§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ DR. WARD,
in rising to move that the Bill be now read the second time, said: 429 I rise with much diffidence to introduce this Bill to the notice of the House. The measure deals with a subject which has often occupied the attention of the House—namely, an enormous industry complicated in its details, and very much contested in regard to some of the modes which have been put forward for its relief. It has been the misfortune of this industry to have shared, with all other industries of Ireland, a very great decline for many years, and it has been more unfortunate than those other industries, because while they have been checked in their decline, this has been rapidly and steadily going down. In order to bring before the House clearly the reasons why this great industry, and the large population connected with it, are thus going down, thereby causing a mighty loss to the country, both in national wealth and in population, I must go rather carefully into the history of this question. I confess I must apologize beforehand to the House for entering with very considerable detail into what may be called in some sense the remote history of the Irish fisheries, in order to put clearly before you the causes and the real remedies for this great national evil. I will not trouble the House to go back to the very early time of the Irish fisheries before the Union, although I might fairly do so, because previous to that period this industry had fared very badly, indeed, at the hands of the ruling power, and there was a systematic crushing out of the Irish fishermen in the interests of the British fishermen. This was carried on for centuries, and the fact must be borne in mind, because if you systematically crush down the industry of one people and foster the industry of another people, you cannot expect them to start on the same level at this day. I shall turn now to the period of our later connection with England, dating since the Union—a period when, according to all accounts, we were to get all the material blessings which the Imperial Government could confer. From almost the very first day of the founding of the Imperial Parliament to the present hour the question of the Irish fisheries has been agitated in this House or by Committees of this House. As early as the year 1804 a Bill was introduced into this House in reference to the Irish fisheries. It was an extremely simple one, but its history 430 is very remarkable, inasmuch as it indicates the policy subsequently pursued, and pursued to the injury and almost the ruin of the Irish fisheries. The then Member for Wexford asked the House to incorporate a company in order to enable them to fish on the Irish coast. That was apparently a very simple Bill; but when it came before the House an agitation was got up in all the fishing ports of England. In consequence of that agitation, and in obedience to it, the Bill was sacrificed. This was the very thing that took place before the Union. Whenever the Irish fisheries were likely to become successful, an agitation was got up in England, and the Irish fisheries were put down for the benefit of the English fishermen. Even after the Union we find the same thing occurring time after time. When something was tried to be effected, sometimes even by Government, the jealousy of the English and Scotch fishermen stepped in and crushed out any benefit that was designed. I do not blame the English or Scotch fishermen—it was a very natural course for them to take—but I do blame the Legislature, which ought to have been impartial to the three countries, and which all along had proved itself to be most partial. In 1809 we find organized a system, called the bounty system, for England and Scotland—a system which, on the whole, did considerable service. It was, however, a system which we would not ask for now; but it suited the then condition of the industry. In 1809 there was passed an Act providing bounties for the English and Scotch fisheries, but it was not until 10 years later that a similar Act was passed for Ireland. The bounty system established for Ireland in 1819, as well as that established for England and Scotland in 1809, was abolished in 1830. Thus, while the English and Scotch fishermen enjoyed the benefits of the system for 20 years, the Irish fishermen had them for only 10. These bounties have been objected to by some. In fact, their distribution, like the distribution of several public funds at that day, was not always what it ought to have been; but nevertheless the system conferred great benefits. Indeed, it was enormously useful in Ireland, although it was only continued for 10 years in that country. In 1821, only two years after the establishment of the 431 system, the vessels engaged in the Irish fisheries numbered 4,889, and the number of men employed was 21,422; whereas in 1829, after eight years' trial of the system, the number of boats had increased to 12,611, and the number of men to63,421. However, in the year 1830, in spite of the strongest representations of the Commissioners, all State aid was withdrawn from the Irish fisheries. This was grossly unfair; for not only had the British fisheries been fostered for a long time by the repressing and ruining of the Irish fisheries, butthey had been receiving a large direct State aid for twice as long a period as the Irish. To illustrate this injustice, let us compare the case of Ireland to that of Scotland. The latter country, with a more limited sea-coast and a smaller population, received from 1809 to 1819 £1,179,000, while Ireland for the same period got only £330,000. But this is not all. The Irish Board of Commissioners was dissolved, and the care of the fisheries given over to a body with no practical powers or funds for their promotion. At the same time the Scotch Board was continued in full operation, with an income of £15,000 a-year to carry out useful regulations; to build piers and harbours, to repair the boats of the poorer fishermen, and to give an increased value to the cured fish by means of a brand. That brand exists to the present day, and has conferred the greatest benefits on the Scotch fisheries. Indeed, it is a Board similar to that which by this Bill we now ask to establish for Ireland, after more than 40 years of neglect and consequent decay. I have called the attention of the House to this early condition of things because, without a knowledge of them, it would be impossible to understand clearly the subsequent course of events and the principles upon which we now ask for legislation. Up to 1830 we have seen that the course pursued towards the Irish fisheries was one of repression and injustice from that day to this. We shall see that it is one of neglect, necessarily followed by decay and almost complete ruin. The course pursued from 1830 to this day by the Legislature and by successive Governments has been very simple, and very characteristic of the treatment which Irish wants—more especially Irish material wants—have met with at the hands of the Imperial Parliament when legisla- 432 tion was asked for. When the decaying condition of the Irish fisheries was brought before Parliament, Commissioners and Committees were nominated and directed to inquire and make Reports. Inspectors were appointed, and directed to inspect and make Reports; Reports were made, voluminous Blue Books were laid before the House, but nothing was done. Nothing was done, though there was a marked uniformity in the Reports and recommendations made to Parliament. Although all the Reports agreed that the fisheries were going to ruin; although all pointed out the same remedies, still nothing was done. When, in 1835, it was shown that there was a falling off in the fisheries in consequence of the withdrawal of the bounty, a Commission was appointed. This Commission reported on the decaying condition of the fisheries, and recommended the very provisions which we ask the House to provide by this Bill—namely, the appointment of Commissioners with powers to regulate piers, fishing, curing houses, branding, and of granting loans to fishermen. So clear was the case made out by the Commission, that their recommendations were embodied in a Bill brought in by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland. The fate of that measure may be instructive for some of those who maintain that the treatment of Ireland by the Imperial Parliament has been the same as that of the sister countries. This Bill was brought in by the Government, and after the usual Petitions against it from Scotland, and an influential deputation from that country, quietly shelved. From that time to this no Government has had the leisure, or perhaps the inclination, to take up the question, and the Irish fisheries have been quietly allowed to go to ruin. It is true that there have since been debates, Committees, Inspectors, and Reports. It is further true that by all these the provisions of the Bill of 1838 have been pressed on the Legislature; but it is also true that nothing has been done. In 1842 a Bill was passed as to some minor regulations, but it offered no relief, and effected none. In 1846 came the Famine, and found a large fishing population, now long neglected by the Legislature, and consequently ill-cared for and ill-provided. The poor fishermen, as was to be expected, suffered fearfully from 433 that awful calamity, and as the Commission of 1866 for the fisheries of the United Kingdom state, "has not yet recovered from the depression and ruin"of that terrible time. If ever there was a time for a wise and just Government to step in and to save a most valuable industry from annihilation, and a large industrious population from ruin, it surely was then. According to the Report of the Board of Works issued in 1849 "no branch of the industrial resources of Ireland suffered more severely than the fisheries." And what was done by the Government for their relief and preservation? The establishment of a few curing houses by a charitable fund—the Reproductive Loan Fund. What wonder is it that such conduct on the part of the Government should have driven some of the best men in the country into open revolt? Such conduct was more than sufficient to condemn any Government and any system of government under which it occurred. The movement of 1848 having been put down, a Select Committee was appointed by this House in 1849 to inquire into the condition of the Irish fisheries. That there was need of inquiry, and much more than inquiry, we can see from the following statistics:—In the year 1846 no fewer than 19,883 vessels and boats were engaged in the fisheries, and 113,073 men and boys; whereas in 1849 the numbers had diminished to 18,100 vessels and boats, and 71,505 men and boys, showing a decrease of 1,783 vessels and boats, and 41,568 men and boys. The Committee reported to the House that there was a want of proper funds and of effective machinery in the way of managing Commissioners' curing houses. Hon. Members will hardly credit the assertion that, in the face of this recommendation, and of the fearful decline of the fisheries, nothing was done. Committees might report as they liked, but Government and Parliament left the unfortunate famine-stricken fishermen to perish as they might. Things went on as was to be expected. The fishermen daily dwindled in numbers, and we find in 1852 the following condition of things:—Vessels and boats, 11,789, and 58,863 men and boys; against, in 1849, 18,100 boats and 71,505 men and boys; showing a decrease of 6,311 boats and 12,742 men 434 and boys. Surely, in the face of such awful decline as that, it might have been expected that Parliament would now step in if it only knew of the facts, and had an opportunity given for legislation. An opportunity was actually afforded, and the facts were laid before the House in 1852 by the hon. Member for Donegal. The hon. Member proposed the usual remedies—State aid and organization. Nothing was done. The fisheries went on still declining, and the fishermen lessening in numbers. This state of things went on until 1866, when Mr. Blake, Member for Waterford, introduced the question again to the notice of the House, introducing a Bill in several main respects similar to the present one, and to those which had preceded it. A glance at the statistics of the fisheries at this period will be again instructive. In 1866 there were 9,444 boats and 40,663 men and boys; but in 1852 the number had amounted to 11,789 boats and 58,863 men and boys, showing a decrease of 2,335 boats and 18,200 men and boys. Thus the total decrease since the year 1846 had been 10,439 boats and 72,410 men and boys. Parliament could surely no longer allow this state of things to continue. The Bill was put off until the following year, and then referred to a Select Committee. The Committee reported, as all previous Committees had done, as to the decline of the fisheries, and the only remedies that would be effectual. These very recommendations, so similar to those of former Committees, are embodied. Notwithstanding the continued and rapid decline of the fisheries—notwithstanding that the chief objections urged against these recommendations in the name of political economy have been completely swept away in this House by Mr. John Stuart Mill, still they were practically allowed to become a dead letter. It may not be out of place here to recall to the House the principles laid down by Mr. Mill in a debate on this question in the House. He 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 that 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 435 to do things for a country which was industriously 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 enterprize. It was, therefore, incumbent on them, now that they were wise and able to look upon their past conduct with shame, to legislate in an opposite direction, and to risk, if necessary, the loss of small sums to advance that industry which they had formerly endeavoured to retard. Notwithstanding the principles here laid down, the recommendations of the Committee of 1867 were not carried into effect, and the fisheries were once more allowed to pursue their downward course unheeded and uncared for. In 1869 three Inspectors of Fisheries were appointed to look after inland and sea fisheries and report, with powers to inspect and report on the sea fisheries. The Inspectors, however, got no real power to regulate, and no power at all to aid, the sea fisheries. The result, of course, has been no arrest in the decline of the fisheries. It will be well to glance at the state of these fisheries in 1870, so that we maybe able to judge the real value of appointing Inspectors merely to inspect and report. In 1866 there were 9,444 vessels and boats engaged in the Irish fisheries and 40,663 men and boys, as against 9,099 vessels and boats and 38,650 men and boys employed in 1870. These figures show a decrease of 345 vessels and boats and 2,013 men and boys. Surely that number is low enough; but if we look to the year 1872 we find a still more rapid reduction. In 1870 there were 9,099 vessels and boats and 38,650 men and boys, but in 1872 there were only 7,914 vessels and boats, and 31,311 men and boys; the decrease being 1,175 vessels and boats, and 7,339 men and boys. Matters are now rapidly going from bad to worse. The Inspectors are powerless except to report, which they have done year after year to the House, always pointing out the rapid decline, and always suggesting the old remedies of 436 State aid and organization. All was in vain. In 1873 the 7,914 vessels and boats, and the 31,311 men and boys we had in 1872, had dwindled down to 7,181 vessels and boats, and 29,307 men and boys. In 1874 matters had become still worse, for while there was a slight increase in the vessels and boats, the men and boys had fallen to 26,924. At length, in 1874, the vessels and the men had decreased from what they were in 1846 in this wise—in 1846 the number of vessels and boats employed in the fisheries was 19,883, and the number of men and boys 113,073; but in 1874 the numbers were 7,241 vessels and boats, and 26,924 men and boys; there thus being a decrease of 12,642 vessels and boats, and 86,149 men and boys. In other words, the vessels had decreased to nearly one-third, and boys to nearly one-fourth. When things had come to this pass, the House had decided, by a majority against the Government, that something should be done, and the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland brought in and passed the Irish Reproductive Loan Bill, for the granting in some districts of loans to fishermen. Credit is, undoubtedly, due to the right hon. Baronet for bringing in and passing that Bill. It was not his fault, if it proved totally inadequate to the purpose. While it did not touch the all-important matters of management, curing, and branding, the Reproductive Limitation Fund furnishes to some counties a means of granting loans, which is being used in my own county; but I understand the fund is small, being the residue of an Irish charitable fund, collected as far back as the year 1821. Moreover, it is only applicable to seven of the maritime counties in Ireland, leaving 11 maritime counties wholly un-provided for. In my county I find there were something like 1,400 applicants, and no wonder, considering the wretched condition to which the fishing population has been reduced by this system of legislation. What did they apply for? Something like £20,000, which was not £20 a man. There was hardly 1,400 of them, and they got £1,100. That is not much encouragement to fishing in that part of the country. To tell us to wait, is to tell us to wait until we have no fishermen at all. This Bill, which has been principally drafted by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), 437 and the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Collins), goes on the lines of the recommendations of Committees. It purposes to appoint a set of Commissioners to govern the Irish fisheries. They shall have powers to appoint officers, to make bye-laws, and enforce penalties for their breach. Without this system of management, it has been proved that you cannot get along with the fisheries. You have tried these Commissioners in Scotland with great success. They shall also have the licensing of vessels. The first 23 clauses deal with the Commissioners and their powers. Then the two clauses 24 and 25 deal with superintendence, and say that the regulations of the Admiralty shall be carried out by the Commissioners. Clauses 27 to 33 deal with branding, which is a question of some importance. Free branding existed in Scotland since 1858; now it is charged, for the use of branding in Scotland has been considerable. Several Scotch gentlemen do not wish for it; but, as far as I can learn, under the branding system, curing has developed to an enormous extent. Some of the curing establishments are in the hands of very large owners, who have a brand of their own, and their brand is of such value, that they do not care for the Government brand, for the reason that they do not want the smaller curers to compete with them; but in Ireland we are not in a position to dispense with the brand. At all events, let us try, and then, if necessary, it can be dropped out. Clauses 35, 36, and 37 deal with the loan question. You were always recommended to give loans, and the system was decided to be fair and legitimate for the Government to do. I do not think we shall have any difficulty in these clauses, for the principle has been decided. Then comes the subject of regulations of piers and harbours, and on this point I confess that anything that could be taken out of the power of the Board of Works is a benefit for Ireland. I have gone through the Bill to show that it is founded on the recommendations made time after time, and I think we do not want any more Committees to take evidence. I would ask you not to put the question off again. You have been putting it off for the last 75 years, and if you put it off any longer, there will be no fishermen at all. Give the Bill at least a trial. The fishermen were a source of enormous national wealth, and they provided a hardy, 438 sailor-like population, which you want both for the Mercantile and Her Majesty's Navy. You have allowed the land population to dwindle away, and you now look in vain for soldiers. You are letting these fishermen dwindle away, and you will look in vain for sailors. As far back as the Union, 10,000 fishermen were voted by the Irish Parliament to aid England, and as late as the Crimean War, it was these fishermen who took the place of the Coastguards sent to the war, and very well they did the work. But you have allowed a great industry to go to ruin, and a population which would have been of great value to you to go to decay. Fishermen know nothing of politics, and they never were engaged in an uprising. The land tenants have agitated, and have got something; but the unfortunate fishermen, who never mind politics, have been ruined, and this is an argument against the Imperial system. You will experience a great and important benefit from the operation of the Bill. It is a paltry argument to say that because it costs a few thousands it must not be done. You go on building ships at an enormous expense, and by neglecting the fishermen, you will very soon have no one to put in your ships. It is a matter of justifiable expense, and you are bound to face the question at once. We are citizens of the Empire, and have rights. When we have shown these rights they ought to have been attended to, but they have not. We demanded our rights, and are therefore justified in being discontented unless you agree to remedy the present state of things. The final result will be to produce a weakness in this great Empire. I beg to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Dr. Ward.)
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that the hon. Member for Galway had favoured them with a very interesting speech, in which he had given a history of the legislation on the subject, and had said that Ireland had been unfairly treated. About that there could not be a doubt. There was not a more melancholy page of history than the whole course of English legislation towards Ireland. But in this instance he could not approve of the remedy that 439 had been proposed—the Bill was altogether opposed, to all true principles of political economy. No one any longer doubted that it was no part of the duty of Government to foster any particular industry. Yet there was a time when Government thought it was their duty to affix their brand upon almost every article of textile manufacture and merchandize; and they did so in the belief that the industries so fostered would in some mysterious manner be benefited. But all idea of that nature had been exploded long ago; the system had been the reverse of beneficial to the linen trade, the cotton trade, and the woollen trade, and it had been abandoned by mutual consent in every instance except one—that of branding in Scotland—and the sooner it was abandoned there the better. The Preamble of this Bill spoke of the system having been established in Scotland with the result of producing great advantages to the United Kingdom. He joined issue with the hon. Gentleman on this point. He disputed altogether that the fisheries of Scotland had been benefited by the Government brand. No doubt the Scotch fisheries had flourished, but they had flourished not in consequence of branding, but in spite of it—not because Government had gone out of its way to do what every merchant ought to do for himself, but because they had on the North East Coast of Scotland a race of mariners—men of Danish extraction—celebrated for their industry, skill, and enterprize, who had established a very lucrative trade. But what was the result of a somewhat similar system on the West Coast. A number of benevolent gentlemen subscribed money for the purpose of assisting by loans the population of the Highlands and the Western Islands. They expended the money very much in the manner proposed by this Bill. They gave loans and grants to fishermen; they built boats for them; they established stations, and they did everything in their power in order to create a new trade in those Islands. The result was a most disastrous failure—the loans did more harm than good, and some of the boats then built might be seen rotting on the shores. The system of branding was neither more nor less than the last rag and remnant of the protective policy. The Board of Trade had condemned it over and over again. In 1873, when 440 he was in office, Mr. Macfie asked a Question on the subject of a reduction of the fee; and he (Mr. Baxter) then stated that he had no doubt that the whole system of branding would be eventually abolished, as it was no part of the business of Government to affix an official stamp on any article of merchandize. His objection to the Bill was a fundamental one; it did not apply to any particular clause, but he objected to it because it was in violation of the best principles of political economy, and was reverting to an old system which had been exploded long ago. But he had another objection to the Bill: it was proposed to give powers to Commissioners to spend public money on the piers and harbours of Ireland. He thought the history of this matter in Scotland ought to be a warning—there was not a single instance in Scotland where such grants had done good—indeed, he knew a harbour which was bad before, but had been made much worse by an expenditure of £45,000upon it. The history of grants in Scotland had been most lamentable and disastrous, and the managers had received the censure of Her Majesty's Treasury. Then it was proposed that the money to be thus advanced was not to be voted by Parliament, but to be paid by the Treasury out of the Consolidated Fund—in his 21 years' experience of that House he had never seen a Bill brought in by a private Member which made so free with the public treasure. He was sorry to see no representative of the Treasury present; but he hoped, in the interests of the Imperial Treasury and in the interests of the people of Ireland, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland would say that the Government were prepared to resist the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that when he entered the House he had no intention of speaking on the subject of the Bill. He thought it was not of much use to do so. Legislation for Ireland was not carried out in that House until public opinion out-of-doors was stimulated to the point of popular pressure. He was sorry to say that, but such was his experience. He had heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) with regret, and he should make some observations in reply to it. The Bill did not 441 rest on the grounds the right hon. Gentleman assigned to it. The question was not one of Protection as against Free Trade; the Bill was one to develop anew and restore an industry which had been almost crushed out by the application of the principle of Protection in favour of other portions of the United Kingdom, and notably in favour of Scotland. He would refer to that branch of the subject in a short time. The right hon. Gentleman had given some flagrant instances of the uses which some persons in Scotland made of the protection which they enjoyed long after the period during which Scotland needed fostering care in the matter of her fisheries. The branding system in Scotland the right hon. Gentleman had described as in fact fraudulent, and in respect to sums voted for the improvement of harbours he gave us an instance, a Scotch seaport in which £45,000 of the public money had been expended, with the result of destroying the harbour altogether. Now, he would ask hon. Gentlemen what sort of argument was that? Nothing of the kind was likely to occur in Ireland, where there was a vigilant public opinion, and a strong antipathy to jobbing the public money which, he was sorry to hear, did not prevail in Scotland. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) must say, what the right hon. Gentleman had altogether failed to comprehend—that the outlay in this case was proposed with the view of organizing a national industry, and was in fact a charge in favour of industrial education such as the Scotch community had already enjoyed in its earlier stage to an extent which would enable them now to dispense with protection or fostering care. Whenever the condition of the fisheries of Ireland was raised to an equally satisfactory standard, all expenditure for Ireland should also cease, and would cease, as a matter of course, except to the extent that the executive organization of certain industries of the Empire might happen to be considered an Imperial duty. [The hon. Gentleman read extracts from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, also from M'Culloch's notes on the subject of the bounties to the Scotch fisheries, to show that even M'Culloch did not propose that the bounty system should, cease until the traders of Scotland were prepared for the change.] He was quite as firm a 442 believer in the principle of free trade as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose; but he hoped he was able to discern better than the right hon. Gentleman the essential difference which there was between such an expenditure of public money as the Bill proposed, and some other outlay made for the purpose of protecting a branch of trade beyond the stage at which it ought to protect itself and propagate its industry. For his part, he viewed the expenditure proposed by the Bill as in its real nature an educational one—an expenditure to organize, and, so to speak, educate a national industry which had suffered from mislegislation and fostered competition. It was one of the first duties of a Legislature and a Government to make such outlays, which, when judiciously administered, were not wasted, but returned tenfold to the community after a time.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, that as his constituents were interested in the fisheries, he desired to say a few words in support of the Bill. The objection of the right hon. Member for Montrose, that loans and bounties had done more harm than good in Scotland and that boats built by the money of the public might now be seen rotting on the shore, only proved that the money had not been properly laid out in Scotland, buthad been jobbed away. He did not see how that could be an argument against the present proposal. There was every reason to hope under the provisions of the Bill that the money would be properly spent in Ireland. What was now proposed for Ireland had produced the best results in Scotland, for there was no doubt that the Scotch fisheries had taken an extraordinary development and produced the most beneficial results—no doubt if the money had been better spent the advantages would have been still greater—and if a similar system had been adopted in Ireland the same results might have been obtained. It should not be forgotten that all that this Bill proposed to do was to extend to Ireland a policy which had been so beneficial to Scotland. As a question of political economy, it was better, no doubt, that people should be made to rely on their own industry—but there was a state of things to which that rule was not applicable. There was a stage in industry in which bounties might be not only 443 useful but necessary; and when the industry had got beyond the age of infancy the bounties might be gradually withdrawn. He thought the fisheries of Ireland were in precisely that stage. The Reproductive Loan Fund was applicable to 11 ports only, of which his constituents of Wexford were not one—they were left entirely to their own resources, and this he thought exceedingly unfair. But if this Bill passed, some justice would be done by placing them in the same position as those towns which received assistance from the Fund.
THE MARQUESS OF HAMILTON
said, that although he was not able to agree with every detail of the Bill, yet he would support the second reading, for it appeared to him that the principle of the measure was one that commended itself to the favourable consideration of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) laid stress on three points—namely, the branding, the abuse of loans, and the granting of money out of the Consolidated Fund for the erection of piers and harbours. Now, as regarded the first, he (the Marquess of Hamilton) would say that if branding was a matter of no importance, let it be abandoned on the part of the Scotch—if they would abandon it he felt sure the Irish people would not insist on the introduction of the system into Ireland. As regarded the question of erecting piers and harbours in Ireland, he considered it of the greatest importance. If the right hon. Gentleman would only pay a visit to that part of the coast comprising the county which he had the honour to represent (Donegal) he would see the importance of it, too, and admit that money and energy were required to put the piers in a proper state of repair. The right hon. Gentleman also objected to that part of the Bill which referred to loans. He remembered a Scotch proprietor on the west coast of Ireland, who had a good many tenants on his estate, telling him that whenever he wanted to get rid of two or three tenants he would give them a loan, and that invariably he found they never came back. He did not think that that would apply to the Irish fishermen, for in that case, with regard to the advances made from the Reproductive Loan Fund, there was only one case in which the trust had been, misapplied. There 444 could be no doubt that the present state of the Irish fisheries was most unfortunate—they had gone from bad to worse. To what was that to be attributed? Some attributed it to want of enterprize on the part of the Irish fishermen. Something there was in that; but that was not the whole case. The chief cause was the want of funds whereby there energy could be carried to a useful account. The county which he had the honour to represent could formerly boast of a flourishing and energetic race of fishermen. Fish was abundant along the whole coast; but now the fishermen were not only fewer in numbers but they had deteriorated in quality. They could not catch a fisherman at the age of 18 or 20 as they could a soldier. They could not make a fisherman in a few weeks. The supply of fish, too, though it had fallen off, was not deficient. This question had been brought before the House year after year with no results. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, the year before last, did something in the way of advancing loans to certain societies; but he was unable, from want of funds, to extend that assistance to all that stood in need of it. Out of 15 sea-bound counties only 5 had received the benefit of those loans. He thought the right hon. Gentleman might now endeavour to provide for the advance of loans to the rest of Ireland. Whatever Government, whether it were Liberal or Conservative, should show itself willing and able to raise the Irish fisheries out of the unfortunate position which they at present occupied would deserve the support and everlasting thanks of every Irishman.
§ MR. YEAMAN
said, that Scotland and the Scotch fisheries had been mentioned several times during the debate, and as he happened to have some practical knowledge of those fisheries through having been connected with them for 36 years and upwards, he hoped the House would allow him to make a few remarks on the Bill now under notice. He quite agreed with the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter)with regard to the time having arrived for the Scotch Fishery Board being done away with. The Board had answered the purposes for which it was appointed, and in his opinion the fisheries of Scotland were now in such a prosperous position that 445 they were able to stand on their own legs as one of the great industries of the country. But what had brought them to this condition of perfection? It had been, in his view—that was, to a large extent—the fostering care of the Government—at the same time, they could not altogether elimit from the merit of that success the indomitable perseverance of the Scotch character in the fishcurer and fishermen. In the beginning of this century the fisheries were in a very bad condition, both with regard to the cod and herring fishery, and also with regard to the whale fishery. The value of the shoals of fish which frequented the Scotch coasts went into the coffers of other rich countries, and did not go into the coffers of the poor country of Scotland. Parliament at the time came to the conclusion that it would be for the benefit of the country itself, and of the nation generally, that some encouragement should be given to the Scotch fisheries; a Fishery Board was established, and officers placed around the coasts of Scotland at various fishing stations, bounties were granted to a certain amount in order to assist those engaged in carrying out the enterprize. That continued until the year 1830, when the bounty was withdrawn. The fisheries had then arrived at a state of perfection which did not necessitate any bounty; but in order to foster and assist in the curing of herrings, and to stimulate those engaged in the trade and in properly gutting, packing, and curing of fish, fishery officers of experience were stationed around the coast. The trade had prospered to such an extent that it was now worth millions to the country. The Fishery Board still existed, but the fisheries, he thought, no longer required to be fostered by any Government superintendence, nor was there any need to continue the practice of branding. The time had come when the Government brand should be withdrawn, and every curer engaged in the trade should be left to his own resources. But while he spoke thus of the Scotch fisheries, he must sayhe thought the Irish fisheries were in a very different position. It was a deplorable thing that Ireland, with its coasts abounding with rich shoals of fish of all descriptions, ready to be harvested, had not money to take advantage of that harvest, and to reap it when it came to their 446 shores. Ireland stood now where Scotland stood some 60 or 70 years ago; and if the same care and encouragement which had been advantageous to Scotch fisheries were applied to the Irish, the fisheries there might become as beneficial and prolific in a national point of view, as the Scotch fisheries were. It was of vast importance to a food-importing nation such as this to extend the food producing capacity of its country—it was so much money saved to the nation, and it saved the money from going to foreign countries for food to be imported for the sustenance of the people. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose had told them that the provisions of this Bill were against the principles of political economy; but he (Mr. Yeaman) thought the best proof that the Bill was in accordance with those principles was to be found in the success which the Scotch fisheries had attained under the fostering care which this Bill provided and proposed to extend to the Irish fisheries. That was the best proof that the Bill was not against the highest principles of political economy. He thought that now that the Irish fisheries were almost nil the same principles should be applied to revive them that were applied to Scotland 60 or 70 years ago; and if those connected with the Irish fisheries showed the same indomitable energy as the Scotch—and he saw no reason why they should not—they would not long remain behind. If they looked at the example of those representing Irish constituencies in this House, and saw how steadily they persevered in pressing these measures on the attention of Parliament, he could not doubt that if this Bill were carried through the House it would be of great advantage to the Irish nation. He was not saying the Bill was complete or perfect in itself—no doubt some amendments might be made. He thought the Government should take up this Bill or give it their support. In that case, if it did not succeed it would not be the fault of the Government, but the fault of the Irish people themselves and those engaged in this industry. He should, therefore, vote in favour of the principle of the Bill.
§ MR. BRUEN
said, he heartily supported the proposition that there should be a brand for the fish caught in Ireland in the same way as was done in Scotland. He looked upon the brand not as a pro- 447 tection, but as a guarantee of quality, and, viewed in that light, he thought it would be as valuable to the Irish fisheries as it had been to those of Scotland, as carrying weight with it in foreign markets. As regarded the question of fishery piers and harbours throughout Ireland, he looked upon them as amongst the objects to which Imperial funds might fairly and properly be applied; and he acknowledged with gratitude that some assistance was already given both to Ireland and Scotland, for these purposes. In the Estimates of this year the sum to be voted for fishing piers in Ireland was £4,900. These works he regarded not as a bounty on the fisheries, but as expended for the protection of life and property. But when he came to consider how the Bill professed to give effect to these points, he could not say that he altogether agreed with that part of the Bill. It was proposed to erect a new Department of a very complex and expensive kind. He did not himself see why the present Fishery Inspectors should not be utilized for giving effect to any provision the Government might think well to make for the development of Irish fisheries. If necessary, the number of the Inspectors might be increased and their powers augmented. But these were details. He gave his hearty support to the main principle of the measure, which was, that Her Majesty's Government should be asked to do something towards the development and sustentation of this branch of industry in Ireland.
§ MR. LOWTHIAN BELL
said, he could understand an English Member objecting to the Bill, but he could not at all understand an objection coming from a Scotch Member, his fellow-countrymen having for so long a time been in receipt of a Government grant for the very purpose contemplated by its provisions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) said that the Ministry, of which he was a Member, was prepared to make a change in the law; but it was open to him when in office to do it, and he failed to see why so much money should have been given to Scotland for those purposes and none to Ireland. Neither did he see that because a large sum of money had been wasted in making a bad harbour in Scotland by Scotchmen, our Irish fellow-subjects should not be al- 448 lowed to try their hand in making a good one in Ireland. Though he was not prepared to approve every clause he should support the general principle of the Bill.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, the wonder in his mind was how it came about that while the fisheries of Scotland had developed with such great rapidity, and while a railway system had been organized to convey their produce to the most remote markets, until the industry had become one of the most flourishing and lucrative in the country, the adjacent fisheries of Ireland, whose waters were teeming with fish, had steadily diminished in production. He thought a clause should be inserted to turn Irishmen into Scotchmen, for he believed the different results to be entirely due to the difference between the sagacity and the perseverance of the two peoples. He had heard a great deal about bonuses and brands; but it appeared that up to a certain point the Irish fisheries enjoyed the same advantages as the Scotch; but the Scotch people, unlike the Irish, instead of desponding, accepted their fate, turned round upon their conquerors, made money out of them, supplied them with Prime Ministers and Chancellors, and ceased to fight against them. Here was a Bill of some 50 clauses, and providing a machinery that was wholly impracticable—the Government could not assent to it. He should be glad to see anything done for Irish fisheries that would rescue them from the condition in which they at present were; but nothing the Government could do could change the character of the people and make men go to sea to earn their bread if they did not like the occupation. Scotch fishermen could not help succeeding. They went in the Spring to the Western Hebrides with their families; and at the close of the fishing season there, they returned to their villages, and after the lapse of a few days repaired to the east coast, where the fishing lasted six or seven weeks. Out of an area of 40 miles by 30 he had known them take fish equal in value to the land revenue of the county of Aberdeen, which was £900,000. The fishermen carried away £200 or £300 a-piece. They did not go home to dig potatoes—they had not many to dig. The commerce of the country furnished them with the necessities they required, and they devoted 449 the whole winter to deep-sea fishing. These men succeeded because they were fishermen, and fishermen alone; it was their trade, and they followed no other. He had seen the Irish fishermen leave the Western Hebrides when they were teeming with fish to go home and cut down crops out of which the winds of the western Atlantic had shaken all the corn, so that there was nothing to cut down but straw. This was a state of things which he did not believe Parliamentary interference could alter. Scotland received for piers and harbours £3,000 per annum, and the profit upon branding had risen now to £5,000. Branding was a great benefit to the trade, and he did not think that Scotland could at present dispense with it; but the time might come when it might be done away with under suitable legislation, which he should welcome with pleasure for both Scotland and Ireland. As to the money that had been spent upon Anstruther harbour, it was certainly not the worse for it; but there was this to be said in excuse for any mistake that might have been made—that when the work was begun very little was known about harbour work, compared with what was known now. The piers of the harbour were constructed of concrete—and he would recommend that fact to the consideration of Irish gentlemen interested in fisheries.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, his only object was to show how piers and harbours in Ireland could be constructed with most economy. With regard to the Bill he considered it an impracticable measure. It could only be given effect to at great public cost, the money would be lent without security, and there were no means by which the expenditure could be repaid. Why did not noblemen and gentlemen in Ireland build piers and harbours as was done in Scotland? One nobleman in Scotland had constructed a harbour at his own sole expense, and another Scotch gentleman built a harbour at his own cost, which, during the last six months, had given shelter to a great number of vessels. He must not 450 mention the forbidden word "concrete;" but he might say that the piers of the harbours in question were built of that material. Not only was that the case in individual instances, but two towns in the North-East of Scotland had expended £200,000 in the construction of two harbours, and were about to expend £300,000 more. These were examples which he should like to see followed in Ireland.
§ MR. A. PEEL
was glad to hear the hon. Baronet who had just sat down declare that he was not a supporter of the practice of branding. From the light of official experience of the operation of that institution in Scotland he was unable to accede to the arguments offered by the supporters of the Bill, and he dissented altogether from the doctrine that that which Scotland had outgrown was good enough for Ireland. He should be pleased to see encouragement given to the Irish fisheries and the maritime industry of Ireland developed; but he earnestly protested against the fostering of any branch of industry by the re-introduction of what was nothing less than an application of the exploded doctrine of protection, and that in its worst form, and the bolstering up of a race so energetic and self-reliant as the Irish were by giving them a system which another part of the United Kingdom would soon happily be rid of. The system had failed in England and Scotland and wherever it had been tried.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK
said, they had had statements contrasting the falling off in the fisheries of Ireland with the aggrandizement of the fisheries in Scotland, and they naturally inquired how it was that the fisheries in Ireland failed, while those of Scotland succeeded. The fact was that the fisheries on the West of Ireland were in a district which till recently had no railway communication, and that the fishermen were unable to repair damages to their tackle and boats on account of their limited means. They had no market, and year after year infelicitous seasons reduced the men from a position of comparative comfort to one of comparative poverty. If Government had opportunely stepped in by some pecuniary assistance to enable them to repair the damages they probably would have had a prosperous continuance of their line of industry for which Donegal and the West of Ireland were at one time remarkable. Some 451 years ago there was a regular trade with Portugal and Spain, especially in this Lenten season, and we in return were supplied with the wines of those countries. But after a time, the trade was directed into another channel and the fisheries were neglected. The present moment was singularly propitious for the objects of this Bill. Railways had extended into those districts where fish was abundant—the Scotch fisheries were now reaping a rich harvest from this very system of protection to which the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. A. Peel) so much objected. If the fisheries of Ireland were in the same position as those of Scotland they would find Irish landlords making an expenditure commensurate with the returns; but they ought first to give a start to this branch of industry, and after that, he had no doubt, the fisheries would prosper very rapidly owing to the great facilities that now existed of sending fish to a remunerative market. He could not agree with the hon. Baronet (Sir James Elphinstone) that the money would be lent without security—and the return would be such as fully to justify the expenditure. As to whether brands were to be introduced, or the present Board to be altered or formed under a new name, or whether there would not be too much expenditure, these were among the points which would be more properly considered in Committee. The broad question before the House was whether this was a case in which the Government would be justified in interfering for the protection and encouragement of the fisheries of Ireland, and whether it would not be beneficial alike to Ireland and to the Empire generally. He asked the House to affirm the principle of the Bill by reading it a second time.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, he was satisfied that the fisheries of Ireland were in a most declining state, and had rapidly fallen off both as to the number of vessels and men and boys employed. The question was—could the Government interfere to prevent a great branch of industry from being destroyed altogether? He was sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Montrose denounce the Bill as an infringement of the fundamental principles of free trade; but Mr. John Stuart Mill and Lord Morpeth, both most able and ardent disciples of Free Trade, when the latter 452 introduced a somewhat similar Bill in 1838, admitted that the case of Ireland was exceptional and could not be judged on the same principles as England and Scotland. In the years 1837, 1838, 1846, 1847, and 1869, Royal Commissions and Committees of the House had sat on this subject, and what were their recommendations? Every one of those Commissions and Committees recommended that loans should be advanced to the poor fishermen in the ports of Ireland, who required the assistance; and in 1875, only last year, the Reports of the Inspectors of Fisheries recommended exactly the same thing. In 1848, Ireland was prostrated by a famine from which she had never recovered, and every Commission that had sat since had called attention to the effects of that famine, and suggested that without some help the fisheries could never recover. He earnestly hoped that Government would accede to this Bill. The subject was brought before the House in 1874, when the Government seemed disposed to encourage this movement; but all the Treasury would do was to give to the Irish what was merely their own property—namely, the remnants of an Irish loan made for other purposes, and now nearly exhausted, and which were barely sufficient to give the unfortunate fishermen £1 per head. The Scotch were an industrious and energetic people and could take care of themselves—yet Scotland had received aid—the question now was, what could they do for Ireland? He trusted the Government would at least go so far as to sanction the principle of this Bill, which he himself, at all events, should cordially support. When Irish Members brought forward, as in the present instance, remedial measures of a practical nature for Ireland, he considered that they were entitled to encouragement and assistance from both sides of the House.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he had had some experience of the fisheries of Ireland, and had given the subject much attention; for representing one of the most important centres of the fishing enterprize of Ireland, he had often considered how far it was possible to encourage such an important branch of their industry. The fisheries of the town he represented (Kinsale) were attaining a considerable development. At this season the fishing 453 craft and gear in the port of Kinsale were valued at £300,000, and the persons employed in those boats earned £150,000 during the fishing season. It was true that those boats were not all Irish—but a large proportion of them were. The circumstances of the Irish fisheries were of the most favourable character. The seas surrounding the coast literally swarmed with fish for a considerable period of the year, and along the whole range, extending over 2,500 miles, there was an admirable population, ready and willing to work, if they had the opportunity. It might be asked, why did not the people of Ireland utilize these advantages themselves? The answer was, they did utilize them as far as they could. Thirty years ago, when the Irish people were unassisted by the State, and simply and purely from the industry of the people themselves, there were 113,000 men and boys engaged in this national enterprize, representing families numbering some 500,000 individuals, and earning at least £2,000,000 sterling annually. Then came the Famine, the people were struck down to the earth, and the effects would never be recovered, except by effective legislative interference. He did not attach paramount importance to the branding system; but at Cork a private association had attached a brand to the butter casks, and the effect was to give their article such value for exportation that none other could compete with it. It was manifestly desirable that the piers and harbours in Ireland should be placed under a Fishery Board. The Treasury could know little about it, and was already overburdened. But the most important question raised by this Bill was the question of loans or advances from the Treasury. The Bill asked the inconsiderable sum of £20,000. From the Return of the Reproductive Loan Fund Commissioners, it appeared that 358 loans were issued during the past year, in an average sum of £16 10s. for each loan. Hon. Members practically acquainted with Ireland would know that the loans granted under the operation of that Act had done a vast amount of good. He saw no reason to think that the lending powers which would be given under the provisions of this Bill would prove less advantageous to fisheries and fishermen who would come within the scope of the measure than had the 454 previous Fund. Some question might arise as to the number of maritime counties in Ireland which would be able to avail themselves of the borrowing facilities provided in the Bill; but this was a matter of detail which could be settled in Committee, and he had no doubt that if the Bill was allowed to pass the second reading, the hon. and learned Member for Limerick would be perfectly willing to consider any modifications that might be proposed.
§ MR. BUTT
said, that as he was in a great measure responsible for the preparation of this Bill, which was chiefly made up of clauses cut from the Scotch Fisheries Act, the word Ireland being substituted for that of Scotland, he should like to explain some of the provisions which had been misunderstood. He denied that in this Bill there was any question of Free Trade or Protection—nor was there a single proposal as to bounties. The only question raised by the Bill was whether the Government were willing to extend to Ireland the same system as that under which the Scotch fisheries had attained unexampled prosperity—not an exploded system, but a system in force at the present day, and which Scotchmen would not willingly surrender. The first thing the Bill did was to establish a Board of independent Commissioners, following the Scotch precedent—for the Scotch were allowed a modified Home Rule, and had a body of men who administered the affairs of the Scotch fisheries. That was all they asked for Ireland. The Irish Board would not cost more than the Scotch Board; and the Bill was carefully framed to prevent incurring expenditure without the consent of the Lord Lieutenant and the Treasury. The Scotch Board had a Vote from the House of £12,500, formerly paid from the Consolidated Fund, but now voted in the annual Estimates. By the grant the Scotch had an advantage over their competitors in Australian and other markets. He did not ask for one penny that was not voted for Scotland. The Scotch had enjoyed this grant for 56 years, and the grant was paid out of the taxes imposed on Ireland to enable Scotchmen to beat Irishmen not only out of the markets of the world, but out of their own markets. That there was a great advantage in foreign markets to fish branded by a Govern- 455 ment officer was clear; it was a certificate that the fish was of a certain quality. It was far different from the brand of any private body. The Scotch had the branding system up to 1856, and paid for it out of the grant. The consequence was that the Irish trade without the brand found it impossible to contend with the Scotch trade with the brand. Yet of the advantage of a brand, even by a private body, there was a conspicuous example, for the butter trade of Cork owed its successto the enterprize of a private association, which had a private brand for their butter. What, then, would not be the success of an authorized brand? He repudiated the notion that the Exchequer of England was separate from the Exchequer of Ireland, and therefore he said that they had paid those grants to Scotland out of their own taxation—a taxation laid on with a heavy hand—and with their own money had driven the Irish out of the markets. He would not go back to pre-historic times for an example of this kind of treatment—he would take Oliver Cromwell, who gave some of the Irish the choice of two places, one in the other world and the other in Connaught. They preferred Connaught. In the present instance there was no alternative. Before the Union the Irish fisheries were more prosperous than those of Scotland or England; but in 1809 the Imperial Parliament gave large bounties to the Scotch and English fisheries. This was the cause of their prosperity as compared with the Irish fisheries, and not any want of energy on the part of the Irish fishermen. In 1819 bounties were given to the Irish fisheries, and prosperity was the result. Those bounties were abolished in 1830 in both countries. Scotland had enjoyed the privilege for 70 years; Ireland only for 10. It was suddenly found out that bounties were contrary to the true principles of political economy. Exactly so—they always found that out when England did not require assistance and Ireland did. In 1830 England found she could do without these bounties—they were declared contrary to the true principles of political economy—and they were abolished over all the Three Kingdoms. But the Scotch Board was continued, with a permanent grant of £1,600 a-year. The Irish fisheries were 456 transferred to the Commissioners of Inland Navigation—it was a practical "bull," but it was not an Irish, but an English Parliament that did it—and subsequently they were placed under the control of the Board of Works, where they continued up to 1869. Then Inspectors of salmon fisheries were appointed, and the sea-coast fisheries were placed under them. An officer of the Board of Works who was superintending the deep-sea fisheries in 1830, said in his evidence before a Committee that the fatal Act which gave a title to Scotland of a continuous grant for the repairing of fishermen's boats utterly extinguished all encouragement of the Irish fishery. This accounted for the strong contrast between the prosperity of the Irish and Scotch fisheries. The same authority said that it was utterly impossible for the Irish to compete with the Scotch under those circumstances. The officers of the Board stimulated the industry of the Scotch fishermen, and gave them information as to the best time and mode of catching the fish. All these advantages were wanting in Ireland. It would be a great misfortune if a measure of this nature, almost unanimously supported by the Irish Members, should be rejected by the English Members. The Commission in 1830reported in favour of the grant to Irish fisheries. One Commission reported that since the Union Scotland received in the way of bounties £100,000 more than Ireland. He did not grudge the Scotch the Vote—he wished it were more. The principle of the Bill was to give Ireland the same sort of Board as they had in Scotland, and the same machinery for instructing Irish fishermen. £20,000 or £25,000 a-year would probably satisfy the expectations of the Irish people. More than this was spent on pictures for the National Gallery. If the grant asked for were made to revive the Irish fisheries it would repay the British Government ten-fold, if in no other way, by the kindly feelings it would engender among the Irish people.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, he would not detain the House more than a few minutes, but some remarks had been made by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Elphinstone), which he could not allow to pass unnoticed. The hon. Baronet had said that it was in consequence of the difference of the races that the Irish fisheries had 457 not been developed to the same extent as the fisheries on the East Coast of Scotland; and by way of bearing this out had attempted to show that, on the West Coast of that country, the Celtic population had failed to avail themselves of the advantages within their reach. He had spoken with special disrespect of the people of the Hebrides, and had instituted a general comparison between them and the people of the Aberdeenshire Coast. Now, he could assure the House that a great many of the fishermen employed on the East Coast came from the Hebrides, and were those of whom the hon. Baronet had spoken with so much disrespect. Devotion to the acquisition of wealth was not the highest attribute of a people, and if the hon. Baronet had reflected for a few moments he would have shrunk from any such comparison. The people of the Hebrides would compare very favourably with the population of Aberdeenshire, or any part of the East Coast. If the hon. Baronet would compare the two districts as regarded crime, or any question having a moral and social bearing, he would find that the people of the Hebrides had no reason to shrink from comparison with any part of the Queen's dominions. As to the Bill before the House, he thought those who had at heart the interest of Ireland should take care that provisions were inserted which would secure the proper application of the money. The people of Scotland were not at one as to the advantages of their system, especially in reference to the Fishery Board. While, therefore, he should be glad to support the general principles enunciated by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) as the principle of the Bill—namely, that it was desirable to assimilate the law of Ireland, in regard to grants from the Imperial Treasury to that of Scotland, he was sure there was no Scottish Member in the House who would object to an investigation which would show the amounts paid from the Exchequer to every Department in the two countries. He hoped Scottish Members would join in giving to Ireland every advantage which Scotland might possess, and that the Bill would receive the favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Ministers, so that, if possible, the interest of the Irish fisheries might be advanced. His chief object, however, in rising, was to remove 458 the aspersions which had been cast by the hon. Baronet—unintentionally, no doubt—upon the Islanders.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said two questions appeared to him to be somewhat mixed up in the Preamble of the Bill, and the result had been some confusion in the debate. The first question was, whether anything was necessary to be done in order to support or develop the Irish fisheries; and the second question was, as to whether anything should be done to stop the alleged reduction in the numbers of Irishmen at present engaged in fishing. It would hardly be asserted—and he appealed to hon. Member for Kinsale himself (Mr. E. Collins)—that it was necessary for the Government to interfere to maintain or support the fisheries on the Irish coast; for the Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Manxmen, who carried on this industry there to so large an extent, conducted it most profitably without Government aid or interference; but what was really asked for was, that some special encouragement should be given by Government to Irishmen to embark in the trade, so as to stop the further reduction of the Irish population who were engaged in fishing. The Preamble of the Bill now under discussion set forth—and he admitted there was great force in the statement—that the improvement and encouragement of the Irish fisheries in this manner was of importance, not only to Ireland, but also in regard to the commercial prosperity and strength of the United Kingdom. Admitting, as he did, that there had been a reduction in the number of the fishing population of Ireland, he also contended that it was difficult to ascertain the extent of the decrease—for the statistics presented to the House in the course of the debate were quite untrustworthy. In 1846 it was said there were 19,883 vessels with 113,000 men engaged in the Irish fisheries—and that in 1874 these had fallen to 7,242 boats and 26,500 hands—but it was curious that in 1845 the number of boats was the same, but the hands engaged were 93,700. This looked very much like a gross error in the printed statistics; and the only explanation that had been suggested to him was that the increased number in the following year was due to the Famine, which had driven to sea many whose ordinary occupation was agriculture. On the other hand, when 459 emigration and other causes had greatly reduced the population, the demand for fish had decreased, and many who had temporarily engaged inthat occupation abandoned it. It must also be remembered that, in recent years, all kinds of industrial occupations had made great strides, and wages had largely increased, and consequently many of the population had been attracted to agriculture and manufactures, naturally preferring them to the precarious and hard life of a fisherman. For without saying anything in disparagement of the courage or energy of the Celtic race, he might remark that they were not so much attracted to depend entirely upon fishing as a mode of livelihood as were the Norwegians or the inhabitants of England and Scotland; and that in the statistics to which he had already referred a "fisherman" might often mean one who spent five-sixths of his time in some other occupation. It was stated in the Preamble of the Bill that the system established in Scotland for the regulation of the deep sea fisheries had been found by experience to have produced great advantage to that portion of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had asserted, however, that the success of the Scotch fisheries had been produced not by, but rather in spite of that system, and was due to the industry and practical knowledge of those who had followed the pursuit. Those who asked that Ireland should be put on the same footing with Scotland did not carry out their own proposal; for while pointing to the great public expenditure in former times upon the Scotch fisheries as the reason for their present flourishing condition, they did not venture to propose to set up in Ireland the system of bounties, under which that expenditure had been incurred; but asked for a system of loans and an increased grant for fishing piers and harbours, although loans were unknown in Scotland, and the grant for piers and harbours in Ireland was at present larger than that for Scotland. The proposals of the Bill might be divided under three heads. First, a Board of Commissioners was to be established in lieu of the present Inspectors of Irish Fisheries. Secondly, they asked for the adoption of the branding system in Ireland, which now pre- 460 vailed in Scotland; and, thirdly, they asked for a grant of £20,000, to be applied in loans to fishermen. He was astonished to hear the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) treat as of so much importance the proposal to substitute for the present Inspectors of Fisheries an irresponsible and unpaid Board of Commissioners, because that proposal was directly at variance with a Motion on the general subject of these Boards which he had placed upon the Paper of the House. It would be, in his (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach's) opinion, a most retrograde step to substitute unpaid Commissioners for a paid body of Inspectors, who discharged duties in many respects of a kind which could not be undertaken by an unpaid Board. As to the proposed adoption of the brand in Ireland, he would remark that branding was no new invention in Scotland, but was a relic of the old system of bounties, it being necessary that the fish should be marked that the bounty might be claimed. In course of time the brand came to be looked upon abroad as a guarantee of the quality of the fish—and although for this reason it was continued in Scotland after the abolition of bounties, it was not in the same position as it would be if it was now adopted for the first time in Ireland. The principal argument in its favour was, that it unquestionably encouraged the foreign trade in Scotch fish, and gave to the small curers an advantage as compared with the larger ones. On the other hand, the system was open to grave objections on economical grounds, as being an interference by the State with matters the regulation of which ought to be left entirely to the ordinary course of trade. From the opinions expressed in this debate he felt confident it would be extremely difficult to abolish the branding system in Scotland; and if we were compelled to maintain it there, the question was whether Ireland had not a fair claim to whatever advantage she might derive from the adoption of the system. Still it must be remembered that the Scotch and Irish fisheries were not identical in character. The Scotch fishery was mainly one in which the existence of the brand was of great importance, for it was an export trade of cured white herrings. The Irish fishery was altogether different from this. It was divided into two parts—the summer 461 fishery and the winter fishery. The whole produce of the summer fishery was consumed in England, or Scotland, or Ireland, and it was purely a trade in fresh fish; for the Irish herring, he was happy to say, was so superior in quality to the Scotch herring that it commanded a better price in the market, and, in fact, controlled the whole fresh fish market during the summer fishing season. As far, therefore, as the summer fishing was concerned, there would be no use whatever in the adoption of the branding system in Ireland. The autumn or winter herring fishery in Ireland was of a very uncertain character. For the last four or five years there had been a very small catch indeed, owing to the stormy state of the weather; but in some years, when the weather was more favourable, there was great luck in fishing, and then the catch might be so large that many fish might be cured for the foreign export trade, and the adoption of the branding system might be valuable. He was by no means certain, however, that it would not be possible, if some means were devised for communicating with the markets in England and Scotland, that the whole of the fish taken in the Irish autumn and winter fisheries might be consumed as fresh fish, because the trade had changed very considerably of late years, owing to the employment of steamers to carry fresh herrings to the large markets. Indeed, he had taken the opinion of three large fishcurers at Ardglass, who unanimously agreed that the introduction of the branding system would be of no use whatever. Nevertheless, he would do his best to make further inquiries, and to ascertain whether, consistently with the general grounds of policy on which the Government were bound to act, they could introduce the branding system into Ireland. Speaking individually, he was bound to say that, as long as that system was maintained in Scotland he thought, if it could be satisfactorily proved that the Irish fishing trade suffered for the want of it, it ought to be extended to Ireland. Passing on to a consideration of the proposal that £20,000 should be placed in the hands of the Commissioners to be devoted to loans to fishermen, he could not help thinking that the Act of 1874 providing a Reproductive Loan Fund had been treated 462 somewhat hardly in this debate. No doubt the sum was not large; but it should be remembered it was only applicable to a certain number of the maritime counties;—when that was considered, it was in proportion nearly as large as the amount proposed in this Bill, which would apply to the whole of the maritime counties. The repayments under the Act of 1874 had only recently commenced, and it was yet too soon to say how far they would be punctually made. One of the Inspectors, Mr. Blake, whose knowledge on this question was considerable, had given a most favourable opinion; but, on the other hand, he was sorry to say he had had a contrary opinion expressed to him by the Irish Board of Works. The ultimate solution of the question of loans appeared to him to rest very much upon the success or the failure of this experiment under the Act of 1874. He could see nothing to violate the principles of political economy in giving loans to poor fishermen for those purposes, and he might repeat what he had said in 1874, that if the result of this experiment should be successful, and if it should be proved that these loans were applied to the purposes for which they were given, and that they were usefully applied and punctually repaid, he should be disposed to suggest to the Treasury that they should consider whether the Government should not undertake some further extension of the system. It should be remembered there was no little difficulty in Ireland in securing the proper application of these loans. The fact that the fishing population devoted a large part of their time to agricultural pursuits made it difficult to ensure that the loans would not be sometimes misapplied; and when they made a loan to men who were half fishermen and half farmers, to apply to one part of their business, people who were wholly farmers might make a similar claim upon them, and the poor weavers in the North of Ireland might follow them in that claim. In anything he had said, he did not wish to be understood as having come to a final decision on this point. There were other minor matters included in the Bill. It was complained that the Admiralty did not devote the requisite portion of the Imperial Navy to the protection of the Irish fisheries. He (Sir Michael Hicks- 463 Beach) thought no complaint could be sustained on that subject. He believed cruisers were sent to the Scotch fisheries, because the number of boats taking part in them was so large that it was sometimes difficult to maintain peace and order among them. He thought it was somewhat creditable to those engaged in Irish fisheries that the same precaution was not needed by them; but he was informed that any application hitherto made by the Inspectors of Irish fisheries to the Admiralty for vessels for any particular service had always been complied with. He was now in correspondence with the First Lord of the Admiralty upon this question, and he trusted to be able to arrange that if anything now could be shown to be necessary, it should be done. He was somewhat surprised to see the proposal of licensing boats. Whatever might be popular in the Bill, he could not conceive that anything could be less popular with the fishermen than to compel them to pay, in addition to harbour fees, a shilling per ton for a licence, which they now obtained entirely free of cost. Then it was proposed that the cost of the maintenance of piers and harbours should be taken off the grand juries who now bore it, and should be imposed upon the Treasury. That, again, was a proposal to which, considering the amount of public money that had been expended in constructing these piers and harbours, the Government were by no means likely to accede. He had felt it his duty to go at some length into the Bill, because he hoped the decision of the House would be taken on the merits of the measure itself rather than on any sentimental view of the Irish fisheries. Many might desire to see more of the inhabitants of Ireland tempted to engage in a pursuit which had much to recommend it; but he thought that, on consideration, it would be found that most, if not all, of the proposals made on this subject tended merely to bolster up an unpopular industry by State aid, and that the systems adopted, whether in Ireland or Scotland, in the earlier part of the century were such as with our present experience and views could not be reverted to. Whatever Government or Parliament might attempt to do for Irish fishermen, they must really depend on private enterprize rather than on State 464 support, which, whatever fictitious prosperity it might appear to give for a time, could not result in real and permanent benefit to any industry. Objecting as he did to the proposals contained in the Bill, and particularly to the proposed unpaid Board of Commissioners, he felt bound, on the part of the Government, to move its rejection.
§ 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 Michael Hicks-Beach.)
§ DR. WARD
The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that there is a good deal in the Bill, and admitted furthermore that there has been an enormous decrease and decline in Irish fisheries, but he suggests some doubts as to the unreliability of some of the statistics; but I will take my statistics of the last 10 years, which I do not think even the right hon. Gentleman will venture to deny. In 1864 there were 40,000 fishermen, and in 1874 we had only 26,000. There is a general point I would speak to. There have been many objections raised to the way of dealing with that subject proposed in my Bill; but, as I pointed out in bringing the Bill before the House, it was grounded on the most careful investigation into the facts of the case, and upon the recommendations made, time after time, to this House by Committees of the House. It was grounded on Reports of skilled Fishery Inspectors; and is the right hon. Gentleman and some hon. Members on this side of the House going to put their knowledge against the skilled knowledge of Fishery Inspectors and of skilled witnesses before Committees? This carefully-weighed evidence had resulted in—what? We had a Commission in 1837 which recommended the very principles of the Bill. The Bill brought in by the Government in 1838 was identical with the Bill. In 1849 a Committee recommended similar proposals; and in 1866, when political economy was well understood, another Committee of this House, who had the sworn testimony of skilled witnesses, which I put against the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman as to what is good and bad for the fisheries, recommended to this House the very principles—ay, 465 the very plan—brought forward in this Bill. Furthermore, the Government appointed Inspectors who were skilled in fisheries. Up to this day these Inspectors have recommended the very provisions we ask for. But the right hon. Gentleman says—"Wait." We have seen what the result of waiting is. The result is that we have nearly lost the whole industry, and that we have nearly lost the whole of this industrious population. If you wait you will not have any more fishermen to deal with. They are gradually dwindling away, and what we ask the House to do is to try in Ireland what has been tried in Scotland, and, whether it may be propter hoc or post hoc, we find the system in Scotland has been attended at last with immense success. When we find that, and when we find that this House has, time after time, appointed Commissions who have told the House that the reason Ireland was not prosperous in her fisheries was because the Government have not done the very thing we are asking them to do by this Bill, I think we have made out our case for the trial of the Bill, and I certainly do think the House or the Government will neither win in the good wishes of the Irish people, nor certainly in the good feeling between the people of the two countries as to the treatment of Irish affairs, if they reject it.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 215: Majority 84.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.