HC Deb 12 June 1863 vol 171 cc814-6

said, he wished to call attention to a lengthened correspondence which had taken place upon the restrictions placed by the Board of Works in Ireland and the Treasury on advances for the building of labourers' cottages. He thought that the law in the two countries, in respect to those advances, ought to be assimilated. With the comfortable homes of the lower orders were inseparably mixed up the happiness and well-being of the people, and the unnecessary obstacles imposed by the Treasury, and the Board of Works had hitherto prevented expenditure to a sufficient amount from taking place in Ireland. Previous to the year 1859 English landlords were required to contribute a quarter of the cost of the cottages themselves; but in 1859 the law on that head was altered, and they were enabled to borrow the entire amount from the Lands Improvement Company, without advancing any money of their own. What was good for England ought to be equally good for Ireland, which was much the poorest country. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and Sir E. Griffith, in the correspondence to which he referred, contended that the Act was passed on the understanding that the restriction should still apply to Ireland; but he had looked through the debates in both Houses and could find no trace of any such expression of opinion. He could not understand why a person having a small freehold or perpetuity should not be allowed to borrow a smaller sum than £200 for the building of a small cottage. He trusted the Government would reconsider the matter, and would, in a kindly spirit towards the Irish landlords, relax the restrictions which then existed. With that hope, he begged to move that the restrictions placed by the Board of Works in Ireland, and the Treasury, on the advance of money for the building of Labourers' Cottages in Ireland are inexpedient, and calculated to render the Act sanctioning the advance in a great degree inoperative.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the restrictions placed by the Board of Works in Ireland and the Treasury, on the advance of money for the building of Labourers' Cottages in Ireland, are inexpedient, and calculated to render the Act sanctioning the advance in a great degree inoperative,"—(Sir Hervey Bruce,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he would remind the House that it was not without considerable hesitation that Parliament consented to the extension of the Land Improvement Act so as to authorize the Government to make advances for the erection of farm buildings and labourers' cottages in Ireland. It was found necessary that some conditions should be laid down, not merely for the protection of the Government, but of the owners of property. Assuming the cost of a cottage to be £75, the owner of property was to provide £15, or one-fifth, and, besides, was to enclose a small yard at the back of the cottage at his own expense. On these terms he might borrow £60, or 4-fifths of the estimated cost, from the public; but, at the very outside, he would not be required to pay more than one-third. The object of these conditions was to secure the permanence of the improvement, and to obtain a proof of the interest which the owner took in the matter. No public money was advanced in this country for the building of cottages, but an Act of Parliament had been passed empowering a private company to lend money for the building of cottages without requiring that the owner should advance any money of his own. The law, however, compelled the borrower to ensure and repair the buildings, and, in case of neglect on his part, the company might do so and charge him with the cost. He might add, that he did not think the restrictions tended to make the Act inoperative in Ireland, for he found that in March last a very considerable sum indeed had been applied for.


said, if the object of the Act was to encourage landlords to erect suitable cottages for their labourers, he did not understand why the extremely rigid specifications required by the Treasury and the Board of Works should be insisted on. For instance, they not only limited the amount to be advanced, but required that the cottages should be roofed with best slate, utterly ignoring the state of those parts of the country where tiles or stone might be used with less cost and equal advantage. Then again, the roofs were to be made of foreign timber—red or white deal. The last restriction had a tendency to discourage the growth of Irish timber, and to cause a great deal of money to be sent out of the country for the purchase of foreign timber. He trusted that the regulations would be revised and made less stringent.


said, he was of opinion that the Act would be abused, and would inflict detriment on Ireland, unless the power of borrowing money for the purpose of building cottages was kept within salutary regulations. He thought more good might be effected by the landlords laying out money occasionally for the improvement of existing cottages than by any extensive borrowing of capital to build entirely new cottages.


observed, that the legislation with respect to labourers' cottages in Ireland was entirely exceptional, and did not apply to England or Scotland. For many years Parliament declined to consider the question of advancing money to build labourers' cottages in Ireland, on account of the difficulty of guarding the measure against abuse. At length he introduced a Bill on the subject, for he then felt forcibly that nothing could be more disgraceful than the condition of the labourers' cottages in Ireland. That Bill ultimately passed through Parliament, though not without great opposition in the House of Lords. It was difficult to frame rules in respect to such a measure in order to prevent abuses, but he did not think it wrong that the landlord, in borrowing capital from the Government to build labourers' cottages, should at the same time advance a small portion of the requisite sum himself, as he would then probably feel a greater interest in seeing that the money was properly laid out. He thought that the regulations were not unreasonable, and hoped the hon. Baronet Would not press his motion.


said, that after the remarks which had been made he did not feel justified in pressing his motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.