SIR H. W.BARRON
said, that the object of the Motion of which he had given notice, was to give profitable employment to a large body of the Irish people, amounting, according to his calculation, to 400,000 persons, including the families of the fishermen. Looking to the important measure which was about to be put into operation in Ireland—he referred to the Poor Relief Act—it was necessary to find employment for the people, otherwise the most disastrous consequences would ensue. It was notorious that the Irish fisheries were not in the same flourishing condition as those of Scotland; and that was attributable to the circumstance of the former not having obtained as much encouragement from Parliament as the latter. It appeared from a return which he moved for in 1835 that during the ten years preceding that date, Parliament voted 143,791l. for the purpose of stimulating the Scotch fisheries, whilst, for the same period, only 12,000l. were voted to effect a similar object in Ireland. In consequence of the fostering care which the Legislature had extended to them, the Scotch fisheries had become the most prosperous in Europe, not excepting even the Dutch. It was a melancholy fact, as regarded Ireland, that Scotch fish of the value of 50,000l. were annually imported into that country, and purchased by the poor people; whilst, upon their own coast, within sight of the land, were myriads of fish, which were never caught. Scotch fish sold in the port of Dublin for 17l. a ton, whilst Irish curers would be able to sell with a profit at 7l. per ton, if the fish were only caught. The six curing- 762 houses and two dep6ts which the Government recently established in Ireland, had been attended with signal success; and that should encourage them to proceed further in the same course. This was not an exclusively Irish question; it was one in which the people of England were intimately interested; for, if employment should be found for the Irish people at home, they would not be tempted to immigrate into this country, to deprive the labourers here of the employment which was their natural inheritance, and bring disease into the heart of the land. It was his wish that the number of curing-houses in Ireland should be extended to 100, and that inspectors should be established along the coast. He intended to move for the appointment of a Committee on this subject; but the inquiry which would be delegated to that Committee would not occupy much time, for he should be able to produce six witnesses of high character and great experience on the subject both in Scotland and Ireland, whose evidence would satisfy the House and the country of the necessity of adopting the measure which he recommended. No man could be more disposed than he was to acknowledge warmly the sympathy which the English people had displayed for the distress of the Irish nation; but it was necessary to go further, and find employment for the Irish. The accounts which he had recently received from Ireland were of the most distressing character. The farmers were discharging their labourers and the gentry their servants, whilst the shopkeepers in the towns had no business to transact. Mechanics, also, of every class, were unable to obtain employment, and were being placed on the relief lists. He assured the House that this was not an exaggerated picture of the present state of Ireland. It was not his intention in bringing forward this Motion to impute the slightest blame to the Government. On the contrary, he thought the present was the first Government which had taken a step in the right direction as regarded the Irish fisheries. He desired only that they should go further, and for that purpose it was desirable that the right hon. Secretary for Ireland should be fortified with the evidence which would be given before a Committee, and which he might make the groundwork of a comprehensive measure to be introduced during the present or in the next Session of Parliament. He moved that— 763A Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the means of improving the Fisheries in Ireland, and thereby affording profitable employment.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
admitted the great importance of the subject brought under the notice of the House by his hon. Friend. There existed on the coasts of Ireland a mine of wealth, of which it was almost impossible to over-estimate the value, which would not only yield supplies of food and give employment to the people, but rear up a hardy race of seamen as fit to defend their country in time of war, as to supply her with the means of subsistence in time of peace. This question had occupied much of the attention of the present and of preceding Governments. Several Committees and Commissions had been appointed, and there were abundant means on the Table of acquiring information. A series of measures, founded on the information that had been obtained, had been proposed by the Government, and which were in progress; and, judging from the experience that had been had, very important and beneficial results might be expected. His hon. Friend had referred to the Scotch fisheries; but he believed that the growth of those fisheries was more to be attributed to the energy of private enterprise in that country than to anything derived from the fostering care of the Government in the shape of bounties—a system persevered in at a great expense—or in the establishing a large staff of commissioners. At the same time he did not deny that there might be modes in which the assistance of Government or of Parliament might be extended to these fisheries, without unduly interfering with that private enterprise which he looked to as the only safe foundation for ameliorative measures in Ireland. One of those methods was the constructing of fishery piers on the coast of Ireland, at many parts of which they were much wanted, for although there were good fisheries, there were no harbours for the fishermen to resort to in stress of weather. Parliament had already devoted large sums to this purpose. The late Government had very properly proposed a sum of 50,000l. by way of free gift towards erecting these piers; and, the present Government had, during the present Session, proposed a sum of 40,000l. for the same purpose. He trusted Parliament, in its liberality, would enable the Government to devote yet further sums in the same manner, which, as not interfering with private enterprise, he viewed as a perfectly legitimate way of ex- 764 tending assistance. Another mode which the Government had recently adopted in Ireland, and which had produced most beneficial results as far as it had gone, was to a certain degree liable to the objection of interference with private enterprise; but at the same time, so far from that having been practically the case, it would, he believed, stimulate enterprise by showing the successful and profitable results to be obtained from following the plan which the Government had adopted. He alluded to the curing stations established on different parts of the coast, the operation of which he had most anxiously watched during the short time they had been in existence. The results had given him the most lively satisfaction, and encouraged him to hope that, little as was the cost, and working as they did in a most unostentatious manner, most important benefits would arise in regard to the fisheries of Ireland. The Government had established six of these curing stations on different parts of the coast, selecting those spots where the fisheries were known to be good, and yet where there was no private trade to interfere with. In those six places, out of a sum of 5,000l., which was not voted by Parliament, but taken from the Reproductive Loan Fund—with these small means the Government had been enabled to establish those six stations, upon the simple principle of appointing at each of those stations an agent, in whom they could confide. They also appointed experienced Scotch curers, who could cure the fish in the best manner, and gave out that they would buy, at a fair price, all the fish that should be brought to them for sale. They had thus established regular markets for those fishermen who chose to bring in their fish for sale. By doing this, and by establishing depots for salt, which salt they sold in small quantities, at cost price, to any parties who wished to buy it to cure their fish; and by applying sums of money in the purchase of tackle and hooks, and things of that description, which they also retailed at cost price to such fishermen as would purchase them; by these simple means, without an expensive machinery, or large staff of inspectors, and without interfering with private enterprise, the results, as they appeared from the stations which he had established, were sufficient to show that they were in the right track in following this plan; they might hope in the most beneficial manner to promote the fisheries of Ireland by this means, to an extent they could scarcely anticipate when the scheme 765 was proposed. The system was under the superintendence of a gentleman, whose name he could not mention without stating how much the country was indebted to him for the care and attention he had devoted to it; he referred to Mr. Mulvany, of the Board of Works, the superintendent of the curing stations, who had been able to produce the most gratifying results by the way in which the fish had been cured. His hon. Friend (Sir H. W. Barron), in bringing forward his Motion, said it was a grievous thing that the Scotch fishermen and curers should be able to catch and cure their fish on the coasts of Scotland, and entirely monopolize the fish market with the fish so caught, while the Irish neglect to fish upon their own coasts. He was not, he hoped, addressing any Scotch Gentlemen who might take alarm at what he was about to state; but the result of the system to which he had been adverting was this, the fish thus cured was driving out of the Irish market the Scotch fishermen, and the Irish fishermen were enabled to undersell the Scotch fishermen in the markets of Ireland. Some other incidental advantages had occurred from the establishment of those fishing stations, which as yet, he should observe, were only in their infancy, and there had not yet been time to develop their resources. It had turned out that the establishment of the Government stations, and the example which they had set, were already beginning to attract the observation of private speculators, who seeing the Government success were imitating the example. And that was just what he wanted to see, for nothing would be more absurd than for the Government to undertake on a great scale to catch and cure the fish on the coasts of Ireland, or embark in a great commercial occupation of that description. That was not the province of Government, By embarking in such transactions they might only do mischief; they would of course drive out of the market all private speculators; and great fisheries could only be conducted in Ireland, as in other countries, by private enterprise, and by that activity which the stimulus of self-interest always applies to the commercial pursuits of any branch of the community. It would appear that speculators in England were turning their attention to this subject, and sending off boats to the fishing stations on the Irish coast. He held that to be desirable, and had got a letter that day respecting a vessel that had arrived on the west coast of Ireland, from Graves-end, sent there by a gentleman connected 766 with fisheries in England, for the purpose of trying the experiment whether he could there successfully practise this branch of trade. The following is the letter to which he referred:—Shortly after posting ray letters yesterday, there arrived in this bay a fishing-smack from Gravesend. I spoke to the captain, who knows but little more than that he has been sent by a Mr. Dicers, from Pimlico, London, to fish in this neighbourhood. I went on board this morning, and found her fitted out in first-rate order, lines, hooks, trawls, and new nets, plentiful and strong; 50 ton vessel, name Pacific, Captain J. Negus. She has a fine well, boxes, salt, and every other requisite on board.Now this showed that the result which they were desirous of producing, was, by means of this system, actually taking place, namely, that private speculators were turning their attention to this branch of industry. He hoped they would be induced by the example of the Government to embark more largely in it; and if that were the case the most important advantages would be conferred on the most valuable branch of national industry in Ireland. Another excellent effect produced by those curing stations was, that they supplied a sort of education for the fishermen of the coast where they were established. Several circumstances had been communicated to him to show that this was the fact, and that the fishermen were beginning to come for instruction and advice to the persons connected with those establishments. He held in his hand a letter on this subject from Kinsale, from the individual who was the Commissioner for fisheries on that coast. He stated—The Baltimore station, where just enough fish has been purchased to show what a contrast there is between things done well and ill, has become a regular training school. Yesterday I was exhorted by a respectable man residing on the coast, nearly twenty miles from the station, to permit him to send two sons to lodge in Baltimore, and to be trained by our curer.They had adopted a better mode of curing fish than that which had previously been practised on the Irish coast, and that led to important results with regard to the curing of fish, which of course were absolutely requisite, if it were to be expected that there would be a demand for it in the market. The principle on which they had acted was so well laid down in the report of Mr. Mulvany, which had been recently laid on the Table of the House, on the subject, that he should read a short extract from that report, as comprising, in a compendious form and most clear language, the principle on which Government had acted. 767 [The right hon. Gentleman read an extract, from which it appeared that the writer was favourable to the establishment of curing stores, and markets to ensure a steady demand in the neighbourhood of the fisheries.] Those were the principles on which those curing stations had been established; and he trusted, from what he had stated to the House, that the House would be of the same opinion he was, namely, that those establishments had been productive of the best results, and that they might fairly expect from those sources a great stimulus to this branch of industry on the coast of Ireland. With regard to what the hon. Gentleman (Sir H. W. Barron) had said, as to the different manner in which Parliament had treated Scotland and Ireland with regard to the encouragement of their fisheries, he had only to say that if he thought it would be really beneficial to the Irish fisheries to resort to that mode of encouragement which Parliament had adopted towards Scotland in former years, but which was now abandoned— namely, to give bounties—he should recommend it; but he believed it had failed notoriously in Scotland. He believed it would equally fail in Ireland; and he could not advise the House to adopt any such plan. But as to the other mode adverted to, namely, the advancing of money for the construction of small fishing piers, he admitted that up to the last two years, any Irish Member might justly say, "You gave money to Scotland for this purpose, but not to Ireland." But during the last two years, that could not be said. The late Government gave 50,000l. last year, and a sum of 40,000l. was given in the present Session at the instance of the present Government. They had also advanced money on loan to those proprietors who were willing to establish fishing piers in connexion with their properties; and he felt that his hon. Friend could no longer say that Parliament had shown any want of the desire to establish fisheries in Ireland, when they had thus liberally given money—which he thought had been beneficial—for the purpose; and he trusted those sums would be augmented at future periods, for the same purpose. On this point he was anxious to call the attention of the House to a passage in a very able historical sketch by the late Sir Charles Morgan, and to the results of his knowledge and experience, and the doctrine that was laid down very clearly and fully in this extract:—In retracing the facts spread through a pe- 768 riod of more than two centuries, the reader cannot but be struck with the repeated failures of successive efforts to create a domestic fishery both in Great Britain and in Ireland. By some these are attributed to errors of management, and to a premature abandonment of the measures of encouragement; and the averment perhaps may be partly true; but it is impossible to overlook the fact, that, amidst all the efforts of Government, and the popular enthusiasm in favour of fisheries, they have not been a favourite speculation "with capitalists; so that mercantile enterprise has been far from going hand in hand with administrative liberality. To this statement the Scotch fishery alone affords an exception; what inference should be drawn either from the rule or from its exception, the reader will determine for himself; but it does not seem too much to affirm, on experience of the past, that, whatever value to individuals may be set on any assistance which Government may hereafter think fit to afford the fishermen, through any better-directed system of encouragement, the trade must still eventually stand or fall by the spontaneous efforts of the parties interested, and the stimulus of remunerative markets.It was to remunerative markets he looked for the development of the Irish fisheries; and the example which, on a very limited scale, the Government had given, would, he hoped, be productive of beneficial results. He believed that the construction of railways in Ireland would afford a very great means of stimulating Irish fisheries. He had no hesitation in saying that a railway across the country to Galway, and another to the great fishing stations in the south of Ireland, would have that effect, by enabling persons to bring the fish from those places to Dublin, and even to England. He had no hesitation in saying that he concurred in what the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Bentinck) had said in that respect; although he did not concur with the noble Lord as to the exact manner in which the construction of railways should be encouraged in Ireland; he concurred with the noble Lord in thinking that a railway connecting those coasts with Dublin, would afford a great stimulus to fisheries in Ireland. He did not think he need trouble the House at any greater length on this subject. With regard to the Motion of his hon. Friend for a Committee of Inquiry, he confessed he did entertain very great doubts whether it would be advisable to agree to the appointment of a Committee at the present moment. He put it to his hon. Friend, whether he would advance the objects he had in view by asking the House to grant this Committee. What had the Committee to inquire into that was not already known to the House? Abundant information on the subject was in their possession; and if ever there was a subject which had been tho- 769 roughly and ably investigated by commissions over and over again, it was the subject of the Irish fisheries. He really believed that on every question relating to it they had the most ample information; they had the evidence of men of great information before the House. However, if that were his only objection to the Motion, he would not, on a question thus brought forward by an Irish Member, offer any resistance to it; but there was another objection of a practical nature which had been thrust on him, and he could not help calling the attention of the House to it; and it was this. At this moment the result of a Committee of Inquiry on Irish fisheries would necessarily call away from the duties in which they were actively engaged those whose time was most valuable, and whose absence from their duties would be most unfortunate. It was most important that the proceedings of the persons who were prosecuting the fishing operations should not be interrupted; and he did not think any advantage would be derived from any inquiry that was instituted on the subject, commensurate to the evil which would be done by taking them from their occupations. Before the Session was closed, he hoped to be able to lay before the House some information regarding those fishing stations. He was not able to say whether, before the Session closed, there would be that complete information—information so complete as to enable the House to judge of the degree of success that had attended it; but if he could afford more complete information, he should feel great pleasure in laying it before the House. However, at the present time, it would, he conceived, be premature to give information respecting those curing stations when they were scarcely established, and when the officers had scarcely brought them into operation. He entirely agreed as to the importance of the question brought forward by the hon. Member; and he was anxious to contribute in every way, by legitimate means, to stimulate and encourage the fisheries of Ireland. With these observations he would conclude, by stating to the hon. Gentleman that if he (Mr. Labouchere) declined to accede to the proposition to grant a Committee, it was because abundant information on the subject was already on the Table of the House; because, also, he did not think any practical advantage would result from the inquiry; and he did not wish at the present 770 time to take away those persons to whom he had already referred, from their duties in Ireland for the purpose of giving evidence before the Committee.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
Sir, I really must say I think the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has given the weakest reasons I ever heard for refusing a Committee to inquire into the state of the fisheries of Ireland, with a view to their encouragement. The right hon. Gentleman says, he thinks there are already before the House the most abundant and complete materials for coming to a just conclusion on this subject; yet I apprehend there is not any information that was not in its possession prior to last Session; and, if I remember right, in the report of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, we are informed by Sir Randolph Routh that the Act of Parliament passed last Session for the improvement of the fisheries was so cumbersome in its provisions, and so impracticable in its operation, that the intentions of Parliament were likely to be defeated. Now, this proves that up to the conclusion of last Session the House had not such materials before it as could enable it to arrive at a just conclusion. But if one reason more than another could be adduced why we should have an inquiry by a Committee and a report, it is this—that the right hon. Gentleman himself has stated that it is only necessary to supply a market for the produce of the Irish fisheries to induce the fishermen to undertake the catching of the fish. Thus it is proved, on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman, that that which has passed as a just charge against the Irish nation is a calumny, and that the Irish fishermen are not an idle, indolent, and unenterprising class who cannot be tempted by any inducement to go upon the deep seas and catch the fish which are to be found in those inexhaustible mines of wealth that abound upon the coast of Ireland. I think, therefore, that if this proposed inquiry he productive of nothing else, enough will be gained to justify it if by it the prejudices of the English nation, which have been so studiously roused against the Irish people during the last six months, be removed. I think that such an inquiry will also prove the facts stated by the right hon. Gentleman, and also the statements so ably made on a former night by the hon. Member for Barn-staple (Mr. M. Gore), who told us that a loan 771 of 100l. had induced the fishermen of Claddagh to man sixty-four boats, by the aid of which they had brought home fish to the value of 100l. If such things are proved before a Committee, I think there will be abundant grounds established for encouraging the fisheries of Ireland. But when the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the establishment of six small curing stations has effected so much good; and when he tells us that the deep-sea fisheries of Ireland can supply an inexhaustible amount of food and of wealth, I apprehend it would be well for us to inquire whether an increased number of cheap curing stations would not tend to the promotion of both. I rejoiced to hear the right hon. Gentleman express his horror at the employment of a large staff of officials; and I am glad that no large staff has been appointed in connexion with the Irish fisheries; but I think, when we have still a staff which costs the country 18,000l. a-week for the public works in Ireland, it is a sufficient reason for inquiry. Another reason for inquiry is, that the right hon. Gentleman, when it is rather too late in the day, tells us that all that is required for the encouragement of those fisheries is the construction of railways in Ireland. I really wish the Chief Secretary for Ireland, three months ago, when he opposed the construction of those railways, had told us what possible advantage it would be to have a railway across the county of Gal-way. Nevertheless, all the acts of the Government have been to prevent the county of Galway having the benefits of such a railway to carry the fish to a profitable market. I confess I have never heard so many reasons for a Committee; and the only reason which I have heard against it is, that the right hon. Gentleman fears that it would call away from the large staff of officers in Ireland a portion who are better employed. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: The small staff employed in the fisheries.] Well, if the right hon. Gentleman will spare some of the 11,587 gentlemen and others employed in the supervision of the public works in Ireland, there will be quite sufficient to attend to the fisheries, though I do not know why it should be necessary to call them away from Ireland at all. The question for the Committee is to inquire how the fisheries can be encouraged; and I think by calling some of the most experienced fishermen from Devonshire and Cornwall, we could gain information enough to di- 772 rect us in our inquiry into the Irish fisheries, and I think ten days would suffice for such inquiry. If the right hon. Gentleman refuses the Committee, and the hon. Member presses his Motion to a division, I will cordially support him.
§ MR. HUME
thought, when they looked to the state of the supply of food in this country, that it was lamentable to see how much the important matter of the fisheries had been neglected in Ireland. The people were most anxious for the erection of piers and landing places; and, above all, on the exposed parts of the western ocean. He had hoped, after what had taken place, that the Government would have brought forward some Bill for promoting that great object—the erection of safe fishing harbours. He did not know that it was necessary to have a Committee; but it was most important to Ireland and this country that the fisheries should be promoted. It was not by employing the secretary of a commission that they could do this; but by sending down some officer of practical knowledge and experience, with a naval officer, to investigate and superintend the matter. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it would not do for the Government to become traders in fish or any other article; but still, by a very simple proceeding, much might be done to encourage the fisheries. If some of the country gentlemen on the coast of Ireland would set a number of boats on the fisheries, their example would soon be followed.
§ MR. MONTAGUE GORE
said, that he had been requested to read a statement to the House respecting the fisheries in the neighbourhood of Waterford. The writer of this paper assured him that a most valuable bank of fish immediately off the coast of that place had never been properly fished; and it was not until 1844 that anything had been done with respect to it. On that occasion one boat made a profit of 5951., one half of which was shared among the crew, consisting of six men and two boys. If such cases were made known by means of a Committee, much would be done for the encouragement of those fisheries. With respect to the fisheries in England, speaking of railways to Hull, this gentleman (his correspondent) said that before those railways were made, only four fishing vessels used to go from Hull; and the great improvement which had since taken 773 place was entirely attributable to the railways.
§ MR. WATSON
said, that the great object was to give to the Irish fishermen the advantage of internal communication through the country. He represented a town (Kin-sale), an admirable fishing station, which was fast going to decay from the want of internal communication, which would give the fishermen a good market. The fishermen of that town took 30,000l. worth of fish in the year at present, yet they were miserably poor; and if they had the opportunity of sending their fish to markets throughout the country, that 30,000l. might be increased to 400,000l. or 500,000l. per annum. If the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) regarding railways in Ireland had been brought forward with the definite object of giving facility to the fisheries, there would have been few found in the House to object to it. He himself had for one voted against that measure as a general one; but had it been connected with a definite object, there would not have been five Members in the House who would have opposed it. He would vote for the Motion if it went to a division; but still he much feared that it was too late in the Session to expect much good to be done by a Committee.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
had opposed the Bill which had been brought in by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, because he felt satisfied that had that measure passed, not a penny of the 16,000,000l. would have gone to the relief of the poor in the counties of Galway or Roscommon.
§ MR. HUDSON
rose in consequence of the observation of the hon. Member for Roscommon, that had his noble Friend's (Lord G. Bentinck's) Bill passed, none of the 16,000,000l. would have gone in aid of the Dublin and Galway Railway, or to the relief of the poor in Galway or Roscommon. If the hon. Gentleman would have only taken the trouble to read the preamble and the first clause of that Bill, he would have found that it included any future railway to be projected in Ireland, as well as those already in progress. The Bill was indiscriminate in its provisions for the giving of aid to every Irish railway which should be shown to be in compliance with the rules laid down. It provided that there should be a careful investigation of the public merits of each line by the Railway Commissioners. It was fenced about most carefully to prevent assistance from being improperly afforded under it; but all un- 774 dertakings which should be able to pass the examination required, would have been entitled to aid. With regard to what had been said respecting the advantages derived both to fishing stations and railway companies by the establishment of railway communication, he would beg to state one fact, that on the small line, the York and North Midland, the carriage of fish had brought the company an income of 300,000l. in one year. He thought that investigations such as the one proposed, were always productive of benefit. He should, therefore, vote for the appointment of the Committee, which should lead to some useful result, and he thought it would be wise in the Government to accede to the proposition.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
was happy to see that the House was almost unanimous in its approval of the objects which he had in view by his Motion. All hon. Members hart concurred in acknowledging that the Irish fisheries had been neglected by every Government, and every one who ought to have given their assistance. But seeing that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland was about to take a bold and decided step, a more important one than even he had suggested, and feeling that the right hon. Gentleman was bound to him and to the Irish fisheries to adopt fully the principles which he (Sir H. W. Barron) had laid down regarding them, he felt that he would be doing an injury to the cause he advocated if he were to press his Motion for a Committee. ["Oh, oh!"] He begged to know if hon. Gentleman could controvert anything he had said? Did they not see that the Government was bound to carry out the very principles he had laid down? Surely no man could assert that they had not been acknowledged. [An Hon. MEMBER: No one denies those principles.] No one did, of course. He should be glad to hear any one deny them; because he felt that their arguments could be instantly demolished. He felt, then, that he should do the best for the Irish fisheries, and the Irish fishermen, by leaving the question in the hands of the Government. He should, therefore, withdraw his Motion. ["No, no!"] He begged leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
asked if it was the wish of the House to refuse permission to the hon. Member for Waterford to withdraw his Motion. ["Yes, yes!" "No, no!" and great laughter.]
§ MR. SPEAKER
Did hon. Members press for a division? ["Yes, yes!"]
775 [The galleries were cleared, and the de-hate was continued with closed doors. On their being opened]
§ MR. AGLIONBY
was addressing the House, and deprecating the pressing of a division against the will of the mover of the Motion. Hon. Members opposite seemed to treat the affair too much as a jest. Two hours previously there had been only one and twenty Members in the House, and he trusted they would not go to a division with the large number then in it who could not have heard one half of the de-hate. He put it to hon. Members, whether it would not he better to let the Motion be withdrawn. But with regard to the latter portion of the hon. Baronet's speech, in reply, he should say, that he (Mr. Aglionby) did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to have pledged himself to do everything that the hon. Baronet required.
§ MR. DISRAELI
was much surprised that the hon. Member for Cockermouth should have alleged that a Motion respecting the interests of Ireland had been treated in a jocose manner by hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House. Before the hon. Member made such an allegation he should certainly have made himself a little better acquainted with the circumstances of the case. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn, and other hon. Members, had attended the House that evening with reference to an important subject of a very different character; but the hon. Baronet the Member for Waterford having this Motion on the Paper—a Motion which he would have been very glad not to have seen on the Paper, for he did not like to see other subjects of much more importance arrested by it—the hon. Baronet told the noble Lord of this Motion, and, knowing the peculiar interest the noble Lord took in such questions, asked him, as a personal favour, to support it. The noble Lord having attended, at some personal inconvenience to himself, in reference to another question which the hon. Baronet's Motion prevented from being brought forward, acceded to the request, and supported the proposition with his characteristic sincerity and frankness. Had it not been for him there would not have been a House kept. ["No, no!"] No! Did the Government keep a House? Did the Government think it an important measure, and could they not command the presence of twenty-one Members? There might have been at least discipline enough to secure the pre- 776 sence of their subordinates and subalterns. It was strange that on questions of the greatest importance and interest the present existing Government of this country could not secure a House. And now hon. Gentlemen were told that they insulted Ireland, and received a Motion in favour of Ireland in a jocose spirit. It was really intolerable, after the great inconvenience which the noble Lord the Member for Lynn had put himself to in order to hear a discussion on Irish fisheries, that the hon. Member for Cockermouth, in his felicitous position of amicus curiœ, should say the question had been received in a jocose, if not in an insulting spirit. The hon. Baronet the Member for Waterford having made a decided speech—having told the House and the country that he required so much, and would not take less than he required, and Her Majesty's Government not having offered any terms whatever to the hon. Gentleman—he did not see how, with any decency, the hon. Gentleman could ask leave to withdraw his Motion.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
begged to explain. It would be far from him to cast any such imputation upon hon. Gentlemen opposite as that they had treated a question relating to Ireland in a jesting or insulting spirit. What he had said was, that they treated the attempted withdrawal of the Motion by the hon. Baronet jocosely.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
thought that the hon. Member for Shrewsbury had treated the hon. Member for Cockermouth unfairly in the construction he had put upon his words. He (Colonel Rawdon) certainly did think that the question of withdrawal had been treated rather jocosely; but as regarded the question of division, and of keeping a House, there were so few Members present when the hon. Member for Waterford began to speak, that he (Colonel Rawdon) had put down their names. He would not deny that there might not have been two or three more; but he had only twenty-three hon. Members down on that list. As to the private communication between the hon. Baronet and the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, it was nothing to the House; and if the matter went to a division, he trusted his vote would not be misconstrued; but whether it might be or not, he would vote with Her Majesty's Ministers and the hon. Member for Waterford, upon whom it would be very hard to cast the onus of compelling him to vote against his own Motion.
MR. THE LAWNY
said, that if the 777 question were to be sent to a division, he should move that the words "and Cornwall" should be inserted after the word "Ireland."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought that, after the debate of the last ten minutes, his noble Friend opposite would admit that it was better not to press the question to a division. If but twenty-three Members were present, as stated by his hon. Friend, at the early part of the discussion, it was clear that the very great importance was not attached to the Motion which was now contended for; and he really did not think that the argument of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury for pressing for a division—namely, that the hon. Gentleman who brought forward the subject had asked the noble Lord the Member for Lynn to support it—was in itself sufficient to induce them to divide. Surely their proceedings in that House ought to be influenced by far higher motives than any of that kind. It was not true that no encouragement had been given to the fisheries of Ireland. He had himself moved a vote of 40,000l. for the promotion of Irish fisheries only a few days since; and during the past year the Government had constructed curing houses for fish in various parts of the coast of Ireland. If they were, however, now to enter into a discussion on the question of the fisheries of the United Kingdom generally, it must evidently prove to be a mere waste of the time of the House. It must be evident to all that any attempt at an inquiry at the present moment would be only defeating the object which those who advocated the Motion had in view. He hoped, therefore, that under these circumstances, and considering that the hon. Member was willing to withdraw his Motion, no further effort would be made to press it to a division.
§ MR. DISRAELI
did not think the right hon. Gentleman had much reason to lament his absence during the debate; nor was he (Mr. Disraeli) certain that by being absent he should have lost much himself. It was his misfortune to be present, and to hear every speech that had been made; but if he had to express regret for having heard the proëmium, he was to be consoled for the loss of the evening by the expecta- 778 tion that the catastrophe was to be omitted. He had not stated that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn recommended the House to divide on this question, because he had attended the House for the purpose of discussing another subject, and had been disappointed. What he (Mr. Disraeli) did say to the House, and what he would now repeat, was, that his noble Friend was present because the hon. Baronet had communicated to him that the subject to be brought forward was one of great interest, and that, therefore, he had applied to the noble Lord for his support. It was not fair, therefore, to say that his noble Friend and those who sat around him had received the subject in a jocose spirit. They came prepared to receive it in a very earnest one. But there was a more serious moral to be drawn from those proceedings which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to deprecate. When a question looked to with great interest by the nation generally was set aside that hon. Gentlemen opposite might make speeches in order to secure a flashy demonstration, he thought it was high time to ask whether those Irish Members who wished to make sham Motions, might not go to the Treasury and ask as much as they desired, and accept as little as they pleased? That was a question which he wished the people out of the House to understand. He had always voted with a view to the development of the industry of Ireland. He wished, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer know he spoke sincerely on the subject, that the public business should be advanced. But when he found those ad captandum Motions brought forward, he merely asked that a debate should at least be a real debate, and that it should lead to a real result. That was the sentiment that influenced him. He did not seek to inconvenience a Government which might call for opposition. He admitted that they (the hon. Member and his Friends) were not free from that weakness; but the present Government was one which they were not particularly anxious to inconvenience. They had lost an opportunity of entertaining an important question, and then they had been told, with a coolness which he thought was most unexampled, that they had treated an Irish question in a jocose spirit. Notwithstanding the explanations afforded, no one could deny that those words were used; and if they were not addressed to them, he was totally at a loss to know to 779 whom they were addressed, except it were the Speaker. If there were an Irish Member in the House who believed that the development of the fisheries of Ireland was of vast importance to that country, which they (on the Opposition side) really believed, he thought that Member was scarcely justified in bringing forward the subject and occupying the time of the House, whilst there were other matters of great public importance before it, unless he meant to press his Motion to a division. It might be said that the Government had very probably no more than twenty Members on either side of the House on that occasion; but was that the fault of the hon. Gentlemen who occupied the Opposition side of the House? Were they responsible for the ridiculous position in which certain persons might place themselves? He (Mr. Disraeli) thought that the best thing which the Government could do would be to grant a Committee. He was told that a dissolution of Parliament was intended; and if they wanted to expedite public business, they might depend upon it the best thing they could do was not to provoke discussions, but to let every man nave a Committee upon every imaginable subject. Let them grant them everything they desired, and they might depend upon it that they would go to the country with a much more popular claim to public confidence, for the people of England would feel that they were men with a certain knowledge of human nature—that they could and would deal with troublesome and wearisome people. The people of England would then say to themselves, "These men will make good business men for us in Parliament—they will grant measures, because every man has a project in his head as to the necessity of having a Committee upon his peculiar scheme, and we shall at last have a House of Commons who can carry on the business of the nation."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE,
after the observations which had fallen in the course of this debate, and especially from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, felt it necessary to say a few words. He readily acknowledged that the hon. Gentlemen opposite, of whom the hon. Member for Shrewsbury was so distinguished an ornament, had offered a very fair and candid opposition to the course recommended by the Government on different occasions during the present Session, whilst they had handsomely supported the Government on various occasions in a very disinterested manner; and he had no reason whatever 780 to speak of that party in any other tone than that of courtesy. But he could not help saying that he thought the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and his Friends about him, had on this occasion showed themselves over-anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity which the empty state of the Ministerial benches afforded them of annoying the Government, although he admitted that in so doing they were but following the example set by every Opposition whose conduct he had witnessed in that House. They appeared somewhat disappointed at the hon. Baronet the Member for Waterford consenting to withdraw his Motion, in accordance with the wish of the Government, because they had anticipated placing the Government in a minority on this occasion. Now, he believed that his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford came down with this single object in view, viz., the promotion and advancement of Irish fisheries; and with that view he moved for the appointment of a Committee; and after he had made his statement, the Government expressed their intentions on the subject. With that expression the hon. Baronet stated that he was satisfied, and that after what had fallen from the Government he believed that his object would not be furthered by the appointment of a Committee; that it was, in fact, better to leave the whole of the matter in the hands of the Government. The hon. Baronet had clearly no party object in view in coming down to the House to make this Motion; and he (Mr. Labouchere) must say that he thought it was a most unusual course for the House, after an hon. Member had expressed himself satisfied with the explanation of the Government and his willingness to withdraw his Motion, to insist on pressing the question to a division. He considered that the hon. Baronet had not deserved the language which hon. Gentlemen opposite had chosen to adopt towards him on this occasion. He hoped that the hon. Baronet would not accede to the proposition which had been made to him to insist upon a division on his Motion. He (Mr. Labouchere) had in a very thin House stated the reasons which induced him to object to this Motion. He had stated, in the first place, that he believed the fullest information upon all questions relating to Irish fisheries was already upon the Table of the House. He stated also, that he had been assured by the Gentleman who presided over the Irish Fisheries Commission, Mr. Mulvany, that it would 781 cause the greatest inconvenience at this moment to the officers appointed to those fisheries if they were compelled to absent themselves from that business for the purpose of giving evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons; that it would throw that department into great confusion; and Mr. Mulvany, therefore, requested him to do all in his power to dissuade the hon. Baronet the Member for Waterford from persisting in his Motion. He acknowledged, with the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, that nothing was easier than to grant Committees. That hon. Gentleman had told them that that would be a popular as well as an easy course. He (Mr. Labouchere) knew that it was so; but after he had been told by those who were best informed on the subject, that the granting of this Committee would lead to public inconvenience, he felt it to be his duty to request his hon. Friend not to persist in his Motion for a Committee. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury himself, by the tone which he had adopted with reference to the granting of a Committee, had clearly admitted that but little good could he gained by the passing of this Motion.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
Sir, my right Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has insinuated that my hon. Friends on this side of the House were not here during the greater portion of this debate; but he may not be aware that out of the twenty-three Members that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Armagh says he took down as being present when the debate commenced, an hon. Friend of mine, the Member for East Sussex, was the seconder of the Motion—and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, and my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury, and my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple, as well as myself, were present—so that, at all events, of those who actually supported the Motion by their presence, there were five English Members on this side of the House—who remained here, as I remained, at the request of the hon. Baronet the Member for Waterford, who expressed to me a wish that, as I was especially looked upon as the friend of Ireland, I would stay and say a word in favour of this Motion. Now, I think that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Armagh gave us a list of these twenty-three names—[An Hon. MEMBER: There were twenty-six]—I believe that we should not find one single Cabinet Minister. [Sir G. GREY: I have 782 been here during the whole of the debate.] As to the charge brought against us of meeting the Motion or proposition in a jocose manner, we did think there was something jocose in the hon. Baronet the mover of this Committee getting up and stating that his ground for withdrawing his Motion was that he assumed that the Ministers were prepared to grant him all the things that he asked for, He states that he will persist in withdrawing the Motion, though no affirmative answer could be drawn from them, or has been drawn either from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as to whether or not they would grant what the hon. Member asked for. Therefore I think we are justified in saying that the grounds on which this Motion is withdrawn, are not those which are stated. We have had no promise whatever that anything—that any attempt—that any single effort more—is to be made with regard to the Irish fisheries, than that which was known to have been made before the Motion was brought forward. And therefore it will be understood by those in Ireland interested in fisheries, that nothing whatever has been obtained by this sham attempt to obtain a Committee of Inquiry into the various modes in which the fisheries of Ireland may be advanced; and if, contrary to the usual custom of this House, we persist in going to a division, and refuse to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford leave to withdraw his Motion, do not let it be understood by the Irish nation that it is from any want of desire or good will, on our part, to support her interests, and to take every method in our power to develop her resources. The responsibility rests upon those Gentlemen who bring forward those Motions, asking for assistance to Ireland, and then abandon them, that all the good wishes which we entertain towards Ireland are not fulfilled.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON,
after the somewhat personal tone which had been addressed towards him, particularly by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, might be expected to make some explanation. In the first place, he begged leave to inform that hon. Gentleman that he had not come down to the House for the purpose of making a sham Motion—that, on the contrary, he had made his Motion with the most sincere intention to see it adopted 783 and carried out in such a manner as might prove most conducive to the object which he had in view, viz., the good of his country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury had expatiated at some length upon the time which this discussion had wasted, whilst there were other matters of infinitely greater importance yet remaining to be discussed; but the hon. Gentleman had himself contributed, in an eminent degree, to that waste, for he had addressed the House no less than three times on this question. In spite of what the hon. Gentleman had said, it was his intention to fall in with the views of the Government by withdrawing his Motion.
§ MR. BANKES
did not rise to object to the course the hon. Baronet wished to pursue; but his last remark gave a new complexion to the matter, and rendered it difficult to allow the Motion to be withdrawn. By whom had this been made a party question? He, for one, was surprised at being accused of having made this a party question in the present state of Ireland; but he objected to these Motions brought forward by the friends of the Government without any intention of pressing them. The very next Motion related to waste lands in Ireland. Was this to be a sham Motion also? These Motions were interposed by the friends of the Government; and if those who supported them were to be accused of making them party questions, it would be the way, not of making Ireland a laughing-stock, but of insulting her, and of showing that her interests were neglected by those who must appear to the public as false friends.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
assured the hon. and learned Gentleman that he had entertained no intention of putting off his Motion relative to waste lands, if he could have obtained the attention of the House to the discussion; but, at eleven o'clock at night, it was not likely he could obtain that attention, and he must put off his Motion on account of the hour of the night, and not because it was a sham Motion.
§ MR. HUDSON
complained of the imputations which had been cast by the hon. Baronet upon Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House, who were quite as honourable as the hon. Baronet himself. For his own part, he thought the inquiry was a very proper one to be instituted, and that the hon. Baronet had acted unwisely in asking for its withdrawal. The reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland for not calling before 784 the Committee the men proposed to be examined, appeared to him to be perfectly idle.
§ The House divided:-Ayes 22; Noes 73: Majority 51.
|List of the AYES.|
|Arkwright, G.||Gore, M.|
|Bailey, J. Jun.||Halford, Sir H.|
|Bankes, G.||Hudson, G.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Beresford, Maj.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Borthwick, P.||Manners, Lord J.|
|Brisco, M.||Packe, C. W.|
|Disraeli, B.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Farnham, E. B,||Stuart, J.|
|Forbes, W.||Barron, Sir H. W.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Blackstone, W. S.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Aldam, W.||Hume, J.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Jervis, Sir J.|
|Baine, W.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Barkly, H.||Leader, J. T.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Bellow, R. M.||M'Carthy, A.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Maitland, T.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Masterman, J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mitcalfe, H.|
|Browne, R. D.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Morris, D.|
|Buller, E.||Newry, Visct.|
|Butler, P. S.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Cayley, E. S.||O'Conor Don|
|Clayton, R. R.||Parker, J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Perfect, R.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Philips, M.|
|Dennistoun, J.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Duncan, G.||Rice, E. R.|
|Duncombe, T.||Romilly, J.|
|Ellis, W.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Escott, B.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Spooner, R.|
|Fox, C. R.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|French, F.||Thornely, T.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Gisborne, T.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Granger, T. C.||Wakley, T.|
|Grey, rt. hon, Sir G.||Ward, H. G.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Watson, W. H.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Wodehouse, E.|
|Hawes, B.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Wyse, T.|
|Hope, Sir J.||TELLERS.|
|Hope, G. W.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Tufnell, H.|