HC Deb 26 January 1846 vol 83 cc183-8

House in Committee on Public Works in Ireland.


moved— That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland be authorized to direct advances to be made out of the Consolidated Fund of the said United Kingdom to an amount not exceeding 50,000l., to be applied for Public Works in Ireland.


hoped that the House was not about to stop at such a grant as that. It would be but a drop of water in the ocean as compared with the wants of the country.


had looked at the whole state of the country, and the sum would be found not to be so insignificant as the hon. Baronet imagined. He (Sir T. Fremantle) had stated on Friday night last the sum of 50,000l. would not be expended unless a similar sum were raised either by levy from the counties or by subscriptions of private individuals. But he had also stated that he would bring in a Bill to facilitate the building of harbours to protect the fishermen along the coasts of Ireland, and other works of a public character, which would afford employment.


begged to be informed whether it were proposed to take the usual securities for the return of the moneys so advanced, or was the sum to be a grant?


replied that the sum of 50,000l. was to be an absolute grant. There were to be sums also at the disposal of the Treasury, which would be lent on security as loans; but the 50,000l. now moved for, was in the nature of a grant.


asserted that no man in the House was more anxious than he was to provide employment for, and alleviate the distress of the people of Ireland, consistently with his duty as a Member of that House. But he was anxious to ask the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland—and he hoped that he would speak distinctly, for there were hon. Members near him (Colonel Sibthorp) who heard him as indistinctly as himself—he should like to know what was actually going to be proposed in the nature of Public Works in Ireland? He liked nothing to be done in the dark in these days of darkness. He held in his hand the Thirteenth Report of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, and he found no less than eleven statements of different works there. He wanted to ask the right hon. Baronet whether that grant of 50,000l. was to be given in addition to what had been before granted. Although he did not mean to say that the money would be actually wasted in jobs, yet he wished to know how it was to be laid out, for he could not but remark that the Report before him gave an account of many jobs, and amongst others that job of jobs, the Shannon Harbour job. That was what he called an important consideration. There had been quite enough exhibited already to entitle him to ask the question whether the sum of 50,000l. was proposed to be in addition to what had been already granted annually?


was ready to give the hon. Gentleman every possible information; and he would endeavour to make himself audible. That vote was to be in addition to the sum before granted for Public Works in Ireland, and he had stated, when he was previously on his legs, that those other grants were nearly exhausted. And if the hon. Member had given him notice of his intention to ask the question, he should have been prepared to reply more fully.


wished to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he intended by that vote to admit the principle that the public money was to be applied for the employment of the people? He recollected that, on former occasions, the admission of such a principle had been most sedulously avoided. The question he had to ask the right hon. Baronet was, to what purpose the money was proposed to be applied? Was it to be to the employment of the people? What good, he would ask, had arisen heretofore from such grants? He thought it desirable that it should be shown by specific accounts what relief those votes had before given to the people, or whether they had not rather been made available to the purposes of the landed gentry, for the building of a bridge, or something of the like sort. In England and Scotland every man was employed, and there was no necessity for votes of public money. Why was it not so in Ireland? The state of that country was attributable to misgovernment and bad legislation; and he protested against that mode of finding employment for the people, whilst other causes, which prevented their employment, were suffered to exist. By so doing they would only lend their assistance to perpetuate the state of things which now exists. If such a principle were to be established, he did not see why they should not act similarly towards Stockport or Paisley, or other places where distress might reign. He thought they should be informed how former grants had been applied before they agreed to the one at present sought for. He should be the last man to stop a vote which should give employment to the people of Ireland; but he thought that before the Imperial Parliament gave its assent to such a principle, other steps should be taken to remedy the causes of distress. He wanted to see the people of Ireland on a perfect equality with the people of England and Scotland. He wanted to see every part of the kingdom alike. If asked to give his vote on that question, he should object to give money to any portion of the community in preference to others. He thought the right hon. Baronet ought to pause before he pressed such a Motion.


begged to assure the hon. Gentleman that every information he should require upon the subject should be most freely given. Nothing could be further from the intention of Her Majesty's Government than to permit the interests of individuals to be attended to or promoted by the outlay of such votes as the one under consideration. If the hon. Gentleman would look into the case, he would find that Parliament had placed a discretionary power in the hands of the Government with regard to the expenditure of those grants. They were not called upon to make particular disclosures with respect to the manner in which they were expended. For several years past it had been customary to vote sums of money to be so placed at the disposal of Government; and he could say that the present would be the last year they would be called on. But there were reasons which he could not at present explain for not entering into detail on the present occasion.


could only say, that it was because he had in his possession reports that took away from him all dependence on the mode in which public money was expended, that he offered the remarks he had just made. When the Parliament and the British public had come forward with large subscriptions to aid the poor in Ireland, he was able to show that a large portion of that money had gone to pay rents to the landlords. He was aware that terrible as were the sufferings of the people at the period he was speaking of, the approaching time, there was reason to fear, would be more severe than was anticipated. He merely wished that they should not adopt a dangerous principle. However, after the assurances of the right hon. Baronet, be would not oppose the Motion.


only regretted that the vote was so very trifling. [Laughter.] Gentlemen might laugh, but the condition of the people was much too serious to be made a subject for laughter. When famine was staring people in the face, was it a time to be haggling about a paltry 50,000l.? and when he commented on it, Gentlemen, who professed to be political economists, must meet him with a laugh. He called it a paltry sum under the present awful circumstances of Ireland; and he spoke of his own knowledge, when he said that thousands and hundreds of thousands of people would shortly he without any other resources on earth than the charity of the country. Before many weeks passed over their heads, that would be the state of those people. He spoke from his own personal knowledge and examination of four counties in the south of Ireland, when he said that hundreds of thousands would shortly have nothing to depend upon but the charity of that House; and was it proper to meet him with a laugh by false political economists, because the vote did not meet their views? He repeated, it was a false policy to haggle about so small a sum, and he hoped that ere long he would see Her Majesty's Ministers come down to that House to demand that the people of Ireland should not be allowed to starve.


As the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, by looking in his face when speaking of the laughter with which he had been met, and the false political economists, appeared to direct his allusion to him, he would beg leave to offer a few observations. He should be sorry to think that he had appeared unwilling to give any assistance to the people of Ireland, or not to sympathize with their sufferings; but if the principle were admitted that the people of this country were to be taxed for the relief of the occasional distress that occurred in Ireland, the present was certainly not the time for withholding it. But he did say that there were means of avoiding that public expenditure by doing justice to Ireland, by giving protection to life and property such as existed in the other parts of the United Kingdom, and by such means enabling capital to flow into the country, to bring with it its necessary consequences. He hoped when a measure of the nature under discussion was proposed, a proposition to introduce confidence into the country would be brought forward; and he felt sure that there was not a Member of the House who would hesitate to come forward in support of it.


begged leave to differ from one expression of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and who appeared to forget or to have paid very little attention to facts when he spoke of taxing the people of England for the relief of the people of Ireland. He seemed to have quite forgotten the vast number of Irish landed proprietors who were living in England, paying taxes, and spending their incomes which were drawn from Ireland; and it appeared to him (Lord Clements) very unreasonable for the hon. Gentleman to complain of some small portion of those taxes being returned to the people of Ireland as a loan for relieving their distress. The hon. Gentleman seemed to have forgotten the enormous sums of public money expended in ornamental works in this country which would not and could not be reproductive; whilst he (Lord Clements) apprehended that most of the works about to be commenced in Ireland would be reproductive. He should support the vote.


did not think that the objection of his hon. Friends had been properly understood. They did not object to the security to be given for the loans; they only wanted to know, would the mode proposed remove the amount of misery expected to arise in Ireland; and they offered their cordial assistance to any measure which would be productive of that effect.

Motion agreed to.

House resumed.