§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
Sir, I rise for the purpose of asking this honourable House to affirm the principle of this Bill by permitting it to be read a second time. The Bill is identical with the one which I had the honour to introduce in the Session of 1876. Its aim is to assimilate the municipal franchise of Ireland to that of England; its end is to copy, for the benefit of Ireland, the institutions of England. I think such a course should call for the commendation and not for the resistance of this House. Irishmen are constantly twitted with their supposed disinclination to act in concert with English institutions. Surely, then, 797 when evidence such as this is brought forward to disprove such a statement, every assistance should be afforded to us who are engaged in a course so praiseworthy as the present. In 1876 I was defeated in my attempt, an attempt which, although I say it, I consider was a laudable one. I hope I shall not be unsuccessful this day; but, should I be so, let not the obloquy descend upon me nor upon the hon. Gentlemen who may support me, but upon those who, most active in their condemnation of the general policy of Irish Members, turn a deaf ear to our voluntary desires to improve. Allow me to ask this honourable House what is the law which in England regulates the municipal franchise? That is a very important question. In England every person, male or female, who has occupied, a house for 12 months, and been rated to the poor, enjoys the privilege of this franchise. Let me now turn to Ireland, and ask what is the law there? It is that every man only who has occupied a house and been rated to the poor at the value of £10, has the municipal franchise. That law applies to every borough except Dublin. I believe I might here stop short and consider my case proved. For surely the discrepancies and contrasts which exist in each country must flash upon the mind of every hon. Gentleman; but when I come to recount the facts and enter into the details respecting these contrasts, I am sure that hon. Members will be astounded. I will take a few towns in England, and a few towns in Ireland, and I will, as nearly as possible, assimilate them by population only. The town of Leeds has a population of 250,212; Dublin has a population of 267,712. The number of municipal electors in Leeds is 52,784; the number of like electors in Dublin is 5,584. The town of Bradford has a population of 145,830; the town of Belfast a population of 175,418. The number of municipal electors in Bradford is 29,452; the number of like electors in Belfast is 5,525. The town of Gateshead has a population of 49,267; the city of Limerick a population of 49,853. The number of municipal electors in Gateshead is 10,251; the number of like electors in Limerick is 1,139. The town of Swansea has a population of 80,772; Cork has a population of 100,518. The number of 798 municipal electors in Swansea is 8,692; the number of like electors in Cork is 2,000. In other words—and here I crave the attention of the House—Leeds, with a population of 8,505 less than Dublin, has 47,200 more municipal voters; Bradford, with a population of 28,588 less than Belfast, has 23,928 more municipal voters; Gateshead, with a population of 1,586 less than Limerick, has 9,112 more municipal voters; and Swansea, with a population of 19,746 less than Cork, has 6,692 more municipal voters. Surely, Sir, these shocking contrasts could not possibly exist if anything approaching to just legislation existed also. It would almost seem that increase of population became a bar to municipal distinction. In addition to these contrasts may also be mentioned the total disfranchisement of Irishwomen. I rejoice to observe that in England women have been enabled to establish their vote in municipal affairs; and I feel certain I should incorrectly interpret the sentiments of Englishwomen if I said that they were disposed to place a barrier against the enfranchisement of their Irish sisters. Is there a just reason to discountenance the granting of the municipal franchise to Irishwomen when it is granted to Englishwomen? Are Irishwomen less fitted than Englishwomen for the responsibilities attaching to privileges? Are they less prudent, less devoted to the interests of their sons, daughters, or relations of any sort than women in England are? They are not. Are they less devoted to the political interests of their country? I think not. I do not envy the right hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General for Ireland) his task of proving that Irishwomen are not worthy of using the privileges that Englishwomen enjoy. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman has heard of curtain lectures. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I wish him no worse fortune than to hear two or three of them; and I think he will have to encounter them if he opposes this Bill today. I shall not have to encounter them. My withers are unwrung. The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot believe that his Irish sisters are incapable of exercising this franchise. I shall not believe, Sir, in their incapability until the evidence of my senses has proved to me an impossibility—a downright 799 impossibility — which is, that Irishwomen are inferior in virtue or in beauty to the women of the entire planet combined. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has not had sufficient experience in Ireland yet to pronounce an opinion on the matter, and if he votes against the Bill to-day, I hope that he will be with me next year. I may hope of the right hon. Gentleman that he will become Ipsis Hibernis hiberniores, or I should rather say, Hibernis ipsis hibernior. But there are several reasons why he should vote for this Bill. Indeed, I do not see how it can be rejected. One would think that we were not living under a Constitutional Government; one would imagine that we are living under the knout of the perfidious barbarian of the North—the latest filibuster who has, I am sorry to say, just completed his first day's march.— ["Order, order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am not aware whether the hon. and gallant Member, in the reference he has just made, is speaking of one of the Sovereigns of Europe with whom Her Majesty is in amity. If so, I must call upon him to withdraw the expression he has used.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
Sir, I at once bow to your decision, and withdraw the expression; but I say if we are living under a Constitutional Government, Irishwomen should be equally entitled to all the privileges which Englishwomen enjoy. In 1876 the hon. Member for Derry (Mr. Charles Lewis) replied to my observations. The greater part of his speech was occupied with a dissertation on the comparative value of houses in England and Ireland. Such a course, I think, was scarcely fair. The overseer who, in England, sanctions the possession of the municipal franchise, is not charged to make the least inquiry as to the value of the house occupied by the seeker of the franchise. I grant that some of the houses in the English towns may be superior to those in the Irish towns, but how can their actual value be discovered when the question is not by law allowed to arise? The question is not allowed to be put. Let us take the ease of two men living in Waterford. They are both anxious for the municipal franchise, but they do not live in £10 rated houses; they are well-conducted and industrious. One of them quits 800 Ireland and proceeds to Bristol to live. He occupies a house, and in 12 months he is in possession of the municipal franchise. His friend in Waterford, who must pay £ 15 or £ 18 rent if he wishes to live in a £ 10 rated house, can scarcely ever expect to enjoy the franchise. Now, Sir, is it right that an Irishman should be under the necessity of expatriating himself for the purpose of obtaining in a strange country that which is denied him in his own? I think that he ought not. I have no desire to detain the House. I think the case is so perfectly plain that but few words are required; but I will refer to a few observations which were made on the first day of the Session by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I deeply regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not present at this moment in the House, but the words he made use of were these. Talking of Ireland, he said—There ought to he no mistake about this matter. There is no disposition on the part of any Member representing an English or a Scottish constituency in this House—there is no disposition in any part of the United Kingdom— to deny Ireland full and fair consideration for every grievance which she may wish to bring forward.And again he said—I can promise on behalf of the House that any measure brought forward will not fail to receive careful, attentive, and respectful consideration."—[See ante, pp. 151–2.]Those were very kind words, indeed. I was present, and heard everyone of them, and I can truly say that I more admired the manner in which they were expressed than the matter which they conveyed. I would certainly claim, if he were here, the presence of the right hon. Gentleman in my Lobby this day. I have one word more to add. In 1876 I concluded my observations by saying that I left this important matter to the justice, and to the honour of the House of Commons. I was defeated on that occasion; but I do believe in the justice and in the honour of the House of Commons, and I propose to end the few observations with which I have troubled the House with the words I then spoke. I repeat, and I think I am correct, that I hope I shall be successful when I say that I leave the question now to the justice and to the honour of the House of Commons. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Major O'Gorman.)
§ MR. KAVANAGH,
in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he was sorry to be obliged to enter the lists again against the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman), and he was also sorry that the hon. and gallant Member had felt it necessary to move the second reading of the Bill. The House, when they considered all the circumstances which that step involved, would see the course the hon. and gallant Member had pursued was not a very convenient one. The fact was, that there was at the present time a Select Committee sitting to consider and report upon the whole question. It was, therefore, scarcely opportune, to say the least of it, to ask the House to endorse the principle of the Bill by reading it a second time before the Committee had reported. As he was a Member of the Committee, he would not say that the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member had the appearance of casting a slight upon that body; but, at any rate, the step was not opportune, and was not fair—and what was more, he hardly thought it was quite respectful to ask the House now to give a decision upon the question, and thereby to stultify its action in having appointed a Committee to consider it. The question was one of no ordinary interest, the Bill, or one very similar to it, having for its object the extension of the municipal franchise in Ireland, was brought in by the hon. and gallant Member for Water-ford in 1876. That Bill was rejected by the House; but, although it was rejected, the Government at the time undertook to consider the question, and not only to consider it, but also a far larger and more important question which was inseparably connected with that—namely, the whole question of local government in Ireland. In order to carry out that undertaking, a Select Committee, fairly constituted, and representing all shades of opinion, was appointed, and it sat continuously for two Sessions. It was only the other day that that Select Committee was again appointed for the third time. That was not all. During the Recess a Royal Commission was appointed to 802 visit the different towns in Ireland, which the Committee could not reach, to inquire into their several constitutions and modes of government, and to report to the House the result of their inquiries. The result of those inquiries had been two-fold. It had taken a mass of evidence, and prepared a pile of Blue Books enough to make a man turn pale at the thought that he was required, to read them through, and it had also produced a large amount of valuable information, and had brought to light some facts which were very strange, indeed, he might almost say, incredible.
§ MR. M. BROOKS
I rise to Order. I wish to ask if the hon. Gentleman is in Order in anticipating the Report of a Committee which is not yet before the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Any reference to the proceedings of the Committee would be irregular; but I do not understand the hon. Member to refer to proceedings of the Committee.
§ MR. KAVANAGH
said, it was not his intention to refer to the proceedings of the Committee in any way. If he were to do so, he should lay himself open to exactly the same charge as that which he made against the hon. Member—of forestalling the Report of the Committee. He had purposely avoided anything of that sort, and had merely intended to show how inconvenient it was to move the second reading on that occasion. He would shortly state the nature of the Bill from his point of view. The immediate effect of the Bill would be to extend the municipal franchise in Ireland to such an extent as practically to swamp and disfranchise those who now held it. He could hardly understand how the Bill could be approved of by the different constituents of hon. Members opposite who advocated it, and he could hardly imagine that they appreciated at the time what would be the real effect and result of the Bill, or he thought they would be unwilling to throw away the power they now possessed in the management of municipal affairs and hand it over to a lower class. However that might be, he gathered that hon. Members asserted, as an established fact, that their constituents did really wish for the change. If, then, they were really anxious for the change, it could not be regarded in any other light than as 803 evidence that their constituents were not satisfied with the present management under the existing franchise. With that he (Mr. Kavanagh) was quite willing to go with them to the full. The way in which municipal affairs were generally managed was certainly not at all satisfactory, and there was an immense amount of waste—not but what some local management was conducted very well. Some remedy then was necessary, and the Bill was the suggestion for the cure. But when he came to consider the manner of curing the evils, he entirely differed from hon. Members opposite, and he could not in any way agree with them. Although the expression of his opinion might not be acceptable to hon. Members opposite, he was convinced—and he regretted the necessity of saying it—that among all those large towns where mismanagement, jobbery, and extravagance were most flagrant, the city of Dublin must be pointed out as a strong example; and for the existence of those disorders there he found a reason in the fact that in that corporation there was an utter want of any representation of property or intelligence. Not for a moment did he wish to say that the members of that corporation were wanting in intelligence or wealth; but they were really not the representatives of property, but of democracy. As the franchise now stood, the whole power in the management of local affairs was in the hands of the lower classes; and that being so, he must ask the House to pause and consider what would be the result of passing the Bill in Dublin. They had in Dublin a political debating society for a corporation, where every scheme and project not in any way connected with their province was debated with energy—and, from the point of view of those forming the corporation, with considerable ability. There was an enormous and increasing debt; and from his own experience of Dublin, the streets there, according to the season of the year, resembled either quagmires or ploughed fields, and other matters coming under the rule of the corporation were conducted in a like manner. Yet side by side with that corporation were local boards upon whom all classes were fairly represented, and who carried out their work in a manner which any public body in the Kingdom might be 804 proud to equal. Those bodies offered a striking contrast to the corporation, where the mischief arose from the fact of the whole power being in the hands of the lower classes through the overwhelming representation of the popular element. This Bill would really secure a continuance of the mischief, the evils of which they were asked to cure, by reading it a second time. It would make the franchise more open, and make it impossible for owners of property to exercise influence over affairs in which they had the greatest, the most vital interest. In other words, the House was asked to endorse, as a right principle, what appeared to him an extravagant, preposterous theory—namely, that those who had the smallest interest in the affairs should have the whole control of management, and that the checks to extravagance and mismanagement should be placed in the hands of those who would suffer least from these evils. He thought he might with fairness call on all hon. Members who really desired to promote the proper management of municipal affairs in Ireland to vote against the second reading of this Bill. While he opposed the Bill on these grounds, he was not himself opposed to an extension of the municipal franchise, or of any other franchise, provided always that the extension was not such as to throw the whole power into the hands of one class to the exclusion of all others. His belief was that the true principle of a safe and sound democracy, which was the safest, broadest basis upon which a Constitution could rest, was the equal representation of all classes. That was no new opinion with him, and he had long held it; and in 1876 he, in conjunction with his hon. Colleague, brought in a Bill proposing a broader extension of the franchise than the present Bill; but containing, at the same time, certain provisions for a protection for the representation of property. If that proposal had been accepted, property would still have been in a minority; but it certainly would not be in the hopeless minority at which it now is, and certainly not in the abject condition in which it would be placed in every part of the Kingdom if this Bill became law. And how was that proposal received? With howls of execration from hon. Members opposite in the House, and with tirades of abuse 805 from what he supposed he must call the popular journals in Ireland. He remembered being rather amused at one of the terms applied to his hon. Colleague and himself in The Freeman's Journal, It was meant to be opprobrious, but he confessed he could not see it in that light. The term used was "money-bags;" and if the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Gray) chose to designate him by that term, he did not object. There was nothing particularly objectionable in that term; but there were many other words coined for his special benefit, which were very abusive. What did that tirade of abuse prove? To his mind it proved that it was no real extension of the franchise which hon. Gentlemen opposite desired. What they really wished to do was to enfranchise the lower class and to disfranchise all other classes. If that were their idea of fair play, or of Liberal principles, or of the true principles of democracy, he confessed it was not his. Neither was it the opinion expressed by several hon. Members on the other side during the debate upon the borough franchise. He would now say a word or two on the well-worn argument respecting the assimilation which it was asserted this Bill would produce between the Irish and English franchises. Figures had been cited to prove that, so far from the lowering of the franchise in Ireland assimilating it to the circumstances of England; such a step would, in fact, create a more glaring difference than existed at present. If this Bill were passed, it would transfer the power at municipal elections in Ireland from those who paid four-fifths of the rates to those who paid one-fifth. Such a Bill he felt it his duty to oppose. No such transfer had been made by the Act passed for England; and, in fact, under the present condition of things, the municipal franchise in Ireland belonged to a lower class than those who possessed the same franchise in this country. He would conclude by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and. at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Kavanagh.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."806
§ MR. MELDON
said, his hon. and gallant Friend (Major O'Gorman) had so thoroughly dealt with the question that there was scarcely anything further to be said by those who supported the Bill, as he (Mr. Meldon) did. There was, however, one point to which he wished to allude. His hon. and gallant Friend had stated that what he asked was an assimilation of the municipal franchise of England and Ireland. That, no doubt, was true; but, at the same time, he (Mr. Meldon) thought they might go a step further, and say they wished to assimilate the municipal franchise in different parts of Ireland; for in Dublin the municipal franchise did not depend on the principle of value, but on residence and payment of rates. Every male occupier who had resided for a certain time and had paid certain rates was entitled to the franchise, whereas in the other towns of Ireland no person could vote in municipal elections unless he had resided for a specified period in a house valued at £10, which really represented a value of over £13, the valuation in Ireland being one-third under the rental or letting value. In Dublin, however, owing to the existence of certain rating laws, more than 5,000 really entitled were deprived of the municipal franchise. In the first place, whenever the holdings were valued at £4 and under, and in all cases where occupiers paid their rent weekly or monthly, the landlords or lessors were rated, and not the occupiers. In the next place, the period of residence necessary to qualify practically amounted to two years and eight months. Owing to those provisions, the state of the law respecting the municipal franchise in Dublin was highly unsatisfactory; but, at the same time, the principle which existed there of not making the franchise dependent on the value of a man's house was the one which, by the present Bill, its supporters wished to extend to the other towns of Ireland. Why should a citizen of Dublin be considered worthy of the franchise, irrespective of the value of the house in which he lived; whereas a citizen of Belfast must occupy a house of the value of £10 to entitle him to the enjoyment of a similar right. It was a startling fact that the municipal franchise in Ireland was twice-and-a-half as high as the Parliamentary franchise, the former being £10, the latter over £4. 807 It was urged that a Select Committee was sitting, and that it would therefore be unadvisable to pass the Bill; but he could not find a single word, in the Order of Reference to the Committee— which he had read—now sitting on the Local Government and Taxation of Towns in Ireland, by which the House had empowered it to inquire into the subject of the municipal franchise in Ireland. He was aware that some evidence had been taken upon the point; but he apprehended that when the Committee came to consider their Report, objection would be made to their right to report on the question under the terms of the Reference. It was not easy to believe that if the House intended the Committee to inquire and report upon such an important question as the assimilation of the municipal franchise in England and Ireland, the Order of Reference should be silent on the subject. However, to meet any difficulty and to avoid the slightest disrespect to the Committee referred to, he (Mr. Meldon) proposed that this Bill, when read a second time, should be sent before the Committee.
§ MR. GRAY
said, he would not have spoken but for the personal challenge thrown out to him by name by the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh), and the attack made by him upon a newspaper, The Freeman's Journal, with which he (Mr. Gray) was known to be connected. Whether the new practice of attacking Members in their private capacities, which he believed had been originated by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket), and which had since been followed by other Irish Members sitting on the same side of the House, was a convenient, or even a seemly one, he must leave to the House to decide. As long as it was persevered in, however, he (Mr. Gray) had no option but to reply to these personal attacks, and he was quite prepared to do so. With regard to the hon Member for Carlow, he had evidently misunderstood the expressions made use of in The Freeman's Journal. The hon. Member was never described as a moneybag, nor were the other hon. Members who had supported the Bill referred to described as money-bags. What was stated was that he (Mr. Kavanagh) and other hon. Members sought to introduce a "money-bag vote." That 808 was simply a statement of fact, and he (Mr. Gray) would there endorse it, as on the very face of it there was truth. The Bill of the hon. Member did not propose that a man should have the franchise, because of any personal fitness he possessed, but because he had so much money in his moneybags, or wherever he kept it; and, therefore, in attributing such a motive to certain hon. Members, he (Mr. Gray) contended that nothing abusive was meant. Had the hon. Member been described in the way he would put it to the House, he (Mr. Gray) should have been prepared to withdraw the expression; but it was not so. The "moneybag vote" accurately described the proposal of the hon. Member to give the rich man six votes and the poor man one. He should not have spoken at all upon the subject before the House, but for the personal allusion made to himself; but now he wished to say a few words upon the Bill. The hon. Member for Carlow had said that the extension of the franchise proposed would swamp the present constituencies. But that was the argument which had been used against every extension of the Parliamentary and the municipal franchise. The Reform Bill of 1868 swamped the constituencies in England, for it trebled them; and every real reform had mainly the effect of introducing a constituency larger in numbers than the old constituency. The hon. Member, however, he (Mr. Gray) contended, was proceeding on a baseless assumption if he thought that all those to whom the franchise would be extended would vote en bloc, and that there would be no differences of opinion amongst them. That was a profound fallacy, and every hon. Member of the House knew it to be so. The hon. Member had also used another argument which had more plausibility about it. There was a demand for a change, he said. That was a proof that there was mismanagement, and that the constituencies were discontented with the present system of municipal government. But the Bill now before the House, he said, by extending the franchise downward, but still to the same class who now possessed it, would increase the mismanagement. Now, the demand for a change was made, not on the ground of mismanagement, but on the broad ground of equality. The Irish people 809 and their Representatives in that House demanded that a stigma of inferiority-should be removed, and that they should be recognized as entitled to the same municipal franchise and the same municipal rights as were given in England. That was the ground on which the demand was made. Then the hon. Gentleman had also indulged in some strong observations in reference to the conduct of business in the Dublin Corporation. He had stated that the corporation was a mere political debating society, corrupt and extravagant. But what was the case? The Dublin Corporation, no doubt, had taken notice of matters which affected the well-being of the whole country of Ireland, and therefore affected the well-being of its capital, and in doing so, he (Mr. Gray) considered they had simply done their duty. The duties of a representative body of a capital like Dublin was not confined merely to its administrative functions, and the expending of the public rates. It was also the representative of public opinion; and though that seemed to be denied them, he asked what was the course with regard to municipalities in England? They sent addresses to the Government endorsing a war policy. Did the Prime Minister bid them go and attend to their sewers and the sweeping of the streets, and ask them what they had to do with war matters? He did not think so, and therefore the arguments of the hon. Member for Car-low was sought to be applied to Ireland alone. Had the great Corporation of London never exercised political functions, and had the exercise of those functions ever been questioned? The other municipalities of this country also exercised those functions, and expressed the opinions of their constituencies without fear or favour, and he claimed for the municipality of Dublin and the municipalities of Ireland the same right as they claimed for the municipalities of England. Those municipalities were the bulwarks of the Constitution. They existed, some of them, before that House, and represented the opinions of their constituencies boldly before that House had the power; and he affirmed that it would be a misfortune to the country if those Constitutional functions were to be limited, or the municipalities denied the right to express their political opinions. Then the hon. member had 810 said that the Dublin Corporation was a nest of jobbery, extravagance, and corruption. The Corporation would be content to leave that until the Report of the Select Committee came before them, which would prove whether those assertions were correct or not. He would not for a moment suggest that the administration of the Dublin Corporation was everything that could be desired. On the contrary, he, as a member of it, had taken strong exception to several of its acts. He did not attempt to say that it was an ideal corporation. But what he did say was, that it would bear a fair comparison with the English corporations, if subject to as rigid an investigation. Its weakness was caused by the stagnation, the result of the system which this Bill sought to abolish. The constituency was too limited. Within the limits of the borough of Dublin there were some 230,000 or 240,000 inhabitants; while only a little over 5,000 men had the municipal franchise, the average in the wards being about 300 to 500; so that it was plainly to be seen that the great mass of the ratepayers were shut out from local government. The election of the town council was left to a very small body—a stagnant body — who, in their turn, elected a stagnant corporation. When a man secured his name upon the roll, it was difficult to get him off again; while it was exceedingly difficult to get upon it. The result of the restriction of the franchise, therefore, was that there was an absence of that healthy public spirit which was the essence of municipal purity and efficiency, as it was of Parliamentary purity and efficiency. If they granted a wide franchise, such as the present Bill would give to men who paid the rates, and gave them a voice in the choice of representatives, there would be more competition, and the evils complained of would be reformed. Side by side, the hon. Gentleman said, with this corrupt and extravagant political debating society, on which property was not represented, were other public boards which were the models of what such institutions should be; and his argument was, that they were well managed because property was represented upon them, while the corporation was mismanaged, because property was not represented upon it. He (Mr. Gray) accepted the challenge and denied the conclusions. 811 There were bodies elected by the franchise which the hon. Member for Carlow advocated. There were Poor Law Boards elected by the multiple—the money-bag-vote, which the hon. Member proposed to extend to the municipalities; and everyone who knew anything about the South Dublin Board knew its constitution, and that property was directly represented upon it. He (Mr. Gray) asserted that that body was very much worse than the Dublin Corporation, and would not stand in comparison with it. If they wanted to find jobbery and exclusiveness in the worst form they would find it in the South Dublin Union, where there was not only the property vote but ex-officio magisterial members. In the Corporation of Dublin, they would find the utmost liberality exercised in the appointment to offices, both honorary and of emolument. They would find that the Catholic Liberal Corporation elected a Protestant Conservative Lord Mayor every second year, and that many of the high officers in the corporation were Protestants and strong Conservatives; and that was how the corrupt political debating society exercised its powers. What did they do in the South Dublin Union, with its majority of Conservatives, elected by the property vote? It invariably elected a Protestant chairman, and every office within its gift over £100 per annum was filled by Protestants who were Conservatives, and Catholics who had done their duty in inferior offices were never promoted to the higher positions. Now, he had shown what a money-bag vote would do for Ireland. The constituencies had shown by their acts in the past that they deserved an extension of the franchise. If it could be shown to the House that the public bodies in Ireland, which already existed, elected by the money-bag property vote, did their business half as well as those elected on the popular franchise, there would then be some fair argument in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for Carlow; but, if not, he asked the House to pass the Bill now before them, and so extend the franchise as to improve the corporations by introducing a freer and broader representation of the public opinion of the ratepayers upon them.
§ MR. KAVANAGH
said, he never applied to the Corporation of Dublin the term which the hon. Member for 812 Tipperary (Mr. Gray) attributed to him. He never made use of the word "corrupt."
§ SIR JOHN LESLIE
said, he would advert to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Mel-don) with regard to the Select Committee now sitting, which was appointed in 1876, almost immediately after the last discussion upon the Municipal Franchise Bill. The hon. and learned Member said there was every reason to believe that the Committee did not intend to consider the question of the municipal franchise, because it had not done so. When the Committee ceased from its labours it had reported to the House in this spirit—The inquiry could be more justly conducted by means of a local investigation into the circumstances of the several towns in which municipal bodies exist under the statute, the operation of which the Committee was appointed to inquire into.Therefore, the result of the labours of that Committee was that it reported to the House the necessity of a Local Commission in Ireland, to inquire into the very circumstances which the hon. and learned Member for Kildare disputed. That local inquiry was made, and it was laid before the Committee of 1877; and, therefore, it was only natural for anyone who assailed the position of that Bill to say that it came before the House in a manner most inopportune, and which was calculated to defeat its own purpose, although the Motion had been brought forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major O'Gorman) in an irreproachable tone, and with due respect to the rights of the ladies on whose behalf the hon. and gallant Gentleman was entitled to speak. He was bound to disagree with the hon. and gallant Member in the shocking contrasts to which he had alluded. The figures quoted in 1876 were at the time called in question, and they were successfully disputed by hon. Members on the Conservative side of the House, who were celebrated for their powers in bringing figures to bay. When the hon. and gallant Member showed that the franchise was so much lower in Dublin than in Leeds, he forgot altogether the fact that 813 the classes introduced to the franchise were totally different, and the main fallacy of the Bill was the attempt to assimilate the municipal franchise of Ireland to that of England. This was impossible, for the reason that had been often deplored—that there was no middle class in Ireland, and that they would be obliged, in any attempts to assimilate the franchise of the two countries, to do without that most important class, which was the dominant power in the operation of the municipal franchise in England. The middle class was absent in Ireland; and it was proposed, in its stead, to hand over to the lower classes that which should be given to the middle classes. In 1876 an hon. Member showed that there were 3,000 tenants under 20s. who would be admitted to the franchise by that Bill. He (Sir John Leslie) would like to know where in England they would find an equivalent for such a class of voters possessing the municipal franchise? He believed that the plea of assimilation, in order to produce equality of laws, was fallacious, whether it was applied to a municipal or any other Bill. The Committee on the subject was still sitting, taking valuable evidence, on which legislation must be founded; therefore, to pass the Bill before that evidence had been considered by the House, would be to neutralize the labours of the Committee. He believed he had said enough to show that the Bill was a bad one, and that they must look to the evidence taken by the Committee for the material necessary to make a good one. He was as desirous as the hon. Member for Carlow that the municipal franchise should be improved when it could be done; but was directly opposed to such an extreme measure as that before the House. He hoped that they would yet obtain from the Government what he acknowledged was required—a measure of municipal reform.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, he thought it would be a great pity if the House were to decide upon that Bill without understanding very clearly the position in which the question at present stood. It was by no means the first time that the question of the municipal franchise in Ireland had been before the House, it having been introduced in several successive Sessions, sometimes in the form of a Bill, sometimes that of a Resolution, and different specifics had been 814 recommended for the reform of a state of matters which he thought almost every person would admit required amendment. But the question which hon. Members had now to consider was not whether some change was required in the municipal corporations of Ireland as regarded the mode of the election of members, but whether the change proposed by the Bill, without any safeguard for the rights of property holders, should pass; or whether some other reform might not be introduced which would be more satisfactory to all parties. It was exceedingly unusual that in the middle of a Session the House should be asked to pass an opinion upon a question forming part of a very complex problem which was at the moment under the consideration of a Committee upstairs. Indeed, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) saw that there was some difficulty in pressing on the acceptance of the House a proposition which two years ago had been so referred; but his hon. and learned Friend took the bull by the horns, and boldly said he doubted the competency of the Committee to take this question into consideration. At one time it was proposed to reduce the municipal franchise in the Irish boroughs to the same level as the Parliamentary franchise; but the proposal now before the House was to reduce it far below that level. It was an odd thing that although a Bill on that subject was introduced in 1876, it was not re-introduced last year. The reason was, that it was perfectly well understood that no action could be properly taken on the subject until the Report of the Committee was obtained. The Committee had given a direction to the evidence they had elicited with the object of forming an opinion upon that question. Not only had the Committee not reported upon the subject; but, he believed, they had not concluded the taking of evidence upon that very point. He thought there were 16 sub-divisions headed "Franchise" in the Report of the evidence taken in 1876, and about eight sub-divisions in the Report of the evidence taken in 1877, on the very subject with which that Bill proposed to deal. Out of all the witnesses that had been examined only four were in favour of the proposals of this Bill. The other witnesses who gave evidence in favour of the reduction of the muni- 815 cipal franchise in Ireland were in favour of balancing it with some safeguard, for this very sound reason — that unless something of the land were done, owing to the unfortunate social conditions of Ireland, a vast preponderance of electoral power would fall into the hands of the poorest classes, who contributed a very small proportion of the rates which were levied. He was not against adding to the municipal franchise; but he was against a crude measure of that kind, divested of any safeguard or balance. He was not going into the question whether political subjects should be considered by corporations. He had no objection to corporations discussing, fairly and with moderation, when they had time and inclination, and did not in any way neglect their more immediate and more important duties, political questions, and forwarding Petitions to Parliament in favour of those political conclusions at which they had arrived; but he objected to the Lord Mayor and Corporation of Dublin engaging in such work when the smell from the neglected River Liffey was almost intolerable. ["No, no!"] The remembrance of the state of that river had been impressed upon his olfactory nerves in a most disagreeable way. The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had been examined before the Committee; and on the subject of the Corporation of Dublin, he stated his firm conviction that, on the whole, that corporation did its business efficiently; but he said that he would be prepared to make concessions to the class of property holders. They could not afford to introduce such a wholesale municipal franchise without some safeguard. In such a city as Dublin, for instance, if the Bill passed, the number of municipal electors would be raised from 5,500 to something like 16,000. He wanted distinctly to tell English and Scotch Members opposite who might be disposed to vote for the Bill, to recollect that he and those who held views similar to his were not at all opposed to municipal corporations, or to enlargement of their municipal constituencies; but to recollect that this particular question amongst others had been submitted to a Committee which was now taking evidence on the subject. They were not asking them to refuse reform. Nothing of the kind. They 816 were simply asking them to wait until they had the Report of the Committee before them, and were able to decide what should be the nature of the reform they desired. He would like to have the full Report of the influential Committee before he came to a conclusion on the subject. He was most desirous there should be some reform not only in this respect, but in others concerning the municipal corporations of Ireland; but he must repeat it would be very unusual and inconvenient for the House to tie its hands upon a subject on which a Committee was sitting upstairs. He should certainly support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carlow.
§ MR. M. BROOKS
asked if the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) wished to contend that a constituency of between 5,000 and 6,000 persons in a population of over 300,000 was too large? Did he state to the House that property at present was not amply represented in the corporation, or did he pretend to state to the House that the ratepayers, numerically, were adequately represented in the corporation? He (Mr. Brooks) would admit it was not a perfect institution; but he ventured to say that if they could carry out one of the objects contemplated by the Bill—namely, to extend the constituency, and thereby bring in a larger and more popular element to the corporation—they would find as a consequence that the condition of the river and the streets would be better attended to. He denied that the corporation was in any respect a nest of jobbery. He had not heard that anyone had had the courage to make such a statement outside of that House. No doubt slanders had been uttered against the corporation—Slander, a poison of the deadliest kind,Found easy access to the ignoble mind.He found on entering that body that many of those slanders were wholly unfounded. They had inherited the debts of the Corporation of Dublin of 200 years ago, and they had inherited, too, some of their faults. They were now anxious, if they could, to remove the last vestige of ascendancy which prevailed in the Dublin Corporation, and that the real wants of the ratepayers should receive greater consideration than was given to them at present. What, he asked, were 817 the objections to the Bill? Was it urged as an objection that owing to the extension of the number of electors, the poorer class would elect poorer members, and by their admission cause the corporation to pursue a parsimonious policy, or, on the other hand, an extravagant one? He denied that that would be the result; and directed the attention of the House to the fact that when it was proposed to borrow from the Government £600,000 for the purpose of cleansing the River Liffey, the poorer class of Dublin resisted the loan; because, although they were of opinion that the cleansing of the river would be advantageous, they could not see their way in their poverty to the re-payment of the money. The present Corporation of Dublin had obtained a loan of money which had enabled them to provide a better supply of water than was enjoyed by any other city in the world. Indeed, they could not be too highly commended in that respect, for he did not think there was a finer supply of water than that obtained by this much maligned corporation. He was himself of opinion that an alteration in the franchise in Dublin would attract a large number of those whose administrative ability would tend to the more economical and frugal use of its funds, and that greater satisfaction would arise in the minds of those who now complained that the condition of the city was not such as they desired. 80 long, he said, as dissatisfaction and inequality prevailed, so long would there be political debate in the Corporation of Dublin.
thought the proper business of the Corporation of Dublin was to attend to the administration of the city. There was no city in the world which was more heavily taxed than Dublin. ["No, no!"] He hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite were satisfied with the taxation; but he confessed that if he were called upon to pay such taxes he should feel rather dissatisfied. The Corporation of Dublin appeared, as at present constituted, to claim the right, as hon. Gentlemen opposite claimed, to represent the people of Ireland, and they now attempted to lower the stratum of those by whom municipal representatives were to be chosen. He (Mr. Macartney), however, thought that until the Committee which was sitting upstairs had 818 reported, no legislation should take place on the subject. Otherwise, the House would not be treating their own Committee with due consideration.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA,
as a Member of the Committee, said they had yet to report on matters connected with the subject of the Bill; but it needed no Report of a Committee to point out to him that it was essential to the peace and happiness of the people of Ireland that they should have, in respect to the government of their towns, the same place in the Constitution, and the same municipal franchises, as their English fellow-subjects. The ordinary class of arguments had been urged against the Bill. It had been said that it was not advisable to introduce a new and extensive class of electors taken from a lower stratum of the population. That was a figure of speech invented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) when sitting for Calne; but it had now been completely falsified by events. For instance, that very argument was used against Earl Russell's Reform Bill; but the noble Earl who was now at the head of the Government shortly afterwards brought in a Reform Bill which went even further down in the social scale, and enfranchised every householder in the boroughs of England. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) asked if they found that the Conservatives had been injured by the Reform Bill, and whether the argument as to the danger of constituting a new stratum had not been falsified? He had sufficient dependence upon the poorer classes of Ireland to believe that they would not, any more than the people of England, rush into the ranks of revolution or be carried away by extravagance. They were all judges of character, and they knew to whom to look for support; they certainly would not, in the management of their affairs, go to needy men for advice, or to represent them. It would be an unfortunate thing that the Bill, which recommended itself so much to the intelligence of the public, was not read a second time that day.
said, the old instructions to a barrister—"no case, abuse the plaintiff's attorney," applied in this; for hon. Gentlemen opposite, having no case, had received instructions to abuse the Corporation of Dublin, and 819 the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) had carried out those instructions with his usual ability. He was very sorry, for he thought it a sad and deplorable circumstance, that the House should be encumbered in that discussion with an attack on the character and proceedings of the Corporation of Dublin, when they had to consider a glaring anomaly and an utterly indefensible institution. Not one hon. Member had attempted to justify the existing anomaly and injustice —that one law should prevail on one side of the Channel as regarded municipal qualification, and a heavy exaction be laid on the poorer country. Under it, a man living in Liverpool would have a vote; but the same man, be he Tom Casey or Pat Murphy, or whoever he might be, crossing over to Dublin, would have no vote at all. The offence of the corporation was that it had passed resolutions, and presented Petitions on political subjects, and had not cleaned the Liffey, and it had been said that it ought not to interfere in politics. He wished, however, to remind the House that the Corporation of London only very recently passed a resolution on the Eastern Question; and in his opinion, if the Corporation of Dublin came up to the Bar of that House with a resolution approving of the Government's action on the Bulgarian Question, their proceedings would have been greatly approved by Gentlemen opposite. It was because the politics in which they mingled did not agree with the Government, that all this abuse of the Corporation of Dublin was indulged in. The old Corporation of Dublin, who caroused and toasted William III., made no rates, but they left debts to their successors which were still a millstone about their neck. The hon. Member for Carlow had made a statement on a subject of which he was profoundly ignorant when he referred to the extravagance of the Corporation of Dublin, and spoke of that corporation as a "nest of jobbery and corruption."
was glad to hear that disclaimer, for it was entirely in accordance with the reputation of the hon. Member. He (Mr. Sullivan) had been a member of that corporation, and he must say he knew no public body 820 which on the whole was more free from such an accusation.
said, he was not going into the question of all the corporations of Ireland. That was not the question before the House. But, as the Corporation of Dublin had been blamed for not having the streets paved in a proper manner, he begged to say that that was owing to a want of money— and why had it not money? They had at one time magnificent property, which would have made the most beautiful and the most cleanly city in the world; but who held that property? Why, in those true blue days, when oligarchy owned the city, they awarded to some political partizan a lease for 999 years, at a rent of 10 pairs of gloves per annum, one whole side of College Green, which would let for thousands of pounds, and for two pairs of gloves three sides of Stephen's Green, which would fetch he did not know how many thousands of pounds, and some other property was given away under like conditions to the Blue Coat School. The city of Dublin was entitled to 100 pairs of gloves instead of £100,000, or certamly£50,000. That was why Dublin was poor and struggling with difficulties. It was not bankrupt, for its credit was high. The moment the Corporation of Dublin proposed to cleanse the Liffey, there was a yell that the people were to be saddled with half-a-million of debts. The man who cried "no rates" would beat any man in the Kingdom with a certain section of the people of Dublin. But seriously he hoped that they were not going to perpetuate a glaring anomaly and a real injustice by such arguments.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Sullivan), asked whether a measure which he considers one of simple justice to Ireland will be rejected on the grounds of the position of the Corporation of Dublin? Now, Sir, I can assure him, so far as the Government are concerned, that no matters connected with the Corporation of Dublin have had any weight whatever with us as to the decision we have arrived at. The few observations with which I shall trouble the House will be directed to a ground which, I think, without respect to Party, we can all agree upon—namely, 821 the ground of objection to the further proceeding with the Bill at the present time. It has been observed already that the subject dealt with in the Bill has been referred to a Select Committee of this House. Now, it has always been the practice of the House to extend what I may call not only consideration, but deference to Committees appointed by the House; and what I would ask the House to consider is, whether the course which the promoters of this Bill now ask us to pursue, of reading this Bill a second time, would be treating a Committee of this House with that deference which we ought to extend to it? As some misconception seems to exist upon the subject, I would wish to remind the House that this is a difficult subject, and its exact condition has been, and is now, under the consideration of a Select Committee of this House. I would also wish to remind them of the facts and proceedings of the Committee and of its appointment, premising that the subject is connected with a great number of others relating to the government of towns generally in Ireland. It was appointed in 1868, and the Order of Reference was in these terms—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the operation in Ireland of the following statutes:—9 George IV., cap. 82; 3 and 4 Vic, cap. 108; and 17 and 18 Vic., cap. 103, and the Acts altering and amending the same; and to report whether any and what alterations are advisable in the law relating to local government and taxation of cities and towns in that part of the United Kingdom.Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) apparently is under the impression that it was not within the competence of that Committee to consider the question as dealt with in this Bill. The 3 & 4 Vict., better known as the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act, was certainly an Act which would give full power to inquire into the franchise. What did the Committee do? It proceeded to hold sittings, and on the 11th of July, after 20 of those sittings, it reported as follows:—Your Committee has proceeded in a certain extent in the inquiries which the Order appointing them directed them to pursue. Several witnesses have been examined, and certain progress has been made by your Committee, who report that the material portion of their inquiries would be more advantageously and conveniently taken by a local investigation into the circum- 822 stances of the several towns in which municipal bodies exist under any of the statutes mentioned in the Order of Reference, to ascertain the facts connected with property and revenues of such municipal bodies, the rates levied by them for municipal and sanitary purposes, and the mode in which such property, rates, and revenue are applied. Believing that if the results of a local inquiry were laid before them, it would facilitate the investigation, we have come to the conclusion, after having heard evidence, to recommend the re-appointment of the Committee next Session.The Commission to which the Committee referred was in due course appointed. Pursuant to the above Report, the Lord Lieutenant issued his warrant, dated August31, 1876, appointing Mr. Uvedale Corbett, late an Inspector under the Local Government Board, England; Mr. Edmund Lawless, and Mr. W. Exham, Q.C., both of the Irish Bar, Commissioners, to make local inquiry into "the several matters and things specified in the above Report." They fully justified the anticipations formed of them, and were duly qualified for their post. They were ordered to report before January 15, 1877. On February 15 these Commissioners issued the first volume of their Report. It extended to 32 towns, in which the Commissioners had held investigations. In fact, they had sat almost without interruption. This Report contained 550 pages and 68 appendices. The Commissioners soon afterwards issued Part 2 of their Report. It related solely to the towns of Belfast, Trim, and Wicklow. Part 3 was dated the 28th of June, 1877. It extended to 19 towns, and was followed by a Supplement relating solely to Kingstown and Dalkey. On the 6th of April, 1877, the Select Committee was re-appointed. Several hon. Gentlemen appear to be under the impression that although the Committee had power to go into a variety of matters connected with the subject, they did not avail themselves of that privilege. But what was the case? In 1876,1 find that the Committee which the hon. and learned Member for Kildare considers is incompetent to deal with the subject, turned their attention to the following subjects:—The qualification of the municipal franchise in Dublin as regards rates.That is certainly a matter germane to the question.The qualifications as regards residence within 20 miles of Dublin and the extent of the burgess roads.823 I am simply quoting this to show that the Committee fully discharged its duty in the terms which were urged on it, and it had actually gone into these subjects which it is now proposed to be taken out of their hands by the promoters of the measure now before the House. They also went into the system of objections for property qualification, and took evidence on that point, and on the addition of owners to the franchise. They also took evidence against this, and went into the suggested exclusion of occupiers of houses under £4 rates, the very subject we are now discussing—the proposed enfranchisement of female occupiers. That is a subject which was dealt with in an able and humorous manner by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduced the Bill (Major O'Gorman). Then there was a question as to the non-residential occupancy franchise, the question of facilitation of payment of taxes, the suggested enfranchisement of occupiers of offices— in fact, they went into discussions and details of every kind regarding the qualifications for the municipal franchise. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen who, in ignorance of these facts, have committed themselves to the approval of the Bill, really to re-consider their position when these facts are brought forward. Now, having brought the Committee down to their appointment in 1877, what did they do? They had 20 sittings, they heard additional evidence, and on the 20th of July, 1877, they reported—That they had taken further evidence …and recommend the re-appointment of the Committee in the next Session for the purpose of considering their report. Your Committee are of opinion that they would he in a better position to arrive at a correct decision as to the best system of local government and taxation for towns in Ireland if they had before them full information regarding the existing state of local government throughout that country—viz., 1, Existing limits of local government, areas, local authorities; 2, matters which are locally administered; 3, local taxation.And they recommended the appointment of a competent person to do the work. Accordingly, on the 8th of October, 1877, the Lords Justices appointed Mr. William O'Brien, Local Government Board Inspector, to make such a Report. His Report was dated the 10th of January last, and was only delivered within the last few days. In the present year what has happened? The Select Committee 824 was re-appointed about 10 days ago, and stood adjourned until the 24th or 25th of the month. All the labour of the Committee and of the Commissioners will be thrown away if a Bill dealing with a fragment of the whole subject, relating to 11 towns only, is now to be pressed forward. The hon. Member for Youghal has intimated that the Committee would be delighted to continue their labours for an indefinite time. Well, it is not in my power, even if it were in Order, or if I was inclined to pry into the proceedings of Committees during the present Session when they have not yet reported, to say anything on the subject; but if the ordinary rumour, which it is impossible altogether to ignore, is not more than usually inaccurate, the Report is not likely to be indefinitely deferred. In fact, the Committee has, at its own request, been re-appointed for the express purpose, not of hearing evidence, but to draw up its Report. And what I do put to the House is this—whether now, that these facts have been brought before you, it is fair, after the Committee has expended considerable labour—has held during two successive Sessions 30 sittings in each—whether, having re-appointed the special Commission, having conducted the special local inquiry for the express purpose of considering and drawing up their Report, is it right for Parliament to anticipate the presentation of that Report by prejudging an important—certainly one of the most important—questions which have been committed to its care? Of the merits or demerits of the Bill I will say nothing. If I had to deal with the Bill, I might have a good deal to say. I appeal to the House to adhere to the invariable practice of Parliament, and not to prejudge a question which, as I have stated, has been one which has engaged considerably the attention of this Committee.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 160; Noes 165: Majority 5.—(Div. List, No. 42.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.