§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
, in moving, in page 7, line 20, to insert the words, "3 [Cooleen] 10, 11, and 12," said, the Bill which the House was now asked to consider was one of very considerable importance, because it was the first Bill under the provisions of the Labourers' (Ireland) Act, passed last year, which had been tested, and which had not come before the House in a purely formal and unpretentious manner. The Amendment which he had put upon the Paper 1288 was practically a traverse of the decision of the Committee which had considered the Bill. He need hardly say that this was a course which he had not taken without very considerable hesitation, particularly as the Committee which had considered the Bill was presided over by such a staunch friend of popular rights as the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). But as many representations had been made to him on the subject by the gentlemen belonging to the locality to which the Bill applied, and after a careful perusal of the evidence, he had come to the conclusion that he had no course open to him except to oppose the decision which had been arrived at by the Committee. In order to explain the nature of the case to Members of the House generally it would be necessary for him to make a few observations upon the Labourers (Ireland) Act of last year. As everybody knew, under that Act it was necessary that representations should be made to the Board of Guardians by no less than 12 ratepayers as to the necessity for the erection of labourers' cottages, and this representation having undergone investigation before it could be accepted the Board of Guardians were enabled then to prepare a scheme. The matter was next brought before the Local Government Board, who made a Provisional Order for the erection of the dwellings, which Provisional Order was brought forward for the sanction of the House of Commons by an Act of Parliament. These formalities were gone through in the district for which this Bill was promoted. There was a scheme of some largeness proposed for the division of Kilmore, in the Poor Law Union of Nenagh, county Tipperary, and it was proposed by the Guardians to erect 14 new cottages under the provisions of the Act. He assured the House that it was not out of the "lightness of their hearts" that the Guardians of the Nenagh Union decided to erect these cottages, nor was it in any way with a desire to embarrass or annoy the landlord. The erection of these 14 cottages had been decided upon because the medical and sanitary officers, of the district had reported to the Guardians that the houses occupied by the labourers were utterly unfit for human habitation. He wished to dwell particularly on this fact, for a moment, for this reason—that it proved the case of 1289 the promoters of the Bill that there was an urgent necessity for increased accommodation for the labourers of the district. Lord Dunally, who opposed the Bill, had argued that emigration had so thinned the population of the district that there was not a necessity for these cottages; and he further stated that for that and other reasons he had himself dismissed a considerable number of his own labourers, and that, as a matter of fact, instead of there being more labourers than houses, there were more houses than labourers. However, the medical officer of the district reported that there was a necessity for the erection of 14 additional cottages in order to afford habitable and sanitary accommodation for the labourers of the district; and in support of this point he might quote a passage from the evidence of Mr. Bourke, the Local Government Board Inspector, an officer whose impartiality in the matter he did not believe would be questioned. Mr. Bourke was asked this question by a Member of the Committee—What is your opinion about this district; do you think there is a necessity for cottages; I want your opinion?The witness replied—I have not the slightest doubt that the present accommodation of the great majority of the labourers is such as no one would tolerate.He thought that evidence of the Inspector of the Local Government Board, taken in conjunction with the Report of the medical and sanitary officer of the district, showed that the Board of Guardians had a perfectly just right to propose some additional accommodation for the labourers. The scheme was accordingly prepared on the 6th of November, 1883, for the erection of 14 cottages; and on the 16th of February, 1884, there was an inquiry held by the Local Government Board, under the supervision of Mr. Bourke, and the result of it was that on the 10th of May the Local Government Board announced their decision to reject six of the cottages, and to allow the remaining eight to remain. This fact showed that the Local Government Board, as might have been anticipated, had made a thorough, searching, and honest inquiry into the matter. The Local Government Board did not pass the scheme in its entirety; but they had exercised a very close discrimination, 1290 and had actually struck out nearly one-half of the cottages proposed. But that fact to his mind, and he thought in the judgment of the House, confirmed the necessity for the remaining eight. The three cottages which were the subject of the present Bill had been approved of by the Local Government Board, and were to be erected at Cooleen, on the property of Lord Dunally. Lord Dunally, against whom he desired to offer no observations, as his whole complaint was simply directed to the unreasonable nature of the opposition—Lord Dunally from the first expressed a determined hostility to the erection of any additional cottages in this district at all. He thought it would readily be gathered from the statements which Lord Dunally had made from time to time on every occasion when the question was raised, that in his opinion there was no necessity for erecting additional cottages at all. Lord Dunally had been asked by the Guardians, who were in no way desirous of acting in opposition to him, to send his bailiff in order that they might confer with him as to the selection of the site that would be the best, so far as the property was concerned, for the erection of the cottages; but he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) understood that Lord Dunally refused this offer on the part of the Board of Guardians. He refused to send his bailiff to confer with the Guardians, and left it to the Board themselves to select a proper site. There was another point which he wished to bring before the notice of the House. The local inquiry held by Mr. Bourke was attended by Lord Dunally. Lord Dunally made objections to the scheme. He objected to four out of the 14 proposed new cottages as being likely to injure his property. Those four were rejected. He offered no evidence in regard to the other three, such as he alleged in his Petition against the Bill; and, as a matter of fact, his hostility to those cottages arose long after the decision of the Local Government Board was arrived at. It was most unfortunate that a nobleman, or anybody else, should put a Board of Guardians like this to serious expense, when every single farthing spent must necessarily fall upon the ratepayers of the district. He thought that Lord Dunally ought to have displayed more fixedness of purpose in such a matter. Why did he not object 1291 to the four cottages when the question was brought before the Local Government Board? Surely he knew that he might expect full justice at the hands of Mr. Bourke and the Local Government Board; because, as a matter of fact, the four cottages to which Lord Dunally objected as being inconvenient so far as the position of the property was concerned, had been rejected by the Local Government Board. He did not wish to give expression to any opinion as to the action of this nobleman in the matter which would in the smallest degree prejudice the case in the eyes of any Member of the House; but he would merely state that he thought Lord Dunally might have given full expression to his views while the inquiry was taking place. The inclusion of the three cottages at Cooleen could only be put down to the neglect of Lord Dunally, who ought to have raised his objection at the proper time. A further point was this. Lord Dunally now tools; up this position—that he did not object to the erection of three additional cottages, but that he objected to their erection on this particular piece of ground. Now, in the first place, he would point out that it was not until the 9th of April, 1884, or two months after the inquiry before Mr. Bourke, on the part of the Local Government Board, was concluded, that Lord Dunally offered his alternative scheme. This was the second occasion on which he should be able to show that Lord Dunally had made an unreasonable delay in putting forward his demands upon the Board of Guardians. In the first place, he did not object to the erection of these three cottages at the proper moment—namely, while the inquiry of the Local Government Board was proceeding; and, secondly, he did not propose his alternative scheme until two months after the inquiry was concluded. And then what was the offer which was made by Lord Dunally? It was this—"I have three cottages vacant in the same townland. They are now uninhabited, and have fallen into a dilapidated state on account of there being no persons to occupy them. I am quite ready to give these up to the Guardians." But Lord Dunally ought to have known from his legal advisers that the Board of Guardians had no authority, under the Labourers' Act of last year, to accept his proposals. Able as he was, the learned 1292 counsel who represented the Guardians before the Committee, he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) did not think he had made himself sufficiently upon clear this point to them—namely, that the Labourers' Act of last year contemplated the erection of new cottages, but did not contemplate the purchase of existing cottages. As a matter of fact, the Supplementary Bill which had been proposed by the Irish Members last year to amend the Labourers' Act, but which was rejected by the Government, contained a Proviso giving powers to Boards of Guardians to purchase and repair existing and dilapidated cottages, instead of incurring the expense of erecting new ones; but no such Proviso was to be found in the existing Act. He trusted that he had made this point sufficiently clear to the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who presided over the Committee —namely, that the offer of Lord Dunally to give up these three cottages was an offer which the Board of Guardians were legally precluded from accepting.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
remarked that the Board of Guardians were not precluded from taking the land on which the cottages stood.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was not sure whether the Guardians had the right to take the land upon which these dilapidated cottages stood. As a matter of fact, the cottages which Lord Dunally wished the Guardians to accept had not the necessary plot of land attached to them; and he had declined to give it with them. The first occasion upon which he had offered to do so, was during the inquiry before the Committee of the House of Commons. The original offer was not an offer of land, but of three dilapidated cottages, which the Board of Guardians were precluded from accepting by the provisions of the enactment of last year. The next step was the inquiry before the Committee of the House of Commons; and when the Committee of the House of Commons met for the first time, this offer was made which the hon. Baronet seemed to regard as a reason why the proposition made by the Board of Guardians should be refused. He thought this was the third instance in which he had shown that Lord Dunally was guilty of unreasonable delay. He must say that the very essence of the provisions of the 1293 Labourers' Act wag that the proceedings nnder it should be conducted as economically as possible, as the ratepayers were to be taxed for the erection of these cottages; and opinion was united in Ireland as to the fact that one shilling a-week was as much as an agricultural labourer could afford to pay for a residence. It would, therefore, be seen that it was most important the cost of their erection should minimized as much as possible. If unnecessary expense were placed in the way of carrying out the provisions of the Act, the Act itself was rendered as nugatory as if it had never received the sanction of the two Houses of Parliament. Now, what did the Committee of the House of Commons do? He had made no reflection upon Lord Dunally, still less did he feel called upon to make any reflection upon the Committee; but he must express his astonishment that the very first appearance of anything like weakness where popular rights were concerned should have come from a man like the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who had stood up so manfully, and almost alone, even against his Party, to protest against the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. Surely, after the determination which the hon. Baronet had displayed on that occasion he ought to have been able to hold his own against three or four Members of his own Committee. The hon. Baronet would, he was certain, make better fighting were the case one for the rights of the Egyptian people; and, therefore, taking the matter as it stood, he might be pardoned for suggesting that the hon. Baronet had been a little "weak-kneed" upon this occasion. He should have thought, however, that the hon. Baronet would have taken his stand for the labourer's cottages at Cooleen just as firmly as he had for the rights of the Egyptian people and Arabi Pasha. What had the Committee done? They threw out the scheme for the erection of these three cottages, and allowed the substitution for it of an undertaking by Lord Dunally, that he would provide a site for three cottages in another place. Now, the site which had been put forward by Lord Dunally was a site which he had reason to believe, if it had been originally selected by the Board of Guardians, would have been just as bitterly opposed by his Lordship 1294 as was the present site at Cooleen; and Lord Dunally would have had a far more reasonable ground for objecting to it than he had now, at the eleventh hour, for objecting to the site chosen by the Guardians; because, as a matter of fact, the reason why the site proposed in the Bill had been selected was from an apprehension that if the other site were chosen, it would bring about hostility to the proposals of the Guardians on the part of Lord Dunally-—a result which the Guardians were most anxious to avoid. He would call the attention of the House to the evidence of one of the Guardians, Mr. Joseph Ryan, at page 13 of the Report, Question 181. Mr. Ryan was asked whether some of the cottages offered by Lord Dunally, and the reply was—The three that Lord Dunally offered have no accommodation with them, because that is the part where his Lordship made a large field, taken from the tenants of the adjoining land behind the house; where Lord Dunally is giving these houses, the land was taken from them, and the tenants were compensated. This land is nearly attached to the demesne lands; and that is the reason that the houses were not put on his land, because we considered that it was adjacent to his Lordship's demesne. This other place, where the houses are to be situate, is outside.In other words, the Board of Guardians were anxious to obey the letter and spirit of the Act, one of the distinct provisions of which, moved by the late Attorney General for Ireland, and accepted by the House, was, that cottages should not be erected in such a manner as to interfere with the demesne of the landlord. It was the desire of the Board of Guardians to respect the provisions of the Act of Parliament, and the susceptibilities of Lord Dunally which induced them not to select the site which Lord Dunally now insisted upon them taking. Well, what was now the position? Lord Dunally had given an undertaking that he would provide an alternative site, after putting the Board of Guardians to all this expense and delay most unnecessarily. He would make no comment whatever upon the terms of the undertaking; but he hoped the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would get up and tell the House that it would be distinctly binding upon Lord Dunally. There was a very considerable legal difficulty also in the way of carrying out 1295 the undertaking; and if the learned Solicitor General for Ireland took part in the discussion he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would relieve the minds of the Nenagh Board of Guardians by telling them whether the acceptance of this alternative scheme would not mean a delay of 12 months in the erection of these cottages? He believed that the interpretation of the Act was that whereas the Local Government Board could accept a site for the erection of cottages, and could exclude cottages from the scheme submitted to them, they were precluded from adding or including cottages that were not in the scheme. Now, the cottages proposed by Lord Dunally were not included in the scheme brought before the Local Government Board, and therefore the offer of his Lordship could not be brought within the terms of the Act. If that apprehension were not correct, he hoped that all doubt upon the matter would be removed by the learned Solicitor General for Ireland. He feared, however, that the responsibility would rest with the Chairman and the Members of the Committee of having postponed for a full 12 months the erection of these cottages, which was most urgently and cryingly demanded by the labourers in this district. He now came to his last point. Looking at the matter in this light he regretted that he felt forced to describe the position which the Committee had taken up as distinctly iniquitous. What was the decision of the Committee? He had proved conclusively that all the delay in the matter was due to Lord Dunally—that Lord Dunally had objected to have these cottages provided at all; that there was a delay of two months before he made his alternative proposal; that when it was made it was made in such a manner that the Board of Guardians were precluded legally from accepting it, because the proposal was to supply dilapidated houses, and not land; and, lastly, that unnecessary delay was occasioned by not submitting an alternative offer of houses and land until the Bill was before a Committee of the House of Commons. What had been the result of all this? The result was that the Board of Guardians had been put to an expense nearly amounting to £200, whilst the entire rateable value of the division was only about £3,800; so that the House would 1296 therefore see that the action of Lord Dunally had put the ratepayers to the expense of nearly 1s. in the pound upon the rateable value. And with what result? Now, 1s. in the pound was the maximum which the Guardians had the right or were able to expend in the erection of cottages; so that, as a matter of fact, Lord Dunally had actually put a burden upon the Guardians of expenses for needless litigation, which he was afraid would make it extremely difficult to carry out the scheme at all in this division; because the expenses already incurred were very nearly equal to the full maximum the Board of Guardians were entitled to spend in the erection of these cottages. He believed he had proved that the conduct of Lord Dunally had been most unreasonable and most unfair—that he had interposed unreasonable delay, and brought forward frivolous objections, and had put the Board of Guardians to large and unnecessary expense. He felt bound to tell the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle that, in the face of all these facts, it would, he believed, be most unjust to compel the Guardians to pay one single penny of the costs. Lord Dunally ought to be called upon to pay the whole of them. It was for the purpose of calling attention to these facts that he had put the Amendment which he now moved upon the Notice Paper; and he begged to move the insertion of words which would have the effect of reinstating the three cottages which had received the approval of the Local Government Board, and which he thought the Select Committee had unreasonably and unfairly excluded.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 20, to insert the words, "3 [Cooleen] 10, 11, and 12."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, there were two or three legal points raised by the hon. Gentleman opposite, which he had no doubt the Solicitor General for Ireland would be able to deal with better than he could. But as he had acted as Chairman of the Committee to whom the Bill was referred, it was necessary that he should make a short statement before any of those legal matters were gone into. He was very much obliged to the hon. Member for having given 1297 him formal Notice that he intended to raise a discussion, so that an opportunity might be afforded to him of explaining. He could assure the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) that he and his fellow Members of the Committee had entered upon the inquiry with a full desire that equal justice should be done to all parties, As regarded himself, he might add that he was always ready to act justly towards Lord Dunally, or the Egyptians, or the Irish, or anyone else. He had treated the question entirely upon its merits. Perhaps his best course in dealing with the remarks of the hon. Member would be to read a short statement of what really did occur before the Committee which he had drawn up, and which was an answer to the speech of the hon. Member. It gave a complete account of the whole thing as far as he understood it. The hon. Member had moved what virtually amounted to a reversal of the decision of the Committee, who were unanimous. The object of the Provisional Order was to take compulsorily, for the erection of three labourers' cottages, land belonging to Lord Dunally. Lord Dunally opposed it on the ground of irreparable damage to his property by severance and otherwise, and of there being on his property already three cottages, unoccupied and available, which he had offered for sale to the sanitary authority. At the conclusion of the promoter's case, Lord Dunally's counsel, on behalf of his client, proposed to give an undertaking again to offer these sites, to put the cottages in repair, and to add further land not exceeding half an acre to each, provided the sites to be taken by the Order were abandoned. The promoters had not proved their case to the satisfaction of the Committee, in the face of what appeared to them, and probably would also appear to most people, so reasonable an offer. The Committee, therefore, decided for the Petitioner—Lord Dunally—on the understanding that he should, on the application of the sanitary authority, provide other sites to be approved by the Local Government Board. The authorized agents for the Order — Messrs. Holmes and Co.—were in no way parties to the motion. In the opinion of the Committee, the objects of the Labourers' (Ireland) Act, 1883, would be as effectively carried out by agreement between 1298 the parties, under the above-mentioned undertaking, as it would have been by the compulsory taking of the Petitioner's land under the Order. That was exactly the state of the case. He had told the House that the Committee had endeavoured to settle the question on its merits, and he believed they had done so. What they had heard from the hon. Member was only one side of the case; the Committee heard both sides. His hon. Friend talked about popular rights, and about his having always been in favour of them, and so forth. His hon. Friend added that he did not know what it was that took place in the Committee which had induced him to alter those opinions. He would tell his hon. Friend, as a matter of fact, the Committee were perfectly unanimous in their decision. There was one other point which he would refer to. the hon. Member said that the Board of Guardians would have to draw up another scheme, which might occasion a further delay of 12 months, in providing these labourers cottages. Of course, he saw that there would be a difficulty in the matter; but he should be very sorry if that were the case, and he hoped his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland would be able to inform the House that that would not be the case. The Committee had done all they could in the matter, and he hoped Lord Dunally would now proceed to carry out his undertaking for the benefit of the cottagers.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he would not go into the question of costs. He presumed that the costs would follow the decision of the Committee in the matter, and they had given their verdict strictly in accordance with the evidence laid before them. If the House were of opinion that they deserved a Vote of Censure, it was quite right that they should pass one. Personally, he had no very ardent desire to act as Chairman of one of these Committees again.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALKER)
said, he merely wished to explain to the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) the action of the Local Government Board in the matter. That there was ample necessity for the erection of these cottages had been proved at the inquiry; and, therefore, the Provisional 1299 Order was made. Lord Dunally had opposed this Provisional Order before the Committee, and he had succeeded in having three cottages struck out. He was not going into the question, as between Lord Dunally and the Nenagh Board of Guardians, whether Lord Dunally was right or not; but, merely looking at the facts of the case as stated by the hon. Member for Galway, it certainly appeared that the noble Lord was a little late in his proceedings. But, as far as the House were concerned, they must now deal with the existing facts of the case. The first question was as to whether they should reverse or support the action of the Committee. He apprehended that it would be unusual, if not altogether contrary to all precedent, to interfere with the decision of the Committee, and it would have the effect of delaying the Bill, which would have to be recommitted, and would practically prevent it from passing this year, having regard to the Standing Orders of the House of Lords. The Committee appeared to have been unanimous in their decision, and they were presided over by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), in whom, at all events, the hon. Member appeared to place great confidence. He did not think the future confidence of the hon. Member in the hon. Baronet would be at all shaken by anything which had occurred in the Committee. He was perfectly sure that they had acted with complete impartiality, and that they had devoted careful attention to the evidence submitted to them. He was, therefore, unable to support the Motion of the hon. Member; first, on account of the delay it would involve in the carrying out of any scheme; and, secondly, because it would endanger the passing of the Bill altogether; and there were other parts of the scheme of the Local Government Board which were not objected to. As to the costs of promoting the Bill, he felt sure that they would be made as light as possible.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
asked whether the Standing Orders of the House of Lords insisted on the passing of the Bill by a particular date?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALKER)
replied that, to the best of his recollection, the Bill must be read a second time by the 27th of June; but he was informed that 1300 sometimes the Standing Orders were dispensed with. But, with the opposition of Lord Dunally, if the Bill were recommitted, it was most improbable that anything further would be done in the matter this year. So far as Lord Dunally was concerned, he had undertaken to provide other sites which were to receive the approval of the Local Government Board. That undertaking had been formally given, and there was no danger that it would not be observed. As to the mode in which it was to be carried out, this was a case in which the sites for cottages were to be taken, not by compulsory powers, but by agreement. The 16th section of the Labourers' Act enabled the sanitary authority to purchase land for the erection of cottages by agreement. It was quite true that there were existing cottages on the land proposed to be given; but the Board of Guardians could not be in any worse position in consequence of finding cottages there already. They would be taken as sites, and positive benefit would be derived from the fact that there were cottages on them, seeing that the Guardians would have so much more material available at hand. Therefore, under the circumstances of the case, he could not support the Motion of the hon. Member; and he would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he ought to be satisfied with the discussion which had taken place. So far as Lord Dunally was concerned, he did not believe that he would fail to carry out the undertaking, and thereby incur the responsibility of forcing legal action under the compulsory powers of the Act. He was further convinced that the work would be carried out in the cheapest possible form, and that the Local Government Board would give every aid they could to the Board of Guardians, both by legal machinery and otherwise.
§ MR. BERESFORD
, as a Member of the Committee, desired to say a few words. In this case there was submitted to the Committee a Petition of Lord Dunally against the decision of the Nenagh Board of Guardians to select certain sites to which he entertained a particular objection. Lord Dunally showed to the Committee that the sites which were proposed by the Nenagh Board of Guardians were sites that would be most inconvenient to him, while, on the other hand, there were 1301 sites he was perfectly ready to give. Objection was, however, taken to them by the Board of Guardians because there were some old houses upon them. One of the principal witnesses—Mr. Joseph Ryan, a Poor Law Guardian for Kilmore —said the reason why the site now proposed was not originally selected was that the land attached to it was demesne land, and they considered that it might be disadvantageous to Lord Dunally's demesne to select it; yet Lord Dunally had himself offered that very site, and surely the opinion of so good a judge as Mr. Joseph Ryan as to the convenience of it might wisely be taken. Then, again, the convenience of the House of Lords in considering the Bill should also be consulted. On the other hand, it was proposed to take the necessary land from Lord Duually's stock farm, and Lord Dunally was of opinion that the stock farm would be irreparably injured by the erection of these labourers' cottages. As to the insinuation that pressure had been put either upon the Chairman or the Committee, he was in a position to deny it absolutely; and he would confirm the statement of the Chairman that the decision of the Committee was perfectly unanimous.
§ MR. HARRINGTON
said, that, notwithstanding the remarks which had just been made by the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Beresford) in justification of the conduct of Lord Dunally, he did not think there was much to be said in defence of the extraordinary course pursued by the Committee in rejecting these three cottages from the scheme which had received the sanction of the Local Government Board. Moreover, they had rejected them upon an undertaking from Lord Dunally to do that which the Board of Guardians repeatedly gave him the opportunity of doing, but which he had persistently declined to do. Though Lord Dunally had deceived the Board of Guardians, and refused to give them assistance in carrying out the scheme, and had declined until the last moment to give notice, yet the Committee of the House of Commons had not thrown on him any part of the burden of the cost. That, he thought, was a most extraordinary confession to have to make in the House. He did not mean to say that the hon. Baronet and the Committee had not arrived at their conclusion to the best of their judgment; but 1302 judgment was usually founded on reasons, and the hon. Baronet had not specified the reason in this case. It was very unfortunate, considering all the difficulties with which the Labourers' Act was surrounded, considering the many defects in the Act itself, and the recent refusal of the House to remedy them, that a Committee of this House, knowing very well the strength of the landowners and the weakness of the representation of the labourers in the House, should have taken the course they had taken. He would put it to the common sense of the House whether, if plain Joseph Ryan had come before the Committee offering such evidence as that of Lord Dunally, the same course would have been taken with regard to him? Some people were all their lives fond of the aristocracy. He did not know how far the accusation might lie against the hon. Baronet; but it was evident that some Members of his Committee dearly loved a Lord. The Solicitor General for Ireland had said the cottages were on the land, but that the Guardians would be in no worse position for the offer made to them by Lord Dunally. That was not the case. The Guardians would be in a worse position than they would have been if their scheme had been approved of by the Committee. Lord Dunally offered them cottages which were on the land at the present time; but they would not accept those cottages, as it would have been necessary to build them up anew, in order that they might come within the provisions of the Act. He would draw the attention of hon. Gentlemen to this fact. If they were treating for the purchase of a plot of land, would it not make a difference in the price whether cottages were on it or not? Of course; therefore the Board of Guardians was in a worse position than it should be. Lord Dunally simply wanted to get compensation for cottages which were lying idle on the land—cottages from which he had turned away labourers without giving them compensation. He desired the Nenagh Union to pay compensation for the cottages instead of building additional ones, and so to remove the eyesore from the land. He would invite the attention of his hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) to the fact that it was better, now that the scheme was brought forward, and it was necessary 1303 to make a protest against it, that they should altogether oppose this stage of the Bill, so that the measure might be re-committed. The Committee should be shown that in giving their decisions they had had a right to consult justice. Lord Dunally had done everything in his power to thwart the working of the Labourers' Act. He had opposed the erection of four labourers' cottages on his land, and the Local Government Board had given way to him. The three under discussion he had not opposed at first. It was not until two months after the Local Government Board made their inquiry that he gave notice of his opposition. He had made no alternative offer to the Guardians as to the selection of other sites. The Guardians had shown by their evidence that he had made no alternative offer. If he had, and it had been reasonable, they would have agreed to it. But the opportunity of agreeing to anything of the kind had not been offered to them. It was only when great expense had been heaped on the Guardians, and they had been dragged before the Committee, that Lord Dunally had offered them this alternative scheme, and yet the Committee arranged that no portion of the expense of the proceeding would be cast on him. The Irish Members had a right to complain, not alone of the action of the Committee in this respect, but of the inaction of the Government. He thought the Irish Party, seeing that they were so deeply interested in this question, should have been represented on the Committee. He trusted his hon. Friend would persevere in his opposition, because he would rather see the scheme thrown out altogether than see it set up as a precedent that a noble Lord in Ireland could offer all the opposition he liked to the carrying out of a scheme, could take unfair advantage of the Act, and, at the last moment, get a Select Committee to accept an alternative scheme, which was to give him compensation for worthless property. The noble Lord had made an excellent bargain, for which the Board of Guardians would have to pay dearly.
MR. EVANS WILLIAMS
rose to say that the Committee was absolutely unanimous. They listened to the matters brought before them carefully, and for a long time, and, after taking a great 1304 deal of evidence, came not only to the conclusion set forth in the Bill, but that the promoters and Lord Dunally should each pay their own costs.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
wished to say just one word to explain the course he was about to take. He was placed in a difficulty. The Solicitor General for Ireland told him that even if he succeeded—which he had not the slightest chance of doing—in carrying his proposal, the only effect would be to seriously imperil the success of the entire Bill. Under the entire scheme there were 79 cottages altogether. If he persisted, therefore, in his endeavour to obtain the three which had been disallowed—the success of which endeavour was extremely doubtful—ho should be imperilling the 76 which had been allowed. He did not wish to do that. He had not had an opportunity of consulting the Board of Guardians in question, as it would not meet until to-morrow. On his own responsibility, therefore, he would withdraw his Amendment, leaving with the Guardians, who met to-morrow, the opportunity of pressing opposition to the matter in another place if they thought proper.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill to be read the third time Tomorrow.