HL Deb 12 February 1847 vol 89 cc1222-5

moved for copies of applications made to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on behalf of residents in the baronies of Clanwellin and Shanid, praying for the division of those baronies for the purpose of holding special sessions under the 9th and 10th Vict., cap. 107. In making a few observations in reference to this Motion, he should carefully abstain from any attack on the Irish Government for the decision they came to, in refusing to accede to the request, being satisfied that they decided as they thought best. Some of the baronies in Ireland being extremely large, it would be recollected that by the Labour-rate Act a power was reserved to the Government of dividing them. In the two cases to which his Motion referred, application was made to the Irish Government for the division of the baronies; but the application was not complied with. He called for these papers for the purpose of laying a foundation to present to their Lordships hereafter a proposition, on which he thought that the future well-being of Ireland depended; for, whatever system of poor-law assessment it might please Parliament to adopt for that country, it would be desirable to look well to the nature of the districts which should be combined together for the purpose of assessment, and particularly to the extent of the several districts over which the assessment was to be spread. If the districts were made too large, the ratepayers would be exposed to all sorts of fraudulent applications; and, from his experience of the operation of the Labour-rate Act, he could say that in the larger districts the works were ill administered, while in the smaller they were comparatively well administered. According to the existing poor law in Ireland, the electoral districts were chosen, which were of that convenient size that the result was, that in those districts where estates were well managed, and landlords discharged the du- ties belonging to their station, the rates were reduced. It was of great importance that this principle should be firmly adhered to. Their Lordships would be called on to discuss this question in connexion with measures to be brought under their consideration; and they might be told that the clauses relating to this matter were money clauses, and could not be altered without affecting the privileges of the House of Commons. He did not think that in reference to so essential a matter as this, that argument ought to prevent their Lordships from discussing and deciding on it. He, therefore, took this early opportunity of representing the great importance which the resident gentlemen of Ireland attached to the electoral districts' clause, which was called "the Duke of Wellington's Clause," because it was adopted at the noble Duke's suggestion. It would be fatal to depart from its principle; and therefore, privilege or no privilege, he trusted, if any proposition involving any serious departure from the principle of that clause were made, that their Lordships would not decline to give it due consideration, and deal with it according to their judgment. He disliked referring in one House of Parliament to what took place in the other; but it had been stated elsewhere, in reference to his opinions, that because he contended that there ought not to be a common rating over enormous districts, he therefore agreed that that rating should be assimilated to that of England. The two propositions were totally distinct, and the one so erroneously attributed to him, he had never maintained.


observed, that his noble Friend, in moving for these papers, had distinctly disclaimed the intention of casting any imputation upon the conduct of the Irish Government; but even had the noble Lord felt it his duty to call in question the acts of that Government, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would still have thought it fitting that these papers should be laid before the House. He would, however, suggest to his noble Friend, that in addition to the papers referred to in his Motion, he should move for copies of the Lord Lieutenant's answers to the applications.


considered it most important that these papers should be produced. He entertained a very strong opinion in favour of what was commonly called "the Duke of Wellington's Clause." He must say that it was intolerable to think that any notion of the privileges of the other House, should stand in the way of the fullest and most unfettered discussion in that place; and that their Lordships should be told, "You must either swallow the whole, or reject the whole," when it would very likely be as great an evil to reject the whole measure, as to adopt it without some modifications. His reason for saying this was, that the difference of the rating principle might entirely change the character of the measure. He must observe that he strongly approved of the plan adopted in Scotland to prevent abuse in the relief of the poor. In that country twenty-three questions were put to applicants for relief, with reference to their circumstances and situation, before relief was granted to them; and such applicants were also called upon to give an undertaking that if they afterwards became possessed of property beyond what was absolutely necessary for their subsistence, they would repay the money which had been advanced for their relief. He (Lord Brougham) objected, however, to the 17th of this series of questions, which required the applicant to state what place of worship he had attended during his residence in the parish; whether he had been a communicant, and, if so, with what religious denomination; and to produce a certificate of character from his minister. He (Lord Brougham) did not object to calling for the character of the applicant, but he thought the other part of the question most objectionable; for no sectarian feeling ought to be indulged with reference to the distribution of parochial charity. The regulation induced the suspicion that a person might be refused relief on account of his religious opinions; and he (Lord Brougham) was acquainted with a case in which relief had actually been refused to a Roman Catholic. There ought to be no such sectarian interference: such feelings were all very well in their place, but they had nothing to do with a question of charity. He might take this opportunity of observing, that while no one could feel more strongly than he did the importance of Sabbath rest, and of avoiding secular amusements on that day, he thought that a most imprudent course was taken by some persons in Scotland to enforce the strict observance of the Sunday. He had been informed that, at Glasgow, a medical gentleman was positively refused a train on the Sunday in order to attend one of his patients who was in a critical state. His (Lord Brougham's) deliberate opinion was, that the very per- sons who did most to desecrate the Sabbath, were those who made its observance unpopular by acts of this kind.


considered it most important that, in any division they might make for the purpose of rating in Ireland, care should be taken not to deprive the landed proprietors and the real substantial occupiers of the soil of an interest in administering the rates well; prior to which it was necessary that they should administer their estates well. There was one circumstance with reference to the Irish poor law, which seemed to him to be of the greatest possible consequence—namely, the mode in which the town paupers were to be dealt with; whether thay were to be thrown exclusively upon the single electoral district in which the town was situated, or to be spread over a larger surface. He was sure their Lordships would agree with him that it was most desirable they should not act in such a manner as to sanction the principle that there was a distinction between the interests of town and country. The interests of the two ought undoubtedly to be so dealt with as to be rendered as far as possible one and the same. He would have felt more gratified if his noble Friend the President of the Council (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had distinctly expressed an opinion that that House should deal in a free and unfettered manner with the measure to which reference had been made. He was sure his noble Friend would forgive him for saying that all persons connected with Ireland would have heard the noble Marquess's statement with greater satisfaction, had he expressed a decided opinion that, however the House of Commons might send up that measure, their Lordships must deal with it in accordance with those views which they believed would be most conducive to the welfare of Ireland.

Motion, as amended, agreed to. Returns ordered.

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