HL Deb 01 July 1856 vol 143 cc111-3

rose to call the attention of the House to the heavy expenses incurred by Irish Peers in did think that there existed nothing which should prevent the Irish Peers proving their right to vote for Representative Peers. The Fourth Article of the Act of Legislative Union thus describes the persons who should vote for Representative Peers:— Every temporal Peer of Ireland who shall have sat and voted in the House of Lords for Ireland, and whose right to sit and vote therein shall have been admitted by the House, before or after the Union.

To the former class it was not necessary for him to refer, as only two Irish Peers existed who sat in the Irish House of Lords before the Union. The great majority of the present constituency of the elective Peers of Ireland were persons who had proved their right to vote. He submitted that the expenses of proving their claims were both excessive and unnecessary. In order to show that those expenses were excessive, he would adduce the course of proceeding when an English Peer took his seat. He merely sent a simple document to the Lord Chancellor to show his right; and, the Lord Chancellor satisfied, he took his seat. In the case of a son succeeding his father, the whole expense scarcely exceeds £5. The Irish Peer, on the contrary, had to adduce evidence before the Committee for Privileges of his right. He (the Earl of Donoughmore) was present on a Committee for Privileges, when a noble Earl proved his right to vote as an Irish Peer. The case was rather complicated. The pedigree was produced for a considerable number of years, involving several lines of descent; a number of persons, clergymen, both of the Establishment and of the Roman Catholic Church, produced the registers; and unless those had been produced, the claim to vote would not have been substantiated. The expense of bringing witnesses from a great distance in these cases was very great; and a serious question, he urged, was involved in the circumstance. The Irish Peerage was closely approaching the position contemplated by the Act of Union. The number of Irish Peers, including those who had not as well as those who had proved their right to vote for representative Peers, was 123. It was plain that it was the intention of the Act that the Irish Peers should be kept up to a certain number; but the expense was now beginning to interfere with that intention and setting it aside. In many cases, where there was no doubt whatever, the claimants were deterred by the expense from proving their claims. He did think that there existed nothing which should prevent the Irish Peers entitled to vote for Representative peers, being put in as favourable a position for proving their right as British Peers enjoyed for proving their right to seats in that House. He would ask their Lordship to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the subject, and to report what could be done to remedy this manifest injustice to a large class of Members of that House—for many of their Lordships, though sitting as English Peers, possessed votes for Irish Representative Peers, and were therefore as deeply interested in this subject as the whole body of Irish Peers. The noble Earl concluded by moving that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the expenses incurred by Scotch and Irish Peers in proving their right to vote for Representative Peers.


said, that he quite admitted that it was desirable to reduce the expenses incurred by Irish Peers; but it was quite impossible to adopt the course suggested by the noble Earl without passing an Act of Parliament, because the Act of Union provided that the claims of the Irish Peers were to be determined by the House of Lords. In the case of English Peers this was different. They had merely to go to the Lord Chancellor, representing not that House, but the Crown; and if he, on the part of the Crown, saw no difficulty, the writ of summons was issued. He did not think that it would be possible to reduce the expenses of proving a claim to vote for the Representative Peers of Ireland as low as those now incurred by English Peers on taking their seat, but he fully concurred in the propriety of appointing a Committee to inquire into the subject, and to ascertain what reductions could be effected.


corroborated the statement made by the noble Earl—namely, that these heavy expenses deterred many Peers from claiming their right to vote. He thought the matter was well worthy of their Lordships' consideration, and he was sure the Irish Peers in general, whatever might be the result of this inquiry, would feel greatly indebted to the noble Earl (the Earl of Donoughmore) for the part taken by him in this matter.


said, the sole remedy for the evil complained of was an Act of Parliament which should establish some other mode of inquiring into claims made to vote in the election of Irish Representative Peers. But he questioned very much whether it was desirable to relax the evidence now required before claims of this kind were admitted, because a great number of cases of a suspicious character came before a Committee of Privileges.


said, the case of injustice made out on the part of the Irish Peers had not been in any way answered by the noble Lord. To show how the system worked he might mention his own case. It cost him less than £5 to take his seat as an English Peer, but to prove his right to vote for an Irish Representative Peer cost him £150. He would ask their Lordships whether in these days of financial reform this state of things ought to continue?

Motion agreed to.

House ajourned to Thursday next.