HC Deb 22 June 1876 vol 230 cc268-74

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Schedule 1.


said, that since this Bill was last under the consideration of the House, he had taken the opportunity of further considering the limit of value which had been adopted as a rating qualification for common jurors in Ireland. He was desirous to include as large a proportion of the population as possible for the performance of these duties; but they must also avoid including any class of persons who from lack of sufficient intelligence were not capable of discharging the duties in a satisfactory manner. The proposal he would now submit to the Committee, and which he believed would secure a very general acceptance, was that the figure of £50 should be reduced to £45 for the occupation qualification, and, as regarded the household qualification, he proposed to alter it from £12 to £10. These alterations would add several thousands to the number of jurors, and secure a sufficient number for the public service, while it would not include those who were not qualified by intelligence for the duty.

Amendment proposed, in page 5, line 6, to leave out the word "fifty," in order to insert the words "forty-five."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)


said, that as regarded the county of Cork, which he had the honour to represent, the Bill would be totally inadequate, and he believed could not be carried out. The poor rate Inspectors in their evidence stated that the valuation ought not to be higher than £20, and according to the provisions of this Bill, in the county of Kerry they would have 750 jurors to discharge duties which required at least 3,000. They were all animated by the same feeling of justice, and they should take care that the class of people whom the Bill would exclude should be admitted to a proper share in the administration of justice. The present Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench brought in a Jurors' Bill in which the qualification was stated at £30, but was in Committee reduced to £20; and Lord Naas brought in a Bill in which the qualification was also £30. On the other hand, Mr. Justice Keogh and Mr. Justice Fitzgerald brought in Bills in which the qualification was £20. He (Mr. Downing) must insist upon his Amendment that the qualification should be £40 instead of £50.

Question, "That the word 'fifty' stand part of the Schedule," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That the words 'forty-five' be there inserted."

Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the word "five."—(Mr. Downing.)


explained that the Amendment moved by the hon. Member on Tuesday evening had been withdrawn, and the question now before the Committee was that 45 be substituted for 50.


hoped the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork would be adopted.


did not see how they could get sufficient jurors if the qualification was placed so high as the Government proposed.


said, that it would seem from the Return referred to that in some counties, at all events, they would not be able to obtain a sufficient number of jurors, unless the qualification was reduced lower than the Government proposed.


referred to the inequalities as to property and amount of rating in several counties and boroughs, and urged the adoption of the lower qualification.


thought the qualification still much too high for the county Mayo, and would suggest that the amount should be £30.


said, they could not expect to have a good attendance of jurors under the restrictions now proposed. The bulk of the jurors under the present system were rated at £30, and if they placed the qualification so high as £50, they would find the jurors would be mostly of the landlord class, many of them non-resident, and that would be a serious consideration. His own impression was that a great deal too much outcry had been raised against the existing qualification.


noticed that it was proposed in some counties to reduce the qualification to £40, in some to £30, and in some to a lower sum than that. In his opinion, these qualifications should be as nearly as possible uniform. There was no evidence to show that there was any reason why the present qualification should be departed from. In the county Galway justice had always been satisfactorily administered, and the House had no right to impose restrictions, unless it was shown that the people were unworthy of the jury franchise.


believed that there was such evidence. The Chairman of Queen's County at the October sessions, in 1874, after a jury had acquitted a prisoner, in spite of his direction, said to them that he supposed that they would go home very happy after having set the law at defiance. At the Limerick Assizes, held in March, 1875, the Judge, after the jury had returned a verdict of acquittal, asked how it was possible, after the evidence, that they could arrive at such a verdict, and added that he had never witnessed so distinct a violation of an oath as that which had been shown by the jury. These instances were samples of what the law of 1871 had produced. For his part, he was rather sorry that the Government had not gone upon the foundation of the old jury law, so as to have a wider area of qualification coupled with a power of selection.

Question put, "That the word 'five' stand part of the said proposed Amendment".

The Committee divided:—Ayes 195; Noes 105: Majority 90.


then moved to reduce the qualification from £50 to £45 in Class 2.


objected. He said that if the Bill was passed with the qualifications proposed by the Government it would not be in operation long before it would be denounced in that House. The effect of the Bill would be in Kerry, Roscommon, and Sligo to reduce the required number of jurors by 25 per cent. He moved the omission of the word "five."


also supported the reduction of the proposed qualification on similar grounds. The right hon. Baronet, he thought, should make some concession in this case, and name an amount that would insure the attendance of a sufficient number of jurors.


said, he had understood that the right hon. Baronet would assent to the £40 in the last case. There was still more reason why he should assent in this case.


speaking of the county Kerry, could only say the consequence of adopting the figures proposed by the Government would fail to supply a sufficient number of jurors.


protested against this franchise of the Irish people being frittered away.


said, that in considering the number of jurors who would be secured by the proposed qualification, it should be remembered that the household qualification would give a large number of additional jurors in towns and villages of an intelligent class.


hoped the hon. Member for Galway would move that the Chairman should report Progress, as he himself would then move that he should leave the Chair.


hoped the hon. Member for Galway would not follow the advice just tendered to him. He thought they might facilitate a satisfactory arrangement if they only had a little more deliberation. The present qualification was £30, the Bill proposed to make it £45, and he would suggest to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that the Amendment fixing £40 as the qualification was a fair compromise.

Amendment (Mr. M'Carthy Downing) agreed to.


intimated that he was prepared to assent to the proposal for £40 in all the classes, and would insert a Proviso for that purpose on the Report.


said, he must protest against this arrangement. For the purpose of putting himself in Order he would move that the Chairman be ordered to report Progress. The House had, by a large majority, agreed that £45 should be the qualification for certain parts of Ireland, and it was hardly respectful to the House for the Minister to reverse that decision on a future occasion. This appeared to be the result of certain negotiations which had been carried on by the recognized Leaders of the Party, without any consultation with their Followers. Such tactics were extremely painful to those who sat behind the Ministerial Benches. They all acknowledged Party ties; but when these ties were subjected to such rude wrenches as had just been given, he must offer his expression of sorrow that the proposed change had been brought about in such a manner.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Bruen.)


said, it was a simple question of arithmetic as to what the qualification should be, so as insure a sufficient number of jurors. It had been suggested that £40 should be accepted as the amount requisite in Class I. On that they went to a division, and no doubt there was a majority in favour of £45; but on the next proposal no division was taken, and he must say it seemed to him that the right hon. Baronet had acted with perfect fairness and propriety in accepting the proposal to make the qualification £40 throughout.


said, he had heard with regret the remarks of the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen). He entirely agreed with the reduction to £40. At any rate, it showed a reasonable desire to meet the wishes of hon. Gentlemen opposite.


said, he, too, regretted the feeling which had been expressed by his hon Friend, and should regret it still more if he thought he had deserved it. The Government were dealing with a matter of considerable difficulty, upon statistics which were the best they could obtain at the time, though they were not so full or so satisfactory as they could wish. He had had some consultation with his hon. Friends behind him on the subject, but he did not understand from them that they thought there were insuperable objections to the figure which had now been agreed to. As it was, he thought the question had been settled upon a fair basis, after due notice to all concerned; and he believed that the Bill in its present shape would add greatly to the efficiency of the Irish jurors, because it would to a large extent raise the qualifications.


said, the hon. Member for Carlow had failed in an attempt to exclude the majority of the Irish people from the jury-box.


concurred with the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for Carlow. Having taken part in the vote he came into the House a few minutes afterwards, and was surprised to find that the Government had given way. He thought they were in the habit of giving up far too many things.


said, he had often had occasion to blame the Chief Secretary, but now thought that many of the sins for which the right hon. Gentleman had been visited should really have been laid at the door of a small minority behind him.


in asking permission to withdraw his Motion to report Progress, said, he did not think he need say anything as to the motives for his conduct. No doubt the Chief Secretary had received the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of that he could not complain; but as regarded himself he must say that the Chief Secretary, having the figures and facts before him, recommended his supporters on that side of the House to agree to a certain qualification, and immediately afterwards had abandoned what had been deliberately agreed to. If he had said anything offensive to the right hon. Gentleman he begged to apologize.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow, at Two of the clock.