§ (1.) £85,244, to complete the sum for the Local Government Board, Ireland.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was very sorry if, by moving that the Committee be counted, he had interrupted the digestion of any hon. Member; but he had thought it necessary to have at least one Member of the Irish Government in attendance while they were discussing the present Vote. The point he wished to call attention to was the conduct of some of the Chairmen of the Boards of Guardians in Ireland. He understood at present that it was the rule of the Poor Law Board that the Chairman of a Board of Guardians could refuse to put any vote he pleased from the chair. Perhaps the Government would inform him if he was wrong in asserting that the Chairman had that right. That being the state of the law, he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the harsh and unjust manner in which the obligations of the Chairmen of Boards of Guardians in Ireland were performed. He would take first a case which occurred in connection with his own constituency. Some time ago a member of the Board (Mr. Leach) thought it right 793 that the Board should pronounce an opinion, as representing the people of the district, upon a question of legislation before Parliament; and he, therefore, proposed a resolution in connection with the Prevention of Crime Bill. But the Chairman of the Board of Guardians refused to put the resolution, and left the chair; and in that way he reduced the Board to such a condition that it was not capable of passing any resolution, either upon that or any other subject. He wished to invite the attention of the Committee to the way in which this kind of arbitrary exercise of power worked. Mr. Pearce Joyce, the Chairman in question—against whom he would say nothing personally—was a landowner, and was a member of the Board of Guardians, not by virtue of election, but from his position as a magistrate. He was an ex-officio member of the Board; but as he also happened to be Chairman of the Board, he had the power of preventing that popular representative Body from passing a resolution which he considered derogatory to the interests of other classes; and thus the Board of Guardians, in all such matters as that, was left at the disposal of any gentleman who happened to be Chairman of the Board of Guardians for the time being. The resolution proposed in this case was a resolution condemnatory of the Prevention of Crime Bill; but in the case of the Board of Guardians of Carrick-on-Suir, the motion was a motion not condemnatory of that Bill, or dealing with any measure of that kind, but a measure in favour of the Arrears of Rent Bill, then before the House of Commons. The Chairman of the Board of Guardians, on that occasion, refused to allow a resolution in favour of the presentation of a memorial to be put; and the result of that action he (Mr. O'Connor) would not further allude to now, because it would form the topic of a discussion which would come later on. But it was another case in which the Chief Secretary for Ireland would see how the rule worked. It operated with the greatest hardship, both upon the Board of Guardians and the people they represented; and the conduct of the Chairman was not only unjust towards the ratepayers and the Board, but it was cruel and unpatriotic towards Her Majesty's Government themselves. He con- 794 tended that resolutions of this kind would give the Irish Executive a satisfactory indication of what the wants and the wishes of a large portion of the people, whose cases they had to deal with, were. It would, however, be impossible to make the Government acquainted with the views of the Irish people if every resolution of the kind was to be thwarted because a representative of the landlord class happened to be in the chair. He did not know whether they were going to have any more of the legislation upon the Irish Land Question which had been so closely connected with the present Parliament. Probably any further legislation upon the subject might not commend itself to the judgment of the Government; and he would suggest to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in case he found himself unable to bring in a large measure of reform, that he might do good service by the introduction of some small measures connected with municipal work, and the administering of the affairs of the Irish ratepayers. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would very soon be able to devote his energies to the remedying of many of the evils of local government in Ireland; and, in the first place, he wished the right hon. Gentleman to know that, at the present moment, there was no appearance of anything like popular representation in most of the Local Government Boards of Ireland. So far as the administration of the Poor Law was concerned, one-half of the Boards of Guardians were ex-officio Guardians, appointed simply because they were magistrates. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) believed the right hon. Gentleman to be a sound Liberal, and he was satisfied that that mode of appointment would not be in accordance with any of those maxims of representative government which the right hon. Gentleman, when out of Office, had so strongly put forward; and especially the maxim that the people who were to dispose of the funds raised by themselves should be elected by the ratepayers, and that the control of the rates should not be in the hands of a class of persons who did not represent the ratepayers at all. At present the magistrates, who were only ex-officio Guardians, possessed the power of controlling the popular vote in Ireland. He thought the Chief Secretary to the Lord 795 Lieutenant of Ireland might, with, advantage, turn his attention to the amendment of the law in this respect, and the Government could have no safer guide to the wants and wishes of the people than the votes of the Boards of Guardians.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that before he proceeded to lay before the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary the facts of the particular question of which he had given the right hon. Gentleman Notice yesterday, he wished to say a few words respecting the ruinous pressure of the instalment of the Seed Rate upon the Guardians of several Unions in the West of Ireland. The Government had already had their attention directed to the matter by a Question which had been put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the County of Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), in regard to the Swinford Union. It appeared that a levy had been made upon the Guardians of that Union for the repayment of a sum of £7,000, and a copy of a resolution of the Board had been forwarded to him (Mr. Sexton), and to his hon. Friend the Member for the county, in which the Guardians declared their inability to pay that instalment of £7,000; and they added that, if the Local Government Board insisted upon it, they would be placed in the position of being unable to carry on the ordinary business of the Union—of feeding and housing the poor; and it would, therefore, be necessary to resign their position, and allow the Local Government Board to appoint Vice Guardians for that district in their place. Now, this opened up a very serious number of considerations, having regard to the necessity and importance of attending to the wants of the poor; and he should be glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he had arranged for the Local Government Board to give an extension of time for repayment—at least until after the harvest was gathered in. The case of the Swinford Union was one of five Unions in regard to which the pressure was more widely spread than in any other district in the West of Ireland. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take advantage of the occasion, so as to give relief to the Unions in the West of Ireland generally. In the West of Ireland the persons who had to pay rates were occupiers of the poorest 796 class—men with small holdings and with large families, who were hovering upon the verge of pauperism themselves. If the Government stood rigidly by the letter of the Act of Parliament, and compelled these persons to pay the instalments of the Seed Rate upon the day they became due, they would defeat the object they had originally in view, and would increase the number of paupers, for it was an extremely narrow line that divided these small occupiers in the West of Ireland from the condition of pauperism; and until the present harvest was gathered in, it would be utterly impossible to make any provision for the payment of this instalment of the Seed Rate. The money could not be collected; the elected Guardians would abandon the attempt to discharge their duties, Vice Guardians would have to be appointed, and the number of paupers would be much increased in consequence of any stringent attempt that might be made, to collect the rate. The whole effect would be very disastrous. He had received a letter yesterday from one of the Guardians of the Tubbercorry Union, in the county of Sligo, in which an extension of time until the 1st of December was asked, so that the farmers might have the advantage of the coming harvest. A resolution to that effect had been passed by the Board of Guardians. He could not imagine a more reasonable request; and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would, not only in the case of the Swinford Union, but also in regard to several other Unions in the West—where the occupiers were the tenants of small holdings and were poor and needy— consider in a generous and statesmanlike spirit the necessity of keeping these people in their homes, by refraining from putting pressure upon them for the repayment of the Seed Rate the moment it became due. In regard to the Car-rick-on-8uir Board of Guardians, he had asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, under what circumstances, upon what evidence, and upon what authority the Irish Local Government Board had dissolved that Board and appointed Vice Guardians to act in their place? He had also asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would lay upon the Table copies of any letters and other official documents which were in existence upon the subject? The 797 right hon. Gentleman replied in a manner strictly official, but not in a manner to increase his (Mr. Sexton's) stock of information very largely, that the Board of Guardians had been dissolved because, through the default of the Board, the duties had not been duly and effectually discharged in accordance with the Act in force for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland. Now, it was necessary to go back to the last election of the Board in April, in order to make the circumstances which had occurred intelligible, because the difficulty arose in consequence of the conduct of the Chairman then elected, who had made himself the instrument of the landlord and ex-officio section of the Board against the wishes of the majority of the elected Guardians. It was in consequence of the conduct of that gentleman that such a discreditable state of affairs had arisen between the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians and the Local Government Board. When the new Board was elected, in April last, it became at once apparent that there was about to be a dispute between the landlord section and the elected Guardians; and when the day of election came on, Mr. William Atkinson, of Portlaw, a well known magistrate, was proposed as Chairman by the landlord interest. Another candidate was proposed by the elected Guardians; and, on a vote being taken, it became at once evident that it would be decided, not upon the merits of the two men, but upon Party and social principles. The ex-officio Guardians voted to a man for the landlords' nominee; while the elected Guardians voted to a man for their own nominee. Twenty-four voted for Mr. William Atkinson, and 22 elected Guardians voted on the other side. Mr. William Atkinson was therefore declared elected. It must be borne in mind that the terms "landlord" and "magistrate" were convertible terms in this matter. The landlords also seized the Vice Chairmanship of the Union when the motion for the election of a Vice Chairman came before the Board. Now, the ex-officio Guardians had, by law, an equal share in the control of the affairs of the Union with the elected Guardians; but they never turned up, except when there was some amendment to be made, or some job to be done. They left the toilsome affairs of the Union from week to week 798 throughout the year to be discharged by the elected Guardians, and they never showed up at all, except to support the chair in some question in which the interests of the landlords were concerned, or to make some new appointment. In this Carrick-on-Suir Union, in which the Board had recently been dissolved, the business was generally carried on from week to week by gentlemen who had been elected by the ratepayers, and the meetings were seldom attended by more than two or three deputy lieutenants and justices of the peace, who constituted the ornamental part of the Board. But at the meeting in April they attended in full force, and they elected the landlords' nominee as Chairman. To show the animus which governed the proceedings, he might state that among the ex-officio Guardians of Carrick-on-Suir there were several Noblemen who had taken a prominent part in the House of Lords and elsewhere against the Land Bill, foremost among them being the Marquess of Waterford, the Earl of Clonmell and the Earl of Bessborough. It became very soon apparent that the Chairman appointed in this way by a purely landlord vote of 24 ex-officio against 22 elected Guardians, intended to use his power to gag any free expression of opinion on the part of the elected Guardians. The same disposition was manifested by the Vice Chairman; and, as he (Mr. Sexton) had already said, the animus of the ex-officio Guardians of the Union was shown in the way in which the Marquess of Waterford had exerted himself against the Land Bill. While the noble Marquess was straining every nerve to defeat the Land Bill, his friends at the Carrick-on-Suir Board were exerting themselves by their vote — never attending the meetings of the Board at any other time of the year—to prevent the elected Guardians from expressing the wishes of the ratepayers in reference to the Land Act. Thus they had, at one end, the Marquess of Waterford most actively opposing the Land Bill in the House of Lords; and, at the other end, his friends, the Poor Law Guardians, preventing the expression of the wishes of the people. Now, it did not appear to him (Mr. Sexton) that an English Board of Guardians was limited or restricted in this manner. He had glanced at the Report of the Select Committee on Public Petitions, and he found there 799 that English Boards of Guardians petitioned very much as they pleased. For instance, some of them had presented Petitions in favour of preventing the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sunday, a question of interest and importance, no doubt, but one which certainly did not touch so closely the business of a Board of Guardians as the Arrears of Rent Bill of the Government; and it was upon that question that the first attempt was made to stifle and gag the vote of the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians. English Boards of Guardians had also presented Petitions in regard to the highway rates, births, marriages, and deaths, and various other matters; but not upon one which had so important a connection with the feeding and clothing of the destitute poor as the Arrears of Rent Bill for Ireland. But while in England the action of the Boards of Guardians was perfectly free, in Ireland a deliberate gag had been manufactured; and any Chairman of an Irish Board of Guardians, at his discretion, might refuse to accept any motion laid before him by the Guardians, on the ground that it was not relevant to the business of the Board. He would now point out the nature of the question upon which his conflict between the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians and their Chairman first arose; and it would be necessary, in the first place, to refer to a meeting which took place on the 17th of June, when Mr. Rockett, an elected Guardian, gave notice of a motion that Parliament should be petitioned to expedite the passing of the Arrears of Rent Bill, in the hope of stopping evictions, and thereby saving the rates and much suffering. Could there be imagined a subject more relevant to the business of the Board of Guardians than that of stopping evictions? It concerned the labours of the Guardians doubly; for what was the result of evictions on the rates of the Union? In the first place, an eviction turned out a certain number of persons, who, immediately they were turned out, became a burden upon the rates, by being obliged to go to the workhouse; and, in the second place, those who were not turned out were placed in danger of a similar fate, by having to bear the additional burdens placed upon the rates. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland believe that on the 17th of June the Vice Chairman 800 of the Carrick-on-Suir Board, Mr. Peter Walsh, an ex-officio Guardian, refused to receive the motion, although, only a very short time before, he had himself seconded a motion which was submitted to the Board in reference to the Phoenix Park assassinations? It was a laudable thing, no doubt, to pass a resolution deprecating that deplorable occurrence; but if it was free for the Board to pass a resolution as to the assassination of a Nobleman and a Gentleman in Phoenix Park, how could it be said that the passing of a resolution concerning the Arrears of Rent Bill was irrelevant to the business of the Board? Nevertheless, Mr. Walsh, J.P., in the plenitude of his wisdom and power, decided it was not a proper thing to petition the House of Commons to do anything calculated to stop evictions. The elected Guardians on that occasion gave way to this most indecent and irrational action of Mr. Peter Walsh, and proceeded to the ordinary business of the Board, abdicating their own functions in favour of Mr. Walsh's dictation. The next phase of the matter occurred on the 1st of July. On that day the circumstances arose which led ultimately to the dissolution of the Board; and he would read a statement from an elected Guardian, Mr. Shea, who took a prominent part in the proceedings. Mr. Shea said—On the 1st July, the usual business was proceeded with fairly enough, until the correspondence came to be read. There were three letters read by the clerk, and, seeing there was no action being taken on them, I moved that the consideration of the three letters be postponed until next Board day; it was seconded by another Guardian. An ex-officio Guardian moved, as an amendment, that they be marked "read;" and this was seconded by another ex-officio member. The Chairman refused to put either, and thereby ignored the right of the Board, taking to himself the right of jury, judge, and Chairman. It was then moved and seconded by two elected Guardians, that the Board adjourn until next Board day, 8th July. This was put by the Chairman and passed by a large majority. On that day, after the minutes were read, it was moved and seconded that we commence with the ordinary or usual business, and when we would have come to where it broke off last day—namely, the correspondence, the adjourned business might go on. The clerk concurred as to this being the proper course to adopt; however, the Chairman refused it, but decided himself that the adjourned business should go on first. The first business, according to his ruling (the Chairman's), was the last of those three letters which were severally read on 1st July. The clerk read again the third letter (from Millstreet), recommending a resolution passed by their Board asking the 801 Legislature to remedy the Land Act of last year with regard to leaseholders, which amendment would he very acceptable with the view of furthering its object. I proposed its adoption; it was seconded by another elected Guardian, and the Chairman refused to put it to a vote. Two other elected Guardians moved and seconded that the Board adjourn to a future day. The Chairman put this, and it was carried by a large majority; and on two subsequent meetings, the same letter was put before us, as our first business, by the Clerk and the Chairman. We did not change regarding its importance. The Chairman kept it before us as our first business for three or four meetings, believing we would be dissolved on account of his resistance.—Faithfully yours, J. SHEA.Now, what was the first question which arose? Was the resolution which the Chairman refused to receive relevant to the business of the Board of Guardians or not? At the first meeting, the resolution was refused by the Chairman, who was the instrument of the Marquess of Waterford and other Noblemen in the district, who had been opponents of the Land Bill and the Arrears of Rent Bill in the House of Lords. The resolution refused by Mr. Walsh was one asking the Board of Guardians to petition the House of Commons in favour of including leaseholders in the benefit of the Arrears of Rent Bill. The question was one which was materially connected with the subject of rack rents. It was often the custom to compel the leaseholder to pay a very high rack rent, under a promise of making him a tenant in the end, and the lease was frequently made an instrument of torture. The leaseholder was liable to be turned out and become a burden to the rates; and, therefore, the improvement of the legal position of these leaseholders was as much part of the business of the Guardians as any other duty or means by which they could keep down the rates. The Chairman refused to receive the resolution, which was one that had been passed by the Millstreet Board of Guardians, and by other Boards of Guardians in Ireland. Similar resolutions had been transmitted to the Local Government Board in Dublin and received by them; and, notwithstanding that fact, the Local Government Board upheld the Chairman of the Carrick-on-Suir Board in refusing to put the resolution, although they had accepted it altogether in regard to their other Unions. What consistency was there in such a course—that the Chairman should have 802 discretion to refuse or accept a resolution just as he liked? He (Mr. Sexton) thought that if there was a rule which gave to the Chairman such, an arbitrary power, it ought at once to be got rid of; and that in Ireland, as in England, at the meetings of a Board of Guardians, as well as those of any other public body, the opinion of the majority of the Guardians ought to be a decisive rule for the conduct of the proceedings. He was able to show that this very resolution had been passed by several Boards of Guardians; and he was able to show also, by a letter from the Local Government Board themselves, addressed, in the year 1869, to the Boards of Guardians in Ireland generally, that an invitation was given to such Boards to express their approval of the Land Bill. Not very long ago, the Prime Minister and the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), wrote letters to the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians, acknowledging with thanks a resolution passed by the Board in reference to the Land Act; and yet the course pursued in this instance by the Chairman of the Board, and which was similar to the course which had already received the approval of the Prime Minister, was to be deprecated by a minor authority, and visited with the heaviest penalty it was possible to inflict—namely, the dissolution of the Board. By the 7th Article of the Poor Law Regulations it was prescribed that when three or more Guardians were present at a meeting, the majority should have the right to adjourn the Board; and, as the Chairman refused to receive a resolution which the majority of the Board considered to be relevant to their business, they refused to go on with any other business. A motion was made for the adjournment of the Board, and it was carried. When the Guardians met on the next occasion, an elected Guardian suggested that the ordinary business of the Union as to outdoor relief should be at once transacted. He wished the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to note that fact, because the Local Government Board appeared to have fallen into a great misapprehension in regard to it. They appeared to have thought that the neglect to discharge the ordinary business of the Board was due to the elected Guardians, instead of the Chairman, 803 But the Chairman, with extraordinary obstinacy, refused to do anything at all until the other question was settled, and the majority decided to adjourn the meeting. On the next day, after refusing to accept the resolution of the Millstreet Board, and also refusing the request of the elected Guardians to go on with the ordinary business, the same deadlock was found to exist. The Chairman still refused to transact the ordinary business. "No," he said, "we must take the business where it was left off on the last day." But the Guardians refused to give way in regard to what they conceived to be their duty, and they had a perfect right to say that the leaseholders ought to be protected by the State. They had certainly as good a right to take that course as they had in 1869, when the Local Government Board invited them to do a similar thing. But the Chairman would have no other business done. The elected Guardians again moved the adjournment, and it was agreed to by a large majority. That happened on four occasions, and the Chairman repeated the course he had taken before. On each occasion the elected Guardians invited him to proceed with the ordinary business of the day, and then to turn to the disputed question of the Millstreet resolution. They were willing to sign cheques for outdoor relief, and to keep up supplies for the workhouse, and to do all the ordinary work of the Board. But this gentleman, Mr. William Atkinson, inspired by the zeal of a commoner acting on behalf of people in a higher sphere, felt that he could not retire from the position he had taken up, and refused to go on with the ordinary business of the day. Three several times, at three successive meetings, he thrust forward the Millstreet letter, and said— "Until you mark that as read and throw it under the table, and until you give way to my despotic dictation, I will not allow you to transact the ordinary business of the Union." The inevitable result was the only result that could happen; and after this occurrence had taken place on three or four occasions, the Local Government Board sent down their Inspector, Mr. Hamilton, to make an inquiry. Now, it would be found that Mr. Hamilton, instead of applying himself to the real question, whether the Chairman ought or ought 804 not to have refused the resolution in favour of a leaseholder, talked in a kind of grandfatherly way to the Guardians about the duty of shaking hands and making up their differences, and then delivered himself of a number of platitudes on the blessings of harmony and united action, which might have been appreciated in the pulpit on a Sunday, but which, on a week day, at a meeting of a Board of Guardians, were rather absurd and irrelevant to the business in hand. The upshot of all of it was, that on the 20th of July, the Local Government Board issued a sealed Order, dissolving the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians, for no other reason than that they had insisted on the right of expressing their opinion on a matter immediately relevant to the condition of the farmers and the increase of pauperism. And what were the two points taken up by the Local Government Board? They said that the Chairman had declined to put a resolution which was wholly unconnected with the duties of a Board of Guardians. If so, why did the Local Government Board, in 1869, invite the Board of Guardians all over Ireland to pass resolutions dealing with the Land Bill? If this resolution was not connected with the duty of a Board of Guardians, why did the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) write to this and other Boards of Guardians in the South of Ireland thanking them for the resolutions they had passed in reference to the Land Bill? If what the Guardians did formerly merited laudation, how was it that they were now to be visited with the heaviest penalty that could be inflicted upon them? He invited the right hon. Gentleman to answer that question specifically, and not to shelter himself behind an Act of Parliament, or behind the official action of the Local Government Board. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee plainly, whether a resolution asking for the infusion of the leaseholders into the Land Act would not give security against the spread of pauperism, and. the increase of rates; and, if so, whether it was not relevant to the duty of a Board of Guardians? He awaited the right hon. Gentleman's answer with some confidence, because he did not think the right hon. Gentleman, in any emergency of official life, would shelter himself under an equivocation. The 805 second position taken up by the Local Government Board was, that the Guardians' meetings had been adjourned with a view of interfering with the transaction of the ordinary business of the Union. Now, he contended that that assertion was perfectly untrue. There never was a more unfounded statement made. The meetings were not adjourned with that view at all. As he had already pointed out, the Guardians at each of the four meetings which formed the subject-matter of the complaint of the Local Government Board offered and pressed the Chairman to proceed with the ordinary business of the day. The Chairman refused on each occasion, and if there had been any dislocation of the business of the Union the fault rested with the Chairman in having refused to proceed with it, and not with the Guardians, who wished to go on with it. On these two statements—namely, that the resolution would interfere with the business of the Board, and that the meetings were adjourned with a view of interfering with the transaction of the ordinary business, both of which were equally groundless and equally unfounded in fact, the Local Government Board, by a sealed Order, proceeded to dissolve the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians, and appointed paid Vice Guardians to transact the business. The whole business of the Union had been dislocated and disorganized by this action of the Local Government Board. The matter had occasioned no little excitement in Ireland. Meetings had been held all over the country for the purpose of protesting against this despotic treatment of the Carrick-on-Suir Board. It would be seen that the ex-officio Guardians, composed of noble lords and magistrates, were attempting, by high-handed measures, to set themselves against the opinions and wishes of the elected Guardians. Resolutions had already been passed by many Boards of Guardians condemning the action of the Local Government Board in regard to the Guardians of Carrick-on-Suir. A committee had been appointed in Carrick-on-Suir itself, which had passed a resolution respectfully inviting the co-operation of all other Boards of Guardians in Ireland to sustain them in their efforts to secure freedom of discussion and liberty for the representatives of the ratepayers in all questions affecting the rates. They 806 pointed out that they had been thwarted by the landlords' nominees in simply insisting on their right to perform the business of the Board, and express and record their opinion by vote on important questions affecting their constitution, which many other Poor Law Boards throughout Ireland had been allowed to consider and decide without objection, and which they were anxious to have put to the vote, under the Poor Law Regulations, when they were obstructed and prevented. It would be seen that the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians had been prevented from submitting a resolution which had been put and decided by other Boards without remonstance from the Local Government Board. They had also been prevented from putting a resolution which English Boards of Guardians were enabled to discuss and decide without the slightest trouble; and they had been placed under heavy penalties, simply because they wanted to do what the Poor Law Board themselves invited them to do in 1869, and what the Prime Minister thanked them for doing a few months ago. The inconsistency of the Local Government Board was incapable of explanation, and the step taken by the Local Government Board was a blow aimed at the rights of 160 Boards of all Guardians in Ireland. A feeling of deep resentment in consequence of the unjustifiable action taken by the Local Government Board had spread throughout the majority of the 160 Boards existing in Ireland; and unless the Government could see their way to reverse the action of the Local Government Board, and allow the elected Guardians to have a vote in matters concerning their own interests and the business of the Union, he foresaw that they would have to dissolve many other Boards of Guardians in Ireland, and would have to appoint a corps of Vice Guardians, the effect of which upon the Public Revenue would be painfully felt next year, besides depriving the ratepayers of their elected representatives, whose services they had a right to retain. He believed that if the Guardians were not speedily restored to office, the collection of poor rates in Ireland would become a matter of very great difficulty and trouble indeed.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) has touched upon a question which, certainly, is a very burning question in several quarters 807 of Ireland. I have been extremely interested in the hon. Member's speech, because I have studied this question very carefully from a certain point onwards, and I was not at all sorry to hear the previous history of the question as detailed by the hon. Member. Although I receive his statement, if he will allow me to say so, as an ex parte statement— by which I mean a statement put forward by a person having strong convictions, although speaking in all possible good faith—still I must say that it throws considerable light on that future part of the story which is the only part of it that has come before me officially. There was a great deal in the statement of the hon. Member to interest most people, and a great deal in it has certainly interested me very much in regard to the principles of local government, which certainly do not appear to me to be carried out by the Institutions which now exist either in Ireland or on this side of the Channel. My business, however, is with the question as I find it. My own opinions upon the matter of municipal and local representation in Ireland are very well known to hon. Gentlemen who were present in the discussions in Committee as to the mode of electing Poor Law Guardians. I regret that that Bill has not got to a more advanced stage this year. It is quite idle to suppose that local Boards have been established for any other purpose than to manage their own affairs. The hon. Member seems to think that, in the conduct of local affairs, the principle should be adopted in Ireland of enabling the people to control and manage their own affairs through their own representatives, fairly chosen. Now, that is a principle which has never been carried to extreme perfection in regard to the local representation of the rural districts either here in England or in Ireland, and, therefore, I approach the question with a considerable feeling on behalf of those who consider that the Boards of Guardians in Ireland are unduly influenced by the ex-officio element. But, unfortunately, I am bound to accept these bodies as I find them. The law on the matter is absolutely clear, and the law is that which we are bound to enforce. Upon that point, it is almost unnecessary to say, after expressing this opinion, that the Local Government Board did not act without very careful 808 consideration, taking legal opinions at every stage, and those legal opinions appeared in their eyes to leave them no choice whatever. The real point, however, upon which this question turns is the power of the Chairman. In what proportion the Guardians who vote for him are ex-officio Guardians, or in what proportion they are under the influence of the ex-officio Guardians, is a matter which legally does not concern us at all; but, having taken legal opinions upon the question, we came to the conclusion that the Chairman had an absolute right to say what business should be put before the Board of Guardians, and what should not. Well, that proposition being once ascertained, the rest became very plain; and, unfortunately, there was only one solution of the matter. In the history of the case from that point upwards, the account that has been laid before us differs very slightly from that which has been put by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sexton). It differs only in one particular; but that particular, I may say, appears to me to be rather an important one. A question arose in the Carrick-on-Suir Union as to the right of the majority present to adjourn a meeting, and the adjournment took place in consequence of a resolution, which I think the hon. Member read, and which had been communicated by the Millstreet Board of Guardians, referring to the extension of the benefits of the Land Act to leaseholders. The hon. Gentleman and the Local Government Board agree so far. The Chairman of the Board of Guardians refused to put that resolution, and, in consequence, the majority of the Board of Guardians adjourned the meeting. Now comes the sole point of difference between the information that was laid before us and the case that has been stated by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman, as far as I can gather, says the Chairman, on the occasions on which the Board met subsequently, would not allow the Guardians to proceed to the business of the Union, unless under the condition of dealing with and throwing aside the resolution which they wished to submit. On that point I can find— and I have searched very carefully—no trace whatever in the documents before us to bear out the statement of the hon. Gentleman; and I must say it is an unfortunate thing that the Guardians did 809 not think it their duty to represent all the facts to the Local Government Board. While I cannot help thinking it is possible that the hon. Gentleman has insisted a little too strongly upon this point, I may add that the Guardians appear to have passed a resolution, the words of which I have not taken down, but which come very much to this—that they had been dissolved on account of the exercise of their absolute right to vote for a certain resolution. Now, the result of this disagreement between the Guardians and their Chairman was that the Guardians repeatedly met, and met only to adjourn. They met on the 1st of July. That was the meeting at which the resolution was originally refused. The course adopted by the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians was this. On the 1st of July, the Chairman refused to put the resolution, and on the 8th and 11th, and again on the 15th, the majority of the Guardians voted in favour of the adjournment of the meeting, and the meeting was accordingly adjourned. This having been brought to the notice of the Local Government Board, they requested their Inspector to go down and report upon the business in arrear in the Union, and on the 14th they wrote a letter to the Guardians, in which the Guardians were warned that if they persisted in neglecting to discharge their legitimate duties, the Local Government Board would be forced at once to take steps to place the management of the affairs of the Union in the hands of paid officers. The Inspector was present on that occasion, and he earnestly placed before the Guardians the consequences of their perseverance in the course they had entered upon. What they did they did with their eyes open. Now, the result of the ordinance which was passed by the Guardians was that the business of the Union was totally neglected; the duties of the Guardians were not discharged; no money was ordered to be issued by the Guardians for outdoor relief during the course of three weeks, and the cost of such relief amounted to £16 or £17 per week, and was advanced by the Clerk of the Union from his own resources. The advances made under the Seeds Act were left unpaid, the adoption of a new rate after the rate had been duly certified by the Clerk was postponed, the consideration of the reports from the 810 sanitary officers, the signing of cheques for outdoor relief, and all other cheques, were among some of the principal forms of business which fell into arrear; and the whole local business was at a standstill. Nobody can doubt after this that, through the fault of the Guardians, under whatever temptation they may have acted, the duties of the Carrick-on-Suir Union have not been duly and effectually discharged. The Board of Guardians having been distinctly warned that the appointment of paid Guardians would be the result of their failure to perform the ordinary business of the Union, the only alternative the Local Government Board had was to send down their Inspector to report, and, upon his remonstrances failing, to dismiss the Guardians, and appoint paid officers to attend to the local work of the district, that being the consequence which the Local Government Board had already pointed out.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Had they not the power of dismissing the Chairman?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
No doubt, they could have done so; but that would have been a most high-handed and arbitrary proceeding, and would have savoured more of the region of politics. Some method or other must be devised to prevent bodies elected for the purpose of carrying on the non-contentious part of the business of the country from partaking of a political and partizan character. Different methods may be devised for that purpose. With regard to the Boards of Guardians, the method which has hitherto been devised, and which, on the whole, has been found to work fairly satisfactory, is that the Chairman should be intrusted with the power of saying what is, and what is not, fit business for a Board of Guardians to transact at their meetings. Of course, I know very well that in the course of past years, in innumerable Unions throughout the country, some Chairman of a Board of Guardians has occasionally taken a different view of his duty from others. I do not know whether it is the case that the Local Government Board actually invited this Board of Guardians in 1869 to petition in favour of the Land Act; but I have no doubt the hon. Member is right in saying that a great many resolutions trenching on the domain of politics have been passed by Boards of Guardians, and sent up to the Local Government Board, and I should regard 811 the Local Government Board as acting in a foolish and ill-advised manner, if they insisted on watching too closely the political character of the resolutions sent up to them. Since I have been Chief Secretary for Ireland, I have had from Boards of Guardians, and from other local bodies—occasionally from Grand Juries—resolutions which have not been to me extremely agreeable, because they trenched on politics, and from a point of view which was not sympathetic with my own. But I have not been too careful in looking into these matters, and I think that a rough-and-ready rule must be made; and that rough-and-ready rule—whether it is right or not, I am not here to say—is, in the case of a Boards of Guardians, for the Chairman to say what matters shall be brought on for discussion. I do not propose to enter upon the duties of the Chairman; but I can quite understand that he might say that this particular question was of too political a nature to be submitted to a Board of Guardians, and my opinion is, that if he laid that down as his view, it was the duty of the Board of Guardians to accept it. They were there to carry on the local business of the district, and the course they have taken, although I allow it was not taken without temptation, considering the constitution of the Board, was, I think, a thoroughly ill-advised course. But, whatever the conduct of the Guardians may have been, the duty of the Local Government Board was absolutely pointed out to them. They had no course whatever of any sort or kind open to them except that which they adopted. As for deposing the Chairman because he refused to put to the Guardians a resolution in favour of the amendment of the Land Act, that would have been a course extremely high-handed and extremely arbitrary. The course which the Local Government Board have adopted has been very unpleasant indeed. There was a great deal that was very disagreeable on both sides, and I think the whole case a very good illustration of the difficulties which beset any Government in Ireland which tries to do its duty by both parties. But whatever the sympathies of the Local Government Board may have been, its course of action could only run in one direction. It could not call on the Chairman to put a resolution which, on the whole, the Chairman was 812 right in not putting, although I am willing to allow that, if the resolution had been put, the Local Government Board would have regarded it with considerable equanimity. These being the facts of the case, if they were to perform their duty as a Local Government Board, they could only take the course they did take. They appointed two Vice Guardians to transact the business of the Union; and by the next election, in March, I earnestly hope the "grandfatherly" advice which the hon. Member for Sligo referred to, of the Local Government Board Inspector, will have been adopted, and that the Guardians may return to their duties, and may continue to discharge them in a manner that will enable the Local Government Board in future to regard them as a model Union.
§ MR. HEALY
said, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland amounted, from first to last, to a statement that the President and Chairman of every Board of Guardians in Ireland could, if he liked, provoke a dissolution of that body. That was the sum and substance of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks; and, in other words, the Local Government Board had given a distinct premium and had held out a distinct incitement to the Chairmen, who were mostly drawn from the landed class, to crush out all popular and local life in the country. The Boards of Guardians in Ireland were one-half elected representatives of the ratepayers, while the other half was composed of members of the landlord class, who, as magistrates, were ex-officio Guardians. When the Poor Law Act was first introduced in the House of Commons, many years ago, there was nothing in it to give any ex-officio representation at all. It was in "another place" that the ex-officio representation was inserted in the Bill; so that the country was entirely indebted for that blessing to the House of Lords, who sent the Bill back to the House of Commons with a provision in favour of the ex-officio element. What had been the result? The landlords had the right to sit on the Boards of Guardians as magistrates; they had a vote also for the elected Guardians as ratepayers, and by the pressure which they were able, as landlords, to bring to bear upon the rest of the voters, under the present extraordinary system of voting which existed under the Poor Law, they were 813 generally able to return a majority of the Board. That being so, and these persons being wholly out of harmony with the feeling and wishes of the Irish people, the Local Government Board now came forward and said—"Let these gentleman have the power of stopping all the business, if they choose to be obstructive, and then if the elected Guardians still refuse to be dictated to, we will step in and suspend them, and substitute paid officials." A great amount of comment was made in that House 12 months ago, when the Speaker came forward and, by a coup d'état, suspended the Irish Members; and quite as great a comment was made when the Chairman of Committees, on a recent occasion, suspended a number of Members. But he (Mr. Healy) ventured to say that nothing so high-handed had ever been done, either by the Speaker or by the Chairman of Committees, as the action of the Local Government Board in the case of the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians. There was no contention that the Guardians were not willing to discharge their duty, and transact the ordinary business of the Union. They were perfectly willing, on all these several occasions, to do their duty, and they protested at the time against being prevented by the Chairman from doing so. Therefore, there was no truth whatever in the allegation of the Local Government Board that the Carrick-on-Suir Guardians were unwilling to discharge their duty. They were perfectly willing to discharge their duty; but they were not willing to swallow the prescribed course the Chairman had laid out for them. They were quite ready to sign the cheques for outdoor relief, and to do all the things that were necessary in reference to making the rate and receiving the reports of the Sanitary Inspectors, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had enumerated. Could the right hon. Gentleman say that the Guardians were unwilling to discharge the long list of duties which he had read out from that Table? They would only have been too happy to have done so; but the Chairman insisted that they should not. Standing with a pistol at their heads, he said in effect—"First eat the leek; first mark the M.S. as read; then you may go on with the ordinary business of the Union." Yet that was conduct which 814 received the approval of the Local Government Board. The Chief Secretary for Ireland could not escape blame in the matter. He was the President of the Board, and, as "soft words buttered no parsnips," he had no desire to be sympathetic with the right hon. Gentleman, when it was quite evident he was to blame. Who were the members of the Board? The President of the Local Government Board in Ireland was the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the time being; the Vice President was Henry Robinson, the Under Secretary; and the other members were Mr. Charles Croker King and Mr. George Morris. It would thus be seen that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Under Secretary constituted one-half of the Board; and, notwithstanding that he had been distinctly told that the elected Guardians were perfectly willing to discharge their duties, the right hon. Gentleman got up and defended the Board of which he was not only a member but the President, and in connection with which, when sitting at the Board, he would have the power of giving a casting vote. To say that he (Mr. Healy) sympathized with the right hon. Gentleman would be rather Platonic. How could any sympathy be expressed with the right hon. Gentleman, when it was open for him to bring in his own Under Secretary, at the next meeting of the Board, and tell Mr. Croker King and Mr. Morris that he would have no more of this kind of conduct? If the right hon. Gentleman took that course, there was no doubt that Mr. George Morris, Mr. Charles Croker King, and Mr. Henry Robinson would see their way to the adoption of the view of the Chief Secretary for Ireland and of the Lord Lieutenant. An example had already been set in a matter of this kind by the Local Government Board, who, finding that their action was mischievous, had agreed deliberately to set it aside. It was said that the Local Government Board had no desire to run counter to the wishes of the people. He (Mr. Healy) denied that in toto. What did they do in the case of Dr. Kenny? Because Dr. Kenny was arrested as a "suspect," and because he was acting as treasurer of the Land League, they instantly dismissed him from an important Government office he held. They all knew that when a row 815 was made about the matter in that House—[Mr. WARTON: Order, order!] —he knew perfectly well that the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) was not the only Member who was in the habit of making a row in the House.
§ MR. WARTON
rose to Order, and appealed to the Chairman whether the use of the word "row" was regular?
§ MR. HEALY
continued: The Committee knew very well that after a commotion was made in that House about the dismissal of Dr. Kenny, the Local Government Board reinstated him in the position he had held, and, taking an unprecedented course, withdrew their sealed Order. But, nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland now came forward, and wished the Committee to presume that the course of conduct pursued by the Local Government Board in this case was something new. The fact was, that if the resolution which the Chairman refused to accept had been a resolution congratulating the Queen on her escape from the pistol of the fellow who attempted to shoot her down at Windsor, or a resolution deploring the unfortunate affair in the Phœnix Park, the Local Government Board—if the Chairman had acted as an obstructive—would readily have found some other way out of the difficulty. What was fully recognized in Ireland was, that whenever there was any desire on the part of the ruling power to make itself unpleasant and obnoxious to the people at large, it invariably did it, and the Local Government Board formed no exception to the rule. The Local Government Board, representing, as it did, the true spirit of British legislation, always endeavoured to make things as unpleasant as they could. They had heard last night that there was in Ireland, at the present moment, a spirit and desire to make things work as smoothly as possible; but now it was said that, come what might, the strict letter of the law must be obeyed. The law in Ireland was always to be obeyed, so long as it was oppressive and unpleasant to the people. Persons who were constantly crying out about the law, appeared to take great delight in making the law as unpleasant to the people as possible. His complaint against the Chief Secretary for Ireland 816 was this—If the right hon. Gentleman had had his heart in his business, as he seemed to say he had, it would have been a very small thing to tell the Local Government Board that what they had done was wrong. For his own part, if he (Mr. Healy) were a ratepayer of Carrick-on-Suir, as long as the Local Government Board sent down paid Guardians to distribute his money according to their own will, he would pay them no rates; and he trusted that the ratepayers of Carrick-on- Suir, so long as the Local Government Board sent down their paid instruments to spend their money, would give them no money to spend. He trusted that the people of Ireland would see that that was the only way in which they could hit back at the Government, and that, practically, they had the matter in their own hands. In the case of Carrick-on-Suir, the Local Government Board had sent down Vice Guardians. Then let the ratepayers refuse to pay the rates, and let the Local Government Board whistle for them. It would then be seen how soon the Local Government Board would be brought to their senses. If such a course were generally adopted, the Local Government Board would be much more cautious how they took a high-handed action of this character. It was quite true that they would have power to attempt to collect the rates by levying distress warrants; but if they seized the cattle of the farmers, nobody would buy them. Let the Local Government Board send in their rent-collectors upon the farms, and what happened in the late Land League agitation would occur again. Nobody would buy the cattle. Where the landlords had the pull in the Land League agitation was, that they could, evict the tenant; but, in this case, the Local Government Board could do nothing of the kind. They could only seize the property of the tenant; and, as nobody would buy it, they would not be one whit the better off.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
I have been looking carefully through the Papers. It was a most unfortunate thing, certainly, that when an administrative question was in hand, certain facts were kept from the notice of the authorities, and that those facts are put forward for the first time in Parliament. Now, I do not for a moment question the aspect which the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) has put upon the story. I think 817 it is very likely that it may have escaped the notice of the Guardians, who have failed to bring it under the notice of the Local Government Board. [Mr. SEXTON: No!] I attach great importance indeed to the transactions which took place at the Board on the 8th and 11th of July. There is no question whatever as to the nature of the transaction which took place on the 1st of July. The Local Government Board sent a letter to the Clerk of the Union of Carrick-on-Suir, and this letter, being addressed to the Clerk of the Union, would, I presume, come under the notice of any Guardian who chose to look at it. I will read a passage from that letter—It appears that at the meeting on the day referred to—namely, the 1st instant—the Chairman having declined to put a question to the meeting which was wholly unconnected with the duties of the Board of Guardians, the majority of the Guardians present voted for the adjournment of the meeting, and that the meeting was accordingly adjourned, leaving much of the ordinary "business unfinished. The Guardians adopted a similar course on the 8th instant, the 11th instant, and again on the 15th instant, and the Local Government Board, having read reports from their Inspector, Mr. Hamilton, describing the business which had been neglected by reason of the repeated adjournments referred to," &c.Thus it will appear that the letter addressed to the Clerk of the Union distinctly states that the course adopted on the 8th, 11th, and 15th of July was the same as that which was taken on the 1st of July; and in the case of the 1st of July, the Chairman, having declined to put a question to the meeting, which was wholly unconnected with the duties of the Board of Guardians, the majority of the Guardians present voted for the adjournment of the meeting, and that the meeting was accordingly adjourned, leaving much of the ordinary business unfinished. The Guardians adopted a similar course on the 8th instant, the 11th instant, and again on the 15th instant, and the Local Government Board having read reports from their Inspector, Mr. Hamilton, describing the business which had been neglected, took action in the matter. I gather from the hon. Member that something else happened; but, nevertheless, the facts as reported by Mr. Hamilton, the Inspector, could only lead to the conclusion that additional provocation had been given by the Guardians, and that they had still insisted on the same course of proceeding, 818 to the neglect of the ordinary business of the Union. The Guardians, on receiving this letter from the Local Government Board, were open, I think, to lay their view of the case before the Local Government Board, especially when it distinctly differed from that contained in the letter of the Board in one important particular stated by the hon. Member. If this statement does not fully express what happened at the subsequent meetings, it is very important that, even at this eleventh hour, the Guardians should have an opportunity of placing their case before the Local Government Board.
§ MR. SEXTON
hoped he might be allowed to say a few words in order to make the case clear. There were four adjournments, and it was in respect to these four adjournments that the dismissal of the Board took place. On the 1st of July, when the Chairman refused to receive the resolution, a motion for adjournment was carried for the first time; but on the 8th, 11th, and 15th of July, the Clerk asked the Chairman to go on with the ordinary business, and then take the resolution at the close of the sitting, and the elected Guardians assented to that course; but on each of these three occasions the Chairman insisted on having the disputatious matter first disposed of. On one occasion, when this offer was refused by the Chairman, Mr. Hamilton, the Inspector of the Local Government Board, was himself present.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
I hope we may be allowed now to make progress with the financial Business of the Committee. The case has now been brought down to a point which, I think, will enable the Local Government Board to arrive at a clear understanding of the whole merits of the question. It is quite evident that, in the minds of the Guardians who have communicated with the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), there was one important and cardinal point which has not been brought before the Local Government Board. I shall be glad to have that point brought under the notice of the Local Government Board, and that point is whether there was any unnecessary obstruction placed in the way of the transaction of public business at the three subsequent meetings of the Guardians on the part of the Chairman. Until that representation is before the 819 Local Government Board, and until the Local Government Board have inquired into it, I cannot regard this question as finally decided. I earnestly hope the hon. Member will communicate with the Guardians, and see if there is any further evidence in the case which can be placed before the Local Government Board, and which, I must say, after the reception of that letter by the Clerk of the Union, they neglected to place before the Local Government Board. I will see that the whole subject is inquired into by the Local Government Board.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, he had listened to the last observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland with great satisfaction, because there was a marked difference in a very important point between the information supplied to the Local Government Board and the information that day supplied to the Committee by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). His hon. Friend said that the Guardians were willing to go on with the ordinary routine business of the Union, but they were prevented from doing so by the Chairman. And it would appear that that fact had not yet been brought under the consideration of the Local Government Board. He (Mr. Redmond) thought that was a remarkable omission; but he did not think it was an omission on the part of the Guardians, because he found, in a report of the proceedings at one of the meetings immediately before the dissolution of the Board, that the fact was brought under the notice of Mr. Hamilton, the Inspector of the Local Government Board, sent down for the express purpose of inquiring into all the facts. Mr. Hamilton would seem to have neglected his duty entirely. Mr. Hamilton appeared, as his hon. Friend had stated, to have gone to the Board of Guardians and to have addressed some grandfatherly remarks to the Board; but when he went back to Dublin he did not report what the true facts of the case were at all. He (Mr. Redmond) would read an extract from a report of the proceedings, giving the remarks of Mr. Walsh, one of the Guardians, on the occasion when Mr. Hamilton was present. Mr. Walsh said—The Clerk suggested this day week that the business of the Board—the legitimate business of relieving the poor in the house and giving outdoor relief where necessary, should be taken 820 up, and all other things postponed. That course was regularly proposed; but the Chairman would not accept the motion, or take the opinion of the Board on it. Again, to-day, instead of first taking up the most important business of relieving the poor, the Chairman decided to take up where we broke off the last day. What we broke off at was the letter of the Millstreet Board.The Board had been anxious on all occasions to fulfil their duties in regard to relieving the poor; but the Chairman had persistently obstructed them. The statement he had read was made in the presence of Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Hamilton was bound in duty to bring it under the notice of the Local Government Board. It contained the most important point in the whole matter. He (Mr. Redmond) freely admitted that if any Board of Guardians refused to fulfil its duties, it would devolve upon the Local Government Board to take measures to see that the duties were discharged; but in this case no such contention could be raised by the Local Government Board, because their own Inspector found that the Guardians were willing to fulfil their duty, but that they were obstructed and prevented from doing so by the action of the Chairman. He could quote other extracts to show the character of the proceedings; but he would only read one from the remarks made at a meeting held immediately after the dissolution of the Board, or rather at the meeting when the letter dissolving the Board was read. Mr. Walsh, the same gentleman he (Mr. Redmond) had quoted before, said, among other things—We were the majority of the Board, and we came here to express and record the opinions of the ratepayers of the Union, and to do the business of the Board. That would not be done in spite of us. Even our Clerk asked our Chairman to do what we asked, to have the cheques signed, the relief list gone through, and the ordinary business transacted. The Chairman decided against us.These important facts were now brought for the first time to the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman who was the President of the Local Government Board, and he (Mr. Redmond) earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to go into the matter afresh, and if what had been stated that day proved to be correct, he would then ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the decision the Local Government Board had arrived at. In the course the Local Government 821 Board had taken, they were undoubtedly establishing a most dangerous precedent in Ireland. The concluding remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) would show the dangerous ground upon which the Local Government Board and the Government were standing, if they persisted in the course of action they had adopted. What would the immediate effect of their action be? It would be an incitement to the Chairmen of other Boards of Guardians to take a similar course, and the result would be the dissolution of many Boards of Guardians all over Ireland. Wherever there was a Board of Guardians presided over by a man of the same opinions and the same despotic inclination as the Chairman of the Carrick-on-Suir Board, whenever he endeavoured to prevent the Guardians from carrying an important resolution of this nature, and wherever the Guardians were men of independance and determination, the same conflict would inevitably arise, and the Local Government Board would be obliged to dissolve many Boards of Guardians throughout the country. Was that a prospect they were willing to face? Were they not aware of the danger alluded to by his hon. Friend—namely, the difficulty of collecting the rates under such circumstances? That difficulty would be exceedingly great, and it was a danger which they ought to avert by every means in their power. The resolution which the Chairman of the Carrick-on-Suir Board refused to allow to be put from the Chair was one which every hon. Member in connection with the Local Government Board would admit to be connected with the business of the Guardians. The business of the Guardians was to take care that they kept down the rates and relieved the poor of the district; and what could more tend to keep down the rates than to bring about a state of things in which evictions in the most cruel form would be stopped? At the time when these proceedings were taking place, cruel evictions were being carried out by a landlord who was absolutely an ex-officio member of the Board.
§ MR. SEXTON
Even on the day of the dissolution of the Board.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, he was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had not alluded in a more marked manner to the character 822 of that resolution. It was a resolution precisely similar to one which the Local Government Board itself had asked the Guardians throughout the country to pass, and the same kind of resolution had already been passed by many Boards of Guardians without any attempt being made to obstruct the Guardians in the performance of their legitimate functions. If the conduct of the Chairman of Carrick-on-Suir were supported and defended by the Government, the unfortunate result which had happened in this case was likely to be repeated. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to follow up the statement he had made by taking care that the decision of the Local Government Board in the matter was reconsidered. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Local Government Board had taken the only course open to them—namely, dissolving the Board of Guardians. He (Mr. Redmond) entirely denied that assertion. The right hon. Gentleman said it would have been a high-handed act to have dismissed the Chairman. He (Mr. Redmond) must say that he thought it was a much more high-handed act to dismiss the Guardians, who were not, as the Chairman was, ex-officio Guardians, but elected Guardians, returned by the ratepayers to dispense the rates to which they contributed. It was in the power of the Local Government Board to have taken a course of action in reference to the Chairman which would have obviated all these difficulties. He understood from the right hon. Gentleman that power was vested in the Chairman to say what business was to be transacted, and what not, at every meeting of the Board. But he (Mr. Redmond) understood that to be merely a rule of the Local Government Board, and he presumed it was a rule that could be abolished altogether. Therefore, there were two certain courses open to the Government other than the course they had followed in this case. He sincerely trusted that the Local Government Board would retreat from a position which was untenable in argument and fraught with danger to the best interests of the country.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was rather surprised at the form taken by the opposition to this Vote on the part of Irish Members below the Gangway. They had consumed a considerable amount of 823 time in discussing a question between the Local Government Board and the Board of Guardians at Carrick-on-Suir, while they said nothing whatever of other questions of real importance to the welfare of the Irish people that presented themselves in connection with the Vote. There was, to his mind, at least one subject that claimed the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government —namely, the reduction in the number of the Consulting Sanitary Officers, which, apparently, effected a saving to the country of £300. He (Mr. Warton) was, at a long distance, a humble follower of the late Lord Beaconsfield, who, in one of his speeches, parodied the language of the Preacher by the words—Sanitas sanitatum omnia sanitas. The noble Lord was bitterly reproached for that; but experience had shown the force of the phrase; and, bearing that in mind, he felt it his duty to call particular attention to the alteration made in the number of Consulting Sanitary Officers appointed under the Public Health (Ireland) Act, 1878. He regretted to find, by the detailed account given on page 165 of the Estimates, that there was a diminution in the amount charged for the salaries of these officers, the amount being £1,300, as compared with £1,600 paid last year. The difference arose from the fact that the number of Consulting Sanitary Officers was 17 less this year than it was for 1881–2. Now, he could not but regard this as a very serious matter, because it seemed to indicate that the Local Government Board in Ireland were more anxious to reduce the expenditure in connection with the Office than they were to secure the sanitary welfare of the people. He would not ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to pay attention to this matter, because he was well known to attend to everything in his Department with considerable zeal; but he would call his attention to the result of what appeared to be a very short-sighted and mistaken policy on the part of the Local Government Board in Ireland. If hon. Members would look at the items on page 165, they would find that the charge for the cost of medicines and medical and surgical appliances had been increased. These two circumstances, taken together, the diminution in the number of Consulting Sanitary Officers, and the increase 824 of cost of medicines, brought out the fact that more medicine was required in the workhouses in Ireland in proportion to the diminution in the number of officers. The Committee would find, by referring to Sub-head H., that whereas in 1881–2, £17,500 was sufficient for medicines and appliances, the sum required for 1882–3 was £18,500, the increase of £1,000 being due, in his opinion, to the foolish policy of the Department in cutting down the salaries and reducing the number of the officers in question, whose functions were so necessary to the prevention of disease in Ireland. There was another subject to which he asked the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board—namely, the facilities given for the prevention of small-pox. He observed that the supply of lymph had not increased, and he wished to know whether the same means were afforded in Ireland as in England for vaccination from the calf, because there was a large number of persons who had a strong prejudice against vaccination with lymph from the cow, which it would be well to overcome if possible? The right hon. Gentleman had done something in this direction, and there was now a certain small supply of calf lymph for England; but he (Mr. Warton) was most anxious that, in this respect, Ireland should be treated with equal justice. He again expressed his regret that notwithstanding the increase that had taken place in the population, there was a decrease in the number and salaries of so important a body of men as the consulting Sanitary Officers, coincident, as he had shown, with a heavy increase in the amount of medicines required at the Irish workhouses. It seemed to him that the questions raised by Members from Ireland upon this Vote were of minor importance as compared with those he had called attention to, and he sincerely hoped the latter would receive the serious consideration of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he did not think there was very much in the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), that because the number of Consulting Sanitary Officers had been reduced, there was an increase in the quantity of medicine required in the workhouses in Ireland. The comparatively small sums shown in the Es- 825 timates were given to the medical officers of the various Unions as consulting officers, their business being simply to receive the reports of the acting Sanitary Officers. That being so, he (Mr. Biggar) looked upon the salaries paid as being for no services rendered whatever; at any rate, he did not think the Consulting Sanitary Officers did any practical work, and, therefore, he saw no reason why their number and the salaries paid to them should be increased. Now, with regard to the question raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) as to the dissolution, by the Local Government Board, of the Board of Guardians at Carrick-on-Suir, he was much pleased that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland seemed disposed to inquire further into the case. But he took the opportunity of remarking that the decision of the Local Government Board in the case of the Carrick-on-Suir Board of Guardians was very much on a par with their conduct in all cases that came before them. No matter what the subject might be, they always took the unpopular side of the question, which was as much as to say that the interests of the ratepayers in Ireland counted for nothing, and that the only parties entitled to be heard and considered with attention were the employés of the Board. He had received a letter from a gentleman in the county of Leitrim, which called attention to a question that, to his (Mr. Biggar's) knowledge, had been raised in many of the Unions in Ireland; it was a question that was certainly entitled to the impartial consideration of the Local Government Board, but which, as it seemed to him, they invariably decided in the wrong way. It related to the amount of poundage to be paid to the collectors of the rates. The fact was notorious that the collectors received a higher poundage for the collection of the Poor Rates than was allowed to the collectors of Income Tax, and the ratepayers suffered in consequence. Although the Boards of Guardians, as a rule, were disposed to fix a more moderate rate for the payment of the collectors, the Local Government Board invariably interfered, taking the part of the collectors as against the ratepayers, and making the Guardians pay a higher rate than they could get the work done for by others. On the 13th of July 826 last, a resolution was adopted by the majority of the Board of Guardians of the Union referred to in the letter of his correspondent, reducing the rate of poundage from 9d. to 6d., on the ground that some collectors had collected rates at 6d. in the pound at a time when collection was more difficult than it was at present. His correspondent went on to say that, formerly, the collection of the rates was open to public competition, and last year a number of proposals were sent in to the Board of Guardians by persons who offered to collect the rates at 6d. in the pound. These offers would have been entertained, but the Local Government Board overruled the Board of Guardians, and insisted upon a rack-rented and highly-taxed people paying 9d., instead of 6d., in the pound, for the collection of the rates. This afforded an excellent illustration of the action of the Local Government Board in Ireland, who, as a matter of fact, seemed on all occasions to select the very worst way of deciding questions that came before them. He would now bring before the Committee, very briefly, a circumstance which had occurred in the county of Cavan, and which afforded another example of the one-sided procedure of the Local Government Board. A friend of his had been a candidate at the last election of Poor Law Guardians. There was rather a close contest on the occasion, and his friend alleged, as he (Mr. Biggar) believed truly, that if the Returning Officer had decided fairly, he would have had a substantial majority. The decision, however, was against his friend, and in favour of his opponents, the matter turning very much on the question whether a certain person, formerly a landlord in the Union, could or could not claim to vote as landlord. His friend raised the point that the person who claimed to vote was not owner of the property, and was not entitled to vote in respect of it; but the Returning Officer decided against him, and the Local Government Board refused any inquiry into the circumstances. He did not think it was a legitimate proceeding on the part of the Local Government Board to decide a question against a person who challenged the conduct of a Returning Officer, upon the ex parte statement of the individual whose conduct was called in question. The fact was, the property in respect of which, 827 Mr. Lauder claimed to vote was in the hands of the Court of Chancery, and no one, as his friend had pointed out to the Returning Officer and the Local Government Board, could make any legal claim to it whatever.
said, the hon. Member must confine himself to the question before the Committee. The Vote had already been discussed at considerable length, and in entering into these minute details it appeared to him that the hon. Member was going altogether beyond the sphere of the Vote.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had not the slightest desire to travel beyond the question before the Committee. He was discussing the conduct of the Local Government Board in Ireland, and, by way of illustration, he had laid before the Committee two cases. The first of these was where the Local Government Board had insisted that a Board of Guardians in the county of Leitrim should compel the ratepayers to pay 9d. in the pound for the collection of the rates, when they could get the work done for 6d. in the pound. The second case he had mentioned was that of his friend, who alleged that the Returning Officer had wrongly decided with regard to the vote of Mr. Lauder, at the election of Guardians, and in which case the Local Government Board had refused an inquiry, upon the ex parte statement of the Returning Officer. Now, he (Mr. Biggar) had certainly not occupied the time of the Committee for more than five minutes altogether, nor had he referred to more than two documents out of the number he held in his hand; and, therefore, he thought that the grievances, of which the cases he had cited were illustrations, and which were keenly felt by the ratepayers in Ireland, had not been unduly pressed. He repeated that the Local Government Board were constantly setting themselves in opposition to the interests of the ratepayers, as they had done in the counties of Leitrim and Cavan; and seeing that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had acknowledged that they seemed to be mistaken in the matter of the Board of Guardians at Carrick-on-Suir, he would ask him to institute a bonâ fide inquiry into the conduct of the Returning Officer, who decided to take a vote that ought not to have been given in respect of certain 828 property—the documents in his hand, of which he had not read a single line, showing that his friend ought to have had the benefit of the vote, and that he would, in consequence, have been returned as Guardian of the Poor for the division in question. In concluding his remarks, he begged to assure Her Majesty's Government that he should, whenever he had the opportunity, point out the misconduct of the Local Government Board, which seemed, on all occasions, to select the worst possible way of doing the business that came within its cognizance, and which seemed, moreover, to be the Department especially petted by the Chief Secretaries for Ireland.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he had also to complain that, whereas the Boards of Guardians had certain powers with reference to superannuation, under an old Act of Parliament, as he understood the Local Government Board had issued a Circular, directing them not to make use of that Act in future. This seemed to him a very unusual proceeding. The English Government, as a rule, were very fond of the law of Ireland—when it happened to be in their favour—but here it seemed there was a Circular being sent to the Guardians, telling them they were not to use the law. He asked whether Mr. Robinson had directed that Circular to be sent, and whether it was at his recommendation that a Bill, repealing the old Act and setting forth a new scale, was now introduced? He (Mr. Healy) thought, as there were already grants for one-half of the charges for medical officers, dispensaries, medicines, and sanitary officers, that it would not be too much for the Government to throw in one-half the superannuation charge. He trusted the Government would see their way to insisting that the Local Government Board should make use of the existing Act of Parliament, and not put forward measures that were not wanted. There was another point to which he desired to call attention—namely, the practice of the auditors of the Local Government Board to reduce the sums voted by the Boards of Guardians for the support of the families of "suspects" and evicted persons. The fact was that the families of the victims of the Government policy were left without the means of support, and when a man was arrested, it was usual for the Boards of Guardians to vote, say, £1 a-week for 829 the support of a family of eight or ten persons—not a very extravagant sum for a family of that size to live upon even in Ireland; but, as he had just remarked, the amount voted was always reduced by the auditors. He regarded that as a most unwarranted interference on the part of the auditors; and he trusted the Chief Secretary for Ireland would direct that when grants were made to the families of evicted tenants and imprisoned "suspects," the practice of disallowing the amounts should be discontinued, and that the auditors should be told that they had no other business with regard to this matter than to pass the sum voted. Moreover, he hoped that the new spirit which the right hon. Gentleman had infused into the treatment of Irish questions in that House would be transferred to Ireland during the Recess, and that the gentlemen who constituted the Local Government Board would be told that the best thing they could do with regard to local matters in Ireland was to let the constituted local bodies alone.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he hoped the Government would not yield to the request of the hon. Member for Cavan. The hon. Member appealed to the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant to exercise what he termed the new spirit he had evinced with regard to Irish affairs, in order to prevent gentlemen charged with the responsible duty of auditing the accounts of the Guardians, meddling, as he called it, with the amounts voted by the Boards of Guardians to the families of persons who had been imprisoned as "suspects," or evicted from their holdings. In asking that, the hon. Member seemed to think it the duty of the auditors to pass items in the accounts of the Guardians, simply on the ground that the money was voted to persons who came within the category of persons under these conditions. He (Mr. J. Lowther) had some experience of the manner in which the affairs of the Local Boards of Guardians in Ireland were conducted, and he thought it right that the Committee should see that there was a distinction, and that a very marked one, to be drawn between such Boards in England and Ireland. In England the Boards of Guardians considered it incumbent on them to carry out their duties in conformity with the spirit as well as the 830 letter of the law; but, in Ireland, the spirit of the law appeared by many of the Boards of Guardians to be ostentatiously set at naught. They made allowances of an exaggerated character—although £1 a-week might not seem a large amount—to persons who came under the categories named; and although the Guardians voted the money, it must be remembered that what they spent came out of the pockets of the ratepayers. The position taken by the hon. Member for Cavan was that the Local Government Board were not right in placing a check upon the liberality of these Boards; but he (Mr. J. Lowther) trusted the Committee would not allow that doctrine to pass unchallenged. Boards of Guardians in Ireland very frequently constituted themselves the exponents of the views of a certain section of the community, and, as in the present case, made extravagant allowances in favour of persons who had placed themselves in antagonism to the law of the land. One effect of the proposal of the hon. Member would be that the constituencies, who, he believed, were not always in harmony with the Local Boards, would, by their Representatives in that House, call the Government to account for allowing the ratepayers' money to be spent in the manner described. Under these circumstances, he trusted the suggestion of the hon. Member would not be entertained.
§ Vote agreed to.
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £28,031, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works in Ireland.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, a year ago he moved for a Return with regard to the loans granted for the Relief of Distress in Ireland. He wished to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, whether he could inform the Committee the amount of the balance which remained unapplied for in respect of those loans; whether there was a time appointed at which the applications from persons who desired to obtain loans at 1 per cent interest for improvements in Ireland must cease; 831 and, again, if that time had expired, whether there had not also been a time fixed at which no further applications would be entertained for advances in respect of loans which had been sanctioned under the Relief of Distress (Ireland) Acts? Further, if such time had been fixed, he would like to know whether it had expired, and whether it would not be a fair matter for consideration by the authorities, if no such period had been fixed, to name a date after which no further advances would be made? He thought there would be a great advantage in this, because if there should be a substantial surplus remaining unapplied for after the period had expired for making application for advances, it could be carried forward for the purposes of the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill, which had recently passed the House.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, at the expiration of the time fixed by the Act for applying for advances, there was no balance over that could be available for the purpose indicated by the hon. Member.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had misapprehended his meaning. No doubt, there was a time fixed beyond which no applications for loans under the Relief of Distress (Ireland) Act were to be made. But that was not his point. Advances in respect of loans already sanctioned were made from time to time by the Local Government Board in Ireland; but he had reason to suppose that applications had not been sent in for anything like the whole amount of the loans sanctioned. He believed there was a considerable sum outstanding in respect of loans sanctioned under the Relief of Distress (Ireland) Act; and, in the event of that being the case, he suggested that it would be well for the Local Government Board in Ireland to consider the expediency, under existing circumstances, of fixing a time beyond which no future applications in respect of the loans already sanctioned should be made, and then there would be a substantial balance which could be applied for the purpose of the Arrears of Rent Bill.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
asked whether the works on the Shannon were now in working order? He knew they were far advanced towards completion, and 832 believed they were promised to be in working order at the end of July.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he understood the works referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) would be completed next month.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he would call the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to what appeared to be a number of discrepancies in calculating the charges for the salaries of certain officials in the Department of Public Works (Ireland). Hon. Members would observe, on page 167 of the Estimates, that the salaries of the first-class bookkeepers and clerks commenced at £320, and rose with an annual increment of £20 to a maximum of £500. Now, whether the number of these officials was four or five, it was impossible by any method of calculation to arrive with a yearly increment of £20 at the sum of £2,448, charged as the total amount of their salaries for the year 1882–3. Again, in the architect's branch, there were two draftsmen, employed at a minimum salary of £210, with an annual increase of £10, rising to a maximum of £250 a-year; but by no arithmetical process that he was acquainted with would these conditions give the sum of £467, charged as the total salaries of these gentlemen for the current financial year. The same observation applied to the charge of £237 for a second set of draftsmen, whose salaries began at £80, and rose with an annual increment of £15 to £200—indeed, this page of the Estimates was full of discrepancies of the kind, which he would briefly point out as illustrative of the imperfect manner in which the accounts were presented to Parliament. Referring still to the architect's branch, there was £271 charged for a furniture clerk, whose salary commenced at £200; annual increment, £10; maximum,£300; and£2,295 charged for nine clerks of the works— including an allowance of £20 per annum to six for an office—with salaries beginning at £150; annual increment, £10; maximum, £2,295. In the engineer's branch, there was a charge of £556 for an assistant engineer, with a minimum salary of £400; annual incre-ment,£20; maximum, £600. And finally, in the solicitor's branch, there was a clerk at £120 commencing salary; annual increment, £10; maximum, £200; for whom the sum of £179 was charged for 833 the current year. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had the reputation of being a wonderful calculator; and he would, perhaps, be able to explain to the Committee the process by which those extraordinary arithmetical results had been arrived at.
§ MR. COURTNEY
thought, before assuming that the accounts were incorrect, the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) might have considered the possibility of some of the officials he had referred to not being paid salary at the same rate for a whole year.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he had anticipated that defence on the part of the hon. Gentleman; and he now asked him whether he would state that the apparent discrepancy was caused in the way he had indicated? He would, of course, accept the hon. Gentleman's answer in the affirmative; at the same time, he should feel that the entries were imperfect, inasmuch as no time short of a year was stated in the Estimate.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, it was with a considerable amount of reluctance that he ever offered objection to a Vote on Account of any Department of the Civil Service. Having been himself in the Civil Service for a number of years, his sympathies were very strongly enlisted in the interest of the clerks in the Service; and although he was a Member of the House of Commons, he considered himself very little more than an ex-War Office clerk. He repeated that it was with reluctance that he brought forward any charge against a Civil Service Department; but when he considered the amount of influence which the Vote under consideration had upon the interests of Ireland, when he considered how the Office of Public Works had for years been recognized as little else than a Department to obstruct and prevent the development of the interests of Ireland, he felt, as an Irish Member, that he was bound to offer some protest against the expenditure of public money in connection with the Office of Public Works. The Board of Public Works in Ireland had influences of the most varied and ramified type. There was scarcely any Department in which the Board of Works was not concerned. There was no Department in which the public interests of Ireland could be developed by the aid of the central Administration which the Office of Works did not affect, 834 and there was no single branch of those interests in which the paralyzing influence of that Office might not be distinctly traced. In endeavouring to appreciate the reasonableness of the Vote now submitted to the consideration of the Committee, he had carefully perused the records of the Office of Public Works for the last three years; and in the last volume he found a very long and detailed account of a multiplicity of works, which any person, cursorily perusing, would take as a proof of the great energy and immense public usefulness of the Department. It would appear that in almost every branch of the Administration this Board had some important duties to discharge; and the Report was replete with figures running into hundreds of thousands, and even millions of pounds, that would induce the belief that the Office of Works in Ireland was distributing public money in aid of the development of the resources of the country to a tremendous extent. But when one examined a little further and more closely into the root of the matter, he found that all the figures and references to Acts of Parliament and important public works in reality related to a period commencing in 1841, or, at any rate, as far back as the Famine year; and that this Department, which issued annually a cumbrous Report, had very little to show in the shape of present work. He had endeavoured, as far as he was able, having some knowledge of Departmental duties, derived not only from his experience in the War Office, but from his experience when in charge of an important office in Ireland, to estimate the amount of work actually thrown upon the Office of Public Works, and, allowing for the amount of correspondence necessarily involved, also to estimate the strength of the staff necessary for carrying out the work. With regard to the Secretary's Office, he should have been happy to undertake the charge of the duties in that branch, making a liberal allowance for all the requirements of the Office, with half-a-dozen intelligent men. But hon. Members would see that in the Secretary's Office, including the Chairman and Commissioners, there were no less than 17 persons employed. Then there was the accounts' branch, which had a staff of 18 men. It was impossible to estimate the work thrown on the architect's branch; 835 it would be, at any rate, of very considerable dimensions. The engineer's branch was smaller than the architect's; but he believed it did its work thoroughly well—that was to say, as far as the person in charge could do it. The solicitor's office had, for 1882, a staff of four men, with messengers and others. He had no doubt that all the branches named in the Estimate were as much over-manned as the Secretary's branch, which he had more particularly alluded to. He suggested to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland that, during the Recess, if he could find it within his province to make inquiries with regard to an important matter of this kind, he should investigate the working of the Office of Public Works in Ireland, and that if he considered in so doing he would be trespassing on the province of the Treasury, he should endeavour to institute such a Departmental investigation as would cause a thorough overhauling of this large establishment. He (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had no hesitation in saying that a capable Administrator, taking the work in hand, would be able, within 12 months, to reduce the staff of the Public Works Office in Ireland by at least 30 per cent; and he defied any man to show him, by the published Report of the Office, how there could possibly be work for more than six intelligent men in the Secretary's branch, where, according to the Estimate, 17 persons were employed. The Irish people, in every portion of the country, felt that the Public Works Office was nothing more or less than a kind of obstructive breakwater of the Treasury, established in Ireland, by which the distribution of public money in aid of local funds was prevented against the will of Parliament, and in spite of the Votes of that House. Now, he proposed to move a reduction of the Vote, in respect of the salaries of the Chairman and the Secretary. The salary of the former was £1,500, and of the latter £800, or a total of £2,300 taken together; but, inasmuch as a number of Votes on Account had been taken, he proposed to reduce the Vote by the sum of £1,100 only. The reason why he selected these items for the purpose of reduction was this. Between four and five years ago a Committee was appointed, the Members of which were 836 Viscount Crichton, Mr. Mitchell Henry, Mr. Kavanagh, Mr. Fremantle, and Mr. Murray, with Mr. Hamilton as Secretary. Amongst other recommendations, after making such a Report as probably was never issued in respect of any Public Department in England, Scotland, or Ireland, the Committee recommended the removal from office of the present Chairman and the present Secretary. The Report, which was worthy of citation before the Committee, contained passages to the effect that it would not be fair to impose fresh or more important duties on an officer, who, like the present Secretary, had been in the Public Service for more than. 40 years. That was signed as far back as Tune, 1878; and the gentleman referred to had, therefore, at the present time been in the Public Service between 40 and 45 years. The Report went on to express the opinion that, after so long a period of service, the Secretary was entitled to retire on a pension, and the Committee recommended that he should be replaced by an officer; and he asked the particular attention of the Committee to the following words:—"Who would be able to relieve the Board of some of their less important duties." This meant that, at the time the inquiry took place, five years ago, the present Secretary was perfectly useless, and absolutely beyond work; that he was incapable of relieving the Board, even of the least important of their duties. The present Board, again, did no work; according to the Report they were not fit for the work they had to do, and, as had been already shown, the Secretary was so old and so incapable of office work, that he could afford them no assistance whatever; and his retirement had been recommended, for that reason, so far back as the year 1878. The reason stated in the Report for this arrangement was, that it would give the Board more time to devote to inspection, and enable them to attend to some of the more important business which appeared at that time to be left too much to the subordinate officers of the Board. The Committee would readily understand that, when duties, which properly fell to the heads of Departments, were delegated to subordinates without responsibility for their performance, those duties, in all probability, were not properly discharged. As a matter of fact 837 and notoriety, they were not discharged at all; and so, probably owing to the unfitness of the Secretary and Board to do their own work, the Public Works Office in Ireland, which was intended to be an efficient and active Public Department, had fallen into a state of permanent paralysis, and the great interests of the country, which it was intended to promote by their action, remained undeveloped and obstructed. The Committee said, with regard to the present Board, that they expected the recommendation already made would more effectually secure to the public the advantages intended by the Legislature, which was to say that the Committee recognized the fact that the advantages intended by Parliament to be given to the people were not secured to them by the existing arrangement, and that that, to a great extent, was owing to the inefficiency of the leading members of the Staff. The Committee, therefore, expressed their belief that the adoption of the recommendation in their Report would, "in a great measure, remedy the defects of the administration of the Board." Without going over the whole of the ground covered by the Committee, he would remind hon. Members that the Report was replete with references to the leading idea—that the chief reason why all the business under the control of the Public Works Office in Ireland was in a hopeless state of confusion and arrears was the inefficiency of those at the head of the Department. The Committee expressed their conviction that the head of this important Department should possess unusual administrative abilities; that he should command the entire confidence of the public and his subordinates by a vigorous and comprehensive grasp of the subjects with which he was called upon to deal, and that he should be able, both in his recommendations to the Treasury and in his communications with the public, to enforce his views with authority. That was the idea which the Committee had of an efficient head of the Department; but they added that nothing could be further from their intention than to depreciate the merits of the present holder of the office, or to detract from the value of his long and distinguished public services. It was certainly not for him (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) to depreciate the value of services that, be- 838 fore he was born, possibly, might have been of the most signal character. The Report stated that nothing could exceed the zeal with which the holder of the office had applied himself to the work, or the conscientious industry he had brought to bear upon it; it was possible, however, that after so long a period of services rendered, and in spite of a strong constitution, he might feel unequal to the strain which future responsibility would entail, and, consequently, be unable to do full justice, either to himself or the Department; and, if so, the Committee added—While regretting the loss of his great experience, we think he should be afforded an opportunity of retiring, and that a State pension should he secured to him.He questioned if there was ever a public servant condemned by a Report in more complimentary terms. Such was the view of the Committee; but, notwithstanding their recommendation, the "creeping palsy" which had come over the Public Works Office in Ireland had been allowed to continue to the detriment of the public interest. As it was right to place the whole case before the Committee, he should mention that one of the Committee dissented from the recommendations of his Colleagues —namely, Viscount Crichton—who said he regretted he was unable to agree in the recommendation contained in Paragraph 244, which he could not but regard as equivalent to an intimation that the retirement of the Chairman was desirable; in other words, four out of five Members of the Committee considered it desirable that the Chairman should be retired. But Viscount Crichton added that he had no hesitation to join in the censure passed on the Board, in certain respects, and for which, in his capacity, the Chairman must be regarded as responsible; but, on the whole of the evidence submitted, he could not see sufficient ground to warrant any reform in his management of the business of the Board, and he would be glad if the Chairman's great acquaintance with the duties of the office could be preserved to the public in the future. Nothing could be more creditable to the noble Viscount than these expressions; but, if anyone weighed the language, he ventured to think they would perceive that the noble Viscount recognized, as the other Members of the Committee had done, that it 839 was impossible to leave the Board as it was then constituted, and that if the Chairman was to be continued in office, it was absolutely necessary to make some arrangement by which his inefficiency might be counteracted—that was to say, that some person should be associated with him. But no one had ever been associated with the Chairman, and since that time to this the Board had been going from bad to worse; and anyone who considered the Report of the Irish Board of Works would see that there was absolutely nothing to show in return for the tremendous expense which Parliament was now called upon to sanction. He maintained that the whole Office was over-manned, and that the staff for half the year had practically nothing to do, for there was in no one single branch of the Department an amount of work sufficient to keep the men in it fully employed during any single month of the year. It was a matter of notoriety in Dublin that the staff of the Office of Public Works, when the Parliamentary Session was ended, breathed more freely, and congratulated each other upon the fact that they had been allowed another lease of life for 12 months. That being the fact, well known as it was in certain circles in Dublin, he thought it ought to be made known to the Committee. There was another point on which he wished to dwell briefly before he sat down, and that was the position of the architect to the Board. Some time ago he had addressed a Question to the Secretary to the Treasury with regard to the position of this officer, who, it appeared, was a member of the directorate of a building society in Dublin; and it was perfectly well known that other building societies were deterred from making applications for advances to the Board of Works, as they were entitled to do under certain Acts of Parliament, by the knowledge of the fact that the architect of the Board, who was a member of a rival building society, used all his influence to prevent their getting the advances, which otherwise they had reasonable grounds to expect would be granted. It was but a few days ago that he received a letter from a person in Dublin, to the effect that the writer happened to be a member of a building society in Dublin, and that the idea had occurred to him that if he could effect a loan through the Board of Works it would be a great 840 boon. But the writer added that, on consideration, he found he should be giving himself an amount of unnecessary trouble by making any application to the Board of Works, seeing that the architect of the Board held a prominent position as Chairman in a different building society to that which he belonged to. He (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) asked if it were a desirable thing that a member of a public office should be allowed to act as Chairman or member of a building society, competing for public assistance with other building societies, which did not enjoy the same official privileges. In reply to the Question he had asked no satisfactory answer was given. However, he did not propose to object to the salary of the architect for the current year; but he trusted that the good feeling and proper official sense of the Secretary to the Treasury would cause him to see that it was incumbent on the Treasury to insist that the architect to the Public Works Office in Ireland should retire from so equivocal a position. With regard to the Secretary and the Chairman, he did not see how, after the words in the Report of the Committee, which inquired into the management of the Department, it was possible to retain those two officers; and he therefore begged to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £1,100, which, taking into account the sums already voted, would about represent the balance of the salaries of the officers in question.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £26,931, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge -which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works in Ireland."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he concurred in nearly everything his hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had said, and he felt some delicacy in speaking about Public Departments in Ireland, because he had been for some time connected with one of them. He would, therefore, rather not say anything about them; but, agreeing that there was a very great change called for in regard to the Board of Works in Ireland, and having considerable knowledge of that Board, he felt he must say something upon the subject. He could, however, assure the 841 Chief Secretary for Ireland that he spoke with no ill-feeling towards the members of that Board, for he was on very good terms with them. He (Mr. Blake) had been in the Fisheries Department, and it was the object of that Department to show that the loans would be paid; but, owing to the fault of the Board of Works, those loans which could have been collected were not collected and still remained out, and probably would remain out. In his advocacy of an extension of these loans, he (Mr. Blake) had drawn attention to the manner in which the loans had been repaid by the fishermen. In any change in the Board of Works, unquestionably the Chairman and the Secretary must go, because they had been there so long that the time had come when they might be put on retirement; but he thought his hon. Friend, from not being entirely acquainted with the facts, was rather hard on the Secretary. He, like many other secretaries, had been made the scapegoat for the failings of many of the members of the Board. He had been a most efficient executive officer; it was his duty to carry out the orders given to him, and in that respect no charges could be brought against him. The deficiencies of the Board were not due to him, but to those in higher positions. He had been, and still was, a very efficient officer. The hon. Member spoke of the Department being overmanned. That was so in certain particulars; but the Department was undermanned in other respects—in the Engineer's Department, for instance. His (Mr. Blake's) reason for thinking that that Department was under-manned was that there was great delay in the construction of piers and in inspection. He agreed with his hon. Friend's observations respecting the Architect's Department; and he hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was Chief Commissioner of Public Works in Ireland, would be able to pay more attention to that subject. It seemed to him that it was very much to be regretted that the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or some other officer, was not an ex-officio member of other Public Departments in Ireland; for it would conduce greatly to their efficiency if someone in the Chief Secretary's Department attended the meetings of the Boards. Certainly, a visit from an independent officer of the Go- 842 vernment to the Board of Works would be also very valuable. For a long time a re-casting of the Board of Works had been promised, and nothing was more strongly wanted and; he hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who had promised to look after the Asylums Board and Fisheries Board, would promise to carry his very practical mind into the Board of Works, and see what was required there. So far as he (Mr. Blake) was concerned, if a Motion was brought forward for reforming that Board, he should give it his determined assistance.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
announced that, as his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney) could not answer his question, he would, on Thursday next, ask whether the total amount of loans sanctioned under the Distress Acts of 1880 had been advanced; and, if not, what was the amount of the balances yet unclaimed?
§ MR. COURTNEY
, in reply, said, he could not state how much had been repaid; but the amount sanctioned to be advanced was about £1,400,000, and he believed that nearly the whole had been advanced. With regard to the observations of the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), he did not think the Board of Works in Ireland would be very gratified by the special sympathy expressed for them by the hon. Member. He (Mr. Courtney) himself took great interest in the Public Works Department in Ireland, and, from the limited experience he had had of them by communications with the officers of the Board, he felt compelled to attribute the unpopularity of the Board to their unreadiness to lend money. He frankly admitted that this Department was not perfect; but he was afraid there were few Departments that were perfect. If an accusation could be sustained that the Department was over-manned, he was afraid there were many Departments in England against which the same accusation could be made. But he did not admit, after an examination of the work done by that Department, which was of an extensive character, that the Department was as over-manned as the hon. Member said. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) had, in one way, put the matter directly in the contrary, and said some of the Departments were under-manned.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I admitted that the Engineer's Department was under-manned.
§ MR. COURTNEY
thought the hon. Member had forgotten what he (Mr. Courtney) had told him in reply to one or two Questions; that that recommendation of the Committee had not been overlooked; but the great quantity of new work which was thrown on the Board last year—which required a good deal of attention and preparation—made it impossible to undertake a task analogous to swopping horses in the middle of the stream. If that had been done, a great deal of the present work could not have been transacted. From seeing what the Department had done, and was doing, he was convinced that the Department had been most faithful and diligent in carrying out the intentions of Parliament; and the apparent inadequacy of the result was not due to the fault of the Department, but, to a great extent, to the extreme difficulty of dealing with persons who were unable, either through ignorance or a want of knowledge of business, to put themselves into practical relations with the Department. But the difficulties, such as they were, had been overcome, and the Return which he had presented to the House a few days ago, and which was not yet in general circulation, would show that the Department was in a state of great activity in relation to the particular business thrown upon them last year, and that, at all events, the Department was not in that state of decrepitude which the hon. Member for Queen's County had described. The number of applications up to July 31 was 485; of these 160 were inadmissible—that was to say, they were made by persons who were so unacquainted with the conditions prescribed by Parliament that the applications could not be admitted. Of the remainder, 41 were transferred under the Act 10 & 11 Vict., and were most of them sanctioned; and of the rest 292 had been provisionally entertained, and 152 had been sanctioned by the Treasury, the amount applied for being £27,710; 140 were still under inquiry, and of those 98 were not yet ripe for consideration. There had not been a sufficient number of days necessary for decision, and of the remaining 42 which, in point of time were ripe for consideration, 17 844 were delayed by the neglect of the applicants to comply with the conditions, so that progress could not be made; 21, which had been retarded by the applicants, were now progressing; and 4 were held over, at the wish of the applicants themselves. Thus the Returns, so far as the interests of the applicants were concerned, reflected the greatest credit on the Department. If hon. Members had the figures before them, they would see that, whatever the paucity of applications granted, that was not due to the neglect of the Department, but to the inherent difficulty of the task, which had been carried out with more despatch than could have been expected.
§ Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
asked how many applications had been granted up to the 31st of March this year?
§ MR. COURTNEY
, in reply, said, that, up to March 31, there was considerable difficulty in putting the machinery in motion; but, at all events, there was the result that, on the 31st of July, 150 applications had been granted, involving a sum of £27,710, under the 31st section.
§ MR. SEXTON
There were two classes of loans under the section.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he understood that the 31st section dealt with loans to occupiers. With respect to the Chairman and Secretary, the hon. Member for Queen's County, no doubt, did quote things that were said of the Chairman and Secretary; but he (Mr. Courtney) was afraid those quotations were made with a good deal of colour of running comment which gave them a different aspect.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I must object. I read the ipsissima verba.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he thought the hon. Member commented on the quotations; but he admitted that the hon. Member quoted textually from the Report. But he commented on the quotations he made, putting in his own words so as to convey, intentionally or not, a different impression from that given by the Members of the Committee. The recommendations of the Committee, to whatever extent they might go, and however they might be qualified with respect to the Chairman and Secretary, had not been neglected or overlooked, and would not be overlooked; but no action could possibly have been taken in 845 recasting or reorganizing the office during the recent critical times.
§ MR. HEALY
asked, whether it would be believed that, for the 10 months up to May 31st, the Department had spent £2,856 of the ratepayers' money, and had not made one single advance? Yet the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had the face to get up and say that the Department was in an efficient condition. How was the Board induced to do anything? Owing to a series of Questions in the House, Colonel M'Kerlie, the spider of the Board of Works, came out of his web, and then the Board made some advances. So long as Parliament was sitting the Board were in a state of trepidation; but when Parliament was not sitting they were free, and Colonel M'Kerlie would execute a pas seul. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) said the complaints had not been overlooked or neglected; but, if that was so, how was it that four years had passed since this Report was made in 1878, and it had never been acted upon? The Report, which practically recommended that Colonel M'Kerlie should be sent about his business, remained a dead letter, and Colonel M'Kerlie remained at the head of the Board of Works. If a special pension would induce him to withdraw, he (Mr. Healy) would give him 10 times his salary, as he thought that would be well spent; and if the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) would put on the Estimates such an amount for that purpose, he ventured to think the Irish Members would cheerfully vote the money to get Colonel M'Kerlie out of office. The 31st section was the most important section of the Land Act; and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) took great credit to himself for the fact that, of 360 applications which had been made, 154 had been sanctioned by the Treasury. But would the hon. Gentleman explain how it was that the Board had framed a rule which made it impossible for the 500,000 of the 600,000 Irish tenants to take advantage of the section. Parliament sweltered over the Land Act of last year, and fully debated this 31st section, and then Colonel M'Kerlie framed this rule to prevent the 500,000 of the 600,000 tenants taking advantage of the section. Colonel M'Kerlie, the spider of the Board of Works, threw his webs around the administration of the Act, and de- 846 barred 500,000 of 600,000 occupiers of the soil taking advantage of it; and the public were further informed that four years ago it was recommended that Colonel M'Kerlie should be sent to his place, wherever that might be, upon a special pension in order to get rid of him. That recommendation had, however, never been acted upon, but was locked up by Colonel M'Kerlie in his desk. This House passed the Land Act, the 31st section of which ordained that certain occupiers were to get loans; but by making a rule as to £100, amounting to £120 in valuation, the Board of Works absolutely nullified the operation of that Act, and prevented 500,000 tenants taking advantage of the 31st section. Colonel M'Kerlie had made a rule—[Mr. COURTNEY: The Treasury.] Well, under, he presumed, the influence of Colonel M'Kerlie. He had made some suggestion, he (Mr. Healy) supposed, and after the Act had been passed with so much difficulty he deprived these 500,000 tenants of the benefits of the Act. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] The Prime Minister did not give assent to that. Who, then, was responsible? Whoever was responsible, it was time some period should be put to action of this sort. Five-sixths of the occupiers were under £20 valuation. He hoped the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury would do something to get some security for small holders of land—say, those under £4 valuation. It was not an easy thing to get security for money, but there was a wide margin between £4 and £20 valuation; and he (Mr. Healy) thought the Treasury might fairly be asked to- revise this rule, so as to enable holders of £8 or £10 valuation to get security. It might happen that the holder of even a £4 holding would be able to give collateral security; and, therefore, a hard-and-fast rule that in no case should an application be entertained unless the applicant's holding was of a certain value—say, £15 and upwards—would certainly lead to abuse. The Treasury made this hard-and-fast rule, and the result was that only 152 applications had been sanctioned by the Treasury. The estimate of the expenses was no less than £5,000 for 12 months. The estimate should bear some proportion to the amount advanced. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury 847 had said that the total sum advanced was £27,710. The cost of making these advances was £5,000, which was certainly too great a proportion to the sum advanced. He trusted that although they had hitherto appealed in vain for these periodical Returns they would have them in the future. The months of June and July had passed, and, except for the statement of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) that night, the Committee were in the dark as to what the Board of Works were doing. It would be a stimulus to Colonel M'Kerlie if what the Board of Works were doing was made known.
said, he wanted to say one word as to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), who, he was sorry, had entered into this difficult question. It would be most unjust to lay on that very valuable public servant, Colonel M'Kerlie, whose tenure of office had been a very distinguished one, the responsibility for these rules. It was the Treasury which was responsible for the rules, though he was not able to say whether Colonel M'Kerlie had made suggestions on the subject. The matter was settled by the Treasury, and the Treasury was responsible for the Vote as it stood. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Healy) had said 500,000 tenants had been entirely shut out from the benefits of the Land Act. [Mr. HEALY: The 31st section!] He assured the hon. Gentleman that that section of the Act was a very large and extraordinary extension of the principles upon which Parliament had hitherto acted, and it was an extension which required to be managed with a good deal of discretion. He did not say that a Parliamentary rule was an inflexible one; but it was very difficult to determine how far the Executive Government might be justified in entering into relations of debtor and creditor with all the small tenants in Ireland for the purpose of giving them advances for the cultivation of their holdings. The hon. Member must remember that the expenses of small loans were very heavy indeed to the Government, and it was a serious matter to consider whether public money could be employed in granting these very small sums, and whether the great peculiarities of the condition of the Irish farmer, which had led Parliament to go 848 so far justifiably and properly and wisely in meeting what seemed the essential quality of condition — whether those peculiarities were such as to warrant proceeding to such bounds as the hon. Member might wish with regard to lending Government aid to single holders of farms, and especially very small ones, for the purpose of enabling them to improve the cultivation of their farms. He did not think the subject could be dealt with wholesale, or that it could be dealt with largely on the Vote for the Board of Works in Ireland. It was not the Board of Works that was really chargeable. The question involved was one of policy, and it was an extremely difficult one. He was by no means desirous of excluding further discussion on the subject; but caution must be observed on the part of the Treasury.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that, in order to justify the case which had been made from the Irish Benches against Colonel M'Kerlie, it was not at all necessary to deny the value of his public services in the past. The Prime Minister had spoken of the tenure of office of Colonel M'Kerlie; and he (Mr. Sexton) supposed that the right hon. Gentleman, who had had a long and somewhat close relation with Colonel M'Kerlie, might have had an opportunity of discovering faculties in that gentleman which had not been apparent to the general public. All that Irish Members complained of was that Colonel M'Kerlie's tenure of office had been exceedingly prolonged. There were very few who could compete with the Prime Minister in his period of public service; but Colonel M'Kerlie had been so long in the Public Service that it would be well if he were out of office. The Irish Members did not say this on their own motion, for a Departmental Committee, in language which was clear and unmistakable, indicated that the time had come when Colonel M'Kerlie should retire. His hon. Friend (Mr. Healy), when he said that the rules issued by the Treasury had shut out five-sixths of the Irish farmers from the benefits of the Land Act, was not dealing with the Land Act as a whole, as the Prime Minister seemed to imagine, but with the 31st section of the Act. When the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) was speaking a short time ago, he (Mr. Sexton) asked him whether the loans made under the 31st section of the Land 849 Act had been made to occupiers or not. He showed that the 31st section of the Act authorized two kinds of loans to he made—namely, loans for the reclamation of land, and loans for agricultural improvements. There was no limitation in the section providing that the loans should not be made to occupiers.
§ MR. COURTNEY
The advances have been made to occupiers solely.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that after a year's operation of the Act they found that only 150 advances had been made. His hon. Friend (Mr. Healy) unintentionally overstated the efficiency of the action of the Board of Works in reference to this section. If he understood his hon. Friend properly, the sum of £27,000 was the amount sanctioned to be advanced. It would have been interesting to know how much of the £27,000 had actually passed from the form of grants on paper to the form of cash advances to occupiers. For expenses, the estimate was—For Land Act Loans 1881, Section 31, £5,000; Inspection under Land Improvement Act, £3,500—altogether the expenses amounted to £10,000. If the hon. Gentleman would tell them how much of the £27,000 had been paid over, the Committee might arrive at the absurd result that the cost of the Department in distributing loans had been as large as the amount advanced. He considered that the 31st section, if vigorously worked, would have rendered very satisfactory results, results certainly less open to criticism than the present results. When they found that at the end of a year, notwithstanding the amount of reclaim-able land in Ireland, and the number of holdings requiring improvement, and the number of occupiers willing to avail themselves of the benefits of the section, only 150 occupiers had received advances, could they conclude otherwise than that the section had failed? The Prime Minister had spoken very wisely, of course, of the necessity of prudence in making advances of this kind; but, surely, the right hon. Gentleman would admit that under a rental of £20 or £10, numbers of tenants might be found with so vital an interest in retaining their holdings that the State would not act imprudently in making them an advance. Unfortunately, red-tapeism had always characterized the proceedings of the Board of Works in Ireland. The Church Commissioners had to deal with as igno- 850 rant a class of people as the Board of Works had; but the result was very different. The Church Commissioners transformed a great body of holders of Church lands from tenants into proprietors; and they did that by putting simple instructions in the hands of the people, and by taking the pains to communicate to the holders what facilities the law allowed to be given them. The Board of Works, on the contrary, took pains to keep such facts from the knowledge of the people, to keep the people in ignorance of what the law was; and it was for this reason that he was forced to dissent from the praise which had been lavished on the Board of Works. The Committee had received no explanation of the item of £800, being the amount of the architect's salary. Now, the architect was a prominent member—in fact, the leading spirit—in a building society in Dublin. Was it proper that the architect of the Board of Works should also be a leading member of a building society, which might, some time or other, call upon the Board of Works for advances of money? Was it proper that this gentleman should be able to act as a buffer between the Board of Works and the building society? He hoped the Government would see their way to require this architect to retire from one or other positions he held.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he noticed that the Vote for the Architect's Branch was £839, £39 of which was for car-hire. Dublin, the Committee well knew, was the most car-driving city in the world; and, in the name of common sense, why the architect of the Board of Works should pay £39 for car-hire in 12 months he could, not understand. A man could drive from Westland Row to King's Bridge for 6d.; and, therefore, £39 for car-hire was a preposterously large sum to allow a man with a salary of £800. The Board of Works seemed to be one of the many bad institutions of Dublin Castle. £3,500 was set down to be paid to Inspectors of works in progress under the Land Improvement Act. What public works were in progress in Dublin to warrant an expenditure of £3,500 for their inspection? Who were the Inspectors? How many were there? It was a remarkable fact that, in the Estimate, the number of Inspectors was not given. He noticed that the soli- 851 citor's branch of the Board of "Works cost the country £2,100 a-year. What was the legal business of the Board of Works to entitle them to expend such a sum? In addition to the sums he had already quoted, he found £2,200 was allowed for travelling expenses. Was it intended to afford any explanation of this item? Who were the officials? What were their duties? What works had they to inspect that would justify an allowance for travelling expenses of £2,200, in addition to the sum of £3,500 for inspection of works under the Land Improvement Act? This was altogether separate from anything done under the Land Act of 1881, for, as had already been pointed out, £5,000 was set down as the cost of granting loans under the Act of last Session. Furthermore, £1,200 was charged for extraordinary staff, £900 of which was for the engineer of the pier and harbour works. How many piers in Ireland had been repaired this year? He would not complain of this Vote, if the piers and harbours were in good repair; but it was because the money was spent upon officials, and not upon the piers, that he took his objection. Then there was £300—[The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. W. M. Johnson): It is absurd.] He overheard the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland say this criticism was absurd. Where had the money been spent? What amount of money had been spent upon pier and harbour works, for the inspection of which was charged £1,200? Had £12,000 been spent in harbour works? When works were in progress, what was inspected? In his own county the Grand Jury at first declined to take over some works, because they knew from information that no inspection of the works had taken place during their progress. The county had since been saddled with an enormous expenditure in maintaining the works. Had the county itself erected them, they would have put in proper foundations, and thus have obviated considerable expenditure. Now, as to Colonel M'Kerlie. He (Mr. Callan) was surprised the Government kept the gallant gentleman in office. He would tell the Committee a story about Colonel M'Kerlie. Twelve years ago, the inspector ship of the Boyne navigation from Drogheda to Navan, attached to which was a salary 852 of £200 a-year, was vacant, and Mr. Thomas Whitwell nominated a gentleman for the post. The gentleman nominated was a native of Drogheda, and passed a very creditable examination upon his appointment. Colonel M'Kerlie sent for him, congratulated him upon the able and creditable manner in which he had passed the examination, and asked him where he had been. The gentleman replied that he had been at Wexford, and, in answer to a further question, said he was a Catholic. He was thereupon bowed out, and in two days afterwards his appointment was cancelled. He (Mr. Callan) brought the matter before the then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Chichester Fortescue), now Lord Carlingford. The right hon. Gentleman said—"This is a very unfortunate thing, and I would rather you would drop it." He (Mr. Callan) said— "It is a matter I will not drop." The Chief Secretary for Ireland said—" Do you know anybody you could put in his place?" And he (Mr. Callan) immediately telegraphed to a gentleman in Dundalk, who voted for him at the previous election. ["Oh!"] Oh, he never forgot these things. He telegraphed to the young man to know if he would accept £200 a-year, and the next day he had an answer by telegraph, saying he would be most happy to do so. He nominated his friend for the post, on the express condition that he was not to bring the matter before the House. His friend had held the appointment ever since. ["Oh!"] He would do the same thing to-morrow if he could. The Prime Minister seemed shocked; but he thus acted at the instigation of a Member of the right hon. Gentleman's own Cabinet, and he (Mr. Callan) was most happy to receive the suggestion, because he was able to benefit one of his constituents to the extent of £200 a-year. He found, from the annual Report, that his friend had given great satisfaction in his office. He mentioned these circumstances to show the Committee that Colonel M'Kerlie disqualified the original candidate on account of his religion. He (Mr. Callan) was invited by the hon. Member for Gal way (Mr. Mitchell Henry) to give evidence before the Departmental Committee; but he and The O'Conor Don declined to do so, because they knew they would be pumped well, but that due consideration would not 853 be given to their complaints. As long as Colonel M'Kerlie was at the head of the Board of Works in Ireland, there was not the slightest chance of that Board being of any value in promoting the best interests of the country. Colonel M'Kerlie was a worn-out public servant; he ought to be got rid of, and some deserving young man promoted who would be of service to the country.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he wished, as the Mover of this reduction, to disassociate himself from any expression of personal discourtesy to Colonel M'Kerlie. He did not know Colonel M'Kerlie; he had no reason to suppose that, in the administration of his office, he had been guilty of anything unworthy of a gentleman, or of a respectable public servant; and the only ground upon which he moved the reduction of the Vote was that a Committee appointed to investigate the administration of Colonel M'Kerlie's office recommended his retirement, and that it was notorious in Ireland that the present administration of the Board of Works was destructive to the public interest.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 10; Noes 86: Majority 76. — (Div. List, No. 314.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (3.) £3,170, to complete the sum for the Record Office, Ireland.
§ (4.) £14,552, to complete the sum for the Registrar General's Office, Ireland.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he noticed that a considerable part of the Vote—namely, £12,416—had reference to the taking of the Census in Ireland in 1881. It would be well if the Chief Secretary for Ireland would let the Committee know how far the publication of the Census had proceeded, and by what time the Returns would be complete.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he was glad to be able to give the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) a little information on this point; and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would consider it of a satisfactory character. The books for the different counties had all been issued, with the exception of those for Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, and Sligo. The books for Roscommon and Mayo had gone to press; but those for Galway 854 and Sligo were yet under revision. All the county books, however, would be finished by the middle of August. The summary of the four Provinces was well in hand, and the General Report Tables were far advanced, and would probably be ready by the end of September. He would like to give one or two figures in the way of comparison between the work done in respect of the Census of 1871, and that in respect of the Census of last year. The first county book issued in regard to the Census of 1871 was published on the 3rd of September, 1872; the first county book in regard to the Census of 1881 was published on the 26th of September, 1881, or nearly a year earlier. The last county book for the Census of 1871 was published on the 20th of February, 1875; the last for the Census of last year would probably be published in August, 1882, or two and a-half years earlier. The General Report for the Census 10 years ago was published on the 29th of September, 1875, and that for the Census last year would probably be published in September, 1882, or three years earlier. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) would probably be glad to hear that this rapidity had not been purchased by an increased outlay of money. The total Estimate for the Census of 1881 was £26,000, being £16,000 less than the cost of the Census of 1871.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (5.) £14,388, to complete the sum for the Valuation and Boundary Survey, Ireland.