HC Deb 08 July 1847 vol 94 cc49-72

The House resolved itself into a Committee on the Destitute Persons (Ireland) Bill.


Sir, the vote which I am about to put into your hands is merely a vote for a further advance on the security of the poor rates of the sum of 300,000l., for the purpose of affording relief to destitute persons in Ireland during the present summer; but as I am about, in the course of the evening, to propose other votes to the Committee, and as, in the course of the next two or three days, I hope to propose the last vote which it will be necessary for me to submit to the House for the purposes of relief in Ireland, I should not perform my duty to this House, or meet its just expectations, if I did not avail myself of this opportunity of making a general statement, of what the progress of the relief afforded has been; what its amount is, so far as we have gone, and what we anticipate regarding it for the future. I think it is due, not only to this House, but to the country, which has contributed so largely to the support of the distressed population of Ireland, that it should know how the money has been expended; and I think it is equally desirable that the people of Ireland, in the new agitation—of which we have some symptoms—for repeal, should be aware of the substantial benefits which during the last eighteen months they have derived from the union with this country. I shall not indulge in any further prefatory observations, as I am unwilling to trespass longer upon the patience of the House than is absolutely necessary. I will, therefore, at once, as plainly and as succinctly as I can, review the operations that have been carried on for the relief of the distress in Ireland. Those operations, as is known to every Gentleman in this House, began in the spring of 1846, when works were undertaken for the employment and relief of the destitute, depôts were established in various parts of Ireland, and relief committees were formed, to whom donations were made in aid of their subscriptions. But the main feature of the relief of last season, was that afforded by employment on what were called relief works; and the first four Acts of the last Session of Parliament were for the purpose, one way or other, of employing the people on works of different descriptions. The number employed on those works varied at different times. In June, the number employed was about 20,000. In July, it was a little upwards of 90,000. The relief works were never entirely discontinued from the time they were once opened; but after the resumption of sixty-seven works in the month of September, the whole number of persons employed was only 12,600. The relief, speaking in general terms, was considered to be closed in the month of August. I will now state the amount of relief afforded up to that time. The amount expended on public works was 476,000l. But to this there is to be added the sums advanced on grand jury presentments to the amount of 130,000l. The total loss on the purchase and sale of grain was 50,000l. The amount given in aid of relief committees by the Government was 70,000l. The salaries of officers employed in administering the relief was 8,000l.; thus making the whole sum expended in relief in Ireland up to last harvest, 734,000l. Of this sum there was, in loans, 368,000l.; and in grants, 366,000l. During the last weeks of the Session of 1846, a change was made in. the system under which relief was to be given. The system of public works was continued under the Act, chapter 107, of last Session; but Her Majesty's present Government, believing that the mode pursued of charging this country, in the first instance, with one-half of the amount expended, had led to exorbitant demands, proposed an alteration, which was adopted by Parliament, that the whole of the expenses for the relief works should be charged on the baronies in Ireland. The Treasury Minute of August the 31st, explanatory of the altered system, and which has been printed in the first blue book laid on the Table of the House this Session, was issued and circulated. Amended rules were framed for the guidance of the relief committees. But very soon after Parliament rose, the general failure of the potato crop became known; and the consequence was, that a state of despondency and alarm extended itself from one end of Ireland to the other, and led every class of persons in that country to throw themselves on the Government for aid, to a degree that was not a little embarrassing to the Treasury. Even while the harvest was yet un-gathered, and the peasant's winter store of turf uncut, applications were made for commencing additional public works, and presentments were passed at the extraordinary sessions called throughout the distressed districts, for an amount far exceeding, in many cases, the whole annual rental of the baronies; persons were placed on the relief lists who ought not to nave been there, to such an extent, that we had statements from Mayo that persons were on the works who did not require any relief at all, while the destitute were lying on the roadsides without the means of subsistence, within a mile of the place where the works were going on. All this showed the absence of a vigilant superintendence on the part of the resident gentry and ratepayers with reference to those works. Many circumstances contributed to this state of things. I believe a feeling of humanity led to a great deal of this evil. The better classes were anxious to afford subsistence to the people, and the easiest mode of doing so was by procuring them employment on the public works. Intimidation also had, no doubt, much to do with the matter, in leading to improper persons being placed on the lists; and there was certainly among the people no indis- position to avail themselves of the advantages thus held out. The consequence of all this misconduct was to throw an immense number of people on the public works; and it was accordingly found, that the average number in October, was 114,000; in November, 285,000; in December, 440,000; and in January, 570,000. We vainly endeavoured to check the expenditure; and when hon. Gentlemen complain of the large staff employed in Ireland on these works, I would beg the House to understand that the whole administration of the local concerns of the country was thrown on the officers employed under the Board of Works. They had to survey and report upon the works to be executed, to say who were the proper objects for relief, to check the relief lists, to go through the whole of the duties imposed on the boards of guardians in this country; then to measure and lay out the work, to check the amount performed, to pay this enormous number of men week by week, and all this to be done in many cases with little or no assistance; and in some cases in spite of great opposition, and at no little risk. This was a most arduous undertaking, and required a very strong staff of officers and overseers: and when we saw those abuses going on, we naturally endeavoured to do everything in our power to prevent them, by multiplying checks upon the expenditure. At the end of January it was announced to Parliament that Government intended to put an end to this system of public works. The first result was, an immediate increase of the numbers employed. In spite of the most active exertions, instead of any diminution of expense, there was an increased pressure. The most stringent instructions were sent from the Treasury to the Board of Works to check in every possible way the numbers; but, nevertheless, a great increase took place. The average number of persons receiving employment in the month of February, increased to 708,000; and in the month of March, to 734,000; and I wish hon. Gentlemen would consider how enormous were the numbers for whom superintendence was required, before they complain of the number of persons employed for this purpose. The maximum expense on account of the staff, was 22,000l. per week; but by the last ac-counts which I have received, the expense of the staff has been reduced to 5,000l. a week; and it is ordered to be nearly altogether discontinued after the 10th of July. At last the Government, seeing that the time suited for agricultural purposes was rapidly passing away, and that no exertions on the spot effected any material reduction of numbers, ordered that after the 20th of March, 20 per cent of the persons employed on the public works should be struck off the lists. Very little difficulty, I am happy to say, was met with in carrying this order into effect. The necessary labour was returned to agricultural employment, and a large breadth of land was cultivated for spring and green crops. Still farther reductions took place in April, May and Juno. In the first week in April, the total number of persons employed on the public works was 525,000. In the first week in May, the number was 419,000; in the first week in June, 101,000; and in the week ending the 26th of June, the number was reduced to 28,000. We have fixed the limit of expenditure at the rate of 100,000l. a month for June and July, and part of August; and we intend that the whole shall be discontinued as soon as the public works are in a state in which they can be safely and properly left. I wish to state at once for the information of hon. Members from Ireland, who are anxious to know to what extent these works are to be completed, what we intend doing with respect to them. At the end of the last season of relief, an appeal was made to Her Majesty's Government that they were bound, in good faith, to complete all the works which they had commenced. An announcement had been made from the Treasury, stating, in the most distinct manner, that the works would not be completed by Government if unfinished when the distress ceased; and that they were not to be continued a moment longer than was absolutely necessary to afford the required relief to the people. Gentlemen in Ireland stated, however, that this had not been made known in Ireland; and as the distress still continued, we acceded to their request and completed the works, in order to avoid any imputation of not fulfilling expectations in which there was any shadow of reason. We took, however, effectual measures for preventing the recurrence of such a claim. A most distinct warning was given by us, so long ago as the month of October last, that the works would not be continued one week longer than was necessary, and in no case beyond harvest. The letter from Mr. Trevelyan to the Board of Works, on this subject, stated as follows:— The Chancellor of the Exchequer desires me to call your particular attention to the concluding portion of the Treasury Minute. What is required is to make it known from the first, to everybody concerned, in a manner which will admit of no mistake hereafter, that works under this Act are sanctioned, not for the sake of the works themselves, but for the sake of the relief afforded by them; that they will he stopped as soon as relief is no longer necessary; and that the operation of the Act will, under any circumstances, terminate on the 15th of August, 1847; and that if the works are continued after that date, it must be, not under the provisions of the 9th and 10th of Victoria, c. 107, but under the terms of some other Act of Parliament. We wish it to be plainly understood that the advances under the 9th and 10th of Victoria, c. 107, are merely intended to answer the temporary end of maintaining the destitute poor during the period the Act will remain in operation; and that if Parliament should determine that the Irish proprietors shall support the poor after the 15th of August, 1847, by payments out of the current produce of the poor rate, instead of by loan from the Government, the transfer from one system to the other may take place without our being liable to any demands, like those which have lately been made upon us, to finish what we had begun, on pain of being considered guilty of a breach of faith. Everything was done to make known to the people of Ireland the decision conveyed in that letter. It was distinctly told to the proprietors of Ireland, that if they wished to complete the works, they might do so under the old system of county presentment, and that with regard to drainages works, if they wished to carry them on, they could apply under the provisions of the Land Improvement Act of this Session. The whole amount which has been expended from the 15th of August last, and which will be required, according to the estimate, up to the termination of the relief system this season on public works in Ireland, is 4,900,000l. So much, therefore, for the system of relief on public works. I will now come to the other kinds of relief given. During the year 1846, twenty-one large depôts for corn were established in different parts of Ireland where they were most required, and there were also small depôts, of a few sacks of meal, opened at police and coastguard stations. The amount of corn purchased for these depôts in 1846 was 98,000 quarters. This year we established thirty-four large depots principally along the western coast, from Dunfanaghy, in the most northern part of the county of Donegal, to Skibbereen, in the south-west of the county of Cork; but, profiting by the experience of the former season, instead of re-establishing the small depôts, the distribution of the food in detail was confided to the relief com- mittees in each district. For these depôts the Government purchased 300,000 quarters of grain at a cost of upwards of 600,000l. Towards the repayment of this sum, there has been received 215,000l., from the sale of grain, up to the end of May. What the ultimate loss may be on the sales of grain, it is impossible to say; but probably it may be about 200.000l. It is right to state that the whole of this amount has been purchased in the home market, and we have not had a single complaint from any person in this country as to the mode in which the purchases of grain have been carried on. One great difficulty being the want of means of grinding corn in Ireland, the Admiralty mills at Dept-ford, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Malta, besides two private mills near London, which were hired, have been kept constantly employed in grinding the corn which was bought, and nearly the whole mill power in Ireland has been left for the private importers of grain into that country. We also took care not to interfere with the private trade in Ireland; and in the Treasury Minute of the 31st of August, to which I before alluded, it was stated that —"their Lordships desire that it may be fully understood that even at those places at which Government depots will be established for the sale of food, the depôts will not be opened while food can be obtained by the people from private traders at reasonable prices; and that even when the depôts are opened, the meal will, if possible, be sold at such prices as will allow of the private trader selling at the same price with a reasonable profit. Having stated the intentions of the Government in their orders relating to the management of the depôts, I will read an extract of a letter received not long ago from Sir R. Routh, which will show that those orders have been fully and beneficially carried out. He says— The commissariat establishments have, during this season, been confined to the western coast, where, as pioneers of trade, they might lead the way to the encouragement of commercial enterprise, and to the creation of a system by which the country might meet a new calamity, by the exercise of their own resources, and the exertion of their own industry. On many points on the western coast, this intention has been admirably supported. The trade has imported largely; and when they have had extensive supplies, we have generally suspended our sales. The commissariat establishments were confined to the western coast, and, with one exception, no complaint has been made of the interference with private trading. A complaint was brought forward a few nights ago by one of the hon. Members for Birmingham, on the part, if I understood rightly, of parties who had imported grain, that they had been undersold by Government; but, in my belief, the true cause of their complaint is, that these parties had purchased grain at a higher price than could now be obtained, a consequence of the natural fall of prices in the market. The intention of the Government, as expressed in the instructions issued from the Treasury throughout, was to sell according to the market price of the day; and it is not unlikely, therefore, that the price at the Government depôts would be lower than that at which, after this fall of price, the dealer could sell with a profit. In addition to the public depots established by Government, there were, in the eastern part of Ireland, fourteen depôts, managed by the Commissariat officers on behalf of the British Relief Association, and of the Relief Committee of the Society of Friends, to which the bulk of the American charitable contributions was consigned. It was apprehended, early in the year, that, as these bodies were acting quite independently of Government, considerable inconvenience might arise; and as it was exceedingly desirable that all the relief operations should be conducted in a uniform manner, it was mutually agreed that the Government should take charge of these depôts, on account of the parties, and sell the meal, or make free grants, as might be decided by them. The charitable supplies sent from the United States, were to a very considerable extent. I do not know the exact quantity; but some idea may be formed of it when I state that the freight alone upon it was 30,000l., which the Government has paid. The third mode of relief, and that which became the foundation of the present system, under which relief is now generally administered throughout Ireland, was the establishment of relief committees. Some of these committees were established early in 1846. The relief committees had two distinct duties to perform. One of these was forming lists for the employment of persons on the public works—a duty which, as already observed, I am sorry to say they discharged in many parts of Ireland in a very improper manner; and the other was raising subscriptions, providing food in various ways, and taking charge of the aged and infirm—and that duty has been in general most efficiently fulfilled. In the early part of 1846, there were in the whole of Ireland 648 relief committees, of which 484 received grants from Government in aid of subscriptions. They expended in a great measure their own money, which circumstance made them more careful in seeing that it was laid out with the greatest possible advantage and economy. They received last year 101,000l., in subscriptions, and 70,000l. in donations from the Government; and these funds were, I believe, on the whole, very usefully applied. In the early part of this year the number of relief committees had increased to 1,097, and of these 879 received grants from the Government. The entire amount of subscriptions was 199,000l., and the donations in aid of the subscriptions amounted to 191,000l. more, making a total of 390,000l. expended by the relief committees in the course of this year. These committees pursued in the main the same system as those of the preceding year, introducing however very generally the establishment of soup kitchens, which led to the foundation of the present system, and the distribution of cooked food, in which shape the Irish people are now receiving relief. The great defect in the former system of relief committees was, that they were only voluntary, and that in many places, especially in the most distressed parts of Ireland, they could not be established, as it was impossible to find in such localities persons who would subscribe the necessary funds. This led to the passing of the Act of the 10th Victoria, chap. 7, which empowered the Lord Lieutenant to form relief committees in every electoral district throughout Ireland, and authorized the levy of rates for the purposes of relief. That Act was passed in the spring, and is in operation over a great part of Ireland at this moment. There are 2,049 electoral divisions; in 1,386 electoral divisions relief committees have been formed, which have received aid by advances of money upon the security of the rates; 48 have received aid by loans and also by grants; and 45 have raised subscriptions themselves for relieving their poor, and have received likewise Government grants in aid. There are, therefore, 1,479 electoral divisions now under the operation of the Act, and the other 570, principally in the north of Ireland, have as yet received neither loans nor grants; they have in many cases relieved their poor out of their own means. I am happy to say that the effects of this system have been most satisfactory. From many parts of Ireland, especially from the western districts, which had been the most distressed, I have had communications, bearing testimony to the improved appearance of the people, stating that the improvement in the aspect and bodily health of the population was such as to astonish those who had seen the condition of the people in the earlier part of the year. I have in particular the valuable testimony of Colonel Jones, chairman of the Board of Works, who has, in several letters, described the condition of various places he had visited. In the first letter, dated at Bantry Bay, June 26, Colonel Jones describes what he had seen at Skibbereen. He says— At Skibbereen I was greatly surprised with the appearance of the town and people; the latter looking in very good condition, very few miserable or famished objects to be seen; the former had signs of bustle, well-stocked shops, and an air of business. There is no want of food there at present. The fish market was well supplied, and whilst I was in the town several boats arrived with mackerel of a very fine sort, and which were sold at a moderate price. His next letter is from Valentia, to the northward, dated June 28:— Judging by the appearance of the people, they are much improved in health; and such was admitted to me by every person I spoke to upon the subject. Fever is diminishing very fast, and has assumed a much milder form; deaths are very much less frequent. This morning we have heard from him when at Galway, his letter bearing date July 1. He says— Certainly, to judge by the countenances of the people, a stranger would not suppose that the population had been suffering from want of food. I was glad to observe yesterday, in Galway market, the countrywomen had each their basket with something for sale, and a good deal of poultry. There were from twenty to thirty carts loaded with last year's oats for sale. On a former occasion I read to the House a letter from Count Strzelecki, a gentleman employed by the British Association, and I will quote that letter again; it is dated from Westport, and he says that— The great recommendation of the present system, independently of its comparative merits, is, that besides being more systematic, and capable of contracting and extending its issues from fortnight to fortnight, and thus of adjusting and adapting itself to circumstances, it is more effective; for, since it came into operation, the afflicting and heart-rending crowds of destitutes have disappeared, and Westport, the receptacle of misery, assumes daily a more cheering aspect. These are reports from different places along the western coast; and Sir John Burgoyne, the chairman of the Relief Board, who has accounts also from various other parts of the country, reports as follows, on June 28:— The accounts are generally that the people are getting perceptibly more healthy, that fever is decreasing in most parts, and the mortality in a still greater degree. The precautionary measures adopted under the Fever Act, cleansing, whitewashing, and removing nuisances, seem to have been attended with very beneficial effects. They have been effected at a very small expense, and have been greatly promoted by the exertions of our officers. I am happy to state further, that from the weekly reports of the constabulary officers, it appears that the number of deaths which can in any way be caused by distress is daily diminishing. In the week ending the 29th of June, only four deaths are reported to have taken place in the whole of Ireland which could be attributed to destitution, while thirteen deaths from starvation were reported to have taken place in the county of Mayo alone, in the week ending the 28th of February. It is equally satisfactory to find that there has been a decrease of crime. I will only specify those crimes which might be supposed to have been prompted by want of food; and from the returns for May and June it appeared that burglaries had decreased from 242 in May to 142 in June; highway robberies, from 29 to 20; other robberies, from 115 to 72; cattle-stealing, from 1,446 to 858; plundering provisions, from 173 to 57; levying contributions, from 49 to 20. Crime, therefore, has diminished more than one-half in one month. The decrease of the expenditure is equally striking. The expenses of every kind for the four weeks ending the 20th of March amounted to 1,020,592l., while for the four weeks ending the 12th of June they were 539,671l., showing a diminution of no less than 480,921l. in the comparison between the two periods when both systems were in full operation. To illustrate this farther, I will take the case of two baronies in the county of Clare. The persons employed on public works by the relief committees in these baronies at one time were 11,696; and, allowing the usual average of four persons to be supported by the earnings of each of the persons employed on the works, this gave relief to 46,784 persons. In those two baronies the whole number of persons returned by the relief committees as receiving rations under the superintendence of the Government officers is 11,046, being actually less than the number employed upon the public works. I am far from saying that abuses do not exist in parts of Ireland, in the present system; and, indeed, I mentioned on a former occasion, that in one district the relief committees had sent in a list of persons to be relieved exceeding by 2,000 the whole population of the district. Various checks have been established against this and other abuses which are attempted. First, the personal appearance of all parties requiring relief is insisted upon, exceptions only being made in favour of the sick. I am afraid that this exception is open to abuse; for I have heard that in parts of the country it has led to what was one of the main evils of the old system of relief in this country, "relief in aid of wages." The main check, however, is the distribution of relief in the shape of cooked food; and I hope that gentlemen who superintend the distribution of food in Ireland will steadily adhere to the rule of giving it in that form. This change has been one of the best steps that could have been taken; and I assure the House that the Government are firmly resolved to persist in it. I will read a report from one union:— The people invariably refuse dressed food at first, but after a few days give it a decided preference. Some hostility was manifested in Enniscrorothy to the porridge on the first day; but such is their desire to procure the cooked food now, that, when the supply falls short, they prefer waiting an hour or two for a fresh boiling to taking raw rations. I feel satisfied that health, comfort, and economy are best promoted by the substitution of cooked for raw food under present circumstances. If hon. Gentlemen will refer to the Appendix to the Third Report of the Relief Commissioners, they will find that great abuses took place when uncooked food was distributed. The following passages are extracts from reports of Inspecting Officers on this subject:— When the rations were issued in an uncooked state, even the most destitute in many instances disposed of them for tea, tobacco, and even spirits; and those who were disposed to cook the Indian meal utterly failed, not being aware of its requiring to be well steeped previously. Instances have been reported to me of men receiving meal for their families, selling it immediately, and getting drunk upon the proceeds, leaving their children to starve; and last week,in—,a man received 5 lb. of Indian meal; he devoured part of it raw on the road to his home, and made away with the remainder, as he arrived without any for four famishing children. Not being seen for two or three days the police broke into the house, and found the man with two of the children dead, and the remaining two at the point of death. Such were the abuses which resulted from the distribution of uncooked food; and I believe that one of the best measures which has been adopted was the distribution of cooked food. In many parts of Ireland, I am sorry to say, some resistance was made, but the relief officers have received positive instructions to distribute only cooked food or steeped meal; and that if raw food is given, in opposition to those instructions, no further advances will be made to the unions where that abuse is permitted; and I am very anxious to impress upon Irish Gentlemen the importance of enforcing this rule in their respective neighbourhoods. The check upon the relief committees and those who distributed the relief is, that part of the payment is charged on rates to be immediately levied. On a former occasion I stated that there were some unions in which persons not entitled to relief had been struck off the lists; and I have received a letter from Sir John Burgoyne, dated the 28th of June, in which he says— I have this day received a report which pleased me very much, being of an electoral division in Gort, county of Galway, where the farmer ratepayers have denounced several persons on the lists as not entitled to relief, and caused some fifty or sixty to be struck off. I do not mean to say that I am aware of any sum having been actually received in repayment of the advances made by Government for the purpose of this relief; but steps have been taken in several unions for striking and collecting rates; and the effect of this has operated most beneficially in checking the expenditure. On the whole, considering the magnitude of the operations the Government has had to undertake, the enormous number of persons requiring relief, and the difficulty of obtaining adequate local assistance, the administration of relief by the distribution of food has been most beneficial; I repeat that I do not mean to say that abuses have not prevailed, and that the people are not liable to be demoralised by being taught to depend upon the Government for their maintenance; but the system of relief by works was open to all these objections, whilst the present system is infinitely better in many respects than the employment on relief works. Beyond the good results which have attended this system, there is another measure to which I must refer—the establishment of fever hospitals. The orders on certificates of the Board of Health up to the 18th of June were for 207 hospitals, 7 dispensaries, 13,126 patients, 575 nurses, and 280 ward-maids. The Committee must not, however, infer from these numbers, that they are an absolute increase in the number of sick; for the patients who would in other years have been in the ordinary hospitals have this year been transferred to those under the Fever Act; so that part of this number is only a transfer from other places, and not an addition. We have to a small amount given aid to workhouses, where funds were immediately wanted for the support of the inmates. Whilst on this part of the subject I may mention, that in consequence of their neglect of their duty, the Commissioners have been obliged to suspend two boards of guardians. [Mr. CALLAGHAN: Where?] At Castlebar and Ballinrobe. A sum of 18,000l. has been given in aid to workhouses for food, and 60,000l. has been advanced to unions for the erection of fever wards. Many of the workhouses were unable, from want of means, to accommodate the full number of persons which they were calculated to hold, and in these cases bedding and clothing have been supplied from the public stores, and as a larger quantity was sent over than was required for this purpose, some bedding and clothing has also been distributed to relief committees. The Government has also been at great pains to encourage the fisheries of Ireland; and I hope the impulse thus given to that branch of industry will be attended with the effects anticipated from it. Having thus stated the extent to which relief has been carried under the operation of the Act of this Session, I must express my satisfaction at finding that the expense has fallen below the amount I originally estimated. At one period I conceived it would amount to about 3,000,000l.; but it will be no more than 2,200,000l. Last year it was determined that the Government system of relief should terminate with the harvest; this year the same period is proposed; and directions have been given to close it, throughout Ireland, not upon any particular day, but according to the circumstances of the respective districts, to depend partly upon the gathering in of the harvest and the potato crop. When those crops have been gathered, there will be an end to the system of public relief, cither by food or employment; and it is believed that both will be closed before the end of August, after which those who require relief must look to their respective unions. Relief must be afforded from the rates; but we must, I think, and for reasons which I will shortly mention, afford as much aid as we can by advances of money for the purpose of giving facilities for the employment of labour. There will thus have been three distinct phases of relief: first, by employment on public works; secondly, by the distribution of food; and, lastly, by aid for the employment of labour. The system of public works was based upon the experience of all former examples of assistance afforded to the people of Ireland in periods of distress, and is, I believe, the best that could have been adopted to a limited extent; but it was not calculated to bear the enormous pressure of last autumn and winter. No machinery of Government officers could prevent the general prevalence of abuses; and the system fairly broke down. We then proposed the present system of relief by food. It was at this period that my noble Friend the Member for Lynn proposed his scheme for affording extensive employment by loans to the railroad companies in Ireland. No doubt employment in any way was desirable; but I do not consider that the proposition of my noble Friend was adequate to meet the evils which, at the time it was made, afflicted the country. Those who could have derived benefit from the utmost practicable extension of that scheme, would have been a small part of those who absolutely would have been starved to death, but for the assistance which we rendered to them. I believe that relief by giving food to the people was absolutely indispensable. The Poor Law had not been long established in Ireland, and out-door relief had not been established at all. They lad no practice, nor any machinery by which adequate relief could have been afforded to such as could not be supported by employment on railroads: it was indispensable, therefore, for the Government to interfere as it did, and to establish the machinery for bringing food within reach of the people. The people of Ireland are now in a different situation; they have had experience of the relief which has been afforded to them on a large scale, and have had time to form a judgment of what system it is best for them to organize, and also what are the best resources to which they should look for permanent support. They have now the experience of a year and a half of the administration of relief in different ways. Machinery for the purpose is established in the different electoral divi- sions of the country; an Act has been passed authorizing the appointment of relieving officers, and giving relief out of the workhouse. The time is therefore come when the people of Ireland must look for the relief of destitution to the rates to be raised on the spot. I do not mean to say that this will not be a heavy charge upon them; but it is one which they must bear, as the people in this country do, in supporting their own poor. With a view to enable them to meet their own immediate wants, it has been provided that the repayment of the advances of the public money should not press upon them in the course of the ensuing autumn. We have directed that in appropriating the rates for the expenses of the Relief Commission during the present summer, the current expenditure under the ordinary Poor Law should always be the primary charge on the rates; and, in like manner, we have directed that the expense for maintaining the poor shall be defrayed before any repayment is claimed out of the rates to be collected in the autumn. It is well known that rates are more easily collected when the harvest is gathered in, and the produce of the farmer is brought to market; and therefore this demand upon him will be more easily met. Partly for this reason, and partly also because we found that the Board of Works could not complete all the certificates in time, we have postponed making any claim for repayment of the advances made for public works under the Act (9 and 10 Victoria, c. 107) of the end of last Session, till the spring assizes of 1848. The repayment, therefore, of the first instalment due on account of advances for the public works of the last season, will not be made until after the spring assizes; the rates, therefore, during the coming autumn, will be altogether available for the relief of the people until that period. The repayment, therefore, is so arranged as not to press heavily upon them when the Poor Relief Bill comes first into full operation. They will have nothing to provide in the way of repayment in the course of the autumn but the second instalment for the works of last Session, whether granted under the Board of Works or under grand jury presentment. The amount of this instalment is but small: under grand jury presentments it is 14,500l., and under the Act of last Session, cap. 1, 12,500l., making a total of only 27,000l. This is the total amount of repayment to be made by the people of Ireland in the interval between the summer and spring assizes. Nevertheless, although the pressure upon the people of Ireland for repaying any portion of the expense which has been incurred for the relief of the destitute during the last eighteen months, will be very trifling—during the next autumn and winter, there will be great demands upon the rates for maintaining persons out of employment; and they will stand in need of all the aid towards finding employment which we can legitimately give them. I am afraid that, under any circumstances, there will be a considerable number of persons for whom no employment can be found in the ordinary avocations of agriculture. Both Sir John Burgoyne and Colonel Jones have expressed apprehensions on this head; and the former regrets the loss of the Waste Lands Bill, from thinking that it would have afforded employment for labour in some of the most destitute districts. With these views, we propose to take power to make further advances for the purpose of finding employment for able-bodied persons. The works at present in progress in Ireland, aided by the public funds, are as follows: First, the Shannon navigation, which has been in operation for some years. Secondly, works for the improvement of navigation and drainage connected therewith, for which a vote has been taken in further execution of the Act which was passed last Session; and I shall propose in the next Committee of Supply a further grant of 5,500l. towards the improvement of the River Hinde, in one of the most distressed counties in Ireland—the county of Roscommon. Thirdly, the promotion of the sea fisheries in Ireland, by the repair and construction of fishery piers, for which a sum of 50,000l. was voted last year; and for which in the present Session I have taken an additional sum of 40,000l. Fourthly, the drainage and improvement of landed estates by the proprietors themselves, for which, as the Committee is aware, a sum of 1,500,000l. has been voted. And, fifthly, those railroads for aiding in the construction of which, a sum of 620,000l. has been already voted. There remains the drainage executed by the Board of Works, in deepening and straightening the course of rivers which afford the outfalls for main drainage in Ireland. It is obvious that these works are of the greatest importance, as preliminary to the drainage of each estate which is to be effected under the Land Im- provement Act. The money which has hitherto been expended upon those works, has been chiefly obtained from private sources: the Board of Works issued debentures, upon the security of which many of the principal people in Ireland, including the Lord Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench, have advanced considerable sums: the whole amount borrowed from the Government is only 36,000l., while the sums lent by private individuals amount to no less than 127,000l. In the present circumstances of Ireland, however, there is considerable difficulty in obtaining money from private sources; and I propose, therefore, to vote further sums of money to be added to the loan fund of the Board of Works in Ireland, to be advanced by them for works of public utility in Ireland, but mainly for drainage of this description. I find that the Public Works Loan Commissioners in England, can spare the sum of 120,000l., which I propose to transfer from their account to that of the Board of Works in Ireland, in addition to the 60,000l. which is appropriated every year to the latter body; and I shall also propose to issue to them from the Consolidated Fund a further sum of 250,000l., making altogether a sum of 430,000l. to be at their disposal between March last and the 1st of April 1848. I am very sorry to say, that I anticipate a less expenditure in the course of the next autumn and winter, out of the 1,500,000l., for the improvement of landed estates than I had hoped for. The Board of Works do not expect that the expenditure within that time will exceed 400,000l. There has been some difficulty as to the return of 6½ per cent in the improvement of the land by the money to be laid out upon it: it would be unjust to the remainder-man if the improved value of the land was not equal to the charge fixed upon it which he will have to pay; this improvement, however, cannot in all cases be expected to accrue as soon as the works are completed. Gentlemen are aware that in drainage, for instance, the full benefit to be derived from the work will be attained in different soils at different periods from the completion of the drains. In order, therefore, to remove difficulties, we have issued a Treasury Minute declaring that we shall be quite satisfied if an improved value to the extent of 6½ per cent on the money laid out is to be expected from the laud, when the full benefit of the improvement shall arise. No one can be more sensible than I am, that it is most desirable that money should be expended in Ireland in improving the productive power of that country; but so many difficulties seem to arise in doing this through the operation of the Land Improvement Act in the course of this year, when the necessity for employing the able-bodied persons is greatest, that I am not sorry to have devoted a certain sum to loans to railroad companies, by which considerable employment will be given, and the ultimate return of the money to the public is secured. These, then, are the modes in which we propose to expend money for the employment of the people in Ireland up to April next. Beyond this, I believe, that the interference of the Government would do more harm than good, by tending to increase the disposition of the people to depend upon relief from Government, and not to avail themselves of those means of subsistence which are in their own power. To give an instance how helpless the people are, and yet with how small an exertion the charge upon rates may be relieved, I will quote from a letter from Sir John Burgoyne of the 30th of June, an account of what happened at Arklow within fifty miles of Dublin. He says— The herring fishing has commenced on this eastern coast favourably. I had just induced the Relief Association of the Society of Friends to advance 50l. for releasing upwards of 200 nets, the fishermen of Arklow had pawned! Those very nets brought in fish the next morning that sold for 30l. The men had been previously on the relief lists with their families, receiving gratuitous rations, and in idleness. Such, Sir, has been the course pursued for the relief of distress in Ireland, and such, so far as we can foresee, are the measures for the next few months. I am far from saying that mistakes have not been made; but in reviewing the conduct of the Government and its officers, I must beg hon. Gentlemen to remember the enormous difficulties: the pressure upon us from all parts of Ireland; the little assistance we have received; and that if our measures were not prompt, the lives of thousands might be sacrificed. Looking back upon all this, I confess I am astonished at the success which, upon the whole, has attended our measures. Early in the Session many Gentlemen coming over from Ireland imputed much blame to the Government for the course which they were pursuing, and prophesied that the system of relief then proposed would be a failure; but those who blamed suggested no better alternative, and those who prophe- sied failure have turned out, as events have shown, false prophets. We have now the satisfaction of feeling that, both in relieving distress and diminishing the burden upon the public, the measures of the Government have been successful. I cannot resist reading the opinion of Sir John Burgoyne on this subject in a letter received from him so lately as June 30th; and the opinion of no one can be entitled to more weight than his. He says— I consider our temporary relief measure the grandest attempt ever made to grapple with famine over a whole country, as the recent calamity may be described in Ireland. In spite of every difficulty, it has arrested it, except in limited spots, where opposition or apathy could not be overcome. I think that the Government and Parliament deserve great credit for not flinching from the proceeding; but it must be confessed to be one hors de regle, and that we should withdraw from it as early as possible, as demoralising and attended with a great amount of unproductive expenditure. I have always been aware of these evils, and have endeavoured to prevent our mode of administering relief from increasing them; but they are inseparable from the measure; and I assert that measure to have been the only one that could have checked a generally spread mortality from actual starvation; and that is a full answer to the cavillers against it. I cannot, Sir, pass from this part of the subject, without expressing on the part of Her Majesty's Government the gratitude which we feel for the forbearing and generous support which we have received from men of all political parties during this most critical period, when famine and pestilence were so generally prevalent in Ireland. They felt how overwhelming the difficulties were, and, as I believe the people of this country always will do in real danger, they unanimously concurred in the measures best calculated to overcome them. It would, also, Sir, be most unjust not to pay their well-deserved tribute of praise to those officers who have been employed under the Government in carrying on these measures, from Mr. Trevelyan and the gentlemen in the Treasury under him, to the officers and clerks employed in the furthest parts of Ireland. Without the indefatigable exertions of Mr. Trevelyan, I really do not know how our operations could have been carried on from day to day; and the utmost exertions have been made by Sir John Burgoyne and the gentlemen employed in the Relief Commission; by Sir Randolph Routh and the officers of the Commissariat; by Colonel Jones, and every member of the Board of Works; and by the persons in their respective establishments. To the officers and gen- tlemen employed in the different parts of Ireland, the greatest praise is due, for their exertions under most difficult circumstances, and amidst fever and disease, to which, alas! several of them have fallen victims. It is indeed difficult to picture the various duties which were imposed upon these officers, as upon them, in fact, fell nearly the whole administration of the local concerns of the country; and the whole of what is managed in England by magistrates, boards of guardians, overseers, and relieving officers, independently of the charge of enormous public works; and the superintendence of such a body of men as was never before in any country employed at the public expense. It is true, Sir, that money has been largely spent; but we have at least the satisfaction of thinking that this expenditure has, under the blessing of Providence, been the means of saving the lives of thousands. With regard to the future, it is impossible not to contemplate what may come upon us in the autumn with some anxiety; and if again the potato crop should fail, it may be again necessary to extend aid to the people of Ireland; but so far as the present appearance of the crops in that country goes,—both those of grain and the green crops—I believe it is very promising. [Lord G. BENTINCK: Of the potato crops?] I referred to the grain crops; nor do I think it possible to express any decided opinion at present as to the potato crop. I believe the quantity planted in Ireland to be from a third to a fourth of the usual quantity; and there is no doubt that symptoms of disease have appeared in various parts of the country. There have, however, been recent accounts in this country of the disease having been checked where it appeared some time ago. I will not, therefore, venture to express a confident opinion on this subject, either one way or the other; but with reference to the grain and green crops, there seems to be every prospect of an abundant harvest. Land has been extensively sown in Ireland; and on this subject, I will read a report from one of the inspecting officers, Captain Fishbourne, applicable to great part of the north of Ireland. He says— I have just returned from a, tour through Louth, Tyrone, Donegal, Fermanagh, divan, and Meath; and you will be glad to learn that the crops throughout were looking most luxuriant, and some were very forward. I ought, perhaps, to except the more mountainous parts of Donegal near the sea, especially in the Rosses. The country, under its present circumstances, can never feed its population; and, even in the best years, many would starve but for the quantity of fish on their coast and in their rivers. There is much room for improvement, and some has been, and is being, undertaken with profit. I saw some, which had been taken in by Sir Edmund Hayes last year, bearing crops which will nearly pay him his outlay this year. Mr. Hamilton of Filtown has given a great deal of employment in the same way, and has thus kept his electoral division from coming under the Relief Act. Captain Fishbourne then makes a statement which is very remarkable, as to the value of land in Ireland. He says that— Mr. Hamilton cannot obtain land from his tenants at anything like its value. One man asked him 70l. for a farm valued at 30s. The letter then continues— I saw improvements in progress on a small scale in several parts on small holdings that had been vacated during the year. The quantity of corn sown is much greater than usual; and the quantity of green crops is quite surprising. Turnips are being still sown, as some of the committees are very properly forcing the people to sow; and I am sorry to say the people will do little even to benefit themselves unless forced to do so—they have been so indoctrinated with the idea that Government must support them. This is, I think, upon the whole, a very satisfactory account, especially as far as regards the county of Donegal, which is one of the most destitute in Ireland. There, and in other parts of the western coast of Ireland, I am afraid that distress will prevail to a considerable extent; but nevertheless, with a view to the permanent welfare of Ireland, it is time for Government to withdraw its aid as much as possible. The interference of Government damps all independent exertion; and the longer dependence upon it continues, the loss able will the people be to help themselves. In the letter which I have just quoted, this dependence is strongly stated, and I will conclude by reading a short paragraph of a letter recently received from Colonel Jones, than whom no one has had a better opportunity of forming a correct judgment upon the effect of our late measures:— I am perfectly certain, he says, it is that constant reliance upon Government aid and support, which tends more than anything else to neutralize enterprise and individual exertion. The upper classes all seek for it, and the lower orders, once they learn that it is in contemplation to assist them, their own exertions cease. Sir, I will now come to the expenditure for the relief of distress since August last. I have already stated that the relief of last season up to September, 1846, was 738,000l., and I am now about to state the cost of the relief from that time to the coming harvest, when it is proposed that relief should cease, together with the amount of advances for works up to the 31st of March next. The whole expenditure upon relief works, will he in round numbers 5,000,000l.; and I have stated the probable expenditure under the Relief Commission at 2,200,000l. I think, however, that the most satisfactory way of stating the expenditure, will be to divide it into grants and loans, and the account will then be as follows:—

1st Grants:—
Half of the expense of works under 9th and 10th Vic. c. 107 £2,500,000
Grants by Relief Commississioners (Sir J. Burgoyne's Commission) 1,000,000
Staff of Board of Works and of Relief Commission 310,000
Donations to Relief Committees made previously to the establishment of the Relief Commission 190,000
Estimated loss on Commissariat operations, &c., already voted 250,000
Then there is, probable expenditure on fishery piers, and navigation connected with drainage 130,000
Making a total of grants £4,380,000
The sum total, therefore, by way of grant is 4,380,000l.

I now come to the advances by way of loan:—

1st. Advances to be repaid out of rates:—
Half of the expense of works under the 9th and 10th Vic., c. 107 £2,500,000
Loans by Relief Commissioners 1,200,000
2nd. Advances for works, repayment of which is to be charged on land, or railroads:—
For railroads 620,000
Increase to Board of Works loan fund 250,000
Estimated advance for land improvement up to April, 1848 400,000
Making a total of advances £4,970,000
The whole sum, therefore, expended in Ireland since August last, and to be expended up to the 31st of March, 1848, is 9,350,000l.


How much of that sum was by way of loan?


The amount charged on the rates, partly for relief works and partly for food, is 3,700,000l., and the amount to be advanced for works of drainage, railroads, &c, is 1,270,000l. The Committee will remember that, when I made my statement on the probable demands for Ireland early in the Session, I estimated the probable expense for the year, of the relief of distress in Ire- land, by all the various means to which I referred, at 10,000,000l. I then said that 2,000,000l. had been already advanced, and I took a loan for 8,000,000l. more. The estimated expenditure now is 9,350,000l., which, deducted from 10,000,000l., leaves an available balance in the Exchequer of 650,000l. At the same time, there may be further demands for loans under the Land Improvement Bill. I am afraid that such a demand will not be made, but I propose to reserve that sum in hand in order to meet any contingent expenses. The vote I now ask for is a further sum of 300,000l., to be advanced by way of loan upon the security of the rates. That will make in all 1,200,000l. of loan to Ireland for the system of relief by food, and is the only vote to be taken in this Committee. I shall afterwards propose to go into Committee in order to take a vote for the remission of one half of the sum advanced by loan on the credit of presentments for public works, and for the further advances for drainage and works of public utility; and I shall on Monday propose the votes which are to be taken in Committee of Supply. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving— That provision be made, out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, for the issue of any sum not exceeding 300,000l., to be advanced, by way of loan, on the security of Rates to be levied in Ireland, to the Relief Commissioners appointed in pursuance of an Act of the present Session, for the temporary Relief of Destitute Persons in Ireland.

Resolution agreed to be reported.

House resumed.