§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
then moved the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Constabulary (Ireland) Bill.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that if they sanctioned the principle of this Bill, it would carry them much further than they intended. Already the Imperial Treasury defrayed nearly two-thirds of the whole expense of that admirable force which was established locally in Ireland for the defence of life and property. He thought it was a wise policy, at the outset of that force, so to recommend it by motives of economy to those who were called upon to adopt it, as to secure its being carried out. But it was now proposed to throw the whole of that expense on the public purse. He objected to that, because he thought it only fair that those who were locally interested in the matter should themselves contribute to the expense of this force. So long as they made that contribution, they would have control over the constabulary; but if they were allowed no longer to do so, the force would be deprived of half its efficiency. And whom would they relieve by giving up this sum of 160,000l. a year? At present it was one of the fixed burdens upon land; and the consequence would be, that if it were omitted, it would only lead to a proportionate increase in the rent of future lettings. It was a scandalous waste, for which no one asked them, and for which no one would thank them. And even as to the benefit of it to the landlord, it would amount to but 1l. per 100 acres on the whole surface of Ireland. But the public 976 treasury would suffer; and better would it be that they should lay out the same sum, under the direction of their own Board of Works in Ireland, in the employment of the people in works of useful industry. It was, in fact, remitting a capital sum of 5,000,000l., and that too in a time of greater calamity than he believed all the measures on their Lordships' Table relating to Ireland would be able to meet. But, moreover, it proceeded on the principle of a relief they were called upon to give to land, in consequence of the repeal of the Corn Laws. If they affirmed that principle, how could they resist its application in England? If they relieved the land of Ireland by throwing the expense of the constabulary force wholly upon the public purse, how could they refuse to give the same relief to the landed interest in England? It was a relief to the landed proprietors alone in Ireland, and, if so, the landed proprietors of England were entitled to the same relief. He knew that the exigency of the case would require all the benevolence of this great Empire; he wished them to reserve for that duty every fraction the country was disposed to give for the benefit of Ireland; and he warned their Lordships against the precedent which this Bill would establish.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, that he was a consenting party to the preparation of the measure, which he thought would give relief in a very proper manner; but their Lordships had a right to consider that the state of things was materially changed since this measure had been laid before Parliament, for then they had reason to expect distress in the months of May and June, but not at the present time. They were now called upon to devote large sums of money for that object, and they had to consider whether this was now the best mode of applying the 160,000l. during the present year; and he thought it was highly expedient to defer the measure to another year.
§ The DUKE of GRAFTON
said, it appeared to be the object of the Government to relieve the proprietors from this present burden, to enable them to bear others which the Government might think absolutely necessary; at the same time he did feel jealous of a power being given to any Lord Lieutenant of increasing, at his own option, the constabulary force.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, the measure was the result of the recommendations of Lord Devon's Commission, 977 and of the pledge given by the late Government, and it was almost imperative on Parliament, and especially on the Government, to carry into effect all the accompanying measures connected with the one vast measure which they had concurred in and adopted, with all its consequences. When the noble Earl, therefore, reverted to the altered circumstances which had changed his view of the question, he did not think it was for one who had been a Member of the late Government, which had contracted the pledge and proposed this relief, in consequence of altered circumstances, of which he made himself the judge, to refuse this relief.
§ Bill read 2a.
§ House adjourned.