HC Deb 10 March 1865 vol 177 cc1516-25

rose to move a Resolution, to the effect that the Government should adopt that part of the Report of the Select Committee of 1858 which recommended them to take into consideration the claims of Ireland to a grant of half the charge for medical officers in Unions, with the view of providing for the same in future, as was now done in England and Scotland. The hon. Gentleman referred to the measures which had been adopted since the repeal of the Corn Laws for placing on the Consolidated Fund a moiety of the cost of criminal prosecutions, of the maintenance of convicts and misdemeanants, of the salaries of Union medical officers, and other charges, complaining that Ireland, which the late Sir Robert Peel stated must, as an agricultural country, feel the effects of the repeal of the Corn Laws much more severely than England or Scotland, had not yet received the same justice in this matter as those two wealthier countries. The anticipation of that great statesman had been fully verified; and it would be admitted that Ireland had been undergoing extensive depopulation because it was no longer possible for her small farmers to cultivate white crops. With regard to medical relief, at the time Sir Robert Peel made his proposal the Medical Charters Act had not been passed. When he was introducing the Bill for the repeal of the Corn Laws, Sir Robert Peel said as the charges particularly pressed upon the landed interest they proposed to take from the Consolidated Fund one-half of the cost of medical relief of the poor in England and Scotland, and the estimate was that the charge would be £100,000 a year for England and £15,000 a year for Scotland. Ireland, he said, was under a separate law, and required a separate consideration. He contended that that language clearly implied that if the system of medical relief had been the same in Ireland as it was in England, the former country would not have been excluded from the grant which he proposed for the latter. The farmers of England had not suffered to the same extent as they had in Ireland in this matter, and the same reasons which operated in 1846 to place this as a charge on the public treasury were equally in force at this moment. It was proved before the Committee which sat in 1858, that a sum of £63,000, which was voted by Parliament in 1846–7 and the three following years, for the relief of the rates in Ireland, never reached that country, because there was no officer there who was aware that it was his duty to look after the money. An hon. Friend of his proposed to add to his Resolution a recommendation that the Consolidated Fund should also defray the cost of the salaries of schoolmasters and mistresses of unions in Ireland, as was already the case in England. He had thought it better to confine his Motion to the exact recommendation of the Committee of 1858, but he had no objection whatever to the proposed addition. Last year the Chief Secretary for Ireland said that he sympathized with him in his object, and hoped that he might be able to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accede to his proposal. He understood that the right hon. Baronet had since then changed his opinion upon the subject, but that circumstance would not lead him to despair of inducing the House to do justice to Ireland in this matter. In the debate of last Session, the Secretary of the Treasury suggested that Ireland enjoyed an equivalent for this sum in the payment of the constabulary force. It ought, however, to be borne in mind not only that the expense of the police in England was not borne entirely by local rates, one quarter of the cost of their clothing and pay—to the amount of £208,000 a year—being defrayed out of the Consolidated Fund, but also that the constabulary in Ireland performed a great many duties which were not strictly those of a police force. In 1856 or 1857 the revenue police, which had previously cost £50,000 or £55,000 a year, was abolished, and its duties had since been discharged by the constabulary. Some Gentlemen might think that it was premature to raise this question while a Committee was sitting to inquire into taxation in Ireland; but as the Committee of 1858 had already reported in favour of this claim, he could see no sense in asking another Committee to examine the subject. When the House recollected the state of Ireland, the reasons which were given by Sir Robert Peel in 1846 for making these grants, and the desirability of assimilating the law in England and Ireland, he hoped that it would agree to the Resolution which had been placed on the paper.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, Her Majesty's Government should now adopt the Recommendations of the Select Committee of 1858, which recommended Her Majesty's Government to take into consideration the claims of Ireland to a Grant of the half-cost of Medical Officers in Unions, with the view of providing for the same in future, as is now the practice in England and Scotland,"—(Mr. MacEvoy,) —instead thereof.

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


said, as the hon. Gentleman had accepted the responsibility of the Motion about to be made by Sir Hervey Bruce in addition to his own, perhaps it would be preferable for him to discuss both Motions together. He would at once proceed to give reasons, upon which he relied with some confidence, why his hon. Friend should not ask either the Government or the House to give a definitive expression of opinion upon the subject at present, an opinion which, he thought, would be more prejudicial than advantageous to the object the hon. Gentleman had in view. The hon. Gentleman rested his Motion upon two grounds, one being the recommendation of the Committee of 1858, and the other being that, the grant from the Consolidated Fund which he sought was already given to England and Scotland. The hon. Gentleman forgot when he rested his case upon the recommendation of the Committee of 1858, that they expressly passed by the proposal now made by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Hervey Bruce), having reference to the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses. And again, it was impossible to regard the recommendation of that Committee as being in any way conclusive upon the subject, for of the five Irish and two English Members forming that Committee, one Irish and two English Members dissented from the conclusion arrived at by the four Irish Members who composed the majority. A majority of one, under such circumstances, could scarcely command much weight, and the House would hardly be inclined to bow to such an authority. The hon. Gentleman further contended that the grant ought to be made to Ireland upon the simple ground that it had already been made to England and Scotland. But if that proposition was to be admitted, how could the hon. Gentleman resist the claim of England and Scotland to be placed on an equality with Ireland as to other grants from the Consolidated Fund in aid of local taxation, wherein the latter country had a decided advantage? He could assure the hon. Gentleman that if his proposition were established, England and Scotland would have the best of the bargain, and a very heavy burden would be imposed upon Ireland. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the fact that the cost of the Irish constabulary was paid out of the Consolidated Fund, but counted that as nothing, because England also received something from the fund under that head. What was the proportion each received? England, with her 20,000,000 of population, received £208,000 from the fund in aid of the constabulary, but Ireland with a population of only 5,000,000, received £740,000. The hon. Gentleman said the duties of the revenue police in Ireland were now discharged by the constabulary at a saving of £50,000, for which they were entitled to credit, but even then there would remain the sum of £690,000 in favour of Ireland, and were England placed upon an equal footing in that respect, she would receive £2,500,000 in aid of her constabulary, instead of £208,000. Under such circumstances, it would be very dangerous for those advocating the claims of Ireland to establish the principle that the grants to both countries should be equalized. He did not mean to say that these were considerations which, under all circumstances, ought to preclude any fair inquiry into the matter; but he complained that the hon. Gentleman had altogether ignored the existence of the Committee moved for by the hon. and gallant Member for the Queen's County (Colonel Dunne), which was appointed to inquire into the relative taxation of England and Ireland, which included the subject of the present Motion. The effect of the adoption of the Motion by the House, might be to force Her Majesty's Government into measures possibly contrary to the recommendations of the Committee now sitting. Several draft reports had been put forward by that Committee, which had yet to make its complete report on the general subject. It would be eminently unwise to approach a particular corner of this question, which had to be considered comprehensively by a Committee already sitting. It would certainly be far better to adjourn any discussion upon the subject until they had heard what the Committee had to say upon the matter. Although the decision of the Committee would not be binding upon the House, yet it was appointed to consider the matter as a whole, and it would therefore be better for the House to leave the question in their hands for the present. There was much to be said for the construction placed on the speech of the late Sir Robert Peel in 1846; but what he asked, was an opportunity of considering this important question as a whole. He himself sat on the Committee in 1858, although he was not present when the Report was drawn up. He did not blame the hon. Gentleman for raising the question separately, when the general question was not raised; but when the general question was raised and under consideration, it was on every ground desirable that they should reserve any proceedings they might find it reasonable to take, till they had the whole subject before them. He, therefore, submitted to the House—and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would himself see that the course he had suggested was the prudent one—not to solicit an adverse vote, the effect of which would not be favourable to the unfettered consideration of the question elsewhere.


observed, that the right hon. Gentleman, instead of appealing to the House, had appealed to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, whom he regarded as an enemy of Ireland, having on every occasion opposed every grant for Ireland, even in the hour of her direst misery and distress. He would rather the right hon. Gentleman had appealed to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who, addressing himself to this very question, said, last Session— If the Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to relieve the local taxation of Ireland to the extent of this £37,000 a year by paying half the cost of the dispensary officers, he for one should rejoice. After that assurance on his part he trusted the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion."—[3, Hansard, clxxv. 153.] The Government of Ireland was in the hands, not of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but of the Chief Secretary, who said the Irish Government would rejoice to see this act of justice done to Ireland. But twelve months had elapsed, and the act of justice in which the Irish Government would have rejoiced had not been carried into effect. Things remained precisely as they were. The right hon. Gentleman now said the Motion was not withdrawn. Of course, not The division was a very close one; the Government was nearly defeated, and it was quite possible the division might be still closer to-night, because since then many Members had been struck with the fact that in all these cases the same story was told by the Government. True, it was said that this charge was paid by the State in England; but then in Ireland the constabulary was paid out of the Consolidated Fund. Why was the constabulary so paid? Because it was a military force. They were now reducing the military establishment in Cork, Fermoy, and Parson's Town; why? Because the constabulary was a military force. They had Enfield rifles, bayonets, and drill; they supplied, in point of fact, the place of troops in Ireland, and when the late Sir Robert Peel proposed to pay the constabulary out of the public purse he justified it on that ground. He trusted a majority of the House would show, by supporting the Motion of his hon. Friend, that they had some desire to do justice to Ireland.


although feeling considerable distrust in his own opinion, must venture to say a few words against the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to put this question too much on a comparison of the local burdens affecting England and Ireland. He could not see that this had anything to do with the question. If there was an Exchequer in England and Ireland, and an account had to be taken between the two, it might be said by the one to the other, "You don't pay enough, and we pay too much;" but the Exchequer in England had assumed a common duty towards the people of England and Ireland, and it discharged that duty towards the people of England in a manner in which it did not discharge it towards Ireland. As an inducement to those who had the control over the local taxation to deal liberally with the poor, the State paid one-half of the cost of medical officers in England; but they did not so act with regard to Ireland, whose poor were thus excluded from the benefit. He would not enter into the question of the adjustment of taxation between England and Ireland, but the Government ought to discharge its duty in the same way to the people in Ireland and England. At any rate, if these charges were transferred, it would be very easy to adjust the balance by imposing extra taxation upon Irish spirits.


begged to explain. He had twice guarded himself against asking from the House any definitive expression of opinion on this subject. What he said was, that the hon. Gentleman had not made out his point, because if he referred to inequality of treatment, he must take not one, but all the items bearing upon the question. It was part of a large question, which had been expressly and unanimously referred by the House within a few days to the consideration of a Committee.


thought the right hon. Gentleman had not done justice to himself by the manner in which he had dealt with this question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that this claim was fortified, first, by the opinion of the late Sir Robert Peel; in the second place, by the Committee of which the right hon. Gentleman was himself a Member, but on which he had neglected to vote; nothing was more probable, but he ought to have done so. He never heard anything more impolitic than was done by the right hon. Gentleman. He selected by name the English Members who had voted in the Committee one way, and contrasted them with the Irish Members who voted the opposite way. That was not a wise proceeding. It seemed to turn attention to the persons who voted rather than to the substance of the thing decided. The right hon. Gentleman's argument was this—there was a decision in favour of the Motion, there was the speech of the late Sir Robert Peel in its favour,; but then another Committee might undo what the previous Committee had done, and as one decision was not enough on such a trifling matter as this the right hon. Gentleman recommended the House to wait for the decision of another Committee, in the hope that the former decision might be reversed. He trusted his hon. Friend would not withdraw his Motion.


said, there was no doubt that the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the Motion had laid great stress upon having the authority of a Committee for his proposition, and that being the case the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perfectly justified in pointing out that that Committee took no evidence with respect to this particular question; that the Chairman, though this point was included in the reference, passed it over all together, and that of the eight Members present at the time when part of the Report was adopted only four Members voted for the Motion which added the passage relied on by the hon. Member. It was true that in 1846 half of the charge of the medical officers and of the salaries of the masters of workhouse schools was transferred from the local rates to the Estimates, upon the ground that it was desirable that the Government should have some control over the appointment of medical officers and of the manner in which the schoolmasters of those schools performed their duties; and another object was to give some relief to the agricultural interest in view of the competition to which it was supposed they were about to be exposed. But the same argument could not be used in favour of the argument of the hon. Member. These medical officers received emoluments for prescribing for those who brought dispensary tickets to them, but they had also other duties to perform, and were paid out of the poor rates for vaccinating poor persons, and for duties connected with the registration of births and deaths. The proposal was that half the emoluments they received for a portion of their duties should be transferred from the poor rates in Ireland to the annual Votes, though it could not be said that the Poor Law Board had any control over them. It was desirable that Ireland should not be able to say that she was denied a measure of relief which was afforded to England and Scotland, and that England and Scotland should not be able to say Ireland received assistance which was not given to them; but it was necessary that the question should be thoroughly examined. The cases in which aid was given out of the Public Exchequer for expenses properly chargeable upon local rates were—the expenses of criminal prosecutions, the maintenance of prisoners, the grants in aid of poor rates, and contributions to the expenses of the police. As regarded the two first heads, all three countries stood upon the same footing. As regarded the aid given towards the salaries of medical officers and masters of workhouse schools, it was true that in England and Scotland the Exchequer did contribute to those expenses, whereas it did not in Ireland; but that inequality was more than compensated for by other payments only made in favour of Ireland on the grant of upwards of £20,000 a year for the hospitals in Dublin and certain county expenses. But when they came to the expenses of local police the state of the case was completely reversed to the advantage of Ireland, the Government contribution to the expense of the county and borough police in England and Scotland being one-fourth, while Ireland had the whole of her constabulary charge defrayed out of the public purse. It was no answer upon that point to say that the constabulary was a military force, for it enabled Ireland to dispense with the necessity which would otherwise be inevitable of maintaining a county and borough police, at a cost of no less than £100,000. Therefore, if the system of equal treatment was to he applied throughout these local charges, Ireland would be charged with three or four times as much as she would be relieved from. The reason for not determining the question at that time was that there was a Committee appointed which would take up the question with the whole taxation of the country, and he thought it would be advisable for the House to adopt the course recommended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 37; Noes 34: Majority 3.