HL Deb 12 June 1840 vol 54 cc1101-10
Viscount Duncannon

, in moving that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the Grand Jury Cess (Ireland) Bill, said, that nearly all the objects to be attained by it had been embodied in the Irish Corporation Bill of 1838, and in the bill of last year as amended by their Lordships. The main object of the bill was, to enable the town councils to exercise the same jurisdiction within the towns and boundaries attached to those towns as was formerly exercised by grand juries.

Lord Lyndhurst

was desirous of calling their Lordships' attention to the nature of this bill, being of opinion that it ought not to proceed any further. In order to render it intelligible, it would be necessary to refer to the bills which had been introduced on the subject of municipal corpora- tions in Ireland. When the bill of 1837, came up to their Lordships, it contained clauses by which certain boundaries were declared to be for the future Parliamentary boundaries respecting some of the boroughs, and municipal boundaries respecting others. In 1838, when the Irish Municipal Bill again came up to their Lordships' House, the Boundary Commissioners had made their report, and a bill was either in course of preparation or had been prepared to give effect to that report. Their Lordships had thought, and he believed rightly, that it was better to include the boundaries in the bill itself. Accordingly they annexed to it the boundaries to which the commissioners had agreed with some trifling exceptions, and inserted a clause in it to the effect that these boundaries should in future be boundaries of cities and counties for the purposes of the act—that was to say, for municipal purposes—but that the rural districts should be annexed to the adjoining counties. That provision, originating in their Lordships' House, went down to the Commons, where, with a trifling verbal alteration, it was agreed to. In 1839 another Irish Municipal Bill came up to their Lordships, and in that bill the Commons had adopted the amendments which their Lordships had introduced in the bill of 1838, and which the Commons had agreed to in the same year. The provision contained in that bill upon the subject of boundaries was to the effect, that the boundaries fixed in the bill should be for municipal purposes—that was, for the purposes of the act in cities and towns; but that the rural districts should be annexed to counties for the purposes of grand jury presentments and civil and criminal proceedings, under the authority of the courts of justice. That was the bill of 1839, which had originated in the other House of Parliament, and that was the provision it contained respecting boundaries, which their Lordships agreed to. Thus in two successive years, in 1838 and 1839, both Houses of Parliament had agreed to this regulation, that the rural districts should be united to the adjoining counties for the criminal and civil jurisdiction of the superior courts, and also for the purposes of grand jury presentments. That was the deliberate judgment of both Houses of Parliament upon two successive occasions. It was most extraordinary that in the Municipal Corporations' (Ireland) Bill of the present year this had been entirely reversed, and, so far from rural districts being annexed to the adjoining counties, they were to be annexed to the boroughs for the purposes he had mentioned. Upon what principle it was that the agreement of the two Houses had been abandoned in the present bill, and a new principle acted upon, had not been explained, nor did he understand it. What made it very objectionable was, that the commissioners who were appointed for the purpose of settling the boundaries, pointed out the grievance which existed under such a system—namely, the intolerable grievance upon the rural districts of being obliged to contribute to the expense of towns. It was on account of this grievance, so pointed out by the commissioners themselves, that their Lordships and the other House of Parliament had agreed to introduce the provisions he had adverted to, and which, without any statement or reason, had not only been abandoned, but the opposite system adopted in its place. Those who introduced the bill into the other House of Parliament seemed to have felt that it was impossible to sustain this proceeding, and that they were not justified in departing from a principle which had been adopted on two successive occasions by both Houses of Parliament. They seemed to have been sensible of it, and therefore had thought it necessary to introduce a bill for the purpose of correcting it. The noble Marquess opposite had told them on a former evening, that notice had been given of this bill at the time when the noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, introduced the Irish Municipal Bill. Now, one of the provisions in the bill he was adverting to was to bring back and alter the bill which was now lying upon the table, in order to make it correspond with the bills of 1838 and 1839. If what the noble Marquess stated the other night were correct, it was the most extraordinary proceeding that had ever entered into the mind of man. The reason for that proceeding was this,—those clauses to which he had alluded proposed that the powers now vested in grand juries should be transferred to the town councils hereafter to be appointed for the different boroughs. To this proposition their Lordships had last year expressed their decided objection, and the motive which appeared to have suggested the course now adopted was, that the bill might be accepted in its complete form, by mixing up the clauses and provisions to which their Lordships had previously objected with those which they had before adopted. The proceeding could not be explained in any other manner; and to render the bill at all acceptable it should have been divided into two parts. If that course had been adopted, their Lordships could have proceeded to propose amendments; but the bill could not by any means be taken into consideration in its present form. The course adopted with respect to this bill was nothing less than an intrusion on the privileges of their Lordships' House. After having been sent down from their Lordships, clauses had been introduced in another place, which removed the bill from their Lordships' control as respected further amendment, and on that ground he felt that it was the duty of their Lordships to throw it out. Indeed, they could not, with any proper feeling of what was due to themselves, adopt the present bill. Look, for instance, at the second part, the money part of the bill. Their Lordships had on a former occasion objected to the transference of the powers of the grand juries to the proposed town councils, in consequence of which the bill, when it went down to the other House, was lost. On this ground, too, he objected to the introduction of a measure containing clauses to which their Lordships had not only already objected, but which prevented their making any valid amendment in the bill. But he objected still more strongly to the power proposed to be vested in future town councils. Look at the control which they would exercise in some of the large towns in Ireland, and the amount of property which would be placed at their disposal. In Dublin they would have the control over from 30,000l. to 40,000l., and in Cork they would exercise a similar control over from 20,000l. to 30,000l. He would ask their Lordships whether, knowing as they must know, for late experience must have informed them, the manner in which these town councils were likely to be composed, they were prepared to vest them with such authority? On that ground also he objected to the bill. But he had another, and perhaps a still stronger objection. The grand juries of Ireland, as at present constituted, were placed under numerous guards and restrictions. These restrictions were supposed to be necessary to control the first and most respectable men in the country, and yet there was no control proposed by the present bill as regarded the town councils. He would mention a few of the checks by which the powers of grand juries in Ireland were controlled. The presentments were in the first instance submitted to the magistrates in session and the first class of ratepayers, who made their report thereon to the grand juries; the grand juries again investigated, sifted, and discussed the details, which, if they were considered wise, equitable, and necessary, were presented by them to be fiated by the judges. But by this bill it was proposed to vest all the power now exercised by grand juries in the future town councils, without providing any check or control. There was no provision enabling any cess-payer to question the expenditure, though the necessity of such control, must be obvious where such large sums were at the disposal of those bodies. There was, however, no provision of this nature to be found in the bill. He would ask whether town councils elected in such manner as the experience of the last twelvemonths showed that these bodies were likely to be elected, should be intrusted with such powers. In his opinion this objection was fatal to the bill. Their Lordships could not alter a tax bill. Should they propose to do so, it would be said elsewhere that their Lordships were interfering with the privileges of the other House, and that they were always too ready to do so. What, then, was the most dignified course for their Lordships, under the circumstances, to pursue? The most dignified course was not to infringe the privileges of the other House, but to reject the bill altogether, and to ask of the Commons to send up a bill to that House which would be freed from the objections to which this was liable. On these short, distinct, and, as he conceived, unanswerable grounds, he would move that the bill be committed that day six months.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

wondered that the noble and learned Lord objected to clauses in the present bill, after having co-operated in framing clauses to a similar effect in a former measure. He had been appealed to as to his local knowledge, and he was aware that it would be most important and imperative to free the agricultural districts adjacent to corporate towns from the unnecessary amount of taxation to which they had for many years been subjected, at the rate of 10s., of 12s., and of 16s. an acre for the maintenance of institutions from which they derived no benefit. It was considered important by those who framed this bill, that where there was a great extent of agricultural country annexed, it should be emancipated from the expense, and annexed to the adjoining counties. The objection taken then by the noble and learned Lord did not apply; but it was a case of equity to the towns, when the agricultural districts were relieved from some burdens by the separation, to leave to the municipal bodies the administration of those local funds raised for local purposes. He had no objection to agree to any proposition for making the town councils more accountable, but the principle of the bill went upon accountability; for they were made accountable to those who paid the money which was placed at their disposal, and they might be sent away or turned out at the end of the year. The noble and learned Lord, then, had no right to say that the principle of accountability was not contained in the bill, for it was to be found there in its best shape, namely, that of responsibility. He did not mean to institute any comparison between the checks imposed on grand juries and those upon the proposed municipal bodies; but when the agricultural districts were separated from the latter, as they all agreed ought to be the case, it would, be absurd not to give to the municipal body in the towns all the fiscal functions pertaining to it. He must confess, for his own part, that he had not sufficient local knowledge to see the efficiency of the checks which were said to control the grand juries, but he was aware that both in that and in the other House they had been frequently described as jobbers. He believed that at present the objections raised against the grand juries were fewer than formerly, but formerly the charge of jobbing was applied to them as a matter of course. The simple question to be determined by their Lordships was, whether there should be one body to tax the town, or whether two bodies should be established exercising functions which were strictly analogous. That was the simple question, and it was for their Lordships to determine it as they thought fit.

The Marquess of Westmeath

said, that as the question had been asked whether there were to be two taxing bodies or one, he would answer it at the outset by saying, that if a smaller taxing power were to be vested in the municipal bodies, he should have been more content with the measure. The noble Marquess had stated that his security for the conduct of these bodies was, that they would have to be re-elected annually, and that that was tantamount to responsibility. He would ask noble Lords acquainted with Ireland, and he would request of them to answer him candidly upon the point, whether they ever found in the debates upon local matters, the reports of which appeared in the Irish newspapers, that the question had ever been fairly put or the facts really stated? If the question were fairly put in the present instance, and that the rate-payer was asked whether he would have such a power vested in the taxing body, his answer would be "Let us remain as we are." If an Irish gentleman got up in a public room to state the question fairly, he would be hooted out, or perhaps knocked down, for opposing one who proposed a tax of which he was himself to be the holder and the distributor, for poor Paddy was not permitted to know the real facts. The noble and learned Lord was right in rejecting this bill, and it was the business of the Government to see that whatever bills were returned to that House should be sent up in a shape which did not render them necessarily objectionable. It was not the business of those on his side of the House to amend the bills of the Government. He repeated, it was not their business to remedy the technical defects of Government, but when rational and well-considered measures were introduced, they should receive his best and most impartial consideration.

The Earl of Wicklow

said, that the bill only affected five towns in Ireland which were counties of towns. As, however, the object proposed to be affected by the Municipal Bill was the reform of the corporations in Ireland, he did not see the necessity of having the Municipal Bill accompanied by the Grand Jury Cess Bill. There was one thing in the bill which was well worthy the notice of their Lordships—namely, that it proposed to transfer the power now vested in the grand juries to the municipal bodies, and yet at the same time it deprived those bodies of the power of paving their own towns. Government had not the confidence in those bodies to intrust them with the power of paving the towns, and yet it deprived the grand juries of the power over the roads to vest it in them. If they had confidence in these bodies to vest them with the macadamization, why not intrust them with the paving of their towns? These observations applied to Limerick, and to Drogheda. Here, then, were two towns with respect to which the bill was neither clear nor intelligible. Surely, then, it would be better to defer this bill, and the Municipal Corporations Bill, and leave the taxing powers with the grand juries, as at present. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had candidly admitted, that he regretted the bill was not divided into two parts. Now, those who entertained the views held by noble Lords on his (the Earl of Wicklow's) side of the House, had in the other House of Parliament exerted their influence to do that which the noble Marquess regretted had not been done. Even after rejecting this bill, which could not be amended without infringing upon the privileges of the other House, there would be sufficient time yet to introduce a distinct bill, not liable to this objection, and for the noble Marquess opposite to use the influence he possessed with his Friends elsewhere to send up two separate bills for the consideration of this House. There was full time to remedy the difficulties which were presented in the way of this measure in a manner not only more satisfactory to this House, but to those parts of the country which were intended to be benefited by it. He thought the arguments of his noble and learned Friend below him to be so convincing, that he should vote, though fully disposed to enter upon the discussion of the Municipal Bill, for the amendment proposed by his noble and learned Friend.

Lord Brougham

said, that as he thought the House should not begin legislation by giving a taxing power to town councils, and then exhibit a distrust of those councils; on that ground, approving as he did of the taxing and other clauses of this bill, he should give his vote in favour of the motion for now going into Committee, and against the amendment moved by his noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Lyndhurst).

Their Lordships divided on the original question:—Contents 36; Not-Contents 96: Majority 60.

List of the CONTENTS.
Albemarle Clifford
Arundel Colborne
Brougham Conyngham
Bruce Cork
Camoys Cottenham
Camperdown Craven
Charlemont De Freyne
Clanricarde Denman
Clarendon Dunally
Cleveland Duncannon
Fitzwilliam Normanby
Foley Petre
Godolphin Poltimore
Gosford Portman
Hatherton Ripon, Bishop of
Headfort Rosebery
Holland Salisbury, Bishop of
Ilchester Saye and Sele
Kingston Seaford
Kinnaird Sherborne
Lansdowne Somerset
Leigh Stafford
Leinster Stuart de Decies
Leitrim Sudeley
Lovelace Sutherland
Lurgan Talbot de Malahide
Lichfield, Bishop of Torrinaton
Melbourne Uxbridge
Minto Vaux
Monteagle Wenlock
Montfort Western
Morley Yarborough
Mostyn Zetland.
List of the NOT-CONTENTS.
DUKES. Orford
Marlborough Lonsdale
Rutland Harewood
Newcastle Verulam
Wellington Brownlow
Buckingham. Beauchamp
Huntley De Grey
Bute Eldon
Downshire Ripon
Exeter Hereford
Londonderry Sydney
Westmeath. Hood
EARLS. Strangford
Pembroke Middleton
Devon Gage
Winchilsea Ha warden
Essex Gort
Abingdon Beresford
Jersey Combermere
Haddington Canterbury.
Aberdeen BISHOPS.
Hopetoun Winchester
Dartmouth Carlisle
Tankerville Gloucester
Warwick Exeter.
Hardwicke LORDS.
Delaware De Ros
Beverley Clinton
Liverpool Willoughby de Broke
Cadogan Colville
Clanwilliam Middleton
Longford Boston
Enniskillen Walsingham
Wicklow Southampton
Clare Montagu
Bandon Kenyon
Rosslyn Douglas
Limerick Rolle
Powis Bolton
Charleville Carbery
Clonbrock Wharncliffe
Redesdale Feversham
Ellenborough Fitzgerald
Sandys Lyndhurst
Churchill Stuart de Rothesay
Ravensworth Heytesbury
Delamere De Saumarez
Rayleigh Abinger
Downes De L'Isle.
Paired off.
Beaufort Bedford
Buccleuch Strafford
Argyll Berners
Lothian Petre
Cholmondeley Leeds
Ailesbury Lilford
Sandwich Dacre
Moray Thanet
Galloway Lynedoch
Kinnoull Norfolk
Airlie Radnor
Bathurst Shrewsbury
Digby Ducie
Carnarvon Suffolk
Mountcashel Lovat
Wilton Sefton
Sheffield Bishop of Norwich
Falmouth Stanley of Alderly
Stradbroke Methuen
Dunraven Wrottesley
Cawdor Carlisle
Brecknock Howden
Strathallan Breadalbane
Doneraile Carew
St. Vincent Spencer
Canning Cowper
Bishop of London Barham
Bishop of Rochester Bishop of Durham
Saltoun Roxburgh
Sinclair Dunfermline
Sondes Byron
Carteret Bishop of Chichester
Dunsany Cloncurry
Prudhoe Bishop of Ely
Colchester Chichester
Forester Bateman
Tenderden Dinorben
Ashburton Oxford.

Bill put off for six months.