HC Deb 23 August 1848 vol 101 cc460-4

said, he had now to move two very-heavy votes by way of supplementary estimates, which were necessary to wind up the relief of the distress in Ireland up to the present half year. The first item of the vote was for 132,000l. To show that the poor-rate had been levied to a considerable amount for the same purpose, he might observe that the whole sum collected in Ireland in January, 1846, was 36,000l.; in January, 1847, 52,000l.; while in January, 1848, it reached 194,000l. The entire sum levied in the first six months of 1846 was 217,000l.; in the first six months of 1847, 339,000l.; and in the corresponding period of 1848, 867,000l. There were, however, many parts of Ireland in which the poor-rate, however well collected, had been found quite inadequate to relieve the prevailing distress. Twenty-two unions were in that position. The object of the Government was, that relief should only be given in districts respecting which it had been shown that no possible exertion in collecting the poor-rate would make it adequate for the object. Relief had been given of late almost entirely in food. As regarded the British Association, he would state, that the whole amount expended by it was 236,000l., of which sum 143,000l. went for rations for grown-up persons, 80,000l, in the same way for children, and about 120,000l. for clothes. The vote which he proposed was for relief given in continuation of the proceedings of the British Association in the three months immediately preceding the harvest, when the distress was the greatest. There were many unions in Ireland in which it was impossible they could defray the cost of their poor. The union in Ireland in which the greatest dis- tress prevalied was that of Clifden, in which the rate was 19s. 2d. in the pound. The valuation of the union was 22,400l. The expense of maintaining the poor in that district, from September, 1847, to September, 1848, was 18,310l. They had a small debt of 900l. The advances made by the British Association were 9,000l. for general relief, 3,000l. for the relief of destitute children, and the whole amount duo from the union would be upon a rated value of 22,400l., amounting to a rating in the pound of 19s. 9½d. In another union in the county of Clare, the amount of rating was 16s. 10d. in the pound; in another, 15s. 11d.; in another, 14s. 9d.; in Ballyra, 12s. 4½d.; in Castlebar, 11s. 9d. The rate in Ireland would be 2s. 9¾d. In Down it was lighter than in most counties in England; it would there amount to 1s. 2d. Taking the electoral divisions in Donegal, there were electoral divisions in which the charge for the maintenance of the poor this year would be 44s. 2d. in the pound. In Castle bar there was an electoral division in which the charge was 29s. in the pound. In Galway it would amount to 23s. 8d. This was the charge in the pound upon the valuation; but as it was notorious that in many of the most distressed districts, a largo proportion of the ratepayers could pay nothing at all, it was hopeless to expect that any amount of rate could defray the sum which was advanced. This statement applied to the western coast; on the eastern and north-eastern part the burden was lighter, which showed that the distress was local. It was, therefore, to sanction the expenditure of 132,000l., which was required from July to the end of the harvest, to continue the relief which, up to that time, had been afforded in voluntary contributions, through the means of the British Association, that he asked the House to agree to the vote. There could not be any necessity for further assistance in the way of depôts. He believed that the events of the last two years had introduced into Ireland dealers in meal and corn, so that the guardians would be able to procure an adequate supply of food. These were the circumstances which induced the Government to take on themselves the responsibility of demanding this sum of money. Without the assistance thus rendered, it would have been utterly impossible for the people to have been preserved from utter starvation, except by the means which had been so beneficially applied by the British Association. He trusted that the House would ratify the responsibility which Government had taken upon themselves. Question put— That 262,545l. be granted to make good the advances of the sum provided for the Relief of Distress ill Ireland and Scotland, through the Commissariat Department.


said, that he had given notice of resolutions on this vote; but as he could not move those resolutions, he wished to state the absolute necessity of refusing to make grants of public money, in addition to the poor-rates, and should take the opinion of the Committee in opposition to this grant of 132,000l. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had appealed to the generosity of the House, by stating the extraordinary distress of some of the Irish unions. His opinion was, that Ireland was perfectly capable of maintaining her poor, as well as the whole of her population. But he had another and a stronger objection to this vote—that it was given for the relief of such landlords as had not paid their rates. All the landlords had to do was to make out a case of inability to support the poor, and they would then receive assistance. He moved that the vote be disallowed.


considered that strong measures with regard to Ireland should now be adopted by Government. He did not mean to be offensive to any Gentleman differing from his opinion or persuasion, but it was quite clear to him that there was a great distinction between Roman Catholics and Protestants. In the Protestant districts of Ireland the poor-rate only averaged Is. in the pound; while in the Roman Catholic districts it varied from 19s. to 11s. in the pound. He solemnly believed that the Roman Catholic religion, carried out in all its parts, was incompatible with the true cultivation of the soil. In Switzerland, the common remark of every traveller was the great difference between the agricultural prospects of the Roman Catholic cantons and those of the Protestants. The latter were far superior to the former. He believed unless the Government took some strong measures in reference to Ireland, in which they would be followed by the universal feeling of the country, there would be repeated calls upon the coffers of this country to subscribe to Ireland.


observed, that the hon. Member for Stroud, in objecting to the vote, did not seem to consider that an immense change was going on in Ireland, nor to make due allowance for the necessity under which both landlord and tenant were compelled to act. The burden upon landed property in Ireland had been changed from 400,000l to 1,800,000l., in itself a great and important change. Another change which had taken place in Ireland was this—that whereas, in 1836, there were no corn or provision dealers in Ireland, there were now dealers in those articles in every part of that country. Seeing the change which had taken place of late years in Ireland, and the burdens imposed, which, in particular districts pressed so heavily, he thought it was their duty to aid in the transition, and that it could not be said they in any way wasted the money of the country by assisting certain unions to bear the very great burdens which had been placed upon them, borne as these had been on the whole with a degree of readiness which was highly creditable. With respect to the future, that, no doubt, would be the subject of discussion, and he did not wish to enter upon it at that late hour. All he had to say was, that in our present circumstances he did not think it would be wise to lay down a system, or propose a plan. We did not know what was the extent of the present failure of the potato cultivation—what was the exact amount of the very great increase of potato cultivation which took place in the present year, as compared with the amount of last year; we did not know what amount would be saved, or to what period the stock would last; and under these circumstances he thought it would be very imprudent to lay down a plan. Government must, to a certain degree, rely upon the confidence of the Parliament; they would not ask it unnecessarily, or without a due regard to economy. If they saw cause to call for extraordinary measures, they would then assemble Parliament immediately, and propose to it such measures as they thought fit. In the present state of affairs, seeing the number of Members who were absent, they did not propose, at the end of the Session, to lay down any general system or plan by which they should invariably abide.

Vote agreed to.

The House resumed. Report to be received.

The House adjourned at half-past Two.