HL Deb 30 June 1836 vol 34 cc1053-8
Lord Ellenborough

said, that the Committee appointed by their Lordships to draw up reasons for dissenting from the amendments of the other House to their Lordships' amendments to the Irish Municipal Corporations Bill had agreed to their Report, which he would now read to their Lordships, and then call upon their Lordships to concur in the Report. The noble Lord read as follows:— The Lords participate in the conviction expressed by the Commons that a good correspondence between the two Houses is essential to the well-being of the British monarchy, and it is always a subject of regret to them when, in the performance of their duty, they are compelled to take a different view of any important measure from that which has been adopted by the House of Commons. The Lords are earnestly desirous of removing all just causes of complaint, and of promoting all well-considered measures of improvement in all parts of the United Kingdom. Impressed with these feelings the Lords were anxious to co-operate with the Commons in carrying into effect some of the important objects of the Bill for the regulation of Municipal Corporations in Ireland, although there was one principle in that Bill in which they were unable to concur. They assented to the dissolution of Corporations, the practical effect of whose constitution is a subject of reasonable dissatisfaction. It did not appear to them advisable to establish in their place that particular form of local government which was proposed by the Commons, but they were not without the hope that the two Houses might agree upon provisions which, accomplishing at once their common object, of removing a just cause of complaint, might at the same time secure the due administration of justice in cities and towns, preserve the corporate property for their respective benefit, and leave their local government under Acts voluntarily adopted. The Lords coincide in the opinion that it is not generally expedient to introduce, in the form of amendments, matters which may seem to require the more mature consideration which is given in its successive stages to an original Bill; but on this occasion the most convenient mode of procedure appeared to be that which enabled the Lords to make the fullest communication of their views to the House of Commons. The Lords remain strongly impressed with the belief that the system of local government proposed by the Commons would, in the actual state of Ireland, be the present cause of party triumph, and the continued source of party and religious dissension. The Lords earnestly desire the tranquillity of Ireland: they are unwilling to adopt a measure which would, in their apprehension, supply new occasions of collision to the adherents of different creeds and principles. They are prepared to do equal justice to all; but it cannot always be assumed that, by the grant of similar institutions to countries differing in their circumstances, equal justice will be done. The Lords are unable to acquiesce in the proposition now made by the Commons, that Corporations, as re-constructed by the Bill, shall be confined to twelve cities and towns, because it is in those cities and towns of larger population that the most extensive evils would, in their opinion, result from such reconstruction. The Lords disagree to the amendment whereby the existing Corporations are to be continued in eighteen towns. They are reluctant to circumscribe the extent of the general relief they deem it expedient to grant. Neither are the Lords prepared to concur in the proposition that the Act of the 9th year of the late King George the Fourth, to make provision for the lighting, cleansing, and watching of towns in Ireland, and to give the power of taxation for such purposes to elective commissioners, should be imposed upon twenty cities and towns. Anxious that there should exist the power of taxation for local purposes wherever its existence might be desired by the inhabitants to be taxed, the Lords had not suggested any alteration of that Act. They had afforded new inducements to its voluntary adoption by giving the means of placing the surplus property of the Corporations to be abolished at the disposal of the Commissioners who might be elected in the towns with which such Corporations are respectively connected. The Lords readily acquiesce in the desire of the Commons, that, whenever that Act may be adopted, the whole corporate property shall be at once transferred to the management of the Commissioners, elected under its provisions. But the Lords must call to the recollection of the Commons, that hitherto the inhabitants of towns in Ireland have very generally refrained from availing themselves of the power of local government and taxation so offered to them. To render indispensable the election of Commissioners, to whom would be confided the power of raising taxes for local purposes, would, undoubtedly, be in accordance with the principle adopted in the reform of Municipal Corporations in Great Britain, but the Lords cannot but apprehend that the proposed intervention of the Legislature to overrule a manifest reluctance to be so governed, and to be so taxed, would not, as the Commons appear to anticipate, have any tendency to satisfy the just expectations of his Majesty's subjects in Ireland, or to maintain and strengthen the union. The Lords have abstained from insisting upon several amendments to which the Commons appear to attach much importance. They acquiesce in the opinion that officers connected with the administration of justice in Ireland should be removed from local influence, and placed under the direct authority of the Crown. They have willingly consented not to insist upon amendments which conflicted with the immediate application of the principle thus established. It will be a matter of sincere regret to the Lords if their adherence to the more important amendments made by them in the Bill, and their inability to concur in the new propositions made by the Commons, should have the effect of leaving a just cause of complaint without a full and present remedy. The Lords will, however, still entertain the hope that the two Houses of Parliament, maintaining the good understanding which happily subsists between them, and zealously co-operating in the discharge of their common duty to the country, may at no distant period devise such measures of reform in the administration of local affairs as may give real contentment, by effecting real improvement, and promote prosperity by promoting social and religious peace in the cities and towns of Ireland:— Because the retention of the preamble as amended by the House of Lords is rendered necessary by the other amendments on which they insist. Because the Bill, as it passed the House of Commons, having practically extinguished all existing municipal corporations in Ireland, and the Lords having assented to that provision, the question between the two Houses is no longer whether Corporations should be abolished, but whether they should be re-constructed. Because in the present state of Ireland the general ease and contentment of the inhabitants of cities and towns therein would not be effected without modifications of the principle of local government, as applied to England and Scotland respectively, different from and more extensive than those which have been proposed by the Commons: Because the public good is the only true object of legislation; and, according to the difference of circumstances, that object is to be equally attained by different measures in different parts of the United Kingdom. Because confidence in the decisions of Parliament follow the well-considered adaption of measures to the advantage of those for whose benefit they are desired; and a spirit of distrust and discontent would be produced by instituting measures similar in name but dissimilar in their results. Because it is similar in effect to another provision contained in a clause proposed to be inserted by the Commons in a subsequent part of the Bill, and the omission of which is proposed by the Lords. Because it is necessary, consistently with other amendments proposed by the Lords, to make a temporary provision for the discharge of the duties of the officers to whom the clause refers. Because the 1st and 2nd of such Clauses contains regulations respecting the Corporations proposed to be abolished. Because the 3rd of such Clauses contains regulations respecting property held upon charitable trusts, and which for further reasons hereinafter mentioned are insufficient. Because the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th of such Clauses contain regulations for transferring trusts and powers under Acts of Parliament, to members of the Corporations, proposed to be abolished. Because the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th of such Clauses contain regulations of police which the Lords consider to be sufficiently provided for by the Act passed in the present Session of Parliament for establishing a constabulary force in Ireland. Because the remaining clauses contain regulations respecting the Corporations proposed to be abolished. The Lords have taken into their consi- deration the reasons annexed by the Commons to the proposed amendment to Clause 1, which reasons apply to other subsequent clauses to which the Commons equally disagree. The Lords observe that the Bill, as passed by the Commons, contained certain trusts in certain Corporations, being trustees casually in office on a given day, notwithstanding those persons might have ceased to hold any office, by virtue of which they were such trustees, and that the clauses objected to were intended to prevent the detriment which might have arisen from the provision made by the Commons, that all such trusts should cease on a day named; and the Lord Chancellor then made such orders as he might see fit for the appointment of trustees and the administration of the trust estate, if Parliament should not have otherwise directed. The Lords are of opinion that it was inexpedient to throw upon the Lord Chancellor a duty he could not satisfactorily discharge, the more especially as no provision was made by the Commons for the security of the trust property, in the event of the duty imposed upon the Lord Chancellor not being in any case performed. The Lords therefore thought it desirable to continue the several trusts in the several persons in whom they were continued by the Bill, as it passed the House of Commons, until Parliament should otherwise provide. The clauses objected to contain other enactments obviously necessary to meet cases which, arising out of the proposed abolition of Corporations, had not been provided for by the House of Commons; but all such enactments, proceeding upon the same principle, are of a character subject to the future direction of Parliament. For these reasons the Lords insist upon these several clauses:— Because it is necessary to provide for the security and management of corporate property when, by the enactments of the Bill insisted upon, Corporations shall be abolished. Because it is advisable to place the management of such property in the hands of Commissioners removed from local influence, and responsible for the due performance of their duties. Because the management of an inconsiderable property, and the right of nomination to some offices of small, value required for the collection of such property, or otherwise necessary, cannot, in the apprehension of the Lords, create an influence inconsistent with the freedom and independence of the several cities and towns in Ireland. Because the amendment proposed by the Lords appears to them to be necessary, with a view to the title to the lands which the Commissioners are by that clause empowered to purchase. Because the provisions to which the Com- mons have disagreed appear to the Lords to be necessary, on account of the peculiar circumstances of the right of patronage to which these provisions were intended to apply. Because there are duties to be performed by the officers to whom that clause refers which the Lords agree with the Commons in regarding as highly important to the mercantile and commercial interests of the several cities and towns in Ireland, and for the performance of which no sufficient provision would otherwise be made. The noble Lord moved, their Lordships, that they agree to the resolutions.

Viscount Melbourne

My Lords after the reasons I have stated upon a recent occasion for dissenting from your Lordships, and after the vote I gave upon that occasion, it would be superfluous on my part now to say that I do not concur in the reasons which we have just heard from the noble Lord. I have heard on the contrary, with very great concern, the course which it is proposed to follow. I think it is hasty, and rash, and imprudent, and that the reasons assigned are not sufficient to justify the step that has been taken. After the decided manifestation of opinion which your Lordships have shown, I am not disposed to offer any opposition to these reasons. It will, however, be distinctly understood by your Lordships and by the country, that neither I nor the noble Lords who act with me are parties to these proceedings; that we distinctly disclaim any agreement or participation in them; and that, on the contrary, we altogether disclaim, disapprove of, and condemn them.

The reasons were adopted, and it was agreed a conference should be requested with the Commons.

A conference was accordingly held, at which their Lordships' reasons for not agreeing with the Commons' amendments to the Municipal Bill for Ireland were communicated to the Commons.

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