HC Deb 09 August 1877 vol 236 cc683-7

(Mr. William Henry Smith, Mr. Attorney General)


Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th August], " That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


, in moving that the Bill be read a second time upon that day three months, said, he remembered that the Bill affected many Acts which the Government had admitted required amendment, and that they applied it to Irish Acts when they dare not renew the same Acts in England. The practice of continuing expiring laws in this manner was both inconvenient and unconstitutional. He complained of the operation of various provisions in the Act 5 & 6 Will. IV., relating to manufactures, which, he contended, required considerable modification, inasmuch as the power given to a single magistrate and to chief constables was far too stringent, so far as regarded the treatment of operatives. The imposition of penalties on a workman taking the yarn to weave at his own home and not returning the cloth before 14 days was a matter which should not be the subject of exceptional legislation, but left to the operation of the ordinary law. The Act 3 & 4 Vict, was equally oppressive, and afforded little or no protection to workmen. He called attention to this sub- ject, because it appeared to him that hon. Gentlemen had not shown a due sense of their responsibility in the matter, and because considerable dissatisfaction was felt with respect to it by the large class in the North of Ireland whose interests were affected by these antiquated enactments, with their unequal provisions, and he contended they ought not to be continued without mature consideration. "With reference to the Act 23 & 24 Vict., which dealt with the dwellings of the labouring classes in Ireland, he maintained that it was entirely inadequate for the purpose for which it was designed, and that the question of securing adequate accommodation for these classes was one which deserved the serious consideration of the Government. Another Act which it was sought to renew by the measure before the House was the Act 17 & 18 Vict., dealing with the question of corrupt practices at elections. The occasions when elections were appealed against in Ireland were few, but the Judges were very numerous, and did not always give the decisions which might have been expected from them. The hon. Member was proceeding to refer to particular clauses of the Act when—


called the hon. Member to Order. The ordinary practice of the House on the proposal that a Bill should be read a second time was merely to discuss the principle of the measure, and in referring to the decisions of Judges and to particular clauses of certain existing Acts of Parliament the hon. Member for Meath was taking a course which was irregular.


said, he submitted to the ruling of the Chair, and would not have acted as he had done, had he not understood that, according to the Forms of the House, he would not be entitled in Committee to propose Amendments of those clauses in the Acts to which he objected.


said, it would be quite open to the hon. Member to move in Committee that a certain Act specified in the Schedule should be excepted from the operation of the Bill.


said, he did not so much object to the whole of the Acts which it was desired to renew as to certain clauses in them, which appeared to him to be either unnecessary, oppres- sive, or unsuitable. That the Forms of the House should prevent hon. Members from having an opportunity of moving Amendments to such clauses was a strong illustration of the unconstitutionalism of the practice of bringing forward Bills for the purpose of continuing Acts of Parliament to which exception was in part taken. He would admit there were portions of these Acts which were highly beneficial, and through that he was placed in this dilemma—that, according to the ruling of the Chair, he was precluded from discussing clauses to which he objected, and he could only move the omission of the Acts from the continuing Bill. He would move the rejection of the Bill.


seconded the Motion.

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. Parnell.)

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


said, he did not propose to go into the details upon which the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) had entered, and which did not appear to him to bear directly upon the immediate question before the House. The hon. Gentleman had stated that there were no important Acts included in the Schedule of this Bill, except Acts which related to Ireland; but it had been brought under the notice of the House, on a previous occasion, that two very important measures, which were applicable to the whole of the United Kingdom — those referring to Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices—were included in the Bill. He must, therefore, entirely demur to the assertion made by the hon. Gentleman. It had also been said that the Irish Acts which it was proposed to renew were all bad, or something to that effect; but it was not necessary to deal seriously with such a description of these statutes. A Continuance Bill was required for two kinds of legislation: for Acts of a tentative character, and for those passed only for a certain number of years. He quite admitted that there were Acts in the Schedule which he should wish, quite as much as the hon. Gentleman, to see removed from, it, and converted into permanent Acts of Parliament. The Election Petitions Act and the Corrupt Practices Act had already been dealt with by the Attorney General, who hoped, next Session, to bring in a Bill on the subject. With regard to the County Cess (Ireland) Act, only a small portion of the law on this subject was continued by this Bill, and so long as the Grand. Jury system remained, that portion of it must be continued. Amongst the Acts to be continued was the statute which enabled loans to be made for the erection of dwellings for the labouring classes in Ireland. It had been complaind that the Act was inadequate for the purpose for which it was intended; but he would remind the hon. Gentleman that a considerable sum had been lent to proprietors in Ireland under its powers, that the expenditure of that money had undoubtedly been attended with good results, and that this was a privilege which neither English nor Scotch landowners had, at present, accorded to them. With respect to the Act of which the hon. Gentleman had spoken as affecting manufacturing interests in the North of Ireland, last Session he had prepared a Bill consolidating the law on that subject; but no sooner was it introduced than exception was taken to it by the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), on the ground that a good deal of the law was obsolete; and he objected to simple consolidation without amendment. The Bill was withdrawn. Meetings of employers and employed afterwards were held, and resolutions were passed of a very contradictory character. At the commencement of this Session he had prepared a Bill, making permanent so much of the law as it appeared necessary to retain, and he should certainly have introduced it, but for the circumstances which had delayed the progress of Business, to which he need not further allude. He purposed, next Session, to renew this attempt again; and, if he were aided by the hon. Members for Meath and Cavan, he hoped it would be possible to bring in a Continuance Bill free, as regarded Ireland, from the principal objections that had been taken to this. He was desirous, so far as Ireland as well as England was concerned, that there should be nothing included in this Bill except what was absolutely necessary.


complained that the fact of these measures being of a transitory character should be made a reason for not affording an opportunity for having them thoroughly discussed, as he thought that fact ought rather to operate in the opposite direction.


intimated his readiness, in consequence of what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.