HL Deb 30 May 1856 vol 142 cc776-80

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.


said, that he felt compelled to move that the House resolve itself into such Committee that day six months. He trusted that the Government would withdraw the present Bill and bring in a new one in its place, embodying the alterations which the present Bill made in the old Bill on the subject, so as to state plainly and distinctly what it was they proposed to enact. The original Act, which the present measure partly continued, partly modified, and partly repealed, was the 11 Vict, cap. 2. That Act consisted of twenty-three clauses; out of them the Government proposed to repeal seven entirely, and to modify ten. Under these circumstances the most sensible course would be for the Government to introduce a new Bill; for the House, in proceeding with the Bill as it stood, had no opportunity of knowing what it was doing. Another point was, that several other clauses must also be repealed—as, for instance, all those which referred to the constabulary must be struck out, partly as inconsistent with the new clauses of the Bill, and partly as inconsistent with the privileges of the House of Commons. There would then remain not one half of the original Bill in the proposed measure. He had three objections to the point of power, but he had still more important objections of another kind. The history of the Bill was this—It was introduced in 1850 as a temporary measure, being, in fact, a continuance of the old Crime and Outrage Act; it was continued yearly down to 1855 by various continuing Acts. It had lasted from its introduction to the present time, through several administrations, and it was never once supposed or hinted at that the Bill was to be a continuous one. It was enacted under special circumstances, and for a limited time; and it was reserved for the present Liberal Administration to declare that it should be continued for ever. But the circumstances which induced Parliament to assent to the original measure no longer existed, and he protested against the continuance of a system of legislation which gave the Executive undue power, and which proclaimed in perpetuity as it were, that the people of Ireland were beyond the control of the ordinary law. Under this impression—and with the feeling that the Government ought to withdraw the Bill and introduce another—he should move that the House go into Committee upon it that day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out "now" and insert "this day six months."


said, that the Act now in force expired on the 1st of July, and it was necessary to make some provision for its renewal. To introduce a new Bill would take up a long time both in that House and in another place, and the simplest plan was to move the renewal of the old Bill, leaving out such clauses as were no longer necessary. It was proposed to leave out Clauses 16, 17, 18, and 19, which the law officers and the Lord Chancellor had declared inoperative and unnecessary, or provided for by other Acts of Parliament. On this subject there could be no objection to going into Committee; it would be then competent for any noble Lord to move that the duration of the Bill should be for a limited time.


saw no objection to the Bill if it were intended merely to continue the Crime and Outrage Act; but when a temporary Act was to be made permanent he thought their Lordships should have an opportunity of reconsidering it clause by clause.


said, that, on the understanding that the object of the Bill was to continue and mitigate the existing law, he would not object to it at the present stage. But he protested against the practice of partially repealing and partially renewing the provisions of existing Acts, the only effect of which was to introduce uncertainty and confusion where everything should be clear and simple.


said, that the experience of the last twelve or thirteen years had shown that the Crime and Outrage Act and its continuance, the present Bill, had been of great benefit to the country. Its provisions had proved very effective, and it was not now the question whether the greater portion of the old Act was repealed or not, but whether an Act was to be continued of so much benefit to the country. Three clauses were continued, one of which gave the Lord Lieutenant the power of proclaiming a district. It had been objected that there ought to be a notice from the magistrates in the first instance; but no instance had occurred of the power being exercised without reference to the magistrates. The second provided that proclaimed districts should pay the expense of the police, which was but fair to the Consolidated Fund; and the third provided that persons should not carry arms without licence. All these provisions had been found to be of benefit to the country; it was not advisable that there should be an annual discussion upon them; and he called upon the House to consider the responsibility which it would incur by rejecting a measure, to which much of the present tranquillity of Ireland was probably due.


said, the House had to consider two questions—one a question of form, and the other a question of substance. He did not think there was much difference of opinion among them as to the substance of the measure, because he believed that any one who knew what the state of Ireland had been of late years, could hardly consider that it would be necessary to make the Bill a permanent one. But he attached more importance to the question of form. The Bill proposed to re-enact the provisions of a preceding Act, with the exception of so-and-so, to an extent that rendered it unintelligible in itself, and perfectly so without reference to the old Act. Every Bill should tell its own story. The Legislature was extremely desirous of improving and consolidating the Statute Law, and had spent a large sum of money in attempting to effect that object: but here they were about to adopt a process of legislation which was utterly opposed to the principle of legal consolidation.


said, that so far as he understood the measure he approved of it; but he did not think it desirable that a Bill containing such stringent provisions should be one of a permanent character; and he should also say that, in his opinion, they ought not to pass the measure in a form in which it could only be understood by a reference to a preceding Act of Parliament. He would recommend the noble Lord who hard charge of the Bill to withdraw it for the present, and to bring forward an amended Bill on a future occasion.


said, he believed they were all agreed as to the principle of the Bill, and he did not see why they should not then proceed to consider its details in Committee.


said, that in the present state of Ireland he did not consider it at all necessary that the Bill should be continued for a period of more than five years. Indeed, he did not know that there was anything at that moment in the condition of that country which necessitated the passing of such a measure. But as there had been disturbances from time to time in Ireland, and as no complaints, as far as he was aware, had been made of the operation of the Act, he had no wish to oppose its renewal for a limited period. He entirely concurred with the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord St. Leonards) in his objection to the form in which the Bill had been drawn.


said, he had no objection to limit the operation of the Bill to a period of five years.


said, that after that statement of the noble Earl, he should not press his opposition to their proceeding to consider it in Committee.

Amendment, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

Then the original Motion was agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

Amendments made.

Amendment moved, and negatived.

The Report of the Amendments to be received on Monday next.

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