HC Deb 26 April 1872 vol 210 cc1920-6

rose to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that Her Majesty's Government should introduce and promote the passing of a Bill through Parliament to extend to Ireland the provisions of the 'Local Government Board Act, 1871.' The hon. Member said, he was induced to make this proposal from the fact that Ireland was excluded from the benefit of that statute, because it was the policy of the Government that Ireland should be governed not by the Imperial Government, but by the Government located at Dublin Castle. He, however, wished the provisions of the Act to be extended to Ireland, because the Board constituted under it was a powerful and influential one, being composed of seven Cabinet Ministers, one of whom was its President. Those Ministers were the President of the Board, the Lord Privy Seal, the President of the Council, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the three Secretaries of State. It appeared, however, that Ireland was to be dealt with by a separate and different Board—a fashion which in his mind had caused an enormous amount of injury and loss to his country. That was but a new step to the severance of the two countries, as nothing tended so much to that result as this system of having separate institutions and regulations for Ireland. It appeared that the projected Board for Ireland was to consist of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, the Under Secretary, one Medical Commissioner, and two other persons. They knew from experience that the Boards which sat in Dublin were most unsatisfactory, and almost every attempt to get improvements carried out by the Dublin authorities had completely failed. He, therefore, looked upon the Board chalked out for Ireland as nothing more than "a mockery, a delusion, and a snare," and he thought that if Ireland were to be governed by separate legislation from England, it would be far better that such legislation should emanate from a Parliament sitting in College Green. In a discussion which took place a few years ago in that House on the propriety of changing the government of Ireland, and abolishing the office of Lord Lieutenant, Lord John Russell said he thought Ireland was a great loser from not having a special Minister for Irish affairs in the Cabinet, who could explain the interests of Ireland, and who by his weight and abilities could enforce the adoption of the measures he should recommend for the improvement of that country—that in place of the Lord Lieutenant there ought to be appointed such a Cabinet Minister to manage exclusively Irish affairs. The noble Lord further said that it was Her Majesty's intention from time to time to visit Ireland, and to have the Vice-regal residence in Phoenix Park appropriated to her. The late Lord Mayo, and the present right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), addressed the House in a similar spirit. He (Mr. Delahunty) contended that Ireland ought to be treated as an integral portion of the Empire. The fact, however, was that they had got into a bad track, which brought death and desolation upon Ireland. There were abundant confirmatory facts to prove that under the present mode of government Ireland had not progressed in population or material prosperity as she had a right to expect. Compared with England, Ireland ought to have a population of at least 13,000,000 supported by the manufacturing and other industries of the country, instead of which she had a population of not more than 5,000,000, and the people, as every person knew, were not by any means so flourishing as they might be. Then, again, the entries and clearances of the number and tonnage of shipping showed such non-progress. During the past half-century the tonnage clearances of the shipping of Great Britain had increased by 1,100 per cent, while that of Ireland had only improved to the extent of 11 per cent in the same period. The rental of the land in Ireland, according to the Government valuation and the income of the farming classes by the Parliamentary test of assessing £1 of income to £3 of valuation, made the income of the owners and occupiers of land in Ireland to be £12,000,000 a-year, whilst the official Returns of the exports and imports of this country showed them to be £30,000,000 more for the first three months of 1872 than in 1870. At different periods great industrial depression had existed in Ireland, owing, he believed, to her having bad financial and business laws. In 1826 great commercial distress was experienced in Dublin amongst the woollen and cotton weavers, there being no less than 3,153 looms unemployed in that city, whereby 20,000 persons were reduced to a state of extreme want. And in the Report of the Emigration Commission for 1828 it was stated that in Dublin out of a population of 200,000 no less than 60,000 in that year passed through the hospitals. It was of the last importance that the House should be made acquainted with the real state of industry in Ireland. There was no doubt that, so far as agricultural development was concerned, Ireland had prospered as England had prospered, and the reason was the land of Ireland must be worked there, and no competition could take it from her people. But, from causes that ought to be known, no other industry survived, and he therefore thought it imperative that something should be done to revive the slumbering industries of Ireland. From 1800 to 1861 the linen trade had greatly decayed, for it appeared that the exports of linen in 1861 were not so good as they were in 1801. The American War gave an impetus to that trade, and then a circumstance which it was unnecessary for him to mention also operated in that direction. In 1820 the export of Irish linen from the United Kingdom was but half what the export of British linen amounted to. The linen exports of England and Ireland in 1820 were as 24 to 12; in 1825 they were 32 to 16; but in 1833 they were 56 to 9; showing that Ireland after 1825 did not keep pace with England as she had previously done. When the union duties were repealed in 1822 and 1823 the manufacture of the country increased, and the amount of cotton manufactures exported in 1852 was double the amount imported. The Commissioners of Revenue appointed in 1822 to examine into the union and other duties affecting the Revenue of the United Kingdom reported that the manufactures of Ireland were at that time progressing, and had progressed to the extent that of the quantity of woollen manufactures consumed in Ireland not more than one-third was imported, the remaining two-thirds being manufactured in the country. When penal laws existed in Ireland the country progressed to an extent it had never done since, and therefore it was that he charged the different Governments that had existed in Ireland since that time with neglect and dereliction of duty in not dealing with Ireland in such a manner as should have continued that progress. The result was that the people of Ireland found themselves in a false position, they were legislated for by officials in Dublin Castle, who had no commercial business capacity. Industrial prosperity in such a state of things was simply impossible, and the sooner it was altered the better. He should therefore continue to bring forward this Motion over and over and over again until Ireland was governed as an integral portion of the country. In fact, the sooner they got rid of Castle legislation and the Lord Lieutenant the sooner would some improvement be manifested, although, in saying so, he must premise that he did not wish to cast any imputation on the Noblemen who had filled that office; it was the system, not persons, he objected to.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


resumed. He said that all parties concurred that the progress of Ireland was satisfactory up to 40 years ago, and the complaint of the people now was that it had not since then progressed at the same rate as England, that there was not employment for them, and that they were obliged to emigrate. The absence of industrial development was to be attributed to Ireland not being blessed with self-government, either by a real union with Great Britain through equal laws made by a Parliament in London, or separate laws made by an independent Parliament in Dublin. Unless, therefore, the Government made up their minds to govern Ireland as an integral portion of the Empire they must expect that the people of Ireland would do all in their power to put an end to the present system. He did not, however, intend to press his Motion, being satisfied with calling attention to the subject.


said, that as the hon. Member for Water-ford had expressed his intention of bringing his Motion on over and over again, it was necessary that he should make a few observations. There was no great difference in principle between himself and the hon. Member in wishing to see the laws for governing Ireland assimilated as much as possible with those of England; but, unfortunately, the hon. Member did not endeavour to enforce his principle in a practical manner, in wishing to deprive Ireland of her useful currency and in attempting to defeat legislation that would be found to be of considerable importance for Ireland. The greater portion of the hon. Member's speech was composed of statistics into which he would not follow him, and he hoped the hon. Member would excuse him when he said that he ventured to doubt the accuracy of a considerable part of them and their relevancy to the subject under discussion. If the hon. Member had placed on the Paper a Motion for the abolition of the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the House would no doubt have been ready to discuss the question, and it was quite possible that he would have found there was not that great difference of opinion between them as the hon. Member assumed; but he could not but think that, so long as the Lord Lieutenancy and the separate government of Ireland existed, the Motion which the hon. Member had made would not conduce to the interest and prosperity of Ireland. When the Irish Poor Belief Act was passed, its administration was confided to one or more of the English Poor Law Commissioners, and up to 1847 the Irish Poor Relief Act was administered by the English Poor Law Commissioners. The immediate cause of the transfer from that Department to an independent Department in Ireland was owing to the vast amount of extra labour that was thrown on the English Department at the time of the famine, and it being found sufficient to occupy the entire time of a separate Staff it was thought desirable to establish an administrative Department in Ireland. If the hon. Member had read Sir George Nicol's work on the Irish Poor Laws he must be aware that that gentleman was always in favour of the administration of the Poor Laws of both countries by one Department, and although he opposed the change, yet that when the change was made, he was of opinion that it was useless to retrace their steps, unless it was decided to abolish the separate system of government in Ireland. What he apprehended was that the Irish Poor Laws might not be administered with such a strict regard to the principles of political economy as was adopted by the English Department. There was no reason, however, for any such apprehension; for, fortunately, the administration of the Poor Laws in Ireland had been confided to men who had administered the system thoroughly in the spirit of the authors of the Poor Relief Act; and he believed that the administration of the Poor Laws in Ireland would compare favourably, if it was not superior, to that of the administration of the English Poor Laws. Under these circumstances, there did not appear to be any reason for changing the system; especially as there now existed in the office in Ireland a large amount of official experience and knowledge of the subject. In fact, there was less complaint about the mode of administering the Poor Law in Ireland than in any other Department of the Government. Besides which it would be a most inconvenient time just now to transfer the Department to England, because, with so much change in local government and local taxation impending in England, the hands of the Minister at the head of the Local Government Board were sufficiently full, and, if he were now burdened with Irish interests, they would probably suffer by the change. At the same time, there was no reason why the principles of legislation adopted for one country should not, as far as practicable, be applied to the other. In fact, measures passed for England had afterwards been adopted for Ireland; and the concentration of matters affecting local government in one Board was a principle it was proposed to apply to Ireland by creating for that country an exactly analogous Department.


said, he hoped the noble Marquess was prepared to place at the head of the proposed Department in Ireland a Minister having a seat in the House of Commons, and responsible to the House. Many years ago he brought forward a proposal that every great Department in Ireland administering public affairs—such as the Poor Law Board, the Commissioners of Education, and the Board of Works—should be presided over by a Minister having a seat in Parliament and to be held responsible to Parliament. The system of governing by Boards, which now existed in Ireland, was the worst and most odious form of government ever known in any country. It was not unlike the game of thimble-rig, as it enabled everybody to relieve himself of responsibility, for even the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary sheltered themselves behind the Board when they found the storm too strong, while the Board itself was always ready to renounce its responsibility. He believed the day was not far distant when the necessities of legislation would force on every Member of that House the conviction that the only way of administering Irish affairs in accordance with the wishes of the Irish people was by means of a Parliament of their own. He, too, was as anxious as his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Delahunty) to see England and Ireland thoroughly united in sentiment and feeling, but did not believe that object would ever be accomplished by forcing Imperialism on the Irish people; and, while dissenting entirely from his hon. Friend's proposal to increase centralization, he coincided with him in his condemnation of the system of government by Boards which at present existed in Ireland.