HC Deb 21 January 1878 vol 237 cc263-77

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was substantially the same as the one before the House last Session, saving that he had, in some few particulars, endeavoured to meet the objections which had then been made to it, and consequent alterations had ensued. It simply proposed to give power to each electoral district of Ireland to elect one magistrate, and to confer that power upon the Guardians instead of the ratepayers of the Unions. He proposed that the election should be by ballot, the cost being only about £5, and that the magistrates should be elected for life, and not, as he had formerly suggested, for five years. He thought such a mea- sure was required in order to give the ratepayers of the counties the same representation on the Bench which was enjoyed by the ratepayers of the towns and cities. As the principle of the measure was much desired in Ireland, he trusted the Government would allow the Bill to be read a second time, and then, if they had any objections to its provisions, Amendments could be moved in Committee of the Whole House. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading.

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


in moving that the debate be now adjourned, said, it would be in the knowledge of the House that the Bill was not delivered with the Papers in the morning, and in accordance with the precedent laid down last Session, he thought they ought not to discuss a Bill which they had not seen. The case he referred to was that of a Bill for removing the disqualification of certain householders introduced by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), and the debate upon which was adjourned for the same reason.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Charles Lewis.)


hoped that the House would proceed with the measure. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan) had taken every trouble to have the Bill in the hands of hon. Members that morning; but, by some mischance, the printer had not delivered it in time, although other Bills which followed it on the Order Paper had been duly distributed. The Bill having been discussed last year, its provisions were well known, and, in the circumstances, he thought it would be ungracious of the House to refuse to discuss it.


opposed the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate, thinking it unfair that the hon. Member for Limerick County, who had obtained the first place in the list of Orders of the Day by ballot, should be deprived of that advantage in this way. He could see a principle involved. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would test the question by a division.


in supporting the Motion, maintained that it was impossible satisfactorily to discuss a Bill which had just been put into their hands. If the rule were violated in one case, it would be in another. How were hon. Members to tell in what particulars it differed from that of last year?


said, he was glad to find that the first instance of obstruction that Session had come from the other side of the House, and from an Englishman representing an Irish constituency. He was the more surprised at this, as when Gentlemen of the English denomination went over to Ireland they were always well received. It was to be further observed that the opposition was directed against a Bill framed for the preservation of popular rights.


said, he wished it to be understood that Her Majesty's Government had no objection, in principle, to the Bill proceeding, although Monday was a Government night and the Bill was that of a private Member, and not a Government measure. That that was the view of the Government was, he thought, evident from the fact that he had refrained from exercising his right to put upon the Paper for an early period of the Sitting a Motion in reference to the Business of the House, which would, of course, have taken precedence of the hon. Gentleman's Bill. His objection to proceeding rested on the fact that the Bill was not in the hands of hon. Members, and could not, therefore, be discussed with propriety or profit. In a case similar to the present, which took place on the 12th of February last year, an objection of the same kind as that raised by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis) was taken by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and the debate was adjourned. Under those circumstances he was sorry to say that, without expressing any opinion as to the Bill, and without any desire on the part of the Government to burke discussion, it would be necessary for him to follow the course adopted last year, and support the Motion for Adjournment.


said, he had done all in his power to get the Bill delivered in time, but could not obtain it from the printer, although other Bills which stood after his on the list of Orders of the Day, and some which were down on the lists for subsequent days, had been delivered. He strongly protested against the unfairness of being made to suffer in that way from neglect on the part of officials for whom the Government and the House were responsible, and thought the Government ought to give him a day for it. The opposition had visibly come from the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis); but a Member of the Government had told him that the Bill would be opposed, because it had not been printed. The real opponents of the Bill were the Government.


After the statement of the hon. Member, I feel compelled to address a few words to the House. The hon. Member has suggested that the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis) has been requested, either directly or indirectly, by the Government to oppose the Bill. I wish to state that several hon. Members sitting on this side of the House have come to me during the evening, asking me what course I intended to pursue on the part of the Government. More than one hinted that as the Bill had not been delivered, it ought not to be proceeded with. I have said that I would far sooner that it should go on, and I have asked more than one hon. Member not to oppose it on that ground.


urged that the Bill should be allowed to proceed, since the principle had already been debated in the House, and there would be a great waste of time if the debate were now adjourned. If the Government intended to oppose the Bill, lot them do so at once, or let them state what were their intentions with respect to it.


thought the hon. Member for Limerick was placed in a position of some hardship in being deprived of his chance of proceeding with the Bill through miscarriage at the printer's. The hon. Member having obtained the first place, was entitled to have his Bill delivered first. He presumed the Government were responsible for any accidental miscarriage that might happen. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No, no!] Then the House was responsible, and he thought the hon. Member had a right to claim that he should be put in as good a position, either now or at some future time, as if the Bill had been in duo course delivered to hon. Members.


confirmed what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said as to his (Sir H. Drummond Wolff's) being in the same position last year, and expressed a hope that these instances of miscarriage would load to some change in the arrangements for the printing of Bills. He sympathized with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. O'Sullivan), and should be glad if the present hardship could be remedied, seeing that the arrangements for printing in the House wore excessively "slipshod." He thought it would be well if Bills which had been read the second time in one Session were re-introduced in the next. They should be then road a second time, pro forma, and the Government could afterwards oppose their further progress, if necessary, on the Motion to go into Committee. In this case, why not agree to pass all the Orders in favour of the Committee on Public Business? Why not read them all a second time, and take the discussions on going into Committee?


supported the suggestion of the hon. Member opposite (Sir H. Drummond Wolff). It was quite competent for the House to discuss the Bill on its merits on going into Committee.


thought that the question should be decided on the second reading, and should be discussed at once. That was the course pursued last Session on the Lodgers' Removal Bill. He recollected also that the House allowed the Government to read the Mutiny Bill a second time before it was printed last year, and he trusted that they would grant the same privilege to a private Member. He did not think the Government should avail themselves of a technical objection to defeat this measure, in which a question of principle was involved.


said, he had intended to object to the Bill being now discussed; but at the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland he had determined not to do so. He wished to point out that the three Bills did not stand by any means on an equality. In the last Session the one now before the House had been rejected by a large majority, while two of them had been affirmed on the second reading, and he could not consent, therefore, to regard the Bills as standing on a level. He hoped that they would be allowed to express their opinion on the second reading of the measure now before the House at the present stage.


thought it would be well if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would appeal to the large majority at his back, over which he exercised so large an influence, to allow the discussion to proceed. If the right hon. Gentleman would do so, that majority would give its consent, and the Bill would go on.


denied that he had asserted that the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis) had been put up by the Government to raise this objection to the Bill.


thought that there was some little misapprehension in the minds of certain hon. Members with regard to this Bill. He entirely agreed that the hon. Member bringing forward the measure had suffered from no fault of his own. There appeared, however, to be an impression that this was the first Bill that was placed upon the list under the ballot. That was not so, however, inasmuch as there were some 30 or 40 Bills before it; 41 he believed. The Government had no do-sire to prevent the fullest discussion of the Bill. In pursuance of their rules it should not now be considered; but that was by no fault of the hon. Gentleman who introduced it; and he therefore appealed to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis) to withdraw his Motion. In that case, the Government would be prepared to proceed with its discussion.


joined in the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman to the hon. Member for Londonderry to withdraw his Motion.


regretted that he was unable to accede to the request of the right hon. Gentleman. He wished to know whether the Business of the House was to be conducted according to general rules, or whether, with the consent of the House and of the Leaders on both sides, a reign of confusion was to prevail. Last year the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) was treated with extreme severity both by the Government and by the front Opposition Bench, and his Bill, in consequence of what happened on the Motion for its second reading, was snuffed out for the Session. The present Bill came before the House under the same circumstances, and he felt obliged to proceed to a division.


expressed his regret that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) had not been assented to. He trusted that, under the circumstances, this discussion would not be needlessly prolonged, and that the House would at once come to a division upon the issue raised by the hon. Member for Londonderry. He did not see why the House should fetter its action by any now rule of practice as to whether Bills should be received or not before they wore printed. The principle involved in the measure was a very simple one, being contained in the 1st clause, and any hon. Member could make himself acquainted with its nature in a few minutes. For his own part, he should feel bound to oppose the measure when it came on for discussion, but he thought the technical objection now raised ought not to be uphold. In this case it had boon pointed out that it was no fault of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) that his Bill had not been printed in time; and, considering the view expressed by the Government, he hoped the House would allow the discussion to go on.


warned hon. Members of the danger of establishing a precedent for the discussion of measures which wore not printed, which might be used on future occasions to the prejudice of minorities. His hon. Friend the Member for Limerick was not answerable for the fault of an officer of the House, and he therefore thought the true solution would be to adjourn the debate now, the Government giving his hon. Friend a night for the discussion of his Bill when it was printed.

Question put.

The House divided: —Ayes 62; Noes 223: Majority 161.—(Div. List, No. 2.)

Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now road a second time."


congratulated the House on the decision it had come to, because it was much better that the Bill should be discussed and disposed of. He objected to the Bill that, instead of conforming to the time-honoured custom that the fount of honour should be the Crown, it proposed to constitute Boards of Guardians the fount of honour. He begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day seven months.


seconded the Amendment.

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

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


in supporting the second reading of the Bill, said, that if the magistrates in Ireland were wisely or fairly appointed there would be no necessity for the Bill; but the fact was, as they all know perfectly well, that they wore at present appointed on the nomination of the Lords Lieutenant of counties on account of their politics and religion, and not by reason of their fitness for the position. He know a Lord Lieutenant who refused to recommend a gentleman—a Deputy Lieutenant who was heir to a good estate—because he was a Catholic. The Bill that was before the House was, he thought, a very small matter indeed. He thought, however, it would give very great satisfaction to the ratepayers of the Union if, after they had elected a certain number of men in whom they had confidence to serve as Guardians, they should have the power to select a certain person to represent thorn on the commission of the peace. He knew that there wore most intelligent men in Boards of Guardians who might well be trusted to discharge the duties of a magistrate. Again, he pointed out that the Lord Chancellor would never approve of the appointment of a person unless he were qualified to perform those duties. The Bill was, however, as he had said, a matter of very small consequence. It would do no very great harm, and he hoped the Government would see their way to letting it pass.


said, he wished to state that he gave a general support to that class of Bills. They all agreed in this one strong point—that they had a tendency to associate the poorer classes of the people in the government of the country, and he considered that a point of very great importance, and calculated to strengthen the framework of the country. The more they did so the more they could rely on the people in time of war. If the people were left outside the pale of their institutions, he was afraid that to a certain extent they might be looked at as internal enemies. The magistrates had half the management of the Poor Law, and to a considerable extent the administration of the sanitary laws. In these they were associated with other persons, but there were certain cases where they had the exclusive control, and in which they ought to be reinforced by magistrates elected by the people. Besides that, the Bill only proposed a magistrate for the approval of the Lord Chancellor, and consequently did not force him upon the country. In fact, it only gave power to the Guardians to recommend one magistrate for about 14 or 15 who were appointed in the usual way by the Lords Lieutenant of the counties, and these Lords Lieutenant did not invariably represent the wishes of the people of their counties. The appeal to this House against Lords Lieutenant was not as effective in the case of Ireland as it was in the case of England. In the county of Carlow he understood that out of 60 or 70 justices of the peace there were only two Roman Catholics, although five-sixths of the population professed that faith, and in Donegal and other counties a similar state of things existed. The Bill before the House would to a certain extent provide a remedy for such an anomalous and unjust state of things.


said, he had voted in favour of having the measure discussed, but he regretted that his support could not extend any further. Although there wore certain evils at present in the elections of magistrates in Ireland, he believed that the remedy proposed would be worse than the disease. He considered that nothing could be more mischievous than that the qualification for the magistrate's office should depend upon the personal popularity of the candidate nominated. The popular election of judicial officers in the United States had not been attended with results which should encourage us to follow their example; and further, he did not believe that there was any evidence that the measure had received any support in Ireland. Had there over been a public meeting in favour of it, or a petition presented praying that it might pass? He believed that no section of the Irish people had ever asked for it, and he thought the House would do well not to favour any such revolutionary change in the appointment of those who discharged judicial duties.


supported the Bill, pointing out that mayors of boroughs in Ireland elected by the ratepayers discharged magisterial duties during their year of office, and no complaint had ever been made of the manner in which they administered justice. But he considered with the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan), that one of the great recommendations of the measure was that it would encourage the people of Ireland to consider, and to feel that they had some voice in the local government of the affairs of Ireland; that they had some hold on the administration of justice in their own country; and that they were really regarded as citizens of Her Majesty's Kingdom of Ireland. At present, those matters were too much in the hands of men and families whose religious views were not those of the majority of the people. He hoped the Government would support the second reading of the Bill, and if any serious objections were entertained to its provisions they could be corrected in Committee.


opposed the Bill on the ground that it would place too much power in the hands of the ratepayers. It would practically amount to an appointment for life, whereas the justice so appointed might cease to be a Guardian for the Union in six months or less.


hoped the House would read the Bill a second time. As to its being revolutionary, he could not see upon what grounds hon. Gentlemen calling themselves Liberal could oppose so very mild a measure as the Bill under consideration. It simply conferred upon Poor Law Guardians the power of nominating to the Lord Chancellor.


opposed the Bill, as tending to cast a slur upon and lowering the character of the magistracy. Further, he did not see how, consistently with the 4th clause of the Bill, powers of justices appointed under it could be confined to the county in which they resided. He could not support the Bill, because it was one of a class of democratic measures which were about to be introduced.


supported the Bill, and denied that it cast any slur upon the existing magistracy. He thought it would be well to adopt the present proposal for these, amongst other reasons, that it would remove from the minds of the people any suspicion of partiality in the selection of magistrates, and extinguish a strong prejudice which prevailed, to a great extent, against the present practice of referring all important cases to the Castle adviser. The Bill was not of the revolutionary character that was supposed, and in case of its passing it would probably be found that the Guardians would, in the majority of cases, nominate the same gentlemen who would, under ordinary oases, be selected by the Lord Chancellor.


opposed the second reading on the ground that the Bill would introduce a mode of appointing magistrates which was novel and objectionable. It had been contended that the Bill was only an extension to the rural districts of Ireland of a power now enjoyed in the urban districts; but the present proposal bore no analogy whatever to the appointment of borough justices, who were approved by the Crown; nor to the magisterial powers enjoyed by the mayor of a town, as such, during his year of office. Neither was it at all a copy of the system under which certain town commissioners in Ireland were appointed justices by the Lord Chancellor. No hon. Member had referred to the 17 & 18 Vict., by which it would be found that all the commissioners could do was to forward to the Lord Chancellor a return stating the ages, position, and other particulars of the persons elected to be commissioners, and from that list the Lord Chancellor might select a properly-qualified person to act as justice of the peace within the town during his term of office. The proposals of this Bill were that the elected Guardians of every Union might elect any person they chose —not necessarily one of their own body, but who might be living in England, in America, or elsewhere—to act during his life, with the sanction of the Lord Chancellor, as a magistrate of any county or counties, perhaps as many as three, in some cases, into which the Union might extend. This proposal was not made, as far as he could discover, from any want of confidence in the way in which Government now exercised their power in the appointment of magistrates, since the Bill would extend the veto which the Lord Chancellor at present possessed to magistrates elected by the Board of Guardians. The hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. P. Martin) said something about a want of confidence on the part of the people of Ireland in the Bench, owing to their referring cases, for legal opinions alone, to the legal advisers of the Castle. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) thought this a great advantage which the magistrates of Ireland had over their brethren in England, as they obtained in that way really good advice upon points of law. Was the proposal introduced to procure a better administration of justice? He had heard nothing to warrant the opinion that justice would be better administered by magistrates appointed under the new system than under the present. It was said that some change of this kind was wanted because the Lords Lieutenant of counties did not exercise their power of recommendation in a fair and impartial manner. The Lords Lieutenant of counties were of various political opinions, and one or two, such as Colonel White, the Lord Lieutenant of Clare, of the same opinions as hon. Gentlemen opposite; but from all he had hoard, they exercised their power as fairly in Ireland as it was exercised in England or Wales. If there were any complaints in particular cases, they ought to be brought under the notice of the House. He believed the fact that that could be done, as well as the desire of those gentlemen themselves to discharge their duties properly, formed quite sufficient securities against abuse. He had often heard it suggested that a sweeping change should be made in England by the substitution of stipendiary for unpaid magistrates. But that system to some extent already prevailed in Ireland, where stipendiary magistrates were acting in their respective districts nearly all over the country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, however, were not satisfied with the system, which the most advanced reformers in England advocated, and argued that the stipendiary magistrates in Ireland re- presented not the people, but the Crown. It had been alleged that the principle of this Bill was a very small matter. In his judgment, it was one of the most important matters that could possibly come under the consideration of that House. The question at issue was, whether justice should be administered by persons elected by the people, or by persons appointed, according to the existing system, by the Crown. It might be true that in past times, or in foreign countries, persons were elected by the people to perform judicial functions; but the system had proved to be a bad one wherever it had been tried, for it did not tend to the purer administration of justice, but was likely to make the Judicial Bench dependent on popular favour. The adoption of this Bill would be, he believed, the adoption of a principle that must be disastrous in any country, but nowhere more distastrous than in Ireland.


hoped that in voting for the second reading he should not be understood to approve the principle of the measure, because, in fact, he thought there were many reasons which rendered the election of magistrates unadvisable. Magistrates ought to be independent of local considerations; but considering what was the present mode of appointing magistrates in Ireland, it became necessary for those who desired to protest against that system to seize every opportunity of doing so. For that reason he should support the present measure. There was an unfair proportion of Protestants among the magistrates in Ireland, and he should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had announced that it was the intention of the Government to follow in the footsteps of their Predecessors in Office, who had appointed a considerable number of Catholic magistrates. The only fair way of making such appointments would be to dispose of them in equal proportions between Protestants and Roman Catholics.


said, that the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) was wrong in throwing the entire blame of the present system of appointments upon Lords Lieutenant. He held that the Government in Ireland were the chief offenders, because in the appointments of magistrates of the City of Dublin, which were made directly from the Castle, they showed the worst example. There was an abundance of Catholics of property, and in every way eligible, who were passed over in favour of the Protestants in the majority of ten to one. The Government habitually selected Protestants and Conservatives. In the North Dublin Union, whore a majority of the elected Guardians were Liberal, an attempt, which was very nearly successful, was made to swamp that majority by the appointment of ex-officio magistrates of the proper political type. A great many of the magistrates appointed were qualified neither by wealth, nor social position, nor education; but were appointed simply because they were of the true blue colour in politics.


entertained a most decided objection to the office or position of the administrators of justice being in any way dependent upon the caprice and favour of the people. He had heard the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland say, however, that the adoption of the elective principle would be importing into Ireland something unknown in England or Scotland; and he (Mr. Sullivan) must remark that in England aldermen and in Scotland baillies were elected, and that they acted as magistrates. It would, he admitted, be a doubtful experiment in Ireland; for were there not in that country complaints as to the Party nomination of the magistracy? He granted that the sharp edge of that complaint belonged to a past time; but the evil was not quite gone, for Liberals appointed none but Liberals, and Tories none but Tories. ["No, no!"] Well, they appointed very few others. What they wanted in Ireland was a Government which would have the courage to break with the old traditions on that matter, and which would make appointments from men of a different Party to its own. In that way a Liberal Government might make Conservative appointments and a Conservative Government might make Liberal appointments, until an equitable arrangement, as between different Parties and creeds, was obtained, and such a body of men secured for the magisterial office as would give confidence both to the people and to the Crown in the administration of justice. A greater attempt was never made to throw dust in the eyes of the people than to say that in these appointments no notice was taken of religion. Sir Robert Peel shrewdly said that it was one thing to declare Catholics qualified, and another thing to appoint them, and he (Mr. Sullivan) would remark that the fulness of Catholic emancipation had never yet been reached in Ireland, because successive Governments had not chosen to appoint Catholics. He could not join in any wholesale indictment against the Irish magistracy, as it was only on very rare occasions that they exhibited parti-zanship on the Bench; but still the evil of the unequal appointment of Roman Catholics and Protestants did exist.


briefly replied to the objections which had been raised against the Bill, and hoped that the House would not refuse it a second reading.

Question put.

The House divided: —Ayes 38; Noes 138: Majority 100.—(Div. List, No. 3.)

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Second Reading put off for seven months.