HL Deb 12 May 1837 vol 38 cc817-21
Lord Wynford

presented a petition from Bristol, complaining of the manner in which the municipal affairs of that city had been conducted under the English Municipal Act. The noble Lord read a long statement, contradictory of the Report which had been read by Lord Melbourne to the House, a few weeks ago. The petitioners set forth, that the general municipal affairs of the city had been more cheaply and effectively carried on under the old Act; they complained of the present division of the city into wards, of the manner in which justice was administered, of the management of civic property and charitable trusts, and also that the police established under the new Act were not an efficient body, inasmuch as there had been no diminution of crime.

Viscount Melbourne

had used every exertion to obtain as impartial and satisfactory information on this subject, as he possibly could; at the same time he had stated that that information had been affected to a certain degree by political feeling, not only as regarded Bristol, but every other part of the country. Considering, then, that this Municipal Bill had been the subject of so much debate,—considering, also, that it affected the interests, and still more so the feelings of numerous individuals in those towns,—considering that it was a measure which had been carried against their wishes and opinions, it was impossible to expect that there could be anything like a concurrence or unanimity of opinion respecting the mode in which its operations were carried into effect. He was not the least surprised, therefore, at the petition which had been presented by the noble and learned Lord. Upon the contents of that petition the noble Lord was inclined to rely, as he had relied upon the information which he had received on the subject; the noble Lord, however, had not contented himself with relying entirely upon the statements Contained therein, but had gone further than the petitioners. They set forth, that many of the statements in the report were exaggerated and untrue, while the noble Lord said, that they were all so. He thought the noble Lord might have confined himself to his brief, as he had to that which he had received, instead of going beyond the opinions of his clients. He believed that this Bill had worked well in Bristol, and he certainly, in forming an opinion on the subject, would not be guided by the statement of the petitioners or the noble Lord, for it was evidently the case of the old corporation and its partisans. It was at all events an eulogy upon the old system. There might be truth in some parts of it, but he was not then prepared to go into the various allegations it contained. Almost the only tangible point in it was that respecting the police. The petitioners denied that they had afforded any security. Now, judging of the working of this Bill in other towns, he had come to the conclusion that the police arrangements made under it had been attended with the most beneficial results. If there existed any grounds for the complaints contained in this petition, he hoped the town-council would see them redressed, and that all parties in the town would unite to secure those benefits which were intended to be conferred by the Bill.

Lord Wharncliffe

observed, that however it might have been intended that the Bill should have worked, it had, nevertheless, worked badly. He, indeed, hoped, that its general effects, but, above all, that the use to which it had been converted for political purposes, would serve as a warning to their Lordships to be extremely cautious in dealing with the Municipal Bill for Ireland. He would here take leave to observe, that, by a reference to the votes of the proceedings in the other House of Parliament, he had perceived, to his very great astonishment, that the second reading of the Irish Church Bill, which was one of those measures their Lordships had expressed their desire of having before them before they proceeded to legislate upon the Irish Municipal Bill, had been fixed for the 9th of June—the very day to which they had referred the consideration of the Irish Corporation Bill. He was the more surprised at this, when he recollected that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State in the other House, had declared that they would proceed' with the Irish Church Bill, without refer- ence to anything that had occurred in their Lordships' House. The 9th of June had, notwithstanding, been fixed for the second reading of the Bill. If such a course as this were to be persevered in, it would be utterly impossible for them to proceed with the business of that House.

The Marquess of Lansdown

had no hesitation in saying, that nothing had been done in the other House of Parliament with a view to deprive their Lordships of the opportunity of considering certain measures pending in the House of Commons before they should decide upon what course to pursue with respect to the Irish Municipal Bill. The postponement which had taken place was entirely the result of necessity consequent upon the mode of arranging business in that House. Their Lordships, however, would not be affected by that postponement, as the Irish Church Bill would be printed, and in the hands of Members before their Lordships would proceed to the consideration of the Irish Municipal Bill.

The Earl of Wicklow

also expressed his surprise that the same day should have been fixed for the consideration of the Church Bill in the House of Commons as that appointed for the further progress of the Irish Municipal Bill in that House, and until he had heard the explanation given by the noble Marquess, he had conceived that such a course evinced on the part of the Government a desire to thwart the views of noble Lords in that House, and that the probable result of it would be, the further postponement of a question, which his Majesty's Ministers had stated, it was very desirable to have disposed of immediately. The explanation of the noble Marquess was, therefore, to some extent, satisfactory; but the noble Marquess seemed to think, that the object which noble Lords had in view when they deferred the consideration of the Irish Municipal Bill, would be equally well attained by their Lordships obtaining copies of the Church Bill as printed for the use of the Members of the other House. He entirely differed from the noble Marquess on that point. It was quite a different thing to see a Bill in the state in which it was introduced to the other House, and that in which it came up to their Lordships. How could they tell what amendments would be made in it, what alterations it might undergo in its progress through the other House, and consequently, what degree of security it would furnish in the minds of those who felt that security was necessary, before they proceeded to grant Municipal Corporations to that country as proposed by the present measure? He was of opinion, therefore, that the object of their Lordships in postponing the consideration of the Irish Corporation Bill could not be attained, until the other measures, which they were desirous of seeing, should be brought up from the House of Commons; and, moreover, he felt it necessary for his own consistency, to say, that he should deem it his duty at a future period, to move the further postponement of the Corporation Bill until those other measures should be before that House.

Lord Brougham

would remind their Lordships that during the debate on the Irish Municipal Bill the other night, he had stated how the delay of five weeks was likely to be received elsewhere. He had given his opinion, not as a threat to their Lordships, but in order to place before them, for their consideration, the conduct the other House would probably adopt; and he had stated that their Lordships example, in their unfortunate decision of delay to the 9th of June, would be followed. He had expected what had happened, not the exact form adopted by the other House, but he had anticipated something similar. The question now was, whether the course adopted by the House of Commons would not make their Lordships pause, and consider the vote of the other night, or whether, as often as their Lordships were opposed in one of their views, toties quoties, they would invent other means of throwing out the Bill. He thought it would suit the peace of the country better, and be more in accordance with the dignity of that House and the manly and straightforward character of their Lordships, to announce their intention of throwing out the Bill, instead of putting it off from day to day, by which means, they were lowering their reputation with the country.

The Earl of Falmouth

entirely agreed with his noble Friend (Lord Wharncliffe), that the working of the English Municipal Bill did not at all bear out the statement of the noble Lord opposite, (Lord Melbourne). Although that Bill might not have been intended for exciting political feuds, he knew no measure that had caused more. It promoted the opposite of peace and harmony in the country.

The Earl of Haddington

would not prolong the discussion, but would make one remark in reference to what had fallen from noble Lords opposite, and he was pleased to hear the noble Lord (Lord Melbourne) disclaim any intention on the part of the Government to play the game of retaliation, although the delay of the Irish Tithe Bill seemed to indicate it. It was impossible for their Lordships to proceed, without compromising their duty, until they knew in what shape the Irish Tithe Bill was likely to be sent up to them. It would be different if that Bill stood for Committee on the 9th of June, but it was in a much less advanced state. Their Lordships must again postpone the Irish Municipal Bill, but it was not necessary then to discuss that point; at the same time he would protest against the inference drawn by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) that it was the intention of that House to reject the Bill altogether.

Petition laid on the Table.

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