HC Deb 29 November 1847 vol 95 cc266-8

inquired of the Chancellor of the Exchequer what course Her Majesty's Government meant to adopt for the recovery of the monies advanced to the several unions in Ireland, under the provisions of the Act 10th and 11th Victoria, c. 7, for the relief of the destitute poor, and how much of the money so advanced it was their intention to insist on the repayment of? He would also inquire whether or not it was the intention of Government to have those works completed which had been undertaken in Ireland under the provisions of the Act 1st and 2nd Victoria, c. 21, and, if it should not be the intention to complete those works, whether or not they intended to ask from the grand juries repayment of any monies expended by them on such works? He was aware that the first question had received an answer in the Parliamentary papers delivered that morning; but he begged notwithstanding to put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in order that the answer might, through the instrumentality of the public press, go forth to the people of Ireland. With respect to the second question, he wished to guard himself from the supposition of desiring to draw from the Chancellor of the Exchequer any statement involving any further advance of money to the people of Ireland. What he wanted to know was, whether the Government would perform the engagements under which the works were undertaken?


The first question of my hon. Friend refers to the repayment of a portion of the sum advanced under the Temporary Relief Act, or the Ration Act, as I believe it is called in Ireland, which was passed to enable Her Majesty's Government to supply with food, during the summer, a great number of destitute persons in Ireland. I stated, early in the last Session, what the probable amount required for that purpose would be, and I am happy to say that, mainly in consequence of the fall in the price of provisions, and the care taken in administering the funds, the sum required falls considerably short of the estimated amount. The vote I took for this purpose was for a sum not exceeding 2,200,000l., and the actual expenditure—though relief was afforded to a much later period than was at first intended—including the maintenance of the fever hospitals, does not amount to more than 1,673,000l. The sums to be recovered from the different unions vary according to the ability of the various unions to repay the amounts advanced; and hon. Gentlemen who refer to the papers which have been laid on the table will find that there is a material difference, according to the circumstances of the unions. In the Union of Ballina, for instance, which is one of the most distressed, the amount to be repaid is 13,716l., the amount of grant being 43,610l. In the Ballinasloe union the sum to be repaid is 20,346l., and the amount of grant 11,124l.; the total net amount advanced by the Relief Commission being 81,470l. The sum to be repaid by the Westport union is 5,624l., the amount of grant being 37,993l.; and in the Wexford union 7,866l. is to be repaid, the grant being only 657l. With regard to the second question put by the hon. Gentleman, as to what is to be done with reference to the completion of the works undertaken in Ireland under the provisions of the 1st and 2nd Victoria, c. 21, that must depend mainly upon what the grand juries in Ireland choose to do. It was stated, in the first instance, on the part of the late Government, that these works were not undertaken with the view of completing them, but mainly for the purpose of affording employment to the people during a period of distress; and it has been announced, in several documents since laid on the table, that the Government do not undertake to complete those works. With regard to the repayment of the monies which have been on such works, I do not think, on referring to the Act, that there is the slightest ground for a claim, on the part of the counties, to be relieved from any portion of the repayment until the works are completed. The 8th Clause of the Act 1 and 2 Victoria, c. 21, is in these words:— And be it enacted, That a moiety of the monies so from time to time advanced for the execution of public works in any county, pursuant to the application of the justices and cesspayers assembled at special sessions as aforesaid, shall be repaid by grand jury presentment, at such time and in such manner, and with such interest, as the said Commissioners of the Treasury shall appoint and direct. That is to say, that one half of the sums advanced from time to time is to be presented by the grand juries, and to be repaid with interest, as the Treasury may direct. I consider that these works now stand much in the position of other works. They have been continued as relief works; the necessity for their continuance as relief works has ceased; and I therefore do not propose to impose upon the people of this country any further burden, merely for the purpose of completing those works. But, as I privately announced to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland some time ago, I am ready, as soon as the repayment of these advances begins, to re-advance the amounts so repaid for the purpose of completing the works undertaken under the Act.