§ (Mr. O' Kelly, Mr. Blake, Mr. Leanly, Mr. O'Connor Power, Mr. O Donnell.)
§ [BILL 31.] SECOND READING.
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. BLAKE,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he thought that at the outset it was well to state that there were two reasons which would recommend the Bill to the majority of the House and to English Members. In the first place, it did not propose to make any claim whatever upon the Imperial Exchequer, and if the Bill became law the British taxpayer would not be asked to contribute anything to carry out the object it had in view; in the next place, the Bill had the approbation of the great majority of Irish Members on both sides of the House. The object of the Bill was to develop an important Irish resource out of purely Irish money. Now, the leading draw- 1048 backs to the development of Irish fisheries were, first, a want of means on the part of the fishermen to procure suitable and sufficient beats and gear. This drawback was caused in a great measure by the disastrous Famines of 1847 and 1849, and subsequent years; and no portion of the Irish people suffered so much in these periods of depression as the fishermen in consequence of the people being obliged to fall back on meal diet, to which fish was not a suitable accompaniment. The result was that the beats and gear had to be sold, and the people were never in a position afterwards to regain them so as to enable them to follow successfully that calling. Now the requirement of loans to enable fishermen to procure beats and gear was to a great extent met by a fund appropriated for that special purpose, and it was not intended, for the present at least, to make any request to provide money for that object. In passing he thought he might say that the fund now used to provide those loans was exclusively Irish money, also that already £50,000 had been expended in the last 10 years; and to show the honesty and punctuality of the fishermen, he need only add that of that sum of £50,000 the arrears at present amounted to only £1,000; and this £1,000 the Report of the Board of Works showed that a good deal of it was recoverable. What was at present chiefly required for the development of the Irish fisheries was proper harbour accommodation for fishing beats; but before he proceeded to dwell on that subject, he thought it would be desirable to describe the descriptions of fishing in Ireland. There were two classes of fishing in Ireland. There was migratory fish, which included mackerel, herrings, pilchards, &c.; and there was permanent fish, that was where the fish remained more stationary, such as cod, plaice, ling, hake, &c. Now, the seat of the great mackerel fishing in Ireland was in the South. It had been hitherto carried on along the coast, at Kinsale, with very good results, and that fishing was of so large a character that it had not only attracted English fishermen, but also many Manx and Scotch fishermen, and some French fishermen came there also. As regarded the habits of migratory fish, the pilchard afforded a remarkable example. About 100 years ago there was a great pilchard fishery on the coast of Cork; 1049 but for some unaccountable reason they passed over to Cornwall, and Irishmen went over there to teach the Cornish people how to capture and cure it. Some years ago, however, the pilchards had abandoned the Cornish coast and gone again to Ireland; but, in the intervening years, the Irish fishermen had got out of the habit of curing pilchards, and the consequence was that these fish remained uncaptured on the coast of the County Cork. Hitherto mackerel kept near to Kinsale; but now it had moved more to the West, and was to be found in great quantities off the coasts of Kerry and Clare, where there were not sufficient harbours of a good character to afford shelter to the beats fishing for mackerel. Migratory fish afforded an illustration of the proverb, "Make hay while the sun shines." The fish were to be found in one place for a time, and if they were not captured immediately they might move off again to some other point. In the County Clare, which was represented by his hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Captain O'Shea), there was a harbour called Carrigaholt, about 12 miles up the Shannon, and in 1881 about £28,000 worth of mackerel was brought in there; but, in consequence of the want of accommodation for the beats, the fish had to remain there a great length of time without being landed. And so the beats were delayed often three times as long as they ought from the fishing grounds; and he had the authority of Mr. Brady, the experienced Inspector of Irish Fisheries, for stating that if there was sufficient accommodation at Carrigaholt, last year £100,000 worth of fish would have been brought in there; so that owing to the want of accommodation £80,000 worth of fish had been lost to the fishermen and consumers. Along that line of coast, front Carrigaholt to Liscannor, County Clare, there was no harbour for 30 miles; there was no suitable harbour, in fact, from the mouth of the Shannon to Galway Bay, a distance of 70 miles, for large fishing craft. This was only an illustration of what might be said of other long stretches of coast without harbours, while fish abounded outside, and numbers of hardy and industrious men were ready to reap the rich harvest of the sea if they only had shelter for boats. Now, let them see what was the state of the Scotch coast. Before the Harbours 1050 Committee a few days ago they had the Scotch Inspector of Fisheries, and he stated that there was scarcely five miles of the Scotch coast that had not a harbour, and that harbours were rarely 10 miles apart; and the consequence was so much advantage to the Scotch fishermen, that the amount of fish caught on the coast of Aberdeen itself exceeded in value the rental of the entire county of Aberdeen. Let the House turn its attention now to the herring fisheries which were to be found on the East Coast of Ireland, and it would find another illustration of the uncertain habits of migratory fish. Mighty shoals of herrings were found some years ago on the Galway coast, and also on the coast of Donegal, and so important were the Donegal fisheries that the Irish Parliament spent large sums in making harbours there and in facilitating the transport of fish through the country, and in this way hundreds of thousands of pounds were realized by the people of Donegal before the Union. Some years since, however, the herrings "sought fresh fields and pastures new," and now the coasts of Donegal and Galway were almost abandoned by them, and nearly the whole of the herring fishing of importance was on the East Coast, where there was insufficient harbour accommodation. Now he came to the fishing banks where certain classes of fish remained permanently. There were in Ireland several important fishing banks. There was the "Nymph Bank," running from the coast of Wexford to the coast of Cork, so called because it was discovered by the cruiser Nymph. Fifty years ago this bank was considered of so much importance that a Company with a capital of £50,000 was formed in England for the purpose of fishing it; but so great was the jealously caused by the project amongst English fishermen, that representations were made to Parliament of the injury it would do to the English fishing industry, and, incredible as it might seem, the Bill was thrown out by the House of Commons when it was introduced in 1804, and the opportunity of properly developing that great fishing bank was over since lost. Next there was a very important bank of ling and other fish on the Kerry coast; and coming along by Galway, Clare, and Mayo there were other important banks frequented by permanent fish. Going 1051 around by Donegal there were other mighty banks, and some from Tory Island to the coast of Londonderry. These were not a half, perhaps not a tenth part, of the resources of Ireland in the way of fisheries. In 1837 a Bill, founded on the recommendation of a Royal Commission, was introduced by the Government, which was calculated to resuscitate the fisheries; but, again, a Bill was abandoned, which promised to do much good for the Irish fishermen, in the interests of the Scotch fisheries. Thus the Irish fishermen had had to struggle against very adverse influences, and this now gave them a stronger claim to be afforded the opportunity of prosecuting their industry successfully. There was no reason to suppose that there was not as much fish on the Irish coast as formerly; but the fact was, that while the capture by English fishermen amounted to about £8,000,000 worth, and by Scotch fishermen to £3,000,000 worth, that taken immediately off the coast of Ireland was only £500,000 a-year, while a considerable portion of even that was taken by fishermen not belonging to Ireland, showing how inadequately the Irish coast was fished. He would now pass on to the harbours that were recommended for the development of the industry. There were 15 maritime counties in Ireland, and there were recommendations by the Inspectors with regard to 14 of them for improving and increasing harbour accommodation. Now, to show the great desire of the Irish fishermen to prosecute their calling he had only to say that there were applications made for the improvement and construction of 100 harbours, and of those the Inspectors had recommended upwards of 70 as of pressing necessity, at a cost of over £250,000—namely, Cork, 10; Clare, 9; Donegal, 15; Down, 2; Galway, 9; Kerry, 6; Londonderry, 1; Louth, 2; Mayo, 6; Sligo 2; Waterford, 6; Wexford, 2; and Wicklow, 2. The Bill proposed to take the sum necessary for those works from the Church Surplus Fund; and, as that relieved the British taxpayer from any charge in the matter, he hoped the Government would consent to this expenditure of Irish money for Irish purposes. The Report of the Fishery Inspectors for last year, and, indeed, for many years past, showed the great necessity there was for increased harbour accommoda- 1052 tion, and the great advantage the people would derive from it. Many of these harbours, the Report stated, would not require any large expenditure to put them in a proper condition, but, small as the expenditure would be, it was entirely beyond the means of the localities to raise it. He was glad to say he had a very much higher authority, as far as rank was concerned, to quote upon the desirability of establishing fishery harbours around the coast of Ireland. In the paper which the Prince of Vales read yesterday at the Fisheries Conference on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh, His Royal Highness said—The fisheries on the coast of Ireland offer a wide field of enterprize, and their development would tend to promote the welfare of the Irish people. Already the English, Manx, and Scotch boats which prosecute the mackerel fisheries have commenced to find their way to the West Coast of Ireland, where they have obtained remunerative returns for their labours. Within the last three years Dingle Bay has become a considerable rendezvous of the mackerel drift boats for the early season's fishery. The experiment was first tried in 1881, and was so successful that increasing numbers of boats have resorted there in the two following years, making it their head-quarters for the prosecution of the deep-sea drift fishing, and sending their fish by steamer to the English markets. The necessities of the crews of these boats must undoubtedly give a considerable stimulus to local traffic, and contribute towards the prosperity of the surrounding district; but I hope this will not be the only result. I look for the gradual extension of an organized system of fisheries up and down the whole West Coast of Ireland, which is singularly favoured in the possession of numerous natural harbours most suitable for fishing ports if the inhabitants of those coasts were to realize that the sea will yield them a far more abundant harvest than their rocky and barren soil will give—a harvest practically inexhaustible, always ripe and ready for the sickle.He also stated that Ireland was well furnished with natural harbours. That was the fact to some extent; but around the circuit of Ireland, which was 2,500 miles, there was a great deficiency of natural harbours which did not require some outlay to render them complete. There were numerous creeks which fishermen utilized; but, owing to the tempestuous character of the sea along the coast, breakwaters were essential, in addition, in many places. Before the Famine years there were exactly five times the number of men and three times the number of boats engaged in the Irish fisheries. The reason for this was—and he wished to impress this 1053 point upon the House—the Famine of 1848 and 1849 had obliged thousands of the fishing population to abandon their occupation, and part with their beats and gear, and most of them had never since been able to obtain others. Even now, those having beats and willing to work were obliged to live for a great part of the year in enforced idleness owing to the want of suitable harbours. They had not harbours which afforded them sufficient shelter. If the weather was at all strong, the fishermen were afraid to go to sea, knowing the difficulty they would have in getting back again. Weather of a certain roughness was suitable for fishing purposes; but it frequently happened that before they had had time to make any considerable haul the men became alarmed at the prospect of rougher weather, and returned to land. In a great number of instances where harbours had been made, important results had followed from the increased number that had gone to fishing pursuits with advantage; and in places where harbours had been improved, the fishermen had often been enabled to make two additional fishings in one day. The testimony that was given by His Royal Highness was, he thought, of a most satisfactory character, as showing what could be accomplished by having suitable harbours around the coast, and showing also that the non-development of the fisheries did not arise from any indisposition on the part of the people to fish. They required very much larger beats and improved harbours. The coast of Ireland had always been celebrated for the quantity of fish in the seas around it. The Danes were induced to invade the country on account of the largo quantities of fish resorting to its shores, and English Monarchs in the 16th century received large sums from some foreign Potentates who desired to purchase for their subjects the right of fishing in those waters. The French and Flemish fishermen fished on the Irish coast whenever permitted. The best fishing localities were handed over to foreigners for a consideration, and efforts were even made to prevent Irishmen themselves from deriving benefit from their fisheries. The Cromwellian Parliament was inundated with Petitions from English fishing stations praying that the fisheries of Ireland might be discouraged on account 1054 of the great injury caused by the competition of Irish fishermen to the trade of the English fishermen abroad. The result was that the fishermen were almost exterminated by the effects of the "transplanting law." Oliver Cromwell, who was a very practical person, sent some cargoes of Irish fishermen to Barbados, and other West India Islands, where they were sold at a good price to the planters, and where signs of their presence survived to this day. Not many years ago, for example, an Irish sergeant who had arrived in the principal port of Barbados with his regiment was surprised to hear himself greeted with the words "God save you," uttered in the Irish language by a negro who had boarded the ship. Concluding that the negro must be an Irishman, the gallant sergeant asked him how long he had been in Barbados. "Three months," replied the negro, who had come from a neighbouring island; and the sergeant, thinking that his friend's complexion had been changed from white to black in so short a time by the scorching sun, rushed, in great excitement, into the cabin where his wife and family were in order to have a last look at their fair faces before the commencement of the change which he anticipated would be caused in the hue of their skins by the baneful climate. The Irish Parliament, during its brief existence, did a great deal to promote the Irish fisheries, and the year before the Union was the most flourishing the Irish fisheries had for a long time. It gave large sums for the making of suitable harbours, and also for means of inland transport; but four years after the Union, as he had mentioned, the Bill to promote the fishing of the South-East Coast was thrown out of the House by a majority of 1. In 1832 there was a Royal Commission appointed to report on the condition and best means for improving the Irish Sea Fisheries, and its chief recommendations were embodied in a Bill; but on the day before the second reading was to be proposed the Duke of Sutherland headed a hostile deputation from Scotland to the Premier, and the Bill was abandoned. These were among the discouragements which the Irish fisheries had suffered; but, notwithstanding them, the Irish fishermen, by their own effort, had placed the fisheries before the Famine in a fairly flourishing condition. 1055 An hon. and gallant Baronet opposite, a Member for a Scotch constituency (Sir George Balfour), very often flourished in that House, and yesterday produced, for the last time in the Committee on Harbour Accommodation, a Return of the money spent by England on Irish Harbours, which the Return placed at £2,000,000; and whenever anything was asked for the Irish fisheries, this hon. and gallant Baronet quoted his Return, made out in 1875. However, he was authorized by Mr. Brady to state now that the whole sum expended by the British Government since the Norman Conquest on Irish fisheries was only £150,000; the remainder of the £2,000,000 was spent upon Royal Harbours—Kingstown, Dunmore, Howth, and Donoughadu—and he was in a position to state that the Government well recouped themselves for their expenditure by the sums received for postal purposes. That beggarly sum of £150,000 included the amount voted for the construction of harbours on the Western Coast during the late years of distress, since when the usual annual grant was suspended—now three years. A deputation, last year, waited upon the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney), who gave them a courteous, but reluctant, interview; but the only result of the united efforts of nearly 30 maritime Members was that they obtained the magnificent grant for this year of £4,000. Supposing they had Secretaries of the Treasury of the same disposition as regarded expenditure on Ireland—and in justice to the present occupant of the Office he should admit he had never known them better—it would take nearly 100 years before the last of the harbours now recommended could be finished, to say nothing of other harbours which, in the meantime, might be considered necessary. By the proposal which he now made he would relieve the Government from any demands for the future on this subject, and relieve the Irish Members from the humiliation of making them. His proposal was, as he had stated, that the money should be taken from the surplus of the Irish Church Fund. They were told that there was probably no surplus. His authority for holding the contrary opinion was the Premier himself, who, on introducing a measure for applying a portion of the Fund to the payment of arrears, said that a certain 1056 sum was available. But some hundreds of thousands of the sum so granted had not been spent on the payment of arrears. At all events, let the House affirm the principle of the Bill, and the Irish Members would take their chance for the money. He contended, however, that it was the bounden duty of the Government, even if the money were to come out of the Imperial Exchequer, to grant the sum required. The hon. Member for Youghal (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had shown, in an able pamphlet, and the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Mitchell Henry) had also proved, in a letter to The Times, that Irishmen contributed far more than their fair share of the Imperial taxation; and therefore, in equity, a large amount was duo to them by way of compensation for past over-contributions. But, even independent of that, the Imperial Government were bound to do all in their power for the benefit of Irish industry, and especially of the Irish fisheries, which had been not only discouraged by this country, but repressed in an arbitrary and cruel manner. There was even a still stronger motive, the motive of self-interest, he might say almost of self-preservation. The chief portion of our food supplies came from America, which some years ago put such heavy taxation upon goods of English manufacture that very little of them found their way into that country. We had, therefore, to send nearly all gold to America for our food supplies; and this ho ventured to think that even the most enthusiastic Free Trader would admit was rather a losing game for England. But suppose a dearth occurred or a war broke out, which prevented those supplies from coming over, in what a position should we be We should have starvation staring us in the face, and all for not having spent seine money on what might furnish us with ample quantities of good and wholesome food. There was also at the present moment considerable alarm about the great decrease of the North Sea fisheries, which constituted our chief source of supply. Therefore, it was matter of considerable importance for England to do all she could to develop the Irish fisheries. There was another point on which he wished to touch. The 11th clause of the Bill provided that the Commissioners might, when they saw fit, defray the entire cost of any harbour. That would 1057 dispense with the condition requiring that, at least, a fourth should be raised by local subscriptions, the effect of which was, according to the Report of the Royal Commission on Irish Sea Fisheries in 1870, that harbours were not constructed in the most suitable places, because the people were often too poor to raise any portion of the money, and there was not sufficient interest felt in the fisheries to induce the cesspayers to contribute. When he was an Inspector of Fisheries a harbour was recommended to be made in a certain county at a cost of £2,000, the local subsidy being £500. About two miles distant a much more suitable harbour could be constructed for £1,500; but the local contribution could not be raised. These local contributions depended pretty much on the' temper of the lord of the soil. If the harbour would be useful to him for yachting purposes he would contribute. A further clause gave power to appoint four unpaid Commissioners to represent the different Provinces, and to be associated with the paid Inspectors for carrying out the Bill. It would be desirable to have such a control exercised over the Department in the manner his Bill provided for. The Chief Secretary's time was so much occupied with other matters that he could not possibly attend to the fisheries; and it would be a great advantage to introduce an unpaid element into the Fisheries' Department. In conclusion, he would express the hope that as the Bill was promoted in the interest of the most hard working, the most enduring, and the most deserving portion of the people, the right hon. Gentleman would give an affirmative reply to his Motion for the second reading of the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Blake.)
THE O'GORMAN MAHON
said, that the hon. Member who had just concluded his speech had expressed a hope that those Members whose knowledge of the subject would be able to influence the House would do their best to press this Bill on the Government. On the part of his constituents he tendered his thanks to the hon. Member; but he was, at the same time, obliged to acknowledge that the hon. Member's speech was of so exhaustive character that there was little 1058 left to say. There had been no point omitted or neglected in the hon. Member's speech, and no point which was not sustained in a vigorous and powerful manner. The peculiar formation of the county which he (The O'Gorman Mahon) represented rendered it almost a matter of duty that he should stand up on behalf of the Bill. The county of Clare was surrounded by water on three sides. On the East, the South, and the South-East it was bounded by the River Shannon, and on the West by the Atlantic Ocean. It was united to Ireland simply by a neck of land; and if a short trench were dug from Scariff, in the County of Clare, to Kinvarra, in Galway, it would be rendered a complete island, holding no communication, except that artificially effected by bridges, with the rest of the Kingdom. Under these circumstances, the necessity of harbours for the fishermen was so obvious that, as an humble Representative of that proud county, he felt an extreme interest in and a desire to support this Bill. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would take this question into consideration in a business-like way, instead of giving soft words and futile promises, and that English Gentlemen, no matter from what division of the country they came, would see the necessity of urging upon the Government that this Bill should be read a second time. If the proposals contained in it were carried out it would give a guarantee of peace, tranquillity, and order, which no Coercion Bill ever could effect, for coercion led to irritation and excitement. The employment of the poor, and the prosperity resulting from that employment, would be the best guarantee for the peace and harmony of the country. The form of the County Clare, as he had said, was very peculiar, and there were several harbours there already, both on the Shannon and on the Atlantic side; but they were comparatively useless. The inhabitants of this territory naturally depended on the fisheries to an unusual extent; and he need not point out the necessity of providing them with suitable harbours, but none such at present existed; and their most profitable industry was, therefore, pursued at a great disadvantage. In fact, the deep-sea fishery, the development of which was of the utmost importance to the people of this district, could scarcely be carried on at all, owing to the natural 1059 obstacles in the way of the fishermen. No breakwater existed, and there were no facilities for the reception of the larger vessels which were necessary for deep-sea fishing. The wretched canoes of the peasantry were wicker-work elongated baskets covered with greased skin or hide. He knew them when ho was a boy, for he had spent many a night out in them with his father's fishermen tenantry; and he learned there lessons of the industrious character of the people which would never be effaced from his recollection. The cry was continually raised in England that Irishmen were lazy, indolent, thriftless; but these poor people worked all night long with nothing between them and the bottom of the ocean but a hide-covered wicker basket, for the purpose of obtaining subsistence for themselves and their families. There was not a more hard-working and industrious population anywhere; but they were poor, and what they wanted were facilities for obtaining beats and harbours, because at present they dare not venture far off for fear of being blown into the Atlantic; whereas, if they had fishing loggers, they would be able to face a contrary breeze. He sincerely trusted that the Bill would receive the support of the House, and that the two hon. Gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench (Mr. Trovelyan and Mr. Courtney) would assist the Prime Minister, who always desired to do all he could for Ireland. At Knee, the place with which he was connected in Clare, there was ample opportunity for the formation of a good harbour; and if an engineer went down with him ho would point out the mode in which a harbour could be built, which would not only be of service to fishermen, but might, in the future, offer shelter to the ships of Her Majesty's Navy; and the necessary works need not be very expensive. On the opposite side of the Shannon an excellent harbour could also be made at Carrigaholt, an historic place, from which there departed at one time those Irishmen who at Fontenoy showed Englishmen how Irishmen could fight. The gallantry of the Irish Brigade defeated the British Forces in that hard-fought battle, and elicited from an English King the utterance of his memorable curse on the vile Penal Laws which drove such chivalrous soldiers into the ranks of England's enemies. 1060 History, it was said, repeated itself. Do not insist on banishing Irishmen from their native land. This coast was the seat of mountains of wealth rolling along for miles; but without sufficient appliances the people could not avail themselves of that source of wealth. It was a favourite imputation that Irishmen were lazy; that they lacked the self-acting principle; that they were indolent; but give them the opportunity of earning their bread well and honestly at home, and put a stop to the present exodus of people from a country which they loved, and very beneficial results would soon manifest themselves; and so they might avert the recurrence of a similar catastrophe. A judicious outlay, such as was recommended in this Bill, would do much. They demanded no money from the English taxpayer; it was their own money they wanted to expend; and was it not a humiliation to be obliged to come over to an English Parliament and ask for permission to spend their own money in furtherance of the welfare of their own country?
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
said, that the hon. Member who moved the second reading of the Bill had referred to the East Coast of Scotland as an example to be follewed in Ireland. The hon. Member alluded to the evidence recently given before the Committee now sitting on the Harbour Accommodation of the United Kingdom, to the effect that there were a great many harbours on the East Coast of Scotland. These harbours were to be held up as an example to be avoided rather than followed. It was quite true that along the East Coast of Scotland there was an infinity of harbours; but these were all small harbours, dry at low water, and, indeed, with the exception of Aberdeen, Buckie, Fraserburgh, and Peterhead, there was not a really proper fishing harbour along that coast. If he thought that this Bill was to promote the formation of harbours of that description, which were dry at low water, he certainly could not give it his support. It was absolutely necessary—and ho believed might well be made an absolute condition of the giving or lending of any Government money—that harbours to be constructed by its aid should have a considerable depth of water at low spring tide. The hon. Member proposed to apply £250,000 to 1061 improving some 70 harbours. That would not do very much on 70 harbours, and he would rather see the £250,000 expended on some 15 or 20 good jobs. Big beats were necessary to work the fisheries properly in the stormy waters of the Atlantic; and they could not use big beats without harbours having a sufficient amount of water to give them shelter at all states of the tide. What was wanted was a number of good deep harbours, into which the beats could run when they were overtaken by the terrible storms which rage in that ocean. These people could not go out in small boats to prosecute their fishing with any prospect of success. It had been stated yesterday, in the Committee on Harbour Accommodation, on which he was sitting, that during all the troublous times in Ireland there had not been a single case of crime brought home to the fishing population. They had, all through, been the most orderly and most loyal portion of the population; and that alone should have some weight with English and Scottish Members in inducing them to support the Bill. He believed it was the fact that on the 2,500 miles of Irish Coast there were only 82 lights. That was an additional reason for doing something, as lights and harbours went very much together. He should vote for the second reading of the Bill, not that he would thereby pledge himself to all its details, but because he believed that one of the most pressing needs of Ireland was an extension of her harbours. He believed that it was perfectly impossible to estimate the advantage which would he gained by that country through the development of her resources—in the relief of distress, in the provision of good food to her people, and in the general advance of the orderly and quiet state of the country.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, he felt it to be his duty, as an Irish Representative, to give the Preamble of the Bill his hearty support, though the Bill itself would require considerable amendment. A part of his county faced the sea, and a number of men there were engaged in the fishing industry. During the prevalence of North-East or North-West winds, however, they could not go out, owing to the want of harbours where they could put in during stress of weather. People who endeavoured to 1062 assist themselves deserved to be assisted, and this was true of the fishing population in several parts of Ireland. In the town which he represented the people were, at the present moment, expending some £60,000 or £70,000 in endeavouring to make safer places of refuge for fishing beats on the Coast, as well as to increase the navigable powers of the River Bann, and to make it more easy of access. The Irish Society, too, which was so often abused, had contributed to this object the munificent sum of £30,000. Considering all the circumstances of the case, he hoped the Government would take a favourable view of the Bill.
§ MR. O'SHEA
said, he should support the Bill of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake), whose exertions in the cause of Irish fishermen ought to be fully recognized. He wished to explain, in reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), that their ideas on the West Coast of Ireland were very much more moderate than the ambitious schemes which found favour in Scotland; and when the hon. Member advised that the number of the harbours which it was proposed to deal with should be reduced, he was unaware that although these were called harbours, yet in many cases they were little more than creeks. Three small works had been done at a cost respectively of £600, £300, and £250, near to the places mentioned by his hon. Colleague (The O'Gorman Mahon), which had raised the inhabitants of these districts from a condition of penury into a very comfortable state. He was very glad, indeed, that the hon. Member for Berwickshire had borne testimony to the character of the men for whose sakes the House was asked to pass this Bill. Before the men in these three places got the grant they were almost wholly without beats or gear of any kind; but directly they got the grant, which was given with the most scrupulous care and judgment, they set to work, and the great catch to which the Prince of Wales alluded yesterday was made. Immediately they got that catch, the men, without spending anything on themselves, set to work to pay their debts and their rents. With regard to these little creeks, a great many of them could only be used at certain states of the tide, because of the rocks outside, 1063 where even the little native canoes could not pass; but if these creeks were improved, and employed as they could be for a small outlay, the inhabitants would be able to fish three or four times the length of time they were able to do so at present. He sincerely trusted the Treasury would not stand in the way of this Bill being accepted, seeing that it was supported by all shades of Irish opinion in the House. It was only two or three days ago he was talking to a very distinguished foreigner on the subject; and, after explaining to him the unprotected state of the County Clare, and the total want of fishing harbours, the gentleman replied that, generalizing from such details as those, he could well understand the difficulties of the Irish Question.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, he desired to add a few words to the entirely unanimous accord which had hitherto characterized the debate in support of the main principles of the Bill. He wished, as far as he could, to give his hearty support to the measure. It would be impossible, either for himself or for anyone else, to add to the fulness or force of the statements made by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake), especially having regard to his great experience on the subject; and he certainly could add nothing to the appeals made by the hon. Member for Clare (Mr. O'Shea), on behalf of those desolate and, he might almost say, desert places which the great O'Connell used to describe as "the parishes which lie next to America," and which, in the view of extracting wealth from the soil, were placed in most unfavourable circumstances. But if on dry land Nature had been somewhat stingy to these sea-bordered counties, she had been prolific in the supply of a great amount of food for the people in the sea itself. These were great sources of food and wealth, which might be utilized in their interest, and the interest of the people of other parts of the Kingdom. He wished to make a contribution to this debate from his own personal experience. He had spent a great part of his life in the County of Clare, the Kingdom of Kerry, the County of Galway, and the other counties on the Atlantic sea-board; and he could say it was true that there were ample 'opportunities for forming harbours which would be sufficient for the 1064 purpose of encouraging deep-sea fishing enterprize there. At present there existed hardly any harbours at all which were suitable for that purpose. The fishing population of these districts were hardy, industrious, and brave people, who were willing to face great risks; but the risks they at present had to encounter were, to a great extent, prohibitive of successful fishing operations there on a large scale. It was impossible to have proper fishing-beats without harbours into which those beats could run. As a matter of fact, the canoes were good enough for fine weather and fair seas; but it was most dangerous, almost amounting to certain destruction, to venture out in them when the weather was beisterous. He was sure it was correct to say that the takes of fish might be increased six-fold if only the people had proper harbours and proper ships. It was a happy coincidence that on the very day when this unprecedented unanimity was witnessed on the part of the Irish Members, there should appear in the leading journal the admirable speech which was delivered yesterday by the Heir to the Throne, at the Fisheries Exhibition, and which was composed by his brother, the Duke of Edinburgh. In that speech the case of the Irish fisheries was thus put with great force—This, I think, is a remarkable proof of the benefits which might accrue to the inhabitants of the Atlantic sea-board of Ireland, if they could be induced to adopt fishing as a means of livelihood, instead of only pursuing it in an intermittent fashion. To follow the fisheries on these coasts, however, well-found vessels of sufficient size arc necessary to contend with the Atlantic seas.This was precisely the difficulty which stood in the way, and which this Bill sought to remove. There was no want of courage or willingness on the part of the population, nor was there any want of material in the shape of fish. All that was really wanted was a not very great amount of assistance in the way of money, for the purpose of constructing harbours in proper places. Under the existing law, it was necessary, in order to got a contribution for the formation of a harbour, that there should be a subscription raised on the spot; but it was often impossible to do this in the very places where harbours were most wanted. Difficulties might arise as to some of the provisions of this Bill; but he sincerely trusted that the Govern- 1065 ment would see their way to adopting the principle of it, and that they would hold out a hope that before long they would be able to give effect to the very useful policy which the measure proposed.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
assured Irish Members that he should not detain the House for more than a few moments, inasmuch as very little required to be said. The case was a very strong one, and had been most clearly stated; but he should just like to state that the experience he had gained in Ireland made him anxious that the House should pass the second reading of this measure. He trusted the Government would take the same view. The facts really lay in a nutshell. There was great poverty on the West Coast of Ireland, and there was enormous wealth. There was sufficient fish there to prevent the poverty, and there were the fishermen there to catch it. Yet there was hardly any chance of their being able to catch it, because they had no harbours. The whole matter was really quite clear. He had often heard it stated that this was rather against the Irish character, because there were these fish and the fishermen did not catch them. If, however, anyone went to the West Coast he would almost wonder that so much fish was caught, in the circumstances, as actually was caught. He did not know any sight in the United Kingdom that was more magnificent than an Atlantic storm at Kilkee; but one was surprised to find that any fishing was possible with the chance of such storms coming on suddenly without any good harbours to which the beats could run. Until the fishermen got big beats there would not be much fishing there. One fact was very encouraging as respects the fishermen, and that was the great success of the Reproductive Fund. This success, he thought, reflected great credit on these poor inhabitants of Ireland. It was an extraordinary fact that almost every penny advanced by that fund had been repaid. The circumstance showed a great deal of industry, as well as a great deal of honesty, as the fishermen must have worked hard to be able to fulfil their engagements. The question arose as to how these harbours were to be made. His hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) said there was an Irish Fund which might supply 1066 the money required. He did not think the House could resist the appeal to make use of that fund. There might, perhaps, be some doubt as to whether there was such a fund disposable, although he himself believed there was a surplus left. As to the harbours themselves, he admitted that the history of the Irish fisheries, and the conduct of the rest of the Kingdom towards Ireland in the matter, made the claim more than usually strong; but he did not think it would be to the advantage of Ireland to introduce the principle of gifts from the Treasury for this purpose to any large extent. On the other hand, for fisheries as well as for any other development of Irish resources, he should be inclined to lend liberally, and to lend at a low rate of interest, whenever security could be obtained. In the present case, however, it was asked that the expense might be taken from a fund, that might be said really to belong to Ireland; but unless some considerable sums of money were spent there was no chance of anything satisfactory being done. The small sums that were given year by year by the Treasury had not the remotest chance of relieving the districts. He did not think the Treasury ought to be blamed for it, because, after all, they were but the custodians of the chest of the taxpayers of the country. He did not pledge himself to every detail of the Bill, although he confessed it seemed to be carefully drawn up; but he hoped the House would pass the second reading.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, that upon the Harbours Commission, of which he was a Member, an Inspector, the best-informed official who came before them, gave evidence to the effect that he had been for 38 years constantly engaged in supervising the fishermen, especially on the West Coast of Ireland; that there were more than 21,000 men on the register, representing a population much exceeding 100,000 persons; and that during those 38 years there had not been a single conviction for crime amongst them. That was a fact of the most remarkable kind with regard to the people themselves. The Inspector strongly advocated the construction of harbours; and the most striking fact with reference to the harbour accommodation that came before the Committee related to the place on the Shannon, 1067 —Carrigaholt—which had been mentioned that day. With respect to it, the Inspector said that if there were a harbour made there, at a cost of £10,000, the increase in the value of the fish taken would be £100,000 a-year. He (Mr. Arnold) asked the Inspector whether the people would not be willing to find security for a charge of £400 a-year to meet the cost; but he answered that he thought it would be impossible, as there was no town population where the harbour was required, upon whose rates the loan could be charged. He made it plain to the Committee, however, that it would be very desirable that fishing boats should be chargeable with dues in the harbours to be constructed. He showed that if harbours were constructed, it was probable that beats of large size and safer build would make use of them, and that the dues would very easily recoup the expenditure. The impression he (Mr. Arnold) had derived from the evidence given before the Committee had set him strongly against grants of public money or loans, which were no better than grants, because there was no expectation of paying them. But the Bill simply asked that the Irish people should deal with a portion of the Church Surplus by the agency of persons, who should determine whether the money should be advanced either by grant or by loan. Under these circumstances, the Bill ought to receive the support of the House.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, that in the last Parliament he appealed to the late Prime Minister to utilize the great majority he had at his command to assist, in some measure, the material resources of Ireland. Unfortunately, that had not been done; and here they were, at this day, considering a measure which, he thought, would render great assistance to the people of that country. He desired to bear testimony to the thrift and industry of the Irish fishing population, having heard those qualities highly spoken of by men who had had personal experience of them. The Irish fishermen, on the evidence of Mr. Brady, were persons devoid of criminal propensities; and the Duke of Edinburgh had stated that, in examining the Naval Reserves of the Second Class, he found no more well-conducted men than those who had been engaged in the Irish sea-fishing. Unfortunately, the boats and. gear of these fishermen were insufficient to enable them to 1068 reap the abundant harvest of fish which was always to be obtained off the Coast of Ireland; and it was the duty of the House to see that they were assisted in that direction. The necessity for harbours was also very great; and he was sure that if the fishermen of Ireland were properly encouraged they would add largely to the national wealth. He agreed that the Irish Church Surplus could not be better applied than in increasing the comforts and well-being of the Irish people, and in developing the resources of the country; and for that reason he should cordially support the Bill.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he felt great difficulty in saying a word which would at all disturb the unanimity of sentiment which had hitherto prevailed in this discussion, especially when he considered the nature of the suggestion which formed the main part of the Bill. The Bill practically proposed that the sum of £250,000, forming part of the Irish Church Surplus, should be handed over to a mixed body of Commissioners, and distributed by them, partly by grants and partly by loans, in improving the harbours round the Coast of Ireland. It was said the Fund in question was an Irish Fund, and the application was supported with unanimity as far as they had heard; and they had, besides, received the very valuable support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). The hon. and gallant Member for Clare (The O'Gorman Mahon) said it was a humiliation that Irishmen should come here to ask the allocation of an Irish Fund to a strictly Irish purpose. He (Mr. Courtney) hoped he should say nothing to intensify that feeling of humiliation; and he should, as far as possible, approach the subject as if he were an Irishman. Speaking from that point of view, he hoped to be able to submit to the House reasons which would convince them that it would be imprudent and inexpedient to assent to the second reading of the Bill; and he hoped, further, to be able to persuade the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake)—whose real and self-denying efforts in this cause must have excited the admiration of all—that it would be expedient that the Bill should be withdrawn. [Mr. WARTON: Oh!] Perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Brid- 1069 port would listen to what he had to say. The hon. Member for Waterford said there could be no doubt whatever as to the capacity of the Irish Church Surplus Fund to meet the proposed grant of £250,000. Now, he (Mr. Courtney) was ready to admit that if the Fund could be maintained against attacks made upon it from time to time for appropriations, it would be sufficient to make such a grant; although the sources of supply were not so absolutely secure as they could wish. The revenue derived, and which would be necessary to support the charges already incurred, was not absolutely unassailable; and although he hoped they would keep intact those sources which fed the Fund, and on the maintenance of which alone the existing charges could be defrayed, yet ho must own they would have some difficulty in repelling the demands made for the diminution of the sources of supply. If it were quite clear they had this money in hand, it became a necessary preparatory condition that they should take into account what other demands might be made upon the fund, and compare the relative importance of the demands so made. For, after all, this was only a limited demand, made in the interests of a particular class—the fishermen of the maritime counties of Ireland. They ought, then, to consider this claim in relation to other demands—to the perfectly natural demand for a portion of the Surplus for the development of intermediate education; to the agitation for an increase of their stipends and pensions which was now raised by the teachers of the national schools; to the demand for assistance for the development of railways in the West of Ireland; to that for the extension of arterial drainage in Ireland; and other claims which were continually coming upon the Treasury. They were bound to look into these matters before they could proceed to give this £250,000. The hon. Member for Waterford might say that this line of argument encouraged him to persevere, lest, in the general scramble for allocations of the Fund, he should be left out; but he (Mr. Courtney) would suggest that the Representatives of Ireland should meet together and discuss this question, and come to a determination among themselves as to which of these claims ought to have precedence and preference. 1070 There was, moreover, no direction or instruction given in the Bill as to the way in which the grant should be distributed. There had been no attempt made to fix the principles on which those harbours should be assisted, if assistance was in itself desirable or necessary. The whole thing was thrown haphazard into the hands of the Commissioners to do just what they liked. To turn, however, to what he thought was a conclusive reason why this allocation should not he conceded, they had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks), Chairman of the Harbours Committee of the House, now sitting, and the speech of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold), a Member of the same Committee; and, while both hon. Gentlemen expressed their intention of supporting the Bill, they had, in stating their experience of that Committee, in his opinion given very cogent reasons why the Bill should not, at all events at present, be supported. He should have thought that, before consenting to this grant, it would be necessary, first, to complete the work of the Select Committee on Harbours, to ascertain the present condition of the harbours of the country, what were their several needs, and in what way they could be best improved. What they wanted was to develop the deep sea fisheries of Ireland; and, in order to do that, they must have thoroughly good boats and harbours to run into at all states of the tide. That was a matter which required more consideration than he feared they could give to it on the floor of the House. But the hon. Member for Berwickshire had said that if they were to take this £250,000 and distribute it over the 60 or 70 harbours of Ireland, they would not succeed in making one good harbour—all that would be done would be simply to provide landings and piers useful when the tide was at its height.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
said, he certainly did not state that the spending of £250,000 would not result in the construction of one good harbour. What he said was that he should prefer to see the money spent on 15 or 20 harbours, because he did not think 70 good jobs could be made out of £250,000.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that was precisely what he understood, and be was 1071 endeavouring to reproduce it. The design of this Bill was to spend this money among 70 harbours. [cries of "No!"]
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that these 70 harbours had been recommended by the Fishery Inspectors, who would be the working Members of this mixed Commission; but, at all events, he submitted that they ought, first of all, to complete the work which the Committee on Harbours had in hand before they handed over this sum of money to a Commission uninstructed, without knowledge, and without ascertaining the principles of distribution. As a mere matter of business, if an Irish Assembly were going to give £250,000, it would prescribe conditions upon which that Committee should distribute the money. The particular conditions under which this money would be distributed were in dispute. They would have to prescribe what style of harbours they were going to build, the kind of beats they were going to provide, and the kind of fisheries they wore going to encourage.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, they did not put these things in the Bill; but they would have to ascertain them, and settle their principle of action, before they created an Executive Commission, and gave them the money to apply it as they pleased. The Select Committee now sitting would give the House their conclusions, which would, no doubt, be disposed to carry out their recommendations. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and the hon. and learned Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) knew, from their experience of Select Committees, that the House had allowed the carrying out of the recommendations of Select Committees, when they had ascertained the modes of action most desirable to adopt. He was surprised at the speech of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold); and, for his own part, he had attempted to look at this question as an Irish Member. ["Oh!"] He appealed to hon. Members opposite whether he had not done so? Looking at this question as one of 1072 themselves, he was convinced that it would be imprudent to pass this Bill. He might discuss it, if they wished to do so, in another way; and he might remind the House that there was that underlying fundamental question, whether it was desirable to make such grants at all? It would be very foolish if he attempted to conceal his own view, since, as he might remind the House, on a former occasion, when he was in a position of more freedom and less responsibility, as hon. Gentlemen opposite well knew, he had expressed his opinions as to the inexpediency of making grants. What he had said were his own opinions; but he should mislead the House if he stated they were the opinions of all in authority. They desired to approach the question with open minds; but they wanted to be instructed, as the Select Committee now sitting would instruct them, as to the way this problem should be dealt with. At present there was merely a haphazard proposal; and the House wanted information and instruction from the labours of the Select Committee. He certainly thought it would be most injudicious to pass the Bill; and he, therefore, hoped the hon. Member for Waterford would not press the second reading.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, ho thought the Secretary to the Treasury must be of a very sanguine mind if he had a vestige of hope that the hon. Member for Waterford would withdraw his Bill. When the hon. Gentleman endeavoured to speak as an Irishman, he set a very high ideal before him, and his small measure of success was not to be wondered at, for it was an ideal that was not to be achieved in a moment. This was not a question of yesterday or to-day; but the history of the country, its geographical position, and the whole circumstances surrounding it showed that the question of dealing with the fisheries was one of the first moment. These fisheries were of great value, and might be made of still greater value; and it was a misfortune that the people who got the least value out of them were the Irish people themselves. It was therefore important that any fair, well-considered, and prudent measure on the subject should receive full attention. The present measure was not a large or ambitious measure. No one in the country was entitled to speak upon 1073 the subject with greater authority than his hon. Friend, who had devoted much attention to it, and had, moreover, for some years held an important office in connection with the Irish fisheries. The Secretary to the Treasury bad advanced no arguments against the substance of this Bill, the main objects of which were simply to create a Fishery Board of Commissioners, to be selected by the Irish Executive—that was to say, upon the authority of the Lord Lieutenant; and this Board was to decide upon the best mode of administering the objects of the Bill. The Bill did not propose to lay down what the Commissioners were to do. If the Bill was too wide and elastic in its terms, that was a matter which might be dealt with in Committee. Then the Commissioners so appointed by the Lord Lieutenant required the sanction of the Irish Executive to the works they proposed to carry out. There was, therefore, a check upon the appointments of the Commissioners, and also a check upon the mode in which the works were to be carried out. The Bill did not propose to give a single shilling by way of subvention to any person in Ireland; but merely sought to create a fund to enable piers and harbours to be provided for fishermen. Upon the question of finances, there was a Surplus arising from the Irish Church Fund, after satisfying the claims under the Arrears Act, of about £1,200,000; and a portion of this Surplus it was proposed to apply for the purposes of this Bill. If the Government were not prepared to consent to the application of this Surplus Fund for the purpose, the people of Ireland were quite willing to take the money from Imperial funds, if that would better suit the views of the Government. This, however, was a matter of detail, which did not interfere with the principle of the Bill. He felt sure the Chief Secretary would do his best to give a favourable consideration to every part of the Bill, reserving the right to introduce in Committee such Amendments as he thought necessary in order to make the Bill workable. He hoped the Bill would be read a second time, even if it were only for the purpose of expressing a distinct declaration of opinion that every encouragement ought to be given to the Irish fisheries; and afterwards they could avail themselves of 1074 the lights and experience that might be given to them by the Report of the Committee now sitting on Harbours.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
said, he entirely approved of the scope and principles of the Bill, and hoped the House would assent to its second reading. He feared our statesmen had not begun to realize the national importance of this question of providing shelter for those hardy men who supplied us with food, and who might form the basis of our Naval Reserve. In any aspect they liked to take of this question, he was sure it was one of national importance; and he was surprised to hear the Secretary to the Treasury—and he feared that speech was an illustration of what he had just said—that our statesmen had not yet begun to realize the national importance of the question. He did not say this Bill was perfect. There might be some clauses capable of amendment; and if hon. Members would choose to extend the Proviso as to the financial part of the Bill, he was ready, for one, to aid them in that. If the Surplus Fund was not sufficient, ho, for one, would be ready to vote for the payment of the necessary money out of the Consolidated Fund. He hoped the Government would waive their opposition to the Bill.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, he would not intrude long in the discussion; but as he was largely responsible for advising the House in a matter of this kind, he felt it was his duty to say a few words. It appeared to him that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had placed the question, to a great extent, upon a fair footing. He had practically said he would be happy if he could take this money from the Consolidated Fund; but he was conscious that that was impossible; and he might have gone on to finish his sentence by the remark that that would not be in the power of the House on the present occasion. If this Bill proposed to take £250,000 from the Consolidated Funds for the purpose of the construction of harbours, it would not be possible for the House to pass the second reading of this Bill without the previous consent of the Crown. Therefore, he thought the right hon. and learned Gentleman had put the case on its proper footing 1075 when he said that this was simply a proposal to deal in a certain way with the Surplus of the Irish Church Funds, provided that Surplus existed; and even this he qualified by saying he thought the House, in passing the second reading, would be merely expressing the general opinion that, assuming the works were required and fund sufficient, this was not an unreasonable measure. He (Mr. Childers) was able to go somewhat further than his hon. Friend (Mr. Courtney). He had always been in favour of some special form of assistance to Irish fisheries, and had expressed that opinion in his days of freedom from Office. While, therefore, he entirely concurred in the objections to the details of this Bill which his hon. Friend had so forcibly stated, he was able to say that, provided the Irish Church Fund would bear the proposed charge, the sites for harbours to be assisted were recommended by the Committee now sitting, and in each case approved by the Government. Ho thought the Government ought not, on the question of principle, to object to the second reading of the Bill, but that it was their duty to examine the clauses and amend them before the next stage. Upon that understanding ho would, on behalf of the Government, assent to the second reading. There were details in the Bill as to the constitution of the managing body, the condition of grants and advances, and other matters, with some of which he could not agree, and others which he could not understand; upon these and other questions he must reserve his right of action in Committee.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual good feeling on Irish questions, had assented to the second reading of the Bill, reserving his right of discussing the details in Committee. The Irish' Members were quite as desirous as the Secretary to the Treasury that money coming from the Irish Church Fund should be properly spent, and not frittered away in little jobs on the Coast. They thought the Lord Lieutenant would be able to choose Commissioners from amongst the Inspectors of Irish Fisheries, who would be able to point out the harbours that should be dealt with. He would not detain the House further than to express, on behalf of himself and the other Irish Members, his great pleasure 1076 at the attitude which the Government had taken on this question.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.