HL Deb 20 May 1897 vol 49 cc893-6

asked Her Majesty's Government whether they would undertake at an early date to introduce a Bill amending the law relating to the municipal franchise in Ireland? He pointed out that towards the close of the Session in 1895 a Bill for amending the law relating to the municipal franchise in Ireland was Read a Second time in their Lordships' House, the Bill having come up from the House of Commons. On that occasion the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland supported the Second Reading of the Bill. The noble Earl said, "On his own behalf, and he believed on behalf of his colleagues, they felt as strongly as I did the necessity which undoubtedly existed for dealing with the question of the municipal franchise in Ireland;" and the noble Earl expressed his desire that the Bill should be Read a Second time. The next stage of the Bill was taken shortly before the prorogation, and then the Lord Lieutenant opposed any further proceeding with the Bill on the ground that it was impossible to discuss it at that time. He ventured to point out that if the Measure was not passed then ït was extremely probable that those who had been pressing this amendment of the law for many years would have to wait as many years again before it was passed, on which remark he observed that there were cries of "No !" and "Why !" He thought that the incidents which had happened during the two years gave some answer to the "No" and the "Why !" A Division took place and the Bill was lost. The Measure was declared to be one which had the sympathy and the support of the present Government, and it wad regarded by them not only as a just and desirable amendment of the law, but as one which urgently needed to be dealt with. He did not think that there could be two opinions as to either of those propositions, and he would remind the House that it had always been, as they understood, a cardinal part of the policy of the present Government, and it had been constantly reiterated by them, that any measure of Home Rule for Ireland was absolutely unnecessary, inasmuch as any just and reasonable demand for an amendment of the law would meet with speedy response from Parliament as at present constituted. So much for the general aspect of the case. Owing to the difficulty which had been experienced in obtaining any reform of the franchise by general legislation, Bills had been introduced from time to time dealing with particular Corporations, and Parliament had in several cases, in view, no doubt, of the difficulty and delay which has taken place in dealing with the general question, sanctioned the introduction into these Bills of causes dealing with the municipal franchise in the several boroughs to which they refer. These Measures had been passed into law. The precedent was followed by the introduction of similar clauses in a Bill relating to the Corporation of Dublin. The Measure came before their Lordships the other day, and by a small majority an Instruction was carried, the effect of which was to expunge those clauses from the Bill and to render certain that it would go down to the other House without them, therefore rendering it probable that the Bill would be rejected. This would of course, result in a very considerable waste of money. The money was wasted when the Bill was promoted with these clauses inserted last year, and the money would be wasted on the present occasion. It was on these special grounds that he put this question, because it seemed to him that the only thing which could prevent that waste of money was that the Government should announce their intention speedily to introduce such a Measure. If such an announcement were made and the Bill introduced, it was possible that the other House might be content to forego the course which they would otherwise likely follow, of rejecting the Bill by refusing to assent to the Amendments made by their Lordships. On the occasion he had referred to the Lord Chancellor spoke in favour of letting these clauses remain in the Bill at that time, on the ground that other Corporations had been allowed to insert such clauses in their Bills; and he believed that this view was supported by many Members of the present Cabinet.


appealed to the Government to give a favourable reply, if they could see their way, to the question of the noble and learned Lord. This grievance which pressed upon these towns in Ireland was of much greater magnitude in one respect than any other grievance Ireland had to complain of, because it was peculiar to Ireland. The question of private Bill procedure was also a grievance in Ireland. The Chief Secretary, in answer to a deputation at the end of last year, gave a definite pledge that the question of private Bill legislation in Ireland should be dealt with. No such definite pledge had been given as to the municipal franchise, and he hoped the Government would now give one.


did not gather from the noble and learned Lord whether he wanted the Bill spoken of by the Lord Lieutenant in 1895 or another Bill. What sort of Franchise Bill was wanted? The question was most important to the people in Ireland. He agreed that there would be a great waste of money if the Dublin Corporation Bill were rejected, and on that account only he hoped that the Bill would not be lost. The subject of Private Bill legislation, again, was a burning question in Ireland, and he hoped the Government, when the time came, would see to it, especially in view of the great costs which corporations and other bodies were put to in having to come over here to fight their case. If they could have private Bill legislation dealt with in Ireland it would be an immense thing.


was afraid the answer he had to give would hardly be considered satisfactory by the noble and learned Lord. He could only say that the Government, although they realised that the municipal franchise question in Ireland must be dealt with sooner or later, were unable to undertake to deal with it this Session.