§ MR. PARNELL
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether he can announce to the House the course which the Government purpose to take with reference to the second reading of the 970 Relief of Distress (Ireland) (No. 2) Bill?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
After full consideration the Government have empowered me to state that they must oppose the second reading of the hon. Member's Bill. I need not repeat the reasons which I gave on Thursday night; but I may just say that we believe it would do more harm than good to make the proposed grant of public money to private committees. At the same time, we have very seriously considered the present position of Irish distress in connection with the latest information which we have received. Generally speaking, that information is more hopeful. There is more employment, both on the relief works and from the usual sources, and there is less distress in the scheduled Unions, with a prospect of a good crop and a good harvest, which is in harmony with our anticipations. But there are some Unions — especially in parts of Mayo and neighbouring counties — in which the distress is very severe. We believe, however, that it is within the power of the machinery of the Poor Law Board to meet that distress; and we think that neither the Guardians nor the Government ought to be relieved from their responsibility with regard to it. We sent down an Inspector to see that all the necessary out-door relief was really given. As I have already told the House, we have offered loans to all these Unions in which out-door relief is given. We have had to dissolve three Unions, and, if necessary, we shall dissolve more. In order, however, to insure the Guardians doing their duty where they are still acting, and to make it easier for the relief to be given where we have had to displace them, we have determined to offer these loans on better terms. The terms, according to the Act passed at the beginning of this year, were 3½ per cent for 10 years. I give Notice that I shall place on the Paper to-morrow a clause to be introduced into the Relief Bill now in Committee, to enable these loans to be made out of the Church Surplus at 1 per cent, instead of 3½ and postponing any payment of interest for two years. I am in hopes that this postponement of the payment of interest, in addition to the reduction of interest, will really enable the difficulty, in a great measure, to be met. Perhaps I may take this opportunity of adding, 971 on behalf of my noble Friend the Secretary to the Treasury, that upon a consideration of the number of piers which could be advantageously made, and from the great wish we have to obtain the full advantage of the generous grants made from the Dominion of Canada, he has come to the conclusion to give Notice to increase the grant from £30,000 to £45,000. I will put these clauses on the Paper to-morrow; and, under these circumstances, I hope that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork will not proceed with the second reading of his Bill to-night. If he does, I shall feel it my duty to oppose it.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will kindly say whether he has received any additional information in reference to the existence of famine fever in the County Mayo?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Yes; I have received information. The House can hardly doubt that I receive constant information with regard to it. So far as I can learn, it is not what is generally called famine fever. That is to say, it is not that mesenteric fever which was the great cause of death in the last famine. It is a kind of typhus, and I hear different accounts of it. In one or two cases it appears to be severe, while in others it appears to be passing away. As far as I can make out, it is not caused by want of food, though I think the change to a low class of food may have made it easier to be taken. In some cases persons were attacked who were not in great distress; but in others, no doubt, the persons taking it were in distress. I think it is a very serious matter. We are meeting it to the very best of our power; and I believe we can meet it, as far as human agency is able to do so, by the best medical inspection, by taking them into the hospitals, and by ordering such better food as may seem suitable. I should like to know what course the hon. Member means to adopt with regard to his Bill to-night?
§ MR. PARNELL
As it would not be convenient to proceed with the Motion for the second reading of my Bill until the House has had an opportunity of seeing the clauses which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to place on the Paper, I beg to say that I will defer that Motion until these clauses have been circulated amongst hon. Members.