HC Deb 28 February 1878 vol 238 cc507-29

, on rising to move for leave to bring in a Bill to Amend the Law relating to Grand Juries and Presentment Sessions in Ireland, said: Sir, it is hardly necessary that I should detain the House with any arguments as to the necessity of such a measure, seeing that the subject has been frequently discussed at considerable length in the House, and has formed the subject of the deliberations of a Select Committee in recent years. The general objection has been universally admitted that the existing system is not sufficiently representative in its character, and in order to make myself intelligible to the mass of the House, it will be necessary to describe the system now in force. As that system requires general amendment and alteration, the Government have had to consider whether they should abolish the entire machinery of the present system, and adopt an entirely new one of their own creation; or whether they should endeavour to adopt the existing machinery they found to their hand, with modifications and alterations to suit the exigencies of the times. In order to clearly explain the points which I desire to bring before the House, it will be necessary to enter briefly into some details regarding the existing system— details which will, of course, be very familiar to hon. Members representing Irish constituencies. It consists of the baronial presentment sessions, the county-at-large presentment sessions, and the Grand Jury. The baronial presentment sessions consists, in part, of justices and associated cesspayers. The justices are any justices of the county, whether connected with the particular barony or not, who may choose to attend at such sessions. The cesspayers are nominated in this way — the Grand Jury at each Assizes select a number, which must not be more than 12, nor fewer than five; in practice, I believe, the number is usually about six, but the number nominated by the Grand Jury from among the associated cesspayers constitute what may be regarded as the representative element in the baronial presentment sessions. The manner in which the Grand Jurors nominate these cesspayers is one that has been subject to some considerable criticism. It is effected in this way—The Grand Jury select double the number, whatever it may be, which is to be apportioned to each barony, and that double number is submitted to the baronial presentment sessions, who select by ballot the half that is required by law. The baronial sessions meet twice every half-year. A justice of the peace presides, and the functions of that body consist mainly in superintending contracts for new baronial roads and bridges and the repair of existing ones, and various other matters I might mention; and they have to investigate claims for compensation for malicious injuries, but they do not determine the amount of the compensation, which is referred by them to the Grand Jury, with whom the decision rests. This brings me to the next body, the county-at-large presentment sessions, which is constituted in the first instance of any justice of the peace of the county who may choose to attend, in addition to one of the associated cesspayers who may be appointed from each barony. This appointment is made, not by selection, as in the case of the baronial presentment sessions, but by the general body of cesspayers themselves at each baronial session, and constitutes, no doubt, a representative element. The functions of the body are principally confined to voting supplies for certain county-at-large purposes, such as the maintenance of asylums, infirmaries, and other buildings of that description. It also super- intends the management of contracts for the maintenance of mail roads, which differ from baronial roads, inasmuch as a moiety of the cost of their maintenance is chargeable upon the county at large, and consequently brought under the notice of the county-at-large sessions, and the other moiety upon baronial funds. As to the Grand Juries, the third element in the existing system, as at present constituted, they are a body nominated by the sheriff. There is a qualification which, however, is merely nominal, being only a freehold of the annual value of £50, or a leasehold of the annual value of £100. I believe that qualification is not usually insisted on; in fact, it is generally ignored, and I think the obligation imposed on the sheriff to summon one representative from each barony, is equally ignored, as they are summoned indiscriminately from any part of the barony. The functions of the Grand Jury are to discuss all the presentments which emanate from the baronial sessions and from the county-at-large sessions, and in regard to those its duty is confined to the acceptance or the rejection en bloc of the presentments, and it possesses no power, either to originate or amend them. In fact, their position in regard to the other bodies is somewhat analogous to the relative position of the two Houses of Lords and Commons. They have, however, other powers which may be mentioned—originating powers. They have the power, for instance, of origination in fixing the amount of compensation to be paid under the Peace Preservation Acts to relatives of murdered or injured persons, and imperative presentments as to debts and pensions for prison officers. I hope I have now made the existing system tolerably clear, and that the House can gather from what I have said how it stands with respect to county government at large. The main objections which have been urged against that system are—first, that it is not sufficiently representative in character; and that with regard to Grand Juries, they exercise considerable control, while there is no local proprietary or cesspaying qualification. Then as to baronial presentment sessions, it is objected that the justices have no connection whatever with the land, and are not contributors, either directly or indirectly, to its taxation. The associated cess-payers are nominated in the first in- stance by the Grand Jury, and upon a system which I think can hardly be considered satisfactory; because, of the double number to which I have referred, only half can eventually be selected. This is one of the evils complained of. They find out who are not likely to be selected, and they are sent away, but a considerable number of gentlemen, at any rate, are compelled to attend. It has also been urged as a great evil in the present Grand Jury system that it is wanting in continuity. The Grand Jury terminates with the termination of assizes, and that has been felt to be so great an evil that it has been recommended by the Select Committee that there should be a permanent committee of justices sitting between assizes. This shows there is a strong feeling existing as to the insufficiency of a continuity with regard to the Grand Jury system. That being the case with regard to the law as it stands, Her Majesty's Government approached this subject with this question before them—Were they entirely to abolish the system which they found in existence, but which undoubtedly was in many respects imperfect, and to substitute another; or were they to endeavour to adapt the existing system, with alterations and modifications, to the requirements of the moment? We have chosen the latter alternative, and the Bill which I am about to ask leave to introduce is framed upon the principle of selecting what is desirable in the existing system, improving it as far as practicable and adapting it to the requirements of the present day. Now, the main provisions of the Bill are intended to establish, or rather to confirm, in the first instance, baronial presentment sessions. These baronial presentment sessions will differ from the existing body to a very considerable extent, but their duties will remain in substance exactly as they are. We propose that the baronial presentment sessions shall consist of an equal number of nominated and elected members. The nominated members are to be chosen by the Grand Jury from those justices who have a property qualification in the barony; But failing a sufficient number of justices in the barony possessing the necessary qualification, the Grand Jury will be entitled to fill up the number required from the ranks of the cess-payers within the barony. At one mo- merit it appeared possible to evade the difficulty which was felt in the matter, by allowing all the justices possessing a qualification to attend; but it was found that in some counties there would be a great preponderance of justices, while in other counties it would be difficult to find a sufficient number to counterbalance the elected members. It is, therefore, proposed that the number of nominated and of elected members shall be equal, as I before stated, and that the elected members shall be taken from the Guardians of the poor chosen by the ratepayers of each electoral division within the barony. They will vary in number in different counties; and in the same way, the number of justices to be elected will vary in proportion. The duties of these baronial presentment sessions will, as I have said, be substantially what they are now, and the presiding officer, it is proposed, shall be, as now, a justice. I come next to the body I propose to call the county board, which, speaking roughly, will be a substitute for the county-at-large sessions. Its duties will comprehend those now discharged by the county-at-large sessions and some others in addition. It is proposed that this county board shall consist of an equal number of members selected respectively out of either body by the nominated and elected members of the baronial presentment sessions. We do not, however, propose to restrict the area of their powers; in other words, the justices, if they think fit, may elect one or more cesspayers, and the cess-payers may elect one or more of the justices. The numbers of the representatives from the different baronies will be four for each barony, with the exceptions of the counties Cork, Galway, and Meath, where each barony, it is proposed, shall elect two. Their duties will be clearly defined; the minor proceedings of the body will be regulated by a Schedule, and its other powers by a clause of the Bill. The clause which deals with that subject, among other matters, provides that the county board shall have the charge of maintaining roads and bridges, footpaths, and so forth. They will also have to make provision for asylums and other accommodation for lunatics. They will have charge of county infirmaries, industrial and reformatory schools, militia storehouses, inquests, settling coroners' fees, appointing, removing, and paying the salaries of the county analysts, the levying of county cess, whether for barony or county at large, and other duties, hitherto discharged by the Grand Jury respecting presentments from baronial sessions, in addition to duties hitherto performed by the county-at-large sessions, which will cease to exist. I now come to the Grand Jury, which, relieved of the duties above mentioned, will still continue to hold the position they now occupy, and will retain the imperative presentments, such as pre-payment of Government advances for prisons and asylums; presentments for constabulary, courthouses, and other charges relating to the administration of justice; and presentments under Peace Preservation Acts for deaths and injuries. I should like now to place before the House what I consider will be the general result. The county boards will, on an average, amount to 30 or 40, and the baronial presentment sessions will, speaking generally, average 30. That will not be too large nor too small to afford a fair representation. Where the baronies are too large they will be divided in half to be more workable, and, on the other hand, some small baronies will be united with others. All these details will be specified in a Schedule, so as to bring it under the control of Parliament. I may now refer to one or two supplementary details. County boards will be constituted a body corporate. That is a matter of some importance, as they will have the power of holding land in perpetual succession, and that will meet the objection to a great extent, which has been urged to Grand Juries —namely, that there is no continuity, and that there is no body to represent the county. Then there is that which forms an essential portion of the existing system—namely, the traverses which are tried before the Judge—a system which is peculiar to Ireland, and which has, on the whole, worked well. The Bill proposes that, with one important modification, which will be generally admitted to be an improvement, that system shall remain. The traverse is now triable by a Judge of Assize before a common jury only; but it is now proposed that at the option of either contending party, a special jury may be demanded. The traverse will extend to such matters as the utility of proposed works and other improvements which are referable to those tribunals. With regard to changes in officers and establishments, governors of lunatic asylums having been hitherto nominated by the Lord Lieutenant in Council, it is proposed that two-thirds of the governors in each district shall be nominated by the county board, the remaining third being retained on account of Imperial contributions rendering it necessary that the Executive should have a voice in the matter. Among the officers there is the secretary to the Grand Jury; being nominated by the Grand Jury he is now styled as such; but, under the Bill, he is designated county secretary. The vested interests of these gentlemen will be found strictly guarded in the Bill. No alterations are proposed with regard to the salaries of the gentlemen who now occupy office; but, in the event of subsequent appointments, the patronage will be transferred from the Grand Jury to the county board, and it will be settled according to the recommendation of the Select Committee of 1868. Instead of going into the officer's pockets, fees will be paid by stamps to be affixed to documents and contracts, and placed to the credit of the county, and the salary, which will be fixed, will be determined upon an average of five years' receipts. It is further proposed that county surveyors should be nominated by the county boards, and that their salaries, which are now fixed at a maximum of £80, shall be raised, under certain circumstances, to £120, at discretion. The coroner—an important officer—will be appointed by the county board, instead of the existing costly and unsatisfactory election by freeholders. With respect to other functionaries, I will only allude to the collectors of county cess. In this, as in other respects, vested interests will be duly regarded. No alteration is contemplated in their status so long as the present holders occupy their posts. They are now appointed half-yearly, although a great number of them have held office for many years, almost practically during good behaviour. No alteration is proposed in regard to existing appointments; but it is intended, on the occurrence of vacancies, that the office of collector of cess shall be united with that of collector of poor rates. That will remove the only charge of extravagance which had been proved to the satisfaction of the Committee of 1868 against the Grand Jury system. I am afraid I have very inadequately explained the Bill; but I have desired, as far as possible, to avoid detaining the House by going into details. On Monday I hope the Bill will be in the hands of hon. Members; and I will now conclude by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law relating to Grand Juries and Presentment Sessions in Ireland."—(Mr. James Lowther.)


said, nothing could be more lucid or clear than the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had explained the Bill; indeed, he (Major Nolan) felt convinced that if he had read the Bill, it would not have given him a better idea of what the Government proposed than had the right hon. Gentleman's speech. That was something to say; because he believed the experience of hon. Gentlemen generally was, that a speech on the first reading of the Bill gave, as a rule, an imperfect idea of its provisions. He was afraid that he was not equally well satisfied with the Bill itself. One of the great objections to the English measure was, that it gave too much power to the magistrates and too little to the ratepayers, and he found the same objections intensified in the Irish measure. He altogether objected to the relative importance assigned to the baronial sessions and the Grand Juries. The Chief Secretary had described the baronial sessions as occupying the position of the House of Commons, and the Grand Juries as filling that of the House of Lords; but that comparison, which had often been made before, was a most deceptive one. The unit of area, of which so much had been said in the English Bill, was, in this instance, equally objectionable; and the Poor Law area would have been much better for the purposes of convenience. That, however, was not a point of very great importance. As he understood the Bill, the baronial presentment sessions was to consist of one half of magistrates and the other half of Poor Law Guardians. In many districts the guardianship of the poor was practically in the hands of the landed proprietors, and the Guardians as representatives of the poor would be liable to be outvoted. The old Grand Jury was evidently still to continue at the root of the whole matter; for, under the Bill, the magistrates who would constitute part of the baronial sessions were to be nominated by the Grand Jury, who would therefore have a controlling power in that body. He now came to the provisions referring to the county board, which were much more important than those he had previously referred to. In the first place, there was the same objection to be found to the Irish proposal as was contained in the English Bill—the principle of indirect representation. The ratepayers were not to elect the representatives of the county boards, but were to appoint the Guardians, who in turn elected members to the baronial sessions, from whom again the county board was to be elected. That was very different to direct election, and would give still more power to the proprietors and magistrates than they already possessed. The Irish Bill would embody all the evils of the English measure, with a few others in addition. Part of the county board would be elected from the magistrates forming the baronial sessions, so that the system would he most complicated and worse than that proposed for England. A certain number of magistrates were to be nominated to serve on the baronial sessions by the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury would elect their own magistrates for the baronial sessions, and if the latter did not choose for the county board those representatives whom the Grand Jury favoured, the Grand Jury would take care not to elect them next time. The Grand Jury, therefore, really held the key of the situation, though, nominally it was taken away from them. The power was left in the hands of the Grand Jury, but it had been ingeniously wrapped up. He thought the asylums ought to be in the hands of the county board, who had the control of the fiscal interests of the county. There were some good points in the Bill—the arrangements as to cess collectors appeared to be a very fair provision—and there might be others; but he objected to the Bill generally on the ground that it had all the faults of the English Bill, and because of the extraordinary provision in it by which the key to the election of one-half the members of the board still remained in the hands of the Grand Jury.


asked why a unit of area had not been created for all purposes, this being an improvement to which he had certainly looked forward after the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland last year? He regretted that no single step was taken in the Bill towards unity, simplification, and economy. The electoral division was retained for Poor Law purposes, and the baronial body for the purposes of the county; and while this was the case, there must be unnecessary expense and complication. If anything could show the lack of necessity for the two areas, it was the fact that the representation of one was taken from the representation of the other. The only good feature in the Bill was the new body to be created and called a county board, and, perhaps, in course of time, that would be improved into something useful. But, according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, the county board was a representative body to a lesser extent than the proposed board for the English counties. One-half the persons on the new boards were to be magistrates chosen, not on any principle that would be a guarantee for their possessing the confidence of the county or sufficient intelligence, but chosen on the discretion of a single man, and the other moiety consisted of persons appointed by the elected Guardians. The latter would not go lower than themselves in their selection, and they might go higher and elect the magistrates. What was the character of the elected Guardians? Everyone knew that in consequence of the system of voting they were anything but a representative body, and that to a very large extent they had the same sentiments and feelings as those magistrates who sat beside them at the Boards. Then they were offered the system of cross election; but that would not work well, nor introduce popular representation, but would only strengthen the aristocratic or Grand Jury element on the county board. He regretted to find that the question of malicious injuries was still left to the Grand Juries. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to think that those bodies had something like a judicial function, but they had nothing of the kind, and retaining to them this power as to inju- ries would only have the effect of preserving to them an invidious distinction. If the Government desired to gain the confidence of the people in these county boards, and give them a popular aspect, let them not refuse to give the new representative body the great and important trust involved in this question of malicious injuries. With regard to the asylums, the Bill would take away the small amount of representative control still left over them. The only good point in the Bill was, that it furnished a nucleus which might in time develop into a real representative county board. He hoped that the financial affairs of the county would be entrusted to the new board. If the Bill were read a second time, an effort would be made to improve it, so that it would give something more like a representative assembly; but he confessed he did not approach the attempt with much hope of success. He should be very sorry to throw anything like despair upon the prospects of the Bill, because there were few things in this world incapable of improvement, and he did not say this Bill was not capable of improvement; but it would take a great deal of time and a great deal of concession on the part of the Government, and also of hon. Members sitting behind the Treasury benches. They knew very well that all Governments, whether Conservative or Liberal, would be willing to deal with these Irish matters in a more liberal spirit, but they were hampered by Representatives from the North of Ireland and elsewhere who sat behind them. Therefore, it would require considerable firmness on the part of the Government to resist the position taken up by these hon. Gentlemen.


had heard the statement of the Chief Secretary with considerable regret. He had hoped for something better, especially after the expressions that had fallen from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He did not wish to enter into the details of the Bill on the present occasion; he only wished to point out to English Members two grave objections to its general scope and tendency, which they would understand on reference to the English Bill. One was the smallness of the area from which the selection was to be made, and the other objection was to the predominance given to the magistrates. He would suggest to the Government and the House that, if they wished to represent the landed interest in the sense of the owners and proprietors of land in Ireland, they should not take the justices of the peace as the representatives of that class. Speaking for himself, he would rather, instead of this indirect way of giving representation to the landed interest, give elective representatives to the occupiers of land, and also a fair amount of direct representation to the owners of land. Another matter to which he would call attention was this— The Grand Jury being selected by the Sheriff, when it became known there was to be a nomination on the county board, he would decide it by the selection he would make of the Grand Jury panel. In this way, the Sheriff would, hold the key of the county board in his hand.


had been considerably disappointed at the statement of the Chief Secretary, and his regret in a great measure arose from the fact that, as regarded the Grand Jury, he left one great blot. He gave them a power which they ought never to possess, and which he knew of his own knowledge led to much abuse. He alluded to their powers under the Malicious Injuries Act, under which Act they had power to grant compensation for certain injuries which might be done, or which might be trumped up for the purpose of getting money. He had known many instances of cases being brought forward of alleged malicious injury, which had completely failed because they could not be proved. The working of that Act tended greatly to demoralize the people, inasmuch as it induced them to bring forward claims for supposed injuries, when, in reality, the evidence they brought forward to justify their case would not be received in any Court in the country. If these powers were to be continued to the Grand Jury, he was quite sure it would be adverse to the wishes of the majority of the people of Ireland.


said, an assertion had just been made that, although both Conservative and Liberal Governments were desirous of doing justice to Ireland in this matter, they were prevented from doing so by those who sat behind them, and particularly by hon. Members from the North of Ireland. Now, for his own part, he entirely repudiated this state- ment. He was as anxious to see a fair Grand Jury Bill passed as any hon. Gentleman sitting on the other side of the House. It seemed most fair that those who had property should have the power of putting taxation on a district. The owners of property had a right to have, at least, as much authority in that matter as the occupiers. He greatly preferred that magistrates should elect their own representatives than that they should be appointed by Grand Jurors. He believed the English Bill acted on that principle, and he did not see why it should not be applied to Ireland. He understood that the fiscal business was to be done by the county board, and that the criminal and other business would be transactedby the Grand Jurors. That, he thought, was perfectly fair. But that the Grand Jurors should have the power of nominating the members of the county board he thought rather objectionable, because the Sheriff could select any person he chose on the Grand Jury. In this respect he considered the Bill would have to be improved. On the whole, however, he looked upon the Bill as a step in the right direction, and he was glad the Government had brought it in; and he believed, when it came out of Committee, hon. Gentlemen would not be able to point to it as a measure granted in any grudging spirit.


said, he could not share in the belief that when this Bill came out of Committee it would be satisfactory to the people of Ireland, because it was an attempt to perpetuate the old Grand Jury system when, for fiscal purposes, it could be shown there was no reason for doing so. It created, in the first place, two taxing bodies in the same area, bodies taxing the same individuals in the same area. The right hon. Gentleman must have been driven by stress of circumstances to do this to prop up the Grand Jury system of Ireland. Why should not the county board levy the taxation? Was there any pretence for saying they would not levy it? If they would abolish the absurdity of having two taxing bodies, they would do away with the roundabout machinery which they had for the maintenance of the Grand Jury for fiscal purposes. The scheme of the Government appeared to him to be artificial in its very essence; and if they could not arrive at what was the feeling on that side of the House, and give some real and direct representation to those who paid the money, they had better take the English Bill for their motto. He had not much fancy for the English Bill; but it created a central board of some kind, which they might improve hereafter, and introduce the popular element into it. But what did they do for Ireland? They did not give them a real county board, but they perpetuated the Grand Jury system. Were this Bill founded upon some comprehensive system capable of improvement hereafter, Members on his side of the House might accept it as an instalment of justice, and hope for better things to come; but when the Government started on the principle of having two taxing bodies for the purpose of perpetuating the Grand Jury for fiscal purposes, which had no right to exist at all, he did not see how they could accept the Bill. Unless, therefore, radical changes were made in the Bill, he thought it would be the duty of hon. Members on that side of the House to resist it to the utmost. The Grand Jury Bill for Ireland would not have been introduced, in all probability, if Irish Members had not criticized the English Bill. It was an unpleasant position for Irish Members to assume—that, if they wanted to carry a measure for Ireland, they must endeavour to attain that object by working indirectly through the measure for England. They would not have got improvements in the former, if they had not striven to obtain improvements in the latter. Irish Members being only a small minority in the House, that was the only course they could adopt, in order to secure the end they desired. Unless they saw more improvements introduced in this Bill for Ireland, he, for one, would think it to be his duty to oppose the English measure to the utmost of his power.


thought the Chief Secretary for Ireland had begun to find that he had undertaken a thankless task, when, on the very threshold of his new career-—having taken pains to deal with an intricate county system, and having explained so fully the measure which he wished the House to pass —he heard that measure denounced on the night of its introduction by the Members for the benefit of whose constituencies the Bill was proposed. He was sorry, for his own part, that he could not offer the Chief Secretary any comfort; because, as far as he could form an opinion upon the Bill, it seemed thoroughly vicious in principle, and thoroughly vicious in detail. If there was anything good in the English Bill, it had not been put in the Irish Bill. Certainly, he thought the former might suit England—at all events, for a time; because it appeared, from the testimony of English Members, that although the system of county government was imperfect in principle, yet it was one which worked well on the whole; and, consequently, any improvements in that system must be for the benefit of England. But in Ireland the case was different. There the system of county government was bad, and it had been very imperfectly carried out. Therefore, Irish Members could have but very little hope from the Bill which the Chief Secretary now asked leave to introduce. Of course, it was useless to criticise the Bill at that stage. He might, however, suggest that, as the Bill, at the very outset, had met with so much disfavour, the Chief Secretary might think it well to come to the conclusion, in order to save time, not to press forward the measure. The Chief Secretary had copied into this Bill the imperfections of the English one as regarded indirect representation—he had given to Poor Law Guardians, elected for totally different purposes—from areas which could not be called county areas— the right to elect from among themselves, or from among the magistrates, representatives to serve on the county board. That would be a representation of the most shadowy description. In reality, at least half of them were nominees of the landlords, and those who were not nominees of the landlords were, to a great extent, under their power—men mostly in a humble position in life— namely, the tenants of the landlords. For his own part, he should prefer to give the magistrates three-fourths of the representation on the county board, so that the remaining one-fourth might be secured for the direct representation of the ratepayers. If the Chief Secretary for Ireland had only adopted a system like that, it would have been regarded as founded on a right principle, and no doubt it would have worked well for a few years, at least until Ireland became more stable, and the people more inde- pendent. Then they would have a greater feeling of responsibility as regarded the management of county affairs. When the barriers, separating class from class, were removed—as he hoped in a few years they would be removed—the principle of representation might fairly be extended, and the ratepayers could have a more direct control over county management. But the prospect afforded by this Bill was a hopeless prospect; and he cordially agreed with the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Gray) that they should work on the English Bill, and endeavour, by amending that, to improve this for Ireland. Still, he thought it was a hopeless task to endeavour to make the Bill a satisfactory measure; and he thought that the Government, who had brought it forward, would find it advisable to save the time of the House by withdrawing a Bill which had met with so much disfavour.


, as a Member of the Committee on Local Government which had sat laboriously for two Sessions, observed that nothing had struck him more, throughout its deliberations, than the fact that Ireland was a vastly better field, and afforded easier scope, for dealing with matters of local government than was presented by England. In the first place, the perplexities as to areas were less; and, in the second place, he remarked the great anxiety there was on the part, not only of the Irish Members, but of all Members of the Committee, that besides property being represented, the owners of property should take an active and constant share in local government. The great fault of the present local government system, elicited by cross-examination, was that a sufficiently good set of men was not. obtained to work out the system; and the great want present to the minds of the Committee, was the desirableness of having areas sufficiently large, and also objects sufficiently important, to engage the services of the best men. Not only so, but in Ireland there was the greatest facility offered for obtaining the object desired, by the way in which taxation was levied. As an hon. Member had remarked, the principle of rating in Ireland was, to a great extent, this—the owner paid one part of the rate, and the occupier the other part. In that principle, they had a most admirable basis for a representation of property, for a representation of persons, and of the interests of property. With so simple, sound, and in every way a Conservative foundation to proceed upon, he could not conceive why the Government should not be able to make of this Bill a measure which would weld together every class in Ireland—namely, the owners of property, the occupiers of property, and the ratepayers generally. It was to him a disappointment that the Government had not taken advantage of areas so little complex as were those in Ireland, and of a foundation for representation so simple, sound, and Conservative, and upon such bases constructed a more complete Bill for the amendment of the Grand Jury Law in Ireland.


quite agreed that the reception given to the Bill by hon. Members sitting on that side of the House might seem to be a little ungracious; but certainly none of those hon. Members blamed the Chief Secretary for the kind of Bill which he had brought over from Ireland. For his part, he (Mr. O'Donnell) considered that the Bill was singularly inappropriate, and equally uncalled-for. It spoke volumes for the company which the Chief Secretary had been keeping on the other side of the Irish sea. A constant evil, arising from English Representatives dealing with Irish affairs, was that, instead of consulting the Representatives of Ireland, or of that part of it which they knew very well would grow stronger and more numerous every Election, they persisted in being guided, or rather misguided, by a Party which, in every new Parliament, was becoming fewer by degrees, and beautifully insignificant. For a little while—so long as a certain artificial system of franchise was kept up in Ireland—perhaps no more than half of them would disappear at the next Election; but as soon as the franchise really became popular in Ireland, if they did not become as extinct as the dodo, they would become very small indeed, in all probability. Was it for the sake of conciliating a number of hon. Gentlemen, who did not really represent the Irish people, that this Bill was brought over from Ireland? Let the House consider the logic of the Chief Secretary. In this Bill there were only two sets of people to whom power would be entrusted—the justices and the elected Guardians. Who were the justices? They were the ex-officio Guardians; and the elected members from the baronial representative sessions would be Guardians of the poor, elected from the various electoral divisions within the county. Therefore, it was not the Poor Law area that was to be chosen, but another area, which, though of some importance a few centuries ago, was of no significance now, excepting an artificial significance whose purpose was to foist, for a few years more, upon the public an injurious sham. Between the present time and the passing of the Bill through its final stages, he hoped the Government would seriously lay to heart the propriety of listening to the voice of the Representatives of the Irish people, at least in regard to non-political matters —such as county administration. The Government might question the propriety of Home Rule; they might raise a great cry about the disintegration of the Empire; but in a matter of pounds, shillings and pence, and of good administration, they might surely trust the men represented by electors who had an interest in economy and good management. Any Government, whether Conservative or Liberal, ought to have an equal interest at any rate in matters of this kind, and should see that they were properly attended to. All he could say to the Government of the day was that, if they persisted in following the old beaten track of listening to Members who had practically no influence in Ireland, though they might possess a magnificent majority, gained by their spirit of foreign policy in England, they would continue to deserve the hearty distrust of a vast majority of the Irish people.


thought the reception the Chief Secretary for Ireland had met with in his first attempt to benefit the Irish ratepayers was hardly such as to encourage him to farther efforts in that direction. Some allusion had been made in the course of this discussion to the English Bill, upon which he had not had an opportunity of saying a word in the House, although for some years he had brought the subject of it before Chambers of Agriculture in the country, who, he believed, had originally suggested the idea of the measure. He considered not only that the English Bill was a measure of extreme justice to the ratepayers, and one which fully met the views of the parties who desired it to be passed into law, but the Irish Gentlemen opposite were, he believed, well satisfied that the present Bill, of which they had heard a sketch, would do an equal act of justice to the ratepayers of Ireland. It was, of course, impossible for hon. Members on that side of the House on which he sat to pretend to understand Irish Business; but, as far as an ordinary observer might judge, the few alterations suggested on that side were, he thought, calculated fairly to represent both the landlords and tenants of Ireland. He was quite sure that the Bill for England, introduced by the President of the Local Government Board, had those virtues. Although there were points in it on which they might not altogether agree, yet, in the main, he belived they might be easily adjusted, and that they would find the measure was one which would answer every expectation that had been formed of it, and would become the nucleus around which would ultimately gather the conflicting areas and administrations of county boards — as poor, highways, drainage, sanitation, &c., and would conduce to the efficiency, uniformity, and economy of county administration.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, seemed to be under the impression that the Government had given the people of Ireland a very great boon, and that they were very sensible of the kindness of the Government for, granting this measure. So far from appreciating their action, he, for one, as Representative of a large county (Wexford), regarded the introduction of a measure of this kind only as further evidence of a contemptuous indifference to the wishes of the Irish people—wishes which had been declared by their Representatives, from time to time, in that House. This question of Grand Jury reform had been presented to the House during the last four Sessions by Members of the Party with whom he had the honour of acting, and notably in a Bill, of a comprehensive character, introduced by the Leader of that Party—the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt). The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) had also introduced a Bill relating to county boards; and both those measures, in point of fact, aimed directly at supplanting the present per- nicious system of Grand Jury in Ireland. The measure introduced that night by the Chief Secretary, sought to perpetuate that system. If the Bill became law, what would be the effect of it? They would have to contend with one of the greatest evils in any public system— namely, a dual system for counties. Surely, such a system would not be tolerated in Ireland; but, forsooth, anything would do for Ireland, and the Chief Secretary appeared to think that Ireland ought to be content with it, and that as the people had not petitioned against it, therefore they did not seem to feel it to be a grievance. For his part, he could only say that the people of Ireland ought to be tired of sending Petitions to that House on every conceivable subject; because, whether they petitioned for or against this dual system, which was to be set up in Ireland, he thought their wishes would be disregarded by the majority of hon. Members in that House. However, he must inform hon. Gentlemen that in the county of Wexford, which he represented, if there was one subject more than another which the tenant-farmers appeared to have set their hearts upon, it was a fair and sound measure of reform of the Grand Jury law in Ireland. This measure did not grapple with the difficulty in the manner approved by his constituents; and, at that initial stage of the Bill, he felt it to be his duty to give it every opposition in his power; because he believed it would do more harm than good by standing in the way of a really sound measure which the people of Ireland deserved.


observed that Irish Members on that—the Opposition—side of the House appeared to be of opinion that the Bill was one which they could not adopt or approve. But what they really had to consider was this—the Bill dealt with a very difficult and very important subject; and might they not accept it for the present, and afterwards try to improve it in Committee in such a way as would make it acceptable to the people of Ireland? He thought, as the Chief Secretary had gone so far as to leave very little power in the hands of the Grand Juries, it was scarcely worth while to leave them the little which would still remain to them. He believed the Grand Juries would not regard it as a serious deprivation, if they should be relieved of the powers they had exercised for many years of approving the various presentments that were levied, that the remaining powers left in their hands should be taken from them. But there was one objection which he regarded as fatal to the Bill, and which he hoped the Chief Secretary would consider before the second reading, and that was the appointment of the justices by the Grand Jury. It was impossible for the nomination to give satisfaction, so long as the Grand Jury was selected by the sheriff, without the slightest control, as to whether the persons put on the Grand Jury lived in or outside the county, or as to whether they had property in it or not. That was a point well worthy of the consideration of the Chief Secretary. As long as the Union districts continued, the Guardians would represent the ratepayers in those districts, and he could see great difficulty in changing the area of baronial districts to that of Union districts; for it was for county purposes that all these rates were levied, and in Ireland the Unions had little or no regard for the boundaries of the baronial districts. In regard to that part of the Bill, if it were found that the baronies were too small, it would, he suggested, be very easy to join one or more baronies together; but, considering that all these rates and levies had reference always to divisions of counties, it would be unwise to change those divisions. He believed the system would be found to work wonderfully well if the persons representing the justices at the baronial sessions were elected by the justices living in the district, and if, in addition to being a justice of the peace, a property qualification were required, either as owner of property or as a large ratepayer. But if these justices were nominated by the Grand Juries of the counties satisfaction would not be given. If the Chief Secretary would consult with those hon. Gentlemen sitting behind him who came from Ireland, and plainly represent to them the amount of power which would be taken from them with regard to the fiscal matters of the county, in all probability not one of them would wish to have the balance of power left in their hands. Certainly, it would be a most invidious and untenable position that two bodies should exist in the same county, each having a separate power of levying taxes. After considering these objections, it was to be hoped that the Chief Secretary would be prepared, on the second reading, to announce his intention of so altering the Bill in Committee as to make it generally acceptable to Irish Members; but hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House must not expect a Conservative Government to do all that was required of them; and if that Government had shown a willingness to meet the views of the Irish people generally, there should be no unreasonable action on the part of Irish Members to prevent this attempt to deal with the Grand Juries. He hoped that before the Session was over, a measure would be passed which would do a great amount of good.


, in reply, said, he did not complain in any way of the very candid manner in which the Bill had been criticized by hon. Gentlemen opposite. His experience of Bills in that House had been that those which were most complimented on their introduction had not infrequently met with a somewhat unenviable fate; and he was, therefore, not by any means disposed to despair of hon. Members opposite eventually finding, on a re-consideration of its provisions, that there was much more to recommend the Bill than, at the present moment, they seemed to think. It had been observed by several hon. Members that, in proposing to continue, even to a limited extent, the functions of the Grand Juries in respect of fiscal matters, the Government were running deliberately counter to the often-expressed opinions of the great masses of the people of Ireland. He was not aware in what form that deliberate expression of opinion had been conveyed to the House and the Government. He knew of one expression of opinion on the part of Representatives of Ireland— namely, in the Report of the Select Committee appointed by the House in 1868, presided over by the hon. Member for Roscommon (the 0'Conor Don); and in that Report he found the recommendation that the authority of the Grand Jury in the fiscal matters of the county should not be done away with. He certainly thought the Government had gone a long way towards curtailing the excessive powers possessed by the Grand Juries, and therefore a long way beyond the recommendation of the Select Committee. An hon. Member had referred to the retention of the baronies as the area, and had suggested that the area of the Poor Law Unions should be adopted instead. In the course of this discussion it was mentioned that boundaries in many cases overlapped. Now, under the provisions of existing Statutes, a power existed to remedy, to a great extent, that defect, and it was the intention of the Government to remedy it, and to establish, as far as possible, uniformity of boundaries. He hoped upon consideration of these matters in the Bill, which he trusted would be in the hands of hon. Members by Monday, more favourable opinions would be entertained.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. JAMES LOWTHER and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 120.]