HC Deb 24 July 1848 vol 100 cc773-8

House in Committee on the 1st Clause.


would take the liberty of adverting to the circumstances with which the Bill dealt. For some years past it had been the practice to make large advances from the Consolidated Fund to public works in Ireland under the engagement that those sums should be repaid by annual instalments; and during the late distress in Ireland, when it became necessary for this country to afford additional assistance, that system was carried to a greater extent, and the Government was invested with the extraordinary power of taking unlimited advances from the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of relieving the distress of Ireland. These sums, let it be observed, were to be repaid into the Consolidated Fund; but the House dealt liberally on the occasion, as it was hound to do with Ireland, and instead of exacting the whole amount, finally determined that 2,500,000l. should be repaid by ten annual instalments with interest. Thus stood the engagement; and it was important that an engagement of that sort should not be lightly dispensed with, for there could be no greater check to the liberality of the House in times of necessity than any idea that engagements so entered into would not be observed. The object of the present Bill was to repay out of the Consolidated Fund the first three years' instalments due on account of that loan. In the present state of the finances of the country, the proposal to pay out of the Consolidated Fund a sum of 1,000,000l., which would otherwise be available for the general resources of the empire, was a matter which required very serious consideration. But even putting the subject of the finances out of the question, this was a proposal which ought to be very carefully considered, after the statements which had been made when the Bill was last before the House. They had then been told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Ireland was in such a state of distress that she could not bear to repay to the Treasury the money which had been advanced. But yet it was said that any repayments which were made were to be applied, at the discretion of the Treasury, to the completion of those works which had been commenced during the recent period of distress, and were yet unfinished, and which were now found to be public nuisances instead of public advantages. He considered that, if they meant to relieve Ireland from the repayment of the loan, they ought to do so distinctly. If it were true that that country was so burdened with taxation on account of the poor-laws, that the sum required for the repayment of loans could not be raised without impoverishing the people, he would recommend that if any portion of those loans was obtained it should be paid into the Consolidated Fund; and that, if it was intended to complete the public works which had been commenced, the Government should proceed according to the regular Parliamentary course; that they should lay before the House a statement of the work to be done, and an estimate of the sum required for its completion, and then ask for a vote in Committee of Supply. He was strongly opposed to raising sums from an impoverished population in order to place them at the uncontrolled disposal of the Treasury, with regard to the works to which those sums might be applied. They knew how incompetent the Treasury was to undertake the establishment of such works; for it was entirely owing to this incompetence that the works which had been commenced had turned out nuisances instead of advantages. This was the ground of his objection to the Bill, and at a future stage he would take the sense of the House upon the measure.


protested against the principle of this Bill, and complained that the Government had not established in Ireland any works of public utility which would be records of the munificence of this country towards the Irish people. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck) had submitted a plan to the House some time since, by which that object might have been effected, and the funds would have been usefully applied: but the noble Lord's scheme was opposed and rejected by the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, and by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. He thought the House ought not to sanction this measure until they had some security that the money would be applied to some defined object which would tend to benefit the people of Ireland.


said, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn) was not quite correct in one of his assumptions. This money was not to be expended by the Treasury, or by the Board of Works, or by the same officers who formerly misspent the funds. The object of the Bill was to enable the Treasury, through the Board of Works, to lend money to the grand juries in Ireland in order to complete such works as might be presented by the juries—such works being executed by the grand juries, or under their direction. With regard to the money to be spent in arterial drainage, indeed, that must be spent under the Board of Works. With respect to the whole 1,000,000l., no money was to be advanced except that which was previously repaid by the counties; and the object was to enable the Treasury to readvance the first six instalments, to enable the counties to complete the works they thought most desirable. To a great extent the benefit of the works would not be derived till they were fully completed; and in many parts of Ireland there were not the means of completing them. An Act was passed early in this Session to permit the counties to complete them; but in only one or two instances had they been able to avail themselves of it. This would surely be a desirable mode of employing the poor; and in the present state of Ireland it was hardly expedient, or good policy, to refuse such a boon. It was necessary that faith should be kept with this country in regard to repayments, but the last two years had not boon ordinary times. It was impossible to detail all the specific purposes of the advances, because no one could tell what counties would apply for the money; many were not anxious to have it; but, surely, so far as the Bill went, we might very fairly extend our liberality to the people of Ireland to enable them to derive the full benefit of the works that were commenced.


apprehended that this was not a mere question of giving time for the payment of a portion of these advances; but it was proposed by this Bill, that as certain repayments were made, they should not be taken to the place to which, by law, they ought to go, namely, to the Consolidated Fund, but should be placed at the disposal of the Board of Works, subject to the sanction of the Treasury. Now, the mode of voting public money, whether by loan or grant, had long been settled to be, that the Government recommending it should state to the House the specific sum wanted, and the purpose for which it was to be voted. Unfortunately in this matter Parliament had departed from that principle; and what was the consequence? At the end of the Session of 1846, there was a measure for making unlimited advances to Ireland; when Parliament met in 1847, there had been 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. of money gone; would that have been so, if the ordinary form bad been gone through, and Parliament consulted before the advances? Were not the Irish landlords remonstrating during all the autumn of 1846 against the manner in which the money was spent? Was there not a universal demand in Ireland for what they called reproductive works, instead of unproductive? If it had been necessary to obtain the consent of the House to the advance of another million when one was spent, and the Irish landlords had made that objection, would those further millions have been expended? Let not the same mistake be made again; let the money repaid go into the Consolidated Fund; and if it were wanted to be readvanced, let an estimate be produced, and an account given of the ground of asking the advance. If the ground were compassion to Ireland in a season of distress, experience warranted the belief that the House would not be slow to listen to the demand; but it would be more satisfactory to Ireland itself that Irish landlords be heard before expending the money.

Committee divided on the question that the clause stand part of the Bill:—Ayes 108; Noes 42: Majority 66.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Herbert, H. A.
Adair, R. A. S. Heywood, J.
Anson, hon. Col. Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.
Anstey, T. C. Hobhouse, T. B.
Archdall, Capt. Hood, Sir A.
Armstrong, Sir A. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Armstrong, R. B. Howard, P. H.
Baring, rt. tin. Sir F. T. Jones, Capt.
Bateson, T. Kershaw, J.
Bellew, R. M. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Berkeley, hon. C. F. Langston, J. H.
Blackall, S. W. Lascelles, hon. W. S.
Bourke, R. S. Lewis, G. C.
Bouverie, hon. E. P. M'Cullagh, W. T.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Maule, rt. hon. F.
Brotherton, J. Monsell, W.
Brown, W. Morpeth, Visct.
Bunbury, E. H. Morris, D.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.
Campbell, hon. W. F. O'Brien, Sir L.
Cavendish, hon. C. C. Ogle, S. C. H.
Cavendish, W. G. Palmerston, Visct.
Clay, Sir W. Parker, J.
Courtenay, Lord Pechell, Capt.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Pilkington, J.
Craig, W. G. Reynolds, J.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Rice, E. R.
Duncan, G. Rich, H.
Dundas, A. Robartes, T. J. A.
Dundas, Sir D. Romilly, Sir J.
Dunne, F. P. Russell, Lord J.
Ebrington, Visct. Russell, F. C. H.
Edwards, H. Rutherford, A.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Sadlier, J.
Evans, Sir De L. Salwey, Col.
Ewart, W. Shelburne, Earl of
Fagan, W. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Spearman, H. J.
FitzPatrick, rt. hn. J. W. Stansfield, W. R. C.
Foley, J. H. H. Strickland, Sir G.
Fox, R. M. Talbot, J. H.
Freestun, Col. Thicknesse, R. A.
Frewen, C. H. Thompson, Col.
Goddard, A. L. Thornely, T.
Greene, J. Townshend, Capt.
Grenfell, C. W. Turner, E.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Watkins, Col.
Grey, R. W. Wawn, J. T.
Hall, Sir B. Williams, J.
Hallyburton, Lord J. F. Wilson, M.
Hamilton, G. A. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Hamilton, H. Wood, W. P.
Hardcastle, J. A.
Hawes, B. TELLERS.
Hayter, W. G. Tufnell, H.
Headlam, T. E. Hill, Lord M.
Arkwright, G. Hornby, J.
Baldock, E. H. Hudson, G.
Benbow, J. Ker, R.
Bentinck, Lord G. King, hon. P. J. L.
Boldero, H. G. M'Gregor, J.
Bolling, W. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Bowring, Dr. Patten, J. W.
Cabbell, B. B. Pigott, F.
Cardwell, E. Plowden, W. H. C.
Carew, W. H. P. Ricardo, O.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Sandars, G.
Christy, S. Sandars, J.
Cocks, T. S. Seymer, H. K.
Coles, H. B. Sibthorp, Col.
Dundas, G. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Spooner, R.
FitzGerald, W. R. S. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Urquhart, D.
Granby, Marq. of Willoughby, Sir H.
Gwyn, H.
Henley, J. W. TELLERS.
Herbert, rt. hon. S. Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.
Hodgson, W. N. Stafford, O.

House resumed. Bill to be reported.

House adjourned at a quarter past One.