HL Deb 26 May 1884 vol 288 cc1289-91

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the numerical proportion of the boroughs of Ireland. The urban boroughs had a most remarkable history. They had been an important means of administering English law in the country some 300 years ago. In some there was a distinct line of demarcation between the English city and the Irish city, and in others between the Scotch city and the Irish city. By modern changes those towns had ceased to be the centres of political and municipal life which they used to be. There were three periods at which such Returns as he asked for had been given. The first was in 1832— the period of the great Reform Act, the second in 1851, and the last in 1866. Out of the 32 Irish boroughs two, Cashel and Sligo, had been disfranchised. Almost every one of those boroughs had diminished in population, both absolutely and relatively to the increase in other parts of the United Kingdom. It was evident, therefore, that some change must be made. Since he had the opportunity of placing the Question on the Notice Paper a valuable Return, which was moved for by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Limerick), had been presented to the House. That Return contained most accurate information. The new suffrage would be a household suffrage, and the Return to which he referred gave the number of inhabited houses in Ireland, dividing them into four classes. First, there were houses of £12 a-year and over; next, those between £4 and £12; then those between £1 and £4; and, lastly, those under £1. In most of the boroughs the last class needed hardly to be taken into consideration; but under the first three classes were included no fewer than 130,715, as against 58,051 on the present register. It was quite evident that in such a state of facts some new arrangements would have to be made. Now, there were few boroughs in Ireland, excluding Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Galway, and Waterford, which were entitled to independent representation. There was one method of dealing with the subject which he hoped would not be adopted, although it had been adopted in Scotland and England to some extent—that was the grouping of boroughs. The circumstances of Ireland were totally different from those of Great Britain, and the principle of grouping was totally inapplicable to that country. The Bill which was now being discussed in the other House would soon come before their Lordships, and it was desirable that they should be prepared to deal with the vast questions which would shortly come like a flood upon them, and it was for that reason that he had ventured to bring forward the question for their Lordships' consideration. In conclusion, the noble Lord said he had carefully formed the opinions which he had expressed, and which he believed would be verified whenever the subject was fully discussed by their Lordships.


I rise for an instant, in order that I may not appear to treat my noble Friend with any want of civility, but also for the purpose of saying that I have nothing to say in reply to the speech which he has just delivered. Whatever valuable observations I might make on that speech, if I chose, is a secret known only to myself; but it is not my duty, on the part of the Government, to express an opinion on the subject of redistribution of seats in Ireland. The whole question of redistribution as applied to the Three Kingdoms the Government hope in due time to take in hand, and it will not be their fault if their proposals are not laid before Parliament in a very early future. In the meantime, I think my noble Friend will hardly succeed in forcing the matter upon the attention of your Lordships' House. I must leave without comment the remarks he has made, which, from the circumstances of the case, must be somewhat in the nature of a soliloquy.