§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. M'MAHON,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, explained that the object of the Bill was to assimilate the law of Ireland to that passed for England in 1865 with reference to the substitution of union for parochial rating. The anomalies and abuses which existed in Ireland in the question of rating had long been felt to require a remedy, and repeated attempts had been made to deal with the subject; and he had introduced a Bill on the same subject in 1869 when the Government promised to appoint a Committee to consider it, and in 1871 a Committee of this House reported in favour of union rating by a majority of 1, and so obvious was it that a Bill to carry it out would be accepted by that House that the expedient of talking it out was resorted to. He was fully persuaded that if the Government were fully aware of the state of public feeling on the subject they would at once bring in a measure of their own. Of all the borough Members for Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, 754 the only one who opposed this Bill was the hon. Baronet (Sir George Colthurst), who had given Notice of his intention to move the rejection of it. The bulk of the resistance to the present measure came from the province of Ulster, where its effect would be least felt, though nearly one half of the borough Members gave it their support. In conclusion he moved the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. BROWNE,
in seconding the Motion, said, that, according to the Report of the Select Committee which sat to consider this subject last year, there was no doubt that by the existing electoral system of rating in Ireland, the greatest possible injustice was done to the occupiers in towns. None of the large towns, which suffered so much under the present system of rating, had derived any advantage from the Land Act. It was only fair that Ireland should have the same advantages with regard to local rating as those possessed by England, and, no doubt, if the House would allow the second reading, the Act would be fully appreciated by Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. M'Mahon.)
§ SIR GEORGE COLTHURST
said, he rose to move the rejection of the Bill, and he would assign three reasons for doing so. First, the majority of persons interested in the question—namely, the various Boards of Guardians in Ireland were against the proposed change; 117 had voted against it, 19 for it, and 30 had expressed no opinion. Second, the Bill would operate harshly towards proprietors who lived upon their estates, who had provided their labourers with proper dwellings, and who gave employment to the population. Third, the Bill would prevent, if not completely destroy, the local supervision now exercised by rural guardians, and make it a matter of little interest to them whether they attended their Boards at the time appointed for meeting, so that the town guardians would be left with almost absolute control over the rates. The Bill would also tend to increase the rates in the rural districts. But he had a still stronger objection—a measure involving so important a change should have been introduced by the Government and not by a private Member. The Government, he believed, had no Law Officers in the House connected with 755 Ireland; he must, therefore, appeal to the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, and ask him why the rule he laid down the other night with reference to the Grand Jury Laws had not been observed in this case—namely, that the question should not be dealt with till the whole system of local taxation was discussed; for this was a matter connected with local taxation. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland had intimated his intention to support the Bill, but if the Government had approved of it they should have brought it in themselves. It was not for him to divine the reasons which had induced the Government to support the second reading of the Bill. The fact that the Report of the Committee in favour of the proposed change was carried by so narrow a majority should have prevented this, especially as the evidence given against the proposal vastly preponderated. The Prime Minister had told them that Ireland must now be governed according to Irish ideas; but a measure of this kind would neither satisfy the wants nor be in accordance with the wishes of Irish Members. He moved as an Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. KAVANAGH,
in seconding the Amendment, observed that the hon. and learned Member for New Ross (Mr. M`Mahon) had said that all his efforts had been directed to the assimilation of the law of Ireland to that of England. The hon. and learned Member must have forgotten the Church Bill and the Land Bill, neither of which were in the direction of assimilation. He opposed the Bill because he believed that it would not only be financially detrimental to the rural classes who composed the large majority of the population, but also morally detrimental to all whom it would affect, and he was sanguine enough to hope to be able to substantiate these assertions to those who would try the case on its own merits, and by the test of common sense; but before entering into those matters, he thought that there were some circumstances connected with the proceedings of the Committee which investigated the law of rating which ought to be mentioned to the House. The Committee appointed in the Session of 1871 sat 21 days and examined 26 witnesses. The evidence was reported to the House on the 4th of August, and the Committee recommended that it should be re- 756 appointed next Session. In 1872 another Committee—not the same—vas appointed. Before that time, the late hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), who had been a member of the former Committee, and who was opposed to union rating, received well-earned promotion to a high position. An effort was made to get another Member appointed in his stead, but it failed; and, consequently, the opponents of union rating were, as the Committee was then constituted, placed in a minority of 1. Out of the 32 divisions which took place there were eight in which the supporters of this measure triumphed only by the casting vote of the Chairman. Had the proper balance of opinion which existed on the Committee, as constituted in 1871, been preserved, these eight divisions would have been carried the other way. The result was, that the Report of that Committee, carried by the narrowest majority, was, he believed, directly at variance with the evidence laid before it. He believed this Bill would be detrimental to the vast majority of the inhabitants of Ireland. Mr. Power, the Poor Law Commissioner, admitted that in the 3,428 electoral divisions in Ireland there were 2,405 whose rates would be increased by the operation of this Bill, and only 919 which would gain by it, and that out of the 919, there were only eight cases where any extreme instance of disproportionate inequality of rating existed. The moral effect of it would also be detrimental. It would take away the responsibility which now attached to proprietors, and which led them, in a great number of cases, to take a great interest in the welfare of the poor. It would paralyze an immense amount of private charity and private care which was bestowed upon the poor, and would thereby increase the local rates. The Bill endorsed the principle that one man should be liable for another man's debts, or, to use the old proverb, that they should rob Peter to pay Paul. The advocates of the measure asserted that landed proprietors had cleared their estates of paupers and driven them into the towns; and the hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill mentioned that that had been the case in the neighbourhood of New Ross. He (Mr. Kavanagh) was very well acquainted with the neighbourhood of New Ross, and he challenged the hon. Member to state a single instance as having occurred within the last 20 years. 757 The main arguments in favour of union rating were based on vague charges and generalities such as the hon. Member haul adduced—in not one single case ha(I such been substantiated by the eviderice—the onus of proving a negative lay on those who opposed a change in the law, and when they proposed to do so by the production of witnesses, who were only too willing to be examined, from ail parts of the country, they were met by loud complaints of the length to which the inquiry would be protracted. Various other absurd reasons had been advanced in favour of union rating, it had been said that it would prevent prostitution and disloyalty, and cure chilblains! And even the argument as to assimilating the law with that of England was proved on examination to have no good foundation. The official witnesses who were produced to give evidence in favour of this assimilation, one and all admitted that no analogy existed between the Poor Law systems of the two countries. The bad effects of the Law of Settlement was a main and cogent reason urged in favour of union rating when it was adopted in England—no such law existed in Ireland—the close parish was another plea dwelt on with equal force. He would ask what similitude existed between an English parish and an Irish electoral division? Every witness proved that there was note. So far from such being the case, in many instances the area of a single Irish electoral division exceeded that of an entire English union. He further deprecated this plea of assimilation, firmly believing; that the adoption of union rating in England had been, in a great measure, the cause of the increased and increasing expenditure. A dispassionate review of the evidence given by Mr. Lambert before the Committee, would prove that, before the year 1862, the expenditure in England for the relief of the poor had been decreasing; that in that year the first step was taken towards union rating, and the increased expenditure began. In 1866, union rating, became law, and from that time to the present the increase had continued to a fearful extent, the yearly ratio of increase increasing too. It should also be remembered that union rating could at present be adopted by any union in Ireland at pleasure—this had been done in the instance of the Dunmanway Union; but the board, after a short trial, unani- 758 mously returned to the former system. He hoped that the House would, judging this measure upon its own merits, consign it, fraught as he believed it to be with evil and injustice, to oblivion.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir George Colthurst.)
§ MR. BAGWELL
said, that he thought that the name of the Bill would have been sufficient to command the sympathy of the English part of the House, its object being to assimilate the law of Ireland on this subject to that of England. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had argued the question as if it were a matter of money, and appeared to contend that if a man paid a small sum hitherto he ought to continue to pay only a small sum. He, as an Irish gentleman, would prefer to argue the question on other grounds. He held it to be a very secondary consideration whether the rates were high or low as far as regarded the persons who paid them. But as it affected the labouring population, the matter was very different. It was there where the shoe pinched. There was a very general opinion that Ireland had prospered very much of late years. But, however true that might be of other classes in Ireland, it was not true of the labouring classes. The labouring man, no doubt, received higher wages, but he lived in hovels which were positively crumbling to the ground. In wealthy districts of Limerick, Tipperary, and Clare, after the rains of last year, the walls of the labourers' cottages were almost reduced to their original mud. As long as farmers were allowed to draw their labourers, from the towns they would never consent to put up cottages. He was lately talking with a farmer of his own district, who had two cottages vacant, and the farmer said—"If I opened my cottages to labourers I should soon have my rates doubled, whereas, by drawing labourers from the towns the rates will be never increased." The Government had done a great deal for many persons in Ireland, but they had done nothing for the labouring class. His hon. Friend who had last spoken (Mr. Kavanagh) laid much stress upon the great value of land near towns. But whether a man drew £1,000 a-year from comparatively few acres near a town or from many thousand acres in the coun- 759 try made no difference, because it was the value, not the extent, of the land that he paid upon in each case. It had been urged that union rating would prevent the attendance of the Poor Law guardians at the boards, but his experience led him to believe that they would have the same class of guardians and a better attendance than at present. The Government last year held out a hope that they would take the question up this Session, and Irish Members knew that no Irish question had the slightest chance of passing that House unless it was taken up by Government. The question was of great interest to the agricultural population, and Government would justly incur a very considerable amount of anger from the people of Ireland if they neglected a question on which the condition of the labouring population so greatly depended. He could not but regret that a question in which the agricultural and labouring classes in Ireland were so deeply interested should have been left to be dealt with by a private Member.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING,
in supporting the Bill, complained that no hon. Member of Her Majesty's Government thought it worth while to be present when a measure so important to Ireland was being discussed. His hon. Friend who had just spoken and himself were, in fact, heard by empty benches, for he believed there were but two or three English representatives, and not one Scotch Member present. He inferred from that fact that Irishmen must look elsewhere than to an English Parliament for that attention to the business of Ireland which the country required. The Bill was not a question between town and country; it was a matter of justice. It was not a question whether the unions of Ireland would be relieved of a few pence or a few shillings; but the question for the House was, whether it was just that certain unions in Ireland should have to pay so much as 5s. and 6s. in the pound, while electoral divisions coming closer to the towns, and separated from them by some mere imaginary boundary line should pay something like 10d. or 11d. With a view to ascertain how far union rating had worked beneficially in England, questions had been addressed to Mr. Gulsam, one of the most experienced Poor Law Inspectors in this country, who said that in England the effect of the Union Chargeability 760 Act had been to decrease favouritism in the granting of allowances; that he knew of no instances of extravagance under the Act; and that the attendance of guardians had become more frequent. Now, in Ireland there was an equal number of ex-officio and of elected guardians and the elected guardians were elected by the ex-officio guardians. There were not more than a fourth of the elected guardians who were independent men. The House was told, as one of the reasons for opposing this measure, that the majority of the boards of guardians of Ireland had passed resolutions against union rating. Why, what else could they do, seeing ex-officio guardians almost to a man were opposed to it? The operation of the law of union rating in England had been to reduce the rates, while in Ireland the system of electoral divisions had been to raise them. He could not see how any hon. Member who read the evidence taken before the Select Committee could refrain from supporting the Bill. As an instance of how unjustly the present system operated in some instances, he mentioned that the Union of Skibbereen was valued at £45,408. There were 23 electoral divisions in it, and one of them—the electoral division of Skibbereen itself—was valued at a fifth of the amount at which the other 22 were valued, but it actually paid nearly as much as the other 22 put together. Could that state of things be tolerated? There were 83 paupers charged to the one electoral division of Skibbereen more than the number charged to the other 22 electoral divisions. The cost of maintaining the paupers in the whole 23 divisions was £1,829, but of that sum Skibbereen paid £974, leaving only £855 to be paid by the other divisions. It might be said that Skibbereen might have an unusually large proportion of poor, but that was not so, for of 99 paupers charged to the Skibbereen division, 32 were strangers who had been evicted from the neighbouring electoral divisions. There were several other unions in Ireland, the condition of which was exactly similar, while in some of them it was a great deal worse than in Skibbereen. In the Ennis Union, for instance, the valuation of the whole union was £72,744, and the valuation of the electoral division was £11,615. There were 434 paupers in the workhouse of the whole union, 105 being charged to the union at largo, and 329 to the electoral 761 divisions. Of the 329, the number charged to the Ennis division was 201, leaving only 128 to the other 19 divisions, which had a valuation of £61,000. If hon. Members referred to the witnesses who had been examined at the inquiry that was instituted they would find that all the men who bore testimony to the value of union rating were men in whom the greatest confidence might be placed, while all who opposed it still admitted the existence of an injustice and the necessity of a remedy. The argument had been used that a larger rent was obtained for land near a town. But a larger rate was put upon the land, and the owner paid a rate according to its value. He thought he had proved his case that a cruel injustice was inflicted by the present state of the law; that Ireland was entitled to have extended to her the law by which the people of England were governed in regard to these matters; and that in every view of the case the House was called upon alike by wisdom, justice, and humanity to accept the Bill.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, the figures he had quoted were froth the Returns of 1868, which were given in evidence before the Committee.
§ MR. BRUEN
It had been stated in the evidence before the Committee that the number of paupers in the Skibbereen Union charged to that electoral division was 360 or 370, and the cost of maintaining them was said to be £900. He was happy to state that the latest Return showed a much better state of things—the number of indoor and outdoor paupers being only 273 and the cost of maintaining them £673. It was clear, therefore, that the condition of things in Skibbereen had been gradually bettering itself. The latest Returns throughout the whole of Ireland manifested a gradual amelioration in the extent of pauperism. It was said that the elected guardians were elected by the landlords, but the cumulative vote gave advantages to the tenant as well as the landlord. Motives of self-interest had been freely imputed to the landlord class in this matter, but he believed the landlords, like himself, regarded this subject simply with reference to the interests of 762 the poor of Ireland. A proper system of Poor Law relief could not be carried out if the management in large districts were thrown into a sort of hotch-potch. In the whole of Ireland out of the 162 unions the total number of boards of guardians who had adopted resolutions against union rating was 120. The number of boards of guardians who adopted resolutions in favour of union rating was 16. These boards consisted of both owners and occupiers of the land, thus showing that the opinion of the educated classes was entirely against this question. They bad always insisted upon maintaining the individuality of interests in particular districts, which could not be observed if larger divisions were made. The general tendency of the present time was to induce labourers to remain in the country instead of attracting them to the towns. He entreated the House not to jump to the conclusion that this proposed change in the Irish law which had not perhaps worked unsatisfactorily in England, would work equally well in Ireland, in which country circumstances in reference to this matter were entirely different. In conclusion he gave notice that if the second reading of the Bill were carried he would, on its going into Committee, move a Resolution to the effect that the subject ought to be dealt with in a comprehensive and not in a partial manner.
§ MR. REDMOND
believed that the measure could not be in better hands, but from some small experience in the House he felt how difficult it was for a private Member to pass a measure—and particularly an Irish one—even when it had the approval and the support of the Government of the day. He wished that this Bill had been introduced by the Government, and did not think they were excused for not taking it up by the fact that the larger subject of local taxation in Ireland must soon be dealt with. The great tax in Ireland was the county cess, which was expended in an exceedingly unsatisfactory manner, and without the exercise of any control on their part. He considered the question of union rating quite ripe for legislation, and believed that the opinion of the people of Ireland was almost unanimous in its favour. The change proposed by the Bill was now urgently needed to remedy the injustice which was now being done, and it would be wise to anticipate ex- 763 ceptional periods when, under the present system, the burden of increasing pauperism would become intolerable to the towns. It had been shown that any increase of pauperism which had occurred in England was not due to union rating. The pauperism of Ireland had been largely caused by those evictions by which the landowners got rid of their responsibilities and of their people at the same time, but the day had gone by for large evictions. This measure had been shown to be necessary; it had been adopted from necessity in England, and he hoped the House would not refuse to pass it because it was in private hands.
§ MR. SYNAN
said, he thought the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) had put the question on the right ground, for this question ought not to be discussed in relation to town or county, but in relation to the poor of Ireland, and then all the arguments against the second reading of this Bill would disappear. What was the ground of the opposition to the proposed arrangement? It was that the administrators of the law would not do their duty. Such an argument ought not to be allowed to defeat a measure of this kind. It was generally admitted by the opponents of the Bill that a grievance existed, for which some remedy was necessary. A rate in aid would be limited to the relief of only 72 electoral divisions, but the question arose who was to fix it, and whether it was to be spread from union to union, or from electoral division to electoral division. He had come to the conclusion, though unwillingly, that the only way of meeting the objection, and the only solution of the question was a union rating. There had, undoubtedly, been a vice in the formation of the Committee which sat on this subject, as, indeed, of all the Committees of that House. The Committee had been formed not for the purpose of solving a difficult question, or to ascertain independent opinion, but to decide the question by votes, and to have a Resolution come to by the casting vote of the Chairman. After such a Report it might have been expected that the Government would take up the subject; but considering its difficulty and the variety of opinions entertained upon it by Irish Members, it was not perhaps surprising that the noble Lord the Chief Secretary, with all his 764 vigour and boldness on Irish questions, had shrunk from the task. The House then must decide it for themselves. Every step taken for the amendment of the Irish Poor Law had shown that the introduction of the electoral division system was wrong, and the remedies alp-plied had not met the evil. In the absence of any better remedy, he should support the second reading of the Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that having had the honour to be Chairman of the Committee which inquired into this subject, and having given considerable attention to it, he felt the House would probably expect that he should say a few words before they came to a decision. Even if he had not been Chairman of the Committee, he could hardly have refrained from answering some things which had been stated in the course of this discussion. He had the honour to be the representative of the Local Government (Ireland) Board—formerly the Poor Law Commission—and he must frankly avow that he had been considerably influenced in the decision he had come to on this subject by the very strong opinion arrived at not only by Mr. Power, the Vice President of the Local Government Board, but, as he had informed him, by every Local Government Inspector and every official of that Board. That, in his opinion, was a very strong argument in favour of this Bill. Those gentlemen who had no personal interest, no feeling, on the subject, except that of the good administration of the law, had unanimously arrived at the conclusion in favour of union rating. No men had had better opportunities of forming an opinion and no men had formed a more decided one. For boldly and honestly expressing this they had been unfairly attacked by the hon. Member for Carlow who first spoke (Mr. Kavanagh), who had unintentionally misrepresented some of Mr. Power's evidence. The hon. Gentleman had imputed to Mr. Power a statement that because the large majority of the guardians were interested in the maintenance of the present system, no weight was to be attached to their evidence. What Mr. Power really said, and in which he himself entirely concurred, was that too much weight must not be attached to the resolutions of an immense majority of the guardians of unions in favour of electoral division rating. Now, 2,400 of 765 the electoral divisions would be losers by the proposed change, while only 900 would gain by it, so that without imputing any improper personal motive, it was natural that the guardians representing the former should vote against the change. The hon. Gentleman had quoted part of the evidence of the only other official witness, Mr. O'Brien, the Poor Law Inspector, so as to leave the impression that he advocated the change as a means of enabling people to put their hands into others' pockets. Now, Mr. O'Brien said the very reverse of that, and it was most unfair to have thus misrepresented him. The fact was that he objected to the present system because guardians, instead of doing their duty as a board, allowed cases affecting one division only to be decided by the representatives of that division, owing to a latent feeling that it was not right to put their hands into other people's pockets; and he advocated a change which would supersede such considerations, by making the whole board put their hands into their own pockets. Like the hon. Gentleman who last spoke, he had arrived at a conclusion with some hesitation. He concurred in the principle that the area of taxation and of administration should be identical; and very peculiar circumstances, which did not exist in this case, would be necessary to set aside that principle. Were the guardians of each electoral division invested by law with the responsibility of the relief of the poor within it, much might be said for retaining small areas of taxation, but the law had vested that responsibility in the guardians for the whole union, and they ought not to relieve the union at large by charging all, or the greater part of the cost, on one division. It was admitted on all hands that the system placed undue pressure upon certain urban divisions, it being sometimes treble or quadruple that of the neighbouring rural division. All the Members of the Committee admitted that this grievance ought to be redressed, some of them suggesting a rate in aid, but it would be impossible either to lay down any fixed limit of rating at which a rate in aid should operate, or to provide for a variable limit, differing in different unions. As to evictions, no attempt was made to show any extensive evictions as having occurred from this or any other cause of late years, but the 766 present system unquestionably tended to encourage the destruction of labourers' houses, and to discourage their erection. Probably, a largo majority of landlords would do what was best for their labourers, irrespective of their own advantage; but the law ought not to make it advantageous for a landlord to do what was injurious to his neighbouring towns, but under the present circumstances it was far more advantageous to the farmers that the labourers should not live in the rural districts, but in the neighbouring towns, so that in the event of their becoming chargeable to the poor rate the rural electoral district should escape the charge, which would be thrown on the towns. It had not been proved, though the attempt was made, that the law as it now stood had any such effect in the way of inducing a landlord to give the poor in his locality employment in order to keep them off the rates; and although he could not but respect that form of charity, he should still consider that legislation aiming avowedly at that object would be unsound in principle and objectionable in practice. Some Members of the Committee were shocked, indeed, at his assertion that employment given for the purpose of lessening the rates was given on an unsound and demoralizing principle, but he still maintained that it was not the business of the law to make it the landlord's interest to give employment as charity, this not being good for the landlord, for the country, or for the labourer. What the law ought to do was to give every encouragement to—or at least not to put any impediment in the way of—the labourer going where he was most wanted and taking his labour where it could be most profitably employed. The reduction of rates could only be effected by a vigilant supervision of the whole system, and not by merely removing the pauper from one electoral district to another. Another argument used against union rating was that it would promote inattention to their business on the part of the guardians. Now, a Return presented to the Committee showed that it would not be very easy to make any alteration for the worse in that respect in the present state of things, for the attendance of guardians, and especially of ex-officio guardians, as indicated by that Return, was extremely unsatisfactory. The system 767 of union rating in England, which had now been in operation for some time, had not produced the results which some apprehended from it. No doubt the expenditure in this country had increased, but the cost of everything that was necessary for the maintenance of the pauper had increased in the last few years, and it was not fair to put down that increase to the introduction of union rating. As to the Government not having taken up that subject themselves, he had stated the reasons why, while cordially supporting both the Report of the Committee and the present Bill, they had refrained from doing so. He admitted that he had formed the opinion that this branch of the subject would most conveniently be dealt with in connection with the whole question; but, at the same time, there was no present probability of extensive legislation upon it. He could not admit that a reform of the Grand Jury Laws had anything in common with that measure. The present question was simply one of taxation, but the Grand Jury Laws also involved questions of local government and administration. It was not, however, without considerable regret that he had come to the conclusion that it was not the duty of the Government itself to deal with the matter this Session; but he had no hesitation in saying that they gave their best wishes and support to the hon. Member who had charge of the Bill.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, his own tenure of office had been so brief that he never had an opportunity of going thoroughly into that question; but he much regretted that his noble Friend who had just sat down had not taken it up on the part of the Government. If the noble Lord had done that, and had brought to bear on the subject the responsibility of Government, the hesitation he felt on the matter would have been materially diminished. With himself, it would have been a great object to make the legislation of Ireland as similar as possible to that of England. But what was the way in which legislation of that kind had been dealt with in England? In the early part of the last 40 years he recollected the English Poor Law being debated there year by year. First, the measure was brought forward by one independent Member and then by another. Many in that 768 House approved of the proposed alterations; but they were always rejected until the Government took them up on its own responsibility; and not till 1865 did the House consent to an alteration of the English Poor Law, as it at present exists, when it was proposed under that responsibility; therefore, he could not but feel some difficulty in supporting a proposal like that contained in this Bill, seeing that it was in the hand of a private Member. It was not too much to exact from the Irish Government what they had exacted from the English Government under similar circumstances. The noble Lord opposite must, therefore, excuse him if he hesitated to support a measure which the Government, after taking so large a part in the preliminary stages—the noble Lord himself having acted as Chairman of the Committee—still declined to bring forward themselves. Affixed to the Report of the Committee was a Return showing the number of electoral divisions in each union in Ireland which would gain by the adoption of union rating and the number which would lose by it. From that Return, he found that in the province of Ulster 281 electoral divisions would gain and 875 would lose by the change. In Munster 216 would gain and 1,023 would lose; in Leinster 260 would gain and 940 would lose; and in Connaught 162 would gain and 595 would lose. Taking a summary of all the four provinces, the total number of electoral divisions that would gain by the change was 919, and those that would lose 3,433. That he knew was looking at the matter from a money point of view; but it afforded a strong reason why the Government had not taken up the subject, because it was clear that, under such circumstances, the feeling in Ireland must preponderate very much against union rating. Judging from the evidence which was before them, and which was all there was to guide them, he could only infer that a majority of Poor Law guardians and of their chairmen were in favour of electoral divisions rather than union divisions, and that without any reference to political feeling, for the evidence in favour of electoral divisions came as much from one party as from the other. Looking to the preponderance of the evidence in favour of electoral divisions, he thought they were justified in hesitating to give 769 their assent to a Bill of this kind until the Government would undertake the charge of it on their own responsibility. The Opposition had a right to claim that Her Majesty's Government should on this subject adopt the course which was adopted with reference to England, and on their own responsibility propose the measure they thought best calculated to advance the interests of Ireland. He expressed his opinion only as an independent Member. If the measure were brought forward by the Irish Government, he might have had some hesitation in giving the vote he was about to give; but, under the circumstances, he felt justified in opposing the further progress of this Bill until Her Majesty's Government took the responsibility of it.
§ MR. DELAHUNTY
agreed in the observation that had been made in favour of the assimilation of the laws of England and Ireland. The industry of Ireland was not fairly represented in this House. There was no sympathy for the poor, and he was unable to discover on what ground the poor of Ireland were not supported in the same spirit as the poor of England. While the hon. Member for Cork was speaking, there were present nine English and Scotch Members, and eight Irish Members. The population of Ireland had been on the decline ever since the Union, and the land of Ireland did not pay for the poor as much per acre as the land of England, and this was owing to the Dublin Castle legislation being adverse to the true interests of the country. Proportionately, the Irish landlords ought to pay £2,400,000 for the support of the poor, whereas, in fact, they paid only £580,000; but while the landholders paid comparatively nothing to the poor rates, the struggling shopkeepers, merchants, and sailors contributed largely towards them, and the effect of this was to stamp down the poor. If there had been equality of laws, the landlords and agricultural interest of Ireland would not have escaped legislation. The tenants of Ireland, as a rule, paid no income tax, because only farms of £300 per annum were assessed; whereas every struggling tradesman had to pay the tax. The miserable Irish Government that we had dare not take up this subject, because it was afraid of the landed interest.
§ MR. RODEN
said, he was the only Englishman who had ventured, in the course of this debate, to speak for Ireland. The question appeared to him to be an Imperial one, and one of far more importance than it was generally regarded. It was a question beyond union rating. He knew a case where a landlord had refused to permit the erection of cottages lest an increase in the poor rates should arise, while from the next parish he received large emoluments. He wished to see the same law exist in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Union rating existed in England, and with great advantage. Why should not Ireland be similarly treated? The only practical way of dealing with the Home Rule question was to make the laws of Ireland similar to those of England. He supported the Bill.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he rejoiced that the question was one free from religious differences, and he hoped the House would look at it with the desire of doing that which was best for the Irish poor. No case had been as yet made out to change the law, which had hitherto worked so beneficially in Ireland. During the famine in Ireland the wants of the Irish people were relieved according to their exigencies. The laws should be made to meet the requirements of the country. It was said that the people of Ireland wanted a change; but where was this proved? Numerous unions had petitioned against this Bill; and those in favour of it were in number only 19. The proposed change, he believed, would be most unpopular in Ireland, and he could not understand those who advocated Home Rule for Ireland showing such an anxiety for slavish imitation of English example in this matter. He strongly opposed the Bill.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, no attempt had been made to abolish the system of union rating which had been adopted in England, and if it worked well in England it ought to be extended to Ireland. He believed that this measure would facilitate the erection of improved dwellings for the poor in Ireland. He trusted that Parliament would not perpetuate in Ireland the exceptional and doubtful system of granting rates in aid. The more we assimilated the laws of England and those of Ireland, the less likely were we to expect complaints from the latter country.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for Ireland had denied that the people of that country were in favour of this Bill. Now, the fact was that in Leinster, Munster, and Connaught there was almost absolute unanimity in favour of it. He hoped that when the Bill went into Committee the Government would undertake the charge of it.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 77; Noes 61: Majority 16.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Wednesday next.