HL Deb 30 May 1879 vol 246 cc1428-9

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said: My Lords, the position of this Bill relieves me from the necessity of offering argument in its favour to your Lordships. It aims to repeal an Act which is exceptional, affecting Ireland only, and in many of its provisions practically obsolete. Exceptional legislation can be justified only by the clearest necessity, which cannot be alleged in this ease, and obsolete Acts should not be allowéd to cumber the Statute Book. You are aware that the Convention Act was passed in 1793 by the Irish Parliament, at a time of great excitement, when the spirit of panic was abroad. The French Revolution had alarmed the world, and Ireland was disturbed by its influence. The Act was designed to encounter the dangers supposed to be then impending, and especially to prevent a particular Convention of delegates which was threatened at Athlone. It was represented by the Attorney General of the time as in principle only declaratory; but, in its operation, it was made to act more extensively in later days. Some of the best men in the Irish Legislature resisted it. The Duke of Leinster, Lord Gharlemont, and Lord Arran placed a solemn Protest against it on the Roll of the Irish House of Lords. Mr. Grattan opposed it with all his strength; but it was carried, and still remains the law of the land. It has outlived the circumstances which gave it birth, and any justification for maintaining it which they afforded. Parliament no longer fears assumption of its powers or usurpation of its functions, and against any possible assault upon them the Common Law of the land gives ample security. In the first instance, this Bill was introduced into the other House to simply repeal the Convention Act. It was debated at length, and, as I am informed, the Chief Secretary of the Lord Lieutenant intimated that if it was withdrawn, and another substituted with a clause clearly affirming the principle which makes punishable such assumption or usurpation as I have described, the Government would offer no opposition to it. It was amended accordingly, and passed the House of Commons without opposition or objection. In that position of things, I have no need to detain your Lordships further, and you will have no difficulty in giving a second reading to the Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord O'Hagan.)

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday the 16th of June next.

House adjourned at half past Six o'clock, to Friday the 13th of June next, a quarter before Five o'clock.