HC Deb 11 April 1850 vol 110 cc175-84

Order for Second Reading read.

LORD J. RUSSELL moved that this Bill he read a Second Time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


said, he did not expect that the noble Lord would bring forward so important a Bill at so late an hour. He had moved for certain returns on the 21st of February, with regard to grants and loans made to Ireland within the last few years, but he found that it was impossible to obtain them, though he had very good authority for saying that the Government were in possession of a great many of those returns. However, they had not thought proper, and they knew the reason why, to lay them before the House. On so important a matter, the whole of those returns ought to have been printed, not next week, but before the Motion for the second reading of the Bill was brought forward. He objected to any further grants being made, but not from an unkind, unchristianlike, or illiberal feeling, for he disdained any feeling of that kind. He objected to this grant of 300,000l being given by the people of England, because he had reason to believe that there were fully eight millions owing to them now; and when would they get it? He did not charge the sister kingdom, or any individual in it; with an unwillingness to pay, but they had not the means; and the misrule of the Government had placed that kingdom in its present unfortunate and melancholy position. He had a right to ask, on the part of the people of England, out of whose pocket this money would come—was it to be the last, and would the Government say it was not a bribe—a low dirty bribe to please the Irish? He would tell the noble Lord they were too honest men to be led away by such paltry bribery. The Government might lay traps and spring guns, but they would catch no game. They were not dunghill cocks; they were real game cocks in that country. It was the duty of the noble Lord to give those returns, or postpone his Motion until they were furnished; but no, forsooth, he should bring forward his Motion. However, he (Colonel Sibthorp) was too cautious for him, and was always on his guard. An important question of this nature ought not to be brought on in this manner at a late hour of the night, and with, in spite of the Treasury whips, a thin House. Sic volo, sic jubeo, was the Government motto, but, despite their bugles sounding in every quarter, and their threats of loss of place, they were unable to muster a full House. He decidedly objected to this grant, and should substitute for the Motion he had placed upon the paper, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, that the House do now adjourn.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."


hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman would adhere to the Amendment of which he originally gave notice, and not put the House to the trouble of dividing on his present proposition.


said, that with respect to this Bill the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lincoln would recollect that he (Lord J. Russell) had wished to bring it forward a considerable time before Easter, and that he had more than once postponed it in accordance with the wish of hon. Members. He could not be accused, therefore, of now bringing it on unawares. He found that certain returns of the amount issued, the amount repaid, and the sum to be repaid, had been ordered in February. Those returns, however, had no immediate reference to this Bill, and of course it required a considerable time to prepare such accounts. An order for them had been immediately sent to Ireland, but they had not yet been received. He could assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that they were not kept back for any purpose of the Government.


thought the proposition of his hon. and gallant Friend was not unreasonable, and that they ought to adjourn the consideration of this important question to a time when the House might be better filled and less fatigued than it was at that moment, and when the Members who composed it were less exclusively Irish than those now present; for on looking around him, he saw on that side of the House a majority of Members who could not, he thought, but come to the discussion of the question with a strong bias. Heretofore it had been said to them, when they were called upon to concur in some of those large grants, that they would be the last sums that would be asked; and the noble Lord now said again this was the last time he would call upon the House to make such advances. But he (Mr. Bankes) wished to ask were they to be given as grants or as loans? [Lord J. RUSSELL: This is an advance, not a grant.] He thought that whether they were given in the shape of loans or grants, the result would be very much the same. With regard to this particular case he did not clearly understand, when the noble Lord made his statement, the precise ground upon which he rested this additional claim. He was quite aware the noble Lord made a statement, but it was rather briefly made. For those reasons he concurred in the propriety of the Amendment, and he should vote for an adjournment.


was surprised at the remark of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down with regard to the House being exclusively Irish. Certainly, of late, it had been a matter of serious disappointment to him, when questions of great importance to Ireland had been brought forward, to see nearly empty benches opposite, although, at the same time, he had not found much to console him in the presence of Irish Members on his own side of the House. He did not think that, in giving this grant, they had any guarantee that it would not be asked for again, and he was convinced that every Minister must ask for it so long as the ground which rendered it necessary—the Irish Poor Law—remained untouched. This was a part of the question deserving mature consideration, and for this reason he regretted that the measure came on for consideration at so late an hour. He had another reason for regretting that this measure had been brought forward at so late an hour, and that was that the application of the 300,000l. had never been well explained. The first account given by the noble Lord was most satisfactory, but subsequent conversations had not borne out that first statement, and the House had no guarantee as to how the money would be applied.


concurred in hoping that the debate would be postponed. He had documents with him which would enable him to disprove the assertion of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire, that loans to Ireland were tantamount to grants; but in order to do that successfully it would be necessary that he should go more into detail than he could well do at that late hour. He was prepared to show that the moneys which had been lent to Ireland had been fairly and honestly paid until the heavy misfortune of famine fell upon that country. He was further prepared to show, upon the evidence of Sir John Bur-goyne, that for a series of years there was a considerable profit made by England out of the loans to Ireland; and that even during the three years of famine Ireland repaid over a million of the money which had been advanced to her. With reference to what the hon. Member for Dorsetshire had said about the exclusively Irish character of the attendance that evening, he begged to say that it was not their fault that English Members were not present on that occasion—that Members who were usually foremost in every other debate should have deserted the cause of Ireland, and left the representatives of that country to the tender mercies of a Government whose actions they disapproved. With reference to the system of loans, he assured the House that no one condemned them more than he himself did, and that he believed they were caused solely by the disregard of the suggestions of those who best knew the true interest of that country.


also hoped the debate would be adjourned, in order to afford an opportunity to Irish Members to disprove the charge which had been made with regard to Irish loans. He believed it could be shown that, from the time the two Exchequers were consolidated up to 1828, the advances out of the Consolidated Fund to England and Scotland amounted to 16,000,000l., of which 6,000,000l. were repaid, while, for the same period, the advances to Ireland had been only 9,000,000l., of which 7,000,000l. were repaid.


deeply regretted to find the Irish Members asking for a postponement of this measure, because they, of all men, must know the importance of passing it without delay. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire was quite mistaken in calling this a grant; and he was equally mistaken in supposing that there was no difference between a grant and a loan. He entirely agreed with those hon. Members who had stated that the loans to Ireland had been repaid, when such a result could hardly have been anticipated; but he did not think they would be justified in postponing this measure, in order to afford the Irish Members an opportunity of proving what everybody who knew anything of the subject knew already. If the House were to go into the various questions suggested by the hon. Members for Kerry, Longford, and Portarlington, it would be impossible to say when they would be able to pass this Bill. He appealed to those hon. Members if it would not be absolutely cruel to those unions whom it was proposed to relieve by this Bill, to postpone it for an indefinite period, as they proposed. He could understand those who were altogether opposed to the object of the Bill taking advantage of the forms of the House to delay it; but he must say that Irish Gentlemen, who could not but know the importance of an early decision of this question, rather astonished him when they proposed such a course. The desire to vindicate their country had surely made them forget its immediate necessities.


agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that the settlement of this question was of the utmost importance to Ireland. It was his strong conviction that this measure, small in amount, would do incalculable benefit to Ireland, and he believed the House would effect great injustice by delaying the progress of the measure.


protested against the observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he sought to identify the body of the Irish Members with an attempt to retard the progress of this Bill. His right hon. Friend totally misunderstood the feeling of Irish Members, if he thought there was any intention of not supporting him in any measure brought forward for the benefit of their unfortunate country. The hon. Member for Dorsetshire had thrown out an imputation against Irish Members generally; but that had been met by the hon. Member for Kerry, and it was also met by a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before Easter, and also again this evening, that loans granted to Ireland generally had been paid in a manner unprecedented, and most unexpected on his part, considering the circumstances of the country. With regard to his hon. and gallant Friend who had originated this debate, he would only say that he had sat with him twenty years ago in that House, and though rapid and Quixotic occasionally in his movements, his hon. and gallant Friend was always well-meaning and cheerful. He believed his hon. and gallant Friend always meant to do good, though he often effected much mischief; but when he told him that millions of his (the O'Gorman Mahon's) unfortunate countrymen had suffered severely during the late years of famine, that thousands of them had died of want, and that thousands more would suffer by any delay of this measure, he was sure his hon. and gallant Friend would consent to withdraw his Motion.


begged to assure hon. Gentlemen that he had intended to convey no imputation whatever upon the character of the Irish people. What he had said, and he had said it with regret, was simply, that although Ireland had no doubt repaid as much as she could repay, she had not repaid so much as he could have wished her to repay, and that he feared her powers of repayment were not likely to improve for some time to come.


agreed, that had the Government taken more active measures some time back, there would, in all probability, have been no occasion for this measure; but, as the occasion existed, he earnestly desired that the measure might be passed without delay, and he hoped hon. Gentlemen would not allow their judgment to be so carried away by their feelings as to prevent that result. The hon. and gallant Gentleman would have full opportunity to bring forward his documents in Committee; all that was sought at present was to read the Bill a second time.


said, he had spent the Easter recess in the districts to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred, and he could testify that such distress prevailed there as to render immediate relief essential. For his own part, he thought it would have been a much more profitable occupation of their time that evening to have discussed the present measure during as much as might have been required for the purpose of the seven hours which had been comparatively wasted upon the Franchise Bill. He trusted that the Government would not bring on the later stages of this important measure at twenty minutes to twelve, as had been the case with the present stage. The right hon. Member for Ripon had declared that the proper opportunity on which to discuss the whole question of the state of Ireland—a subject which had not been fairly brought forward at all this Session—would be in Committee on this Bill; and it was to be hoped the Government would provide that opportunity. If the noble Lord opposite would give some pledge to this effect, he thought it would be well to let the second reading take place.


said, he had been for a long time paying very close attention to two unions in his part of Ireland, and he found from his experience there that great economy in the administration of unions was perfectly practicable. At present, however, any efforts in this direction, as he had experienced, were thwarted by the commissioners themselves. For example, he had sent in a plan for reducing the salaries of the officers in the two unions to which he referred from 2,000l. per annum to 1,200l., the officers themselves being quite satisfied with the reduction; but the Commissioners had absolutely refused to abate one farthing of the amount. He hoped the measure before the House would not be delayed. The unions were in a perfect fix; the contractors would not go on supplying food, and the wretched paupers must inevitably perish unless immediate steps were taken.


said, that if the Government would give some pledge that a proper opportunity should be given for discussing the subject in Committee, it would be well to pass the second reading.


said, that certainly his own vote would depend upon such a pledge being given.


could only say, that if the House wished to delay the Bill, and to have a general discussion upon the affairs of Ireland, he was ready to bring on the next stage of the measure at an early hour of the evening, but he could not say that the evening of discussion itself would be, an early one. On the contrary, there were various measures left from last Session, which from the pressure of business had not as yet been proceeded with, but which must be taken, and he therefore could give no pledge as to the precise period at which the discussion now required could be entered upon.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 131: Majority 108.

List of the AYES.
Alexander, N. Henley, J. W.
Archdall, Capt. M. Lockhart, W.
Arkwright, G. Masterman, J.
Bankes, G. Mullings, J. R.
Best, J. Spooner, R.
Booth, Sir R. G. Stafford, A.
Chichester, Lord J. L. Stanley, hon. E. H.
Christy, S. Stuart, H.
Clive, H. B. Taylor, T. E.
Cotton, hon. W. H. S. Verner, Sir W.
Farrer, J. TELLERS.
Gore, W. R. O. Sibthorp, Col.
Halsey, T. P. Gwyn, H.

Question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time.


begged to inform the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln that the returns to which he had previously referred had already been laid on the table of the House.


said they were not upon is table. He should therefore move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, that as the returns had been laid on the table, he thought, according to the usual course of procedure, that the Government should have caused them to be printed. He considered that the fact that those returns had not been printed was a very good reason for adjourning the further consideration of the Bill until the papers were in the hands of hon. Members.


said, that he had repeatedly asked the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury about these papers, as he was most anxious that they should be laid before the House; but he had not the least idea that they were already upon the table. He had, therefore, had no opportunity of moving that they be printed.


said, it was true that the hon. and gallant Member had repeatedly applied to him before Easter respect- ing the returns, but he was not aware that the hon. Gentleman had mentioned them subsequently. The returns in question were now upon the table; but it was not a matter of course that they should be printed.


said, that if the Bill was now read a second time the returns on the table could be printed; and if the House entered upon the further consideration of the measure at an early hour on some subsequent evening, a full opportunity would be afforded for discussing the whole question. Unless, however, the Bill was now read a second time, he could not say when it would be again brought before the House.


observed, that it was his impression that when papers having reference to a Government measure were moved for, the Government was responsible for their being printed. ["No, no!"] He believed that was the general usage. The Government had shown that they were aware of the importance of these papers by consenting to produce them, and it appeared that they contained information which Irish Members were most anxious, for the character of their country, to have published. He thought, therefore, that the House could not satisfactorily proceed with the discussion of the Bill until the papers were in the hands of Members, and he would vote for the adjournment.


said, that he believed some years ago the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken had held an office connected with the Government in Ireland, and he had occupied a seat in that House for many years. He was, therefore, surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman maintain that papers moved for by an hon. Member must necessarily be printed by the Government without any specific Motion being made to that effect by the Member who required their production. He wished to have the decision of Mr. Speaker on this point, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether papers moved for by a private Member must necessarily be printed by the Government, without any Motion for their being printed?


said, that papers laid upon the table were referred to the Printing Committee, who decided whether they should be printed or not; but when any hon. Member wished to have particular papers printed, it was usual for him to express to the Printing Committee his wish that such papers should be printed.


considered that hon. Gentlemen who opposed the progress of the Bill were defeating their own object if they wanted to extract money from Ireland, because he understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had postponed the repayment of advances until this measure was passed.


asked if he was to understand that the Irish people meant to pay us with our own money? The hon. Member for Ennis seemed to have made some mistake about his (Mr. Bankes's) having held an official situation in Ireland. He was not aware that he had done so, but, perhaps, it might appear in the papers that had been referred to.


begged pardon of the hon. Gentleman if he had made a mistake.


said, he would arrange that the next stage of this Bill should be taken at an early hour in the evening, when, the returns being in the hands of Members, a full discussion could take place. But if he was to understand that the intention was now to oppose the Bill by repeated Motions of adjournment, he would say, let a division take place, and let the real character of the opposition be seen.


had voted with the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln on the last division, because he understood that several Irish Members wished the debate to be adjourned; but as that did not seem to be the case, he would now support the noble Lord.

Motion, made and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

The House divided:—Ayes 6; Noes 134: Majority 128.

List of the AYES.
Archdall, Capt. M. Halsey, T. P.
Arkwright, G.
Cotton, hon. W. H. S. Sibthorp, Col.
Gwyn, H. Spooner, R.

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read 2°, and committed for Friday, 26th April.

The House adjourned at half-after One o'clock.