HC Deb 31 May 1860 vol 158 cc1814-5

said, that he had a Motion on the paper which involved a serious charge against the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. He was precluded making that Motion on the present occasion, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman had not yet presented the Return to the House for which he had moved. When the proper time came he should move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty would be graciously pleased to give the necessary orders to Her Majesty's Government (War Department) to enable them to restrain the Officers of Engineers in Ireland from putting forward Claims to Rights of Fishery on the Coast and in the Inland Waters in Ireland, in respect of Lands or positions held for purely military purposes, whether they be Batteries or other Coast Defences, or Barracks, Parade Grounds, Forts, and Store-yards in the interior. What he complained of was that the War Office had used positions occupied for merely military purposes to set up rights that really had no existence whatever. The answer given by the right hon. Gentleman on a former occasion was very far from satisfactory. It put forward two issues. The first was, what he would call a reference to "the Circumlocution Office," inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman referred him from the Office which he conducted with such ability to the Court of Chancery. But as the right hon. Gentleman had himself established the grievance of which he (Mr. Conolly) complained, he had no ground for referring him to the Court of Chancery to defend his rights. The Government were not setting up certain rights, like a private individual, but they were using the funds of the State to do that which they were not entitled to do by law. His remedy was not in the Court of Chancery, but in that House, and he should ask for redress at their hands. The right hon. Gentleman was certainly so far wrong in his claims to these fisheries that when the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) had put them forward before him, such was the excitement they gave rise to in Ireland that the Secretary of State for that country remonstrated with the War Minister, and the claims were allowed to lie in abeyance. New brooms, however, swept clean; and when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert) came into office he put the full vigour of his Department to work, in order to assert the claims which he (Mr. Conolly) was prepared to dispute. He now came to the second issue, which he should designate the officially evasive answer. The officially evasive answer was this—the Department over which the right hon. Gentleman presided with so much plausibility, had certain rights as connected with the estates held by the military powers in Ireland, and they were only exercising the same rights as other landlords when they put these fisheries up to public competition. He joined issue here as to a matter of fact. The military stations in different parts of Ireland were in some eases so small as to be literally positions for defence, and not in any case worthy the name of estates. Some of them were merely barren rocks, which, however, from their projecting position on the coast, were very valuable as fishing stations. He must say that he looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as the monster poacher of the Government, for he was using the funds of the War Department to attack the fisheries of the Irish people, and he had offered the rights of private individuals for public competition. He believed it was even contemplated by the War Department to claim a right of fishing for every Martello tower round the coast. If the right hon. Gentleman did so he might despair of obtaining volunteers for Her Majesty's service, since he would bind together all the maritime population against the Department with which he was connected, under a feeling of injustice grounded on common sense. He maintained the War Department had nothing to do with fisheries. They had quite enough to do with Volunteers and all the new fangled machines to destroy life, without destroying fish.