§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that he fully concurred in what had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), in condemnation of the way in which the finances of the country were hurried through Parliament in the closing days of the Session without the semblance of discussion or consideration. Fortunately on that (the Appropriation) Bill, it was possible to discuss de omnibus ribus et quitusdam alüs; and, therefore, although, on more than one occasion, he had made way for Motions said to be of far greater national importance, he felt he should not be doing his duty to his constituents, if he allowed the Session to close without calling attention to a grievance they complained of—namely, with respect to the condition of the River Barrow, which skirted Queen's County on the North and West. It was only an Irish river, 1554 which affected no English interest, and might, therefore, seem to that House a matter of no importance; but the drainage of the basin of the Barrow would form a most important consideration with any Irish Government. The Government had thought it their duty to deal with the basin of the Shannon. In the year 1879–80, a sum of £5,000 was taken in the Estimates for that purpose. In 1880–1, a further sum of £20,000 was granted; in 1882, a sum of £24,700; and in 1883 an additional sum, bringing the total grant for the purpose of regulating the flood waters of the Shannon up to £52,500 in four years. The works authorized had now been completed, and the absence of any grant for the purpose in this year's Appropriation Bill presented an opportunity for undertaking works on the basin of the Barrow. After the Shannon, the Barrow Basin was the largest in Ireland, and the amount of damage done by preventible floods in that basin each year was such that he doubted whether anyone could even approximate it, to say nothing at all of the unsanitary effects. He believed a moiety of the sum that had been spent on the Shannon would have done an immense deal of good, if that amount had been spent in draining the river basin in question. The drainage required could only be effectively undertaken by the Government. About 10,000 acres were annually flooded, because of the insufficiency of the basin to carry away the waters. A telegram from a correspondent last Friday urged him to bring the subject before the House, stating that 20,000 acres above Portarlington were under water; that the main street of Portarlington was flooded by three feet of water; and that the whole of the hay of the district was destroyed. That was the condition of things in parts of Ireland, while the English farmers were enjoying splendid weather. Sir Richard Griffith, in his masterly Report, presented 73 years ago, on the possibility of reclaiming the bog lands of Ireland, placed in the forefront of that work the hogs adjoining the Barrow. According to this authority, there were then 77,505 statute acres of reclaimable bog along the course of that river. This bog being 315 feet above the level of Dublin Bay, its drainage would be comparatively easy. No other bog could be drained 1555 more easily. Going further down the river, Sir Richard Griffith went on to say that, a little below Portarlington, there was an irregular weir thrown across the river, which threw back the water for a considerable distance, and in times of flood it did great damage. It would be tedious to continue to take the river in sections; and he would therefore content himself with saying that any hon. Member who chose to consult the Reports would see that every foot of the river had been carefully surveyed, that the rainfall had been measured with great accuracy, and all the requirements of the river carefully ascertained. It was, therefore, merely a question of a competent authority to take the matter in hand. He thought it was obvious that no association of owners or occupiers, and no common action on the part of any number of Grand Juries, could possibly cope with the business which required to be taken in hand. It was for the Government to take such a matter in hand. It was very easy work and inexpensive work, and would open up a very large tract of country to the advantage of a very large population. He believed, if the Government would seriously turn its attention to the matter and effect its accomplishment by annual grants in the Estimates, it would do a great deal more good than by any scheme of emigration.
said, he thought that no scheme would be of greater service to Ireland than that proposed by the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), if it were properly carried out. He thought the hon. Member would have done good service to Ireland, if he could extort from the Chief Secretary for Ireland a promise that something should be done to reclaim the vast bogs in the centre of that country. In his opinion, that operation should be taken up by the Government as a national one.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, that he had had the honour of bringing in an English Bill on the subject; but, because that had failed, it by no means followed that the Irish subject should not be attended to. With regard to it, it was most refreshing to have heard the business-like speech of the hon. Member for Queen's County, for he (Mr. Magniac) knew that the difficulties to be met with in carrying it out would be very trifling, for the 1556 River Barrow was very capable of being dealt with in the way proposed. His dear Friend, the late Lord Frederick Cavendish, had this subject much at heart; and, had he lived, it would have had his most earnest attention. There were three levels of the bog, the first of which would cost next to nothing to drain; the next would cost a little more; but the third would require consideration, and could not be done without the assistance of the Government. When once that assistance was given, in his belief, private assistance would also come in. He thought, therefore, that if the hon. Member for Queen's County could only get some of his friends to support him the matter would soon be carried out.
§ MR. BIGGAR
Sir, the question raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) is very important; but I should not like to ask large grants or loans of money from the Government, unless a well-matured plan were pre pared, by which the improvements could be carried out in such a way that the Government would suffer no loss. I also believe that until we have county government in Ireland no plan can be carried out in fragments in a profitable way. In Ireland there is a Government who do not understand the people whom they govern; and the consequence is that they are led to undertake all sorts of impracticable schemes, so that when a really useful project is put forward, the Government are indisposed to take any action in the matter. As regards the main subject, I attribute the waste of time during the Session to the mismanagement of the Government. For in stance, referring to the action of the Grand Committees, the Committee on the Bankruptcy Bill prolonged their labours by the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade met the rival Irish sections with regard to the extension of the measure to Ireland——
§ MR. BIGGAR
I wish, Sir, to criticize the measures that have been introduced by the President of the Board of Trade, whose salary is one of the matters included in this Bill. I wish to call attention to his management of the affairs of his Office, and his conduct of Public Business. In the consideration of the 1557 Bankruptcy Bill before the Grand Committee, the President of the Board of Trade successfully muzzled both the Irish sections.
§ MR. BIGGAR
Well, Mr. Speaker, I will not say anything more about this unfortunate Bankruptcy Bill. I have probably said as much as will give me the opportunity of showing at some future time that I have been a true prophet, and that the whole affair is a good illustration of the way affairs are managed by judicious Members of the Government. I will now contrast against the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade the action of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in connection with the Agricultural Holdings Bill.
§ MR. HEALY
On the point of Order, Sir, I would point out that there are several items in the Appropriation Bill; and I submit to you, Sir, whether my hon. Friend (Mr. Biggar) will not be in Order in discussing every particular item in this Appropriation Bill becoming a charge on the country? There are £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 dealt with by this Bill.
§ MR. BIGGAR
I have not the slightest intention, as my hon. Friend the Member for Monaghan suggests, of going over every item in this Bill. If I wanted to talk against time I could very easily do so. There is no great difficulty in doing that. But what I want to do is to call attention to the want of good management on the part of the Government. That is my sole object in speaking here now. There are several items in this Bill. For example, I might raise discussion on the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and so on; but that would be an operation which it would be just as well to practise at some other time, and therefore I do not do so. But I thought I might have been justified in showing that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of 1558 Lancaster mismanaged these two Agricultural Holdings Bills.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is quite incapable of attending to my direction. The Bill before the House is the Appropriation Bill. The hon. Member seems to persist in discussing the Agricultural Holdings Bill, and the action of the right hon. Gentleman who has charge of it. In doing so he is out of Order.
§ MR. HEALY
I wish to ask you, Sir, whether, upon the salary of a particular Officer in this House—the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—the hon. Member is not entitled to go into that Officer's whole conduct? On the Vote for the Chief Secretary for Ireland we discussed the whole range of his conduct. Here is a Vote for the Chancellor of the Duchy. Is not the hon. Member entitled on that to discuss the conduct of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Cavan is not entitled to do anything further than discuss the Bill before the House.
§ MR. BIGGAR
I shall not say anything more about the Agricultural Holdings Bill, or the Bankruptcy Bill. I have said all I desire to say on those subjects. But the waste of time which has taken place this Session was a subject raised by the Prime Minister, and I shall refer to that. In connection with it, I will allude to the question of the Southport Foreshore. I maintain that it was improper for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to go behind the back of the Town Council of Southport, and make a bargain with other parties in regard to the foreshore. If the Government had managed better, the time that has been wasted on the subject of the Southport Foreshore would have been saved. Then, with regard to the Suez Canal, there has been a great waste of time; because the Government made a bargain with the Company, without consulting beforehand practical men. Lastly, the evasions to which the Government have resorted in answering Questions has led to 20 being put where one would have done. I hope the Government will take all these things into consideration, so as to be able to give a better account of their work another Session.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he wished to call attention to the Report of the Royal Commission, presented in 1881, with regard to the Coleraine and Belfast navigation, and to the flooding of the lands in five counties surrounding Lough Neagh, by the overflowing of the Bann. Every time rain fell to any considerable extent the crops of those unfortunate people were ruined. He was constantly receiving letters on the subject. The inhabitants of those five counties were the most loyal in Ireland; and if the Government desired to keep up good relations with the people of Ulster, they would legislate on the subject in accordance with the recommendations of the Royal Commission, which were practically to the effect that the canal navigation should be sacrificed to the interests of the farmers, and that the rivers should be made what they were intended to be—conduits for the drainage of the land. With railways competing with the canals the accommodation afforded by the latter was quite unimportant. Although the Report of the Royal Commission was presented in 1881, no statement had yet come from the Government. He trusted that, during the Recess, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would give his best consideration to that Report, so that, next Session, he might be able to legislate for the carrying out of the drainage of the Barrow, and the lands around Lough Neagh.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that both the questions referred to had been before the House at the earlier part of the Session. In the first place, he would dismiss the complaint of the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor). It was stated in that House that, after considerable negotiations, an agreement was arrived at for a survey of the Barrow, half the cost of which was to be at the expense of the Government. That survey was now going on, to show how the basin of the river could best be relieved of its surplus waters, and by whom the cost should be undertaken, since he, as Secretary to the 1560 Treasury, was not prepared to consent to the Imperial Exchequer bearing the burden of relieving the riparian proprietors from all the disadvantages of floods caused by excessive rainfall, seeing that those persons bought their lands with the full cognizance of how they were subject to be affected by floods. With regard to the Bann, the Royal Commission referred to by the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) recommended the Government to consult with the Grand Juries of the counties affected. Their whole desire and interest was that the counties should undertake the work; but the Grand Juries had all negatived the proposition, refusing to spend a single sixpence on it. With regard to the navigable canals, it was the object and desire of the Treasury to get rid of them, as far as possible, since they were practically useless, besides being a constant drain upon the Treasury.
§ MR. MELDON
said, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury entirely mistook the contention. It was not merely the riparian owners who were to be considered, but also those living in and near the towns in the neighbourhood of the Barrow, especially Portarlington, who suffered much as regarded their health, from the periodical overflow of the river. He was surprised at the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Courtney's) statement that a survey of the Barrow was now going on. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), when Chief Secretary for Ireland, consented to the appointment of a Commission to do something definite, and the Commissioners were actually named; but since the right hon. Gentleman retired from Office cold water had been thrown upon the project at the Treasury, and from that time up to the present moment he never heard that the Government intended doing anything. The survey must have been a secret arrangement. In his opinion, the survey would be utterly useless. What was required was, that the promise made by the right hon. Member for Bradford should be carried out, and that a Commission of Inquiry should be appointed to consider the whole subject.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he wished to call attention in connection with the unfair incidence of Imperial taxation in Ireland, to the delusive 1561 character of the Statistical Abstract. The property liable to income tax under Schedule B was set down for some years past as about £10,000,000, instead of £3,000,000, as formerly correctly made out. There had been a confusion between the gross and the net amount, which was made quite manifest when viewed side by side with the other Schedules—for example, under Schedule B the taxable property of Ireland was represented as one-sixth of that of the United Kingdom, whereas under Schedule A it was only 1–13th, and under Schedule D 1–25th. The proportions shown under Schedule B were delusive.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.