§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ LORD NAAS moved the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
§ MR. FITZSTEPHEN FRENCH
said: Sir, in giving notice of my intention to oppose the Second Reading of this Bill, and in rising to carry that intention into effect, I beg to assure the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that I have no desire to offer a factious or unfair opposition to any measures they may deem advisable to propose. I seek not to hold them responsible for the legislative enactments or the executive decisions of which I complain. They have no part in the Treasury Minute which is about to become the subject of discussion this evening—a document as unjust as it is illegal. Her Majesty's Government cannot be considered answerable for a course of policy which, however well-intended it may have been, has destroyed the capital and depopulated the shores of Ireland; on the contrary, I am bound to admit, that whilst they occupied the benches from which I am now speaking, every proposition for the amelioration of Ireland received from them a fair and generous consideration. I cannot forget that without a single exception they voted for an advance of 16,000,000l., the professed object of which was the development of the resources of the sister kingdom. I feel, under these circumstances, if I can make out a case worthy of attention, it will receive at their hands a full and fair consideration. The Treasury Minute which it is the object of this Bill to confirm, is one stating that where the expenditure of any electoral division in Ireland for the support of her poor for the year amounted to 4s. in the pound, the treasurer should retain in his hands the whole of the consolidated annuity due from that electoral division; and where the expenditure for the support of the poor and the consolidated annuity amount together to a sum exceeding 4s. in the pound, then the balance to be paid by the treasurer on account of the instalments should be only the difference between the amount of the expenditure for the support of the poor, and the amount produced by a charge of 4s. in the pound. Now, a Treasury Minute like this, as affecting the local taxation of this country, would be a 603 perfect nullity; but it was not so with regard to Ireland, for so heavily taxed was that unfortunate country, that even by this assistance, trifling as it may appear, a sum of 75,850l. would be released out of 245,000l., leaving a balance of 170,000l. to be repaid to the Treasury. The proportions in which the sum would be remitted in the several provinces would be 276l. in Ulster; 3,073l. in Leinster; 24,017l. in Connaught; and 48,502l. in Munster. There has been delivered to this House a letter signed by Sir Charles Trevelyan, whose abilities I willingly admit, but whose inaccurate knowledge of Ireland and its affairs renders him peculiarly unsuited to the office of "child's guide to Chancellors of the Exchequer," saying that the result of this Minute is merely to establish a maximum charge for what he calls "the demands of the public" of 4s. in the pound. I contend that that will not be the mere effect of this Minute. The effect of this Treasury Minute will be, and must be, for the next forty years, to keep up in the great majority of the unions of Ireland, doubt, discontent, and excitement. The Minute is to be renewed every year; the effect of it consequently will be, to supply during that period a constant motive for the most wasteful and reckless expenditure of the poor-law fund. The managers and guardians of a poor-law union have only to manage to expend 4s. in the pound, and they are safe from all demands for that year from the treasurer on account of the annuity. Is it possible to conceive a more absurd or a more mischievous practice, circumstanced as Ireland is, than this? The Minute, in fact, says, "only be wasteful, and we will make no demand whatever upon you." Is it to be wondered at if Ireland is sinking, when the great boon for which we are called on to be grateful is that which generously offers us a bounty upon improvidence and mismanagement, and imposes a fine upon economy and thrift? No union is to share your boon until it has qualified itself by extravagance of expenditure and mismanagement. I come now to the Consolidated Annuities Act, the 12 & 13 Vict., c. 14. This Act was passed to give the most uncontrolled and unlimited powers to the Treasury over the rateable property in Ireland. It was, in fact, a vote of confidence in the Treasury as regarded this matter. Under this Act, the late Treasury were able to do as they pleased. They were to decide, 604 without any appeal, what the liabilities of the different unions amounted to. The unions authorities had no voice whatever in determining their decision; the Treasury having made their decision as to the liabilities of the unions, were to convert them into long or short annuities at their pleasure. Great as their powers were under this act, they did not satisfy the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury Board, but their first act was to assume a power not given them by this Act, or any other. They were not authorised to delegate their powers to any other body, yet the first thing they did was to delegate them to the Poor Law Commissioners; and having done that, I contend that every subsequent act is perfectly illegal. As I have said before, however, Parliament placed full confidence—personal confidence—in the acts of the Treasury, which thus acquired its power; there was an appeal made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in opposing a Motion made by the hon. Member for Leitrim, to allow this extraordinary power to be exercised by the Treasury. The appeal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the House was, that it "should not interfere with a discretion which had been exercised with so much moderation by the Treasury." His appeal was responded to by the House by a majority of 128 to 91. Confidence was thus voted by the House of Commons in the moderation of the Treasury; and I will show what that moderation was. The result of the united wisdom of the Treasury and the Poor Law Commissioners was, that an annuity of 245,000l. was charged on a debt of 4,422,951l. assumed to be due by the Poor Law Unions of Ireland—an amount of money, or anything like it, that I will undertake to show the House is not, and cannot, be considered due. Now what are the items of which this sum is made up? The first was not even borrowed by the Poor Law Guardians; it is an item of 1,222,707l. advanced to Mr. Nicholls for building workhouses; but it should be borne in mind by the House that of this sum 47,268l. was struck off on account of the shameful way in which the works were executed, on the report of a Government officer, Mr. Pennethorne, sent specially to inspect them. With the building of these houses, and the selection of the sites, some without water, some without sewerage, we had nothing to do; Mr. Nicholls was sent over to Ireland to examine into and report upon this subject; and the re- 605 suit of his recommendation was the extravagant expenditure included in this item. The House will recollect that the late Government chose to throw over altogether the able report of the Poor Inquiry Commissioners, and to adopt that of Mr. Nicholls, as their basis of legislation; and they avowed themselves responsible for its accuracy. Had they not done so, Parliament would never have sanctioned the measure, opposed as it was by Mr. O'Connell and a large majority of the Irish Members: as the Act passed solely on their responsibility, they should not be allowed to shrink from the consequences which attached to their conduct. Mr. Nicholls stated, as his calculation of the requirements of the country, that eighty workhouses would be sufficient for the relief of the destitute poor of Ireland; but in order that, by no possibility, there should be a deficiency of workhouse accommodation, he estimated for one hundred workhouses, each of which, reckoned at 7,000l. each, would give a total cost of 700,000l. He stated that the utmost that could be required for the accommodation of the poor of Ireland had been included in his calculation. He stated that by no possibility could more than 80 workhouses be required. We have now 163 workhouses. The sum of 312,000l. a year, he said, would be the utmost that could be required for the support of these houses, provided they were full, but that from his experience of workhouse administration in England, he had no hesitation in saying he was fully justified in fixing the entire amount necessary for the maintenance of these houses at 208,000l. Now the first workhouse in Ireland for the relief of the poor was opened in November, 1840, and if you take the sum of 312,000l. a year—the largest sum that it was stated could be demanded in Ireland for the relief of the poor for eleven years—it will give you the sum of 3,432,000l.; to which, adding 700,000l.—Mr. Nicholls's estimate of the cost of erecting these workhouses—you have a total of 4,132,000l. to be paid in Ireland for the support of the poor, from the opening of the first workhouse to the present day. If we had not paid that sum, I admit that we should not now be in a position to make out any case against the repayment of this money. But we have done more than that. Since that time we have actually paid 9,858,736l., 5,000,000l. more than Parliament pledged itself should be demanded of us at the 606 time the Bill was forced upon the majority of the Irish Members—5,000,000l. more than we were assured we should be called upon to pay. The Irish Poor Law was declared by the noble Lord then at the head of the Government, and it was at the same time admitted by Parliament, to be but an experiment. It hag been, indeed, an experiment. It may have been an expensive one to you, but it has been a fatal one to us. However, I ask you only to be just, to adhere to your own bargain; and, if faith is to be kept with a body of men so despised as the representatives of Ireland, I ask you to rest contented with the case as it stands—with our having paid the sum you originally compelled us to become liable for, and 5,000,000l. in addition. You have received the maximum amount which upon your own estimate and pledge we were to pay you, and you have received 5,000,000l. more. Do not, then, call on us now for 1,200,000l., which neither in honour nor in equity you can ask for. I object to the first item, not alone on account of the prostrate condition of the country from which you seek to exact it—under a law passed in direct violation of the articles of union between the two countries, but because Ireland has already repaid the amount, although she never was a party to the borrowing of any portion of it, nor received anything like fair value for it. The guardians of the Mallow Union, in a petition lately presented to the House, declare they have greater accommodation for 900l. expended by themselves than for 6,000l. laid out by Mr. Nicholls. The second item in the account is for the calls under the Temporary Relief Act, amounting to 782,228l. To this sum I have no objection whatever to urge. It was, I believe, honestly and fairly appropriated, and effected the purposes for which it was intended. It afforded relief, kept the people alive, and was not imposed by the nominees of the Government. To the third item, for advances under the 1 & 2 Vict., c. 21, and 9 Vict., c. 9, 170, 228—to that sum I can have no objection when the works are completed, as they must be before the demand can be legally made, and then the money must be repaid by the proper parties. The baronies, and not the poor-law unions, are the parties liable. Let me call the attention of the House to the position in which these charges were. The Act under which they were contracted empowered the Board of 607 Works to execute certain works upon the presentment by a special sessions; and on their completion being certified, the grand jury to pay a moiety of the sum expended by a presentment on the barony in which they were executed. Under this Act the debts were owing when the works were completed. The Commissioners of Public Works then acquired a claim which they could legally enforce, and enforce against the locality. What was the boon conferred on Ireland in respect of this? These sums were sought to be levied, whether the works were completed or not; and the debt was fixed with interest, not on the barony which was originally liable, but upon a district totally different in extent and in circumstances. The debt was a debt of the barony when the works were completed. It was thrown upon the Poor Law Union, whether the works were completed or not. Not only was the money exacted without the terms of the contract being fulfilled, but it was exacted from persons who never contracted at all. It was an attempt to make A. pay the debts of B., and pay them when they could not either legally or equitably be enforced against B. When the special sessions presented a sum for any work, it was the duty of the Board of Works to ascertain whether the sum presented was sufficient to complete the work, and if an insufficient sum were presented, to decline the undertaking; but, accepting the presentment, the law bound them, as it binds all contractors, only to look for payment on condition of completing the work. I have no objection to the repayment of the Board of Works for performing that which, by law, they are required to perform; but I do object to the demand of the Treasury and the Poor Law Commissioners to pay for it before it is finished. Every one, I repeat, is aware that these are baronial debts—not poor-law debts—and should find their way into the half-yearly cess-accounts. Whatever Sir C. Trevelyan may think in this matter of account, the baronies and the poor-law unions are not the same. This is, in fact, as I have before said, an attempt to make A. pay the debt of B.; and though I do not object to the repayment of the money when it becomes due, I object, and fairly, to its being demanded of parties not liable to pay it, and before it is due. The amount claimed for labour-rate is set down at 2,046,784l., giving credit for 258,000l. 608 already repaid. Now, independently of the question—which is a very extensive one, and on which I should have a great deal to say were it essential to my present purpose—whether it is just that a national calamity, such as the Irish famine, should be met by other than national means—independently of that great question, I have very strong objections to admit that any rate, to the extent here claimed, has become due. A very considerable portion of this debt, according to the papers furnished by the Board of Works, remains quite unaccounted for. There is no statement from the Board of Works to show that anything like the money now charged upon us has been by them expended under the Acts. The result, as shown in two ways by returns before the House, is, that 460,000 persons were employed for six months at 10d. a day each, which gives a sum of 2,300,000l. Adding to this 205,000l. for superintendents, and say 100,000l. for implements, the total amount expended is only 2,605,000l. The Board state that they have expended 4,462,000l. But they have given a second statement to Parliament, which I have carefully gone through. In that return they state that the gross sum expended is 4,547,065l, 1s. 8d., and that the number of persons employed was 356,314 for nine months. At 10d. a day for that period, the cost of this labour amounts to 3,474,061l. 10s., whereas they state that they have expended upwards of 4,547,000l. Here, then, is a difference totally unaccounted for of 1,000,073l. 11s. 8d. I have another statement of theirs to draw attention, to. They state the gross number of labourers employed for the period at 1,310,347, which, at the cost they return of 4,547,065l. 1s. 1d., would give wages at the rate of 6s. 11½d. per head per diem. Great as this extravagance may have been, it is certain that no such wages as these were ever paid. How the money was really expended, I will proceed to tell the House; and I very much regret that more English Members should not be present at this moment, as I believe what I am about to say would make a strong impression on them. I will give a case not occurring in my own county, but in the county Limerick—and as to which I can assure the House that there is no mistake. At a sessions for that county, held at New castle, under the Labour Rate Act, the amount of work considered necessary by 609 the magistrates and cesspayers of the county was ascertained and fixed, but some time afterwards an advertisement appeared in the local papers, that the Lord Lieutenant had called an additional session. Lord Clare inquired of Lord Monteagle by whom this session had been asked for; to which Lord Monteagle replied, that he knew nothing whatever about it, but that he was going up to Dublin, and that he would make inquiries there on the subject. On his arrival in Dublin he inquired at the Castle how this after-session came to be called, and he was informed by the Secretary that it had been demanded by the officers of the Board of Works. The fact that the officers of the Board of Works had applied for this additional session proved to be correct. They had asked it on the ground that the money originally granted at the former session would not be sufficient; that the works would of necessity be discontinued for want of funds; and that it would be very undesirable to leave them in an unfinished state. Under these circumstances, they stated, they thought it desirable to ask for another session, in order to procure the further sum which they considered necessary for the completion of the works. This seemed so sensible and so satisfactory to the magistrates and cesspayers at Newcastle, that they supported every proposition that emanated from the Board of Works. They adopted the estimates submitted to them by the Board, and at once voted the money which they were informed was wanted to complete the works. They gave no other presentment whatever. They said simply, "We will give you whatever your estimates are, and we will rely on the works being finished." Now the House, after this statement of facts, will hear with astonishment that not one sixpence of this money ever was laid out by the officers of the Board of Works. Having got this presentment, they did not apply the money in the manner represented, but they debited the baronies with the entire amount, and applied the money to make up a deficiency in their own accounts. Could it be a matter of surprise that they objected to the repayment of money so scandalously misapplied? In 1822, to relieve the famine in ten counties out of thirty-two, or about a third of all Ireland, a sum of 600,000l. expended under local management proved more than sufficient to keep the people from starving in the famine which at that time prevailed. In 610 1847 the famine extended to about two-thirds of the whole country, relief was given in 2,443 electoral divisions out of the 3,439 into which Ireland was divided. And I maintain that, with proper management under local control, notwithstanding the increased cost of food, 2,000,000l. or 2,500,000l. would have been amply sufficient to do all that was done in Ireland in; 1847. But Sir Charles Trevelyan shows, by his own figures, that 4,436,854l., in addition, has been squandered in the attempt to prop up a tottering law—a law which, but for these grants, could not have been supported—and to make up the deficiency which the blunders of the Government had occasioned. It is no satisfaction to us, when Ireland has been ruined, to think that England has suffered. Had the liberality of Parliament and the benevolence of Englishmen not been marred by the self-sufficiency and maladministration of those whom Government, ignorant of the real wants and capabilities of the country, invested with the administration of the relief funds, Ireland would not present the sad return she now does, of ruined proprietors, roofless houses, and unoccupied lands. The next item is something similar. It is a debt of 300,000l., contracted under 12 & 13 Vict., c. 14, to cover the money wanted by the Poor Law Board, in consequence of the rash and reckless extravagance of the Government officials. It will be recollected that the Poor Law Commissioners took it upon themselves to dismiss the boards of elected guardians, and to supply their places by paid nominees of their own. To show the effect of this substitution, in a moral view, it would suffice to refer the House to the petitions from Mohill, Carrick, and I might say from the majority of the unions in the South and West of Ireland. Even in a pecuniary way, as has been repeatedly shown in this House, it has been most detrimental to the Irish unions: there were returns that proved that an increase of debt had under their management taken place in the Listowel union of from 5,000l. to 12,000l., in the Kilrush union of from 2,000l. to 12,000l., and in the Ballina union of from 2,400l. to 21,400l. In common with the majority of Irish Members, I have always opposed this advance as a loan, and am still of opinion that the Irish unions are not fairly chargeable with money thus wasted. The next and the last item in this account is a charge of 3,000,000l. for 611 interest, which I think ought to be charged upon the United Kingdom. During the debates on this subject, not a hint was thrown out about the payment of interest. We were reproved by the noble Lord at the head of the Government for not regarding the Bill as a boon to Ireland; one word in relation to interest never fell from the lips of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We were blamed by the noble Lord for not appreciating the Bill as we ought. He said, "You think it is advantageous to Government, and not a boon to you." Now, how can that be a boon to us which converts a doubtful and ill-secured claim for 4,500,000l., to be recovered, if possible, from three different bodies and at seven different periods of the year, into a substantial charge on all the property of Ireland for 7,000,000l. sterling, and that charge to remain in force for forty years? But this we are nevertheless called upon to regard as a boon; a measure passed, not for our accommodation, but for the security of Government. It may be asked, How can you expect that any extension of time for the payment of a debt can be given to you, without your being called upon to pay interest? There might he grounds, Sir, for that argument, if that extension of time had been intended for our accommodation. But such is not the fact. The extension of time was given, as in the case of a bankrupt estate, for the payment of the instalments, and to secure the Government as much as possible. This demand for interest may have emanated from the greatest financier of the age; but it was also worthy of the greatest usurer of the day. Is that the spirit in which this measure should be brought before the House? In the language of Scripture, "What the palmerworm has left, the cankerworm must consume." Governments are proverbially grasping; but this quite goes beyond the ordinary range of the exercise of their power. I regret very much, Sir, that my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer is not in his place to answer me on what ground of justice this demand is made; and it may seem wrong in me to speak thus, in his absence, of matters in which he is largely concerned; but I can assure the House, that were the right hon. Gentleman present, I should speak in still stronger terms. Now, it has been very much the habit of hon. Members to speak of the heavy advances that have been made to Ireland; but when they hear of 612 the treatment we have experienced in respect of them—when they hear of thousands after thousands having been wasted in spite of us—I think at least they should: be ready to admit that there ought to be an inquiry into the whole question. Let a fair inquiry be made, and a fair statement given of the money we really owe, and it shall be cheerfully and punctually paid, I ask the House to remember, by the returns laid before it, that from the time of the Exchequers of the two countries being consolidated, down to the year 1828, the advances from the Consolidated Fund to England and Scotland amounted to 16,000,000l., out of which 6,000,000l. had been repaid; while, in the same period, only 9,000,000l. had been advanced to Ireland, out of which 7,000,000l. had been repaid. I ask the House to remember the statement made by the noble Lord the Member for London, when he admitted that, during the last fourteen years, we have repaid 6,065,079l., besides 385,295l. out of 431,990 for the rate-in-aid—which was forced upon us against our unanimous opinion—and besides this, also, that out of the 313,000l. advanced to the Shannon Commissioners, we have repaid, as I can state, 269,000l. Why, the noble Lord says, that out of the total sum assessed, 94 per cent has been repaid by us, that 4 per cent more was in progress of levying, being included in the rate-in-aid, and that but 2 per cent of these advances could be considered even as doubtful. More than this, during the five years that have elapsed since the famine, we have paid for poor-rates the sum of 7,414,434l., independently of repayments to Government; and how, in the face of returns like those, eon any one get up and say there is an evident disposition on the part of the Irish people to evade the fair fulfilment of the engagements they have come under? Now it is said that, on account of the income tax and assessed taxes, Ireland is not taxed to any thing like the extent of Great Britain, in proportion to her capital. On that subject the House will probably recollect the protest of the 18th of May, 1849, entered into by one of the most able as well as the most scientific men in Europe—I mean Lord Rosse—against the rate-in-aid; because, from his examination of the question, it seemed to him that we paid a much larger percentage on our capital, in the shape of taxation, than we should do. Lord Rosse's protest sets forth this as one of the grounds 613 of protesting. He says: "Because, from the best sources of information at present available, it appears that Ireland pays a larger percentage on her income to the Imperial Exchequer than Great Britain, while she sustains a heavier amount of local taxation." Lord Rosse's assertions are easily made out. The gross income of Great Britain is 250,000,000l., and that of Ireland 20,000,000l. Now, taking the revenue at 52,000,000l., the proportion for Ireland will be 4,160,000l., and 47,000,000l. for England. Yet Ireland contributed upwards of 5,000,000l. Again, as to local taxation, Great Britain pays 12,000,000l. on property valued at 105,000,000l.; whereas Ireland, according to the statement made by Mr. Griffith before the House, paid 3,270,853l. on property amounting only to 9,898,566l., being a rate, for local taxation, of 6s. 8d. in the pound; whereas, on the above estimate, the local rate for England is only 2s. 3½d. From the returns laid before the House in 1851, I find that of certain rates, such as the poor's rate, the county rate, and the highway rate, the poor's rate for England amounted to 5,000,000l., the county rate to 800,000l., and the highway rate to 1,000,000l.; being a total, in 1851, for those rates, of 6,800,000l., on a valuation of 68,000,000l., or an average of 2s. in the pound. Now, in the same period, in Ireland, the poor's rate amounted to 1,200,000l., and the county cess to 1,100,0000l.; giving a total of 2,300,000l. on a valuation of 11,500,000l., or an average of 4s. in the pound; exactly double the corresponding amount for England. In a pamphlet attributed to the late Under Secretary of the Home Department, an authority not likely to favour Ireland, it was stated, "The valuation of property, rateable for the poor in Ireland, has undergone a considerable change during the famine. In 1847, it amounted to 13,187,421l.; in 1851, it was 11,580,518l." Supposing the net annual value to remain stationary, the future local taxation of the country, apart from municipal taxes, parish cess, tolls, port dues, and light dues, may be estimated at 3s. 6d. in the pound (that of England being at 2s. in the pound) on the average. These words, "on the average," imply a much greater financial strain upon the local resources of a part of Ireland than appears upon the face of the preceding statement. There are considerable tracts in Connaught and Munster, where the poundage of 3s. 6d., estimated as the 614 average for Ireland, must be multiplied by two or three, in order to satisfy the general purposes of poor-rate and county cess expenditure; and there are electoral divisions in which 20s. in the pound will not satisfy the demands for poor-rate alone. In some electoral divisions in the county I have the honour of representing, there are rates of 11s. and 12s. in the pound in progress of levy. My hon. and gallant Friend the late Member for Scarborough assured me, not long since, that his property in the county of Roscommon has, in the last year, paid 16s. 6d. in the pound for poor-rates alone. The effects of the famine ought to be considered, and I hope will be considered by the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). It must be considered that we have passed through a period of unexampled distress—that we have lost from the potato failure in 1847 no less than 60,000,000l., besides paying 21,000,000l. for the food we had to import; that, notwithstanding these demands, we have paid 7,473,434l. in poor-rates, since the famine; and that our imports and manufactures have fallen from ten millions almost to four millions. I ask the House to consider these circumstances, and then to say whether it thinks that Ireland can be able to bear the imposition of such a tax as this, which is to be continued in force for a period of forty years. One-fourth of her population has fled from her shores within the last few years; and if this be persevered in, the diminution of her population must be more rapid than it yet has been. Let it be remembered that the germ of England's weakness is Ireland, and that the more she is suffered to sink in the social scale, the greater must the danger become. Recollect, also, that pressing all these demands upon Ireland is the very worst policy. Raise Ireland to your own level, and you will receive a larger sum in excise and customs duties when she is flourishing, than you will by exacting this miserable claim. I have endeavoured, Sir, to go over the items of this Treasury account, and to show that the demand which is made upon us is a demand which you cannot enforce, consistently with equity, and your own assurance given us when this law was passed. I have endeavoured to show that, of the six items of which the account is made up, there are but two that can, with even a shadow of justice, be urged. I ask you, then, to consider this subject. I say again that I have no desire to press Her Majesty's Government unduly 615 on this point; but remember that it is subject of inquiry before a Committee of the other House, and I think I do not ask too much when I ask you to suspend the levy until your demand has been fully decided upon by the report of the Committee. Let us be called upon to pay whatever sum is advised by the Committee, and we will do so with cheerfulness and punctuality. I have the utmost confidence in the Committee; but I would ask Her Majesty's Government to consider this question, and I implore them to do so fairly and generously. I trust that in that they will prove that their kindness to us, so long as they were on this side of the House, was well-intended and sincere. Let them claim from us whatever is justly due, and, having received it, let them devote it to the development of the resources of Ireland—to her railways, her commerce, and the employment of her labourers. By adopting principles such as these, I can assure Her Majesty's Government they will find the Irish people disposed cheerfully to discharge their obligations, and they will show to the world that they themselves have not shrunk, in office, from carrying out the propositions they advocated when in opposition. Sir, my object in opposing the Second Reading of this Bill has not been to throw any factious obstacle in the way of Her Majesty's Government, but more for the purpose of calling attention to the unfairness of the charges of which those items have been made up by the late Government; and under these circumstances, I am disposed to take any line that might be thought advantageous by the House. I beg, Sir, to move that the Bill be read a second time on this 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."
§ Mr. GRATTAN
said, there was not the slightest doubt that Ireland had been plundered, and all they wished to know now was what had become of the money. From 1847 to 1852 they had been plundered under the care—under the special providence—of the late Government, who had always professed to have so much at heart the interest of Ireland. Where was the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), where were the Manchester Members, who had supported this bad policy, and now shrunk from its exposure? Where was the hon. 616 and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. C. Anstey), who was so ready to meet his Constituents—so ready to resign when required—so certain of reelection—so zealous, for the welfare of his country? and what, he wished to know, had been the result of their measures? The poor had not been preserved in life, nor kept at home. He held in his hand a statement giving a sad account of the state of things in the workhouses, showing that the morality of the people had not increased, while 117,000 farm-houses had been destroyed; and all this was while the country was enjoying the blessing of the Poor Law. Not only had the Poor Law failed, but the mischief was increasing; for the expenditure in 1849, when there was no famine, was actually quadruple to what it was in 1847, when there was a famine. To show the extravagant manner in which the Poor Law administration was conducted in Ireland, he would refer to a single instance. The case of Youghal was this: a sum of money was to be granted to build a workhouse in that town, and a Treasury Minute was issued for an advance of 9,000l. to build, a house of that description, capable of containing 900 persons. The money was paid to the Poor Law Commissioners in October, 1851, and they, by a sealed order dated the 16th of September, 1851, declared that the repayment of the first instalment of the money was due on the 23rd of September in the same year: this before the money was advanced! Would the House believe that not a single stone of the intended workhouse was yet quarried? The people of Youghal had made contributions toward the erection of that building, yet, notwithstanding that, it appeared from a document he held in his hand from a very talented person, (Mr. Fisher) of Youghal, that the stones, with which it was to be built still remained in the ground. What was the fate of the individuals resident in those workhouses in Ireland? He asserted that, since the establishment of those institutions, there had been more deaths in Ireland than had been known at any particular period of her history. Between the years 184 and 1850 no fewer than 227,000 deaths had occurred in the poorhouses in Ireland that was to say, in those four years more than 1,000 individuals a week had died in those houses. For his part He wished that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portarlington (Col. Dunne) who had been recently appointed Clerk of the Ord- 617 nance, would send some pieces of his artillery over to Ireland, and blow every workhouse in the country to the ground. It was said that the potatoes in Ireland were dying, and that so were the people; and those words had been unfortunately followed up by facts which bore them out. But how they were to get out of this difficulty was not easy to say. There was only one hope for them, and that was a confession on the part of the late Government that the calculations as to the value of the property rated to the relief of the poor in Ireland were erroneous. He acquitted the present right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton), of any share in that miscalculation; but what he (Mr. Grattan) said was, that the Government, whether Whig or Tory, who had managed the country for a great number of years had done as much mischief in Ireland as they possibly could. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French) had alluded to 1822. He (Mr. Grattan) would remind the House that in that year 60,000l. was sent from England for the relief of the starving poor in Ireland, and that a large surplus unappropriated in that way was afterward advanced in small loans to the fishermen on the west coast of Ireland. Let the House Contrast that circumstance with the present state of things. The people of Ireland were actually called on to pay interest at the rate of 7l. per cent on the loans which had been made to them in late years. He, therefore, asked the House to pause in that career of extravagance, to get rid of the workhouse system, and the whole staff by which it was carried on. They were demoralising the whole country, destroying the virtue of the women, and paralysing the industry of the men. The devastation that had been already committed was fearful to contemplate. He felt, if he were to proceed further in the discussion of this painful subject, that he should only disgust the House, and he would therefore content himself with repeating the hope he had already expressed that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portarlington (Col. Dunne) would do his best, in his official capacity of Clerk to the Ordnance, to get rid of the workhouses, so detrimental to the morality and industry of the people of Ireland.
§ MR. CLEMENTS
said, what he was anxious for, was not to get rid of the Poor Law, but to see it work well. It was intend- 618 ed by this Bill to legalise the Treasury Minute issued in October last. That Minute was stated to have been issued on a full consideration of all the circumstances connected with the Unions in Ireland; and it directed the treasurer of any Union, instead of paying the annuity as the law required, to retain in his hand any sum which he might have received from any electoral division in which the expenditure for the relief of the poor in the year ending September, 1851, had amounted to 4s. in the pound on the valuation then in force, and not to pay over the annuity due from such electoral division for the current year; and when the annuity for the current year, added to such expenditure, amounted for any electoral division to a sum exceeding 4s. in the pound on such valuation, to pay over such sum only in respect of the annuity as, together with the charge for the relief of the poor in the past year would amount to 4s. in the pound, and to retain the remainder in his hands. He might observe, in passing, that, inasmuch as each Union was liable to County Cess, which was on the average 2s. in the pound, the Treasury Minute contemplated at least 6s. in the pound for local taxation. Now, in England the average amount of local taxation was not quite 2s. 6d. in the pound, including poor relief and highway rate. But he quite admitted that if it was practicable to carry on the administration of the relief of the poor in Ireland with a payment equal to 4s. in the pound, they were bound to pay that sum. He did not wish in the slightest degree to repudiate any engagement they had entered into; but he maintained that the Treasury had always kept the House and the country in the dark as to the real state of the case in Ireland. It would be in the recollection of the House that during the famine the cause of the failure of the labour rate was not so much the indiscriminate manner in which applicants were admitted by the relief committees, as the attempt made by the Treasury to pay more than the ordinary wages to the people engaged in the works: wages such as were never heard of in that country were paid to the people engaged in those works. The whole reasoning employed in Sir Charles Trevelyan's Report assumed, not only that it had been attempted in Ireland to get rid of those debts, but that the arrangement made by the Treasury to remit the payment of those debts in certain cases was a fair and equitable one. It was well known that the province of Connaught was the most 619 distressed in Ireland. The arrangements with respect to that province will be a fair illustration of the working of the Treasury Minute. A Return made to that House at the commencement of the present Sesssion showed that the expenditure during the last year in Connaught amounted to the very large sum of 197,000l. But the amount collected during the same period was only 150,700l., thus leaving a deficiency of 46,300l, Notwithstanding this deficiency the Treasury had required the payment of 27,200l. for these annuities, thus making a gross deficiency of 73,500l. Yet it would be imagined by any one reading the Minute detailing the arrangements made, that an abatement had been made in every case deserving it. The way this arose was, that the Treasury had required payment of the annuity from every electoral division where the expenditure did not amount to 4s. in the pound rated. Thus the solvent divisions were made to pay, and the insolvents were excused; but as the solvent and insolvent were in the same Union, this money from the solvent divisions would have gone to meet the expenses created by the insolvent, for the House was aware that as a rate was collected it was paid into the hands of the treasurer, and at once became available to meet the general expenses of the Union from whatever electoral division arising, so that however much a division was in debt to the general fund, that fund was available for its expenses. It frequently happened that divisions were very much in debt, the collection being deficient, and the rates being also sometimes insufficient to meet the expenses; but so long as other divisions were in credit, the sum so available was expended for all. Thus, in this most distressed province, where they had not yet succeeded in making the collection equal to the expenditure, an existing deficiency had been materially increased. He felt persuaded that if Members generally understood the real state of the case, as he had endeavoured to explain it, they would agree with him that the Treasury were misleading the country, and that nothing could tend more to prevent these Unions from becoming self-supporting than the course they were pursuing.
§ MR. MOORE
said, he was of opinion that the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French) had introduced this Motion for no other object than to make a speech upon it. He thought it would be well for 620 the Government to explain somewhat further their intentions towards Ireland. The most melancholy attempt at legislation of the late Administration was to be found in their measures relating to Ireland, and certainly the least respectable proceeding of the present Administration had been when, on a question relating to an Irish charity, their own Attorney General for Ireland had been obliged to Vote against them. He (Mr. Moore) certainly had expected something different from this Bill from the hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury benches. It acknowledged a principle which had been condemned by their own supporters, the gentry, the country party in Ireland. He recollected, too, that not very long ago the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had expressed his views regarding the burdens on land, and had then given his opinion that those taxes ought to be entirely defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: No, no!] Well, the right hon. Gentleman had certainly said that the greater part ought so to be defrayed, and he (Mr. Moore) hoped, now that he was in office, he would act up to his principles. He also saw that the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown had stated his intention in another place of bringing in some measure for the relief of the impoverished agricultural classes; and he (Mr. Moore) thought those measures ought not to be deferred. And if the principle was of any value that the relief of the poor, which was a fluctuating and variable charge, ought to be a general one, surely so much the more ought the calamitous consequences of a disaster which defied all investigation, and uprooted all society, be endured by the community at large. It had been urged in favour of local taxation that local supervision was necessary in order to moderate the inroads of pauperism, which a centralising policy would be likely to increase; but wag not the present system founded almost exclusively on the centralisation principle? The local Poor Law Boards were altogether controlled by a central body. In conclusion, he begged to disclaim any intention of passing a censure on Her Majesty's Government; but he hoped they would investigate this important question, and act up to the promises which they had made.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I wish to recall the attention of the House to the real question before 621 us. The Bill before us is really a Bill of Indemnity, and the facts are these. The late Government, with, under the circumstances, a wise discretion, performed certain acts which the law did not justify. They embodied in a Treasury Minute measures which they deemed necessary in a period of exigency; and it should be recollected that all the propositions on that Minute, though they may not have been so comprehensive as may have been desired, or so extensive as some persons may have hoped, were all propositions of a remedial and mitigatory nature. Whatever may be the differences of opinion on the great question which 1ms been touched upon in the course of this debate—namely, the relations that should exist between England and Ireland with reference to claims made under remarkable, and I may say unprecedented, circumstances, which will be fresh in the recollection of all present—there can be but one sentiment as to the character of the measures with which the Bill under discussion is connected. They were remedial measures—they were measures devised to soften, and to relieve; and, therefore, I could not have imagined that a Bill like this would have met with any opposition in this House, and least of all could I have conceived that an Amendment to read this Bill a second time this day six months, would have come from an Irish Member, and a Member for an Irish county. We can lay no claim to any credit in connexion with this Bill, save the humble credit of not shrinking from doing justice to those who have preceded us. The Bill was prepared by the late Government; it was submitted to my consideration when I first entered office by my predecessor; and it appeared to me that it was more than a just, that it was an equitable and a kind, Bill. It did not appear to me that in sanctioning it, I gave any opinion upon the large question of the state of Ireland with respect to public grants, It simply appeared to me, notwithstanding the peculiar circumstances of the Session, and notwithstanding the anxiety which we felt not to crowd the paper with numerous Bills, but merely to carry out the measures which were absolutely necessary, that this was an absolutely necessary measure, and that it might be passed without opposition, and even with cordial feelings on the part of Irish Members. Indeed it is unnecessary for me to vindicate this measure. I have not heard as yet a murmur against it. 622 It is not pretended that this is a Bill to add to the taxation of Ireland. The relief which it secures may be less extensive than is desired, but it is a measure of relief, and it stands on its own merits. Those who support it are in no way pledged not to consider the larger question, and it is therefore quite needless for me to vindicate a law, not a portion of which has been challenged, questioned, or criticised. Some hon. Gentlemen have intimated that they would have preferred that the whole question should have been considered through the medium of some larger proposition. All I can answer is that this is a proposition founded upon an examination of the facts, and is a direct remedy to a certain extent for a peculiar and overpowering grievance. Those who support it are not stopped from bringing forward their general views on the subject; but I cannot understand how any one can desire that the passing of this Bill should be postponed, as suggested by the hon. Member for Roscommon. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore) has made an appeal to me, couched in very ornate and courteous language, which I cannot comply with, because I cannot see that it bears any reference to the question before us. It is enough for me to say that I shall always be ready to uphold generally those opinions with respect to taxation to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. Such principles as I have laid down I trust I shall always assert, being convinced of their justice, and feeling convinced that if applied in a spirit of justice they would conduce to the advantage of the community. Undoubtedly, in the consideration of a question of that kind Ireland is not to be omitted. I have never considered the question of local taxation and omitted Ireland. On the contrary, I have always kept Ireland under such circumstances before the House, and I have shown how Ireland has suffered from an inequitable system of local taxation. With regard to the general condition of Ireland—as to the distress under which she labours; as to those burdensome engagements incurred in consequence of an unprecedented combination of circumstances, from which she has not yet successfully emerged—I have no hesitation in saying that there is, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, a sincere desire to review the state of Ireland in a comprehensive manner, with the hope of supplying some effective remedies to those social grievances of which there has been such 623 loud complaint. But I must tell the hon. Member for Mayo that that is a task which is not to be undertaken in a hurried manner, and it certainly cannot be done in a Session in which on every occasion Her Majesty's Government, like other Governments, are exposed to being "worried." In serener hours we may he able to survey the circumstances like statesmen, and to see the different bearings of all these various questions one upon the other; and with such opportunity, I should certainly feel it to be the duty of the present Government—and I should certainly exact it from any Government, as one of paramount urgency—to consider the social grievances of Ireland, with the object of applying adequate remedies. It was no idle boast of my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Napier), on Wednesday, when he said that we were prepared to deal with the long-vexed question of landlord and tenant. That is a subject which had engaged my hon. and learned Friend's attention long before the formation of the present Government, and, undoubtedly, there is much anxiety to settle that great controversy. But that also is a question unconnected with the present one. It is an easy thing to come forward to this table and to propose Votes of money to necessitous proprietors. That, however, is not to my mind the manner in which we should deal with the burdens on land. We must view that question under its various aspects. We must endeavour to penetrate the deepest recesses of the question, and to grapple with all its most complicated relations. It is quite useless to attempt to relieve the proprietor or even the occupier in Ireland either from the burden of an imperial loan or from the weight of local taxation, unless, at the same time, the tenure of that land is placed in a more rational and satisfactory state—unless all those questions which arise from the tenure of land are, at the same time, put in a position which may offer some chance of a more satisfactory state than that which for many years has been experienced in that country. It is with those feelings the Government are anxious to deal with what is called the "Irish question;" and when we have the opportunity of viewing that question in all its various aspects, and in all its relations, we: tare prepared to consider the whole question of the local taxation of that country, and of the particular burdens under which society now labours. We shall do it with an earnest desire to do 624 what we can to alleviate the condition of that country, and to remove the real sources of social grievances. This, however, has nothing to do with the Bill now before the House. For that Bill we are responsible only officially. It is a Bill of Indemnity for measures undertaken fertile relief of a class which is less grateful than might have been anticipated; and under these circumstances I hope hon. Members from Ireland will perceive that this is not the happiest opportunity for a discussion of the character which has prevailed during a large portion of the debate.
§ MR. MONSELL
thought that the Government should make some specific statement as to whether they intended to proceed further in carrying out the principle of the Bill. That principle, he thought, would he most injurious in its effects. For what would be the result? Those Boards of Guardians who had previously exerted themselves to keep the rates below 4s. in the pound, when they saw no remission was made to them, would become careless. They would soon have the rates above that limit, since this Bill almost gave them an actual encouragement to it. Self-reliance had always been preached up as the great panacea for Ireland; but the principle of this measure would strike at the very root of self-reliance. He thought, therefore, that either the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer or the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland should give them some assurance that the Government only intended this Bill as a temporary expedient, and that they would not proceed further on the same principle. He would now say a few words to show of what vital importance the whole question was to Ireland. The yearly value of the land there was 11,500,000l., whilst the amount of the annuities, which was a local taxation, was 4,500,000l. Now let hon. Gentlemen fancy an impost of 40,000,000l. on the 103,000,000l. rental of England, and then they would have some idea of the comparative nature of the burden on Ireland, The weight of the recent calamity had principally fallen upon Munster and Connaught, the two most distressed provinces, and on the most distressed districts of those provinces. The county of Clare he might instance in particular, where the amount of those loans, was three times that of the valuation, of the whole county—that was, 60s. in the pound. And all this debt, he might further add, was contracted in the amazingly short period of five months. He again called 625 on the noble Lord the Chief Secretary to give some more decided explanation of the future policy of Government in this matter.
§ MR. ROCHE
would have suffered the Bill to pass without his opposition, had it not been for the observations of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he still recollected the speech of the right hon. Gentleman about burdens on land last Session, and not considering the present explanation satisfactory—it was as unsatisfactory, indeed, as all the other explanations of Her Majesty's Government, especially about land—he, too, would call on the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland to make the matter clearer. Or perhaps his hon. and gallant Friend (Col. Dunne) would volunteer, who, even while supporting the Whigs, had always been most energetic in denouncing their measures for imposing local taxation.
§ SIR HENRY BARRON
heard with great satisfaction the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Roche). That hon. Gentleman had always been a steadfast, an abject, supporter of the Irish policy of the late Government.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Cork has already spoken, and is quite out of order in now addressing the House.
§ SIR HENRY BARRON
The hon. Gentleman had said he was not an abject supporter of Whig policy towards Ireland, but at all events he (Sir H. Barron) asserted he was a steadfast one. Now he, on the contrary, would be a steadfast opponent of Whig policy in Ireland, and that was the reason for not moving over with the Whigs to the opposite side of the House, as he considered that would be a tacit identification of their policy and the whole course of his career. In the whole course of his reading he had never met nor read of anything so completely ruinous as the policy of the Whigs towards Ireland. He did not want to state that to Her Majesty's late Government in a roundabout way, for they deserved to hear it emphatically. Again he told them that they had ruined Ireland, for their only remedy for all her calamities was the same for ever, and that was taxation!—taxation!—taxation! When the late Government came into power, the local taxation of Ireland was 316,000l., and this year it amounted to 1,100 000l. They had brought in alterations in the Poor Law by which the taxa- 626 tion of the country had been quadrupled; they had brought in a Rate in Aid for the comfort of a people ground to the dust, and on a people just rescued from famine they had inflicted new taxes. This they had done, knowing well that the resources of a country purely agricultural as Ireland was had been seriously diminished by the change in our commercial policy in the year 1846, a change by which 300,000 farmers in Ireland were driven off the face of the land. This they had done knowing that the population of the country was reduced by 2,000,000, and that at the present time 1,000 persons were weekly emigrating from the land of their fathers. Such was the state to which Ireland had been reduced by recent legislation; and yet the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Roche) called on a Government scarcely in their seats to bring forward remedial measures for his distressed country. Did the hon. Gentleman who preferred this request forget that he and his friends were forcing—nay, irritating—the Government, on every possible occasion, to name the very day on which they would dissolve Parliament? and in the face of all this call on the Government for remedial measures for Ireland, the discussion on which would occupy not months but years. True to his principles, and true to his policy, the hon. Gentleman asked those in power to do that at once which his friends when in power had never even attempted. He believed the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. French) never intended to divide the House on this question. He thought, however, the, opportunity was a fair one for giving expression to the sentiments of the Irish people on this subject. They were entered on the books as debtors to the Imperial Exchequer to the amount of 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. Now, the Irish people did not deny that the money had been advanced, but they said that the circumstances under which it had been advanced were not such as to have brought in the Irish people as debtors to the Exchequer of the Empire, but were such as to call for grants from the Exchequer to meet the disasters as far as practicable. It had been variously stated, by competent authorities, that the failure of the potato crop had entailed on Ireland a loss of from thirty to fifty millions sterling. He held in his hand official returns which proved that since the introduction of free trade, during the last five years, there had been a loss in the other produce of the country—in wheat, oats, swine, lard, and bacon—of 5,000,000l. annually, amounting in all to 35,000,000l. 627 besides the loss of the potato crop; and in addition to this, the Irish people had, during the last five years, imported food to the amount of 4,000,000l. annually. Now, under such a system it was utterly impossible that the country could prosper. Thus you find the production diminished by 65,000,000l., and food imported to the amount of 20,000,000l. This in a country purely agricultural must lead to ruin. Did America, a shrewd calculating people, act in this manner to her agriculturists? and their neighbour, France, afforded to a certain extent protection to her manufactures. He would not deny that the repeal of the corn laws had conferred a great advantage on the manufacturing population of this country; but Ireland had no manufactures to sustain her. When famine impended over the people, that House had unanimously consented to open our ports for the admission of foreign corn, and also to the temporary abolition of the Navigation Laws. No one could resist such propositions to meet such a state of things. He supported their views, and would do so again under similar circumstances. He wished now to state distinctly to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer the issue between the people of Ireland and the late Government. They maintained, first, that such charges as the Consolidated Annuities should never have fallen Solely on Ireland; and, secondly, that accordingly as they raised the taxation of the country, they had diminished her means of supply. An able Member of the late Government, in a pamphlet called Taxation, Finances, and Trade, had claimed for the Government a triumph because they had effected a reduction in the poor-rate of Ireland from 2,150,000l. to 1,100,000l.; but the hon. Gentleman compared the reduced taxation, not with the year 1845, before the late Government took office, when the poor-rate was only 316,000l., but with the highest rate of the tax during the raging of the famine—a comparison which gave a very fallacious conclusion, and was not just. He Contended that one-fourth at least ought to be deducted from the present valuation in Ireland. Land that in 1844 sold for twenty-four years' purchase, was now selling at not more than fourteen years' purchase. Last year they had introduced a measure—the Medical Charities Relief—by which the taxation of the country was increased 100,000l. per annum; and the hon. Gentleman, in his pamphlet, had also committed an error in 628 treating of this question, for he stated that the measure was merely a transfer from the County Cess to the Poor Law Cess. The fact, however, was, that only one-half of the County Cess had fallen on the ratepayers, the other half being voluntarily subscribed by those who could afford it, but now the whole tax fell on the ratepayers. He would affirm that instead of the valuation of Ireland being as Mr. Griffiths stated it to be, 11,500,000l., it was more like 8,500,000l. Hon. Gentlemen should recollect there was this difference between the English and the Irish farmer. The former when rated at 100l. per annum, had 800l. or 1,000l. of capital, which enabled him to improve his farm, to meet the rate; but the latter, rated at the same amount, had seldom more than 200l. for the same purpose. It was, therefore, a false criterion to go by, that a man in Ireland could pay the same rate on the same amount of rating as a man in England could. They were taunted with not having capital in Ireland. Who, he would ask, would invest capital in a farm where the taxes for local purposes were in some districts 5s. or 6s., and in others as high as 20s. in the pound? By crossing the Atlantic, a man could get land for much less than the bare taxation upon it in Ireland. He implored the House to think on this subject, and he would implore the Government to think on it also. He, for one, would support no Government on account of their professions; and he would oppose those now in power as consistently as he had opposed their predecessors, if he found they did not legislate for the benefit of Ireland.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
begged to remind the House that the sole matter before it upon the present occasion was—whether it would adopt a Bill introduced by the late Government, the simple effect of which would be to remit a small portion of those poor-rate annuities which had already been imposed upon the different unions in Ireland by an Act passed in a former Session. By that former Act certain Government advances, amounting to near 4,500,000l., had been consolidated, and the repayment extended over periods varying from ten to forty years. The entire debt, with compound interest at 3½ per cent amounted to about 7,500,000l., which sum was charged upon Ireland under the former Act. In respect of that sum the annuity imposed for the past year, 1851, was 245,000l.; out of which single annuity it was merely proposed by 629 the present Bill to remit so much of it as was charged upon those electoral divisions whose poor-rate expenditure for that single year exceeded 4s. in the pound. It appeared from the Treasury report, dated March 27, 1852, prepared by Sir C. Trevelyan, for the purpose of justifying and sustaining these Consolidated Annuities, that the full sum proposed to be remitted by the present Bill was just 75,858l., being about 1 per cent upon the entire charge of 7,500,000l., or 2½d. in the pound. Now, the only matter for consideration was, whether that small remittance of 1 per cent should be accepted at present, leaving the remaining ninety-nine parts open for future discussion. He, for one, upon the instalment principle, would not object to accept this 2½d. dividend in the pound, from the exuberant generosity of the late Government; and, relying upon the professions held out by the present Government of their benevolent intentions towards Ireland, as well as upon the statement just made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the acceptance of the proposed remittance should not in any manner preclude the Irish ratepayers from desiring such further relief as it could be shown they were justly entitled to, when the proper time should arrive for discussing the whole of these consolidated charges. They would hereafter be in a better position to consider the extent to Which the Irish ratepayers were fairly entitled to be relieved from a further portion of these annuities—not as repudiating any just debts, but as charges to which they should not have been made liable.
The O'GORMAN MAHON
said, a notorious fiction existed, which, if it were possible to realise, would involve the public at large in interminable confusion—the fiction being that a stranger sometimes found his way into the House, and that in Consequence their proceedings became matters of public notoriety; and on the present occasion he had listened to speeches from those he regretted to call his countrymen, which, in his opinion, would subject them in the minds of an honest Englishman, or an honest Scotchman, to the imputation of being either rogues or fools. Now, that was a kind of confusion he was most anxious to avoid, and therefore he disclaimed all identification with either of these classes. He severed himself from those who got up in the House and said they were not grateful for the relief which had been held forth to their country, and also from those who would not recognise 630 as a boon the remission of those claims by which that relief was afforded. He was grateful to the givers of that relief—he was grateful to those who were desirous of remitting the burdens which were imposed on his distressed country; and he would say, expressing at the same time his regret that he was obliged to sever himself from those men who were not consistent to any principles, or to any form of government. When he first entered that House, he had taken a certain stand; he had attached himself to those who, when called on, had generously administered to the wants of his country, and had rendered them responsible for the relief they had afforded her. He had supported the late Government, and that he would, without fear of those now in power, continue to do. At the same time, if the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer realised the pledges which he had held out, of realising the benefits to Ireland which had been promised by the other party, but which had not been realised, probably because they were impeded by the party which was now in power, he could assure them that the gratitude of Irishmen would not be wanting. He called upon the House then to return to what was the real question, which was simply this—were they to support a measure which offered a boon, however partial, to Ireland; or were they to join in a cabal that endeavoured to defeat it? He, for one, said no; and he called upon his countrymen now in the House to sustain the Government in passing this Bill.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed surprised that a Bill which was so very simple in its object should have led to so much discussion; but if he had had a larger official experience, he would have found that this was usually the case with Bills relating to Ireland, more especially when it was proposed to remit a portion of taxation. The present Bill had this very simple object—that whereas the sum of 245,000l. for the year was due according to the Act in reference to Consolidated Annuities, the late Government, in October last, finding many of the Unions greatly distressed, proposed to remit 75,000l., of which 48,000l. was from Munster, 24,000l. from Connaught, and 3,000l. from Leinster. The money advanced according to that Treasury Minute had not been paid into the Exchequer, and the present Government had thought fit to confirm the arrangement, and pro- 631 posed to sanction it by Act of Parliament. He did not see that there could be any question with respect to that proposal. The late Government might be blamed for making the remission, but he did not think the House could hesitate to assent to that remission. A question, and he thought a very natural and very proper one, had been asked by the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell), though, perhaps, it would not be wise in the Government to answer it—namely, whether the principle of the Treasury Minute last year was to be carried out further? Now, he was not prepared to defend the principle of that Minute; it was one, indeed, that could not be defended as a regular and permanent principle. But with regard to the whole State of Ireland, he thought any Government would find that they must depart from time to time from regular principles of economy, and that they must also from time to time apply remedies which might be useful at the moment, even though they were not in accordance with the ordinary rules upon this subject. Now, the present Government must, of course, exercise their own discretion in considering whether it would be mischievous to act again on the same principle, and whether, if they proposed to extend relief further, they might not do it in some other shape, and in such a manner as not to encourage improvidence on the part of the Unions. So far Government would do well to consider; and he should not blame them for departing from the principle of the last Treasury Minute, and adopting seme other. With regard to the several questions which had been raised to-night, he did not mean to enter into them, except to protest against the injustice shown by the hon. Baronet the Member for Waterford (Sir H. Barron) with regard to this subject. The hon. Baronet said, that in the time of Ireland's great calamity no remedy was applied but that of taxation. The case was really very different, for of the relief afforded to Ireland, 3,500,000l. was thrown upon the taxation of the United Kingdom, so that the taxation was paid by Great Britain, and not by Ireland. Besides this, other measures had been adopted. Loans had been granted, assistance to railways had been given, and other steps had been taken by which that House had attempted in some degree to meet the great calamity under which Ireland was suffering. When, too, they complained of the state in which Ireland had been placed by the calamity of 1846 and 1847, let hon. 632 Gentlemen who represented that country always remember the state to which Ireland was reduced by the previous condition of society there. We all knew with regard to England and Scotland that there was in those countries, in the first instance, a regular system on the part of the landlord of making permanent improvements for the benefit of his land and of his tenantry. We also knew that the only food of the people in these countries was corn. Now, there was a total change of circumstances as regarded Ireland. In the first place, it was not usual for the landlord there to make a permanent improvement in his land. In the second place, there was in 1837 no system for the relief of the poor. Lastly, and most important of all the food of the people of Ireland was principally potatoes; and those who had thought most on the subject had little doubt how dangerous the state of the country was with so great a part of her population depending upon a crop below which and beyond which there was nothing; so that any failure in it must subject the people to great distress, accompanied by all the horrors of impending famine. The condition of Ireland did not, therefore, arise from a single calamity; and therefore, admitting after charge against the Government, there were; in these circumstances difficulties which no one could meet, and which nothing but time would remedy. He should not enter into, or attempt to defend, the measures taken by the late Government on the subject of Ireland, which would be properly reviewed by those who calmly and impartially looked into the history of the period; but with respect to this subject in general, he left it in the hands of the present Government, though, he thought they were perfectly justified In not declaring at the present moment what their measures would be during the current Session. He was very sorry to hear tonight that the system of threatening letters had not ceased, and seemed likely to spread. This was one of those evils which from time to time afflicted Ireland, and he had no doubt that object would receive the deliberate attention of the Government. He had no doubt also that the House Would readily agree to the Bill now before it, to which, in fact, there did not seem to be any objection. When the general question, as to the sums payable by Ireland in consequence of those annuities, had to be considered, he should be prepared to give his attention to any measure of the Government on that subject. With regard to the future, he had no doubt that the present 633 Government, having inherited in the condition of Ireland a mass of difficulties and misfortunes, would give their best attention to the whole question, and that they would, at the proper time, declare what measures they proposed to remedy them. He was satisfied it was right that the landlords of Ireland should bear a share of the burdens which had befallen that Kingdom as well as the people of this country, though whether there might not be districts which were entitled to relief, was a subject well worthy of the consideration of the Government. He was happy to hear from the hon. Member for Limerick, what he had previously heard from other authorities, that there were districts in the west of Ireland which a few years ago were supposed to be irrecoverably ruined, that were now in a better condition than they had ever been before. He hoped the same thing would speedily be found true of other districts, and that happier times were coming for Ireland.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
thought the remarks of the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat contained a warning to hon. Gentlemen opposite. The noble Lord had distinctly disclaimed the principle of the Treasury Minute which rendered this Bill necessary. It must be felt by Irish Gentlemen to be odious to refuse payment of claims upon them, and he had himself done all he could to prevent resistance to the law in regard to the repayment of these advances; but the Irish were aggrieved, and men could hardly be blamed for expressing dissatisfaction at being called upon to repay money when their suggestions as to its employment had been disregarded. A third of the advances under the Burgoyne Relief Act, as was stated by Sir Charles Trevelyan, were made to electoral divisions; and a change in those divisions had long been asked. The Irish asked for the same facilities as there were in England for working a Poor Law. He would recommend the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider the declaration of the noble Lord the late Prime Minister, who, in approving of the Bill, stated his total disapproval of the principle on which it was founded; and he implored the right hon. Gentleman, in his future dealings with Ireland to act upon principle, and bear in mind that what was right and just in England, could not be wrong in Ireland.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, he could not see the good which was to result from this discussion. In fact, it reminded him rather of a consultation of another description 634 than those which were usual in that assembly. There were actually three doctors in this consultation. There were those who had been discarded, those who had been called in and who had received the fees, and those who would no doubt gladly become recipients of the fees. The hon. Baronet (Sir H. Barron) was acting with the doctors who were in, and the only prescription which had been presented to the House was one which had been recommended by the doctors on the other side—in fact, it was actually found on the table of the discarded doctors. The hon. Baronet thought that prescription a wise one; the best that could be offered in the present condition of the patient. The State doctor, a master of language, intimated in a seductive tone what he intended to do; but that amounted merely to this: That he intended to make a close examination of the ailment with which the patient was afflicted, often a very rough process, producing much unnecessary agony. He had expected, after so much talk, to see some measure of a better description brought forward. But the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Barron) was constantly abusing the Legislature with regard to Ireland, without exhibiting that constructive power of mind which might be useful to his country. There was every anxiety to do justice to Ireland, for there could be no better policy in reference to the prosperity of this country than to raise Ireland to a perfect equality with England. The hon. Baronet had said that free trade was the fatal blow to the prosperity of Ireland. But what had protection done for that country? Was Ireland in a state of prosperity when more than half of the population was reduced to live in mud hovels and feed upon roots? Ireland had not been true to herself. No country could be elevated to the position of this country by Acts of Parliament. It was by acts of intelligence, by holding out inducements to the people to exert themselves, and by love of country, that England had obtained such an exalted character, and had risen to such a pitch of prosperity. He considered that the people of Ireland were much indebted to the noble Lord at the head of the late Government for the Poor Law, and he was of opinion that if protection were restored, nothing but misery, poverty, and ruin would be the result for Ireland.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he would not trespass long on the attention of the House. The hon. Gentleman who had last spoken in such a very professional spirit, laid upon the 635 gentry and people of Ireland the blame of the condition in which that country was now placed. If it was necessary that Ireland should have had a Poor Law half a century ago, who had the power to pass such a law? The English people and the English Legislature had that power. True it was that the Irish representatives formed a part of the House of Commons, yet still the great majority was composed of the representatives of England. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wakley) then said, why did not the Irish representatives produce more large measures for the improvement of their country? As the hon. Gentleman had spoken so ably on the subject of Ireland, perhaps they might expect from his (Mr. Wakley's) statesmanlike abilities the introduction of such a measure. But when the hon. Gentleman censured the conduct of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom he (Mr. Wakley) had, in somewhat unusual language, styled the State doctor, for not bringing forward such a measure, he ought to have recollected that the Government had been but a very few days in office. Many hon. Members declared that they ought to dissolve Parliament forthwith; others, that there was urgent necessity for the immediate introduction of large measures for the improvement of that country. In the few weeks they had been in office, they had not had time to submit to Parliament those great measures with reference to Ireland which they intended. When they were introduced, he trusted that they would meet the views and obtain the support of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. O'FLAHERTY
said, he would not have risen but for the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London. The noble Lord had no more right than any other Member to criticise unfairly the debates of Irish Members on Irish questions. It was open to every Irish Member to debate a question, no matter whether English or Irish, independently and without regard to the feelings of the noble Lord, however great might be their respect for him as an individual. The noble Lord had no right to taunt Irish Members; and he, for one, would not submit to it from the noble Lord or any other hon. Member. With regard to the observations of the right hon. the Attorney General for Ireland respecting the Ribband system, and its extension throughout all Ireland, he (Mr. O'Flaherty) begged to state that the west of Ireland was entirely free from it, and that a more peaceful and industrious province than Connaught did 636 not exist. He called on the right hon. and learned Gentleman to explain.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he wished to say that he did not mean to prescribe any limit to hon. Gentlemen in their speeches. He had only wished to express his surprise at the nature of the discussion, and to say that such discussions were not unusual on Irish questions.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, he was not aware that he had said anything about Connaught. At an earlier part of the evening he had stated, in answer to the hon. Member for Cavan (Sir J. Young), that threatening notices were being given in many parts of Ireland, and that the system was extending. There was no part of Ireland of which he had a more lively hope than the west.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put and agreed to;
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill 2°.