HL Deb 31 August 1835 vol 30 cc1123-8
Viscount Duncannon

moved the second reading of the Dublin Police Bill. He said that alterations were proposed to be made in the Dublin Police, with the view of placing that police on the same footing as the police of London. He believed that this plan met with the approbation of all who knew the Dublin Police. At present the Dublin Police was under the control of the magistrates, who had not sufficient time to devote to their management; and the regulation of them was, therefore, indifferently attended to. He believed that all agreed that the state of the police in Dublin was not what it ought to be; and he did not know of any objection to the alteration now proposed.

Lord Farnham

perfectly concurred with the noble Lord in saying that there was a necessity for alteration in the Dublin Police, but he thought it improper to bring in such an important measure at this period of the Session. The Bill itself he also objected to, as it gave too much power to the Lord-lieutenant, his secretary, or his under-secretary. The Secretary for Ireland might perhaps be compared to the Secretary of State for Ireland; but no such comparison could be made with regard to the under-secretary; and yet he was to have full power over the numbers and salaries of the different members of the police force. The number of the magistrates was to be reduced; but the expense was not to be diminished. If this Bill had been brought up in due time, he should willingly have given his best assistance to the proposition to place the Police of Dublin on the same footing as that of London; but he really could not consent to do so when he had not had time to examine the Bill thoroughly, as it ought to be examined, considering that it related to a subject of such importance. He should wish the measure to be postponed, as it was impossible, at this period of the Session, to give proper attention to the important and difficult matters contained in the Bill. A few months could not make much difference; and it was better to wait that time, than to adopt, without due consideration, a measure of this importance.

Lord Plunkett

said, that it was universally admitted that the Police of Dublin was very defective. The noble Lord himself admitted this, and said he wished to remedy the evil. No specific objection was made to the Bill. Then why not adopt it? There was only the general statement that it was objectionable to give so much power to the under-secretary of the Lord-lieutenant. Surely the noble Lord must be well aware of the great power and responsibility of the office of under-secretary. If he (Lord Plunkett) were asked which of the two officers was the more important, he would say, considering how frequently the chief-secretary was necessarily compelled to reside in England, that the under-secretary was for practical purposes in Ireland the more important person of the two. The powers now proposed to be exercised by the under-secretary were at present, if he was not much mistaken, exercised by the divisional magistrates of Dublin. As to the statement, that the under-secretary was to have a discretionary power over the numbers and the salaries of the Police, he admitted it to be true; but that seemed to him less objectionable than the present system, which was admitted on all hands to be defective. The evil required a remedy; and unless some great evil could be pointed out, as the consequence of the remedy proposed, no further delay ought to be interposed. He trusted that the Bill would be allowed to pass, and that the acknowledged evil of the present Police system might be duly remedied.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that this Bill could hardly be passed without their Lordships knowing something of the opinion of the Corporation of Dublin concerning it. No notice had been given to that Corporation, nor to the inhabitants. The Police of the city of London was regulated by the authorities of the city of London, and the Police there was managed on a plan very different from that of the city of Westminster, and the rest of the metropolis. They could not tell whether the people of Dublin preferred the system of Police in London, properly so called, or in Westminster. The distinction was considerable; and how could their Lordships give them one system or the other, without knowing which they preferred? He objected to the Bill being carried forward, because their Lordships did not know what was thought of it in Dublin.

The Earl of Wicklow

was very sorry for the opinion which had been stated by noble Lords on his side of the House. He believed that the inhabitants of London approved of the system of police in Westmin- ster, and had adopted most of its rules, and therefore, though the distinction which the noble Duke had alluded to did exist, that alone did not seem to him sufficient to warrant their refusing to pass this Bill. He wished, as he believed all did who knew the Police force of Dublin, for some improvement in the construction of it. He thought that the Bill might be allowed to be read a second time, and might then go into Committee, where the details could be fully considered.

Lord Hatherton

said, that the Corporation of Dublin could not be taken by surprise, for that the late Government had felt strongly the defective state of the Police, and the necessity of altering its constitution, and the existence of that feeling was not unknown to the Corporation.

The Earl of Roden

agreed that some change in the Police system of Dublin was desirable, but at the same time he concurred with the observations of his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington), that some inquiry ought to be made as to the opinion of the Corporation of Dublin. The Corporation had received no notice of this measure. The late Government, it was said, had directed its attention to this subject. If so, the present Government ought not to have delayed introducing the measure till the last day of August, so as to give them no time to go into it.

The Earl of Haddington

said, that he did not think there was any pressing necessity for this Bill, to make them adopt it at this late period of the Session, without further inquiry. Dublin was an extremely tranquil town, except on occasions of great political excitement, but still it was true that it wanted a preventive police; for there were always many petty larcenies against which there was no guarding with the present state of the police. If he had continued at the head of the Government of Ireland, he should have directed his attention to that point. He was not prepared to say that this might not be a good Bill, and he was unwilling to vote against the second reading; but when it was stated that the magistracy of Dublin knew nothing of the Bill, he did not think that it ought to be pressed at this late period of the Session. If their Lordships were, as a deliberative body, to have their share in passing Acts for the good of the people, they ought to have proper time given them to consider those Acts.

Lord Plunkett

said, that until the observation made by the noble Duke, he had not heard that there was any objection to the Bill on the part of the Corporation of Dublin. The Bill had passed through the regular stages in the House of Commons, and there were persons in that House peculiarly competent—the recorder of Dublin for instance—to make any objection on the part of the Corporation of Dublin, yet none such had been made. The Bill was for the cure of an evil acknowledged by all to exist; then why, he again asked, should they delay a remedy to which no positive objection was made?

Lord Farnham

did make a positive objection to the discretionary power vested in the Lord-lieutenant's Secretary and under-Secretary. He admitted that there ought to be a change in the system of the police, but he objected to this change, introduced at this late period of the Session; and if the Bill were pressed, he should move that it be read a second time this day three months.

The Earl of Wicklow

had certainly said that the Amendments on the present system, contained in the Bill, were desirable; but at the same time he must say, that if the Government was conscious of having introduced the Bill without fully consulting the Corporation of Dublin, he could not see how he could support the Bill, and he hoped that it would be withdrawn.

Viscount Duncannon

had not had any direct communication with the Magistracy of Dublin on the subject; but they knew of the provisions in the Bill, and had made no objection to them. It could be no secret to them; for it was a month since that his noble Friend, the Secretary for Ireland, had opened the Bill fully to the House of Commons. The Corporation of Dublin had been aware of an intended alteration; for in the month of November, 1831, an inquiry was instituted into the state of the police of Dublin, with a view to effect some improvement in it. He certainly could not consent to withdraw a measure which he believed to be absolutely necessary. As to the delay charged against the Government, he observed, that important as this Bill was, there were others of even more importance which the Government had been compelled to introduce before it.

Lord Brougham

said, that the lateness of the Session was, in some cases, a proper objection—as for instance, in the case of the Imprisonment for Debt Bill,—but it was not equally applicable in all cases. It did not appear to him to apply in the present case; and the Bill ought to be met in a more manly manner than it had been. The present system of police was admitted to be bad; the remedy to it was not objected to; but it was merely said that the remedy was brought in at a late period of the Session, and therefore ought to be rejected. The conclusion from the reason about the lateness of the Session was, that blame was due to the Government on that account, not that the Bill ought to be rejected—that the Government ought to be censured, not that the people of Dublin should still suffer from a bad police. Their Lordships might put off the Bill for a week; his noble Friend did not object to that; but they ought not to put it off all at once for the Session, in order that they might say they had the pleasure of defeating the Government.

The Earl of Winchilsea

believed, that, on the question of the merits of the Bill, he might be favourably disposed if he had full time to consider them, but he had no information on the state of the police in Dublin. This, however, renewed the old question, to which he wished that more attention was paid—namely, that some understanding should be come to as to the state of the business. He begged to say most distinctly that he could not give his support to any measures where he had not full time to investigate them.

The Duke of Richmond

said, that the objection now made, might have some weight if the Bill were at its third reading; but this was only the second reading. The Recorder of Dublin had written to a noble Lord to say, that he had received a copy of the Bill; and possibly to-morrow or the next day, the post might bring a full statement from the learned Gentleman of his objections to the Bill, if he had any. He (the Duke of Richmond) objected as an individual to undertake the responsibility of throwing out this measure, proposed by the Government for the purpose of better securing the peace of the capital of Ireland. The Ministers had introduced a Bill in lieu of that called the Coercion Act, and they made themselves responsible for preserving the peace of Ireland. He wished to make them responsible, and not to take the responsibility off their shoulders and put it on his own, by throwing out a measure which they introduced for the purpose of assisting in preserving the public peace; and which their Lordships were now about to throw out solely on the ground of the lateness of the Session. Why not give the Bill a second reading, and go into Committee; and perhaps letters might arrive from the Dublin Corporation, approving of the Bill, He agreed that the final stages of the Bill should be put off, to give the opportunity of a communication with Dublin, but he thought that the Bill ought not now to be rejected. The inhabitants of Dublin had a claim on their Lordships for a measure of this kind; they had a right to have a good police; and this was not a question of party—of one administration or another—but a matter of the government of the country. They ought not to throw impediments in the way of measures admitted to be, as this was, for the good of the country, merely because such measures were proposed by the Government. If they did not like the Government, the manly way was to turn out the Government, not to stop measures of this kind merely because they were proposed by the Government.

The Earl of Limerick

said, that he knew of no pressing necessity for passing the Bill at this moment. There had been great meetings in Dublin; and yet, with one exception, he had heard of no outrage at any of them.

Lord Brougham

said, that if their Lordships threw out the Bill this night, they might find themselves in this situation; on Friday they might receive a satisfactory answer from the Corporation, and then regret that the Bill had been rejected.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

said, the course proposed was simple, and he thought free from any reasonable objection. If it turned out that the Corporation had not been communicated with on the subject, then he apprehended that this Bill would not be passed; but if they had been, then he apprehended their Lordships would be glad to have advanced this Bill one stage with a view to its been carried into full effect.

The Marquess of Londonderry

believed, that the object of the Bill was to create patronage for the Government, which would be disposed of in the way recommended by Mr. O'Connell.

Viscount Duncannon

put it to the noble Marquess, whether he considered it a sufficient ground for such a suspicion, and for opposing this, or any other Bill, that it had the support of Mr. O'Connell?

Bill read a second time.

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