HC Deb 05 June 1866 vol 183 cc1948-55

, on rising to move a Resolution on the subject of grants to Medical Officers of unions in Ireland, said, that, when carrying the Bill for the Repeal of the Corn Laws, Sir Robert Peel made certain promises to this country and Ireland of relief in aid of local rates. Those promises had been fulfilled in England, but they had not been fulfilled in Ireland. In 1858, a Committee of that House reported in favour of a grant from the Consolidated Fund to defray one-half the cost of Medical Officers of Irish unions, and the Committee of last year on Irish taxation endorsed that recommendation, and suggested that there should also be grants for schoolmasters in Irish workhouses.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he had always been one of those who declined to present the claims of Ireland in formâ pauperis, because it derogated from the national dignity which her representatives should assume in that House. He had always been the warmest advocate of whatever might more closely identify the two countries, because Ireland must benefit by the strengthening of that intimate connection. He did not despair of seeing the day when, from the subsidence of all disquieting influences, English capital would flow into Ireland, and develop her resources, in which event an equivalent return for investments might be confidently looked for. He trusted that the House would see the justice of placing all parts of the United Kingdom upon an equality, both as regarded taxation and representation; and when Ireland possessed a just influence in that House, he would be the first to advocate a complete equalization of all national taxation. In the meantime, he hoped it would not be argued that Ireland, with her 105 representatives, ought to bear an equal proportion of the burden of taxation. He thought the question now before the House had already been sufficiently considered by Committees of the House. In 1860, when he brought the matter forward, the answer he received was, that the cost of the Irish constabulary was borne out of the Consolidated Fund. Now, he did not consider such an answer either conclusive or satisfactory. The services of the constabulary were national as well as local, and during the last six months they had been engaged more in the maintenance of Imperial than of local interests, and, in fact, they were equivalent to 12,000 soldiers. The cost of the establishment, therefore, was properly defrayed out of the Imperial Exchequer. The constabulary also were employed for the protection of the revenue, and the suppression of illicit distillation. With reference to the question immediately before the House, they relied upon the direct promise of Sir Robert Peel, and the recommendations of two Select Committees. In another form the sum of £10,000 was annually given to Scotland to assist charitable provisions for medical relief in certain large town in that part of the Kingdom; and why should Ireland be excepted from similar advantages? No species of relief could be of more general application, for it would penetrate to every Poor Law union. He hoped, therefore, the claim would be fairly considered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that the aid now asked for would be afforded.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, Her Majesty's Government should now adopt the recommendations of the Select Committee of 1868, which recommended 'Her Majesty's Government to take into consideration the Claims of Ireland to a grant of the half-cost of Medical Officers of Unions, with the view of providing for the same in future, as is now the practice in England and Scotland,' fortified, as such recommendation is, by the Report of the Select Committee on Taxation of Ireland in June 1865, who reported that with regard to the grants for Poor Law Medical Officers and Workhouse Schoolmasters, ' it would be reasonable that the same aid should bo extended to Ireland as is already extended to England.'"—(Mr. MacEvoy.)


said, it would not be necessary for him to trouble the House at any length, as the statement made by the hon. Gentle- man who had moved the Resolution (Mr. MacEvoy) seemed to be a very fair one, so far as he could gather its purport. On a former occasion he had resisted a Motion on this subject on two grounds. The first of these was that the matter was at the time under reference to a Committee on Irish taxation, and he did not consider that any great authority attached to the recommendations of the Committee of 1858, because those recommendations were made after the Committee had concluded its proper duties, and when Members had absented themselves believing that their labours had closed. The more important recommendation was that of the Committee of 1865, and which was still under consideration. The second ground of his former opposition was that it was impossible to isolate a question of this kind from others relating to the distribution of charges among the three countries, and because he was of opinion that in this respect Ireland was in a favourable position as compared with England or Scotland. He did not wish to meet the hon. Member in a captious spirit, and he did not seek to escape from the effects of the recommendations of the Committee of 1865, but he hoped that the hon. Member would not think it necessary to press his Motion, to which Government were prepared to accede, without, however, renouncing the opinion that other portions of the subject of Imperial charge for local purposes required examination, with a view to the establishment of that kind and degree of State control which were absolutely requisite in cases where public money was to be given. It would with this view be necessary to examine the system in force with regard to schoolmasters and to medical officers of unions in Ireland, and that would be entered upon without any unreasonable delay, and after that was done the necessary provision would be made for the payment out of the Consolidated Fund. In reference to what had been said about the constabulary establishment in Ireland, and that the charges in Ireland and this country were not upon a footing of equality, he might observe that it would be the duty of the Government, in the course of the present Session, as soon as some necessary information was received, to submit to Parliament an additional estimate for further expenditure connected with that force. He did not question or undervalue the services of the constabulary, but the present charge for it and the pro- posed and necessary increase would render it the duty of the Government to investigate the matter carefully. When the Government, on the repeal of the Corn Laws, undertook the whole charge for the constabulary, subject to certain contingent exceptions, the population of Ireland was 8,200,000, and the amount charged for this purpose £486,000. Now the population was estimated at 5,600,000, and the charge was £770,000. In 1846 the constabulary cost 1s. 2d. or 1s. 3d. per head of the population, and now the charge amounted to 2s. 9d. per head. Irrespective of nationality, he thought that hon. Members would admit that this vast augmentation of charge demanded inquiry. This and the subject-matter of the Motion were connected as charges borne by the State, as to which the hon. Member would understand that the pledge now given by the Government was to examine into all the details of necessity connected with the question, and upon that examination, which would require some time, to make an arrangement, by a charge on the Estimates, for fulfilling the engagement to Ireland—whether positive or contingent he would not ask—that had been contracted for, assuming the charge recommended by the Committee on Irish taxation.


said, that having been a Member of the Committee of 1865, he thought the Resolution of the hon. Member (Mr. MacEvoy) was perfectly reasonable and just. He would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that not only had the cost of the constabulary been increased in Ireland, but taxation in that country had also been increased. He, like his hon. Colleague (Mr. Peel Dawson), never desired to come to that House in formâ pauperis, but at the same time he thought that Ireland should be put upon a footing of equality with this country. The constabulary of Ireland was an Imperial force, and in no way under the control of the local magistracy; and he must express to the House his regret that circumstances had postponed the hoped-for modification of the military character of the force. The real cure for the evils of Ireland was to be found in honest attention to the recommendations of Committees that had made inquiries with a view to doing justice to Ireland, rather than in such Bills as that relating to the tenure of land, which he hoped would soon disappear from the Order Book of the House. With reference to the present Motion, he must express his thanks to the Government for the course which they proposed to take.


felt sure that the Irish Members had heard with great satisfaction the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but, after all, the Government proposed to do what would be only a tardy act of justice to Ireland. He could not, however, understand what connection the Irish constabulary had with Poor Law medical officers and workhouse schoolmasters. If they went into a discussion upon the constabulary he should enter his protest against the notion which had been suggested by the Commission which had sat in Ireland during the last few months —that it should be considered a local force. The constabulary in Ireland were armed with Minie rifles, and they discharged the duty of an army. In the province with which he was connected there had not been a single soldier for fifteen years, and he believed that west of the Shannon there had not been one stationed for many years. The question how this force should be armed was lately inquired into by a Commission; and the hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatch-bull-Hugessen) had stated in the report that it was seldom one of the constabulary had to act as skirmisher or to fire at an enemy from a long distance. Could any one have been humbugging the hon. Member, or was he indulging in a joke when he said this? Sir Duncan M'Gregor, naturally favouring authority, thought that the question of how the police were to be armed should be left to the Inspector General; while Sir Richard Mayne appeared to wish that in the most peaceable parts of Ireland truncheons should be adopted and Minie rifles laid aside. But, however the constabulary might be armed, he protested against any insidious attempt to fix any portion of the expenses of this army —for it was nothing else—upon the local resources of Ireland. It was a military force, and in many parts of the country the only military force; it was used to prevent illicit distillation, to collect census papers, and to obtain agricultural statistics. With reference to the last-named subject, he would remark to the House that if statistics could render any country prosperous, Ireland ought to be the most prosperous country in the world, for he verily believed that if the collected statistics of the last ten or twelve years were studied, you might arrive at a conclusion as to every hen and duck—it might be invidious to allude to the other bird—in the entire island. In hearing the eloquent peroration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night on the English Reform Bill, he could not but be struck with the differrence between the two countries. England, said the right hon. Gentleman, was remarkable for the growth of numbers, of wealth, of loyalty to the Throne, of confidence in Parliament, and of attachment and love among all classes of people. It was to be feared that this could not be said in bringing forward the Reform Bill for Ireland, and it would be rather a strange mode of dealing with these difficulties to say that the expense of a force over which the local authorities there had no control should be thrown upon the locality.


confirmed the statement of the hon. Member who had just sat down, and begged the Chancellor of the Exchequer to contrast the number of military quartered in Ireland some thirty years ago with the number now there. During this period he believed there had been a diminution of 12,000 military in Ireland, principally owing to the efficiency and good conduct of the Irish constabulary. The constabulary was in every sense a national force, and it was under the control of the Executive, instead of being, as here, under the control of the local magistracy. Sir Robert Peel had given a positive pledge in this House that the Irish constabulary should be paid out of national, and not out of local resources, as some equivalent—and a very small one—for the abolition of the Corn Laws. All that the Irish Members asked for was that Ireland should be put on an equality with England as regarded the payment of the schoolmasters and the medical officers in the union workhouses, and that was a proposition so just in principle that he was sure it would not be opposed by any Gentleman in or out of the House. He begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the straightforward manner in which he had dealt with the Motion.


said, he thought they were rather wandering from the subject immediately under their consideration; but the allusion made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the case of the police appeared to be the cause of the extension given to the discussion. He regarded that as a small act of justice to Ireland; but he should add that he did not believe the owners and occupiers of land were better treated in that country than in England. He would ask the House to consider the contrast presented between England and Ireland since the Union. Between that time and the year 1862 England had risen 120 per cent in wealth, and that increase had now probably reached 130 per cent, and she had increased at the same time only 30 per cent in taxation. In Ireland there had been no increase in wealth, and the taxation had increased 100 per cent. In England the population had increased from 11,000,000 to 23,500,000; while in Ireland there had been scarcely any increase in population. In Ireland they paid 6s.d. for every pound of wealth they possessed, while in England the proportion was 4s.d. Such comparisons as these were totally at variance with the deductions of the right hon. Gentleman.


protested against the notion that the owners of property had any special interest in shifting the burden off their shoulders to the Consolidated Fund. He did not agree with the hon. and gallant General that there had been no increase of wealth in Ireland; on the contrary, there could be no doubt that the rental of Ireland had decidedly increased, owing very much to the establishment of railways and the facility which they afforded for the profitable disposal of the produce of the land. He regretted, however, that while taxation in England had been greatly diminished the taxation upon the one special branch of Irish manufacture had been so largely increased; and he considered it would be wiser policy to apply any surplus that could be spared in continuing to relieve commerce from the burdens that still bore upon it.


hoped that hon. Members would not be disposed to continue a discussion for which, after the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there could no longer be any motive. He was himself anxious on that occasion, as an independent Member, to thank his right hon. Friend for the liberal manner in which he had met this claim. His own personal opinion on the matter had long been known, for he sat on a Committee of Inquiry in 1858 and voted in favour of this grant, thinking it very undesirable that there should be a case absolutely identical, the treatment of which in the two countries was so very different. His opinion remained unaltered last summer when he received a deputation representing all the unions throughout Ireland on the subject.


said, he did not rise to prolong the discussion, but to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer most sincerely for this concession, which would tend greatly to conciliate the people of Ireland.


, in asking leave to withdraw his Motion, remarked that there were arrears of twenty-two years' standing due to Ireland, to which he should be glad if the Secretary to the Treasury would call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


observed, that if the arrears on both sides were taken into account, he was afraid the debt would be very much against Ireland.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.