§ (1.) £10,000, Public Works Office, Ireland.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he should like to have some explanation from the Secretary to the Treasury in regard to the working of the Tramways Act of last Session. He particularly wished to be informed how many applications had been made for works of this kind to be carried out under the Act; what steps had been taken in order to ascertain whether the applications were legitimate; and, also, what influences would be brought to bear in order to see that nothing but bonâ fide undertakings were sanctioned? Tie also wanted to know what means were taken to ascertain that the undertakings themselves were likely to pay at least the working expenses; and what would be done to see that the guarantors were not subjected to anything extraordinary in the way of expenditure in carrying out the works? He had always been an opponent, as far as possible, of the introduction of unproductive public works of any kind into Ireland quite as much as anywhere else; and he had reason to believe that the loans which were given from time to time for public works in Ireland were 1375 often given in a reckless manner. He could mention, two instances which had been brought under his notice. He was informed, not long ago, that a landowner in the County of Roscommon, under this system of Lading money for alleged improvements on land in Ireland, had borrowed £27,000; and he (Mr. Biggar) was able to state, on the authority of a large contractor who Was thoroughly conversant with the subject, that not more than £12,000 of this amount was expended, the remaining £15,000 having been employed in paying off the private debts of the landowner. In another case, an occupying farmer had borrowed a sum of £4,000 for the purpose of carrying out improvements, and it was a common report that not more than £1,000 had been legitimately expended. He, therefore, pressed upon the hon. Gentleman the propriety of not giving a Government guarantee for a larger amount than was actually expended; and of not giving a guarantee at all in any ease where there was reason to believe that the works were not really required, and where the money might not be actually expended. There was no doubt that many fictitious applications were made, and that estimates of an extravagant nature were prepared. The result was that these people obtained a rate of interest not in accordance with the amount wanted, but much larger than the actual outlay, and by these means the unfortunate ratepayers were fleeced, and made to give a guarantee for unnecessary work. The practical result was that the Government, although only guaranteeing 2 per cent on the outlay, were, in point of fact, guaranteeing 4 per cent for the work actually done. He should like to have an explanation from the hon. Gentleman on these points; and he hoped the Government would be able to bring all the influence they possessed to prevent, first of all, the ratepayers of Ireland in the guaranteed districts from having to pay an unfair rate, and also to prevent the English ratepayers from being fleeced by fictitious applications.
§ MR. HEALY
wished to put a question to the Secretary to the Treasury in regard to the resignation of Colonel M'Kerlie, the Chief Commissioner of the Irish Board of Works. The Nationalist Party in Ireland wanted some information as to the manner in which public 1376 appointments were made in that country? They had abstained from making any criticism upon the appointment of General Sankey, as they wished him to have a fair trial. Their attitude had been one of observation only; and whether General sankey came from India the North pole would be immaterial to them to them so long as he discharged properly the functions of his Office. He thought the Irish Members were entitled to know upon what principle the system of promotions was carried out in Ireland, and he might call attention to some extraordinary facts in regard to them. In this case, they had General Sankey promoted at one bound from Bombay to the Custom House at Dublin. They had Mr. Clifford Lloyd sent from Ennis to Egypt, and another gentleman—Mr. Blake—had been sent from another county in Ireland to the Bahamas. He should like to know how these promotions were carried out? They were informed by public rumour that, since Mr. Jenkinson's arrival in Ireland, and also since the Chief Secretary had taken Office in connection with that country, India had been coming steadily into favour. The public experience, however, of transplanting Indian officials had not been of a sufficiently favourable character to induce them to receive with open arms everybody who came from that country. He wanted to be informed how General Sankey obtained his promotion? Did it come from the Viceroy of India, or from the Viceroy of Ireland? If it had come from the Viceroy of India, how was it that the Marquess of Ripon had been made acquainted with the fact that a vacancy of this kind existed in Ireland? It was a remarkable fact that when they had a little office like this to fill up in Ireland they should have to go scouring across the globe for someone to put into it. General Sankey might be eminently fitted for the position; but he (Mr. Healy) protested against this system of shooting a man across 25,000 miles of country in order to fill up a small vacancy of this kind. He thought it cast a reflection on the people both at home and abroad. In the first place, it must have caused a certain amount of sourness among Indian officials that General Sankey should be deemed the only person fitted for the discharge of these duties in a country so far off as Ireland, and the appoint- 1377 ment would probably create great dissatisfaction in India. He had no Sympathy whatever with those who were of opinion that all positions in Ireland should be given to Irishmen. He did not want an Irishman to hold a single position under the Government of Ireland. The more foreigners they dragged in the better pleased he would be, because in the end the more disgusted the native population would become with the Administration of the country. He wished to put the matter even upon a broader ground. He could not help mentioning the fact that the Liberal rule in Ireland must, to a certain extent, suffer if appointments of this character were to be made. It was for the interest of the farmers of Ireland to have some guarantee of the special fitness of the persons who received appointments upon the Board of Works. He did not offer the smallest opposition to General San-key individually; but he wanted to know how it was that these extraordinary long-range promotions were made, and that men from Calcutta, Bombay, or Madras could be sent over at any time to fill vacancies in Dublin? He had called attention to the fact that Mr. Clifford Lloyd had been transplanted to Egypt, and that Mr. Blake had been sent out to the Bahamas. No doubt that was because they had good friends in the Public Offices in Ireland; but he wished to strike a blow against the system which brought such persons as Mr. Jenkinson into Ireland. He rejoiced at the importation of foreigners; but he thought they ought to have as few foreigners as possible who had been accustomed to deal with uncivilized races. They knew that Mr. Jenkinson's opinion in regard to the treatment of Ireland was that the natives should be dealt with just in the same manner as the Blacks in India. No doubt the Chief Secretary had had a large Indian experience also, and was inclined to regard the Irish people from the point of view of a member of a superior race. And now they had General Sankey brought over; and he should like to know very much how it was that General Sankey had been appointed? Had he been appointed by the favour of the right hon. Gentleman? Was he a friend of Mr. Jenkinson, or was he a friend of Lord Spencer? Was he known to the Chief Secretary; and how was it that England 1378 was so very poor in administrative ability that she had to go this tremendous distance in order to obtain an official? He wished to be clearly understood that it was the system he objected to, and not to the person appointed, and he wished to have a full explanation.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he had known General Sankey for a good many years. He had the highest opinion of General Sankey, and he rejoiced that so good an officer had been appointed to a post analogous to one which he had held in connection with the public works of Madras. General Sankey was, therefore, quite fitted to fill the appointment for which he had been selected. He believed General Sankey would not disappoint the Irish people, and he was certain that his gallant friend would be the last person to held an office in which he did not give satisfaction.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he thought it was only fair towards the Government that he should say a few words upon this appointment before the Secretary to the Treasury rose. The observations, however, which he meant to offer in regard to this peculiar appointment of General Sankey were very few. Of course, there was no one who would deny that General Sankey was a gentleman of good ability; and he would assume that he was competent, endowed with a fair capacity, and that he was a man somewhat younger, and of as high a type, as his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kincardineshire (General Sir George Balfour) who had just addressed the House. It was a true estimate of the average opinion which had been formed, and nobody said anything more than that. Irish Members, however, had a right to criticize and challenge an appointment which, on the face of it, was inexplicable. As far as he could hear, General Sankey had never had any connection either with the English or Irish Service at any period of his life. He had never, in the slightest degree, been connected with anything done under the Treasury. He had no knowledge whatever of the way in which Acts of Parliament were administered like those which it would be his duty to administer now in Ireland. As they all knew, the Code which General Sankey would now have to administer in Ireland was a very important one, and must 1379 have a great effect upon the well-being and contentment of the people of the country. He, therefore, awaited with some anxiety an explanation from the Government to show what there was in the past career of General Sankey which gave the Irish people a guarantee that he was likely to be successful in the administration he had now been called upon to undertake. It was not a question of General Sankey's character, which was not at all impeached, and there was no question as to the propriety of his conduct. It was not a question as to what his knowledge was as an Artillery or Engineer officer. The real question was, did the circumstances and position of General Sankey show him to be possessed of such remarkable qualifications for administering the special Code which had been passed for Ireland, at a somewhat critical and difficult time, as to require and necessitate his appointment over the heads of others who had spent their lives in that country, and who had special means and knowledge that fitted them for working this great Code? As had been mentioned by the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy), the Irish people wanted to know why General Sankey was brought over from India and placed at the head of a great and important Board like the Board of Works of Ireland? There happened to be already two men of exceptional ability in the Department—Mr. Le Fanu and Mr. Roberts. Like most people connected with Ireland, he (Mr. Gibson) was acquainted with those gentlemen. He knew Mr. Le Fanu to be a man of the very highest ability. He was a man who, before he accepted his present post, was at the head of one of the greatest engineering firms in Ireland, and had had to do with the making of some of the principal railways in that country. It was, therefore, considered that the acceptance of the office on his part was a circumstance on which the country was to be congratulated. Only recently a Royal Commission had been appointed to inquire into the working of the Board of Works in Ireland. That Commission was presided over by his noble Friend the Member for Fermanagh (Viscount Crichton), and it went very fully into these matters. There might have been some division of opinion as to Colonel M'Kerlie, the 1380 late Chairman, although he was, undoubtedly, a hard-working official; but there was none whatever as to the other members of the Board. No one could, or did, question the ability, capacity, and knowledge possessed by Mr. Le Fanu. Then, again, if there was one man in Ireland who, by common consent, was master of the work of his Department, it was Mr. Roberts, who had served in all parts of Ireland in every capacity. They had only to look at him to see that he was a sharp, keenwitted, quick, intelligent man, with his wits all about him, and able to do the work of his Department rapidly and inexpensively. That was said of him by men who had known him all their lives. He did not know the age of Mr. Roberts; but he looked like a man who would never grow old. He was probably about 52 or 53; but he had the appearance of a man who was getting younger every day. Mr. Roberts was a man who had been at work ever since he was 20 years of age; and though he had been engaged in very important public works he had never done a single thing except in the most excellent way. There had never been a complaint against him, and he had commanded the unanimous approval of all those whose approval he had to seek. He was also a man who had steadily kept himself aloof from everything connected with public life and political matters; and he was a man who, as far as he (Mr. Gibson) knew, enjoyed the respect of persons of all shades of politics and of all religious creeds in Ireland. His own acquaintance with Mr. Roberts was not very great; but in the interests of these two men—Mr. Le Fanu and Mr. Roberts—the Committee was entitled to know what were the qualifications possessed by General Sankey which had compelled and coerced the Government to pass over these gentlemen.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, he concurred with what had been stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson), that there was general surprise in Ireland when Mr. Le Fanu and Mr. Roberts were passed over. There was, however, one point upon which he desired information. He wanted to know why, when there was occasion some time ago to create a new Department for the administration of the loans, it had been considered desir- 1381 able to pass over Mr. La Farm and Mr. Roberts, both of whom knew Ireland thoroughly, in order to bring over General James, an Engineer officer? He believed General James was in every way a capable man; but his only connection with Ireland was that be had superintended certain temporary relief works. He (Colonel Colthurst) thought that these improvements, and the redistribution of the loans, should have been placed in the hands of someone who bad full knowledge of the circumstances, and he was of opinion that the matter was one which required explanation.
§ MR. SEXTON
remarked, that the conversation which had occurred with regard to the appointment of General Sankey had been to him very edifying. He bad beard, with some interest, the observations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kincardineshire (Sir George Balfour), who had defended the appointment, and was prepared to give General Sankey a certificate of character and fitness. It was also really a refreshing novelty to hear the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) attacking in that House any Irish official. Many more gross official appointments in Ireland were allowed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and the Party with whom he acted, to pass altogether unnoticed; and, therefore, he welcomed as something quite new the display of vigour they had just witnessed. It was bard to understand why the right hon. and learned Gentleman should have taken upon himself to deliver such an effusive euology of Mr. Le Fanu and Mr. Roberts, especially when the right hon. and learned Gentleman intimated that he was personally unacquainted with those gentlemen.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he had lived in Ireland all his life, and he had known one of the gentlemen in question for many years. He was quite able to speak of their character and ability, although he was not so well acquainted with one of them as with the other.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, if the House was to judge of these gentlemen by public rumour, all that he could say was that public rumour in Ireland criticized the capacity of the Commissioners of the Board of Works as having been developed and improved by a policy of "muddle and meddle." If the other 1382 two Commissioners were such men of capacity and competence as bad been described, surely there was no occasion for this sour attack upon General Sankey at the commencement of his career. If Mr. Le Fanu and Mr. Roberts were such able men, they might be depended upon to induct General Sankey into the duties of his office. If General Sankey had discharged analogous duties in another country, it was a flimsy objection for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to raise when he said that General Sankey was not acquainted with the clauses and sections of Irish Acts of Parliament. If General Sankey was going to undertake the duties with a determination to perform them with impartiality and vigour the National Party would not find fault with him. He would have a large and well-paid staff of officials under him, and his supposed ignorance of the clauses of an Irish Act of Parliament was altogether outside the question. They had had so many evil-spirited officials appointed in Ireland of late, that he, for one, would be slow to object to the appointment of a man simply because be came from India, if he approached his work with a desire to be impartial, and to discharge his duties with ability and vigour. Colon el M'Kerlie, the predecessor of General Sankey, was an old fossil, and even worse than an old fossil; and, whatever General Sankey might turn out to be hereafter—and he (Mr. Sexton) intended to keep his mind perfectly open in regard to him—it was probably a certain impartiality in the gallant General which had led to this attack; and nothing would have been said to his disparagement if be had been a true blue, thorough-blooded local Orangeman. The sum now asked for the Public Works Office was £10,000, £8,200 of which was asked for under Section 31 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881. It appeared that an excess of £5,400 was occasioned by the employment of 18 additional Inspectors at a salary of £300 each, together with travelling expenses, amounting, in the aggregate, to £2,250. He should be glad if the Secretary to the Treasury, or some of his Colleagues, would state what had been the nature and extent of the operations accomplished by the Board under this clause of the Land Act? So far as he (Mr. Sexton) was aware, they bad been of a 1383 very slim and unimportant character. When it was proposed to take this Vote, he had given Notice that the House would expect from the hon. Gentleman some details in regard to the operations which had been conducted by the Board in reference to fishing piers and harbours in Ireland. The Royal Commission appointed under the Act had now been for half-a-year at work under the Chairmanship of his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake). He believed that the Commission had worked with vigour, although some obstacles had been thrown in their way. He should like to have the necessary particulars, and not merely generalities, as to the scheme for providing fishing piers and harbours which had been sanctioned by the Commission; secondly, he should like to know which of the schemes had received the approval of the Board of Works; and, thirdly, at what time it was expected that the schemes would come into actual operation? They were works of great importance, and would provide employment for a large number, besides keeping the people at home; in the next place, the construction of these piers and harbours would supplement the very poor means of employment at present within the reach of the people, especially on the Western Coast of Ireland. He hoped, therefore, that the Committee would be told something practical; and, further, that the schemes were nearly completed, and that the Board of Works were prepared to set to work with the erection of these piers and harbours in Ireland. He must express his surprise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) should take so much delight in observing the decrease of the population of Ireland, and in gloating over the fact that it was fast falling off. [Mr. GIBSON: No.] The right hon. and learned Gentleman had, at all events, expatiated on the fact that the population of Ireland was now under 5,000,000, basing upon that fact the propriety of decreasing the number of Irish Representatives. He (Mr. Sexton) hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would be able to give the Committee some assurance as to the capacity and ability of General Sankey.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he was very much surprised at the character of the observations of his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gibson) in respect. 1384 to the appointment of General Sankey. When Colonel M'Kerlie's resignation became known it became the duty of the Government to provide a successor to him, and to review the position of the Board of Works, with the view of improving the Board as far as possible. The right hon. and learned Gentleman complained that certain gentlemen had been passed over. Now, he (Mr. Courtney) did not propose to enter into a comparison of the merits of the present second and third Commissioners, and to contrast them with those of the gentleman selected to fill the office of Chairman of the Board. He thought it would be very injudicious to outer into such a comparison, and he was rather surprised that such a suggestion should have been made. The Government were bound to consider the relation of the Board of Works to Irish opinion, as well as the particular merits of the two gentlemen who had been referred to; and they had come to the conclusion that it was most desirable, without, in the slightest degree, desiring to depreciate the merits of Mr. Le Fanu and Mr. Roberts, that the Chief Commissioner should be a person newly brought into the Commission, and that there should be an infusion of fresh blood. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had felt it his duty to ascertain where the most capable man could be found for filling the post of Chairman. The appointment had been made by the Treasury, and the entire responsibility rested upon the Treasury. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in making the appointment, had paid regard to the particular character of the works committed to the Commission. He had paid regard to the fact that analogous works were undertaken by the Department of Works in India. He had also considered the reputation which General Sankey had acquired in the Indian Department of Works; and having measured his merits in comparison with those of the civilians who might have been considered eligible for the position, he had appointed General Sankey as the man who, above all others, appeared to be most fitted to discharge the functions. Something had been said about bringing in an outsider, and the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) intimated that he had no objection to Englishmen or Scotchmen being appointed to posts 1385 in Ireland. But anyone who ever heard General Sankey utter two words would discover that he was an Irishman, who, in point of fact, was only now returning to his native country. He had heard that the choice of General Sankey promised to be a great success. General Sankey was an earnest and active officer, diligent in the execution of his work, and it was thought that he would constitute an admirable Chairman of the Board of Works. He (Mr. Courtney) would not dwell upon the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) as to General Sankey's presumed ignorance of the Code of Law with which the Board had to deal. General Sankey would have the assistance of able and intelligent subordinates, and he would be very deficient in intelligence if he found himself unable in a very short time to master the Code of Law which applied to public works in Ireland. As to the observations of the hon. and gallant Member for the County of Cork (Colonel Colthurst), it had been found impossible to allocate the business for which General James had been appointed to any of the existing members of the Board. The organization of the Department would now probably be examined; and he believed that it was not impossible that there might be a great reduction of staff, as well as the infusion of increased energy and efficiency into the Board. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) asked what progress had been made with reference to the advances which had been made under the Land Law (Ireland) Act for loans to occupiers of land? He knew that the Board had been very active in that matter, and had done a fair amount of work. ["Oh!"] It was easy to say "Oh!" but if hon. Members would look at the figures, he thought they would find reason to modify that expression. He believed they would find that the Board of Works had been very active, and that they had done a great deal of work. He had had occasion to discuss this question before with the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy), who had complained of the inactivity of the Board, and objected to the small amount of money which happened to have been advanced. He (Mr. Courtney) had pointed out at the time that the comparatively small amount of money advanced was not a test of the work 1386 done by the Board. The real test was the number of schemes examined and sanctioned. The amount of the money advanced had been upon the progress of the work done by occupiers. They were paid the money as they did the work. The reason why so small an amount of money had been advanced in comparison with the work sanctioned was that the work actually done was but a very small portion for which advances had been sanctioned. The number of schemes sanctioned under Clause 31, up to the end of January, was 3,519, and the number sanctioned under Clause 19 was 63. The hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had pressed upon the Treasury the necessity of exercising great care in regard to the manner in which the Tramways Act was put in motion. The Treasury were much indebted to the hon. Member for the zeal and energy he had displayed; but a study of the Act would show that duo precautions had been taken. If the hon. Member would look at the 10th section of the Act, and the 4th sub-section, which referred to the Orders in Council under which these schemes were sanctioned by the Lord Lieutenant before any Order in Council was made, he would see that no scheme was sanctioned unless it was found that the amount of capital was sufficient, and that the authorities were perfectly satisfied as to the bona fides of the scheme. Of course, a good deal rested upon the Local Authorities. The Treasury was not the original guarantor at all. The Grand Juries recommended the scheme; the Lord Lieutenant approved of it; and then an Order in Council was issued, and the guarantee of the Treasury was given. He thought the hon. Member for Cavan would see that the provisions of the Act of Parliament were quite sufficient to prevent abuse. There was only one other question to which his attention had been directed, and that was the operations of the Board of Works in connection with the fishing piers and harbours. He thought he had intimated before that there was nothing in these Supplementary Votes which had any reference to the operation of that scheme. In order to make sure, he had made inquiry in regard to this question, and also as to the Barrow drainage, to which reference had been made on a previous occasion, and he found there 1387 was nothing in the Vote which applied to them. It would, therefore, be entirely out of Order to enter into a discussion upon those questions, although it would be quite in Order when the Votes in the ordinary Estimates were laid before the House.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he noticed an item in the Vote of £350 for "excess caused by advertisements in anticipation of legislation, &c." Advertisements of various kinds were constantly issued by the Board of Works; but he was informed that they were supplied to newspapers of one particular shade of politics, and papers which did not circulate among the masses of the people at all. As a matter of fact, the advertisements were given to Orange and Conservative newspapers, which were not read by the people generally, but only by parsons and land agents, while the popular papers were altogether passed over. He should like to have an assurance that General Sankey would exercise impartiality in regard to the distribution of the patronage of the Board of Works, and wherever there was a newspaper—whether it was Orange or connected with the popular Party—if it only circulated a few copies, that newspaper should not be supplied with the public advertisements; but the advertisements should be given to the newspapers which circulated extensively among the people.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was very much surprised to find an item in the Vote for an excess caused by advertisements in anticipation of legislation. He confessed that he did not know what the Government meant by advertisements in anticipation of legislation. He thought it was quite enough for the Government, when they got their legislation, to try and carry it out; but not to impose burdens upon the people for advertisements in anticipation of legislation.
§ MR. DEASY
said, he felt it his duty to bring under the notice of the Committee a matter which he considered to involve neglect on the part of this Department. He had been surprised to hear the Secretary to the Treasury say that the recent appointment of General Sankey to the Chairmanship of the Irish Board of Works had been made in deference to Irish opinion. He would like to know from the hon. Gentleman how he had ascertained the opinion of the 1388 Irish people; because he (Mr. Deasy) himself happened to be one of those people who had often troubled the Board of Works with applications, and he must say that great dissatisfaction was expressed at the action of the Board of Works in Ireland. He was afraid that that dissatisfaction would continue to exist, and that the people of Ireland would be actuated by feelings of hostility towards the Irish Department of the Government, so long as the Government placed at the head of important Departments connected with the administration of Irish affairs persons who were brought from India. He thought the Government ought to consult the feelings of the Irish people, and that they ought not to make appointments over the heads of officers long in their employment without consulting those who were responsible for the Government of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman had informed the Committee that the Irish Government were not consulted in regard to the appointment of General Sankey, but that it had been made in London. He (Mr. Deasy) hoped that state of things would not continue; and he must tell the Committee that his experience as a farmer in the South of Ireland went to show that if it did continue very little improvement would be carried out under the administration of the Board of Works. The answer he had received to a Question he had put that night was erroneous in many respects.
§ MR. COURTNEY
rose to Order. He thought the hon. Member was entering into the question of harbours, which had nothing to do with the present Vote.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that it would be altogether irregular to enter into the question of the action of the Board of Works in reference to Kinsale Harbour. It had nothing whatever to do with the Vote now under discussion, which was simply an Estimate for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he was astounded at the statement made by the Secretary to the Treasury. The Committee were asked to supplement a Vote for a certain Public Department. The administration of that Department was impugned, and they were told by 1389 the Secretary to the Treasury that they were not allowed to discuss that administration. He wished to call attention to the fact that there was a sum in the Vote of £1,100 for salaries, and there were also separate sums for travelling and incidental expenses.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he could see nothing in the way in which the Estimate was drawn which excluded a discussion upon piers and harbours.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
wished to point out that when he had made a statement in regard to Mr. Errington's expenses he was told that it would be quite legitimate to discuss it when the Foreign Office Vote was brought up. He certainly thought that the Secretary to the Treasury had better go into the Chair himself. The hon. Gentleman had often done so without waiting to be asked; and why did he not do so that night? He wished to know from the Chairman whether, when the Committee were discussing a Vote for any Department, they were not at liberty to criticize all the minor details of that Department?
No doubt the way in which this Vote is submitted to the Committee opens up very large questions. The Vote is for the Office of Public Works in Ireland; and I am not prepared to say, if it is the intention of any hon. Member to impugn the conduct of any official in the Office of Public Works in Ireland, that it will be out of Order to do so. At the same time, I think if the conduct of any official is to be impugned it should be impugned directly in reference to some item in the Estimate before the Committee.
§ MR. DEASY
said, his object was to show the incapacity of the heads of the Department of the Board of Works; and he was not at all surprised, judging from what had taken, place, that the Secretary to the Treasury should not desire to have that question raised. This was his (Mr. Deasy's) first attempt to speak in that House, and he was not astonished at the treatment he had received. It would have been more surprising to him if he had been treated in any other way. The Secretary to the Treasury had been informed by the head of the Public Works Department that the people of Kinsale had selected a site for Kinsale Harbour, and that it was a fit and proper site for 1390 the purpose intended. Now, he (Mr. Deasy) would inform the hon. Gentleman that, as far back as the year 1874, the people of Kinsale assembled at a public meeting and selected a totally different site. The Harbour Commissioners approved of the site so selected, and made an application in reference to it to the heads of the Board of Public Works. All the preliminaries were arranged; but a new Harbour Board came into office, many members of which were directly interested in changing the site of the pier; several others had property on the site now proposed, who, being directly interested in the town of Bandon, as against Kinsale, desired that the trade and commerce of the port should go to Bandon, instead of stopping at Kinsale. An application was made to the Board of Works for a grant previous to the making of the new Harbour Board. The grant was given; but, from some unexplained reason, the heads of the Department changed their minds, and, without consulting the wishes of the people of Kinsale at all, ordered the pier to be built on its present site—they were probably influenced by the new Harbour Commissioners who came into office in the meantime. He was told that the pier was dry at low water, and that it was altogether valueless. It was built upon a foundation of about three feet, and 25 feet of mud. The other day an inquiry at Kinsale was instituted by the heads of the Department in Dublin, and the Harbour Master and others were examined in order to astertain if the pier was at all suited for the purpose for which it was intended, and if it would be of the slightest advantage. It was sworn at the inquiry that the town of Kinsale would have to expend something like £100,000 in dredging in order to render it of use. He believed that if the dredging were carried on as proposed the pier would tumble down within a week. That being so, he wished to know from the hon. Gentleman whether he considered that these persons were capable of discharging their duties efficiently; and he further asked the hon. Gentleman to say that he would suspend the further progress of the work until he was able to obtain the opinion of a competent engineer as to the advisability of altering the present site? He had been told by the Secretary of the Board of Works 1391 that the contribution made by the Local Board at Kinsale was for the sum of £2,000; but the Secretary must have made a mistake in his figures, because the contribution made by the Commissioners at Kinsale was for £3,000. The latest instance of the incapacity of the Board had been brought under his notice that day. He had received a communication from one of his own constituents, informing him that last Tuesday, at a Petty Sessions near the City of Cork, there was a suit against a farmer named Sullivan, by the Cork Board of Guardians, for not having erected labourers' cottages.
The hon. Member is now extending his observations into details which would be more properly-discussed when the regular Votes come on.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, there was nothing in this Vote for the salaries of officers in this Department.
desired to point out that these Supplementary Estimates were rendered necessary by the increased work of the Department. He submitted, therefore, that it was perfectly in Order for hon. Members to discuss the nature of the increased work. If the work of the Department was bad, it was not desirable that the Committee should intrust them with more funds.
§ MR. DEASY
said, as he understood he was in Order he would proceed. He did not give these particulars for the purpose of enlightening the people of Ireland, who were only too well acquainted with the manner in which the Board of Public Works did their business, but for the purpose of enlightening the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Secretary to the Treasury. In this case the man was fined £54 for neglecting to complete the work. It was clearly proved that it was owing to the delay on the part of the Board that he had been unable to go on with the erection of the work. The man having no money, he made application to the Board of Works; a great deal of time was consumed by correspondence, and up to the present he had not received a single shilling. He could multiply instances 1392 of this kind; but he would simply express a hope that the hon. Gentleman would give an undertaking to the Committee that the matter relating to the Kinsale Pier and Quay should be investigated. He trusted, also, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would make himself more conversant with the working of this Department, of which he was the head, and that Irish Members would no longer have cause to complain of gross neglect on the part of the Board of Public Works in Ireland. In case of need he should be prepared, if in Order, to give, on a future occasion, many more particulars than those to which he had asked the attention of the hon. Gentleman. With regard to General Sankey, his appointment had been sufficient to shake whatever confidence the people had in the Board of Public Works. This had always been very small; but the people of Ireland had now absolutely no confidence in the administration of any Act of Parliament intrusted to that Board.
§ MR. EUGENE COLLINS
regretted that he had not been present when the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Deasy) commenced his speech. Having lived in Kinsale for many years, he thought that perhaps he knew more about this question than the hon. Member. For the information of the Committee, and to put the matter in its true light, he might be allowed to say that the construction of the pier for the improvement of the Harbour of Kinsale had been under the consideration of the Local Authorities for a period of 15 years; that the subject had been discussed in every shape and form; that the Local Bodies, the Harbour Board, and the Town Commissioners approved the scheme; that patient inquiries had been made by the Board of Works on the spot; and that the decision arrived at was approved both by the Harbour Board and the Town Commissioners; and that the selection of the site on which the pier was erected was confirmed by the general opinion of those Bodies, which were composed of men elected by the ratepayers.
said, the hon. Member was travelling beyond the Question before the Committee in entering into details which would properly be referred to another Vote.
§ MR. EUGENE COLLINS
said, he had felt himself bound to contradict the statements of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Deasy). He thought he ought not to allow those misstatements to be published without making some explanation in justification of the authorities at Kinsale.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he thought the hon. Member for Kinsale could hardly be aware of what had been shown at the inquiry held within the last few days by two of his (Mr. Blake's) Colleagues on the Harbour Commission at Kinsale, and that was that the proposed works would afford insufficient accommodation. [Mr. EUGENE COLLINS: I know perfectly well what is going on.] A very strong representation had been made by certain parties in Kinsale in the exact direction indicated by the hon. Member for the City of Cork. The allegation was that the proposed harbour was insufficient for the purposes of the fishing vessels frequenting the locality. He had to refer also to an observation with reference to a statement of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, who had said that since the appointment of General Sankey the Board of Works had lost the confidence of the public. He (Mr. Blake) had come into official contact with that gentleman in connection with an important Commission that he was endeavouring to carry out. He could say, as the result of his experience, that no better officer could have been appointed to the position which General Sankey now occupied. No one could be more anxious to forward every work of utility in Ireland that came within his province; his zeal in that respect was extraordinary. He (Mr. Blake) had no personal interest in this question; his acquaintance with General Sankey was very slight, indeed; he had only met him officially; he simply felt himself bound, in justice to him as a public officer, to say that no appointment had been made for years in Ireland which reflected so much credit on the Treasury as the appointment of General Sankey, who was an officer of the highest ability, and had earned great distinction in a nearly similar position in India, where he (Mr. Blake) had heard him spoken of in the very highest terms. He was perfectly sure the hon. Member would be the last man to make a misleading statement, and that he would, after he 1394 became better acquainted with General Sankey's merits, and especially his capacity and desire to do good service to Ireland, take another view of the matter.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, they had the greatest difficulty in carrying out their design owing to the necessity of creating Bodies in which to vest those harbours. There were no Bodies to be found on the spot, and in one instance he feared they would be driven to place the harbour under a neighbouring landlord.
§ MR. COURTNEY,
on the subject of advertising, denied that political motives actuated the Department, but promised to communicate with General Sankey.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
urged that steps should be taken to protect the lands adjacent to the Shannon, which were sometimes flooded to an extent that rendered cultivation impossible.
§ MR. MAYNE
said, that the Secretary to the Treasury had implied that the advertisements of the Board of Works were distributed wholly irrespective of the political views of newspapers. Whether that were so or not he (Mr. Mayne) was not aware; but an opinion was general in Dublin that, quite apart from the question of politics, there was an almost entire absence of advertisements in connection with any public works in that city. The result of that was that something very like jobbery had crept in, and that the patronage dispensed in connection with public works in Dublin was very largely influenced by political motives to the detriment of the public interest. Prices were paid for wood and other materials which would not be paid if the works were laid open by advertisement to public competition, and abuses even of a more serious kind were very generally stated to exist in Dublin in connection with the contracts of the Board of Public Works. He had heard a statement to the effect that some of the floors in Dublin Castle had been covered three times over with floor-cloth by one 1395 of the contractors to the Department, and all at the same time. That state of things would be put an end to if the work at Dublin Castle, and in other parts of the City, were submitted to public competition. He was sure that the work would then be done at a less expense, and that these scandalous statements would no longer have any existence or foundation. He put it to the hon. Gentleman that General Sankey might bring about a useful reform in this respect; and he would suggest that every contract of above £50 should be advertised, say, in the newspapers, and that the firm tendering to give the best value should receive the contract. The adoption of that course would, in his opinion, secure both expedition and economy.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he was very glad to hear from the Secretary to the Treasury that it was intended to scrutinize very carefully the schemes with regard to tramways in Ireland, so as to prevent, as far as possible, the plundering of the public. As an instance of the way these things were managed, he might remark that it was alleged, as a proof of the rising character of a town in connection with which a railway was proposed that would cost several millions sterling, that during the previous 10 years 10 new houses had been built there. That was the kind of argument used in favour of Irish tramways and railways. With regard to loans under the 31st section of the Land Act for improvements in land, he did not know whether his hon. Friends agreed with him; but he always looked upon these applications for loans with suspicion. He believed that, in many cases, a large amount of the money obtained was not spent in improvements at all; that improper representations were made to the Inspectors; and it was to be hoped, the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury having been drawn to the subject, that he would, as far as possible, take care that these loans should be kept within reasonable limits. The hon. Gentleman knew very well that if these advances were not made on good security, application would have to be made to the Treasury to wipe off the debts. This, from every point of view, was most undesirable; and the hon. Gentleman, by taking the matter in hand, would do something not only in the interest of the 1396 British ratepayer, but satisfactory to the Irish people. Vote agreed to.