§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.90
§ LORD O'HAGAN
My Lords, when I undertook the conduct of the Bill which I shall ask your Lordships to read a second time, I had no reason to believe that I should need to press its proposals by any laboured argument. It aims to assimilate the municipal law of England and of Ireland, and to restore to important institutions, which are common to both countries, an identity of privilege and action which once existed and was unhappily destroyed. If it be accepted by Parliament, it will confer on the corporations of certain counties of cities and counties of towns, in Ireland, the power of appointing their own sheriffs and clerks of the peace and bestowing, on persons distinguished by intellectual eminence or public service, the honorary freedom which is in the gift of similar bodies in other districts of the Empire. It seeks to restore those rights only to six Irish communities, whilst they are enjoyed by at least 20 of the municipalities of England, many of which are inferior in population and social importance to those in Ireland, which desire and are denied them. Before the Corporate Reform Act, the old corporations possessed those rights, and they were conceded in the first draft of the measure of Lord Melbourne. But when it was introduced, party feeling was strong and fierce. In this and the other House of Parliament, there was great excitemention the discussions which attended all its stages. It was bitterly opposed by powerful minorities and heated orators, for many troubled years. Its possible mischiefs were enormously exaggerated; its possible benefits were magnified, perhaps, overmuch; and it was carried at last, as is usual in cases of the kind, at the expense of a compromise, involving, amongst other things, the creation of a civil inequality between England and Ireland on the matters which this Bill submits for the consideration of your Lordships. By its provisions, that inequality will be done away, and the Irish subjects of the Queen will be relieved from the rankling sense of inferiority and injustice which such invidious distinctions are ever calculated to produce when they are established without reason and maintained without necessity. My Lords, a measure having such a worthy purpose is surely entitled to your favourable attention, and its history in the House of 91 Commons ought, in my judgment, to put its acceptance here beyond all controversy. In that House, it received the support of Her Majesty's Government. In its principle and its details, it was sustained by the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland. It was settled by a Select Committee, presided over by the Chief Secretary, with the aid of my noble Friend his predecessor (Lord Hartington), and many other able and distinguished men; and it comes up to your Lordships, having passed the Commons without a division on any one of its clauses. Under such circumstances, I might well have supposed that its adoption by your Lordships would have been unresisted; but I grieve to find that this is not so. The noble Earl opposite means to move its rejection, and, whatever may be the issue of the effort, I cannot but think it had been better spared in the interests of sound policy and the promotion of that kindly feeling and mutual confidence which you should strive to cultivate between the English and the Irish people. I trust your Lordships will not countenance an opposition so unwise in its conception, and so likely to be disastrous in its result. You will not reject a Bill which is recommended by such a weight of authority, unless there be coercive reasons for setting at nought the decision of the Government, confirmed by the sanction of the House of Commons, and applauded by men of all parties in that House, as inaugurating a policy of justice and conciliation. But, the case does not rest on authority merely. If there had been no such full consideration and deliberate approval of the measure, I would appeal to your Lordships confidently to adopt it on its merits. It asks that you should deal equally with the people of a United Kingdom which will find its connection best consolidated by the extension of common privileges to all within its bounds. And, for that great purpose, it is surely important that unwarrantable distinctions in the powers and attributes of its municipalities should not be permitted to exist. To nations, such municipalities have always been the kindliest fosterers, and the surest guards, of civil liberty and healthy social progress. In the old Roman times, and in the Middle Age, and equally in the modern world, they have proved themselves the aptest in- 92 struments of civilization—stimulating energy, forming and training opinion, teaching self-respect and self-dependence, and making men recognize the sacredness of public trust and the nobleness of spending themselves in the discharge of public duty. But I shall not waste more words by speaking further in the abstract of such a subject. I advert to it at all, only for the purpose of saying that if in England, who rests so largely, for her greatness and her freedom, on the old foundations of her system of municipal self-government, it needs to be maintained; in Ireland, the wholesome development of that system is not less desirable. The things of which I have spoken—the creation of a sound opinion, the nurturing of the spirit of self-dependence, the recognition of the seriousness of public responsibility, sound discipline in the conduct of public affairs—these things are of vast consequence to Ireland, and to aid in the achievement of them all, her municipal institutions should be made assistant in the spirit of a large and liberal statesmanship. Whatever may have been the results of legislation heretofore in this direction, we have no reason to despair of their improvement in the future; and that improvement will surely be promoted by a change, which, whilst it will enlarge power and increase responsibility, will also knit together more closely the members of the Empire, by giving them a greater community of action and of interest. Assimilation, my Lords, in the laws and customs of these Kingdoms is always desirable, when it can properly be attained. Often, it cannot be. And regard must be had to the varying incidents and the changing phases of our social life, when we are required to follow in one country the example of another. There are differences in character, and circumstance, and progress which need to be considered, when we are asked to assimilate; and assimilation, merely for the sake of assimilation, would sometimes be a mischievous mistake. But primâ facie, and in the absence of strong-reason to the contrary, it is plainly desirable for the general interest; and in the case before your Lordships, I pray you to consider that there really is no reason at all for meting a different measure to England and to Ireland. What, in this regard, is good for the one coun- 93 try ought to be good for the other; and if there be ground for denying Ireland the right she demands, on the same ground it should be withdrawn from England. What suggestion has there been, reasonably justifying the denial? There was none in the House of Commons; there was none before the Select Committee, in the evidence of the witnesses which, on the contrary, was all favourable to the claim. There is none in the Report of that Committee. There has been none anywhere, until this moment. The Irish corporations exercise large powers—large powers of taxation and large powers of patronage. They appoint important and highly-paid officials, with much authority and control over affairs. They appoint officers whose election clothes them even with judicial functions. And they have appointed those officers fairly and well, and with a proper regard to the efficiency of the public service. Why should they be refused the right of appointment to inferior positions? Why should it be insultingly asserted, in the absence of all proof, that they would misuse that right and pervert it to purposes of personal advantage or public mischief? What ground is there for the slanderous imputation that, in such circumstances, they would act with less integrity or independence than their English neighbours? What pretence is there for believing, that powers which have been exercised, for ages, without complaint, in some of the smallest boroughs in England, cannot be safely entrusted to the great municipalities of Dublin, Cork, or Limerick? And if there be no satisfactory answers to these questions, why should you continue to gall a proud and sensitive people by maintaining an inequality which brands them as inferior to their fellowmen? My Lords, as I have said, I have sought in vain for reasons to justify such a course in the debates of the House of Commons, or the deliberations of the Select Committee on this Bill. I have found them presented only in three or four Petitions, which have come from citizens of Dublin and Chambers of Commerce and Conservative Associations in Limerick and Cork. The Chambers are private establishments, without any representative authority, and of the Conservative Associations I know nothing. But, the reasons they allege 94 seem to be mainly two. They say, that a sheriff popularly elected may harm the administration of justice in executing writs and summoning juries improperly, and that the power of making honorary freemen may be used for fraudulent purposes in connection with the corporation. Now, as to the sheriffs—In the first place, I repudiate the gratuitous assumption, that men fit for the discharge of the duties of the shrievalty would not be chosen in Ireland—men quite as fit as are chosen in England by the corporations of small communities having no sort of claim to superiority over their Irish co-mates. But next, so far as writs and executions are concerned, the sheriff can do no evil for which he is not answerable. And, further still, in the greater number of the six towns with which only the Bill is conversant, the evidence before the Select Committee clearly shows, that he has little of such business or such responsibility—so little, indeed, that Mr. De Moleyns, a Queen's Counsel of the highest character and largest experience—concurring with the testimony of Dr. Hancock, one of the ablest of living statisticians—described their official occupations as "illusory." Clearly, on this score, there is no good ground for the objection. And then, as to the summoning of juries, there are the plainest answers. If by any chance it should appear that there is the slightest danger of a miscarriage in any criminal trial within a limited jurisdiction, the statute law gives to the public prosecutor absolute power of laying the venue in the adjoining county, in which the city sheriff is wholly without influence. But, further, under an Act which I had myself the honour of introducing to your Lordships, the Irish sheriffs have no longer any power of selecting jurors; they are merely ministerial officers, and they cannot, by possibility, affect the constitution of the panel. This is the law; and I believe it to be a wise and a beneficent law, which the opinion of the country will not permit to be reversed. I know the violence of opposition which that salutary Act evoked. I know the denunciations and the scoffings and the fictions which were employed to discredit it; but I believe its principle to be impregnable, and, until it is repealed, the main argument against this Bill has no colour of feasibility. Even if the resolutions of the Committee 95 on that statute—the single one of which, really adverse to it, was carried only by a casting vote—should be acted upon by Parliament, the change would not restore the ancient system which gave official power to manufacture juries at discretion, for the Report declares the necessity of securing "absolute impartiality" in the empanelling of juries, and recommends the use of the Ballot, in criminal as in civil cases. Therefore, there is nothing in this objection; and when I add that the Bill enables the Lord Lieutenant to supersede the sheriff if fit occasion should arise, I think I have abundantly disposed of any pretence which can be urged, in the apparent interest of the administration of justice. As to the power of making honorary freemen, the objection is too idle to need serious reply. The clause was inserted, because it has been found unpleasant that Irish corporations should be unable to compliment persons of high reputation, or public benefactors, as they are complimented in Scotland and England. It was thought too bad that the Irish Sir Garnet Wolseley could not receive in his native land the distinction bestowed by an English municipality, and I do not believe that your Lordships will grudge the privilege which would have enabled his compatriots to honour him and gratify themselves. The suggestion of possible fraud is foolish, and the whole matter, on this branch of it, is too trivial to warrant grave discussion. Indeed, the Bill claims little, and, if it passes into a law, will not accomplish very much. But it touches equality and justice. It enables your Lordships to do a graceful and a gracious act. It tends to assimilate and identify the institutions of Great Britain and Ireland, and so to consolidate the Union you desire to maintain. I ask you to pause before you reject this Bill, and so disappoint expectations fairly formed and strongly encouraged by the past action of Parliament. You may adopt the measure with perfect safety, and with the great advantage of demonstrating a kindly feeling and a generous confidence, which will not be without appreciation and response. You have a rare opportunity of dignified conciliation and concession. You can conciliate without admission of weakness or risk of injury, and conciliate without compromise of principle or 96 honour. I move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord O'Hagan.)
THE EARL OF BELMORE
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time this day three months, said, he should endeavour to show—first, that it was inexpedient that it should pass at all, and secondly, that even were it ever so desirable, that that was not the proper time. The Bill dealt with three matters in connection with the counties of cities in Ireland—namely, with the sheriffs, the clerks of the peace, and honorary burgesses. Of these, the first and the last were the most important. As for the clerks of the peace, had they only been concerned, probably the promoters of the Bill would not have taken the trouble to bring it in, and if they had done so, he (the Earl of Belmore) would have been very unlikely to have taken up their Lordships' time by opposing it. With regard to the sheriffs, the Bill proposed to restore a state of things which was done away with by the Municipal Corporations Reform Act, 1840. By that Act the sheriffs of counties of cities were placed on the same footing as the sheriffs of the counties at large, who were nominated by the Crown. Prior to that Act they were elected by the corporations, and this was the power which the promoters of this Bill sought to restore. In 1840, the reform as regarded the sheriffs was made by an Amendment in this House, moved by Lord Lyndhurst. The question of municipal reform had been before the House several times. The noble and learned Lord had mentioned the year 1835. He (the Earl of Belmore) had not gone back so far as that, but, at any rate, there was an annual Bill from 1836 to 1840, when the existing Act was passed. In 1836 an Amendment appeared to have been carried in the House of Commons, taking the power of nominating sheriffs from the corporations, and vesting it in the Crown. The Government seemed to have adopted this Amendment in that year, for he found at page 1125 of vol. xxxii. of Hansard (3rd series), Viscount Melbourne, the Prime Minister, in moving the second reading of the Bill, using these words:—The Bill, by the 53rd Clause, invested the Lord Lieutenant with the power of appointing Sheriff's in the cities which were counties of 97 themselves who were elected by the English Corporation Bill by the town-councillors. It was hardly necessary that he should explain to their Lordships, it would he much better that the appointment to an office so intimately connected with the administration of justice should be vested in the Crown, than that it should be determined by election.He (the Earl of Belmore) thought that this was tolerably strong language. Passing by the years 1837 and 1838, in 1839, on the 25th of July, in Committee on the Municipal Corporations Reform Bill, he found Lord Lyndhurst using the following language—Lord Melbourne having mean while apparently changed his mind:—First, with respect to the sheriffs. The appointments of the sheriffs in the counties of cities and counties of towns in Ireland should be the same in such cases as in counties generally. According to this Bill it was proposed that three persons should be recommended by the town council, and if the Lord Lieutenant should not be satisfied, three others should be selected. He wished to have the opinion of the Lord Lieutenant in such cases, but he certainly thought that the town councils were unfitted to perform such a duty as was desired to be conferred upon them. He should therefore propose that the appointment of sheriffs in the counties of cities and counties of towns should take place in the same manner as in the counties of Ireland generally.An earlier Amendment of the noble and learned Lord having been carried by a large majority, this one appeared to have been accepted without a division. In 1840, the year in which a Bill dealing with the subject actually became law, Lord Lyndhurst referred apparently to what had passed in the previous year, although Hansard made him mention the year before that, when he (the Earl of Belmore) did not find that the point about the sheriffs was raised in this House. Lord Lyndhurst said—That Bill had been amended in their Lordships' House, with the assent of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, and he saw the same reasons for proposing an Amendment similar to that which had before received the assent of their Lordships, of which reasons he conceived the strongest to be, that as the sheriff's duty was magisterial and connected with the highest department of the administration of justice within the law, that office ought not to be subjected to the mere choice of the persons composing the Corporation, but ought to be vested in the first magistrate of the country. He was not prepared to find that this clause of the Bill should, after the discussion which had taken place on the occasion alluded to, be restored to its original state. He should now move as an Amendment that the clause be altered, so that the appointment of the sheriff of corporations in the cities, boroughs, and towns of counties in Ireland, should be vested, as was 98 now the practice with respect to the sheriffs of I counties throughout Ireland, in the Lord-lieutenant."—[3 Hansard, Iv. 191–2.]
The Amendment was agreed to. He had thus shown that the House of Lords was consistent in maintaining the principle advocated by Lord Lyndhurst. He would now draw their Lordships' attention to the importance attached to it by an even greater man than Lord Lyndhurst, one who, whatever individuals might think of him, was certainly not a bigot. Sir Robert Peel concluded a speech on the 8th February 1837, on a Motion to bring in a Municipal Corporations Reform Bill into the House of Commons with these words—
There is only one other point to which I wish to refer, and as the best reward for the patience with which the House has done me the honour to listen to me, I will confine myself to that, and ask how the granting of municipal reform will interfere with the administration of justice? These corporations are to have the appointment of the sheriffs, and consequently the chief influence in the administration of justice; and let me ask what will be the consequence of such a concession in the present heated and feverish state of Ireland? What will be its effect on the minority, but to deprive them of that free and independent action which is necessary for the administration of justice? And let me appeal again to that same Fox who warned his audience against mistaking paper regulations for practical institutions—against attempting to establish any identity of institutions in countries of different habits and different manners, and distracted by religious jealousy, thereby interfering with the administration of justice and the protection of equal laws, and not giving that justice which it was the duty of every legislature to give to the minority as well as the majority."—[3 Hansard, xxxvi. 401.]
He (the Earl of Belmore) would ask, were there now no differences? It was true that there was no longer any question of Protestant ascendancy, which in a legal sense had ceased to exist, but were there no religious jealousies? was there no party feeling? It was notorious that in the Dublin Corporation, party feelings ran high. He would now refer to the Petitions against the Bill. In the House of Commons there were no Petitions, but in this House there were some, both for and against the Bill, which showed, he thought, that public opinion had not been attracted to it when it passed the second reading elsewhere; and which quite justified this House in considering, and him in asking the House to consider, if the Bill ought to be allowed to proceed. The noble and learned Lord (Lord O'Hagan) said, that the opposition to the Bill was foolish, and
he had treated the Petitions against it lightly. He (the Earl of Belmore) would not refer to those which came from bodies such as the Dublin Constitutional Club, because they might be said to be of a mere party nature; but were such bodies as the Dublin Chamber of Commerce or the similar bodies in Limerick and Cork not entitled to consideration? The Dublin Chamber of Commerce said in their Petition, a copy of which he held in his hand—
That in the present state of this Country the proposed transfer of the appointments of Sheriff's and Clerks of the Peace from the Crown would he a most dangerous experiment, and highly detrimental to the due administration of Justice.
That inasmuch as the duty of executing the Writs of the Crown and the judgments of the Courts of Law, and, it may he, the whole practical working of the Jury System will devolve upon the Sheriff, his appointment ought not to be left to the chances of Party or Political Elections.
That in the levying of Executions for debt in large commercial transactions, a very heavy pecuniary responsibility frequently rests on the Sheriff; and it is therefore necessary that only persons of established social position and property should be appointed to the office.
That it is very unlikely this result will be attained by a popular election such as proposed, or that suitable persons will consent under such circumstances to he put in nomination for this office, with its attendant expenses and responsibilities.
That the provision in the Bill for conferring on the Town Councils the power of making an unlimited number of Honorary Burgesses is highly objectionable, as it would enable persons having no qualification as ratepayers or residents to he appointed to corporate offices, now requiring such qualification, and to be elected on the Town Council and to the office of Mayor to the exclusion of duly qualified citizens.
§ As regarded the Petitions in favour of the Bill, it appeared that that of the Corporation of Dublin was agreed to by a bare quorum, collected with difficulty, and after waiting upwards of an hour, whilst that from Cork was only passed by suspending the standing orders. The noble and learned Lord had referred to the Select Committee on the Bill in the House of Commons. The evidence taken before that Committee had been communicated to this House, and he (the Earl of Belmore) had read it. It showed, not a case for the Bill, but how great an anomaly there was in maintaining these separate jurisdictions at all. At Carrickfergus, which bad, for some reason of which he was not aware, dropped out of the Bill in the Select Committee, it appeared that in 1872, 426 100 jurors were summoned, of whom 46 were required for fiscal business, and the remaining 380 for trials of which there were none; in Kilkenny 620 jurors were summoned to try an average of two prisoners in each Court; and at Drogheda, 632 for an average of 1⅔ prisoners in each Court. At the same time the average number of records were, at Carrickfergus none; at Kilkenny, one; and Drogheda, two. The noble and learned Lord said there would be nothing for these sheriffs to do, which seemed to him (the Earl of Belmore) to be a strong reason against the Bill. No doubt Dublin was a large city, and he did not object to its having a separate jurisdiction, but he thought that these other small jurisdictions ought to be abolished. His noble and learned Friend had referred to the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Juries. It was true that by a recent Act passed by the noble Lord himself, the power of selecting juries had been taken from the sheriffs, and an alphabetical system substituted; but that arrangement had worked so badly that it could hardly be said to have worked at all. The Petitioners against the Bill had referred to a possibility of the sheriff having again to select juries, and the Committee of the House of Commons had recommended a return to the old system with certain modifications for securing impartiality. He (the Earl of Belmore) thought that the noble and learned Lord had failed to show any reason why this retrogade measure should pass, and he concluded by moving that it be read a second time that day three months.
§ An Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day three months.")—(The Earl of Belmore.)
THE EARL OF LIMERICK
said, he should feel it his duty to support the Amendment. The reasons put forward by his noble and learned Friend (Lord O'Hagan) in favour of the Bill were not reasons of practical utility, but sentimental reasons. The difficulties connected with such a change were considerable. One thing important to consider was, whether the same state of feeling which existed in England and Scotland in respect of municipal institutions and privileges existed in Ireland also, so as to make it desirable to extend to Ireland the same privileges as in the sister Kingdoms? He thought it plain it did 101 not. Elections would be often decided on political and religious grounds rather than on personal fitness, thus aggravating the dissentions which now un-happily were frequent. It was true that in England the right of electing their sheriffs enjoyed by counties of cities, and counties of towns which possessed that right before the Municipal Reform Act, had not been taken away by that Act, while the right of cities and towns in Ireland similarly privileged was taken away by the Irish Act in 1840, yet the system had not been extended in England; and that he thought was an argument against restoring it to the Irish cities, from whom it had been taken. Petitions very influentially signed, from Limerick and other cities, had been presented against the Bill, and there was no strong expression of public feeling in its favour. He believed that in voting against the Bill he was only acting in accordance with the best interests of the people of Ireland.
§ LORD LISGAR
was for equalizing the institutions of both countries as far as possible; but he doubted very much whether the appointment of Sheriffs was a privilege which ought to be allowed to any municipal body; and certainly he thought that in Ireland it was not desirable to entrust the municipal corporations with the appointment of persons connected with the administration of justice. He had presented a Petition from citizens of Dublin against the Bill. That was not a party Petition, but was, as he was informed, numerously signed by men of different parties. As to sentimental reasons in favour of the Bill, there had been of late too much sentiment and too much sensational legislation in reference to Ireland. Many persons in Ireland viewed this Bill with more alarm than he did himself. Very competent authorities had given it as their opinion that in England those small jurisdictions should be abolished; but no Government had been powerful enough to abolish them, such was the influence which they derived from their local patronage. But if they could not abolish these jurisdictions, they ought not to extend them. Take the case of one of the towns included in this Bill—Drogheda. It had 14,000 inhabitants. It had a Grand Jury and a Corporation, one of which bodies expended £4,000 a year and the other £3,000. There was a Secretary for the Grand Jury and a 102 Town Clerk for the Corporation. In addition, it was now proposed that the Corporation should have power to appoint a Sheriff and a Clerk of the Peace. On the whole, he thought the subject was one which the Government would do well to take into their own hands. If, however, this was not done, and the Bill passed the second reading, he would suggest that it be referred to a Select. Committee, in order that the subject might be considered in all its bearings, with some reference to the course intended to be taken in regard to the Jury Laws in Ireland.
§ THE EARL OF BANDON
opposed the Bill, remarking that he had presented a Petition from Cork—one of the cities that were counties in themselves, and which consequently was immediately interested in the question—against the Bill. The Irish Municipal Corporations exercised the power they already possessed before proposing to extend them. The proposal now under their Lordships' consideration was introduced in the other House by the leader of the Home Rule party, a party who were anxious to pass any measure which would give increased power to the Municipal Corporations of Ireland; and he ventured to suggest that before passing this Bill they would do well to inquire how these Corporations had exercised the powers which they had possessed for the last 35 years. What Ireland required was not a continuance of sensational legislation, but, rather, sober measures calculated to increase the material prosperity of the country and add to the happiness of the people.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, that their Lordships were entitled to know before voting on this Bill, whether or not it had the approval of the Government, for he held that whenever measures affecting the administration of justice were brought forward the opinion of the Government ought to be clearly stated. The necessity for such a course was the stronger on the present occasion, because this was one of several similar Bills which had been introduced, and with regard to which the Government had taken different lines of action He thought that both in that and the other House of Parliament they should be anxious to remove all unnecessary differences between the two countries, and he thought that a good primâ facie case had been made out by his noble 103 and learned Friend (Lord O'Hagan) in favour of this Bill, but he thought the Government ought to say distinctly what was their view. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than that the Government should in the other House of Parliament assent to a Bill of a popular character with regard to Ireland, and then leave their Lordships in the invidious position of rejecting the measure in the absence of either support or opposition from the Government.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, he did not think Her Majesty's Government deserved the rebuke they had just received from the noble Earl (Earl Granville), inasmuch as it was not unnatural that he should have refrained from addressing the House until their Lordships had had the opportunity of hearing what were the opinions of those noble Lords who were more intimately connected with Ireland on the subject. The noble Earl might, too, he thought, have seen that he was about to address their Lordships when the noble Earl (Earl Granville) himself rose, and that he gave way to him. He quite agreed with the noble Earl—and the argument was a plausible one—that in regard to municipal corporations in Ireland there should be granted such privileges as, under present circumstances, were possessed by the municipal corporations in England. But a circumstance had occurred which had somewhat altered their position towards the measure, and as it was one of considerable importance, he wished for a moment to direct their Lordships' attention to it. He alluded to the Report of a Select Committee of the House of Commons in reference to the duty of empanelling jurors for the administration of justice in the criminal Courts, and which was one of the main functions appertaining to the office of Sheriff. It was proposed in the Bill to give to six counties of towns—Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Kilkenny, Waterford, and Drogheda—the right of electing their own Sheriffs. Now, he believed he was right in saying that the jurisdiction exercised within the ambit of these towns was very large, if not the largest portion of the criminal jurisdiction of Ireland:—so that the consideration of how far they should modify the sys-; tern of summoning jurors in those places became an important one. Now, there was no question which excited 104 greater interest in Ireland than that which related to the summoning of jurors. It was a mistake to suppose that the Bills of 1838 and 1840 proposed to confer upon corporate towns the choice of the Sheriffs. On the contrary, the provision made was that they should submit to the Lord Lieutenant the names of three burgesses whom they might consider fit and proper persons to serve the office of Sheriff, out of which the Lord Lieutenant was to select one. If the Lord Lieutenant rejected all, they were to submit the names of three other persons; and in the event of these being all rejected, the Lord Lieutenant was to appoint persons of his own selection. That proposal met with the approval of the House of Commons, but was not approved by their Lordships' House, and the arrangement that the Lord Lieutenant should nominate the Sheriffs was adopted. To revert to the question of the summoning of jurors. Of course, under the then existing system the Sheriff had exercised considerable discretion in constituting the jury panel, and had continued to do so until the Bill of the noble and learned Lord (Lord O'Hagan) became law. After that time, what was called a dictionary arrangement was made, the names of the jurors being taken in alphabetical order—the office of the Sheriff becoming in that respect little more than ministerial. It was, beyond question, most important that in all cases of a political kind the jurors should be summoned as indifferently as possible. Now, he wished to speak of corporate bodies—to whom the power and duty in question was practically transferred—with all possible respect; but their Lordships could not but be aware that in no place were political subjects more keenly discussed than in those corporations, and that those subjects might become and did become connected with the administration of criminal justice in those cases which over and over again occurred in Ireland. In order therefore to guard against the possibility of a Sheriff being influenced by any bias of that kind, it had become desirable that some change should be made in the method of summoning jurors, and the question was in what direction that change should be made. A number of suggestions had been made by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, who had considered and reported upon the jury sys- 105 tem in Ireland. They stated unanimously that it was indispensable to the due administration of justice that the system of providing juries should be such as to secure perfect impartiality in respect of the jury panels, and—with three dissentients—they added that the system of summoning by the "dictionary" process had not worked well and required alteration. They also stated as their opinion that the distinction between the jury lists for counties and counties of towns ought to be abolished. If the second reading of this Bill were passed, he thought it would be necessary to refer the Bill to a Select Committee of their Lordships' House to consider those suggestions; and he asked whether it was likely they could expect a Report upon the subject during the present Session?
§ LORD CARLINGFORD
said, that the suggestion made by the noble and learned Lord on the part of the Government was tantamount to moving that the Bill should be read a second time that day three months. The measure had a singular Parliamentary history. It obtained the decided support of Her Majesty's Government, especially of the Irish Government, in the other House; it was referred to a Select Committee, presided over by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and on its coming back to the House it was approved by Her Majesty's Government, and was passed with the favour of both sides of the House. It was, he thought, rather extraordinary that a measure which had received the support of the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General for Ireland when it was before the House of Commons should have received such hard treatment from the Lord Chancellor when it came up to their Lordships' House. No doubt, since the measure was read a third time in the House of Commons a Committee had reported on the present Jury Laws of Ireland, and in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government their Report had changed the whole situation, and, having supported the Bill in one House, the Government were determined to oppose it in the other. As far as he could see, there was nothing in the Report of that Committee which could help their Lordships to decide the question whether it was safe to give the power of electing their Sheriffs to the corporate bodies of these six Irish 106 towns—and since no doubt the Chief Secretary and Attorney General must have had the jury question in their minds when they expressed their approval of the Bill, he could see no reason why their Lordships should not read it a second time at once. He protested against the assumption that the legislation of the last two years with regard to Irish juries was to be reversed, and he warned the Government that they were running the risk of inflating a very small matter into one of great importance as regarded the feelings of the Irish people.
§ On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion? their Lordships divided:—Contents, 46; Not-Contents, 56: Majority 10.
§ Resolved in the Negative; and Bill to be read 2a this day three months.
|Cairns, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)|
|Richmond, D.||Emly, L.|
|Ettrick, L. (L. Napier.)|
|Exeter, M.||Hatherton, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Lawrence, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Derby, E.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Granville, E.||Monson, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Mostyn, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||O'Hagan, L. [Teller.]|
|Malmesbury, E.||Ponsonby, E. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Portarlington, E.||Robartes, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Card well, V.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Hawarden, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)|
|Carlingford, L.||Stratheden and Camp-L.|
|Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)|
|Crewe, L.||Wenlock, L. [Teller,]|
|De Mauley, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|De Ros, L.|
|Buckingham and Chan-dos, D.||Bantry, E.|
|Belmore, E. [Teller.]|
|Bath, M.||Doncastor, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)|
|Winchester, M.||Harrowby, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Lucan, E.|
|Bandon, E.||Macclesfield, E.|
|Mansfield, E.||Egerton, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Ellenborough, E.|
|Powis, E.||Foxford, E. (E. Limerick.) [Teller.]|
|Shrewsbury, E.||Grinstead, L. (H. Enniskillen.)|
|Bangor, V.||Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker)|
|Canterbury, V.||Inchiquin, L.|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)||Kenlis, L.(M. Headford.)|
|De Vesci, V.||Lisgar, L.|
|Gough, V.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Redesdale, L.|
|Saltersford, E. (E. Courtown.)|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Sinclair, E.|
|Chelmsford, L.||Strathnairn, L.|
|Churchill, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Templemore, E.|
|Clonbrock, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Colchester, L.||Ventry, L.|