§ The Duke of Richmond
presented a Petition from the owners and occupiers of land in Staffordshire, praying for relief. The petitioners noticed the promise that was put forth in the Speech from the Throne at the beginning of the present Session, that something should be done in favour of the landed interest, and more particularly with reference to the burden of county-rates. The petitioners complained that the burdens of building and repairing bridges and gaols, of public prosecution of felons, and of furnishing information on returns to both Houses of Parliament, fell upon the county rates, which were levied entirely upon the land. He wished to ask the noble Viscount now at the head of the Government, whether it was the intention of the Government to propose to Parliament any measure on the subject, or to take into consideration the grievances of which the petitioners complained. He agreed with the petitioners in all they stated, except in the recommendation that the Magistrates should not have the power of ordering payments out of the county-rates, but that that power should be given to persons elected by the rate-payers. In his opinion, the Magistrates ought still to possess the power now vested in them. He thought that as things now stood, the amount of the county-rates was a great grievance, and he hoped that some measure would be adopted more fairly to meet some of the expenses now charged upon them.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that it was the intention of the Government to take into consideration the best means of carrying into effect that part of the recommendation from the Throne alluded to by the noble Duke, provided that that recommendation, the words of which, as they stood, were extremely large, and comprised much more than the noble Duke had stated, was understood to be confined to 1118 those recommendations which had emanated from the Committees of this and the other House of Parliament. He should not enumerate all the matters referred to; the principal among them were prosecutions at the assizes, expenses of convicts, and Returns furnished to both Houses of Parliament on subjects on which they required information. These matters would receive the consideration of the Government, and the recommendations regarding them should be carried into effect provided that the means could be found for limiting what were now unlimited and undefined charges, and putting a check upon unnecessary and profuse expenditure.