HC Deb 09 June 1869 vol 196 cc1457-90

Order for Second Reading read.


in moving the second reading of the Bill, said: * It will not be necessary for me to trespass at any length on the House, as I have now had the subject constantly before Parliament for the last six years. On each occasion, the Chief Secretary for Ireland—whatever Administration happened to be in power—always admitted the great importance of the subject, and faithfully promised that, if I would only postpone it, that the matter would be taken into consideration during the Recess, with a view to legislation the next Session. Unfortunately, however, for Ireland, that next Session has never come, and I am compelled to try whether I can succeed better with the Reformed Parliament than with the preceding one. The Bill may be divided into three heads. The first provides for the removal of the con- trol of the fisheries from the Board of Works to the Lord Lieutenant. The second, for the removal of all restrictions on modes of fishing. The third, for the advance of loans on satisfactory security, for the erection of curing-houses and the repair and purchase of boats and gear. With respect to the first provision, I believe until the fisheries are placed under a distinct department, devoting all their time to their promotion, that they never will get on. The duties the Board of Works have to perform are of a character entirely foreign to such an object as the fisheries. When that Board originally got charge of them they adopted the idea, and acted on it ever since, that the fisheries should be left to shift for themselves. They certainly were not invested with much power to benefit the industry; but they never appear to have sought for any, or to have made any recommendations calculated to do much good. Indeed, on the contrary, as a Board they were opposed to some measures which would have proved most beneficial. The head of the Board was an officer of Artillery or Engineers—a very excellent gentleman, and, no doubt, well acquainted with everything that related to engineering. His colleague, Mr. Le Fanu, is also an able man, and well acquainted with everything that naturally came within the province of the Board of Works. Mr. Barry, the inspecting Commissioner of Fisheries, was an officer of great capacity and fifty years' experience. Could he act from himself there is no doubt that great advantages would result to the fisheries, but he was liable to, and had, indeed, often been over-ruled by the other members of the Board who had not his practical knowledge. The first condition to the prosperity of the fisheries is that it should be removed altogether from under the Board. The salmon fisheries have gone down under it, so have the sea fisheries; and unless my suggestion be adopted they will still further decline. The cost of a combined department would be little beyond the expense of the present inland fishery department. Two inspectors of inland fisheries were lately appointed. One of them, Mr. Brady, had a complete knowledge of both branches. He had filled three important offices with great credit. He was formerly inspector of Irish sea fisheries, subsequently became secretary to both the English and Irish Inland Fishery Commissions. He is now associated with me on the Royal Commission on Irish Oyster Fisheries. I believe there is not under the Crown a more zealous, able, and patriotic officer; his heart is in the promotion of the fisheries, and he would work at that object quite as much for the sake of his country, to say the least, as from any official obligation. He had a most excellent associate in Major Hayes, who, from his intelligence and resolve to do his duty would, when he acquired a little more experience, prove a most valuable public officer. These gentlemen would make admirable Commissioners for a combined department, of which Mr. Barry, so long as it would suit his convenience to remain, would, from his ability, experience, and zeal make a most admirable head. The removal of restrictions, with power to re-impose any that might be found necessary, on due inquiry hereafter, is most essential. Millions of fish are lost to the public owing to the prevention of trawling in bays and estuaries. The most reliable evidence showed that even if fish deposited spawn in such places at all, they did so in rough ground where the trawl could not work. That subject, however, is so extensive a one, that. I shall not now go any further into it. I have written a great deal on it, and at the proper time am ready to discuss it fully with anyone who disputes what I have laid down: I shall, therefore, pass to the third and most important proposal of ail, the pivot on which almost, everything depends—loans to fishermen. In order to prove their desirability, it will be well to show that there might be a much larger capture of fish if proper means are adopted, and that there is good reason to suppose that loans would effect this object without much risk of loss to the State. To prove all this it will be necessary for me to give a brief sketch of the past and present condition of the Irish fisheries— Ireland has for its area about the most extensive sea coast of any country in the world (2,600 miles), owing to the numerous bays, creeks, and other indentations. In former times its coasts were considered to abound with more fish than any other country in Europe. For that reason chiefly the Danes were attracted to Ireland. English and Scotch fishermen for a long time preferred fish- ing off the Irish coasts to their own. England derived large revenues from allowing foreign fishermen to fish in the seas around Ireland. Besides the sums received for licenses from individual fishermen, the Dutch paid Charles I. £30,000 for the privilege of fishing off the western coast. Philip II. of Spain in 1556, agreed to pay £1,000 a-year for twenty-one years for the right of fishing on the northern coast only. In 1650, Sweden, in return for important services rendered to England, was allowed, as a great favour, to employ a hundred vessels in the Irish fishery. So long as they were permitted, the Irish fishermen followed their avocation with great industry and success, and, after supplying the wants of the country, exported large quantities. Against no branch of Irish industry have more measures of repression been employed than against the fisheries, in order to prevent them interfering with those of England and Scotland. In compliance with the Petitions from Yarmouth and other English fishing stations during the Commonwealth, the fishermen and gillers of the herring were nearly exterminated by the transplanting law; and down almost to the present the same feeling of jealousy has been exhibited against the Irish fisheries, and means quite as effectual as those employed by Oliver Cromwell used to prevent them from progressing. For example, in 1803, the Marine Society formed a company with £50,000 capital to fish the South coast of Ireland. An Act of Parliament to incorporate the company became necessary. Petitions against it poured in from various fishing communities in England representing the injury likely to result to the English fisheries. Parliament yielded, and the Bill was thrown out. In 1838, Lord Morpeth, then Chief Secretary for Ireland, introduced a Bill to give effect to the recommendations of a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into and report on the Irish fisheries. On the day before it was committed a deputation from Scotland, headed by the Duke of Sutherland, waited on the Government to induce them to abandon the Bill for the sake of Scotch interests, which was accordingly done. Since 1800, Scotland has received nearly £1,500,000 more than Ireland for the promotion of her prosperous fisheries, besides having devoted for same object all the funds of the British Society for extending- the Fisheries and Improving the Sea Coasts of the Kingdom. Even now, giving credit for every 1s. expended for purposes connected with the Irish fisheries, Scotland receives £7,000 per annum more than Ireland for the benefit of her fisheries. In 1830, the same Act which abolished the Irish Board and all encouragement to the fisheries, continued the Scotch one with its numerous and efficient staff of officers, maintained the branding system which gives the Scotch herring fishery an enormous advantage over the Irish one, and provided a fund for the gratuitous repair of poor fishermen's boats. Thus, in twelve years, from 1829 to 1842, according to a House of Commons' Return, Scotland received for her fisheries from the Treasury nearly £200,000, whilst Ireland, during the same period, and for some time after, may be said to have received nothing, a sum only of £13,000 having been expended during that time for the repair of some fishing harbours. When opportunity has been afforded them, and when able to procure fishing appliances, the Irish fishermen have always shown themselves most industrious, as proved by the great development of the fisheries when fostered by the Irish Parliament, and the wonderful increase in men and boats between. 1820 and 1829, when the State again encouraged the fisheries, an annual average expenditure during that period of £16,000 having led to an average increase in the number of vessels of 13,000 and 14,000 men and boys. Owing to the impetus previously given to the fisheries by State encouragement, the number of vessels and boats amounted the first year of the famine to 19,883, and the crews to 113,073, nearly twenty years after all Government assistance had been withdrawn. The fishermen suffered more than any other class by the famine, owing to the consumption of fish having largely diminished. Thousands were therefore obliged to part with boats and gear, and abandon the pursuit. The decline is still going rapidly on year by year, the number of vessels and boats now being 9,326, and the crews 37,244; showing a decline in the former of 10,557, and in the latter of 76,228 since 1848. The fishing craft are therefore less than half what they were twenty years ago, and the crews reduced to one-third. If not arrested the de- crease will proceed probably at the same fearful rate; according to the last Report of the Fishery Commissioners, there were 2,000 men and boys less engaged in the fisheries, in 1867, than in the preceding year. Competent judges declared even when the fishing crews amounted to 113,000 that at least twice that number could have derived profitable employment from the fisheries; according even to this moderate calculation there is an opening now for nearly four times as many persons as are now engaged in the fisheries. There is no reason to suppose that there is not quite as much fish around the Irish coast as at any former period. Holland, with not more than a third the seaboard of Ireland, formerly supported 450,000, or one-fifth, of the whole population—2,400,000—by fishing, which realized £3,000,000 annually. The Irish fisheries ought to be made to yield at least double this sum, but the entire yield does not exceed £350,000; so insufficient to provide for even the wants of the inhabitants that £100,000 worth of fish has to be imported from Norway, Newfoundland, and Scotland. There is no reason to suppose that the quantity of fish has decreased: and although the home demand may be less than before the famine, still the requirements in England have largely increased with increased facilities for reselling its markets. The consumption in London—independent of 800,000,000 of oysters—amounted to £5,000,000 sterling worth per annum, the whole capture of Ireland not being sufficient to supply even one month's requirement. Since the famine the State had not aided the struggling fishermen by 1s. although, up to a few years ago, in addition to other advantages, Scotland had £500 a year for the repair of poor fishermen's boats. The Society for bettering the condition of the Poor, out of a fund at their disposal, had lent nearly £25,000 in twelve years to assist fishermen to buy boats and gear, and never lost 1s. The Society of Friends, in the county Waterford, had lent a few hundred pounds to the fishermen of King, and saved them from being almost annihilated, and were paid back the advances. The community is now a prosperous one. The Marine Salts Company were sometimes under £3,000 advances to the fishermen, and were always paid. A Mr. Savage, in the county Mayo, had made advances to the fishermen about: him without any loss. Miss Burdett Coutts had, by judicious advances to the Cape Clear islanders, enabled hundreds of them to continue their calling. These instances served to show what might be done around the coast by advances on proper security. I would advocate neither bounty nor gifts—the latter, as a rule, are most undesirable; I would not give them 1s. unless on good security, and compel the re-payment. Thus none but deserving men would get loans; they would be stimulated to exertion in order to re-pay them, and their securities would be sure to look after them. A few days ago I headed a large deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to request that a loan of £10,000 might be given, in order to try the experiment for three years, and that if, at the end of the three years, it was found not to succeed, no more be given. Nothing could be stronger than the resolve of the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to give the aid asked for although it: was shown to him that Scotland received £7,000 more than Ireland as an annual gift. No argument, or probable benefit, to Ireland could move him. There was not a member of the deputation but was fully impressed that if any good was to be done for Ireland, it should be done in spite of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His arguments against acceding to the moderate request made to him, were not only unworthy of a statesman, but unworthy of any student acquainted with the principles of political economy. His allegation was that, according to the latter science, the State should not, under any circumstances, assist private enterprise. Where he had learned that I am at a loss to know. It was probably a doctrine of the Chancellor's own and a more false dogma never was laid down. Most unquestionably State assistance should not be given to prop up any industry which could not get on unless such aid was continued: but if, owing to some casualty, such as the Irish famine, an industry like the fisheries became paralyzed, in consequence of those who prosecuted it being deprived of or unable to procure the appliances to carry it on, most assuredly the State was bound to assist, if it was satisfactorily shown that a moderate help would produce satisfactory results. I have shown the wonderful results which have followed from loans already to the Irish fisheries, and according to the testimony of the most impartial witnesses. There was in this House, last year, two of the highest authorities in the Empire on political economy. When I represented to them the case of the Irish fisheries, and asked them whether, under the circumstances, it would not be consistent with its doctrines to give the aid I asked for, both said—most unquestionably—and added that Ireland was well entitled to every assistance England could give to help her to recover from her misfortunes. That good friend to Ireland. Stuart Mill—who, I am sorry for her sake, is no longer in the House— when this same question was before the House, last year, in reply to the present Secretary of the Board of Trade, who appears to hold the same erroneous views as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said— The main objection of his hon. Friend who had just sat down to the granting of loans to the Irish fishermen was, that if this were done for Ireland it should be done for Scotland and England. His answer was that Ireland was a more backward country than either Scotland or England. Government might very properly undertake to do things for a country which was industrially backward, which no one could expect from them in the case of a country which was in a more advanced and prosperous condition. This consideration was of all the more weight when it was remembered that the industrial backwardness of Ireland was, in a great measure, attributable to the past legislation of this country. For a long period English legislators, without distinction of party, employed themselves in crushing this and most other branches of Irish enterprise. It was therefore incumbent on us, now that we were wiser and able to look upon our past conduct with shame, to legislslate in an opposite direction, and even to risk, if necessary, the loss of small sums of money to advance that industry which we had formerly endeavoured to retard."—[3 Hansard, cxcii. 2021–2.] I expected that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be here to-day to sustain his arguments. Instead of sending —as no doubt he has done—directions to have my proposal rejected, it is his business to be here to state his reasons. I came here with the best home and foreign authorities to refute him. I would have been assisted by that eminent political economist the Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett); and between us, I undertake to say that we would leave the Chancellor not a leg to stand on, as here we would be on equal terms with him, and would not allow him to adopt that dictatorial course which he is so fond of, by asserting when it does not suit his purpose to argue. I strongly appeal to the Chief Secretary for Ireland on this important Irish question, if he agrees with me—and I cannot see it possible for him not to do so—not to suffer himself to be overborne by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would be unworthy of his position and his reputation if he does not boldly do what he considers right in this matter. He knows as well as I do, that the putting down, of attempts at insurrection in Ireland, for the last half-a-dozen years, has Cost the English Exchequer one hundred times as much as I ask for on the present occasion. He also knows that the, main cause of revolution in Ireland is want of employment, and the belief entertained by the people that there is no hope of ameliorative measures from the British Parliament. They believe that any amount would be given for grape-shot, bayonets, and sabres to coerce, but not 1s. to assist the country to revive. Such dogmas as the Chancellor's may do well enough for a country like England, but to preach them to a people still suffering from the effects of "a desolation wider than any recorded in history or shadowed forth by tradition." is but another way of telling them to despair. As Ireland does not possess the same advantages as England and Scotland in minerals, capital, commerce, and manufactures, it is the more incumbent on those whose duty it is to promote the well-being of the nation they undertake to govern, to render as available as possible for her people whatever resources Ireland possesses; and, considering how this particular industry had been discouraged, even up to a very recent period, the claim was stronger to help it now. In conclusion, I again earnestly appeal to the Government, and more especially to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to pause before refusing the trifling been sought to assist in preventing the further decay of the fisheries. Every day that that are allowed to go down only increases the difficulties of resuscitation. So important does the Emperor of the French regard even the loss of one fisherman, that as much as £50 is often given to enable a man who has lost his boat to resume his pursuit; but, sad to say, between 1866 and 1867 the fishing crews in Ireland decreased by 2,000, without the slightest effort to prevent it. If for no other reason than, as a nursery for the Royal and mercantile marine, Parliament ought not to let the Irish fisheries expire. There never, perhaps, was an occasion when a Government had an opportunity of doing so much good at so little cost. If, however, the unwise counsels of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are to prevail, a large class in Ireland would have just grounds for concluding that their welfare have been a matter of indifference to the Government under which they lived. If not aided it is inevitable that the fisheries will sink still lower. It will, indeed, become a deep disgrace to England that whilst the Governments of France, Holland. Norway, and other maritime nations have done all they could to render their fisheries available for then-people, that whilst those of Scotland have been aided in every way necessary to render them successful, that those of Ireland were; suffered to fall into utter ruin; because those whoso duty it was to use every legitimate means to avert such a calamity would not afford the least aid to place the implements of his industry again in the hands of the willing labourer, and thus enable him to benefit himself and others, by availing of the abundance placed by Providence within such easy reach.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Blake..)


said: Mr. Speaker, I venture to presume that there is no more important duty incumbent on this House than to provide cheap and wholesome food for the people over whoso destiny and fortunes it presides. Therefore has it been that in every age civilized countries have fostered and encouraged their fisheries. And, in advocating the present measure, I do not desire to see any particular locality or community favoured, especially such as, through their position or circumstances, cannot defend it as being for the public advantage; and by "public advantage" in this case I mean casting into the markets of the country the produce of the sea. Sir, I refrained from accompanying a considerable number of Irish Members who waited upon the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, because I conceived that there were in this Bill be-fore the House certain sections or provisions that might be termed unconstitutional, and which were in opposition to the objects which I desire to see carried out; but it has been the source of extreme regret, to me to find that so distinct and decided an answer was returned by the right hon. Gentleman on the question of loans to Ireland. Although I am quite inexperienced in what I may describe as the mysteries of legislation, it astonished me the more when I remembered the close connection that existed between the Treasury and the loan system in Ireland in former days, through the means of the Consolidated Fund. That system, I conceive to be an absolute necessity for the Irish fisheries, inasmuch as the little revival which has taken place within the last few years has been only in those localities where, through private enterprize, and what is more through private charity, the fishermen of the country were supported; and I sincerely trust that the right hon. Gentleman may re-consider this question, and without any trepidation venture to cast his bread liberally on the Irish waters. I cannot quite concur, however, in the principle laid down by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Waterford in this Bill, that the chief object is to preserve the coast fisheries by encouraging the formation of companies and the erection of curing houses owned and conducted by practical people. I conceive that it is only by exportation to England, a matter which I regret to observe is altogether omitted from the Bill, that we can hope to see our fisheries prove a source of wealth and prosperity to the country. In the Bill before the House there are many important characteristics, more especially that which refers to the oyster fisheries; and if only half of what the hon. Member anticipates is realized. I feel assured that the public, both the English and the Irish people, will be greatly benefited by what is proposed in the Bill. Trawling is, I believe, the principal medium of supplying: the market, and I trust that, in taking into consideration the Report of the Royal Commission for England and the Report of the Select Committee over which the hon. Member presided, we need not anticipate am' danger through the destruction of spawn. But I greatly fear that, in respect, of its other characteristics, the hon. Gentleman has not considered the times we live in, and the present social condition of Ireland. He seems to have based his Bill principally on what occurred in 1846. Then our population was redundant; wages were at a very low rate; food was somewhat scarce; and there was no large importation into the country of corn as there is in these days; therefore the fish of the country were looked upon as a great and an important means of support; and it was a constitutional object with the Legislature, when the people were in want of food and had only the potato to rely upon, to tender them all the support that lay in its power. But, in the year 1869, the times are considerably changed. Since 1846 our population has decreased some 2,500,000—wages have consequently increased. In many places there is actually a want of hands to perform the tillage of the land; and if this House is not aware of it now, it will soon be made aware of it, that the heart of the Irish peasant is set on the occupation of land and its tillage. Those very farmer-fishermen who live around the curing-houses, in certain localities which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, have their hearts fixed upon the peaceful avocations of their homes, and are becoming more and more alienated from the pursuit of perilous adventures on the deep. I have the evidence of Mr. Goode, who appeared before the Committee and slated that there is but a single market in Ireland, and that that is at Dublin. I might also cite the important Report of the thirty-eight coastguards of Ireland. In their Report it will be found that the only localities, with scarcely an exception, which are prosperous are those connected with the English trade. I might refer to the traffic of one railroad as a sample of all the rest—I allude to the Midland and Great Western, which completely traverses Ireland. It is connected with Western Connaught, with Galway, Sligo, Castlebar, and Westport, and I find that there are 2,250 boats and upwards of 6,000 men employed in the fisheries of Connaught; yet, to my extreme surprise, the export of fish across the whole breadth of Ireland by this railroad was only 209 tons last year, which would scarcely represent the quantity of fish captured by two or three trawls. I cannot see, therefore, how there can be any demand for fish in the interior of Ireland. Indeed, upon making an application to the secretary of that railway, I learnt that there is not an instance of five cwt. of fish being delivered at any inland town throughout the whole course of the line. There are other facts which go to show that Ireland is not England. For example, the Report of the Royal Commission states that, although the people of Ireland were in an absolutely starving condition during the famine, yet rather than eat the fish that was put before them, they positively died of starvation. I do not believe, therefore, it is very likely that the people, who, when actually starving, were unable to eat fish, would be very voracious for it when they are not hungry. I have now to refer especially to the evidence of the hon. Gentleman himself with regard to the markets of Ireland. He was the Chairman of the Select Committee of this House, and it was in his power to call and examine any witness he might think proper; but it so happened that not a single salesman or fishmonger was called. There was one witness, however, a Mr. Savage, who was summoned before the Committee, and the Chairman asked him if he had ever heard of a turbot having been sold for 6d. To which Mr. Savage, with a characteristic desire to show his zeal, replied that he had not only heard of a turbot being sold for 6d. but of a fine turbot being sold for 2d. The hon. Member for Kerry, whom I do not now see in his place, asked what the witness considered a "fine turbot," and was answered—"A turbot of 20lbs. weight." According to this admission therefore a turbot is sold in certain parts of Ireland for 2d.! I could go further than that; but I would take the difference in the appetite of the English and the Irish peasantry, for after all, perhaps the best test we can have is that of the knife and fork. It requires a person of a very strong appetite to live upon fish, and the English labourer would sink exhausted if compelled to depend upon a fare that satisfies an Irishman. Another point I refer to with "bated breath." I believe there are numerous instances of English voters yielding to the seduction of turkey and sausage. They have even been accused of yielding to the seductions of a shoulder of mutton, in Norfolk, but recently. Except, however, in the single case of the borough of Youghal, it is a comfort to know that in Ireland we have only a few political Esaus amongst us. I say, then, that the great object of the Irish fishermen must be to sell their fish, in England; and this can only be accomplished by the formation of depots throughout the country; so that it is to the formation of such depôts that I would earnestly desire legislation to be directed. On this side of the Irish Channel there are depôts such as that in the North, at Wick; in the East, at Yarmouth, and in the West, on the Cornish coast, which are the head-quarters of fishing, and from which enormous quantities of fish are constantly being transported. And here is the great difference between the hon. Member for Waterford and myself. I wish to see the depôts concentrated on the Irish shores. There are already two depôts in Ireland to which I would draw attention; and the first of them I am well acquainted with. I allude to the fishery depôt at Howth. In 1863, there were only twenty-eight fishing vessels there, but on its becoming marked as a fishery depôt, the trade assembled there in large numbers, vessels, boats, &c, and the result, after a few years, was, that there was sold—according to the Report of the Royal Commission—upwards of £94,000 worth of fish in that harbour alone; and when I come to look at the figures of the hon. Member himself I find that the whole value of the fisheries of Ireland was £350,000. Consequently the value of the fish sold in one particular year at Howth is more than one fourth of the whole of the Irish fisheries for one year. The other example to which I would call attention is that of Kinsale. I received a letter yesterday morning with regard to the great success which ensued upon the establishment of a depôt there; and I hold that we ought to endeavour, as far as lies in our power, to form depots on the coast of Ireland. I wish the House most distinctly to understand that, so far as the Eastern coast of Ireland is concerned, we need no assistance from the House at present. We have there many superior advantages to the South and west coast, and it is to these two that the liberality of the Legislature ought to be directed. I entered this House with one paramount desire, and that was to see beneficial measures car- ried for Ireland. Having that object in view, I shall unswervingly do my duty, without the fear of being taunted with entertaining maudlin feelings of mistaken patriotism. I turn now to another topic, which I own I approach with great pain. It is a curious fact that, when Irishmen are left to the somewhat enervating influence's of their own home, the social laws that govern them, and the numerous drawbacks to progress by which they are surrounded, we are not so high a class in the scale of intellect as we are when placed in other circumstances. It is under the influence of the spirit of enterprise, wider the force of practical example, and under the chastening of discipline that the Irish character is seen in its best aspect. With regard to the spirit of enterprise, we have only to refer to our colonies, and to what the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) has so lucidly and dearly described of the prosperity which exists amongst our countrymen in America, to show what is its influence upon them. And then, if we look to the effects of practical example, we shall see, in the case of our fishermen, that it is by the force of English example that they have learnt their skill in the herring fishery and trawling. Whilst under the chastening influence of discipline, we see what our army, militia, and especially our police has become. These all exhibit the great advantage of discipline when exercised upon the Irish character. But what is the discipline of the Irish fisherman? Quoting the words of the hon. Member— There is no capital invested in the Irish fisheries, save the means of those who work them. English companies thrive and prosper, and why should they not do so in Ireland? Because it will be found the difficulty in managing even under a company's administration, forms an almost insuperable obstacle, and I would desire to see every obstacle removed to the investment of capital in the fisheries. The Scotchman works for wages, and the Englishman, who is almost born a perfect disciplinarian, works for wages also. I have seen English, Scotch, and Irish fishermen, lying side by side in the harbour near which I live; I have closely observed their habits, and I have come to the conclusion that it is one of our most incumbent duties to endeavour to improve the discipline of our sailors. Their little errors cannot be called crimes, and I do not attribute them by any means to the entire class of the community from which they spring. I feel convinced that there is no more virtuous peasant in the world than the Irish fisherman; but I regret to say that our fishermen, when fishing is good, are too much given to drink, are in the habit of leaving their boats, are lax in their duties, and that so many troubles arise from this cause that more discipline is absolutely necessary for them. [Mr. BLAKE expressed dissent.] I will read the passage from the Report, if the hon. Gentleman doubts what I say. I have at hand an abundance of evidence to convince him; but I will only quote an extract from a, letter of Mr. Stevens, a boat owner of Waterford, to Mr. Shaw Lefevre, M.P.— Shortly after the Royal Commissioners came here we were obliged to discontinue working the (trawl) steamer owing to the opposition we met from the native fishermen who were jealous of her takes…They made an attack on her one morning before day and cut her net away… I also brought men from Hull but they could not be induced to live in the country… I have them (my boats) manned with native fishermen who, I am sorry to say, are not industrious. Mr. Malcolmson and I, who are engaged in this trawling speculation, would largely increase the number of boats if we could get proper fishermen to work them. Unless English fishermen could be got to come to our coast, it will be difficult to get on with the natives. These are the fishermen who are in the immediate neighbourhood of the locality the hon. Gentleman represents. I do not desire to oppose him on this question on the main, nor to trouble the House unnecessarily; but I feel that in the measure now under consideration there is a great deal that will require to be examined carefully. With reference to the fishery establishments, I fully coincide with him in the opinion that it is an absolute necessity that the existing establishments should be severed from the Board of Works. The Board are greatly overworked at present, and I think that the most judicious arrangement that could be made would be to combine the labours of the two establishments into one. Let me remind the House, however, that in former years a very large expenditure was entailed by the fishery establishments; that, in the course of eight or nine years, the expense incurred in the administration of the fisheries alone came to some £68,000; that, in the year 1829 the fishery establishments cost £10,074, the incidence to £3,434, and that the expenditure of the establishments in incidental details was £6,636. But in the Bill now before the House, I regret to say it does not appear with sufficient clearness what number of clerks and other officers are to be employed; and if the establishment is severed from the Board of Works, I trust it will be clearly defined what the establishment is to be. There is one branch of the public service, which 11 think we should look to for rendering considerable assistance to the fisheries—I mean the utilization, with that object in view, of the coastguard. They are a very numerous force both in England and Ireland. As well as I remember, they cost some £700,000 a year; at least that is the amount of the Estimates for Ireland last year; and I find that simply to locate these coastguards involved a charge of £19,000; that is to say, that was the amount of the Estimate for the same year; and when we consider that the coastguard officers are pre-eminently calculated to discharge the duties of inspectors, as we gather especially from their own evidence before the Committee, which was excellent. I think that they might be largely subsidized with advantage to the State, both officers and men, and employed economically in assisting the fisheries. I trust, then, that the Legislature will take this matter into its consideration. I fear I have troubled the House at too great a length, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Waterford did not go a little more into details than he has done. It is a subject of regret to me to have been obliged to say what I have respecting Irish sailors, but I did it for the best; and I conclude by supporting the Bill on its present stage; at the same time expressing a hope that it will come out of Committee a more perfect and useful specimen of legislation than it is in its present shape.


said, he was glad to find the noble Lord (viscount St. Lawrence) intended to support the Bill, which no doubt could be amended with advantage in Committee; though from the nature of the noble Lord's speech, he (Mr. Maguire) was for some time in doubt as to his intention. He regarded the advance of loans by the State as an important part of that measure, but did not think that was, by any means, its most important part. To his mind, the formation of a special Board, exclusively devoted to the one subject, was a matter of paramount importance that transcended all others. The Board of Works in Ireland was thoroughly unfit to manage a department like that connected with Irish fisheries, which ought to be independent. Having sat on the Select Committee, over which his hon. Friend the Member for Water-ford (Mr. Blake) presided, he must say that the members of the Irish Board of Works, who were examined before the Committee, impressed him with a sublime idea, of their utter incapacity for dealing with that special subject. With rare exceptions, they seemed to know little, and care less, about the fishing industry of Ireland. The experiment was worth trying whether the Irish fisheries could be resuscitated; but, under the Board of Works, the experiment would have no chance of success for two reasons—the one, that the Board of Works had other duties to occupy its time—the other, that it had no knowledge whatever of the subject in question. It should be conducted under the auspices of men who, as his hon. Friend suggested, had their hearts thoroughly in the work. His hon. Friend did not ask for State assistance for the whole of Ireland; he demanded it for a class of men who, by the presence of poverty, arising from no fault of their own, were deprived of the means of prosecuting their occupation and maintaining themselves. And, as to the charge of drunkenness brought by the last speaker against the fishermen of Ireland, and particularly against the fishermen of Kinsale, no doubt some of them were amenable to that charge, like their brethren in England and Scotland; but their habits were now improving under the influence of the moral influences brought to bear upon them. A more gallant and hardworking body of men did not exist than the fishermen of Kerry, Cork, and Waterford, with whom he was well acquainted. In spite of the miserable nature of their boats, they braved the terrors of a tempestuous sea, in the prosecution of their dangerous vocation; and when they could no longer fish with any success they then turned their labour to an often ungenial soil, and raised scanty crops for the sustenance of their families. He denied that they were drunken or improvident.


explained that he had only referred to an exceptional number of the Irish fishermen.


said, he had no intention of charging the noble Lord with littering a calumny against his countrymen. At the time of the famine, the Irish fishermen—who were half fishermen and half peasants—were utterly crushed; and, although their condition was somewhat improved afterwards, the years 1861, 1862, and 1863 were almost as: disastrous to them as the years of famine had been. English gentlemen can form no idea of the destructive influence of that terrible calamity upon the poor of Ireland, especially these scattered coast fishing populations. The Society of Friends and other benevolent associations had granted loans to enable the fishermen in certain districts to renew their boats and gear and it was a remarkable feet that in no single instance did the societies lose in consequence of having made those loans. He and his hon. Friends did not sue in formâ pauperis for those poor fishermen; but he maintained that if a peculiar class of Her Majesty's subjects stood in need of special assistance it was the first duty of the State to assist them. Alms were not asked for, but loans were—loans on sufficient security against idleness or fraud. It was proposed that no money should be advanced unless full security were given for its re-payment; and he might remark that in many villages the priest, the parish doctor, and some of the small tradesmen would, probably, not be unwilling to become sureties. No injury could, therefore, result from the loans, while the wealth of the country would be greatly increased, and a class of hardy fishermen raised up who might render the greatest assistance to the country as members of the Naval Reserve. Even as an experiment the Government were bound to give assistance to these men; but, in order to do this, there ought to be a proper Board appointed to superintend the fisheries of Ireland. Under an independent organization, and with a fair and liberal assistance from the State, those fisheries would, he believed, be soon restored to a flourishing condition, a source of wealth to the country, and even of additional strength to the Empire.


said, there could be no doubt that the hon. Members for Waterford (Mr. Wake) and Cork (Mr. Maguire) had rendered good service to their country in connection with this subject. He concurred with the latter Gentleman that there must be a special and efficient management if any local regulations, by-laws, or restrictions affecting the mode of carrying on the business of the fisheries were to be rendered really useful. Although he should give his support to the Bill, he must not be considered as approving all the provisions relating to local restrictions, because the opinions on this subject prevalent in the borough he represented (Dungarvan) were different from those entertained elsewhere. He was one of the deputation which waited the other day on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when the right hon. Gentleman gave so ungracious a reply to the gentlemen who had explained the question to him with great ability and moderation. In common with all who were present on that occasion, he trusted the opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were not shared by all the other Members of the Government. Certain broad facts had been now indisputably established. One of these was that the Irish fisheries could live by themselves. No witness had even suggested that the supply of fish had failed on the coast of Ireland. Then, with regard to the demand, what was the state of the market? He need only state that Ireland herself imported £100,000 worth of fish every year. The market was an increasing one, and he felt convinced that: a fresh trade would grow up between Dublin and the outlying fishing stations, and that ultimately the London market would become available for the Irish fishermen. What was required to bring the fish to those markets? According to the evidence given before the Commissioners, nothing but boats, nets, and gear. The famine had stricken down this industry in Ireland. Not many years ago. Dungarvan was preeminent among Irish fishing stations for prosperity, and the great addition made by its fishermen to the wealth of the country. But their present condition was such, as might excite the commiseration even of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Their boats were unfit to go to sea, and they had no funds to repair them. Private speculators would not come forward to aid these men because fishing was a very hazardous occupation. Was there, then, anything contrary to the principles of political economy in a proposal that the Government should render assistance in a case of this kind? For his own part he could not treat this demand as any infraction whatever of any principle of political economy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the deputation that it was not desirable for the Government to lend money to private individuals on compulsory security. That was no doubt true, as a general rule, but there was this overriding principle,—that the freedom from Government interference, and the abstinence of the Government from intermeddling with trade, should result in the public prosperity. When, however, an industry, hazardous in itself yet productive of great public benefit when it prospered, was found to be accidentally depressed, although it would be self-sustaining if it could only be furnished with implements and gear, in such a ease the soundest political economy justified Stale assistance. Lord Morpeth, when Chief Secretary for Ireland, backed by the whole weight and authority of the Government of the day, had proposed loans in cases similar to this, and in the time of the famine loans were not few. Even in prosperous England the principle had been acted upon in reference to drainage—the money being advanced to the landlords on the security of the land; and for the erection of dwellings for the labouring classes, money had been lent to societies at as low a rate of interest as 3¼ per cent, because the erection of these dwellings was regarded as a public good, while the risks which attended that kind of investment were considered sufficient to justify the State in coining forward, and encouraging by its assistance that particular branch of enterprise.


said, he was anxious for the success of this measure, although he could not pledge himself to accept all the details. Having had some experience of Irish fisheries, he thought the sooner they were placed under some new management the better. He did not wish to say anything derogatory to the Board of Public Works, which he believed to be an efficient one for its proper duties, but it had enough to do without meddling with the fisheries. It had become in certain matters a synonym for the Government, and when people asked for anything they were referred to it. The salmon fisheries had already been removed from its control, and it was a most important feature of this Bill that it entirely removed the deep-sea fisheries, in like manner, from its control. Let him give an illustration of the working of the present system. The Irish Society had considerable estates in water as well as on land, and they claimed the right to prohibit anyone from putting down an oyster bed in Lough Foyle. They would not lay down a bed themselves, and on the other hand they would not let anyone else do so; and when some persons attempted it they were prevented by law proceedings. The facts were shortly these. A license under the statute was given to certain persons, constituents of his, to lay down oyster beds. The Irish (Society applied for a prohibition. The Board of Works at first defended the license, and a suit was instituted in which the Irish Society were plaintiffs and the Board of Works defendants to try this right to grant licences. By some means or other the Board of Works has been silenced, and, practically, the license is withdrawn, the case never having been tried at all. A name was given to this state of things by an old writer who wrote 2,000 years ago—one Æsop by name. There was another reason why he admired the Bill, and that was that it asked for money. The first axiom of his political creed, as an Irish Member of Parliament, was that as much money as possible should be brought into Ireland. Ireland contributed to the Imperial Exchequer, and had a right to share in the advances of public money. He could not say that he entertained sanguine hopes on that subject, and if he had done so before, his hopes would have been dispelled by what he heard the other day at the interview in Downing Street. He must do the Chancellor of the Exchequer the justice to state that he did not give the deputation an ungracious reception; in fact, there was nothing ungracious in it, except that the right hon. Gentleman did not grant what the deputation wanted. After nearly all the members of the deputation had said what they had to say, the right hon. Gentleman courteously, and also, as far as was possible, perhaps gratefully, told them they would not be able to get what they wanted. The thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman's arguments about political economy were not pound. If political economy were worth anything it would adapt itself to circumstances. All that he had ever learnt of it was taught him by John Stuart Mill, who in: that House said that Ireland, being industrially backward, might fairly expect more assistance than a country which was in a different condition. For centuries Ireland was slowly bled to death by bad legislation, and it was for wise statesmanship now to lend her a helping hand. Having had three weeks of sympathy in Committee on the Irish Church Bill, she now wanted a little sympathy in hard cash. Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, and as such deserved more consideration in such matters as this. In 1S30 the Fishery Commissioners recommended to the Chief Secretary for Ireland the continuance of the Fisheries Loan Fund, and. in 1835, a recommendation practically the same was made. The late Earl of Carlisle, then Viscount Morpeth, and Mr. Serjeant Wolff, acting in accordance with that view, introduced a Government measure, but the Scotch Members, whose freedom from selfishness and whose disregard of their own interests were proverbial, induced the Government to postpone the Bill—a Bill to empower the Commissioners to lend money for the Irish fisheries—which, was, as the House was aware, a gentle way of putting an end to its existence. In 1849, a Select Committee of that House reported that the want of proper funds and effective machinery and plant constituted a sufficient impediment to defeat the wishes of those who were anxious for the improvement of Irish fisheries. In 1852, another Bill, having a similar object, was brought in by the hon. Member for Donegal Mr. Conolly), and withdrawn under the same influence. In 1867, a Select Committee, including some of the most distinguished men in that House, was appointed, and sifter examining a great variety of witnesses, many of them men of European reputation, they reported that the depressed state of the fisheries was mainly owing to the want of proper tackle and implements, and recommended that advances by loan should be made to the fishermen on satisfactory security for the purchase of boats and gear, and the erection of curing-houses, and other fishing purposes. There was, therefore, a long bead-roll of authority in favour of making advances with that object, and if political economy, which he denied, were opposed to such a policy, then he would say—"Perish political economy. "If, he might add, the grant for which his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford asked was opposed on the ground that the sum was too small, the difficulty might easily be got over by increasing the amount. He would simply observe, in conclusion, that there was no good ground for the charge which had been made against the fishermen of Ireland by the noble Lord the Member for Galway (Viscount St. Lawrence). He (Mr. Serjeant Dowse) was well acquainted with those who lived on the seaboards of Donegal, Derry, and Antrim, and a more hardy or industrious race of men did not live. He hoped the Government would not confine their action in dealing with the case of such men to mere sentiment. If they did, he, like Sir Peter Teazle, should be tempted to speak of such sentiment in language more energetic than polite. He earnestly entreated the Government to allow the Bill to go to a second reading, and to take up the question themselves.


was not going to say a word against this Bill, and therefore he would not come tinder the censure incurred by certain Scotch Members twenty or thirty years ago, for conduct alleged to have been pursued by them, according to one side of the story, though, if the House heard the other side, it was quite possible that a very different complexion might be given to it, and that it might be found these Scotchmen asked for no more than equality, as between Scotland and Ireland. He wished, however, to give the House some account: of the sums now paid in grants out of the Exchequer for fishery purposes in Scotland and Ireland, in order that they might at least have some idea how the truth stood now. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) complained that Scotland, during the present century, had received £1,500,000 more than Ireland, on account of its fisheries. This was a piece of antiquarianism, which it was hardly worth while going back upon; for it referred to times when a bounty was given on every barrel of herrings exported, and, of course, if 500,000 barrels were cured in Scotland, and only 50,000 in Ireland. Scotland would receive a much larger amount of bounty. The bounty system, however, did not stop with herrings, for it extended also to linens. Large bounties were given on the export of linens from the United Kingdom; and it was probable a much larger amount of bounty would be paid on Irish linens than was paid on those of Scotland. Both countries being placed on a footing of perfect equality, the mere fact that one produced a larger quantity of a particular article than the other did could furnish no ground for an imputation of favouritism, inasmuch as it depended upon natural advantages which were little within our control. He was not going to complain that Ireland now got too much, or to object to its getting more, but the hon. Member for Waterford, when he mentioned the fact of Scotland getting £3,000 a year for fishery piers and harbours, forgot to tell them how much Ireland obtained. No doubt, the omission was accidental on his hon. Friend's part, but that omission he (Mr. M'Laren) would now endeavour to supply. From the Miscellaneous Estimates, he found that Ireland last year got, for piers and harbours, £16,310, and was this year to get £14,006, whilst Scotland, as the hon. Gentleman correctly stated, got £3,000 in each year; but of the sum voted for Irish piers, he found by the Irish Estimates of last year that the sum specially applied for fishery piers was £5,804. For all other purposes connected with the fisheries of Scotland, the amount voted was £10,223; but, as by law, every barrel of fish stamped and branded by Government officers paid a fee in aid of the expenditure, those fees for last year amounted to £3,496, so that the total sum received by Scotland for general fishery purposes was only £6,727. The grants given to Ireland for the same purposes amounted to £3,390, so that the state of the case was, that for miscellaneous purposes Scotland got £3,000 more than Ireland, whilst for piers and harbours Ireland obtained £11,000 more than Scotland. No part of the £6,700 was applied to the fishery purposes indicated in this Bill—namely, to help fishermen to buy boats and nets. It was all paid in salaries to officers, and his impression was that a great deal of it was wasted. In Edinburgh, there were certain officers resident who received £l,810 out of the £6,700. Their lights, fire, rates, and taxes came to other £400, and the law expenses to £100. He did not believe that expenditure did much good to the poor fishermen of Scotland or of Ireland. The incidental expenses in Scotland came to £100, and travelling expenses to £1,000. One captain of a cutter got £100, and another £200 a year. He did not know why this money, should be paid out of this sum of £6,700. He could not ascertain that any of this money went to the fishermen of Scotland, and he thought a great number of the officers employed might be dispensed with.


said, he was sorry to hear in the course of the discussion that the interview between the supporters of the Bill and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not so satisfactory to them as they had expected. He was, however, sure that some misapprehension prevailed on their part as to the spirit in which his right hon. Friend had received their representations, and in that view he was confirmed by what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Serjeant Dowse), who stated that, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer was rather decided in refusing the application which was made to him, his reception of those who made it could be regarded in no other sense as discourteous. His right hon. Friend he felt confident, was desirous of discharging the responsible duties which devolved upon him in the most agreeable manner, and he hoped that the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) would not imagine that he meant to treat the deputation, of which he was the spokesman, with the slightest disrespect. As to the question immediately before the House, he would observe that no one could be more strongly impressed than he was with the difficulties by which it was beset. It was a question which had been under the consideration of the Irish and the English Parliaments for the last 110 years, and which still remained in anything but a satisfactory position—a fact not very encouraging to any man who was anxious to promote legislation with respect to it in that House. The difficulties by which it was attended were inherent in the question itself. They resulted from the habits of those who were called fisherman in Ireland, as well as from the habits of the fish themselves. To that very recondite subject, the habits of the fish, very little attention seemed to have been paid; but there were not wanting naturalists who said that the fish on the coasts of Ireland took it into their heads to go somewhere else and were not to be caught. The point was one on which it was not easy to obtain conclusive information, and he was not at all surprised that such was the ease; for, although his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford had been appointed in November last a Commissioner to inquire into the habits of that tranquil fish, the oyster, and had ample means of conducting the investigation placed at Ins disposal, and although he had addressed to his hon. Friend a letter requesting him to furnish some information on the subject to the Government, no such information had yet been furnished. [Mr. BLAKE: I never got the letter to which the hon. Gentleman refers.] He did not wish to complain of his hon. Friend in the slightest degree, and had referred to his appointment as Commissioner simply to show that when there was so much difficulty in ascertaining the habits of a single fish, it was not surprising, considering the variety of fishes in the ocean, that still greater difficulties should accompany a general inquiry of that nature. Much had been said about some remarks which had fallen from his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to the principles of political economy, but nobody would, he hoped, accuse him of entertraining any dogmatic ideas on that point. If he had entertained such ideas he would have been disabused of them. Since he had filled the Office which he had the honour to hold, he had never been able to discover that the public money was spent in strict accordance with the principles of political economy, or, indeed, in accordance with any other definite rule than the particular circumstances of each case as it presented itself for the consideration of the Government. That being so, he was not disposed to urge on the House any dogmatic views based on the principles of political economy in dealing with the question before it, nor did he think his right hon. Friend the Chancel- lor of the Exchequer desired to approach the subject in a different spirit. And now, what, he would ask, were the facts of the case as stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford in support of his Bill? It appeared that, in 1830, at the end of that period which his hon. Friend regarded as the golden age of the Irish fisheries, the number of men engaged in fishing was 64,000, and the number of boats 12,000. In 1830, according to his hon. Friend, evil times for those fisheries began, and they commenced to decline. The very same class of figures, however, on which his hon. Friend relied in proof of that statement, informed the House that there were 113,000 men and 19,000 boats employed in the Irish fisheries in 1846; so that in a space of sixteen years, during which period they were left entirely to themselves, the number of men was nearly doubled, while the number of boats increased in an almost equal ratio. Those figures proved, if they proved anything, that the industry was one which could flourish without any support from the Government, and without that aid which it was the object of the Bill to obtain for it. He was not, however, disposed to dwell too much on those figures, because they were, no doubt, liable to error on both sides. It should not, at the same time, be forgotten that they, in all probability, embraced the case of every poor man residing on the coast who happened to put out to sea in a canoe on a Thursday to procure fish for the next day. But then it was said that there were only 40,000 men and 9,400 boats engaged in fishing in Ireland. What, he would ask, had been the cause of the change since 1846? Why, the famine, which had either swept away altogether those persons who obtained a miserable subsistence by catching fish now and then, or had completely altered their condition. Since that time the state of the peasantry and small farmers had, he believed, become greatly improved, and it was quite consistent with that improvement that mere casual fishing should have-been done away with, and that the industry should have fallen entirely into the hands of real fishermen, devoted completely to their art, and practising it with enterprize and energy. If that were so, it was easy to understand how we might have a much larger export of fish from Ireland, accompanied by a diminu- tion in the number of fishermen. His hon. Friend, in supporting his Bill, stated that, he did not ask for bounties, and that he was opposed, on the other hand, to having the fishermen subjected to any restrictions. That being so, the question at issue was much narrowed. What his hon. Friend required was that a Board should be established for the purpose of ascertaining what works should be undertaken with the object of promoting the fisheries in Ireland. He must, however, remind the hon. Gentleman that there was a Board of Works in existence in Ireland, which was intrusted with the necessary authority for constructing those works which were necessary for the protection of fishermen in that country in the pursuit of their industry. But the hon. Gentleman was not satisfied with that, and desired to establish a new Board. What right had he to expect that that new Board would be more intelligent or efficient than the present? Would it not be composed of the same sort of persons selected by the same sort of people? His hon. Friend objected to the existing Board because it was, he said, responsible to an officer in the army. That officer was, however, he believed, a gentleman who was not more conversant with manual and platoon exercise than with the construction of works, while he was possessed of large knowledge and experience. According to his hon. Friend's proposal two of the present inspectors were to be members of the new Board, and the third member was to be a civil engineer of seven years' standing. Did he forget that the officer to whom he referred could not have discharged his duties without having been engaged to a great extent to works of civil engineering? In his opinion it would be a needless waste of public money to set up a new Board, such as that which the hon. Gentleman proposed. He hoped therefore he would not persevere with his Bill. If the House were to give its assent to such Bills, it was idle for them to talk about the necessity of checking the growth of the public expenditure. In making these observations he must not, however, be understood as in any way under-rating the expediency of making the supervision of the Irish fisheries perfectly efficient. As the law at present stood ample provision was made to enable the existing authorities to act with vigour and to oblige those whose duty it was do so instead of sitting enjoying themselves in Dublin, and writing treatises on fish and fishermen, to go about the country to find out the real wants of those of whoso cause his hon. Friend was the advocate. He thought that the administrative reform desired by his hon. Friend might be obtained through the Irish Executive, without legislation, but, if necessary, Parliament might resort to legislation for that purpose. He had proposed to substitute for a gentleman of extreme age two gentlemen, who would work efficiently for the object which his hon. Friend desired to promote; but he re-called the order, not thinking it proper to make any such appointment pending the consideration of this Bill. He was anxious, not for the creation of a new Board, but for the appointment of efficient officers. There were some other portions of the Bill which were open to objection. It proposed for example to interfere in the engagements between the owners and the crew, but that was a most dangerous power. It was holding out to the Irish people that Parliament was to regulate the smallest action of life, and he thought that no such interference should be attempted. As to the proposal that loans should be made to the fishermen, Parliament had deliberately decided that such loans should not be made, and. in his opinion, they ought not to revive the practice. He doubted whether it was really necessary that loans should be made for such trivial purposes as the providing of nets and cobles. Surely this might be safely left to private enterprize? Such legislation tended rather to demoralize the Irish people than to foster self-reliance and promote? individual effort. The first thing, then, to be done was to get good official inspection, which meant authentic information, and after this Government would see what was necessary to be done. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had already told his hon. Friend that the Government were not prepared to advance money for the purposes contemplated by him, and he was not authorized to recede from that statement. He repeated that, in his opinion, arrangements might be made for the proper control of the Irish fisheries without passing any Bill on the subject, but it was for the House to say whether they thought that a Bill was desirable.


said, he gathered from the statement of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) that the Government were ready to agree to the second reading of the Bill, not, however, binding themselves to any details of it. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that the great point was to get more efficient inspection, and if the Bill only secured that object it would be well worth passing. The farts with which they had to deal were that the sea fisheries of Ireland, which might be made productive, were not so, and that efforts to improve them had hitherto failed. Now he agreed with those who thought that it was not in the nature of a Department like that of the Board of Works in Ireland to be able to promote the interests of the fisheries. There must be a more efficient control than they could possibly exercise. That was the main object to be kept in view, and when such a control was provided and adequate information was obtained other advantages would naturally follow. Great credit was due to the hon. Member for Water-ford (Mr. Blake) for his exertions on this subject, and though all the provisions of the Bill might not be acceptable to the House, the hon. Member would have done good service in eliciting from the Government a declaration in favour of a more efficient inspection. If the hon. Member pressed the second reading of the Bill he should support it, with a view to secure a Board constituted for the special object of attending to the Irish fisheries.


said, that in justice to the Irish Government it should be remembered that, up to this moment, the deep-sea, coast, and oyster fisheries had not been under the control of the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary, but under that of the Board of Works. The Bill of his hon. Friend (Mr. Blake), which proposed to deal with this question, might be divided into two parts of unequal importance— one relating to loans, and the other, which was by far the most important part, relating to administrative reforms. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ayrton) had dealt with the subject of loans, which came properly within the Department of the Treasury, and he found that, in 1867, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Hunt) had taken the same ground with reference to this proposal. The right hon. Gentleman said— He was exceedingly anxious to see the Irish fisheries flourishing, but in assenting to the second vending of the Bill he wished it distinctly to be understood that he did not consent to many of the clauses as they stood, because he thought it was impossible to lend public money upon perishable articles, such as boats and riots, upon what he supposed was merely personal security."—[3 Hansard, clxxxvi. 1097.] Again, last year his noble Friend the Earl of Mayo said, with reference to the same Bill— The hon. Member laid great stress on that portion of the Bill which enabled the Government to grant loans for the purchase of boats and nets. But he must remind the hon. Member that even if the Government felt disposed to accede to such an application, there would be a great difficulty in obtaining the consent of Parliament. It would, therefore, in his opinion, be holding out false hopes to those engaged in this industry if he were for a moment to suppose that the House would permit the Government to lend money to private persons for the purchase of boats and fishing gear upon the personal security of those to whom the money was lent."—[3 Hansard, cxcii. 2020.] On the other side of the House, therefore, the same language had been held with, regard to the loan clauses of the Bill as had been made use of just now by his hon. Friend (Mr. Ayrton.) As to the administrative portions of the Bill, he was distinctly of opinion that when, five years ago, they withdrew the control of the inland fisheries from the Board of Works in Ireland and placed them under the Fishery Commission they took a first step which naturally and inevitably led to the placing of the other Irish fisheries in the same hands and under the same management. Without wishing to say anything derogatory to the Board of Works, he thought it would be far more advantageous that there should be no division of authority with regard to the fisheries, and that the control over them should be vested in the hands of men whose whole time and energies should be devoted to this important Department. If, then, his hon. Friend desired to press the Bill, he was prepared to assent to the second reading, not, however, committing the Government in any way to the policy of the loan clauses, but showing that the Government agreed with that vital portion of the Bill which proposed an administrative reform in the management of the Irish fisheries. A Board which devoted itself solely to this work would be better able to advise the Government than any authority which had yet existed, and it would be for the Government to consider how this reform should be carried out. In conclusion, he must add his testimony to the long and unwearied efforts of his hon. Friend (Mr. Blake) in promoting the object which he had so much at heart—the development of the Irish fisheries. His hon. Friend had done his duty as an Irish representative in taking up the matter, and would have aided in an important degree to place the Irish fisheries on a proper footing.


said, no man was more anxious than he was for the improvement of the Irish fisheries, but he would submit that, in the face of the opposition of Government, and of the declaration of many of his supporters, the most politic course for the hon. Member (Mr. Blake) to take would be to eliminate from his measure those clauses which had reference to advances of public money.


said, he was glad to hear that the Government agreed to place the Irish fisheries under a distinct administration. As to the remarks of the Secretary to the Treasury against interference with the agreements between the owners and the crew, that was very well as an abstract principle, but a practical knowledge of the fisheries suggested the absolute necessity of such provisions as were contained in the Bill. He had received a letter that morning from the superintendent of a fishing company with which he was connected, declaring that a compulsory agreement between the men and the owners of vessels was absolutely necessary at the commencement of each fishing season. When men agreed to ship at the commencement of the fishing season they should be bound to perform their contract, for the consequences of their neglecting to do so were often very serious. Under the Merchant Seamen's Act such an agreement was compulsory, and why should not the same rule apply to the fisheries? He did not think that portion of the Bill regarding public loans was an essential element of the measure; at the same time he thought it absurd to suppose that the granting of loans, under the circumstances referred to by this Bill was inconsistent with the principles of political economy.


said, he regretted that the Government had declined to grant a loan for the objects sought by the Bill. He felt bound to complain that no Irish Lord of the Treasury had been appointed, a concession to which he thought Ireland was fully entitled. If there were such an officer the interests of Ireland would probably be better represented and attended to by the Government. He warmly approved of the principle of this measure.


said, he thought the statements made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland of so satisfactory a character for the most part that he was ready to accede to the proposal of the Government.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.