§ Viscount Morpeth moved the Order of the Day for the consideration of the Lords' amendments to the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Bill. He had to state, that the bill now sent down from the House of Lords (owing partly to the state in which it was originally brought in, and partly to the points of agreement which had been arrived at by the two Houses of Parliament in previous years) in its present shape differed far less from the bill sent up to the House of Lords than had been the case in preceding years. At the same time he could not 1217 conceal from himself, that in the bill as it now stood, as amended by the other House, there were still some points in which that House had felt itself called on to differ from the other House in previous years; so that he could not now state on grounds of abstract principle that the reasons of that difference were removed. He alluded particularly to the permanent establishment of a rated qualification of 10l., and to the alteration in the mode of electing sheriffs. But, taking a general view of the whole past history and of the present position of this question, of the approximation which had been gradually arrived at between the two great political parties in the State, of the reciprocal advance made towards each other on each side, of the feeling of satiety which it could not be dissembled had begun to overspread the whole subject, and, above all, of the balance of indubitable good to be obtained from passing the bill, and of the amount of actual mischief thus to be got rid of, the Government did feel, and he trusted that House would also feel, that it would be expedient to bring this much discussed and long-pending question to issue. Therefore it was with this view, and in this spirit, that he now invited the attention of the House to the consideration of the amendments agreed to by the House of Lords; and he stated fairly, that he should not call on the House to disagree from any of those amendments which involved party differences between party politicians and between the two Houses of Parliament. He should confine himself to points of mere detail connected with the machinery and practical working of the measure, and having thus explained the spirit in which he wished the House to deal with the amendments, they had, perhaps, be better put as they arose, and when they occurred his hon. Friend, the Solicitor-general for Ireland, would state the words of such simple alterations as they proposed to make in the amendments of the other House of Parliament.
§ Mr. J. Grattan
thought, that the Lords' amendments as to the rating of 10l. and as to the mode of electing sheriffs objectionable. Many persons would not be enabled to enjoy the franchise for twelve months. He should move the reinsertion of the words in the bill relating to the Recorder of Dublin, and also empowering the Lord-lieutenant 1218 to direct quarter sessions to be held. He strongly objected to the striking out of that clause which would prevent the Recorder of Dublin having a seat in that House. That gentleman was a violent partisan, and neglected his duties as a judge to come over there and vote for the Tories. The question was, whether that judge should be week after week discharging the unfortunate prisoners in the gaols, or sitting there (the House of Commons) night after night. He conceived that the Recorder's first duty was to perform the functions for which he was paid. Measures of this kind lost the respect of the people of Ireland to that House; and if the Recorder of Dublin were not prevented, as a judge, from having a seat in that House, the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin would be justified, that they dealt out one measure of justice to England and another to Ireland, as they were about to exclude the Member for the Tower Hamlets from a seat in that House because he was a judge.
§ Mr. W. Roche
on the whole was disposed to take these amendments after the five years' struggle which the measure had led to, feeling as he did that the bill in its present shape would break up that most vicious and mischievous system which had so long prevailed in Ireland, though it would fail to build up in the place of the old corporations institutions of a perfectly sound and satisfactory character. He objected to the 10l. franchise fixed by the bill, and he also thought, that the appointment of sheriffs ought to have been left in the hands of the town-councils. He therefore gave a reluctant consent to the adoption of the bill as amended by the other House of Parliament.
§ Amendments read a first time and agreed to.
said, that by the bill, as it originally stood, the Crown was empowered to grant charters to towns upon the petition of a majority of the rated inhabitants. The other House of Parliament, in amending this particular clause, had limited the power of petitioning for a charter to those inhabitants who were rated at 10l., or, in other words, to the constituency by which the town-council was to be elected. On this he had an amendment to propose, to the effect which would give the right of petitioning for or refusing a charter, not only to those 1219 who could elect the council by which a borough-rate could be made, bat to reserve the option to those who would have to pay that rate. The hon. and learned Member then moved a proviso to this effect, which was agreed to.
§ On the Lords' amendments which exempted the Recorder's Court of Dublin from the liability of having its periods of sitting increased by the Lord-lieutenant,
§ Viscount Morpeth
said, that though he did not see any ground for the exemption in favour of the recordership of Dublin, still, considering the spirit in which the amendments had been sent down from the other House, he would put it to the hon. Member for Wicklow not to press the House to a division upon this point. However, after what had already occurred with respect to judges not having seats in that House, and when the Lord-lieutenant should have had sufficient time to take cognizance of the wants of Dublin upon this, to inform himself as to the state of the gaols and the number of prisoners in them, if it were shown that it would be important to have more frequent gaol deliveries, it would then become the duty of Government to look to the matter.
§ Colonel Perceval
was highly gratified with the course which had been taken by the noble Lord with respect to those amendments, but must repudiate the insinuation that the Duke of Wellington had been influenced in the course which he adopted with respect to this amendment by any personal feeling towards the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That right hon. and learned Gentleman's judicial conduct was above all imputation, and he would appeal to the noble Lord opposite, and ask whether Government could possibly find fault with it. He must express his approbation of the amendments sent down from the other House.
§ Lord John Russell
did not object to the first part of what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but when it was insinuated that the clause as the bill was sent up to the other House was inserted for the purpose of throwing a stigma upon the judicial character of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin, he felt himself called upon to disavow that such had been the intention. He was sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should entertain such an opinion, and he likewise regretted that it should be entertained in the other 1220 House of Parliament by the greatest man now living He was sorry for this, as there was no shadow of foundation for such an opinion. For his own part, he did not think that the situation of judge incapacitated the person holding it from being a Member of Parliament. Indeed, he should be sorry to lose the assistance of men of their talent and influence. This opinion he had mentioned before, and in doing so, he took occasion to name the right hon. Recorder of Dublin as one of those to whom he alluded. There, however, appeared to exist some difference of opinion upon this subject, and the objections were extended to the Recorder of London, whose official duties could scarcely be said to interfere with those which he owed to that House. It was another question how far the judicial duties of the Recorder of Dublin, were incompatible with his functions as a Member of Parliament. He did not wish that this question should be made matter of party contest. Since it had been made matter of dispute elsewhere, he was very glad that his hon. and learned Friend had agreed that it was better to omit the original clause. But he never could carry his opinion in favour of a judge sitting in that House to the extent, that in order to enable him to be a Member of that House, they should take away from his efficiency as a judge, and require in him a less attendance upon the seat of justice than they required of any other man. That was a principle which it was utterly impossible to support. There was no doubt, as stated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, that the Recorder of Dublin performed his duties as a judge in a most satisfactory manner; but that was not precisely the question. The question was, by how frequent attendances those duties ought to be performed. When that question should come forward in a separate form, they must take care to provide that those judicial duties be performed at stated times. If it should be found, that the due performance of them was incompatible with the functions of a Member of Parliament, that would be a reason for modifying his opinion in this case, and saying that such a judge should not be a Member of that House. To exclude from that House by act of Parliament, a Judge of the Admiralty Court because he was a judge, and at the same time to say respecting the Recorder of 1221 Dublin, that it was no matter how his duties were performed, or at what time he attended to perform them—to say that respecting a judge who voted and made speeches in favour of a particular party, and to contravene by the strength of that party a principle which upon other and greater grounds had been insisted upon, was certainly not a consistent course, or one which he was prepared to sanction.
§ Amendments agreed to, and managers were appointed to conduct a conference with the Lords on the subject of the said amendments and amendments thereto.