Amendment proposed, on page 2, line 37, after "sessions," insert—
§ MR. LOUGH
This is an Amendment which I do not intend to enter into at any length. It occurred to me that the business of these county councils had not been sufficiently defined in the Bill. I believe there "is some definition, but I am sure the Government have some reason for leaving out a full and ample definition—such a definition as occurs in the English County Councils' Act. The clauses which I have set out in my Amendment are not my own clauses—I should like the Committee to understand 1436 that. They are simply taken out of the English Act, leaving only those points which I understand the Government to object to introduce into Ireland. I have included nothing about the police, nor about any disputed subject so far as I can make out. The question raised by the Amendment is whether it is desirable to define more fully the powers which these Irish counties will possess. I think myself it is very desirable that it should. The Bill is short almost to a fault, and there is a great absence of proper definition as to what the council will really have to do. The first three paragraphs of the Amendment deal with the financial business of the councils simply, and I think it is admitted that that business will fall upon the county councils. Then the question of county property is dealt with. I cannot find a clause in the Bill which transfers the county property to the county councils. I am told that the point is fully covered in the Bill. If so, I did not notice it.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
What the honourable Member has done is simply to take into his Amendment the definition of duties comprised in the English Act, but I will call his attention to the terms of this Section—Subject to the provisions of this Act there shall be transferred to the council of each county all the business of the grand jury not excepted by this section.The reason why it was necessary in the English Act, to enumerate the duties which are transferred from Quarter Sessions to county councils was this: that the Quarter Sessions was a court in which there were a great many things done, and that enumeration of the duties of the county council was necessary under those circumstances; but here, in this Bill, we simply transfer the whole of the duties of the grand jury to the county councils with a few exceptions.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 2, line 38, leave out from 'shall' to 'have,' in line 39."—(Colonel Waring.)
§ COLONEL T. WARING (Down, N.)
Sir, it has been contended by previous speakers that, whatever may have been the defects of grand juries with regard to constitution, their work was well and efficiently done. It appears to me that, if it was necessary to obtain a power to protect the public from any mistake made by the grand jury, or any action if theirs, it is no less necessary that that power should be retained. These new bodies will be untried, and it is necessary to make sure that they will be equally just and fair in the way in which they administer the affairs of the county. I cannot conceive any reason why this power should not be renewed, and I think it would be very simple to make such arrangements as will give a proper court in some other manner. I beg, therefore, to move.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
It is quite obvious that the acceptance of this Amendment would have the result of practically paralysing the action of the county councils. It would restrain them in a great many directions. In the first place it would establish a check on their proceedings, and in the next place the county councils would have to satisfy the requirements of the Local Government Board. A far more efficient control could be exercised either by way of mandamus to compel them to do what they ought to do, or by way of injunction to restrain them from doing what they ought not to do. I therefore think that to adopt the Amendment of my honourable and gallant Friend would simply be to create an unnecessary control which would paralyse the action of the county council.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1438
Page 3, line 5, after the second 'any,' insert 'such.'"—(Mr. J. J. Clancy.)
§ MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
I have merely put this Amendment on the Paper for the purpose of asking the meaning of the phrase.
§ MR. ATKINSON
The grand jury is the grand inquest of the county, and this has been put in the Bill for more abounding caution, that it should preserve to the grand jury any business which they have to do of a criminal character, whether given by common law or by statute law.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Oh yes! Because the business of the grand jury is any business connected with indictment, and that covers every possible contingency that may arise.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
May I suggest that some qualifying word should be added? I apprehend that all business of the grand jury at common law must be business relating to criminal matters. I understand that originally the grand jury exercised a jurisdiction which they still exercise, to undertake an inquest into the commission of any criminal act; in fact, doing very much what the police do now. That work is wholly done by the police in this country, and that work will continue to be done by the grand juries in Ireland, and it is one of the businesses of the grand jury at common law. The words in the Bill are not very clear. Would the right honourable Gentleman have any objection to this Amendment: "Any criminal business or any business relating to criminal cases or matters," or something of that kind?
§ MR. CLANCY
Of course, I have no objection to withdrawing my Amendment. My object in putting it on the Paper was to ascertain the meaning of the words. If the common law business of the grand jury is that which only relates to criminal business, of course, any formal words that will carry out the intention will satisfy me.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 3, leave out line 7."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
MR. T. M. HEALY
I think it is quite clear that these words must come out. There are three occasions on which it is absolutely essential that the county council shall be at liberty to administer the oath. One would be under the Tramways Act. Supposing a proposal came before them to acquire a tramway, it would be necessary that they should have power to take a statement upon oath. Under the Bill as it stands they could not swear sureties for contracts. So that, while you are going to be very firm about contracts, when a man is going to provide surety for £5 or £5,000,000, you do not give the power to swear the surety. Then there is a third argument which, I think, goes still further. There are a number of cases in which notices must be given, in order to show whether a contract has been passed, and surely a man should be able to prove service, and you must swear the process-server, to show that these notices have been served, and yet this Bill as it now stands would leave the county council without the smallest one of these protections, which the grand jury possesses every time it sits. Really it is carrying your suspicion of your own children to a very remarkable extent.
§ MR. ATKINSON
It is not required by corporations, and it is not required by the county councils, in the conducting of their business. Under the Grand Jurors Act, the only sections 1440 dealing with questions, as apart from criminal duties, is that which refers to the surveyor, where it is provided that he must prove to the satisfaction of the council that he is indisposed, in order that he may appoint a substitute; and that section is unique. The 76th Section really provides for the verification by affidavit of the accounts. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than having their sureties sworn, as their solvency, and that would be the most unsatisfactory of all. Rules will be drawn up enabling contractors to give security, either by insurance or indemnity, or through some indemnity insurance fund; but it is most undesirable to place in the hands of the county council any power to administer an oath. It is entirely unnecessary, and had better be dispensed with.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I submit to the right honourable Gentleman that this Bill does not change it, for it leaves it absolutely intact; at least, that is what I submit, at any rate. If the existing county system is left intact, as this Bill leaves it, then the power is indispensable. The right honourable Gentleman has said it is undesirable that grand jurors should have this power, and this Bill only takes away that power from the grand juror. But, Mr. Lowther, the grand jury is only one body, and we also have to deal with the presentment sessions, and these bodies have power to administer an oath. Now the business of the presentment sessions is transferred to the district councils, and in transferring that the right honourable Gentleman has not taken this into account. As it stands, the district council, to which the powers of the presentment sessions are transferred, have all the former powers of these presentment sessions, including the power to administer an oath. But when the right honourable Gentleman comes to distinguish between the grand jury and the county council, he takes away from the county council the power of administering an oath, but he leaves it to the district council. Well, now, Mr. Lowther, that is only one reason. The Bill as it stands leaves the Irish county contracting system absolutely intact. Now the right honourable and 1441 learned Gentleman has referred to the Orders in Council. Now, I have read those Orders, and all they do is to change the contract system so that it allows the boundary of a county to be taken. When the contractor follows the ordinary form followed at present, of bringing up two sureties, the business must be done under the Order as it stands, exactly as it is done at present. What is done at present is this: the presentment sessions sits on two days the original sitting and the adjourned sitting. At the original sitting it decides whether the work shall be undertaken. If the work is to be undertaken, contracts are to be invited. It is provided that the contract should be advertised, and tenders invited for the work. At the adjourned sitting these tenders are considered, and it is absolutely necessary, if the contractor is to succeed in getting his tender accepted, that he must appear at the adjourned sessions, and that he must appear with two sureties. It is a portion of the business of the adjourned session, at present, to hear these sureties, to hear the contractor, and examine into their insolvency. One of the commonest tricks of road contractors is to send in two tenders—one in the name of the contractor and the other in the name of a friend. Now, that is possible under the existing system, and that is done at present. But suppose you put the parties on their oath. You ask a contractor, "Is this contract for yourself?" I do not know whether the obligation of an oath is always a very perfect protection. Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. At any rate, it is only by these investigations on oath that at present you can arrive at the truth of the matter, and ascertain whether it is a bonâ fide tender or not. And, similarly, when you examine whether the sureties are solvent, the way you proceed to do it is to examine them on their oath, and that is the only way which the present law provides. I say this: that unless the Government is prepared to do what they have not done up to the present—namely, to accompany the present contract system in Irish counties, with the power of administering an oath, the system will fall, for it is absolutely necessary that both presentment sessions and grand juries shall have the power of examining both contractors and their sureties on 1442 oath. Well, there is another point, Mr. Lowther. In addition to presentments for works there are presentments for payment. At these presentments for payment it is the business of the sessions and the business of the grand jury to investigate whether the work has been adequately done; whether, in the case of a maintenance contract, the road has been kept, in repair; and in the case of new works, whether they have been efficiently done. The way which the Grand Juries Act prescribes to have that matter investigated is to have it tried in a court of law, and for that purpose both presentment sessions and grand juries are constituted courts of law. Then proceedings are conducted like courts of law; they hear advocates on both sides and examine witnesses. It may not be considered desirable, but I am in favour of having county works done by a county staff. But the counties in Ireland, if they observe this law, cannot have a county staff. Now, what I submit to the committee is this: if you wish to preserve the existing contract system, the only way in which you can preserve it is by giving to the new bodies the same power which you gave to the old—that is, power to examine contractors and their sureties on oath.
§ MR. ATKINSON
By an Order in Council, Clause lxii., page 23, Subsection 3, this work will be carried out under rules and regulations to be drawn up.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
Then, why should this provision, taking away the power to administer an oath, be inserted at all?
§ Sin T. G. ESMONDE
There is one matter which my honourable Friend has not alluded to, and that is in reference to disputed contracts. How are you going to decide the question of disputed contracts if you have no power to put the parties on oath? You cannot do it.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I apologise for again trespassing on the time of the Committee, but the Order in Council which the right honourable Gentleman refers to, instead of making matters any 1443 clearer, makes confusion worse confounded. The Bill proceeds to abolish the power of taking an oath, and the Order in Council simply leaves it in doubt whether you can administer an oath or not. It provides that—Where any powers, duties, and liabilities are to be exercised or discharged in say presentment sessions by taking an oath or affidavit at any particular sessions or meeting, or subject to any other conditions, the county or district council or guardians may exercise and discharge such powers, duties, and liabilities when in presentment sessions after taking a statutory declaration," etc.Now, what is the meaning of that? In pursuance of this Act we have all these Orders in Council. Why, you have taken away the power of administering an oath in older to confer upon the Council by this Order the power of giving an oath. Surely, the meaning of this Order in Council is that in certain cases you may confer either on the board of guardians or on the district council the power of administering an oath. I ask the right honourable Gentleman whether that is so or not. Does this Order in Council give the power to make rules which will give the council power to administer an oath?
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
Well, then, what is the meaning of "such oath or affidavit as may be prescribed?"
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
I do not desire to argue the point, but it does not follow that that Order in Council will affect the question. The councils in Ireland are not required to adopt every order put before them by the Government. They exercise a certain amount of independence, and the Committee cannot here assume that any Order in Council will ever be made. We have not got the Order in Council before us, and we have not had any opportunity of amending the Order in Council here. 1444 We do not know even what form or shape that Order may ultimately assume. That being so, I shall deal with the Section as it is, and I respectfully submit, that these words should not be introduced, and that the Amendment of the honourable and learned Member for Louth should be adopted by the Committee. Recollect that all the business of the presentment sessions, and all the business of the grand juries are being transferred to the county council. Now we know, as a matter of fact, and as a matter of experience, that both at the presentment sessions and at the grand juries witnesses are frequently examined on oath, and how can the county councils discharge the same duties and the same functions if they have not the same power? I therefore think that it would be most dangerous to leave this Sub-section B in as it is here; besides, which, assuming that the Order in Council is adopted, it is allowed that the Order does give the power to administer an oath, and, therefore, it has been truly-observed, that it leaves the matter exactly where it is. I would respectfully suggest to my right honourable Friend that the words be left out, and the matter left as it is, because the question might arise possibly whether, in transferring the business and general works that are contained in the earlier part of the section of the grand juries and presentment sessions, you are not also transferring the power of administering an oath. You cannot administer an oath unless there is a statute of authority, and if these words were left out, then it may be possible, by the Order in Council, to make the matter clear, and to say yea or nay when there is an opportunity of considering whether that oath will be administered or not. I wish to say now, what will probably have to be said frequently during the discussion of these Amendments, that I object altogether to arguing on the consideration of this Bill by reference to Orders in Council, and by assuming that these Orders in Council will ever obtain sanction. In the first place, they must be approved of by the Privy Council of Ireland, presided over by the Lord Lieutenant. After being passed by the Lord Lieutenant in Council, they must be 1445 approved of in this House. We must deal with this Bill as it stands, and one of the inconveniences of this mode of drafting Bills is that the Committee are more or less groping hi the dark, because, without having a conclusive Order here before them, they cannot determine what the precise operation of the Measure will be when it becomes law.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I do not know what condition the mind of the Committee is in, but I think it will see that when a county council in Ireland has disposed of its ordinary business and they come to ask whether they may administer an oath or not, the opinions expressed on both sides of the House will show the confusion of their minds, and it will be, as has been stated, worse confounded. Now, Sir, I have had considerable experience as foreman of a grand jury of my country, and I consider that it is a very valuable thing that the grand jury has power to administer an oath, and I think for the future of the county councils, it will be equally valuable. Some honourable Members disapprove of administering oaths, but I know that in dealing with cases which come before the grand juries administering an oath is the only available way of arriving at the truth. From my own knowledge of business in Ireland, I entirely agree with the Amendment of the honourable and learned Gentleman. With regard to the Order in Council, I do not see how it will operate, or how it will throw any light upon the subject. I earnestly appeal to my right honourable Friend, having known county government in Ireland for some time, and knowing the value of administering an oath, to accede to the Amendment of the honourable and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
There are a variety of matters in connection with the administration of an oath. What we proposed in reference to this question was to substitute, by means of Orders in Council or rules, some other method of procedure, and in doing that we are following the example of the English Act, in which the power of administering an oath is not given 1446 to the county councils. With regard to the Order in Council, I equally admit the justice of the honourable Gentleman's remarks, and, as it seems to be generally considered necessary that in Ireland local administrative bodies should have this power of administering an oath, I will accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to without a Division.
Page 3, line 8, leave out Sub-section (c).—(Mr. J. Dillon.)
§ MR. JOHN DILLON
As far as I know, the only analogous legislation in this country is the Damage by Riot Act, which was passed in the year 1880, and which altered the law in regard to damage done by riots, and its powers were transferred to the county council. Now, Sir, the First Lord of the Treasury last night and the Chief Secretary himself said that in this Act they desired to follow as far as could possibly be done the provisions of the English law. If these Acts and all the legislation affecting Ireland is really intended, as we have often heard, that it certainly is intended for the welfare of the law-abiding citizens of the country, then I want to know why the administration of that law cannot be entrusted in the hands of the freely-elected representatives of the people on the councils. Therefore, I think that the onus lies with the Chief Secretary of making out some justification for the difference in the law, which he proposes in this Bill, compared with the English Measure. My own view is that a law for compensation for malicious injury ought in reality to be assimilated in Ireland to what it is in Great Britain. I think this law in Ireland is very oppressive, unjust, and unreasonable, and if it is to be allowed to stand, I ask the Chief Secretary upon what grounds he intends to allow it to be administered in the similar or analogous law in Great Britain. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I admit that some arguments may be adduced in favour of doing away with the law in respect of malicious injuries altogether, but I cannot conceive of any argument in favour of handing over the powers of the grand juries in regard to malicious injuries to the new councils. I think if that were done it would, in many cases, affect the fair adjudication of claims for malicious injuries, and the law would be reduced to a farce. It will be far better to allow the judges and the grand juries to administer the law, and I believe by this change we are substituting a procedure very much superior to that at present in existence.
§ MR. DILLON
The right honourable Gentleman has not yet explained why a similar law in England is administered by the county council. If the county council can administer it in the English law, as I believe it exists in England for dealing with damage, in respect of riot, why cannot the Irish county councils deal with it as well? The right honourable Gentleman has given the "go by" to the argument I used. I think in this important respect—to my mind a very important respect—he is going back upon his pledge, to place the same trust in these popularly elected assemblies in Ireland as has been entrusted to them in England. The right honourable Gentleman's observations were perfectly general. He said that this class of legislation should be administered by the courts, but why was that not done in the English County Council Act? Well, it has not been done, and the administration of the whole business of the Damage by Riot Act, when a Unionist Government carried that Act, was specifically transferred to the English county councils. Now. I ask the right honourable Gentleman to explain upon what grounds he refuses to-day the same right to the Irish county councils.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The reason is that, so far as England is concerned, the power was confined to cases of riot, but in Ireland malicious injuries were mostly of an agrarian character.
§ Amendment negatived, without a Division.
Page 3, line 10, leave out Sub-section (d)."—(Mr. J. Dillon.)
§ MR. DILLON
This is an Amendment which I trust the Government will accept. I cannot imagine any possible reason why they will not accept it. It is an Amendment to leave with the county council the power of appointing the visiting committees to visit the Irish prisons. That is a power which has already been transferred to the county councils of England, and in view of the fact that the attention of this House is at the present time turned to the question of prison reform and the more humane treatment of prisoners generally in this country in the shape of the Prisons Bill, I cannot imagine what inducement there can be on the part of the Government to include in those powers which are to be refused to the county councils of Ireland this power of appointing the visiting committees for the prisons. I trust the Government will accept this Amendment, and therefore I will not further occupy the time of the House, but will abstain from putting forward any arguments upon the Amendment until I hear from the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary what the Government is prepared to do.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The Amendment is to omit Sub-section (d) of Clause 4., "any power to appoint a visiting committee for a prison."
MR. T. M. HEALY
I hope the Government will accept this Amendment. It is a very small matter, and not at all likely to be exercised to any great extent. The Government must remember that the prisons of Ireland were built by the grand juries and kept up by them, and are, to a great extent, county property, and it is only reasonable that the successors of the grand juries, whose property they were, shall have the power of seeing how their property is getting on, and how the inmates of their prisons are being treated. There is no place in 1449 the world where there is more prejudice against criminals than in Ireland. The persons who are incarcerated in the prisons are justly there; they are there with the consent of the entire community, and they have no protection whatever against the authority of the prison officials, who are, no doubt, apt to act somewhat harshly. So far as the Irish prison officials go, I thoroughly believe they are humane men, and that, so far as they can consistently with their duties under the present state of the law, they carry out the system in a humane manner. Therefore, I can see no reason myself why the Government should not consent to this very moderate proposal, which has been put forward in so very moderate a manner, that this system of inspection should be transferred to the county councils. Let the Government remember this. Do the Government propose that the grand juries, as at present constituted, should live, and the system of inspection should be retained that this Bill reserves to the grand jury? If this Bill reserves that power to the grand jury it is an unnecessary power, because a member of the grand jury is a magistrate, and as a magistrate has authority to visit the prisons to whatever extent he pleases. Upon the ground of humanity, upon the ground that these Boards, as the successors of the grand juries, ought to have their powers vested in them, and upon the ground that the prison officials should not have the control so entirely to themselves, to that extent, I think, the county councils ought to have this power given to them.
§ MR. DAVITT
I trust that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary will listen to the appeal which has been made to him of conferring upon the county councils of Ireland the power of appointing the visiting committees to the prisons. The right honourable Gentleman is aware that the power of inspecting the prisons of England is being very much enlarged, and I do hope and trust he will not deprive the new bodies which are to come into existence under this Bill of the right and power to inspect the prisons of Ireland. If he consents to accept this Amendment I can assure him, notwithstanding what was said a few 1450 evenings ago in this House by the honourable Member for North Louth, that there need be no fear on the right honourable Gentleman's part that the prisoners will be treated to "quails on toast."
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The Amendment in supported upon the ground that the county councils, as the natural successors of the grand juries, are entitled to their powers; but that is only so far as it relates to matters of local administration. Now, I am not prepared to admit that this is a matter of local administration. Honourable Members will also remember that in England, when this power was transferred, it was entrusted to the justices. It was not transferred from the justices to the county councils; therefore I decline to accept this Amendment.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Permit me to point out that there is this difference between the grand juries and the future county councils which will come into force under this Act. The grand juries are ephemeral bodies. They are sworn in, and their powers only last for three days, and terminate when the grand juries are discharged. Their functions end when they are dismissed by the judges at the end of three days. The county councils are going to last three years, and this power, if granted, will last for that period.
§ LORD E. FITZMAURICE
It is perfectly true, as the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary said, that the power of appointing visiting justices to the prisons was not transferred to the English county councils, but what I am going to suggest to the Chief Secretary is this; whether, not only with regard to Ireland, but England also, it might not be a very desirable thing indeed if some power was given to the county councils of appointing part at least of the visiting committees. It would not be desirable that the justices should be entirely excluded from visiting the prisons also, as the honourable Member for North Louth has pointed out; apart from the justice being 1451 a Member of a visiting committee, he has the right, as an individual justice, to visit any prison and inquire into the working of it. In the event of the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary accepting this Amendment, I might point out that we might then have the same privilege given to the county councils of England. I can quite see that there may be some difficulties in the way which might prevent him giving way entirely on this Amendment, but I will ask him whether between this and the report stage he will not consider the matter and see if he cannot give the right, half to the county councils and half to the justices, to visit the prisons, so that the visiting committees should be constituted much in the same manner as the joint committee, which consists, as we know, half of one body and half of the other.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
If the right honourable Gentleman does not see his way to accede to the whole of this Amendment there is a compromise which I can suggest to him. Take the case of the Corporation of Dublin, which has the right to nominate a certain number of justices for the purpose of visiting the prisons. Those justices are not members of the Corporation. They can nominate any justice in the city, any person of position and respectability. If you do not give the county councillors, who are not justices, the right to visit the prisons, I think the right honourable Gentleman might at least give them the right of nominating the visiting justices. So far from the justices having any power to visit the prisons for the purpose of making alterations, or suggesting reforms, they have no power whatever. It is perfectly true they can visit the prisons whenever they please, but they can make no suggestion of reform as to the working of them, and they can be refused the right to see the prisoners. If they are on the visiting committee, they have a right to see the prisoners and make small remissions with regard to the punishments which have been inflicted upon them, and they can also review the government of the prison. This power, after all, is a very limited 1452 one, and I do suggest to the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary that if he does not see his way to give the right to the county councils, as county councils, to appoint the justices of the visiting committee, he is depriving them of the right of having any visiting committee at all. I would suggest that he might concede to the new county councils the same right that is given to the various corporations of the different towns in Ireland, not of appointing their own members as a committee to visit the prisons of their county, but the right of appointing justices for the purpose of visiting these places. If he cannot accede to the whole of the Amendment, I would suggest to him this compromise.
§ DR. RENTOUL
I think before any Amendment at all is considered, it is necessary to show some reason as to how Ireland differs from this country, and why the treatment should differ so far as she is concerned. With regard to the prisons here in England, the right of appointing the committees is not so transferred, and it would be, it seems to me, very unwise to give way on this particular point. We should rather follow the Imperial Statute with regard to that. If any honourable Member could show any single reason whatever why a distinction should be made with regard to Ireland in this matter, I should agree that this Amendment might be considered, but I fail to see that any reason at all can be put forward.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
I can give the honourable Member a reason, and that is, as it is one of the powers which were given to the grand juries, there is no reason why it should be taken away from the county councils which are about to be formed. I think they should have as much power in local administration as the grand juries have, which they will succeed. I cannot for the life of me understand what objection there can be on the part of the Government to allow the county councils to appoint visiting committees. They cannot take the prisoners out, and they cannot revolutionise the prisons, and I think the right honourable Gentleman might give to the county councils the powers which the Government gave to the grand juries.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I think there is some misapprehension in the mind of the Committee as to this Amendment. This is not a proposal that the county councils shall be the visiting committee. It is that the county councils shall select members to form the committee. That is a very important distinction. The history of this matter is this, up to the Prisons Act of 1877 the Irish counties paid for and owned the prisons. The Government seem to have excluded the power of appointing visiting committees to the prisons from those powers which the county councils are to possess, being under the impression that the prisons are part of the criminal jurisdiction of the grand juries, instead of which their connection is purely a fiscal one, as my honourable Friend pointed out. In 1877 the Government took away from the counties at once the burden of maintaining these prisons and the right to govern them, and substituted for the connection with the prisons which the grand juries had hitherto the obligation of appointing a committee consisting of justices of the peace. The question now is whether the appointment of the visiting justices the visiting committees to the prisons shall be in the hands of the county councils as the successors of the grand juries. The anomaly which exists is that at the time this change was made in the management of the Irish prisons all Irish corporations being courts of justice were given the same power of appointment as the grand juries. Therefore, if this Bill is carried through and becomes law in its present absurd form, you will have this anomaly, that while the county of Cork will not have the right to appoint visiting justices to the criminal prisons, the city of Cork will have the right of exercising the power. In my opinion this is a case for a compromise. It may not be desirable, I do not say it is, that the whole selection of the visiting committees should be transferred to new popular bodies of such a democratic character as the county councils will be, or to leave it to the old grand juries; but let so many of the visiting justices be selected by the county councils, and 1454 so many by the grand juries, and so many by the town councils. When a man is made a justice of the peace, Mr. Lowther, you may fairly assume that he is not a very desperate character, and that he is not going to visit the prisons with any sinister purpose of any kind; and, inasmuch as the grand juries have a right to select justices of the peace, I think the county councils should also have that right.
§ MR. DAVITT
I think it is quite as well that the Committee should remember, before it considers this Amendment, that with regard to English prison visiting committees there is a Bill at the present moment before this House for the purpose of widening the provisions of the Act governing the visiting committees. I should think, in view of what the law has done or is going to do with regard to England, the Chief Secretary will see his way to do the same for Ireland.
§ MR. LOUGH
Perhaps I may be allowed to say one word upon this matter. The objection has been urged that we should not alter the law in regard to Ireland. The answer to that is that a change of view has taken place with regard to prisons, and that change is now about to be embodied in the law in this House. The right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary promised, upon the discussion of the Prisons Bill, the other night, to take into his valuable consideration the question as to whether the local authority should appoint some of the visiting justices. That has been promised to England by the Home Secretary, and, that being so, as the claim has been put forward for Ireland in this very moderate manner, I do think the same concession ought to be made. The only possible reason on the part of the Government for not granting this concession is that some fear must linger in their minds that these powers, if granted, will not be properly discharged by the county councils. I do not think it is right to stigmatise the county councils at a time then you are setting them up. I would rather believe they will be worthy of the high ideals whch are formed for them.
§ MR. J. LLOYD WHARTON,) Yorks, W.R., Ripon
Previous to the year 1888 the quarter sessions of England appointed the visiting committees to the prisons, and they continue to do so now. By the Act of 1888 that power was exclusively reserved to quarter sessions. Now, I apprehend that the grand jury system in Ireland is analogous to the system of quarter sessions in England.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
Antecedent to 1888, in 1887 a magistrate had the power of visiting the prisons. Through the centralisation of the prisons in England the duty was taken from them, and since then the quarter sessions have had the power of nominating the committees. But I venture to say that there is not a prison governor or a prisoner who does not regret the diminution of power those gentlemen had in 1887, and when we think of the authority these gentlemen had to go to the prisons and make suggestions and, within limits, to supervise the acts of the governor, we all regret that the visiting justices of 1877 have had their powers curtailed. Now, I think, it is necessary that by some means the centralised prison authorities should have their powers tempered by the visiting committees to some extent. The time has arrived when all county councils of England should have the power, not of nominating justices, but of sending their own members to inspect the prisons, and, therefore, I do not see why the privilege which England needs should not be given to Ireland when this opportunity arrives.
§ MR. SERJEANT HEMPHILL
I trust the Government will adopt this Amendment. It appears to me that it is very difficult to resist it, seeing that every Member in this House who represents an Irish constituency, with one exception, has spoken in favour of it. The object of the Bill is to transfer to the county councils all the powers of the grand juries, with, certain exceptions, and it cannot be desirable to except from those powers the appointment of these visiting committees. It has been explained by the 1456 honourable Member for Kent that this power which is asked for is not a power which will enable the county councils to appoint their own members as a visiting committee. All it does is to give them the power which the grand juries have now of appointing certain justices. It does appear to me that the whole subsection might be eliminated, and I do trust that, unless the suggestion of the noble Lord who sits beside me is accepted, the honourable Member for East Mayo will press this Amendment to a Division, because their not acceding to it shows the determination of the Government not to accept any Amendment which has the unanimous support of the Irish Members in this House.
§ MR. HERBERT ROBERTSON (Hackney, S.)
This Amendment does not carry the unanimous wishes of the Irish Members.
§ MR. HERBERT ROBERTSON
The object of the visiting committee was to secure that supervision should be effected by the justices. The quarter sessions were given the power of appointing the visiting committees, and it was because the grand juries are almost all justices of the peace that the power was conferred upon them to select from among themselves a visiting committee. I hope the Government will resist this Amendment.
§ MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
The Irish Member for Hackney points out that the English Bill should not be followed in this matter. On the last occasion it was proposed that it should be followed upon this side of the House. One would think there was something revolutionary in the proposal put forward in this Amendment. If the corporations of the Irish towns now have the power of appointing the visiting justices, why should not these local bodies, which are to be established 1457 on a broad democratic basis by this Bill, have the same power? We are told these powers have been exercised by the grand juries on all occasions, but now the Government are going to set up new bodies, and take from them every privilege and every power which was possessed by the grand juries. The grand juries are non-elected bodies, and they have the power of appointing visiting justices. The new bodies are to be elected, and they are not to have those powers. What is the Government afraid of? Are they afraid that there are abuses in connection with this new system which they are proposing which cannot stand the light of day; that this is to be open to criticism; that men of independent position, sanding forward these men, will lot the light of day in upon those abuses? On no ground of logic or common-sense is it possible for the Government to resist this Amendment. As it now stands. I think it would simplify the procedure of this Bill. If the Chief Secretary came down here and stated that upon no consideration whatever would he change by a word or a letter this Bill, we should know where we were, and we might shorten the discussion and take a well-earned holiday. I put this question: Suppose in the English Bill of 1888 the vast bilk of the English Members got up and proposed a reform of this kind, and pressed it upon the attention of the Committee, one speaker after another showing that there was an overwhelming opinion of the Members in favour of a reform of this kind being granted, does anyone suppose that the rigid honourable Gentlemen who were in charge of the Bill would have refused to consider it? No, Sir, to state that proposition is at once to demonstrate it. They would have done nothing of the kind. My opinion is that there is a political arrière pensée in the minds of the Government with regard to this very innocent Amendment. They are afraid, perhaps, that in the days which are to come, an agitation may arise against the ill-treatment of political prisoners, and that some dreadfully Radical—some dreadfully National—county council may appoint new justices of the peace to go in and see that these prisoners are not ill-treated, are not being 1458 starved, and are allowed, as ordinary prisoners are, to get exercise and decent treatment. If it is not on that ground I cannot conceive on what other ground the right honourable Gentleman or those in charge of the Bill resist an Amendment which is not modern, which is not original, which is not revolutionary, and which simply retains in the present Bill, and on behalf of these local bodies, the powers which the grand juries have exercised in the past. I trust the honourable Member who has moved this Amendment will, if necessary, press it to a Division, and I express my surprise and regret that a common-sense Amendment of this kind should be resisted for a moment by those in charge of the Bill.
§ MR. J. G. BUTCHER (York)
Mr. Lowther, I think the Committee would do well to adhere to the English precedent and refuse, in the first establishment of these county councils in Ireland, to give them the power of appointing visiting committees. It has been stated that the Home Secretary has announced his intention of giving this power to English county councils, and that is used as an argument for giving it to Irish county councils. In the first instance, at any rate, there will be a certain number of inexperienced persons upon the Irish county councils, but I trust that that want of experience will disappear. The English county councils have had an experience of ten years, and it may be wise now to give them a power which in the first instance it was not fit that they should be entrusted with. If at the end of 10 years, or even at the end of a shorter period, it is found that the Irish county councils are doing their work well in other respects, it will be for us then to consider whether this power ought not to be entrusted to them an the same way as it is proposed to entrust it to the English county councils. In the first instance, however, I hope the Government will adhere to the English precedent.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE
I should like to ask, Mr. Lowther, whether the Government will agree to allow the Irish county councils to nominate one justice to the visiting committee, and let the Irish grand juries continue to nominate the other.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
In any case I object in the strongest possible way to speculating as to what Parliament may do.
§ MR. LOUGH
Perhaps I might be allowed to quote the words of the Home Secretary on the matter of the visiting committees. During the discussion on the Prisons Bill the right honourable Gentleman said—I gladly welcome the strengthening of our visiting committees; but with reference to our convict prisons what I am afraid of is that it will be difficult to get gentlemen to serve. It is not a very pleasant task, but I would like to secure the services of those gentlemen who are likely to give their time—representative men, properly qualified.Surely there can be no more representative men than members of the county councils! What I said was that in his reply the Home Secretary gave the House reason to believe that he would look favourably upon the strengthening of the visiting committees by the appointment of representative men. Let me give another quotation. The Home Secretary said—I desire to extend by this Bill such authority of inspection as I think ought to be given to the Board of Visitors.The whole tendency of his remarks was that the Government would gladly welcome some infusion of this sort of representative authority into the visiting committees, and I think, in face of this, that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland might yield somewhat in this matter.
§ MR. BURNS
The honourable Member for West Islington has quoted the Home Secretary. I should like to quote the right honourable Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who, when speaking on the transfer of the 1460 prisons from the local justices to the centralised authority, said—On the other hand, if there was merely nomination by the local authority and not election, there would not be local supervision.Now, Sir, it seems to me that that is an argument against the nominated person either by the quarter sessions or the county council. In 1877 the justices had control of our English prisons. In that year a centralised authority took the place of the local justices, and in consequence of the local justices being deprived of their power the quarter sessions had to supply the deficiency in 1888 caused by the centralised system, and they nominated some of their number. In 1890 the defective result of the local magistrate being kept out of the prison necessitated the Government appointing gentlemen from outside to be Prison Commissioners to take the place that was better exercised in 1877 by the local justices themselves. The grand juries have the power of appointing the visiting justices, and if the Irish county councils are to supersede the grand juries I see no reason why these new county councils should not possess the power which it is intended shall be given to every English county council.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
I only wish to intervene for a moment, Mr. Lowther, to ask the honourable Member for East Mayo whether he will agree to an Amendment of his proposition to the effect that the county council should have the power to appoint a visiting committee, "providing that the members of such visiting committee have not themselves been in gaol."
§ MR. DILLON
I cannot accept the suggestion, because the proviso would exclude all the Members for Mayo and even the honourable Member opposite himself. However, much as I may differ in opinion with the honourable Member, I should be very glad to see him on a visiting committee. What I complain of in the treatment which the Government has given to this Amendment is that they have not offered a single reason for refusing to accept it, except 1461 the precedent of the English law. It is only a question of an hour ago that I moved an Amendment which was strictly in accordance with the English law, and I did not get any support. If this precedent is good for the present Amendment, why was it not effective in the case of the last Amendment? If the Government were acting logically, they ought to have accepted my Amendment. Their argument is simply one of "Heads you lose, tails we win." There can be no rational objection to this Amendment, unless it be that the Government contemplate in the future another period when it may be their desire to carry on the proceedings in Irish gaols in the dark, and to take elaborate preparations to prevent those proceedings from being made known to the public. I cannot see
§ any other reason for objecting to allow the county councils to appoint visiting committees, whose powers are so moderate that they cannot in any way interfere with the discipline of the gaol, but only make suggestions, and inform the people outside whether there is any truth in allegations of harsh, cruel, or unjust treatment of a certain class of prisoners. The Chief Secretary has made no attempt to give any ground or reason for his opposition to this Amendment, and, under those circumstances, I shall most decidedly press the matter to a division.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided.—Ayes 143; Noes 101.1463
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. J.||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc.)||Lea, Sir Thomas|
|Balcarres, Lord||Finlay, Sir Robert B.||Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch.)||Fisher, William Hayes||Legh, Hon. T. Wodehouse|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds)||FitzGerald, Sir R. U. Penrose||Leigh-Bennett, H. Currie|
|Barnes, Frederic Gorell||Flannery, Fortescue||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn- (Sw'ns'a)|
|Barry, Et. Hon. A. H. Smith-||Flower, Ernest||Loder, Gerald W. E.|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunkett||Folkestone, Viscount||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l)|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Foster, Colonel||Lorne, Marquess of|
|Begg, Ferdinand Faithfull||Galloway, Wm. J.||Lowe, Francis William|
|Bigwood, James||Garfit, William||Loyd, Archie Kirkman.|
|Bousfield, William R.||Gibbons, J. Lloyd||Lucas-Shadwell, William|
|Bowles, Cap. H. F. (Mid'sex)||Godson, Augustus F.||Macartney, W. G. E.|
|Brassey, Albert||Goldsworthy, Mj.-Gen. W. T.||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. J.||Gordon, Hon. John E.||McArthur, Chas. (Liverpool)|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John E.||McCalmont, Mj-Gn. (Ant'm, N.)|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Goschen, Rt Hn G. J. (St. Geo.'s)||McCalmont, Col. J. (Ant'm, E.)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Malcolm, Ian|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin)||Goulding, Edward A.||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Edward||Graham, Henry E.||More, R. Jasper|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Green, Walford Davis||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh||Gretton, John||Mount, William G.|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Greville, Captain||Muntz, P. A.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. H.||Hanbury, Et. Hon. R. W.||Nicholson, W. G.|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hanson, Sir Reginald||O'Neill, Hon. R. T.|
|Coghill, D. H.||Heath, James||Phillpotts, Captain A.|
|Cohen, Benjamin L.||Helder, Augustus||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hermon-Hodge, R. T.||Plunkett, Rt. Hon. H. C.|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow)||Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord A. (Down)||Pryce-Jones, E.|
|Cornwallis, Fiennes S. W.||Hornby, William H.||Rasch, Major F. C.|
|Cross, Herbert S. (Bolton)||Howell, William T.||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks)||Jebb, R. Claverhouse||Rentonl, James A.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)|
|Donkin, Richard Sim||Kemp, George||Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W.|
|Dorington, Sir John E.||Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir J. H.||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Charles T.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Knowles, Lees||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Doxford, William T.||Lafone, Alfred||Saunderson, Col. E. J.|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Laurie, Lieutenant-General||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.||Lawrence, W. F. (Liverpool)||Skewes-Cox, T.|
|Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Warde, Lt.-Col. C. E. (Kent)||Willox, Sir J. A.|
|Stanley, E. J. (Somerset)||Waring, Col. Thomas||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Stone, Sir Benjamin||Warkworth, Lord||Wylie, Alexander|
|Strutt, Hon. C. H.||Webster, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight)||Wyndham, George|
|Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Wentworth, B. C. Vernon-|
|Thorburn, W.||Wharton, Rt. Hon. J. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Tomlinson, Wm. Edward M.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)||Sir William Walrond and|
|Tritton, Charles E.||Williams, J. Powell- (Birm.)||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Valentia, Viscount||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Flynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)|
|Allen, Wm. (Newc.-under-L.)||Hammond, John (Carlow)||O'Connor, James (Wicklow)|
|Austin, Sir J.||Harrington, T.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Hayden, John P.||O'Kelly, James|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Billson, Alfred||Healy, Thos. J. (Wexford)||Parnell, J. Howard|
|Birrell, Augustine||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. C. H.||Perks, R. W.|
|Blake, Edward||Hogan, James F.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Holburn, J. G.||Power, Patrick J.|
|Brunner, Sir J. T.||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Randell, David|
|Burns, John||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire)||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
|Burt, Thomas||Jordan, Jeremiah||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Caldwell, James||Kilbride, Denis||Roberts, J. B. (Eifion).|
|Carew, James Laurence||Kinloch, Sir J. G. S.||Robson, William S.|
|Carvill, Patrick George H.||Knox, Edmund F. Vesey||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Clancy, John J.||Lambert, George||Shee, James John|
|Collery, Bernard||Leng, Sir John||Spicer, Albert|
|Condon, Thomas J.||Logan, John William||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Crean, Eugene||Lough, Thomas||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Macaleese, Daniel||Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)|
|Curran, Thos. B. (Donegal)||McDonnell, Dr. M. (Qn.'s Co.)||Tanner, Charles K.|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||MacNeill, John G. Swift||Tully, Jasper|
|Daly, James||McDermott, Patrick||Ure, Alexander|
|Davitt, Michael (Mayo, S.)||M'Ghee, Richard||Wallace, Robert (Perth)|
|Dillon, John||M'Hugh, E. (Armagh, S.)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim)||Weir, James G.|
|Duckworth, James||McLaren, C. B.||Whittaker, Thomas P.|
|Dunn, Sir William||Mandeville, J. Francis||Williams, J. Carvell (Notts)|
|Engledew, Charles J.||Minch, Matthew||Wilson, F. W. (Norfolk, Mid)|
|Farrell, J. P. (Cavan, W.)||Molloy, B. C.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel)||Young, Samuel|
|Ffrench, Peter||Morris, Samuel|
|Field, William (Dublin)||Murnaghan, George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sir Thomas Esmonde and|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary)||Captain Donelan.|
§ Amendment therefore rejected.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)
I beg to call your attention, Mr. Lowther, to the fact that there are not 40 Members present.
Page 3, line 10, at end, add—'Save as hereinafter mentioned.'
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork City)
I put the Amendment on the Paper with the object of securing a compromise on this question of the powers of the county councils in regard to appointing visiting committees to prisons, in case the 1465 Government refuse to give way on the larger issue. The Amendment of the honourable Member for Mayo [Mr. Dillon] proposed that the visiting justices should all be selected by the county council except in cases where the prison was under the jurisdiction of two counties. My Amendment is intended to raise the question that if the county council does not get the whole of this power of selection, at any rate they should have some representation on the body of visiting justices. The proposal which I would be inclined to make is that the county council should have the power to appoint half the members of the visiting committee, and that in the case where the prison was partly within the jurisdiction of the county borough, the county borough and the county council should have the power between them to appoint half the members of the visiting committee, the grand jury to have the appointment of the other half. I trust that the Government, will see their way to effect this. It is a matter I am reluctant to dwell upon at any great length, as it has been discussed on the previous Amendment.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)
I trust that the Government will see their way to meet the views of the honourable Gentleman. I do think that the right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary is not aware of the manner in which visiting committees in Ireland discharge their duties; I think he is not altogether aware of the fact that in a good many instances the visiting committees under the old system of grand juries never did their duties. I was for some time in a prison in Sligo, and I never saw the face of a visiting justice. As far as I was concerned, no such public official might be said to exist, and I think, as the honourable Member for Cork said, when we make a claim for some representation on these committees, it is not an unreasonable or unjust claim. We do not want to 1466 have any drastic change in the right honourable Gentleman's proposal, but before the right honourable Gentleman makes up his mind, and assumes a non possumus attitude on the question, he should be satisfied that the committees, whose existence he has so strenuously defended, are discharging the duties entrusted to them. I say that they are not discharging the duties entrusted to them; in fact, none of them are found visiting the prisons they are appointed to inspect. For that reason, amongst others, I trust the right honourable Gentleman will endeavour to give this Amendment more careful and serious consideration.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I never have had any complaint on this score. If there are any occasions on which visitors do not carry out their functions, or in which the grand juries fail to appoint them, the matter will be remedied. But I must decline again to dwell upon a point which was fully debated in the previous Amendment; and, as the Amendment raises the same question, I must decline to go into the matter.
§ MR. P. A. M'Hugh (Leitrim, N.)
How does the right honourable Gentleman propose to appoint committees in future?
§ MR. P. A. M'HUGH
I do not see on what grounds the Chief Secretary proposes to place in the hands of grand juries the power of appointing visiting justices. At the present time they pay certain rates, but under this Act they will pay no rates, and still receive a large subsidy out of the Imperial Exchequer. Now, I happen to have been a visiting justice of a prison in Sligo, and for some time I was 1467 there as a prisoner. The honourable Member for West Cavan says he did not see the face of a visiting justice, but I can tell him he did not lose much by the absence of a visiting justice. I do not think that much importance has to be attached to the duties discharged by these men. They simply go and look round and write reports of the most insignificant character. To those reports I attach very little importance, but what I do attach importance to is this: that while grand juries in the future will not pay one penny towards the rates, and have no more right than an ordinary labourer or artisan in the country, to become visiting justices and exercise a certain supervision over Her Majesty's prisons, yet the county councils, representing the people of the district, are to be excluded from representation on these committees. We are supposed to be advancing by this Measure, but, instead of advancing, you refuse us representation upon the committees of these prisons just as you have refused the urban district councils the representation of the chairmen on the county councils. As far as I can see, this is an advance in the old style. I cannot understand on what principle the right honourable Gentleman proceeds when he says that we are to have no representation upon the visiting committee. Why, you have that in England!
§ MR. P. A. M'HUGH
I may be mistaken; but I say that if there is any public body in connection with county administration that should have a voice in the management of these prisons, or that should at least be appointed to examine into their condition, that body should be the county council elected by the people of the counties in which the prisons are situated. So far as I am concerned, though I do not attach much importance to this matter, because all justices are entitled to enter these prisons and to inspect them. I consider that it is solely to the county councils you are going to establish that you should give these powers. To that 1468 body you refuse the powers and privileges that you give to the effete body you are going to extinguish for ever. I ask the right honourable Gentleman to reconsider the position he has taken up. If he is right in his contention that he is making an advance it will be necessary for him to give some representation at least to county councils on visiting committees.
§ MR. M. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
What seems to be forgotten by the Chief Secretary and the Committee is that there are not only active visiting committees in connection with local prisons in England, but they have the power of adjudicating within the prisons upon prison offences; they are not only privileged under the law to go into these establishments and see that no abuses exist, but they are empowered to adjudicate upon breaches of prison discipline Now, in this Amendment a power equivalent to what exists in England has not been provided for Ireland. We simply want under this Bill the right of some public inspection of prisons in Ireland, and we claim that we are not asking anything like powers that exist to-day in England. I have visited several local prisons during the last three or four weeks in this country, and I find that in Bedford, Birmingham, Bristol, and elsewhere these bodies are active bodies; they pay periodical visits, they inquire into the whole administration of the prison, they sit and adjudicate upon prison offences, and they publish reports periodically showing what they have done and how these prisons are administered. Well now, we are not asking like powers for public bodies in Ireland, but we do insist upon this Amendment to secure some right for these public bodies in Ireland to send some of their members, or other persons qualified, into the local and other prisons, to see that no abuses are carried on.
§ MR. DALY
The right honourable Gentleman the Chief Secretary says that he will not allow any new member of the new body to have the liberty of visiting prisons. It seems that while we are going to have the management of our own affairs—in a small way it is true—we are not capable of electing some visiting justices to see the inside of the 1469 cells of a prison. To my mind it would be better for the prison discipline if visiting justices entered prisons and saw prisoners oftener than they do. In fact, prisoners might as well be in a vault and be buried, so far as the expectation of seeing a visiting justice is concerned. There was another matter. The right honourable Gentleman stated that if the attention of the Government were drawn to certain grievances they would be redressed; but if any unfortunate prisoner attempted to do anything of this sort he would be treated to bread and water.
§ MR. DALY
I think this is a very reasonable Amendment of my honourable Friend, and I would earnestly suggest that the right honourable Gentleman would see his way to give the county council the opportunity and privilege of nominating visiting justices, for I think he would smooth matters a great deal by yielding on this point, which is thought by all the Irish Members to be necessary and reasonable.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 4, as amended, was then agreed to without a Division.