HC Deb 06 August 1896 vol 43 cc1657-65

The said copy of the revised lists shall be delivered by the Revising Barristers to the Town Clerk, and shall be and be deemed to be the Burgess Roll of the burgesses of the city entitled to vote at elections of Aldermen and Councillors of the city, and the same shall be printed by the Town Clerk, and shall for all purposes whatsoever be deemed to be substituted for the list of burgesses referred to in the forty-seventh section of the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840.


, in moving to leave out Clauses 15 to 18 inclusive, said that if he succeeded in his Motion nearly the whole of Part III. of the Bill would disappear. He maintained that the Committee had gone beyond the instructions given by the House. As introduced, the Bill was an extremely simple and short proposal, merely asking the right to carry out by law an agreement with the various townships of Dublin, to charge them for the excess of water taken. Originally, one of his colleagues in the representation of Dublin, wishing to give their constituencies a franchise in the widest sense, presented at the Table an Instruction for the extension of the franchise. That Instruction, he was informed, was ruled out of order, and he believed properly so. But the Instruction which was refused from the hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division seemed to have been accepted afterwards when moved by the hon. Member for North Louth. Following on that Instruction was a second Instruction, wide in its scope and general in its terms, including almost every officer of the Corporation. The Instruc- tion gave power to make provision for an amendment of the law as to the election and tenure of office of aldermen, councillors, and assessors, and as to the appointment and tenure of office of any officers annually elected by the Corporation, or appointed by any persons nominated by the Corporation. This was so wide in character, so general in its terms, and far-reaching, that it would be perfectly possible for the Committee upstairs to consider whether the chaplain whom the Lord Mayor appointed, his secretary or coachman might not be made permanent officers of the Corporation. As a matter of fact, one of the officers who obtained a permanent appointment under that Instruction had no connection in an official capacity with the Corporation.


asked whether the hon. Member was speaking on the omission of Clause 15 or the question to omit Part III?


said the hon. Member would not be in order unless he was moving the omission of Part III. generally.


said all the objectionable clauses to which he referred were dependent on the franchise clause. If the House decided to strike out the franchise clause, it would be in a position to deal with the Bill as originally introduced, and it would secure a safe passage; elsewhere. No one who had read the observations elsewhere of the Earl of Morley could fail to see——


Is the hon. Member in order in discussing the franchise clause?


The hon. Member is not in order in referring to proceedings in another House.


said he was following the example of the Leader of the House the other day. If by his Motion he appeared to be restricting the franchise to his own constituents, and if he was supported by his colleagues in the representation of the city, it was not because they had any fear of the extension, but because he believed that this system of engrafting the franchise on private Bills was calculated to deter persons coming forward in the promotion of private Bills. He believed it to be a vicious principle, and, if persevered in with regard to this Bill, it would bring it to ruin elsewhere. The franchise provisions which had been drafted in connection with this Bill were rude and clumsy. They were absolutely unworkable. The promoters of this Bill had, in a series of rough-and-ready clauses, thrown together different franchises. There was a general provision that the registration law for Parliamentary purposes should apply also in respect of municipal purposes in Dublin. But rough-and-ready clauses like these could not effect the object for which they were intended. As to Sub-section 4 of Section 16, the whole registration law of 50 years had been crammed into it. The sub-section would take away from the Court of Queen's Bench the jurisdiction which it at present exercised in restoring to the Burgess Roll burgesses whose names had been wrongfully struck off. Under the schedules of the Parliamentary Registration Acts there were forms of objection to names proposed to be put on the Parliamentary Roll. These same forms were supposed to be capable of being used under the rough-and-ready clauses of this Bill in the case of claimants to the municipal vote. They would not, however, be really applicable, and it would be impossible to sustain objections in the Revision Courts. He was not opposed to a proper extension of the franchise, but he objected to these clauses because they were offensive to the municipality and burgesses of Dublin, who had not been given an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon them. He might be told that the general body of the citizens were in favour of this change, but he maintained that it was to those who were already in possession of the municipal franchise that the right belonged of pronouncing judgment upon a Bill of this kind. He appealed to the House to refuse to assent to proposals of this kind in a private Bill.


said that in the case of Derry, the House had already this year extended, by means of a private Bill, the municipal franchise to those who possessed the Parliamentary vote. The Derry Improvement Bill had now received the sanction of the House of Lords. What the Bill before the House provided was that all persons within the municipal area of Dublin who possessed the Parliamentary franchise should also enjoy the municipal franchise, certain freeholders and leaseholders in the county of the city of Dublin, but not in the city simplicites, being excluded. His hon. Friend said that there would be great difficulty in making up the Municipal and Parliamentary Roll, but at this hour the Parliamentary and municipal franchise lists were made up together in England, and there was no difficulty about the matter. Last year that practice was embodied in a Bill that passed through the House of Commons, and his hon. Friend who was on the Grand Committee who considered that Bill took no objection to the franchise, the only objection raised by him being that the Measure would extend the franchise to women. The hon. Member's argument that this Bill must cause complications and difficulties seemed, therefore, to be disposed of. His proposal was simply to extend the English law to the case of Dublin, so as to give the people of Dublin the same advantages as the people of England enjoyed. There were precedents for legislating in this way in a private Bill. In 1883 the same thing was done in the Rathmines Bill; and in 1893 in the Blackrock Drainage Bill, and this Session franchise clauses had been inserted in private Bills concerning Derry, Belfast, Drogheda, and Waterford. The real reason of his hon. and learned Friend's objection to the franchise clauses of the present Bill was that they provided for a minority representation. At present the Conservatives held 11 seats out of 60 on the Dublin Corporation, while under this Bill they would have 20 out of 60 seats. That was the sole objection which existed to his franchise clause. There was nothing better for preventing a Corporation from falling into mismanagement than the existence of a good stout party of opposition.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

said he had no wish to go into the merits of the Bill, but what he thought the House ought to consider was whether it was convenient to the House at large or calculated to contribute to the good conduct of the business of the House that these controversial matters affecting the political franchise should be introduced into private Bills. In days gone by all private Bills were dealt with on the floor of the House, but that was found to be an intolerable nuisance, and the practice was abolished, and the principle of referring private Bills to Committees upstairs was established. There was no principle more strongly insisted on in the composition of Private Bill Committees, than that, as far as possible, the subjects that came before them should be approached in a judicial spirit and apart from all political feeling. The House would at once see that if questions involving keen political contests were to be relegated to Committees upstairs, those Committees would not be allowed to decide such questions. They were sure to be reopened in the Whole House, and the House could not fail to see the grave inconvenience of such a practice. The result of bringing such matters on to the floor of the House was that they were no longer dealt with in a judicial spirit. The question involved in the provisions now under discussion had not been dealt with by Parliament in its strict sense, and therefore hon. Members brought these provisions forward in private Bills as a substitute for the consideration of the whole question by Parliament; and thus, by a retrogade step, the consideration of private Bills was being brought back to the floor of the House. To show there was no very great accord on this subject, they had Members representing the various sections of the Irish Party differing upon it. He hoped the House would put its foot down and reject these clauses, by way of emphasising its intention not to allow private Bill legislation to be mixed up with political matters of this kind.


said that when the right hon. Gentleman opposite complained of these clauses being introduced into a private Bill, he must have forgotten the history of this question in Parliament. The Irish Members regretted very much that it should be necessary to introduce proposals in a private Bill. But who was to blame? The blame rested with Parliament, which had shown itself incapable or unwilling to deal with the question. If the House of Lords had allowed the House of Commons to assimilate the law in this respect in Ireland to that in Great Britain, this inconvenient course need not have been adopted. But when the ordinary channels through which justice might be obtained were blocked, it was only natural that hon. Members should have recourse to any means which might offer themselves in order to obtain these privileges for the municipal electors in Ireland. He therefore thought there was no force whatever in the right hon. Gentleman's objection. The right hon. Gentleman had drawn attention to the difference of opinion in the ranks of the Irish Party. That was often the case on private Bills. He himself was opposed to the Motion to omit these franchise clauses. He objected to jerrymandering the city of Dublin, and he objected to an artificial system which was not applied to any other city being applied to the city of Dublin.

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

rose to support the Motion of the hon. Member for the Louth Division. He had intended to vote for the clause if he had been fortunate enough to introduce his Amendment to give the franchise to women; but as he was not able to do that, he should vote against the clause.


desired to know how it was that this notice of Motion was in order, seeing that a similar notice of Motion that he had put down upon another Bill had been ruled out of order.


The hon. Member is referring to a matter which has nothing to do with this question. The only question before the House is whether Clauses 15 to 18 shall stand part of the Bill.


repeated that he had been told that a similar notice put down by him was out of order. He was himself in favour of the extension of the franchise, and Clause 15 had his entire approbation; but there were other clauses attached to it which undoubtedly took away the value of the franchise clause. He would appeal to Conservative Members on the opposite Benches, who were finding fault with the course now being taken, to ask the Government to bring in a Bill to equalise the franchise in Ireland with that of England.


said that as a Member of the Committee which considered the Bill in the first instance he desired to explain his position. The hon. Member for the Harbour Division objected to the inclusion of these clauses on the ground that he had not had sufficient notice.


No. Because they were not submitted according to the Standing Orders of this House to a meeting of the citizens of Dublin.


said he understood the hon. Member to say that the matter was sprung upon the citizens of Dublin. However, if he desired to recede from that position he (Mr. Farrell) did not object. They could discount pretty readily the professions of the hon. Member in favour of extending the franchise in the widest sense when the three clauses which would do so as widely and generally as any other Act could do, were the subjects of the Motion which he now made to the House. He (Mr. Farrell) thought it would be bad treatment on the part of the House towards the first Committee as well as towards the Committee which considered the Bill on the second occasion if the House was now to go back on a decision, which he might say was unanimously arrived at on the second occasion. The position of the hon. Member for the Harbour Division was one that nothing could satisfy. Alone he stood out in opposition to the other Members of the City of Dublin, because on the second occasion at all events it was quite clear that none of them thought fit to put in an appearance before the Committee. The position was quite clear. They had an opportunity of giving to the citizens of Dublin a franchise clause without any extra cost whatever. The hon. member for the Harbour Division spoke of the Bill to be introduced next year, but he had elicited from the Lord Mayor that that was to be an omnibus Bill. Why should objection not be taken to the inclusion of the franchise in that Bill on the same ground as it was taken in the present case. The decision of the Committee after careful consideration ought to be upheld by the House.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

said the contention of the hon. Member who had just sat down seemed intensely ridiculous—that because Members of a certain Committee took trouble with the consideration of a Bill therefore the House was to abrogate its function of deciding as to the merits of the Bill. But he had risen for the purpose of making an appeal for his hon. and learned Friend not to press the Motion to a division. The view he took was this—he was strongly in favour, as he believed all sections of Nationalists were, of the extension of the franchise to the bulk of the people, and he did not sympathise at all with the right hon. Member for Thanet in his complaint as to the inconvenience of the course of tacking on this clause to a private Bill. Of course that course was inconvenient. It was almost an improper one, but it had been rendered necessary by the persistent obstinacy of Parliament in refusing to redress a grievance which was admitted by all sections and all parties. Long ago, by universal consent, a Bill ought to have been passed into law assimilating the franchise for municipal purposes in Great Britain and Ireland. That had not been done, and the result had been that they had been forced to take advantage of these illegitimate opportunities, if they liked so to call them, of getting the franchise extended piece-meal to different parts of Ireland. He succeeded on a similar Bill for the city of Waterford in getting the franchise extended, and it would therefore be ridiculous for him to take up the position that an opportunity of this kind should not be seized upon to extend the franchise whenever they could. The position of his hon. and learned Friend was perfectly intelligible. He was in favour of the extension of the franchise, but what he objected to was that the extension of the franchise in this Bill had been coupled with an interference with the mode of election and other matters of that kind, such as there was no precedent for with regard to any of the private Bills in which the franchise had been extended up to the present. In taking up that position his hon. Friend had behind him the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Dublin and therefore he was perfectly justified in his action. On the question of minority representation it would be improper and out of order to say anything at that stage; so far as the principle was concerned and were it extended all over Ireland, he would be the last to say a word against it. His hon. Friend's position was, that he objected to the franchise proposed to be extended in Dublin, being hampered in the particular case of Dublin to the exclusion of the rest of the country by certain clauses providing for minority representation. That was a perfectly plain and intelligible position, but the particular Motion which his hon. Friend had moved was to strike out those clauses which dealt with the extension of the franchise alone. Therefore, he would suggest to his hon. Friend, as he was of the same view as himself with regard to the extension of the franchise, that he should allow these clauses to pass without a Division, and reserve his opposition for the subsequent clauses which dealt with the creation of this artificial mode of election.


asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19,—