HC Deb 30 July 1850 vol 113 cc579-83

Postponed Resolution, No. 31 [26th July]— That a sum, not exceeding 100,147l., be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Expense of the Convict Establishment in the Colonies, to the 31st day of March, 1851.


said, he had hoped, when he consented to postpone the discussion on the vote at present before the House, that he should be granted the opportunity of bringing it forward at, at least, as early and favourable an hour as that at which he yielded to the wishes of the Government, in postponing it; but he found that the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department had decided on bringing the vote on at that late hour, and although he expected the disadvantages he at present laboured under, from the advanced period of the night, as well as from the fatigue the House must feel after sitting with little interruption, since twelve o'clock, and after two debates on subjects most important and exciting, yet he considered it his duty not to lose the last opportunity of bringing before the House a subject which he considered of extreme importance to Ireland, and which he thought ought to engage the earnest attention not only of that House, but of the country. Although the subject was necessarily connected with some of the most essential interests of the country, and although it would be necessary, in elucidating it, to make statements of figures, at all times wearisome, yet he should endeavour to do so as shortly as he possibly could. On the occasion of the Estimated Votes, No. 3, for law and justice, he had pointed out what he asserted to be a gross injustice to Ireland, and showed that while within a few years, in fact since 1845, this House had remitted a sum between 700,000l. and 1,000,000l., formerly borne by county rates in England, to the local taxation, and placed it on the Consolidated Fund, while it had not only not remitted any equivalent to Ireland, but actually increased the local burdens by 2,000,000l. for poor-rates alone. In England prisoners, whether convicts or misdemeanants, were supported from the Consolidated Fund, while in Ireland the greater number were thrown on the resources of the counties. It would appear from the papers laid on the table of the House, that the following were the sums granted for the support of persons convicted during the years 1847, 1848, 1849:—

Convicts. Misdemeanants. Total. Payment.
England 2,857 1,921 4,778 £102,074
Scotland 466 1,596 2,062 nil.
Ireland 2,210 11,221 13,431 2,620
England 3,311 2,309 5,620 £97,120
Scotland 354 1,818 2,273 8,594
Ireland 2,758 12,968 15,726 4,054
England 2,910 1,871 4,781 £97,120
Scotland 377 1,692 2,009 10,437
Ireland 3,088 15,443 18,531 9,792

So that, while the average rate per head for convicts in England was 22l. in 1847, in the same year it was in Scotland nil, and in Ireland only 3s. 10½d. And, in 1848 and 1849, it was—

1848. 1849.
England £15 14 3 £20 0 3
Scotland 3 19 7 5 0 10
Ireland 0 5 0 10 6½ only.

Could any one say that this was fair to Ireland, or that she received any equivalent? In addition to this, the cost of prosecutions paid for out of the Consolidated Fund in England, were thrown on the counties in Ireland; and when we add to this the sum of 98l. 16s. 11d., the moiety of the expense for medical officer and schoolmasters in the workhouses in England, paid also from the Consolidated Fund, and from the poor-rates in Ireland, he was fully justified in saying that the latter country was not equally or fairly treated in the matter of taxation. Last year the hon. Member for Glasgow had moved for a return of the income and expenditure of Ireland. It was asserted that it would prove that Ireland did not contribute a fair share to the taxation of the empire; but it seemed to him (Colonel Dunne) that it proved the reverse; the taxation levied on Ireland was about 4,500,000l., and how was this disposed of? The first item was from 800,000l. to 1,000,000l. for the troops quartered in Ireland. Was such a body of troops requisite for Ireland? No one could say so; but they were requisite for the necessary reliefs in the colonies, and the support of your foreign interests. Now, what concern had Ireland in them? What participation? Why, since the Union, her foreign trade had scarcely increased—the balance was against her; neither had the colonial trade increased, and still the balance was here also against her. There was another item he must not overlook, for which Ireland did not get credit yet, which was drawn from her resources: this was the customs I duties on articles consumed in Ireland, but levied in England, and amounted to at least 500,000l. In the period from January, 18 years, ending 1845, there was remitted from Ireland to the English Exchequer, at least a sum of 23,000,000l.surplus revenue. In the term of ten years, ending 1844, on account of the Woods and Forests, a sum of 605,137l. 9s. 4d. was in like manner remitted. On this account the sums collected and expended in Ireland were as follows:—

Collected. Expended in Ireland.
1847 ending Jan. 4. £55,781 2 6 £14,949 3 2
1848 ending Jan. 4. 82,814 8 2 19,523 6 0
1849 ending Jan. 4. 59,722 16 7 18,079 19 7
1850 ending Jan. 4. 60,531 11 1 13,310 8 0

Well, in addition to these heavy drains was the tax paid in Ireland for the rents of absentee landlords—for a tax he would ever assert it to be—it could not be reckoned at less than 4,000,000l., and the amount remitted during twenty years could scarcely be under 80,000,000l.; and it was on a country so drained, so exhausted, that additional local taxes, amounting in one item alone to 2,000,000l., were laid on, while an English Parliament gave an exemption to themselves of nearly a million. Why, no country could bear such a remorseless taxation, much less a poor one; were Ireland like, as California was said to be, one immense gold mine—were her rivers, like the Pactolus, to roll golden sands, such a drain must exhaust her. But it would be said she did not pay the interest of her debt. What was that debt, and how was it contracted? What did she gain by the expenditure of the money she was called on to repay? At the Union it was about 24,000,000l.; in 1817 it had increased to about 136,000,000l.; and then, for very shame, the Ministry of the day stopped its accumulation. And we are accused of not paying the interest of a debt contracted for money expended for the aggrandisement of the commerce and foreign influence of England, but in which he had shown Ireland had no participation. In what did Ireland participate with England by her union with that country? Why, Ireland participated in the glories and expenses of the last war; but England secured all the advantages to herself. An other point he must advert to was, the practice of leaving convicted prisoners in the gaols in Ireland. What was the result? Why, that they were so crowded that contagion and disease followed, and, in many instances, a sentence of confinement for a short period was, in fact, a sentence of death. This subject was one of the deepest importance to the whole country, and he considered the Ministry culpable in not adopting some measure on the subject during the Session. The accommodation for the reception of convicts was as follows:—

In Spike Island 1,300 say 2,000
Smithfield 300
Newgate 250
Richmond 250
Kilmainham 100
New Prison, Circular-road. 500
He had shown that 7,056 persons sentenced to transportation had been accumulated in the Irish gaols, and it was therefore absurd to suppose that home depots could be provided. They must look abroad; and he felt no doubt they could be placed in some of our colonies with advantage, and without offending the interests or prejudices of the colonists, as was done lately at the Cape. Had these convicts been placed on the frontiers as military posts, no difficulties would have arisen at the Cape; but because they were thrust among a population jealous of their moral contagion, the colonists objected, and the Government were forced to yield. But are there no other colonies? Are there not American, whore convicts might be most usefully employed instead of being left to breed contagion in crowded gaols, and remain a heavy expense to our overburdened population. He was aware he would be told that the Government had lately placed 98,000l. 16s. 11d., the expenses of the Irish constabulary on the Consolidated Fund. What was this amount? 250,000l.? The whole expenses of the constabulary was about 560,000l.and one-half of this had never been paid out of the county Sir Robert Peel had transferred the other half to the Consolidated Fund; but at the time he stated it was an equivalent for the loss Ireland would suffer by free trade; thus it could not be considered an equivalent for the remission to her local taxation, which England gave to herself, neither was it, as stated by the late right hon. Member for Tamworth, an equivalent for free trade. Why, in Ireland there was no free trade. The assertion is a delusion. Free trade you had in any article that might tend to the advantage of the cotton spinners in Manchester; but free trade for the benefit of the agriculturist you decidedly have not. Having destroyed our manufactures by the strictest protection for your own, by a duty at one time of 60 per cent on ours, you now continue not only a duty on the productions of our land, but you actually prevent our cultivating it to the best advantage. You neither allow us to cultivate tobacco nor beet-root sugar, and then have the hardihood to come here and talk of free trade. He felt he had trespassed too long, at this late hour, on the patience of the House, and yet he had by no means entered as fully into this subject as its importance demands. Indeed, he felt that at this moment it would he impossible to do so; and having now, as he hoped, called the attention of Irish Members and the country to the subject, he should conclude by stating that the next Session he should ask for a Committee, to examine and report on the financial relations between England and Ireland.


said, he would not follow the hon. and gallant Member into the wide subject he had opened, but would merely refer to one document, an account of the expenditure of last year in England and in Ireland for the poor and for county purposes. In England the sum charged on the Consolidated Fund, and formerly paid out of the county rates was 258,000l., and the charge for the poor-law 138,000l., making a total of 396,000l. In Ireland the charge on the Consolidated Fund for constabulary was 574,000l., and for convicts 17,000l., making a total of 591,000l., which gave an excess of expenditure of about 200,000l. for Ireland over England in the amount paid by the Consolidated Fund. Ireland had no reason to complain on that ground, at all events.


objected to the right hon. Gentleman's comparison. It was unfair to take the whole of the charge for the constabulary.

Resolution agreed to.