought to proceed from the Government, and not from a private Member, came with a very bad grace from the hon. Member for Armagh, who had himself occupied so much of the Sitting with a measure introduced on his own responsibility, dealing with one of the most ancient institutions of the country—the jurisdiction of coroners—nor was it constitu- tionally necessary that all such measures should originate with the Administration. This measure was not in any respect a sweeping and radical measure, but simply one of common justice.


supported the principle of the Bill, which he thought should meet with the unanimous favour of the House, inasmuch as it was simply to confer the same rights upon the towns of Ireland as had been given to those of England.


supported the Amendment. If it were a mere measure of rating, no one would object to the Bill; but they had to read between the lines for its real object, and that was to carry under the guise mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick both an electoral and municipal Reform Act for Ireland. Seven out of the eight clauses of this Bill were copied verbatim from the Borough Franchise Bill, which had been introduced early this Session by the hon. Member, and thus withdrawn to make room for the present Bill. Unless it were the intention to follow up this Bill by another Bill, conferring the franchise upon all ratepayers, it had no meaning. If this were done, the result would be that, in some of the boroughs, the result would be that the new voters would outnumber the present constituents from two to one to three to one. He had never heard of any complaints against the existing state of affairs, and he objected to passing such provisions under the title of a Towns Eating Bill. They had lately passed a Bill which would for a time secure peace to Ireland, and he hoped that peace would not be disturbed by this kind of political agitation.


said, he accepted the assurance of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Limerick that this measure was not intended to cover a new Irish Reform Bill, but was simply to remedy the grievance that persons otherwise entitled to the franchise should be excluded from it merely on account of the omission of their names from the list of ratepayers. He had listened with attention to the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but had not heard him cite a single instance in which this grievance was felt. Certainly, no complaint of the kind had reached the House, and on reference to Sir Alfred Power, who was Vice President of the Local Government Board in Ireland, he found that no complaints whatever had been made to the Local Government Board upon this subject. Already ample provision had been made by which, in case of the omission of the names of occupiers entitled to be rated above or below £4, their names might be inserted in the rate-book. They might claim to be rated, and if any clerk of a Union wilfully neglected his duty in that respect he was subject to dismissal. He could not, therefore, support a Bill of this kind without the proof of some grievance it was intended to remedy.


said, that in his own town (Dundalk) 15 names were omitted, and he attributed the opposition he met with at the last Election to the fact——

And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.