HC Deb 08 May 1849 vol 105 cc151-2

rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice, namely— That the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, consequent upon four successive years of distress, require the immediate adoption of such measures as may assist and encourage the individual exertion of the owners and occupiers of Irish property, and promote industry by giving remunerative employment; and that all grants or loans of money to particular districts should be applied, as far as possible, to such purposes as may conduce to the eventual improvement of those districts, and enable them to support themselves from their ordinary resources. Since he had put the notice of that Motion upon the books, he should admit that there had been several measures brought forward relating to Ireland, of the beneficial nature of which he was desirous of not being thought unmindful, and the importance of which he by no means underrated. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer for what he had done, and for the good intentions which he had shown; but there were mistakes of a serious nature mixed up with those grants for the relief of Irish distress. In the first place, the distress in Ireland was believed to be confined to certain unions, and relief was applicable to those unions only, and not to the whole of Ireland. He believed the real effect would be, that instead of relieving these unions, they would gradually drive the rest of Ireland into a similar condition, by diminishing their resources. Another mistake was, the idea that any poor-law, however perfect in itself, could meet the case of famine in that country. However based it might be upon the best principles, it could not, unless accompanied by other and great measures, meet the present exigency. In proposing the resolution which he had the honour to submit, he was borne out in the assertions it contained by the occurrences of the last four years. In 1845 the potato disease first appeared. The right hon. Baronet, who was then in power, devised measures such as he thought necessary to meet the distress that was then impending; and the 6 and 7 Vict. c. 1, was the result. By that Act, employment upon public works was given to the people, and a new description of food was introduced into the country—a change which he (Major Blackall) considered to be highly beneficial. In August, 1846, or September, he was not very sure which, after a long and protracted Session, and after a change had taken place in the Government, the House was called upon to devise means to meet a calamity of the extent of which neither the House nor the country had then the slightest idea. The Labour Rate Act was passed. The Irish Members wanted to have the labour made reproductive, but the Government resisted it; and it was not until remonstrances had poured in from every quarter of the country against the unproductive works, that at length Mr. Labouchere's letter was published. But the Act of Indemnity which was passed in consequence of that letter was not made prospective, it was merely retrospective; and when he himself applied for money to finish works that he had commenced under Mr. Labouchere's letter, the answer he received was, that no further sessions could be held under the letter. The Temporary Relief Act, which was passed to supersede the system under Mr. Labouchere's letter, went into the other extreme. The destitute people were to receive relief, but it was denied to the ablebodied. They were obliged to come every morning to an appointed place to receive their rations, in order that their destitution might be visible. The Irish representatives and gentry again remonstrated, but to no purpose, and the system went on until 1847.

Notice taken, that forty Members were not present; House counted; and forty Members not being present,

The House was adjourned at Eight o'clock.