§ Order of the day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, that he would not at present detain their lordships by entering into details as to the particular clauses of the measure, which would be better considered in Committee. The Bill was based upon the experience of the different local Acts which had been passed for individual towns, and the impression of those who originated the measure was, that it would be more advisable to have one general Act as applicable to towns generally than in every case to have to apply for a special and a local Act. The Bill was framed on the Irish and Scotch Acts, and he felt little doubt that the Bill would be found well adapted to carry out the improvements that were contemplated and required.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
moved as an Amendment that the Bill be read on 365 that day three months. The noble Earl said, that his objections to the measure were, first, as to the general form of the measure; and, secondly, as to its general details. In respect to his first objection, he observed, that the learned Gentleman who drew up the Bill had availed himself for the whole machinery of the measure of the clauses of various consolidation Acts —the Companies' Clauses Consolidation Act, the Towns Improvement Clauses Consolidation Act, and the lands Clauses Consolidation Act; provisions from each of those Acts were introduced into the present Bill. Now, it should be recollected that those Clauses Consolidation Acts were passed for the sole purpose of facilitating the carrying out of private or local Acts; it was never intended that their provisions should be incorporated or made to form part of a public general Act. As the Bill at present stood, it was applicable to no less than 237 towns and villages in Ireland—to any town or village containing 1,000 persons. Now, its details were of a most complicated character, and it could not be supposed that the little shopkeepers in the small towns and villages, though respectable men in their way, could be sufficiently acquainted with the law referred to in this Bill to be enabled to carry out its provisions. Why, they would be confounded by the continual references which the Bill made to Acts of Parliament. How was it proposed that the Town Commissioners under this Bill were to be elected? Why, the Commissioners might be persons whose only qualification for the office was the occupation of a house rated at 12l. a year. What was likely to be the effect of this measure? There would, first, be a most complicated and difficult system of law to establish; and next, the appointment of efficient officers to work out its details. If this Act were adopted in small towns, the effect would be utter confusion. In the rural parts of Ireland the burdens had greatly decreased. Where he (the noble Earl) resided the rates had been greatly reduced. But if this measure passed, it would have the effect of creating great additional taxation as well as responsibility. The poor people in the towns and villages of Ireland would be induced to think that this was a simple piece of legislation, intended solely for their advantage; but when they attempted to put it in operation they would find that the main features of the measure were taken from the Consolidation Clauses Acts. He thought 366 that the learned Gentleman who drew up the measure should have stated its provisions upon the very face of the Bill. He believed that thirteen towns had petitioned in favour of the Bill. He (the noble Earl) was quite willing that those towns should have the full benefit of it, but he objected to its application being made general. He considered it a great anomaly that there should be a different qualification for those who would have the power of voting for the application of the measure, and those who would have the right of voting for the Commissioners who were to act under the Bill. The qualifications for the former would be the occupation of a house rated at 8l., and of the latter of a house rated at 4l. That difference appeared to him to be inconsistent with common sense. There was another extraordinary provision in the Bill. In the former Acts the rating to give the qualification to a Commissioner was 20l., but in the present measure the qualification for such office was only 12l. He did not think that any necessity existed for the passing of the measure at the present moment; and, in the hope that the Government would introduce some better mode of dealing with the subject, he moved that the Bill be read a second time that day three months.
Amendment moved, to leave out "now," and insert "this day three months."
§ EARL GRANVILLE
did not think that the objections taken by the noble Earl were of such a nature as ought to induce their lordships to postpone the Bill. With reference to the question of qualification, he would be most ready to consider any Motion that the noble Earl might think it his duty to submit in Committee; and, as to the point relating to the magistrates, he begged to remind him that those magistrates could only exercise judicial functions for the purposes of the Bill. He hoped their lordships would not consent to the Motion of the noble Earl, but read the Bill a second time and allow it to go into Committee.
THE EARL OF DESART
complained that the Commissioners were to be armed with arbitrary powers, the exercise of which might subject those over whom they were placed to serious inconvenience and injury. He protested against the powers given to these Commissioners as an evasion of the rights of the people. It might be necessary to pass a measure for the promotion of such objects as the Bill professed to deal with, but this was not a step in the 367 right direction, and he trusted, therefore, their lordships would not give their assent to the second reading of a measure that seemed to him to be arbitrary, tyrannical, and inexpedient.
THE EARL OF CLANCARTY
said, they were not only conferring large powers on the Commissioners by this Bill, but were proposing a qualification that was much too low to secure an efficient class of men. He did not think that bringing in the lord lieutenant would be any check whatever to the evil consequences which he anticipated from the Bill. A new principle of election was introduced, to which he trusted their lordships would not give their sanction. He was friendly to liberal institutions, but they must be careful how they promoted such schemes as the present. Among other powers given to the Commissioners, besides that of extending the area of taxation, was the power of purchasing land with or without the consent of its owner. This he regarded as in the highest degree objectionable.
§ LORD MONTEAGlE
thought that they would do more justice to this subject by not resisting the second reading of the Bill, and by reserving their objections to be separately considered and disposed of, after fair investigation, in Committee.
§ THE EARL OF EGLINTON
said, that by the present Bill they proposed to apply the same powers to large towns and to small villages, and he thought it hard to bring in a Bill containing a proposition of such a sweeping nature. He had not, however, fully considered the Bill, and conceived that the best course for them to adopt was that pointed out by the noble lord (lord Monteagle); but a still more preferable course would be to refer it to a Select Committee.
THE EARL OF RODEN
also concurred in the proposition of the noble lord (lord Monteagle). The principle of the Bill was one of great importance, and he trusted that in Committee the objectionable clauses would be obviated or omitted, and the measure rendered really useful.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
trusted, after what had passed, their lordships would consent to read this Bill a second time at once. With respect to the suggestion that it should be referred to a Select Committee, he thought that they were rather overriding that practice. A similar proposal was made with respect to almost every Bill that came before their lordships' House. Now, a Select Committee was a 368 very good thing in its way, but it was not a panacea for every possible evil; and with respect to the objections which had been raised against this Bill, they were all of them matters for discussion in Committee, and all of them matters which might very well be settled in the whole House. He thought that whatever alterations were made in the measure had better be made in the House, where the reasons for them might be given, than in a private room upstairs; but he confessed that the only objection which had made any impression on his mind, was that which had been mentioned by the noble lord on the crossbenches (lord Monteagle) and the noble Earl opposite the late lord lieutenant of Ireland (the Earl of Eglinton), relating to the compulsory power to take lands. That was a question which he was ready to admit appeared to him to be deserving of further consideration.
The Earl of DONOUGHMORE having consented to withdraw his Amendment,
Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn: then the original Motion was agreed to.
Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.
House adjourned to Thursday next.