§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. COLLINS,
in rising to move that the Bill he now read a second time, said, he proposed to justify the measure by showing, as he hoped to the satisfaction of the House and the Government, that it was a subject that was entitled to attention and sympathy, not only because it seriously affected the welfare of a numerous class of persons in Ireland, but because it had considerable national importance, probably to a greater extent than a superficial view of the subject would seem to indicate. The main feature of the proposal was the establishment and organization of a Board of unpaid Commissioners in Ireland, who would be willing to give their time and attention to the subject in the hope of reviving the industry. It was true there was a body of Fishery Inspectors, who, for zeal and intelligence, and for their desire to promote the objects that they had been appointed to take care of, had few equals in any Department of the State; and the people of Ireland and those who took an interest in the subject were grate full to them for the able Reports which they had published since their constitution in 1869. They did not propose to interfere with the operations of that body; but the fact was that their powers were so limited, and the means at their disposal so inconsiderable, that, practically, they were able to effect no good beyond the good of restraining abuses and of circulating the able Reports to which he had made reference. The first feature of the measure was the establishment of a Board or a body of unpaid Commissioners. He did not wish to stipulate the number, and only desired that the principle might be adopted. Such a Board as the one they desired 1820 had already been in existence in Scotland for a considerable time past; and it would, no doubt, be interesting to the House to hear what was reported by the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the operation of that Board. The unpaid Scotch Board consisted of 20 unpaid Commissioners and one paid Secretary. The Commissioners report—That the members of the Board have rendered important service in assisting for a long period of years in the development of this branch of national industry, and it is impossible to doubt the social and moral advantages which may and do result to this class of people-namely, the fishery class—from the attention bestowed upon their welfare by the body of eminent persons, distinguished by their rank position, and knowledge, who are constantly endeavouring to obtain and disseminate information useful to those employed in the fisheries, to encourage their enterprise, to stimulate their industry, and to promote their physical and moral welfare.That was the kind of Board they sought to establish in Ireland. In 1819, an Act was passed appointing a Board for the management of the Fisheries in Ireland, and investing its members with considerable powers. This Board consisted of 20 unpaid Commissioners, one Secretary, three clerks, four Inspectors general, and 20 local Inspectors. Mr. W. Andrews, in a very interesting Paper on the subject of the Herring Fisheries in Ireland, which he read before the Royal Dublin Society, 1866, said—It is singular to remark the effect of these laws on the Irish Coast. In 1819 there were only 27 vessels and 188 men returned as employed in the Irish Fisheries; in 1823 there were 27,143 vessels and boats, employing 44,448 men.The Board continued in existence 11 years; and in the last Report issued in 1830, Mr. Barry, the Inspecting Commissioner of Irish Fisheries, who was well known to all who took an interest in Irish fishery matters, reported that the period of the operations of the Board was a period of unexampled industry and prosperity for the Irish Fisheries. After 11 years of its action there wore 12,6 11 vessels employed in the Fisheries, and 64,771 men and boys. It was only right to state, however, that the success of the Fisheries during that period was not to be strictly attributed to the fact of having an unpaid Board of Commissioners, for a powerful stimulus was given to the industry in the shape of a bounty on the take of fish. Neverthe- 1821 less, lie was warranted in attributing a certain amount of the success to the services of the Commissioners, and he would take the benefit of the circumstance with this qualification. Next, after making provision for the constitution of a Board of Commissioners and the appointment of officers, the present Bill proposed to hand over to the Commissioners the inconsiderable but useful fund called the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund. With regard to that fund, which had been vested with the Commissioners of Public Works to be expended on the recommendation of the Irish Fishery Commissioners, he wished to say that when the then Chief Secretary for Ireland handed it over to be applied to the promotion of Irish Fisheries, he stated that it was merely a tentative proposal, and that, no doubt, it would lead to further and greater results. The Bill proposed to supplement the fund by the very modest sum of £30,000. He should prefer that the amount was £100,000 at least. In the four years during which the fund had been administered from 1874 to the date of the last Report issued by the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, he found that altogether, owing to the restricted character of the regulations applying to this loan, only 1,078 loans were issued, amounting to £19,352, or an average of about £ 18 per loan, and there was available during the last year for the purposes of advances the small sum of only £6,741, for which there were 945 applicants. Now, he asked them to supplement that fund by £30,000, leaving it to the generosity and sense of justice of the right hon. Gentleman to increase the amount very considerably of his own motion. The increase he (Mr. Collins) proposed would admit of about 2,000 annual loans on the same computation as the existing fund. The next proposal of the Bill he looked upon as one of the most important—namely, the transference to the Commissioners to be constituted by this Bill of the care and custody of the fishery piers and harbours now vested in the Commissioners of Public Works (Ireland). He asked, moreover, that the inconsiderable sum of £20,000 a-year be intrusted to the new Board in aid of the erection, improvement, and enlargement of fishery piers, either by way of grant or loan. Without some such provision for the construction and maintenance of fishery 1822 piers, no permanent improvement could be made in Irish fishery enterprize. He was glad to see that the Government were directing their attention to this important subject, and had already proposed to grant £45,000, which would be only a commencement in the direction he indicated. It was possible that some opposition might be offered to some of the money proposals of the Bill, as being opposed to certain economic principles with which some persons might delude themselves by misrepresenting facts, and justifying such misrepresentation on some theory of political economy. But if he could succeed in overcoming such opposition by his statements, he would have some hope that good would result, which might in time develop itself into something much better than the limited measure which he now brought forward. He asked the Government to appropriate from the Imperial Exchequer a sum of money to be applied by way of advances in loans to persons engaged in fishing industries in Ireland. The sea coast of Ireland was computed to reach 2,500 miles in length, measuring bays and inlets. It embraced throughout its length numerous excellent harbours, some of them being capacious and well-sheltered, but grievously neglected. The people along this great range of sea coast were inured from their childhood to hardy habits of life which only vicinity to the sea could teach; and all were willing, men and women, to work if aid were afforded them to utilize their labour. The question might be asked—"What have the people themselves done to profit by such resources, and to improve their own condition'?" The answer was simple and the explanation easy. In 1846 there were 113,000 men and boys engaged on the fisheries. The great Famine of the following year swept away the greater part of these poor and industrious people; and the result was that the Fisheries had gone on decreasing until, according to the last Report of the Fishery Commissioners, the number of boats engaged had been reduced from 20,000 to 5,700, and the number of men and boys from 113,000 to something like 20,000—that was to say, the active and industrious fishery population of Ireland had been greatly reduced by disasters over which they had no control. To Irishmen that was a most terrible and regrettable state of things. They 1823 found this great national industry, so appropriate to the country, dying away. There might be theories as to the causes of this; but they did not recognize those theories. They looked at the fact, and grieved over it. Among other books that had lately come under his notice was a little work published in 1868 by the hon. Member for Waterford County (Mr. Blake), who was second to none in the interest he had taken in the subject. In that little book, called The Sea Fisheries of Ireland, and addressed to the then Chief Secretary, the hon. Member remarked—By those who thoroughly understand the subject, it is anticipated that the assertion will not be deemed too bold that if the immediate cultivators of the Irish soil—and 988,927, or 18 per cent of the population, according to the Census of 1861, were returned as agricultural— were deprived of it as a means of support, they might in time, under intelligent direction, derive as good a livelihood from the river shores and surrounding seas of Ireland.This showed the vast importance of the subject, and the benefits to be derived from attention to it. The yearly value of the fish exported from Ireland amounted to about £500,000; but they had the authority of the intelligent Inspectors of Fisheries for believing that that sum could be very considerably increased—in fact, they had stated that it could be increased ten-fold. That might be an exaggerated estimate; but, at all events, it could be very largely increased if fishermen could procure the necessary appliances with the aid of moderate loans. In 1870, the first year after his hon. Friend (Mr. Blake) had applied his energy and talents to the subject, the Commissioners said in their Reportthat—No improvement can he looked for in the sea fisheries until loans are advanced to a portion of the fishermen for the repair and purchase of boats and gear.On such a statement, coming from such authority, any comment of his would be superfluous. They had it also on authority that £7,000,000 was paid annually for fish in London alone, and an equal amount in the Provinces, making the quantity consumed in England yearly worth £14,000,000. If they could increase the supply from Ireland, not to 10 times its present amount, as estimated by the Commissioners, but to six times, or £3,000,000, what a benefit it would be to the working classes by reducing the price and giving them an ad- 1824 ditional supply of a cheap and wholesome food, which at present costs double as much as it did 20 years ago ! But there was another argument in favour of giving Imperial aid to promote Irish Fisheries. It was well known that great difficulty existed in providing a sufficient number of effective men and boys to navigate the merchant ships of the United Kingdom. We had about 200,000 men and boys, exclusive of captains and superior officers, employed in our merchant ships, and the utmost efforts were required to keep up a really efficient supply. Might he not point to the decline of the Irish Fisheries as one of the causes which increased the difficulty of finding good seamen? Twenty-three years ago, there were 113,07.1 seafaring men and boys engaged in those fisheries; to-day, there was only about one-sixth of the number, or 20,307. It was natural to suppose that a large percentage of the men and boys employed in the Fisheries would be annually available for our merchant ships. He had known some of the first captains navigating the seas to have been humble Kinsale fisher-boys; but by their ability and good conduct they had taken the highest place. He hoped he had said enough to show that this was a matter of Imperial importance, entitling it to the prompt and earnest attention of the Government. He would remind the House that the industries of Ireland were mainly confined—first, to her agriculture and such manufactures as were employed in converting the raw products of agriculture into articles of consumption; secondly, to her internal and external commerce, which was inconsiderable; thirdly, to her inland and deep-sea fisheries; and, fourthly, to her railways, which could not properly be called industries, but conduced to them by affording expeditious and cheap means of transit. The natural conditions of the country imposed upon Ireland considerable industrial limitations. The two great constituents of manufacturing industry—iron and coal —were not found in sufficient quantity in Ireland. He might observe that the export from Great Britain of iron, steel, and cotton manufactures, in the production of which coal and iron formed an important constituent part, amounted to nearly one-half of the total exports of the United Kingdom. The industries existing in Ireland bore but a small pro- 1825 portion to those of Great Britain. The products of agriculture were little over £40,000,000 annually; but some of the raw products of agriculture furnished materials for such native manufactures as linen, whisky, malt liquors, and flour. He trusted that, owing to the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, the manufacture of beet-root sugar might soon be added. If they could supplement those industries by encouraging the congenial and appropriate pursuit of fishing, they would contribute to the employment and welfare of the people; but he feared the necessary aid could only come from the Imperial Exchequer, under the authority of Parliament and the sanction of Government. Surely a moderate appropriation for the development of the Fisheries in the shape of loans, and for the construction of piers and harbours, would not be an unwise application of the National Funds, to which Ireland contributed so burdensome a proportion. He submitted that Ireland was not a difficult country to govern when its circumstances and wants were generously considered. But, unfortunately, they had not been considered, to any great extent, in a spirit of earnestness and generosity. Probably too much time and attention had been devoted by politicians who had governed the country to Party interests and considerations; but his belief was that any Government that would earnestly apply itself in the spirit he had indicated to practical measures of utility for the purpose of benefiting the industries of Ireland would be appreciated, and such measures would meet at all times with kindly recognition. They were most fortunate—it was one of the great blessings of the immediate time—in having the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary connected with the administration of affairs of Ireland. He was a man of practical business experience, of wide views, and who would not be trammelled by the narrow prejudices which theorists or economists might advance for the purpose of tying the hands of the Government, and preventing them doing anything in the interests of the country. They might confidently anticipate that the right hon. Gentleman, with his kindly sympathies, and his desire to do good, would do his best to promote this and other Irish in- 1826 terests. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be worth his attention to listen to Irishmen who, one and all, desired that Government should aid the Fisheries? Would the right hon. Gentleman be content to let them die out, as they had been doing, or would he enable them to support 1,000,000 of the people, as the Member for Waterford County said they were capable of doing? In this matter no question arose of landlords' rights or tenants' wrongs. Instincts and migratory laws, beyond the ken of human intelligence, guided the shoals of fish into the harbours, bays, and inlets of Ireland. He only desired that the people should be enabled to profit by those blessings which Providence had placed at their disposal; and if Government would grant reasonable aid, they would do a good, a generous, and a laudable work, for which the people would be grateful. He had great pleasure in moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, that in seconding the Motion of his hon. Friend he should confine himself, in the few observations he should make, to three of the recommendations made by the Commission of 1870, presided over by his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford, and their operations in the county which he (Colonel Colthurst) represented, and which contained, perhaps, the largest seaboard of any county in Ireland. The first of these recommendations was that loans should be advanced to fishermen for the purpose of obtaining boats and gear; and as one fact was worth a bushel of theories, he hoped to show by the instance of the Island of Cape Clear the effect which a system of loans judicially administered would have upon the prosperity of Ireland. He derived his facts from a Catholic clergyman of the diocese of Ross, who had long taken a great interest in the fishing industry, and who was curate of Cape Clear in 1874. In that year the population of Cape Clear was 450, who nearly all derived, or ought to have derived, their subsistence from fishing. But they had only seven small hookers on the Island, with which they could do little. To add to this unfortunate state of things, in some years 500 fishing vessels would come in sight engaged in their annual mackerel fishing off the coast. The value of fish taken at Cape Clear 1827 amounted at that time to about £400 in a year. There was no harbour, and the fishermen were obliged to drag the hookers on to the beach when they ran in, or send them somewhere else, to land their slender catches. His rev. inforant being a man of great energy and ability succeeded, in 1876, in inducing one of the Islanders, named Patrick Burke, to borrow £150 from the Munster Bank on the security of his landlord, Sir H. Beecher, and he obtained a further loan of £100 from a charitable society in Dublin. With this money the man bought a large boat, went out in 1877 mackerel fishing, and in three months earned £500, or more than the whole population of the Island had earned in any one of the preceding years. His success induced three other men to ask for loans, Sir H. Beecher being kind enough to go security for them in the Munster Bank; and they were earning a considerable sum of money until, in March, 1878, a storm dispersed and damaged more or less some 300 boats engaged in the mackerel fishing, amongst them being the four boats of the poor Cape Clear Islanders. Well, it seemed then as if their prospects were gone for ever, when there came to their aid Baroness Burdett Coutts, a lady whose name was known wherever the English language extended in connection with works of charity and beneficence. She had long taken an interest in the Island, and she not only enabled these four poor men to replace their boats, but she assisted others with loans of money without interest, payable in a series of years. In taking this course she appealed to that spirit which some persons denied to the Irish peasantry— namely, that of self-reliance, but which he believed they possessed, requiring only for its development a little judicious assistance. In this season of 1880 nine boats were engaged from Cape Clear, and they had already earned £4,000, or six times as much as was earned by the whole population in a year previously. He did not expect that the Government, represented as it was even by one so anxious to do good as his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, would give the same assistance as the Baroness Burdett Coutts had given. All he maintained was that the principle of loans at low interest or without interest would be fertile in good results to 1828 the fishermen of Ireland. The testimony of the Commissioners to the benefit of loans and of the Reproductive Loan Fund Act, which the efforts of his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick had succeeded in getting passed through the House, was very important. It showed that the Act had been successful as far as it went. The loans had been well used, and, in spite of the present bad times, had been more or less punctually repaid. The Commissioners recommended certain changes with respect to the construction of piers and harbours —for instance, that the choice of the situation should not be left entirely, as it was now, to people residing in the locality, and should not depend on the circumstance that local aid was forthcoming. By the Bill of his hon. Friend the Board which he sought to establish would have a wider discretion than the Board of Works now had; and if it should appear that on any part of the coast there were not piers enough, they mightsend down an Inspector, who would decide where the piers should be put. He felt bound to say that within the limits of their power he believed the Board of Works were doing their duty, and it was only fair to say that much of an undermanned and over-worked Department. Taking the line of sea coast from Crook-haven to Bantry Bay, extending about 60 miles at least, there was not within that distance a single pier or slip; and there was a large population, especially on the north shore of Dunnannis Bay and the south side of Bantry Bay, engaged in fishing, who year after year lost their boats, and were thus entirely deprived of their means of subsistence for want of a pier. In the County of Cork alone 17 piers were wanted, and had been submitted to the consideration of a Committee now sitting. He hoped that some, if not all, would be sanctioned by the Committee. But some that were most wanted were likely to be left out because of the absence of local interest. They had only just been subjected to the views of the Committee. In these places, where there was a large population but no local aid, people were losing their boats year after year, and their entire means of subsistence, by the want of piers and better approaches to the harbours. Take the case of Cape Clear in reference to the harbour approaches. An immense fishing industry had been 1829 developed; but how were the fish to be got to the railway station at Skibbereen? Why, after the steamers had taken it up to a certain point in the River Hen, they had to unload it into carts, which to get to the railway station had to travel over a very hilly road. If the Island river were improved at a small cost the steamers could go a mile further up, and get better roads to the railway station. Then he would allude to the Island of Ballycotton. There was a pier there; but it was not properly constructed, and he would remind the House that if they would consent to alter this state of things they would be able to make Ballycotton a harbour of refuge. In conclusion, he suggested that the word "barony" should no longer exist in Ireland, and have but one unit in the county, and that should be the Union, a plan which would be a great relief to the taxpayer. He also desired to see stationed on the coast vessels for the protection of the Fisheries, as was done off the coast of Scotland, and observed that if the Government consented to this proposal recent disputes leading to a collision between Trammel fishermen and trawlers, owing to the latter being accused of injuring the inshore fishing of the former, would have been easily settled.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Collins.)
§ MR. BLAKE
remarked that, after the exhaustive speeches of the hon. Member for Kinsale, who had moved the second reading of this Bill, and of the hon. and gallant Member who had seconded that Motion, very little remained to be said on the subject. For the 14 years he (Mr. Blake) had occupied a position in the House he had always taken great interest in all matters affected by the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Kinsale; and, having been a Fishery Commissioner for 10 years, he could corroborate all that the hon. Member had said, and, with the permission of the House, he would supplement his hon. Friend's remarks by a few additions. He differed on two points from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the County Cork (Colonel Colthurst), and thought the sum asked for was insufficient. A sum of £45,000 had been granted towards repairs and purchase of 1830 boats, and providing fishing implements for eight counties; but there were nine other coast counties that this sum would not reach, and, in his opinion, £150,000 or £200,000, by way of loan, would be necessary to put the Fisheries of Ireland upon a proper footing, Now that the land had become so unproductive and that foreign produce had come into such active competition, they were bound to utilize to the utmost every resource that was not fully developed. The seas around Ireland were a mighty farm, where there was neither rent or taxes to pay—room for all—and a rich recompense for those who toiled on it. There were four points which arose in conjunction with this question. First, what was the present condition of the Irish Fisheries; second, were they capable of being improved; third, what would be the best means of improving them; and, fourthly, would the result of the improvements be commensurate with the outlay? He thought that the four points could be answered most satisfactorily, and that the outlay would be fivefold in its results. There were 2,500 miles of coast line to Ireland, the greatest coast line except Scotland. Holland had only one-half the coast line of Ireland, and 150 years ago it produced £3,000,000 worth of fish yearly, which supported one-fifth of its whole population; and there was no doubt that the Fisheries of Ireland, if properly developed, would produce far greater results. Centuries ago these Fisheries had been described to the then reigning Sovereign of England as a mine of wealth, and Charles I. had received £30,000 from the Dutch, and in 1556 Philip II. of Spain paid £1,000 a-year to England for permission to fish on the North Coast of Ireland. At a request of the English fishermen, Oliver Cromwell had put down the Irish Fisheries; and at this day there were at Barbadoes fishermen descendants of those Irish fishermen who had been transported to that Island. The present value of the Irish Fisheries was £700,000 a-year; and he had no hesitation in saying that the produce might be increased at least five times that much, that it could be increased to quite £300,000,000; thus causing a greater source of profit, and adding immensely to the food of the people. How was this desirable result to be accomplished? The Irish 1831 fishermen ought to be afforded the means of procuring suitable boats, of obtaining the best implements of their craft, and accommodation of harbours, to which they could fly in times of danger, as well as place their boats in safety when not engaged in fishing. On the West Coast of Ireland, especially, a great deal of life was lost for the want of such harbours of refuge; and their absence caused the men, in uncertain weather, to remain at home in a state of enforced idleness. He thought that £300.000 or £100,000 would be necessary to meet all the requirements of the Irish Fisheries: but, in the first place, £150,000, partly loan, would be of great value. With a loan of this amount, a supply of a better class of boats, such as trawlers and other kinds, could be obtained, which otherwise would be out of the question. Experience had shown that small fishing enterprizes in Ireland were more successful than larger ones. From the £45,000 that had been lent under the Irish Reproductive Loans great results had followed, and £50,000 or £60,000 more might have been satisfactorily laid out. If the Treasury advanced that sum at 2½per cent, the loss would be recouped by an increased consumption of articles of Customs and Excise, including whisky, also, he was afraid, among the fishermen. At present, there were applications for 100 harbours, of which the Commissioners recommended between 50 and 60. These could not be constructed for less than £150,000. For some years past, owing to some cause difficult to ascertain, the fish got further out, and, in consequence, larger and better boats were necessary to follow them, and so a better class of harbours was required, if such boats were used. It was only natural to ask why the fishermen of Ireland wore so badly off as compared with those of Scotland, and why there was no such fishing enterprize as in Scotland? There was no class of people in Ireland who had suffered from the Famine so much as the fishermen. Many of those who before the Famine had followed the pursuit had been obliged to abandon it, and had not been able to resume it. In 1846 there were 100,000 fishermen and 20,000 boats; but, at the present, there were only 2,000 boats and 5,000 fishermen. In the Famine years the use of fish amongst the Irish peasantry, with the then staple diet, In- 1832 dian meal, caused dysentery, and fish, for the time, ceased to be eaten. Owing to this and their inability to keep boats and gear in repair, thousands of fishermen had to abandon the pursuit. The fishermen and the trade had never recovered since. In some places the Fisheries had been almost entirely annihilated. No aid had been given in loans till five years ago. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucester-shire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), then Chief Secretary for Ireland, stated when he introduced a Bill for the purpose that he regarded it as a tentative measure, and, if it succeeded, the Government would feel justified in making further advances. The plan bad proved a great success. A new impetus was given to fishery industry, and they had the concurrent Reports of the Irish Fishery Commissioners that the results had been most satisfactory. He, therefore, confidently appealed to the Chief Secretary to carry out the promise which had been made by the late Government—he hoped he would do, at least. as much as would have been done by his Predecessor. It had been contended frequently that the principle of giving loans to foster an industry was opposed to the principles of political economy. But, on the contrary, he could prove, from statements made by John Stuart Mill, the late Earl of Derby, and the present Postmaster General, that that was not the case. There was nothing in which Ireland had a stronger claim on Parliament than for the encouragement of her Fisheries. Scotland, since the Union, had received £1,500,000 more than Ireland for her Fisheries. Scotland received until a few years ago £7,000 annually for this purpose, while Ireland received only £3,500 down to the same period. Scotland had, in fact, got all she required, and her Fisheries were most prosperous. In 1838 a Bill was brought forward in that House to put Ireland on a par with Scotland. That Bill had the sympathy and support of most of the English Members, and it had the unanimous support of the Irish Members. But a deputation came up from Scotland, headed by the Duke of Sutherland, which reported that great injury would be done to the Scotch Fisheries if that was done, and the result was that the Bill was withdrawn. At present Scotland had got a valuable Fishery Board 1833 in Edinburgh, with paid officials and inspectors; and, besides that, they had a magnificent vessel to preserve order among the fishing vessels, and to discover where the shoals of fish might be; while, if Ireland wanted a gunboat, it was so long before it was sent that the necessity for it had gone before it got there. Year after year the Irish Inspectors had asked in vain for a similar vessel for Ireland. In France, under the Empire, if a fisherman lost his boat, it was immediately replaced, and a considerable grant was made towards the fishing interests, the consequence being that the fishing trade of the country added to its wealth, and most of the sailors got their first training in fishing boats. That was also the case in Norway, where great assistance was given to the trade. In Holland the Government had devoted great attention to the Fisheries in former times. The Dutch Fleet which sailed up the Thames was manned chiefly by fishermen, and the Dutchman who had invented the Dutch bloater had done more for his country than any man either before or after him. He also wished to draw attention to the fact that, at the present time, there was a great need of seamen for the Mercantile Marine, and so much so that we were obliged to resort to foreign countries for our men. If they put the fishing industries of Ireland in a proper condition, they would find a large addition would be made to the Mercantile Marine from that body. It was well worthy of consideration whether, as a nursery for seamen alone, the Irish Fisheries had not a paramount claim to the encouragement of the Government. He earnestly and confidently appealed to the Chief Secretary either to assent to the second reading of that Bill, or give his assurance that the Government would bring in a measure on the subject of a similar character. All the Irish Members, from the most Orange of the orange to the greenest of the Green, were united in support of this Bill, and every possible assistance would be given to the Chief (Secretary if he took it up. There never was a more magnificent opportunity for the Government to do so much for so little; and he did not think that there was any civilized Government on the face of the earth, save that of England, that would have looked on so long without affording the 1834 means of relief. It would be a great discredit to England if, while the Governments of Sweden, Holland, and France had done so much to promote their Fisheries, those of Ireland were allowed to decay for want of sufficient fostering care. He hoped that the Government would show that the Irish Members did not require Home Rule to be carried out in order to develop their resources. The Chief Secretary might rely upon that if only the principles embodied in that Bill were carried into effect, he could ere long have the satisfaction of seeing a valuable but neglected resource converted into a great and flourishing industry.
§ SIR JOHN ST. AUBYN
remarked, that as to any encouragement to be given to the Irish Fisheries, he should leave that in the hands of the Chief Secretary; but that was not the whole point of the Bill. There were numerous clauses relating to the regulation of the Fisheries. The hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Collins) had pointed out that the number of boats engaged in the Irish Fisheries had been reduced to nearly one-fourth what it was in 1847, and that the number of those engaged in the Fisheries had been reduced to nearly one-sixth of those engaged at the former period. But he had not mentioned the fact that the number of men who went from this country to Ireland for the purpose of fishing had not decreased, but had increased. The 11th and 17th clauses in the Bill, in which bye-laws were enacted for the regulation of fishermen of an extremely stringent character, and licences were required of those who fished on the Irish coast. These clauses ought to be considered by those who represented English constituencies as well as those who represented Ireland; and he thought their restrictive character was not warranted. At present fishermen from Cornwall, Norfolk, and the Isle of Man frequented the Irish coast, while, on the other hand, Irish boats fished the English coast. He suggested to the promoters of the Bill that both the clauses to which he referred should be struck out, and that the Bill should be confined to the encouragement of the Irish deep sea fisheries alone.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that he objected altogether to the endeavour to establish any analogy between the case of the Cornwall Fisheries and that of the 1835 Irish Fisheries. In Cornwall there were a large number of capitalists who were willing to embark their capital in the fishing trade. In Ireland they had no such local capitalists, and the business was one which required a considerable amount of capital. £2,000 was required for the necessary equipment to carry on the business in anything like an efficient manner. It was evident that the Cornwall fishers were so rich themselves, and were so helped by local capitalists, that they did not require the help of the State. The pilchard fisheries of Cornwall were originally established by fishermen from Ireland; and even at the present day there were amongst the Cornish fishermen O'Sullivan's and O'Briens, and he was not sure that there were not men of his own name. Irishmen had thus taught the Cornish-men the trade; and, now that they were trying to get some of it back, he trusted that the hon. Member for Cornwall (Sir John St. Aubyn) would not interfere. In times gone by, too, grants and bonuses were given for the encouragement of the Cornish Fisheries. It was, therefore, ridiculous for those who represented Scotch and Cornish constituencies to come there and say they did without grants, when the original impetus of their trade came from the bounty system which they were now condemning. The present Bill did not advocate anything like the bounty system, as had been stated more than once. They did not want one shilling to be given in the shape of grant or bounty to the Irish fishermen. They wanted that loans should be given to them on good security. He represented a' constituency where the distress had been very great, and where the recent loans had been decided upon. Applications were made on behalf of the people of Barna, an industrious, frugal, and energetic body of men, for no less than £20,000 to the Fishery Commissioners. They could not meet that arrangement. as they had only £1,400 with which to do it. £20,000 might seem a large sum; but as there were 1,400 fishermen in the district it was something less than £20 each—not so large a sum with which to purchase nets and other equipments for the fishing trade. A friend of his, Mr. Francis Ward, had written to him to the following effect on the subject of securities: — 1836I have gone security for some fishermen in Barna for loans from the Fishery Commissioners; so did my brother, and so did also, I believe, Father Carolan, the parish priest. I have not been called upon in any case to pay anything' owing to the failure of any of those for whom I went security, nor have I heard of anyone else.When proposals were advanced on a former occasion the great objection alleged was that nets and such things were so perishable that they did not offer adequate security for the loans; but the letter of Mr. Ward showed that in no case had the people failed to meet their honest engagements. His hon. Friend the Member for Waterford had also made advances to the extent of £1,500, and in no single instance did the loan remain unpaid. He thought that was an encouraging sign, and ought to induce the Chief Secretary to accept the principle of the Bill. He did not see how it could be refused when, in cases where loans had been given, the results showed that they could be given with the most perfect security. He trusted the Government would allow the Bill to pass a second reading.
§ MR. SYNAN
hoped that the present Government would be more liberal in their action towards Ireland than the late Government. It was somewhat unfortunate that such a Bill as that before them should be brought so late in the Session, when, even if it was accepted, there was not much chance of it lie-coming law, looking at the state of Public Business. In 1874 a Resolution passed by the House upon a Motion brought forward by him declaring that the decay of the Irish Fisheries called for the immediate attention of the Government, demanded the application of remedies recommended by the Report of the Royal Commission and Select Committees which had investigated the subject, and pledged the House to support any well-considered measure that might be introduced on the subject. How did the late Government carry out that Resolution? It seized upon a miserable charitable fund in Ireland, and gave the Fishery Commissioners of Ireland the power of lending money out of the fund to the Irish fishermen, and it was now asked that a further sum of £30,000 should be handed over to the Commissioners for the same purpose, and for piers and harbours. The late Government had pledged itself to various 1837 things if political movements were stopped, but made no grant in the direction now asked for. The present Government, however, would, he hoped, be willing to carry out a proper scheme for the assistance of industry in the country. The hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell) proposed a grant of £260,000 from the Irish Church Fund for the purposes of building piers on the sea coast. He thought at the time of that proposal that it was a scheme which Her Majesty's Government should have carried out by a grant from the Imperial Treasury, and not by the use of a fund which should be kept for the purposes for which assistance from the Imperial Treasury could not be obtained. The fishery industry should be sustained and encouraged by grants from the Imperial resources; and, notwithstanding what had been said elsewhere and what had since occurred, he still held that opinion. The matter had been dealt with in the most exhaustive manner by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake), and there was no one so competent to give assistance to the House on the present subject of Irish Fisheries. That hon. Member had argued that it would be but paltering with the question if the Government were to give less than £150,000 for the construction and repair of piers and harbours in Ireland, besides making substantial loans to Irish fishermen to enable them to carry on their calling. The causes of the failure of the Irish Fisheries was well known, and was brought about by a former famine, which swept away the fishermen; and the boats, therefore, decreased in numbers or were rendered useless. No encouragement was then given to the fishing industry, and no help had been bestowed for the development of the industry. Reference had been made to Norway as being in the same position to Sweden as Ireland was to England. There were, however, important distinctions between Norway and Ireland. The former possessed a Legislature of its own, the latter did not; and, therefore, if the Imperial Government did not now do its duty in this respect it would be a ground of condemnation. It was quite unnecessary to refer to any authority out of the House who might be competent to speak upon the question; but he would refer to the present Postmaster General, whose 1838 knowledge was well known on the subject, and who had refuted the argument that Ireland possessed energy and capital of its own for the purposes of developing the trade. How could it be supposed that a starving people could act on principles of political economy and advance loans. The question of bounties which had been raised should be put out of consideration altogether. It was used by the opponents of this measure and similar measures; but the Irish people did not wish to return to that old system. They had asked for loans to the fishermen in the West, with a condition of repayment at a fixed rate of interest. There was no Member in the House more ready to meet the English and Scotch Members in the objections which had been raised by them than himself. He would, for one, be ready to make some concessions; but it should be remembered that the Bill had been brought forward solely for purposes of relief of Irish fishermen. He now hoped his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary would deal with the subject in a liberal spirit when he spoke on the principle of the Bill; and if he did so, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Irish Members would not be too hard in their terms nor too exacting in their criticism of his proposals, which he trusted would be sufficiently broad, liberal, and large for the purposes required, and would not be conceived in the same petty and shabby manner in which they had been by the late Government.
§ MR. BELLINGHAM
observed, that his constituents were deeply interested in the Bill; and he hoped it would therefore meet the approval of Her Majesty's Government. According to the last lie-port of the Fishery Commissioners there were numerous localities round the coast of Ireland where large supplies of fish could be obtained, but where the facilities and appliances for securing those supplies did not exist. It was not the will to reap this abundant harvest that was required by the Irish fishermen; they had the will, but they had not the power. The coast of Louth—the county which he had the honour to represent— was greatly exposed to storms, and the fishermen suffered great hardship and danger from the want of proper piers and harbour accommodation. They were most anxious to develop the fruits of 1839 the occupation in which they were engaged, and it was most important that they should be encouraged to do so. In connection with the herring fishery which was largely carried on along the Irish coast, he might mention that at Kilkeel during a recent fishing season there were 200 English, 43 Scotch, and only 75 Irish fishing boats; at Greenore in 1878 there were 22 Irish, 20 Scotch, and 8 Isle of Man fishing boats; at Warrenpoint 50 Irish, 15 Scotch, and 105 Isle of Man boats. These were surely facts sufficient to warrant any Government, not blind to the duty it owed the people, to do something for the encouragement of an industry which, in a poor country like Ireland, might prove an exceedingly great blessing. If the Government gave them that encouragement he felt that a great blow would be given to Irish poverty—that in the counties bordering on the sea a great incentive to industry would be given, and that numbers of poor people would be saved from a condition of starvation. Herrings cured at present in Ireland sell at much higher prices than can be obtained for the highest brand of Scotch herrings, and the prices obtained for the herrings caught on the East Coast of Ireland in summer, and sold fresh in Ireland, Glasgow, and Liverpool, were a great deal in excess of the prices obtained by fishermen in Scotland by their contracts. Another point he would urge on the consideration of the Government was the appointment of unpaid Commissioners, because there was no doubt that unpaid Commissioners would look after the interests of the locality in which they resided and had themselves an interest, better than paid Commissioners. County Louth was not one of the counties under the Reproductive Loan Fund; the operation should be extended so as to include it, and thus facilitate the promotion of piers and harbours.
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, he did hope the Bill would receive the hearty support of the Government, for surely it was the duty of any good Government to do all in their power for the welfare of the country under their rule. It had already been pointed out that one of the most valuable resources of Ireland were her Fisheries; and that they were very valuable was proved by the way in which they were appreciated by fishermen from other countries. The 1840 hon. Baronet the Member for West Cornwall (Sir John St. Aubyn) had alluded to the fact that the Cornish fishing boats went over to the coast of Ireland to such an extent that he regarded with considerable interest the provisions of the Bill as being likely to affect his constituents. He might observe, in passing, that the clauses of the Bill to which the hon. Baronet had referred were intended only to save life. The object was to provide that fishing boats, which went out for deep sea fishing, should be well found, and that the lives of those on board them should be protected as far as possible. As he had observed, the fact that the Cornish fishermen went over in great numbers to the Irish coast showed how valuable those Fisheries were. He lately saw Youghal Harbour absolutely crowded with boats from the Isle of Man—boats which were splendidly equipped, and which were reaping a golden harvest. Now, it was a melancholy thing that while those Manx boats were taking loads of fish from the coast, the poor native fishermen were obliged to look on, and see the harvest gathered from their very doors by strangers. There was no helping hand to enable them to gather it in; and thus they were obliged to see their own fish, so to speak, carried away from the country. The fact was that, surrounded as Ireland was with valuable fisheries, the men had not boats and nets to take the fish. In former times they would have been able to borrow money from the banks; but one of the misfortunes of the present crisis was that the credit system had broken down, and that resource was thus lost to them. Indeed, since the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank, not only had the banks, which formerly would have made advances, rushed into the opposite extreme, and kept their money as tightly as possible, but the tradesmen were in a half-bankrupt state, and would not let their goods go, except for ready money, which these poor men had not got. If they were enabled to go out and have a turn at those shoals of fish, which he heard at the present moment were off the coast, it would render them independent for 12 months to come; but as things were, it was much to be feared that, unless something were done—in fact, it was quite certain they would be left perfectly destitute when the winter came, 1841 and would be thrown upon the Relief Fund. Moreover, besides the loss to the fishermen, the inland population were also losing the important resource of the cheap and abundant supply of food which ought to be furnished to them from the Fisheries. He found in the Bill now before the House a clause which would exactly meet the difficulty, and which presented a favourable opening to the Government to show that they were in earnest in the professions that they had made of a friendly interest in the welfare of Ireland, and of a sincere desire to do the utmost that they could to remedy any grievance that she suffered under. It had been said that England's difficulty was Ireland's opportunity; but the converse was also true that Ireland's difficulty was England's opportunity, and the present moment was such a golden opportunity of winning the goodwill of the people of Ireland by coming forward to help them in a generous spirit. There never had been a time when it was more important to give Ireland a helping hand. The usual sources of credit were cut off, and the country was reduced to the greatest state of want and destitution. Both landlords and tenants were in difficulties, and could do nothing to help themselves; and, therefore, the English Government had the greatest possible excuse for coming forward, and, even at the risk of trespassing upon the rules of political economy, rendering a generous assistance to Ireland. The Government had already done for Irish farmers the very thing which he hoped they would consent to do for the Irish fishermen. The Seeds Bill, which the late Government supported, had been of the greatest service to the farmers of Ireland. But for that Bill hundreds and hundreds of farms would have remained unproductive; but its assistance had afforded the one bright gleam of hope that they had in the prospect of a bounteous harvest. Well, the sea was the fisherman's farm, and nets were to the fisherman what seeds were to the farmer; and, therefore, he hoped that, if only for the sake of that clause which dealt with loans for gear, this Bill would be accepted. Clause 27 of the Bill provided that—Whereas it is expedient that loans should be made to fishermen engaged in deep sea fisheries, in order to enable them to provide suitable boats, nets, and gear, such loans should be made under the superintendence of Commissioners hereby appointed.1842 And Clause 29 provided—That, for the purpose of enabling the Commissioners to make such loans, it shall be lawful for the Commissioners of the Treasury, and they are hereby required, within one month after the passing of this Act, to advance out of the Consolidated Fund £30,000, to be applied by the said Commissioners in making such loans.Now, surely that was a very small and moderate demand. It was a very modest petition that they were making to relieve the fishermen all round the coast by providing that small sum. A book had been placed in his hands by his hon. Colleague in the representation of Waterford—of which book that hon. Gentleman was the author—in which mention was made of the loan that was advanced in 1848. The present crisis approached, in many of its features, the crisis of 1848, when, according to the work he had mentioned, the Dungarvan fishermen, in dire distress, pawned and sold as much of their boats and gear as they could, and were at last driven to burn the masts, oars, and lining of the boats for fuel. A number were received into the workhouse; but several, who could not obtain admission there, or employment at the relief works, found a premature grave. Proceeding with his quotations, the hon. Member showed that the result of a small loan of £300 from the Auxiliary Relief Committee of the Society of Friends was almost incredible. Whereas a short time before there were scarcely half a dozen boats out of a hundred on the coast that were seaworthy, directly afterwards numbers of boats and hundreds of men were fishing; and from that time they were enabled to earn their own livelihood. They were indefatigable, too, in fulfilling their engagements; and the Rev. Mr. Alcock, the Protestant clergyman, bore witness to the changed condition of things. That small loan was the means of working such great good in that district; and, of course, what happened in that district might be taken as a sample and an illustration of the good that might be done on a more extensive scale in the whole coast district of Ireland. He hoped it would not be said that, whilst they hardly counted the cost of warlike preparations, but spent money by millions on such unproductive objects, they grudged a few thousands in developing a peaceful industry at home, and in rescuing an honest and hard-working class from poverty and destitution. Millions 1843 had been spent lately in securing "scientific frontiers" thousands of miles away; but, by the expenditure of a very small portion of that great outlay, the truly scientific frontier of a prosperous, contented, and grateful people might be established nearer home. He hoped the Government would not allow the opportunity to pass which was now presented. It fell in well with the present crisis, and with the measure they were now engaged in passing for the relief of Irish distress, for it would relieve a very important class of Irishmen—the coast fishermen. Let them lend those men a helping hand, and they would inspire a grateful feeling in the hearts of the people of Ireland.
§ MR. EWART
said, a large amount of the fish taken in Irish waters were taken not by Irish, but by Manx, Welsh, Cornish, and French fishermen. He admitted that, to a certain extent, the failure of the trade hitherto was due to want of energy on the part of the people of Ireland; but they had a great deal to contend with, especially on the West Coast. The disadvantage under which they had laboured in regard to the difficulty of getting their fish to the market was every year disappearing as the means of communication improved; and if they had a fresh start the industry would rapidly develop, and much good would be done. He hoped that the Chief (Secretary, who had a golden opportunity of doing something for Ireland, would give the Bill his best consideration, and endeavour to render to that country an act of justice. The Irish Members wore asking only for that which had been done for other parts of the United Kingdom. He believed Ireland had been the victim, to a certain extent, of political economy. The introduction of Free Trade had undoubtedly been beneficial to Great Britain; but it had injured the interests of Ireland as a producing country, and he could only hope that his hon. Friend's Bill would meet with a favourable reception from the Government.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) had made a personal allusion to him, and had challenged him to contradict his statement that the Jackal was not employed by the Admiralty for the protection of the Scotch Fisheries, but by the Fishery Board. He did not see why personal allusion had been 1844 made to him, because he (Sir Alexander Gordon) had only come down for the purpose of listening to the debate, which touched a subject in which his constituency were largely interested. One paragraph of the Report of the Fishery Board of Scotland stated that the Admiralty had sent Her Majesty's ship Jackal for the protection of the herring fishers on the coast of Scotland. Would that convince him that the Admiralty had something to do with the sending of the Jackal to the coast of Scotland? Not only the Jackal, but four other vessels, were sent the year before last for the protection of the Scotch Fisheries, and for this reason, that the fisheries on the East Coast of Scotland—that was to say in the North Sea—were frequented by Dutch, French, and Norwegians, and the vessels in question were sent to the fishing ground as a sort of police. Foreigners went there with their large heavy vessels, and kept at sea for a week or more at a time, while the Scotch sent out small boats, which came home every night. These foreigners interfered with our people, and broke their nets; and it was necessary to have the vessels on the spot for their protection, as well as to prevent foreign vessels from coming within territorial waters. The herring often came close to the shore, where large takes were often had, and it was desirable that outsiders should keep out of these waters. As the hon. Member had appealed to the Scotch custom in support of this question, he would say a few words on that custom; and he wished to preface his remarks with the avowal that he had no hostility whatever to the Bill, or to the money asked for being granted. If £200,000 were given to Ireland, Scotland would, perhaps, get about £10,000—that was generally about the proportion that would fall to Scotland. The hon. Member had stated that Scotland had received since the Union £1,500,000 more than had been given to Ireland; but he would call his attention to a Return which gave the amounts granted for piers and harbours in the United Kingdom since 1800. Scotland, it appeared, was granted £613,612, while Ireland had received no less than £1,881,415, which was £1,200,000 more than had been received by Scotland for the past 80 years. He would also point out what was very important in the consideration of this 1845 question, the difference between the Irish and Scotch Fisheries, and the reason why in Scotland there was a Fishery Board. The object of that Board was to control the branding. The East Coast Fishery was entirely supported by the custom from Germany, and dealers from that country would never take a barrel of herrings unless it was branded, because that process saved a great deal of trouble in the purchase. The brand, in fact, enabled the purchaser to know the number and character of the herrings, otherwise they would have to open each barrel before making a purchase, which would be a serious inconvenience. Hon. Members had asked to have vessels placed on the Irish coast; but if there were no foreigners on that coast to interfere with the fishermen, there could not be any object in having vessels to keep them away. The herrings on the West Coast of Ireland were not suitable for the foreign market. They were large, light, and soft, and would not take the pickle. Another difficulty that would be observed in the way of getting a market for Irish fish was that it was much easier to get them conveyed from the East Coast of Scotland to Germany than from the West Coast of Ireland to the same country. The fact was that herrings in Ireland were bought in a fresh state, and in that form brought higher prices than the cured herrings of Scotland. There was no object to be gained, therefore, in introducing branding into Ireland, and this had been made plain by the Report of the Irish Fishery Inspector, who stated distinctly that branding would be of no avail in Ireland, and that, therefore, there was no need of a Board, such as existed in Scotland. He was surprised that no allusion had been made in the debate to this Report of the Irish Fishery Inspector. Then there was a complaint about there not being any harbour of refuge between Queenstown and the Nore. He had heard of several, and therefore did not know what was alluded to. [An hon. MEMBER: Ireland.] He might point out that the Nore was not in Ireland. The fish in Ireland were unsuitable for curing, and the reason was that Ireland and the sea coast was affected by the Gulf Stream, which was not the case with regard to the East Coast of Scotland, and that was the 1846 secret of the whole difference between Scotch and Irish fish. One argument in support of this Bill had been that London would, if the advantages asked for were conceded, be supplied with fresh fish from the West of Ireland; but, for his part, he was inclined to think that London dealers preferred getting their fish from Yarmouth and places near at hand. He hoped, however, the Government would do all in its power in support of Irish Fisheries, but on the understanding that they did not require to have a brand. Another remark occurred to him on the subject. It had been stated that strangers were to be found fishing on the coast of Ireland, and that would seem to indicate that there were harbours of some kind on the West Coast. They had not in Scotland a single harbour, except a tidal one, between the Firth of Forth and the North of Scotland, and yet they managed to get a very good living out of the fishing. The Scotch trusted to their own resources, and perhaps they had as much enterprize as most people.
§ MR. CALLAN
urged the Government to aid in the establishment of fishing stations, such as Arklow, Balbriggan, and Kilkeel, and to afford facilities. He pointed out that in his own experience he had seen at Carlingford upwards of £1,000 worth of fish devoted to manure owing to the want of a curing station in the neighbourhood. This was simply the experience of one night's fishing. He hoped the Government would take the question of establishing curing stations into consideration. The fish to which he referred had arrived just too late for the Greenore boat to Holyhead, and had there been a curing station on that part of the Louth coast a great loss would have been avoided. They were always sure to hear from some Scotch Member in such debates that the Irish people should depend more on their own resources; but what if they had nothing to depend on? He utterly denied the statement of the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Ewart) that there was any want of energy, so far, at all events, as the Mourne fishermen were concerned. The fishermen would gladly, for a loan, pay any interest up to 5 per cent, and give ample security. He reminded the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon) that it was not the Nore they had 1847 been talking of, but the North, and urged that a gunboat was much needed in the North of Ireland to prevent the irregularities committed by Scotch fishermen, who were more complained of than Cornish or Isle of Man fishermen. In conclusion, he begged to point out how advantageous it would be for the Black Country and other parts of England if a constant supply of Irish fish could be secured; and he thought that this Bill, if carried, would benefit not only Ireland, but England.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
thought that in the course of the discussion the conduct of the late Government in the matter of the Irish Fisheries had been unnecessarily criticized. But, setting aside all past differences and asperities, be would suggest whether it were not possible, under the existing novel circumstances of the case, that Her] Majesty's Government might not be induced to take a favourable view, he would not say of this particular Bill, but of the question with which it was connected. The Bill was introduced under totally different circumstances to those which existed when the question was previously discussed. It had to be regarded now more especially with reference to the question of making provision against the recurrence of distress. The tendency of the measures of relief which hitherto had been passed was to leave the people dependent upon the potato crop, and all experience showed that that was not sufficient. He was old enough to have taken an active part in the proceedings of Parliament in connection with the last great Famine; and, in his opinion, the only great measure which was then suggested was the proposal of Lord George Bentinck for a wholesale system of railways in Ireland. That measure had for one of its main objects the development of the Irish Fisheries. The scheme was rejected, most unfortunately, as he thought; but, since then, limpingly, haltingly, interruptedly, and in many ways, no doubt, almost uselessly, railways had been carried out, more or less, throughout the country. Therefore, the Government had now much more reason to induce them to regard with consideration a scheme which had for its object the development of the Irish Fisheries, because they had railways and steamboats to carry the fish from 1848 the West Coast of Ireland to the centres of industry. The only question now was whether it was wise for the Imperial Government, under the exceptional circumstances of the case, in some way to aid in the development of those fisheries. He did not wish to express an absolute opinion offhand; but he thought the object to be attained was one of great importance. If by some such proposal as this they could diminish the dependence of the Irish people upon the potato crop they would be doing ah enormous good not only to Ireland, but to the United Kingdom. Whether this particular Bill was the best that could be devised he would not say; but he had no hesitation in saying that if the Government were disposed to regard favourably either this scheme or any analogous proposal he should give them his most cordial and hearty support.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
quite agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down that one of the lessons taught by the late distress was that they ought to stimulate their desire and their endeavours to develop industries in Ireland, and the fishing industry was one which had a special claim on their attention, because it was almost the only alternative employment for many persons in the most distressed districts. It was almost the only other resource open to the small cottier tenant on the coast. Without exciting any unpleasant feelings in regard to other controversies, he might say that it was a generally acknowledged fact that the difficulty of the Land Question was much increased by what was called the "land hunger," arising from the occupants of the soil having nothing else to do. He thought the time had gone by this year in which much could be done beyond what had already been undertaken by the Government for the immediate relief of the distress. Without in the slightest degree blaming the late Government, he should have been very glad if the noble Lord opposite (Lord John -Manners) could have persuaded his Colleagues to have taken steps in this matter last autumn, which might have had some effect on the pressure of the present necessity. But, allowing that the subject demanded attention, in what way could it be met? The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) had made an interesting speech. 1849 Many explanations had been given of the decline of the Irish Fisheries; but he suspected that one cause which had been more hinted at than expressed tended to account for it more, perhaps, than anything else. That was, that the Irish fisherman found it very hard work to compete with his rivals on other coasts, and even on his own coast. The hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon) had pointed out that the development of railway communication made it easier for the fishermen on the East Coast of Scotland to get a market on the Continent for his herrings than it was for the fishermen on the West Coast of Ireland. There was one thing, however, which to him (Mr. W. E. Forster) appeared hard in the case of the Irish fishermen, and that was the sorrowful fact that they had to see Cornish, Scotch, and Manx fishermen bring their boats into the Irish fishing grounds. But was not that owing very much to what was happening in other trades besides fishing? Small traders found it very difficult to compete with large traders; and the half-cottier, half-fisherman, who went off in his small boat found it very difficult to compete with the trawlers and the large boats which came from other districts. One of the objects which he presumed the hon. Member for Waterford had in view was to enable the Irish fisherman to have the same advantages in respect to large boats as the fishermen of other parts of the Kingdom, and even of the Continent. That Bill, as he understood, proposed in a very experimental way to attain that end, but to an extent which was almost contemned by hon. Gentlemen opposite. His hon Friend (Mr. Collins), in his moderate and clear speech, asked for a loan of £30,000; but the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) said the amount must be £150,000 or £200,000, and other hon. Gentlemen said much the same. Now, if the Irish fisherman was to be put by State loans in a position to compete with his Scotch and other rivals, he questioned whether a loan of £30,000 would be of much service. He did not think he was a great purist about political economy. Some of his friends looked on him rather as a heretic. He believed that the laws of political economy were as true, and would as certainly be obeyed as the laws of physics if men were machines in- 1850 stead of being, to some extent, not only reasonable, but unreasonable creatures. The science of political economy was made too often to rest on the assumption that men would do exactly what they ought to do to get rich and produce wealth, although owing to folly, passion, or ignorance, very often they did not. Still, it was a very serious question indeed to suggest that any industry should be carried on by State capital. The hon. Member for Waterford was really asking that the fishing business on the West Coast, and perhaps on the whole coast, of Ireland, should be carried on by State loans. If they assented to doing that, many other industries might demand the same thing. But he much doubted whether they would be really helping the industry by that course. State machinery must be much better than he had ever heard of its being if a business which got its capital from the State would be able to compete with a business which derived its capital from private enterprize. The analogy of the case with regard to the fishery at Cape Clear, assisted by private money, could hardly apply to money lent by the Government, because the gentlemen who lent the money had a special interest in the fishery, and there was almost a certainty that it would succeed. The first time he was in Ireland he was much interested in the fishermen of the Claddagh, and attempted to get up a loan to enable the fishermen who had suffered from the Famine to have their nets repaired. The loan did them much good for the time; but he doubted whether they could trust to State machinery for supplying the capital to carry on that trade. But the chief reason why he could not assent to the principle of this Bill he would briefly explain. He had been told at the beginning of the debate that he was responsible for the government of Ireland. This was to a partial extent true; but there were other Members of the Administration who had to be consulted in a matter of this sort. There were those who had to look after the taxes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was responsible for seeing that all the people of these Kingdoms were taxed as lightly as possible, and equally, one country compared with another; and, therefore, hon. Members from Ireland must not regard him as if he were a hard man who had a large box of money, and that 1851 he had the power to make a stream of gold flow into their country. In the first place, the money was not his own, and, in the next place, he had not the key of the box. The Treasury must ask what security it was to get for those loans. The hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Ewart) said they ought to be given on good security. Was it easy to lay it down that there would be a good security on a boat or on a net, and might there not be a good deal of hardship in realizing the security when the boat or the net was worn out? He only threw out that remark without saying that it might not be a safe thing to do. That was one principle of the Bill; but then there was another, and that related to a large expenditure upon quays or piers. He was not sure whether the Government had been asked to provide for them by way of grants or loans. [AN hon. MEM-BEE: By loans.] Well, if it was proposed to undertake such works by loans he thought there was a great deal to be said for it. He would certainly do his utmost to find out how loans could be made for increasing the number of piers beyond any sum they were now giving as grants. One of the principal hopes he had for a better state of things in Ireland rested on some wise and comprehensive manner of finding out good securities in Ireland on which loans could be wisely given at an interest which would be low for the borrower but safe for the lender, that lender being the State. He could not help believing that that might be done to a considerable extent and one of the first objects for which it could be rightly done would be the extension of piers. Undoubtedly the hon. Member would have some claim for harbours of refuge in Ireland as in other parts of the Kingdom. He did not want to preclude that. It was not, however, by grants on a large scale that Ireland ought to expect or to wish her resources to be developed; but it was by loans made under a wise system, and after finding out that the security would be satisfactory. He did not know what his hon. Friend who had charge of the Bill intended to do. He should be sorry to vote against that Bill; but he could not agree to it, because it would be committing the Government more than they were able to be committed at that moment. They could not commit themselves to the principle of finding capital 1852 for that fishing business; and they ought not to commit themselves to finding large additional sums of money for piers until they had found out how the whole coast should be looked at. His hon. Friend might say he only asked for an additional £20,000 for piers and £30,000 for those loans. With regard to the appointment of a Commission, there had been arguments in favour of that proposal; but proof was wanting to show that they ought to have a Commission. He had, to some extent, a fear as to an unpaid Commission. The result of such Commissions was this. Gentlemen who took an interest in the matter were put on them at first; but somehow or other they diminished in numbers, and then the work fell very much into the hands of officials. Very often the consequence was that the high-sounding names which were on the Board were merely a sort of support to the official element, and the whole of the work fell into official hands. He could not support the second reading of the Bill; but he could honestly tell his hon. Friend that the Government would try and find out how they could put those Irish fishermen in a position to take part in what Providence had given them on their coast, and how they could prevent the competition being made more serious than it had been by the circumstances of the trade. And it might be found, after a full study of the subject, that there was special ground for a loan system, and also for special assistance in regard to piers. It was a question worthy of consideration whether any of the Irish Church Surplus ought or ought not to be taken for that purpose. But that was not a matter which ought to be done in a hurry. If they ultimately came to the conclusion to apply any of the Church Surplus in that way, they must first find out how much of that Fund was left, which he did not think was exactly known yet, nor could it be known until they knew what the immediate relief of distress took from them. Then they ought really to have a scheme which would show the great advantage arising to that particular industry; and after that was done the House would be able fully to consider whether they would give it for that particular purpose rather than for any other. He did not know that he could say anything more than to repeat that the subject was one in which he was deeply interested.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he did not know what effect might have been produced on his Irish Friends opposite by the speech of the Chief Secretary; but it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman had been a good deal too conciliatory. He had, indeed, spoken of the difficulty of keeping up industry on borrowed capital; but he had also alluded to the possibility of surveying the whole coast of Ireland, to see what might be done in the way of national help for the improvement of harbours, and likewise to the possibility of finding out in Ireland some security on which loans could be made, the lender being the Imperial Exchequer. If the Chief Secretary wanted to lend money, he would have no difficulty in Ireland. There was nothing on which the Irish people were more united than in the demand for loans; and the suggestion of searching out for a security on which advances should be made out of the public Treasury for the development of the resources of Ireland was one of the most mischievous which could be thrown out in the present state of Ireland and in the actual condition of the Irish people. That Bill had been supported with considerable unanimity by the Irish Members; and, no doubt, when they were agreed, their unanimity was wonderful. The measure included a scheme for the regulation of the coast Fisheries of Ireland. Now, the present Chairman of Committees in that House had acted as Chairman of a Royal Commission appointed to examine into the herring fisheries of the British coast. Well, that authority stated that, in the inquiries conducted by that Commission, one thing above all others became most clear, and that was, that the fisheries of the British coast prospered the more the less the Government did for them, and the less legislative restriction prevailed; and the Commissioners recommended the repeal of all the Acts of Parliament for protecting fishermen by various methods. That virtually amounted to a condemnation of the present Bill by the Chairman of Committees. The Bill also involved a demand of money by loan or grant to fishermen, and for building piers along the coast. Without that assistance the Irish coast was now fished, and fished industriously, by fishermen from Scotland, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man. It could not, therefore, be the lack of har- 1854 bours that prevented the Irish fishermen from also fishing it. But it was said it was from lack of capital. What means had the fishermen of other parts of the Kingdom than Ireland of getting capital? They were as poor a class as the Irish. He put aside the assertion that the Cornish fishermen in the last century received bounties. It was true that some of those bounties were given; but the effect of them had long passed away. The argument that the English fishermen had reached, by means of bounties, a certain platform which was denied to their Irish rivals, was analogous to one that had often been used in other Legislative Assemblies in favour of protective tariffs. The noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) said the question must be considered with special reference to the peculiar crisis through which a large part of Ireland was passing. But that demand was not now sprung on them for the first time. For many long years before the present crisis the claim for State aid to Irish Fisheries had been put forward. It had been urged, when attention was directed to the amount of the deposits in the Irish banks, and when they were told that the want of security for the tenant prevented the application of capital to the land. However that might be, he knew of no hindrance in the law which prevented the application of capital to the development of those Fisheries. He believed that the root of the evil they were considering lay, not in the want of capital nor in the want of energy, but in that defect of morality in the Irish character which did not permit the people to associate themselves much together in industrial enterprizes, or, indeed, in other enterprizes. They lacked that self-reliance and mutual cooperation and mutual trust which existed in other parts of the Kingdom. If the House desired to legislate for the ultimate benefit of Ireland, it must shape its course, as far as possible, with a view to correct that state of things. The two great faults of the Irish character were— first, too great a dependence upon others; and, secondly, the indisposition to associate together in industrial enterprizes. The present Bill would tend to make those defects inveterate and permanent. The Irish people should be taught to rely more on their own resources. The Fisheries of our own coast were not really 1855 carried on by great capitalists, but by small tradesmen. The fishing boat was divided into shares, the crew having their share, and other people had theirs; and it was because the small capitalist could trust the fisherman, and the fisherman could trust the small capitalist, that those Fisheries flourished. He was now using language which he would employ if he were a Member of an Irish Parliament, and he would resist that Bill as one tending to perpetuate instead of to cure the faults of Irish character.
§ MR. WARTON
said, the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had presented political economy in its most coldblooded aspect, and his speech was calculated rather to irritate than conciliate the Irish people. He altogether disputed the dicta of the hon. Member for Liskeard, and denied that Irishmen were deficient in morality, indisposed to partnership, or prone to rely unduly on the assistance of the State. This was a time when they had a right to expect assistance; and, therefore, he heartily supported the Bill. He assured the Chief Secretary for Ireland that it would be far better policy, instead of adopting measures which were calculated to set class against class, and to benefit one class by plundering another, to yield to the united wishes of all classes of Irishmen on such a matter as this. This demand was a very small one, and the £30,000 required would soon be realized out of the additional Income Tax and the Beer Duty, the produce of which the Prime Minister had systematically under - estimated. He would rather pay another additional 1 d. of Income Tax, if necessary, than see the Irish Fisheries neglected. But it appeared that, while the Government did not shrink from dangerous, revolutionary, and Communistic measures, they opposed a Bill like this which nobody ought to object to.
§ MR. PARNELL
said the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had made a charge against the Irish fishermen. That charge had not been made for the first time against Irishmen engaged in different pursuits. He had heard it said often in connection with the manufacturing industry, or want of such industry in Ireland, that they could not succeed because they were deficient in the characteristics which Englishmen and Scotchmen possessed. But it was a very remarkable fact that this "deficiency in 1856 moral character" did not pursue the Irish people out of their own country; for in Canada, Australia, the United States, and other countries to which they emigrated, they were succeeding in a very striking manner, considering the difficulties with which they had to contend in all the pursuits in which they were engaged. That was an indisputable fact. The House had to consider how it was that Irishmen who succeeded in other parts of the world were unable to succeed in their own country. The hon. Member for Liskeard had pointed out that in Cromwell's days the Cornish fishermen went to fish at Waterford, and that ever since the Cornishmen had shown themselves better adapted to fish than Irishmen. But what was the reason? In the days of Cromwell fishermen of Cornwall presented a Petition to Cromwell stating that, by reason of the great competition from Irish fishermen, Cornish fishermen were not able to compete successfully with fishermen on the Irish Coast; and they begged that Irishmen might not be allowed to fish in Irish waters. In accordance with their prayer, Cromwell issued orders forbidding Irishmen to fish in Irish waters. But that was not all. Such as were caught doing so, after the issuing of the edict, were made slaves, and sent to the West Indies. That was the history of the competition of Cornishmen with Irish fishermen, and that was the foundation of the superiority which the hon. Member for Liskeard claimed for Cornish over Irish fishermen. Cornishmen got the start, and they were able to keep it ever since, owing to legislation of that kind. The Irish Fisheries had been depressed, from time to time, by English legislation. And if Parliament was asked to put aside a little the principles of political economy now, it was because they had much more rudely put aside the principles of political economy in their dealings with Irishmen in times past. He admitted that State loans to fishermen were objectionable as a permanent means of supporting their industry; but Irishmen had been crippled by several famines—by the notable Famine of 1846— just when Irish Fisheries were beginning to flourish; and, again, another calamity had come which bad thrown Irish fishermen back in the competition with other fishermen. He thought, if a moderate loan could be 1857 made by the State to fishermen in Ireland, the result would be the establishment of a larger class of boats, which would enable them to compete with Cornish and Scotch fishermen, who were evidently alarmed at the prospect of competition from Irish fishermen, from the way in which they had set the hon. Member for Liskeard against the Bill. Advances previously made had done a great deal of good, considering the limited extent to which they were made, and had been punctually repaid. The moderate loans now asked for would, of course, be on good security. With regard to harbours, he would ask the Chief Secretary whether a limited grant could not be made out of the Church Surplus Fund, in addition to that made by the Treasury, for the purpose of giving harbours on the West Coast, which would be of great utility? The Board of Works had already sufficient information to justify the expenditure of £100,000 or £120,000 with great advantage; and there would be no possible risk of the money being wasted. He trusted, therefore, that they should have the support of Members representing English and Scotch fishing constituencies in the matter. He might mention there were no harbours, as yet, on the Western Coast of Ireland, with the exception of the Harbour of Kinsale. The Coast of Ireland consisted of over 2,500 miles, and only about 350 miles were at present fished by the Cornish and English fishermen, simply for the want of harbours. If, then, they could expend £120,000 or £130,000, so as to extend the fisheries, the food production would be materially increased. Had Irishmen a Parliament of their own, they would be able to provide these things for themselves; therefore, the Government should go a little in the direction in which the Irish Members asked them to go. If the Government could not see their way to a second reading of the Bill, he hoped they would entertain an application for an additional grant of £60,000 out of the Irish Church Surplus for the purpose of small fishery harbours and piers on the Western Coast of Ireland. That would enable Irish fishermen to struggle on until the time came when the right hon. Gentleman would be able to consider this question in all its bearings, and bring forward some comprehensive policy with regard to the subject.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
regretted that the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) should have lent the weight of his authority to support somewhat narrow and old-fashioned notions of political economy. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that there were many large trades in Ireland in regard to which the principle of association or co-operation prevailed more than it did in England or Scotland. He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) thought this Bill was by no means an unreasonable, but, on the contrary, a perfectly reasonable, measure. The greatest writers on political economy said it was reasonable to help certain classes in order that they might thereby become able to help themselves.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
remarked, that it would be well to consider where political economy began as well as where it was likely to end. The treatment of Ireland by a British Parliament had been from first to last a complete violation of the principles of political economy. When the hon. Member for Liskeard spoke in such terms of the difficulty of making Irishmen combine for purposes of trade, commerce, or manufacture, he felt inclined to point to the words in the Book of Job—"Who are these who obscure the councils by words without wisdom?" The one great faculty of the Irish people was combination, and there was no people against whom such pains had been taken to break down the principle. In the matter of the Irish Fisheries, the hon. Member for Cork had pointed out how the most violent measures had been had recourse to to crush those fishery interests. What did Ireland contribute towards the Imperial Exchequer? At least double as much in proportion of population as England and Scotland. Under the circumstances, though no one was more ready than himself to subscribe to the principles of political economy in the abstract, when those principles were transgressed, as they were in the government of Ireland, then a measure such as this could not be judged as to whether or not it was in accord with the principles of political economy, but whether or not it was necessary as a compensatory measure to make up for transgressions of political economy, which had been the rule in the Irish government. At the same time, he credited the present Govern- 1859 ment with the best intentions. For the time they had been in Office they had gone as far in the direction of conciliating Irish interests as it was possible for any British Government to go; but if his hon. Friend went to a division, he should support the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. O'DONNELL,
as the Representative of a borough which previous to the great Famine in Ireland possessed a fishing fleet of more than 120 vessels, and which had now been reduced to about a dozen, added his strong petition in favour of the fishing industry, especially in the South of Ireland. They required a little help, given in a generous spirit and founded upon principles of common sense, in order to make the harbour at Dungarvan a source of wealth and comfort to a very large extent of the population in the South of Ireland. The opening of a line of railway through Waterford had placed Dungarvan in communication with a wide extent of the country. In reply to what had been said by the hon. Member for Lis-keard with regard to the practical application of the principles of political economy and government in Ireland, it would not be difficult to show that where a Government had satisfied itself that the circumstances of a country were admirably suited to a certain industry, it was not contrary to the principles of political economy to give that support at the outset necessary to place that industry on a healthy and solid basis. Such a course would recommend itself to a wise Government. All they asked was to have the means of placing the Irish fishing industries in the way to get a fair start. After that, he was certain they would not have to come to the House for grants or loans in their aid.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 125; Noes 172: Majority 47.—(Div. List, No. 44.)