§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. PLUNKET,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the House of Lords had passed it without a division, and it had only one object. The present Bill was devoid of all controversial matter, and dealt with one matter only, and that in a single clause. The Bill was to repeal that provision in the Act of Union which enabled Her Majesty to create fresh Irish Peerages. At the time of the Act of Union, there were 234 Irish Peers entitled to sit in the Irish House of Lords; but by the Act of Union all those Peers were deprived of their right, merely retaining the privilege of electing 28 Representative Peers to sit in Parliament. So far the Act of Union followed the precedent set in the Scotch Act of Union, which abolished the ancient and illustrious Peerage of Scotland. The distinction between the Irish and Scotch Act of Union was mainly this—it was contemplated by the Scotch Act of Union that the distinctly Scotch Peerages should become in time extinguished, as no power was reserved to the Sovereign to create a fresh stock of Peerages. In Ireland, however, for various reasons into which it was not then necessary to enter, the Prerogative of the Sovereign was proposed to create Irish Peerages. Opposition, however, arose, and an anomalous plan was adopted, that the Sovereign within certain limits and certain times should create Irish Peerages. Whenever these Irish Peerages became extinct, then the Sovereign was entitled to create fresh Irish Peerages, and this was to continue to be the process of the creation of Irish Peers until the number was lowered so far that only 100 remained. The feeling of indignation 1165 among the Irish Peers upon this provision of the Act of Union had never been got rid of, and there had been several attempts to repeal the obnoxious measure. The right hon. and learned Member for Clare County had the credit of first bringing this subject before Parliament. In 1867 he brought it forward in the form of a Resolution, and again in 1868 he introduced a Bill. On both occasions the proposals were resisted, mainly on the ground that it was an invasion of the Prerogative of the Sovereign. But in reply to an Address from the House of Lords, Her Majesty had been pleased to intimate that she did not desire her Prerogative to stand in the way of the consideration of the subject by Parliament. After these two attempts the subject was again revived in 1869, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, then at the head of the Government, was not unfavourable to it, though it was his opinion that a measure of the kind, touching the interests of the House of Lords, would have been more fittingly introduced in that House. In 1869 Earl Grey brought in a Bill, but that Bill was met by a Resolution to appoint a Committee to inquire into the Scotch and Irish Peerages. That Committee was appointed; but if it met, it never issued a Report; and so matters stood until 1874, when his noble Friend (Lord Inchiquin) introduced his Resolution praying Her Majesty to allow the consideration of the subject by Parliament. That was followed by a Bill last year, which passed through the House of Lords, but in the House of Commons met with an unfortunate fate. Now, again this year, the Bill was brought forward in a different form, the operation being confined to repealing the provision in the Act of Union to which he had referred. He would remark that there was this difference between the Scotch and Irish Peers —that the Scotch Peers were elected for one Parliament, while the Irish Peers, once elected, served in the House of Lords for life; and both differed from the Peers of the United Kingdom, in that this privilege of a seat in the Legislature did not descend to the son of one of those Peers. In all the attempts which had been made to deal with the subject of the Scotch and Irish Peerage, though there had been various differences of opinion, there had never been 1166 any opposition to that part of the proposal which alone was the object of the present Bill. He did not know on what grounds it might be resisted. It came from the House of Lords with the unanimous approval of both sides of that House, and had been sanctioned by the Report of Lord Rosebery's Committee in 1874. The position of the Irish Peer was this—in Ireland, he could not sit for any constituency in this House. He could not take part in a grand jury, or share in the proceedings of county business upon posts such as commoners were eligible for. He could come to this country, and, if elected, take his seat for an English constituency, but he could not take his seat in the House of Peers among his own Order. That was a position which the Peers did not think a dignified one. Under the circumstances, he could not see the grounds for resisting the second reading of the Bill. All those causes of objection existing in former measures had been removed, and it seemed just the measure which would amend the provision often complained of in the Act of Union; and it fully met the views expressed by the most ancient Irish Peers themselves, as denoted in the protest which many of them signed at the time of the passing of the Act of Union. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Plunket.)
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
said, he objected to the Bill, at any rate for the present Session, as it would allow any hon. Member to open up a discussion involving the whole incidents of the Irish Peerage and the right of Irish Peers to sit upon Grand Juries and in that House as the Representatives of Irish constituencies.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
objected to the measure, because it proposed to limit the Prerogative of the Crown. Although Her Majesty had graciously condescended to permit the subject to be discussed by Parliament, he protested on Constitutional grounds against the power of the Crown to create dignities being restricted in any way. The hon. and learned Baronet was proceeding, when—
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.