§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made., and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £195,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 188G, in aid of the Cost of Maintenance of Disturnpiked and Main Roads in England and Wales during the year ending on the 25th day of March 1886.
§ MR. WARTON
asked what was the reason that Vote 4 of the Civil Service Estimates had been passed over?
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that Vote 4 had been postponed on account of the proceedings of the Committee, who were 495 now sitting upon the restoration of Westminster Hall. That Committee had not yet reported.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he had on two previous occasions opposed this Vote. Upon both occasions he had opposed it on principle, and he regretted to find that he should be compelled to vote against it now. It was a Vote in aid of local taxation in England, and the next Vote was a Vote of a similar nature to relieve the burden of local taxation in Scotland. As had been urged over and over again, if there was one portion of the United Kingdom which required that the burdens of local taxation should be lightened, it was not England, but Ireland. The people of this country could bear with comparative ease the pressure of local taxation; and even the debt of something like £159,000,000 incurred by the Local Authorities in this country, was of slight pressure upon the enormous valuation of the country, no practical inconvenience being occasioned by it. But in Ireland, with a valuation of only some £13,000,000, the existence of local taxation was very grievous indeed. The unfortunate people of Ireland, in addition to paying a cess which pressed most heavily upon them, were called upon to contribute towards the payment of local taxes both in England and Scotland; and notwithstanding that the general taxation of the country pressed so heavily upon them they got no relief of this description provided for them. But, even as it was, the Vote was not applied in the way which Parliament intended to appropriate it. It was intended to relieve those districts where certain turnpike roads had been disturnpiked, and where, in consequence, the pressure of local taxation at one time existed. But, as a matter of fact, it would be found that even in districts where no such taxation had been imposed locally, and where no rates had been issued from time out of mind, for turnpike purposes, the local rates had been supplemented by a portion of this Vote. In the year ending 31st March, 1884, an extraordinary Circular signed by the Home Secretary was issued with regard to the grant in aid of those turnpike roads, and it was to this effect—that certain counties, districts, and boroughs having last year been precluded from participating in the grant in consequence of their never having had turnpike roads, 496 a Minute regulating the matter had been adopted, which brought such counties, districts, and boroughs under a new provision made by the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury, and presented to Parliament. That Minute provided that, subject to any modification to meet exceptional cases, the Government were to grant to counties, districts, and boroughs containing roads which had been disturnpiked since 1859, an allowance to the extent of one-fourth of the cost of materials and labour employed in the repair of such roads. The second paragraph in that Minute was the one to which he wished to draw more particular attention. It set forth that in such counties, districts, and boroughs in which there had never been turnpike roads—and in which, therefore, there could not be a disturnpiked road—a sum bearing the same proportion to the total cost of the maintenance of such roads should be granted as under head No. 1. The charge upon the Public Exchequer for the purpose of relieving the local taxation in this respect amounted to nearly £250,000 in England and Scotland, and a portion of that grant went to very extensive districts which never had turnpike roads, which, therefore, never had a road disturnpiked, and had consequently never experienced inconvenience in regard to local taxation in connection with the roads at all. An Estimate was made of the amount of extra taxation which had been thrown upon the local taxpayers in consequence of disturnpiking the roads, and upon that Estimate the original Vote was passed; but that Estimate did not take into consideration any county districts or boroughs in which there were no disturnpiked roads. Under this Minute of the Home Secretary, issued with the assent of the Treasury, a sum of money was voted in aid of local rates both in England and Scotland which, he maintained, was never intended by Parliament. He objected to the whole system under which the Treasury had been disbursing the money voted by Parliament, and he took the objection as a matter of principle. He said nothing of Scotland as distinguished from Ireland; but he found that the original Vote had been gradually extended by grants which had never been explained to Parliament, and which Parliament could never have expected. 497 At the time it was asked upon to vote this money in the year 1884, the amount granted for England for disturnpiked roads was £100,000, and the expenditure was only £95,000—which was to say, that the money voted in Committee of (Supply and passed by the House was more than sufficient to meet the service. In spite of that fact, there was an increase in the Vote up to £215,000 last year—that was to say, that whereas the Treasury had been called upon to repay to the Exchequer a sum of £5,000 which was not wanted for the service, they came before the House in the following year, and asked not only for the same sum, but for £115,000 more than was deemed necessary in 1884. They were also asking this year for £215,000, which it was proved could not really be required. He should object to this Vote as at present framed on that ground, if not on any other—namely, that it was perfectly clear that the whole of this money was not required. The ground of objection, however, which he preferred to take was a larger one—namely, that this was a Vote of a very considerable and substantial sum in relief of local taxation in England and Scotland, which relief was entirely withheld from Ireland, where the people were much more seriously pressed by local taxation than in this country. The question whether the grant should be continued in places where there were no turnpike roads of any kind, as was the case in Scotland, would perhaps be dealt with more properly when the Committee came to the next Vote. He did not propose to move the reduction of the Vote, because he objected to it altogether, and he would content himself with expressing his determination to divide against it.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he did not think the Vote should be allowed to pass without a protest from the Irish Members. They were constantly told that they were treated on equal terms and that they had equal laws with the United Kingdom; but when it came to a question of whether Parliament should vote money for repairing and keeping up the roads in the three countries, it was most unfair that the people of Ireland should be obliged to contribute heavily to the maintenance of their own roads, and then, in addition, have to contribute something like £30,000 towards main- 498 taining the roads in England and Scotland. The case of Scotland did not come under this Vote; but that the Irish people should be required to contribute to the maintenance of the English roads at all really appeared to be very hard upon so poor a country. England was a much richer country, and yet she received a grant in aid. They were frequently told that Ireland received benefit from her connection with England; but at present she contributed £8,000,000 in the shape of taxation to the Imperial Exchequer, and only got back about £3,000,000 in return. The present case formed a good illustration of the totally different system which was adopted in granting money to the English and Irish countries. If the Government would come forward they might be able to confer substantial benefit upon the country if, instead of keeping up the roads, they would construct railways in such districts as Connemara and the county of Kerry. Railways would be of advantage in opening up markets for the produce of the country; but hitherto it had been found that the existing roads afforded no substantial benefit, and the Irish people were not likely to expend large sums of money upon them. Certainly they got no benefit at all equivalent to the largo sum of £250,000 voted for England and Scotland; and he did not see why the Irish Members should go on, year after year, voting that money, without making a very strong protest against it unless they were placed on a footing of equality. He might also point out how much worse off they were in Ireland in regard to the manner in which the roads were kept up. The sums necessary for maintaining them were voted by the Grand Juries, and paid by the cesspayers; but the Government took upon themselves the duty of appointing the County Surveyor. In this country that course was not followed; but in Ireland the Government took the patronage upon themselves. In England the patronage was enjoyed by the Local Authorities and by those who paid the rates. Therefore it would appear that in every way Ireland was placed in a most inferior position. Next week they would be asked to vote £1,000,000 for the construction of a railroad in the Soudan, as well as other railroads in Egypt; and they were asked, further, to keep up the roads of England 499 and Scotland, while they had to pay for their own roads out of their own pockets, and yet the Government insisted on having the distribution of the money which was levied for that purpose. It was not merely in the case of the County Surveyor, but in that of other appointments in Ireland, that the distribution of local taxation paid for out of the county rates was also made by the Government. Then, again, money which was supposed to be primarily contributed for the maintenance of roads was collected by the Government and used by them for other works. Upon all of those grounds it seemed to him that a case was established to show that very unequal justice was meted out as between Ireland and the United Kingdom, and he thought the Government might hold out some promise that in the future a grant in aid similar to that which was allowed to England and Scotland should be given to Ireland.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he did not rise to complain of the way in which either of the hon. Members who had brought forward this question had discussed it. At first sight it would seem that there was some justification for the complaint they had made; but he did not desire to go closely into the question whether Ireland had an advantage over England, or whether England had an advantage over Ireland, in the matter of taxation, and expenditure out of money raised by taxation, although he believed that if the question were inquired into it would be found that Ireland really had the best of it. [Colonel NOLAN: No.] This appeared, as regarded expenditure, from a Return moved for by the hon. and gallant Member himself He could also refer to several taxes which were imposed in this country and not in Ireland—such as the House Tax, for instance, and various others. But, as he had stated, he did not wish to discuss the question upon that ground. He would prefer to see questions of this kind treated in a liberal and generous spirit. That had been the case in the past, and he hoped it would continue to be so in the future. This question of turnpike roads was not the only one in regard to the Vote, which was not to be considered of a permanent character. It was merely proposed as a temporary measure until the whole question of Local Government and Local Taxation could be dealt with. It was 500 hoped that those questions would be dealt with early in the next Parliament, and then, he trusted, the question would be settled, and would be heard of no more either as it affected Ireland or England and Scotland. He thought Ireland had been very happy in not having possessed a similar system of turnpike roads to that which existed in this country.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that as to the question of the money to be given to Ireland for that purpose, he could only say that it was one which must await the consideration of the whole question of local taxation. In the first place, assuming that it was agreed to give money in aid of an Irish Vote, in the same way as it was now given to England and Scotland, who were the authorities they would have to pay? There were certainly no authorities in Ireland like those which existed in England and Scotland; and as the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) had pointed out, even the County Surveyor was appointed by the State. He should be very sorry if the matter stood in the same position in this country, and he hoped it would not long be left to the Local Authorities to maintain the turnpike roads in Ireland. As to the question whether money was to be given to Ireland, he could only repeat that that was a question which must be dealt with when the whole subject of Local Taxation and Local Government came to be considered in the next Parliament.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, the answer of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was fair as far as it went; but he thought it ought to be observed, in reply to the complaint of Gentlemen representing Irish constituencies, that this Vote did not arise out of feelings of benevolence towards the payers of local rates, but was rather a recognition, on the part of the State, of an injustice inflicted upon the ratepayers through the lapse of Parliamentary authority to charge tolls in respect of roads which had been disturnpiked. That was a subject which could hardly be said to arise out of any benevolent in- 501 tention on the part of the State to contribute towards the local rates. But the injury had arisen by the action of Parliament itself, and this was a Vote in aid to enable the Local Authorities to provide that which had been previously paid over by those who used the roads. That was a state of things which did not exist in Ireland, and the grievance, if there were one, in Ireland was not at all of a similar character. Consequently, Parliament would not be justified in making the same arrangement for Ireland as that which was made for the United Kingdom.
§ MR. E. H. PAGET
said, it was not necessary that he should enter into any question of disagreement or difference in regard to the local taxation of England and Ireland. Hitherto the English Members had constantly discussed the necessity of introducing large reforms in the system of levying local taxation. But the question of local taxation had been allowed to remain almost entirely in the hands of the English Members, and had not been taken up by Members either from Scotland or Ireland. There was nothing that would more rejoice the heart of a local taxation reformer than to find that he was obtaining new allies in his endeavour to remove the injustice of this taxation. If this question were to arise in the shape of a proposal to give a grant towards the maintenance of the Irish roads, he would be perfectly ready to consider that question on its merits. But in this particular case he was now asked to record his vote, "aye "or "no," in favour of the grant which was given towards the English roads. Although he had not the slightest objection to consider the question whether a similar Vote should be given to Ireland, he had a very strong objection to take away the grant now proposed for England. It had been pointed out by the right hon. Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth) that in abolishing turnpike roads additional burdens had been thrown upon the ratepayers. Those burdens had been distinctly pointed out by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Colonel Harcourt), who they all regretted not to have been able to see in his place for some time; but it was on the distinct recognition of the additional burden thrown on the ratepayers by the withdrawal of the sub- 502 vention hitherto made upon the travelling public to keep up these roads, that the State had consented to make this grant in aid. Therefore, the money the Committee were now asked to vote was not given entirely in that free and liberal spirit which hon. Gentlemen from Ireland seemed desirous of claiming; but, at any rate, it was given, according to a decision and a deliberate vote of the House, upon a principle which he and others had constantly advocated.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he failed to see any force in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sclater-Booth) as far as it was directed against the representation of his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. A. O'Connor). The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that because tolls were formerly paid on the English roads by the travelling public, that there should be a subvention now by the House of Commons. The Irish Members were not contending now that the tolls ought to be paid by the travelling public on the high roads, or that the discontinuance of a tax of that kind afforded any claim for a subvention. He presumed that those who used the roads were those who lived in the locality, and it could not be said that it was on account of an incursion of foreigners from other localities that the tolls which had been paid hitherto out of local resources should not be still supplied from local resources. What his hon. Friend said was that there were formerly turnpike roads in Ireland, that those turnpike roads had been abolished, and no one had ever got up in that House to say that the Local Authorities, on whom the support of the roads was in consequence thrown, ought to be compensated. The main argument upon which he and his hon. Friends relied in opposing this taxation was that, no matter how the money had been formerly obtained, it was not fair that they should ask the people of Ireland, who paid for their own roads, to contribute £40,000 out of £215,000 to pay for the roads in England. That was what it came to. The Irish people contributed to the Imperial funds, and the House of Commons proposed to dip their hands into the Imperial purse and take out £215,000, towards which the Irish people, who paid every penny of the cost of supporting their own roads, 503 contributed largely. That was a gross injustice, and no ingenuity could give it any other complexion. He had no objection to the tone of the speech of the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote. As a matter of fact, there was never anything to be said in condemnation of the tone of the hon. Gentleman; but the substance of the hon. Gentleman's speech was decidedly unsatisfactory. The hon. Gentleman bade them look forward with hope to the next Parliament. Well, he believed the next Parliament would do a great many things which this Parliament, notwithstanding its pretensions, had been unable to accomplish. But he objected always to be fed upon hope. It was not a substantial fare. The statement of the hon. Gentleman was coupled with another—that they must wait until a general measure of Local Taxation and Local Government could be passed. That was precisely the excuse Earl Spencer had been putting forward in Ireland for the last five years for neglecting to proceed with important measures. Earl Spencer told them that the Government were meditating some general scheme; but what it was had never yet left the mind of that noble Earl. The Irish Members had waited with hope—it had now diminished to a vanishing point—for the appearance of this great scheme, which they had so long been told was to bring them financial relief in Ireland. They were now told that they were to live in the hope of finding a higher moral capacity or better intentions in a new Parliament. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury took credit for his forbearance in not looking too closely into the question of taxation in the Three Kingdoms. He told the hon. Gentleman to enter into that question as closely as he liked, and the Irish Members were quite ready to follow him. If he wished it to be understood that Ireland was in any way receiving advantage, or even fair play, from the Imperial purse, in the shape of grants in aid of local burdens, he would tell the hon. Gentleman that that was not the case. It was altogether remote from the fact, and quite contrary to it. Let him compare the grants in aid of local taxation in England, Ireland, and Scotland; and what was the result? First of all, if any relief were made in any country, it should 504 be the poor country, whose capacity was the least, that should receive it, and not the rich country. If the Imperial purse, which was contributed to by the Three Kingdoms, was to be dipped into for the benefit of either of the three, the recipient of the relief ought to be Ireland, and not England, which was the wealthiest country in the world. In the last decade the valuation of England for purposes of this kind had increased by 30 per cent—an increase unparalleled in the civilized world. In the same period, that for Ireland had increased by 4 per cent. Thus, in the same period, while the Return of incomes in Ireland remained almost stationary, the capacity to pay taxation in England had increased by leaps and bounds; and in the same decade in Ireland the number of persons in the receipt of relief had doubled. Large numbers had been compelled to give up the means of earning a living, and the population itself had very largely diminished. Therefore, it was plain that it would not only be unjust, but cruel, to add anything to the local burdens of Ireland. Grants in aid of local taxation from the Imperial purse in England amounted to £3,500,000; in Scotland to over £500,000; and in Ireland, although the sum was nominally much greater, if they took out the Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Police, which were just as much military forces as the Army and Navy, officered under the control of the Lord Lieutenant, and maintained altogether independent of the will of the people, and, in fact, contrary to it—taking out those sums, it would be found that Ireland received very little in aid of grants for local purposes; while Scotland, with a population only three-fourths of that of Ireland, received £500,000, and England £3,500,000. That proved that no fair play was given to Ireland, but that very great hardship was inflicted upon her in this matter. Who were the people who had paid for the maintenance of roads in Ireland? He did not blame the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury for being unacquainted with the details, because he had only lately come into his present Office; but he appeared to have founded something on the question of the Highway Authority. Now, in Ireland the Highway Authority was the Grand Jury, and the sum was levied in every county by means of county cess. Among the pur- 505 poses for which county cess was given was the maintenance of the high roads. If the hon. Gentleman had any benevolent intentions towards Ireland in reference to those roads, he would place the charge upon the Imperial purse, and no objection would be entertained on that side of the House. The people who paid taxes in Ireland—poor rate and county cess—were the poor occupiers; and he asked the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind this extraordinary fact—that, whereas 20 years ago the rates only amounted to 10d. in the pound, they were now nearly 2s., having been more than doubled. All those taxes fell upon the occupiers, and the increase was more than equal to the whole of the taxation 20 years ago. The landlord did not pay 1d. of county cess, but the whole of it fell upon the struggling occupier, who was only in one degree removed from the condition of a pauper. The injustice of the tax in the case of Ireland was manifest. In England the valuation was increasing, the people were well-to-do, the taxes fell lightly upon them, and were hardly felt by the bulk of the community; but in Ireland persons only one degree above the condition of paupers contributed every penny for the maintenance of the high roads. Notwithstanding that fact, they were required to pay £40,000 a-year out of their narrow means in aid of the maintenance of roads in England and Scotland.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, he was glad to find that hon. Members from Ireland were becoming convinced of the pressure of local taxation in that country, and he would be glad to do anything he could to alleviate the burden so far as Ireland was concerned. He would most heartily support any proposition that would give relief from the burden of maintaining arterial roads in Ireland. Casual visits to that country led him to the conclusion that the high roads there were much superior to those they had in England. He did not see why a grant should not be given to the Irish Grand Juries, as well as to the Courts of Quarter Sessions or the Local Authorities in England. But, as a matter of fact, whatever might be the comparison between the amount of Imperial taxation paid by Ireland or by England, there were one or two little matters in Ireland in which the Irish people had an ad- 506 vantage over the ratepayers in England. Take the Dog Tax; it was an Imperial tax in this country and a local tax in Ireland, and he should be glad to see some day or other that it was made a local tax for Great Britain as well as for Ireland. In the matter of turnpike tolls, he believed that, although they were unpopular, they were strictly just. Those who used the roads paid for them; and now the arrangement was that those who used the roads least paid the most. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) referred to the fact that England had increased very much in wealth. That was certainly not the case with regard to the occupiers of land. Their prosperity had not increased very much in the last few years; but, on the contrary, the owners and occupiers of land had considerably diminished in wealth and prosperity, although they paid almost the whole of the rates of the country. He maintained that any sort of contribution which the general wealth of the country could afford ought to be made towards the relief of local taxation, not only in Ireland, but throughout the United Kingdom.
§ MR. W. J. CORBET
wished to correct a false impression which might be produced by the statement of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) in reference to the Dog Tax. The tax amounted to something like £30,000 a-year in Ireland, but it was almost entirely absorbed in the payment of officials connected with the Office of the Registrar of Dublin Castle. A very small amount, indeed, went in aid of local taxation.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he thought he had heard the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. George Russell) cheer some of the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken below the Gangway (Mr. Clare Read). He took it that that cheer meant that in England there was good cause for the grant towards the maintenance of those roads. Now, what were the purposes for which many of the main roads were made in this country? They were made for the purpose of connecting the large towns—for instance, London with Edinburgh, London with Liverpool and Manchester, and even London with Holyhead—and many of the Irish roads were made for a 507 similar purpose; and he could not see why the ratepayers in Ireland should not receive the same grant in respect of the main roads of that country as was allowed to the ratepayers of this country. He had always felt and believed that the turnpikes should be maintained, and that the cost of maintaining the roads should be paid by those who made use of them; and it was well known that many of the main roads were of comparatively little use to the local inhabitants. It was not they who travelled by them, but the general public who made use of them; but, notwithstanding that fact, the farmers and residents of the poorer localities had to pay for them. He should like to hear one word from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board to intimate that the Government would recognize, in this case, the claim of the Irish people to some relief.
MR. GEORGE RUSSELL
said, the hon. and gallant Baronetwas very insidious in the advances he had made. He (Mr. Russell) had greeted with a cheer certain sentiments which fell from hon. Members from Ireland, simply intending to indicate that they received his sympathy. It was not, of course, for him to lay down any general rule as to the taxation to be applied to the different parts of the United Kingdom; but granting that the principle of subventions from the Imperial Treasury, in relief of local taxation, was a sound one, it was very difficult to deny that Ireland had an equal right to such subventions with England and Scotland.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had said that he did not know how the money raised for the maintenance of roads in Ireland was disposed of. Now, the Grand Juries in Ireland were the persons who were responsible for keeping the roads in repair, and, of course, they were the persons who determined what the contribution of the locality should be. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not know that there were two areas of taxation upon which the Grand Juries imposed the rate in connection with roads. One was a charge on the county at large. In charging the county at large the amount went in relief of the local rates for the maintenance of the main roads of the country—for instance, the mail coach roads. But in places 508 where no turnpike roads existed the charge was thrown upon the local baronies, and they were purely local rates in which the area for which the rate was required was specified. Originally, the cost of those roads was borne by the county in which the roads existed. In the county of Antrim, with which he was well acquainted, there was a main road from Belfast to Coleraine, and thence on to Londonderry, and there were three or four turnpikes on that road. It was a road of an arterial nature, and had to be kept in repair by the Grand Juries. There was another mail coach road in the county of Antrim, between Belfast and Dublin, upon which several tolls were levied; and there were tolls also upon the road from Belfast to Carrickfergus. There were no charges for tolls on those roads for Government purposes, or upon persons who made use of them for the purpose of going to church on Sunday. In those respects the roads were free. But tolls were very strictly levied in regard to any other use of the roads. Those tolls had now been entirely abolished; but the main roads were still required to be kept up at the expense of the ratepayers, and he considered the principle to be most unjust, because in many counties—take, for instance, the county of Down—the old main roads were very much better and wider than were required for purely local traffic, but, nevertheless, they were still kept up at the expense of the local ratepayers. He quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Water B. Barttelot), that the maintenance of the main and leading roads should be provided for by Parliament. In the case of purely local roads they could hardly expect a grant in aid from Parliament; but in regard to the main roads, they were certainly entitled to a contribution towards the expense of maintenance. In the county of Water-ford, the road between Waterford and Cork was a leading road, which certainly ought to be supported by a public grant, seeing that it was never used at all for the convenience of the locality, but merely for the through traffic. As these grants were given to England and Scotland, he failed to see why the Government should not hold out to the Irish Members the expectation that, if not immediately, they would, in the future, 509 give a vote of this sort to Ireland. He believed the amount contributed by Ireland to the two countries which formed the United Kingdom, amounted to £60,000 a-year, and he thought something ought to be done to put Ireland on a footing of equality with England and Scotland, even if it became necessary to propose a Supplementary Vote in the present year. It was as clear as noonday that Ireland was treated unfairly, and that the Government had full power, if they chose to exercise it, of doing justice.
§ MR. DEASY
supported the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), that the Government should bring in a Supplementary Estimate. If they did not wish to do that, they might make a subvention of £40,000 towards the maintenance of the Irish roads. He did not think that anything more unjust towards the Irish people could be imagined than the principle upon which the Three Kingdoms were dealt with in this matter. What the Irish people had to do with the roads in England was more than he could see, nor could he understand why they should be asked to pay £40,000 a-year for the relief of the English taxpayers. Certain roads in the neighbourhood of Cork were made for the convenience of the barracks, and they were mainly, at the present moment, used by the military. They included one of the most expensive roads perhaps in Ireland, and yet the people of the county of Cork were not aided to the extent of a single 1d. from the Imperial funds towards the maintenance of that road. The Government had passed a Land Act which had had the effect of reducing rents in Ireland; but the unfortunate people in whose favour the rents had been reduced had still to contribute their fall share towards county cess, whereas the very rich population of England received a contribution from the Imperial Exchequer towards the maintenance of the highways of the country. He thought that was a most outrageous injustice, and he trusted that his hon. Friends would, on every possible occasion, strongly protest against it. It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to express sympathy with the views which had been uttered by the Irish Members; but he failed to see of what value that sympathy was if nothing resulted from it. They were quite accustomed to see 510 hon. Members rise and admit that the Irish claims were just and reasonable; but his complaint was that no notice was taken of those claims when these Votes came on in Committee of Supply. He did not believe, in spite of the observations of hon. Gentleman opposite, that the Government, unless they were compelled to do so, would be disposed to give £40,000 in aid of the Irish roads, instead of compelling the Irish people to contribute that sum, as they did at present, towards the maintenance of the English and Scotch roads. During the last 10 years the number of paupers in Ireland had increased from 280,000 to 590,000, while during the same time the amount of pauperism is England had decreased. That fact alone ought to induce the Government to take time to consider before they called upon such a poor country as Ireland to contribute towards the maintenance of roads, or anything else, in such a rich country as England. £215,000 was now asked for as a contribution for keeping up the English roads, while not a single 1s. was proposed to be given to Ireland. Not only was that the case, but many of the roads which were kept up in that country were not necessary at all for the purposes of developing the resources of the country, having been made principally at the public expense for the convenience of the landlords. If that were not the case in Ireland, the county cess would be very much lower than it was. In some places it amounted to from 3s. to 4s. in the pound, and the poor rate was also very high. Ten years ago the poor rate in the Cork Union was 1s. 6d. in the pound, and now it amounted to 3s. 6d. or 4s. He believed there were very few places in England where the poor rate was as high as that; and even if it were higher than in Ireland, the people of England were able to pay it, while those of Ireland were not. He could entirely confirm the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Wick-low (Mr. Corbet) in reference to the Dog Tax. The total sum realized in Ireland from the Dog Tax amounted to £32,000, while the cost of collecting it amounted to £28,000; so that out of £32,000 the only sum contributed towards the relief of taxation was £4,000, and the unfortunate people who had to pay county cess were compelled to pay for sheep and other dogs on which no tax was 511 levied in England. He trusted that the Government, even now, would see the justice of bringing in a Supplementary Estimate in order to give a grant in aid to Ireland.
§ MR. P. J. POWER
said, the only desire of his hon. Friends in this matter was to place the people of Ireland upon a par with the people of England and Scotland. He asked the Committee to bear in mind that in Ireland, owing to the scarcity of railways in many districts, the roads were still very much used for the conveyance of Her Majesty's mails. To his mind, that was another reason why the Treasury should contribute towards the maintenance of the Irish roads. Certainly that was the case in the county he had the honour to represent (Water-ford). A considerable number of mails were conveyed daily by four-horse cars along the main roads; and his hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) had alluded to some of the routes upon which, within his own knowledge, mail coaches now ran. It could not be denied that the people of Ireland contributed their fair proportion towards the Imperial taxation. In fact, if the figures were properly gone into, it would be found that they paid more than their fair proportion. Another reason why the Government should make this grant, and place the Irish people on a par with those of England and Scotland, was this—that, owing to the Government not keeping their promises, the Grand Jury system still continued in Ireland. Her Majesty's Ministers had made repeated promises to deal with that subject; but they had never yet seen fit to keep them, but bad directed attention to other and far less important questions. So far as Ireland was concerned, that was one of the most vital questions that could be brought on for consideration. The county he represented paid, at that moment, a tax of £14,000 a-year to the shareholders of a Railway Company; and it was contended that if the Grand Jury system were reformed, and the counties governed on some representative system, a considerable portion of that local taxation would be got rid of. He hoped the Government would accede to the demand which had been made by his hon. Friends, which, to every fair-minded man, must appear to be of a most reasonable character.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he would be very sorry not to take part in any measure of justice to Ireland; but hon. Members seemed to have forgotten that in Ireland there was no Carriage Tax.
An hon. MEMBER
There are no carriages, except those belonging to the landlords, on which it could be levied.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, hon. Members opposite had enumerated the advantages enjoyed by the two countries; but that was putting the question upon a false issue. As far as he remembered, the Vote now under the consideration of the Committee was founded upon an arrangement made by the Prime Minister in consequence of what occurred on the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxfordshire (Colonel Harcourt) in reference to the Carriage Tax. That Vote was given to England, and subsequently to Scotland, and he supposed it was not given to Ireland owing to the fact that there was no Carriage Tax in that country. He was quite of opinion that Ireland had a claim for consideration in the matter; but he hoped that the grants from Imperial Taxation in aid of local taxation would not be increased, and that the time was not far distant when this Vote would disappear altogether from the Estimates. He should support the Vote, although he admitted that a Vote for England and Scotland, and none for Ireland, presented a somewhat anomalous appearance.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he could not admit that there was any connection between the argument of the hon. Gentleman opposite and the claim put forward by the Irish Members. The hon. Gentleman had cited the case of the Carriage Tax; but the people of Ireland who had carriages were not the people who maintained the roads. Those who kept their carriages in Ireland were not numerous compared with those in England; but whoever they were, they did not pay 1d. for keeping up the roads. It was the occupier, and not the landlord, who paid for them. He was glad to see the Prime Minister present, because it was desirable that his attention should be called to the fact that every 1d. of county cess in Ireland was paid by the occupier, and not by the landlord; and, therefore, there was no connection between the Carriage Tax and the demand made by the Irish Members 513 in reference to the support of the roads. If the Prime Minister would allow him, in a few words he would convey to the right hon. Gentleman's mind the merits of the case. The Committee were now asked to grant £215,000 to England, and, in the next Vote, £35,000 to Scotland, as grants in aid of local taxation in connection with the maintenance of roads; and in the case of Scotland it was paid, although there had been no roads disturnpiked at all. In Ireland they were called upon to contribute 40 or 50 per cent towards this subvention in aid of the local roads in England and Scotland, whereas in Ireland itself every 1d. of the same expenditure for keeping up the roads came out of the pockets of the occupiers of land, who were the poorest class of people. That state of things occurred when, as the right hon. Gentleman well knew, the capacity of England to bear taxation had been increased by 30 per cent during the last 10 years; whereas, on the contrary, the capacity of Ireland had diminished, and pauperism, instead of prosperity, was increasing. Every circumstance pointed to the equity and justice of some relief being given to Ireland, instead of that country being asked to contribute towards a subvention for England and Scotland. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would see that the existing system was not one that ought to be continued; and it would give great satisfaction to the Irish Members if he would say a word in the same spirit as the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, or hold out any hope that the matter would be considered between this year and next, with the object of placing the taxation of the Three Kingdoms upon a more equitable basis.
said, that when Parliament—not the present Parliament, but the new Parliament—came, at the very earliest period, as he thought it ought to come, and must come, to a comprehensive consideration of the question of Local and Imperial Taxation, and the relations of Local and Imperial Taxation in the Three Kingdoms, undoubtedly this would be a point which would have to be put down more or less to the credit of Ireland on her side of the account. That was the admission he was prepared to make; but the question evidently formed part of a large subject to which a comprehensive consideration would 514 have to be given. More than that he could not undertake to say. He stated that, because he thought that justice required it; and no doubt, when Parliament came to consider the whole matter, a fair and equitable view would be taken by those who represented the Three Kingdoms.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the observations of the Prime Minister were just and equitable; but the right hon. Gentleman talked of a prospective amelioration of the present position, whereas, unfortunately, the grievance was a present one, and the Irish ratepayers who were taxed now and had to pay their own cess were also called upon to contribute to a Vote in aid of the English ratepayers, with no immediate prospect of an improvement in their local administration or of their financial arrangements. No change hereafter in local administration or in local financial arrangements would give relief to those who would be necessarily taxed now if this Vote were passed in favour of the English and Scotch ratepayers. The hon. Member the Secretary to the Treasury was evidently unacquainted with the exceedingly unfair incidence of local taxation in respect of roads in Ireland. He might inform the hon. Gentleman that the highway rate in this country only formed one-twentieth part of the local revenue, and represented a little more than £1,000,000 out of a revenue of £20,000,000, whereas in Ireland, out of a revenue of £3,300,000 raised for local purposes, no less than £333,000 was paid for the maintenance of roads. Therefore, while in Ireland one-tenth of the local revenue went towards the maintenance of roads, in England the amount was only one-twentieth. Therefore, the pressure upon the Irish people was double as heavy as in England, and yet, while in England a substantial relief was afforded, in Ireland no relief at all was given. He was grateful to the Prime Minister for the equitable language he had used; but it did not remove the fundamental objection he took to a proposal of this kind. Therefore, unless he obtained from the Government some undertaking that they would make a similar contribution for the maintenance of turnpike or disturnpiked roads in Ireland as that which was made for England and Scotland, or, at any rate, that they would give to Ire- 515 land something in aid of local taxation more than they did now to enable the people to pay the local taxes, he should feel it necessary to take a division against the Vote. There were many ways in which the Government might make up to Ireland for what she had sacrificed in this particular instance. There were many things in that country which rightly called for some Government action, and some of the Votes which had hitherto been taken for Ireland were now at an end. For instance, there was the Vote for the Shannon improvements, and if the Government would continue the £10,000 or £20,000 spent heretofore on the Shannon for similar works in other parts of Ireland, where drainage was badly required, Ireland would not feel the injustice of this Vote so much. But unless they were promised the advantage of a Government subvention on something like the same terms as England and Scotland, they must show their objection to the present Vote in the only way that was open to them.
§ MR. HICKS
said, he had listened to the debate with considerable attention, and it appeared to him that a great deal of irrelevant matter had been introduced into it which was not altogether consistent with the real facts of the case. The question before the Committee was whether Ireland was entitled to relief from local taxation or not. That was a grave question, and he was certainly of opinion that she was entitled to it. He thought it a great pity that the question had been mixed up with the Carriage Tax and the Dog Tax, and other extraneous matters. Nor would it alter the question whether there had been an increase of assessment in England or not. But with regard to there having been an increase of assessment, if that subject were inquired into in the rural districts of England, he believed it would be found that the assessment had been materially reduced. The rents had been reduced, and, sooner or later, a reduction of assessment was bound to follow. Then, as to the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. A. O'Connor) as to the proportion of the burden of maintaining the roads which fell upon England and upon Ireland, he understood the hon. Member to say that in one case it amounted to one-tenth, and in the other to one-twentieth He thought tie hon. Member was mis- 516 taken, and he did not know that that was the case anywhere.
§ MR. HICKS
said, that it was a very great mistake to suppose that the proportion amounted to one-twentieth part. In talking of English local taxation people very often mixed up a number of things with the actual local taxation that had nothing whatever to do with it. For instance, they included water rates and gas rates—things that had nothing to do with the poor rate and nothing to do with the highway rate. If they took the highway rate and that which really constituted the local revenues—the poor rate—and the things which were properly included in them, it would be found that, instead of one-twentieth, the proportion of highway rates to poor rates was nearly one fourth—at any rate, in the rural districts. In his own district the poor rate was 2s. 6d. in the pound, and the highway rate would be 8d. But those points, he thought, were entirely outside the discussion on this Vote, the question raised being as to why, if relief were to be afforded in the matter of roads in England and Scotland, it should not also be afforded in the case of Ireland, and he considered it should.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, that Members from Ireland would be grateful to the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down for placing the question in a proper light. Certainly, no argument had been adduced to prove that this allowance should not be made; and he could not but think that the argument drawn from the poor rate was somewhat beside the question, which was as to whether they in Ireland were not entitled to the same relief in respect of the maintenance of roads as was given in the case of the roads in England and Scotland. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), who raised this question. He thought that every county should have its share of the money, and he hoped that the intimation of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would be carried out, and that next year a Vote equal in amount to that of the Vote now before the Committee would be put into the Estimates for the maintenance of the roads in Ireland.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 144; Noes 23: Majority 121.—(Div. List, No. 124.)
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £30,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, in Aid of the Cost of Maintenance of Disturnpiked and other Roads maintained out of Public Rates in Scotland during the year ended Whitsuntide 1885.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had already recorded his opinion that while England received the entire advantage in comparison with Ireland in the matter of these subventions, Scotland was the spoilt child of the Estimates. He had pointed out that the amount of the grants in aid of local taxation in Ireland was only about £500,000 a-year; whereas in the case of Scotland, with a much smaller population, it amounted to £525,000. Then there was another singular fact admitted in connection with this matter—namely, that some of the counties of Scotland relieved by this grant had no disturnpiked roads at all. The heading of the Vote in the Appropriation Act was simply "Disturnpiked Roads." In England some of the grant was for main roads besides disturnpiked roads; but in Scotland it was given for some roads which were not disturnpiked. 'The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had pleaded on behalf of these grants that before the roads were disturnpiked the cost of maintaining them was paid out of the tolls charged on those who used the roads, and he gave that as the reason why the localities should be relieved; but that could not be pleaded on behalf of the grants made for the maintenance of roads which were never disturnpiked; and therefore he said that the same claim on the Imperial purse did not exist as was alleged by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to England. He thought this transaction on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and the Treasury was a most grave and questionable one, inasmuch as in addition to its unfairness it tended to withdraw from the cognizance of Parliament the expenditure of the public money. The meaning of the Government regulations with respect to those grants was, that while in England only 518 the localities were relieved which had disturnpiked roads, in Scotland, whether the roads were disturnpiked or not, the localities should receive the same relief as if they had disturnpiked roads.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
said, he could not admit that there was any justice in the observation of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) that Scotland was the spoilt child of the Estimates. He would not go into the larger question, but could do so if necessary, and he did not think there would be any difficulty in showing that the contributions in aid of local taxation in Ireland were far in excess of any given to Scotland. In the case of the Police, for instance, the whole cost of maintenance was contributed by the Imperial Exchequer. ["No, no!"] There were also other contributions which he would not dwell upon. As regarded the particular question before the Committee, he was afraid that the hon. Member had not adverted to the heading of the Vote, because it was "Disturnpiked and other Reads." He would remind the Committee of the history of the matter. [Mr. SEXTON: Why is the heading different in the Appropriation Account?] He thought it was "Disturnpiked and other Roads," but perhaps the word "other "had been admitted by mistake; at all events, the word "other" occurred in the Estimate, which he proposed to deal with. The Committee would recollect that £250,000 was agreed to be granted as a contribution in aid of the maintenance of roads, and as had been stated by the hon. Member it was made in terms applicable to disturnpiked and main roads. It was true that the words "main roads "was an incorrect term—it was an error, and had been rectified since. Well, during the first year that the Vote was given, the only contribution was to counties, the roads of which had been disturnpiked since 1860. It was felt and represented in that House—and he believed that the representation was considered by the House generally to be a just one—that by going back to 1860 an injustice was done to those counties of Scotland which had anticipated the legislation which subsequently took place and which culminated in the Act of 1878. There were various instances in which roads were disturnpiked by County Acts between 1850 and 1860, and 519 accordingly it was felt that the representation made that the counties concerned should participate was a reasonable one, and it was determined to carry back the period to 1850. He did not gather from the remarks of the hon. Member that he would complain of the practice with regard to those roads having come into operation somewhat earlier in Scotland than in England. The gravamen of the hon. Member's charge related to those counties where there were no disturnpiked roads. That question had been brought before the House very prominently by the hon. Member for the Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ramsay), and the result was a prevalent or unanimous assent, so far as one could gather, to the view that those counties which never had received a contribution in aid, because they had maintained their own roads, had just as great a claim to a share of the general grant as those which had for some time received a contribution by reason of their having disturnpiked roads. The proportion given to Scotland was very nearly on the basis of population between the two countries, making a little allowance in consequence of the greater lines of roads in Scotland, and that was the allocation which appeared on the Votes. He did not suppose that hon. Members would care to pursue the matter very narrowly, seeing that Scotland only got a fair proportion of the grant, and that the domestic arrangement, as he might call it, of allocating the grant between the various counties was such as had received the prevalent assent of the House, and had the great merit of being just in itself.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he was glad the Committee had had the advantage of listening to a speech from the Lord Advocate because it appeared to him to be entirely in favour of the view taken of this matter by Irish Members. As a matter of fact, the Scotch case was exactly the same as the Irish case. The Scotch people had had a very able advocate, however, and got their share of the money. But the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was that the grant in aid was by way of compensation for the tolls that had been given up. The only argument against the claim of Irish Members had been upset by the Lord Advocate. It was 520 practically admitted that Ireland was in the same position as that in which Scotland formerly stood. He would only point out the great disparity which existed between the two countries in this respect—namely, that whereas the Scotch people had got the money, the unfortunate Irish tenants who bore the bulk of the cost of maintaining the Irish roads were without relief. He trusted the Government would attend to the argument of the Lord Advocate.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he objected in principle to grants in aid of local rates; but the practice had been adopted of giving to England and Scotland money, and, in his opinion, it ought in that case to be distributed all round. He should vote for the grant in aid to Scotland only because England had already received it. If hon. Members from Ireland were to bring forward a Motion to give a grant to Ireland under similar circumstances, he should vote with them. In the case of Scotland there was no difference between the disturnpiked roads and others—they had all been taken over by the County Boards. He did not now see any difference between the case of Ireland and that of Scotland; and, as he had already stated, he was ready to vote for a Motion, if it were brought forward, to place the two countries in a similar position in respect of the maintenance of roads.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he hoped the Irish Members would be a little more consistent than the hon. Member (Mr. Barclay). The hon. Gentleman wished to have fair play all round; he had voted against the subvention for England, but he was not prepared to vote against that for Scotland. There was no subvention proposed in relief of local taxation in Ireland, and, therefore, the Irish Members objected alike to the Votes for England and Scotland. He hoped they were sufficiently consistent, having voted against the privilege extended to England, to vote against the privilege being extended to Scotland. The Irish Representatives objected to the system of subventions from the Imperial Exchequer in aid of local taxation. ["No, no ! "] It seemed they were not unanimous. He, however, was of opinion that there ought to be no subventions from the Imperial Exchequer in aid of 521 local taxation. Every local area ought to bear its own local burdens, and the Imperial Exchequer ought only to bear burdens which were essentially Imperial. At any rate, if there was to be any departure from that principle, the departure ought to apply to every portion of the Kingdom. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate had referred to a Scotch Member who, two years ago, made a stand against the proposed Vote for England, on the ground that Scotland was not allowed to participate in the same proportion as England in the scramble. The hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay) divided the House two years ago against the Vote for England, and he objected to the Vote for Scotland on the ground that the distribution of the Vote was not equitably made in Scotland—that some portions of the country did not obtain the advantage that others did. What did the hon. Member for Falkirk say his objection to the Vote was? Why, that if the Vote was made at all, it should be made equally all round—that every portion of the Kingdom ought to obtain its share. The hon. Member was supported on that occasion by the Irish Members. He (Mr. A. O'Connor) was sorry to say that they did not find that the Scotch Members regarded it as a matter of reciprocity when the claims of Ireland in the matter were urged upon the House. There was this peculiar feature about the Vote for Scotland, that an allowance was made to the country in respect of those districts in which there never was a turnpike road. Now, the Committee were told by the Lord Advocate that the Vote was to be increased, in order that some inequality might be got rid of. The fact was, that when the Vote was only £25,000, they did not spend so much in Scotland; they only required £23,800 for this purpose. The last Appropriation Account showed that there was actually upwards of £1,100 surrendered out of the smaller Vote of £25,000. What was the case now? Whereas £23,000 odd was sufficient two years ago, Scotland now wanted £35,000, and the only thing to be said in defence of the increased amount was that the Scotch Members insisted on obtaining, and the Government assented to their obtaining, something like a fair proportionate share of this public grant 522 from the Imperial Exchequer. Why should Ireland not be allowed to share in the grant? The Government told the Irish Members that they could not have it, but that they must wait until, by some measure or other to be brought in in a future Parliament, something like equality in this matter could be secured between the different parts of the Kingdom. He had no doubt that when there was a new Parliament, the Irish Members would be able to produce effects much greater than they could now. The pressure they would be able to bring to bear on the Government would be something like the effective pressure which the Scotch Members could now bring to bear on the Liberal Administration. There were now sitting on the Government Bench hon. Members who in previous years had recognized the hardship under which Ireland rested in this particular. The hon. Gentleman who was now the Secretary to the Local Government (Mr. George Russell) recognized last year the inequality of treatment in this respect, and he joined the Irish Members in the division against the Government proposal. He could not now ask the hon. Gentleman to repeat his action, because the position of the hon. Gentleman was altered. The Irish Members would very likely find that, whatever individual Members of the Government felt ought to be done with regard to Ireland, they would have to rest content with the present state of things. He hoped, however, that they would go to a division, simply in order that they might have a record of their proceedings—a record of the protest on the part of Irish Members against this signal instance of unequal treatment which was meted out to Ireland in the distribution of public money.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he hoped that this was the last year in which these subventions would appear on the Estimates. A more objectionable system than that comprised in these grants in aid could not be imagined, for it really amounted to putting money into the pocket of the people with one hand and taking it out with the other, then to be spent without that check which was felt when it came out of their own pocket. He trusted that between this and the assembling of the next Parliament, calculations 523 would be made with the view of getting rid of these subventions. That might be effected by transferring to localities a number of small taxes yielding an income of about £6,000,000—more than suffient to cover the subventions. He could not help pointing out to the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. A. O'Connor) and the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), who were very fond of calling attention to the amounts of public money received by Scotland in comparison with those granted to Ireland, that those hon. Gentlemen disregarded the fact that Scotland contributed in many respects considerably more to the Revenue of the United Kingdom than Ireland.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that this was a matter of great practical importance. A great many things were to be relegated to the new Parliament which they were told would do a great deal of justice which could not at present be obtained; but he would like, if they could, to do a little good in this Parliament. It was small comfort for them to hear from the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir George Balfour) that they should devote the time between this and the next Parliament to mating calculations. There were no more intelligent or calculating people in the world than the Irish, and one of their peculiarities was that they could make their calculations with every reasonable rapidity. If the Government told the Committee that they really meant to remedy the state of things which existed in Ireland—if they meant to apply a remedy as soon as the people were ready to supply them with the necessary calculations, he assured the Government that those calculations would be forthcoming a great deal quicker than his hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) imagined.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL
said, he had listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) with considerable pain, because, so far as he could gather, the right hon. and learned Gentleman urged the Government to depart from an agreement entered into by their Predecessors. He (Sir Herbert Maxwell) regarded this Vote as a corollary of the Turnpikes Act of the late Government; and, therefore, any indication of an intention on the part of the Government to depart from the agree- 524 ment entered into in consequence of that legislation, would be a distinct breach of faith. Whatever might be the merits of the relative amounts of expenditure upon what might be called the systems in Ireland and Scotland, there could be no change of intention on the part of the Government on this point. He should be glad to hear from the Government that he was right in assuming that to be the case.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he did not quite understand the process of argument of their Irish Friends. He was willing to admit that Ireland had a claim for relief of local taxation; but he did not see why, because Ireland had such a claim. Irish Members should move to negative this Vote. Their proceeding seemed to him very curious, to say the least of it. He did not understand the logic of it, because the ratepayers of England and Scotland were entitled to relief under an agreement come to between the Prime Minister and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Colonel Harcourt). That there was not such relief afforded to Ireland was no real reason why the Irish Members should object to the English and Scotch receiving it; it was a very good reason why there should be relief given to Ireland, but it was no reason why it should be refused to England and Scotland. At the same time, the attitude of the Irish Members was quite as consistent as that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay). The hon. Gentleman said he was opposed to those grants altogether, and being opposed to them he voted against that proposed for England. He was, however, prepared to vote for the grant to Scotland, and the reason he gave was that England already had got the Vote. He (Mr. Warton) hoped they would be able to test the sentiments of the hon. Member for Forfarshire next-year by reversing the order of the Votes. He very much questioned whether, if the Vote for Scotland were proposed first, the hon. Member would be found voting against this objectionable system, for he was afraid that the hon. Gentleman would on no account vote against money being granted to Scotland.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman's (Mr. Warton's) observations were very unfair to the hon. Gentleman the Mem- 525 ber for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay). The interference of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Barclay) in the debate was kindly meant towards Ireland, and his statement was perfectly consistent. The hon. Gentleman was in favour of a grant being given to Ireland as well as to Scotland, and being a Scotchman he naturally voted in favour of the grant being continued to his own country. The Irish Members had no means whatever of giving the hon. Gentleman an opportunity of voting for a grant for them. No one knew better than the hon. Member himself that it was impossible for any private Member to bring forward anything like a distinct proposal of the kind. The reason of the Irish Members' attitude was perfectly intelligible. They were opposed to the Vote for Scotland, not that they disapproved of that Vote, but because it was unaccompanied by a Vote for Ireland. He was glad that this Vote was intrusted to the care of the present Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert). There was no Member of the Government whose mind was more open to reason, and who was more willing to give expression to his opinions when they had been changed by arguments addressed to him, than the hon. Gentleman. Now, the hon. Gentleman had heard that discussion—a discussion of a very remarkable character in one respect. Practically all the speakers, representing nearly every shade of opinion in the House, had joined in backing the claim of Ireland. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) was kind enough, a short time ago, to speak in a spirit friendly to Ireland, and no doubt he would be found amongst the supporters of a grant being given to Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin 'Mr. Gibson), who was separated from the Irish National Party by as wide a chasm of political difference as could separate any two Parties, pressed upon the Government the desirability of meeting the claim of Ireland in this matter. The hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay), who was not unacquainted with questions of this kind, also spoke in favour of Ireland. Every section of the Committee, therefore, had practically united with the Irish Members in pressing this claim upon the attention of 526 the Government. He was almost precluded from urging any argument in favour of the principle of the demand which was made. He assumed that the demand would not have received such unanimous and highly respectable support if it were not founded on reason and justice. The only point he wished to press on the Government was the desirability and possibility of their dealing with the question promptly. He quite agreed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) that it was a rather perilous proceeding for them to postpone until the next Parliament all matters of reform. He joined with most other people in looking to the next Parliament for the introduction of very great and desirable reforms in the three countries; but, at the same time, it must be borne in mind that the next Parliament would, in all probability, find, like all preceding Parliaments, that it had more work to do than it could get through. It was only due to the next Parliament that if they could introduce small reforms in this Parliament they should do so. What he would respectfully suggest to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) was that he should deal with this question by Bill. The measure need only contain a very few clauses, and it would certainly be one of a non-contentious character. It would not receive any opposition either direct or indirect. Members' minds were made up on the matter; the Bill could be got through in the small hours of the morning; and, in fact, it would be like the Royal Irish Constabulary Redistribution Bill, a measure which could be passed in the course of a week. Any action of the kind he had suggested would have a most beneficial effect. There was nothing more exasperating to the Irish Members than to observe the gigantic disproportion between the amount of money expended in Ireland upon Police and Constabulary, and the sum expended for purposes of reform—for education or local aid, for instance. He thought his hon. Friends were justified in pointing out the extraordinary inequality in this matter which existed between the two countries, and he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would take that opportunity of redressing a generally admitted grievance.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was precluded by an engagement from giving his reasons for voting against the system of subvention on the English Vote; but he would take the opportunity of doing so upon the Scotch Vote, which was, of course, of a similar character. He understood that during the debate upon the English Vote, the Prime Minister admitted the apparent justice of the claim of Ireland to a proportionate grant in aid of local taxation in the direction of the maintenance of roads, and said that he would look into the matter, and that if he found upon full examination that the claim was a just one, he had no doubt the House would apply a remedy. But in a matter of such importance, one in which it was evident the general feeling of the House was in favour of the justice of the claim, the Irish Members were entitled to something a little more definite, at all events, as regarded the time when the ameliorating action, by Bill or otherwise, would be taken. He did not know whether it would be necessarry to pass an Act of Parliament at all; but, assuming that it would be necessary, it was obvious, from the kindly feeling expressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) and by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), that the Bill would neither be blocked nor opposed on the Opposition side of the House. As the Government could control and influence their own followers, it followed that the Bill would not meet with opposition from the Ministerial side of the House either. The Bill, consequently, would be a non-contentious Bill, and would be passed without any difficulty if it were taken up by the only power able to take it up, that power being the Government. He was perfectly willing to leave to the Prime Minister the investigation as to whether justice and right were upon their side; but what he asked was, would the Government introduce a Bill for the purpose of remedying this grievance if the Prime Minister decided that their claim was based upon a just foundation? It was absurd to put the Irish Members off till next year. Many of them might never come back; be-sides, it was, in any case, their duty, having pointed out this glaring inequality, to use all reasonable means of 528 getting it removed. It might be said that the Government were taken by surprise. But the question had been raised by the Irish Members before now. It was raised upon the Bill, now an Act, upon which this Estimate was founded. They supported the hon. and gallant Member for Oxfordshire (Colonel Har-court), when, in the early days of this Parliament, he moved his Motion in favour of relief of local taxation. The majority upon that Motion was so small that the Government were compelled to take action by legislation. Although the Irish Members supported the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Harcourt), they found, when the time came for legislation, that Ireland was left out in the cold. They were entitled to some plain declaration from the Government with regard to this question. The Government ought to say whether they would introduce a Bill that Session for the purpose of removing the inequality which existed. Of course, if the Bill were opposed by the Irish Members, the Government would be justified in abandoning it; but if it were only opposed on the Government side of the House, the Irish Members would be entitled to ask the Government to use their influence to secure the withdrawal of the opposition. He asked the Government to show that their sympathy was bonâ fide, and not shove the Irish Members on one side for the rest of the Session. He protested against Ireland being cheated annually out of something like £40,000 or £50,000, to which, in comparison with Scotland, they were entitled. When English people went over to Ireland the Irish people were always very glad to see them; but, after all, visitors drove and walked over the roads at the expense of the Irish people. When, however, Irish people came over to England, they found that they drove over roads towards the maintenance of which they contributed. Such a state of things was not fair or just. The Government ought to speak candidly and straightforwardly in reply to the question he had addressed to them—namely, if the Prime Minister came to the conclusion that their claim was a just one, would legislation be initiated that Session to meet it?
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he felt that after the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, it was proper some remarks 529 should be made by the Government upon this Vote. He was extremely sorry the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was not present during the discussion upon the English Vote, because he would then have heard what was said by the Prime Minister. He (Mr. Hibbert) was not able to go beyond what the Prime Minister said on that Vote—namely, that the subject should be considered in connection with the whole system of local taxation and local government. The hon. Gentleman had said he was given to understand that the Prime Minister stated that he would consider this question itself. The right hon. Gentleman hardly went so far as that; he said he was quite willing to consider this question in connection with other questions of local taxation, and he would take care full justice was done to Ireland, not only in respect to this particular question but other questions. He (Mr. Hibbert) regarded the protest which had been made by hon. Members as a protest against this grant being given to England and Scotland unless it was given to Ireland also. His own impression was that it was much more likely that this discussion would lead to the abolition of the grants in aid to England and Scotland rather than a grant being given to Ireland as well as to England and Scotland. He believed that that was so, because when this grant in aid of disturnpiked roads was assented to it was only intended to be a temporary means of meeting the difficulty. It was always understood that the matter would be reconsidered when the whole question of local taxation came to be reviewed. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had referred to him personally. Of course, if he could meet the views of the hon. Gentleman he should be very glad to do so. He was always anxious to deal with questions, no matter from whatever part of the House they were raised, in the most open and liberal spirit. He should be very glad if this question could be settled in the way suggested by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell); but he was not prepared to go further [than the promise made by the Prime Minister—namely, that the whole question should be considered as affecting the Three Kingdoms.
§ MR T. A. DICKSON
said, that surely upon the admission of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister there was every reason why the inequality between England and Scotland and Ireland should be remedied that year. If the Prime Minister admitted—and he did admit—that the inequality existed, then he (Mr. Dickson) maintained it was the duty of the Government to remove the inequality that very year. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had very fairly stated that there would be no difficulty in passing a Bill to remedy this undoubted grievance. He (Mr. Dickson) was persuaded that no Member of the House would be found to assent that Ireland should be treated in an exceptional manner with respect to local taxation. If English and Scotch Members really knew how burdensome local taxation was becoming in Ireland they would at once concede the demand now made in regard to Ireland; they would readily admit that if such countries like England and Scotland received subventions in aid of local taxation, a poor country like Ireland should certainly receive such assistance. What did he hear the other day from a friend? Why, that in one county of Ireland he had found that local taxation already amounted to as much as 10s. in the pound. It was a notorious fact that taxation was rising at such a rate in various counties that already the reduction of rents was being rapidly neutralized by the increase of taxation. He hoped the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury would consider the desirability of bringing in a Bill to place the three countries, with regard to grants in aid of local taxation, in the same advantageous position.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork Mr. Parnell), who endeavoured, on occasions like this, to derive for the public some benefit from discussions which might otherwise have a tendency to become academical, had suggested that the Government should bring in a Bill to remedy an admitted grievance in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) who was in charge of the Vote seemed to raise some question of the accuracy of the interpretation given by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Parnell) of the Prime Minister's words. Of course, it was impossible to be always verbally 531 accurate; but he (Mr. Sexton; certainly understood the Prime Minister to admit the justice of the claim made on behalf of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said the question should receive consideration, and he held out the hope or prospect that when the larger question of local government came to be considered all sections of the House would be found willing, and even desirous, to concede the just claim of Ireland on this question. As long as the justice of their claim was recognized he saw no reason why a Bill, and subsequently a Supplementary Estimate, should not be brought in this year to give Ireland the relief which was its due. The Bill could be prepared in a few minutes; it would not arouse any hostile susceptibilities in any quarter of the House, but would be regarded as a praiseworthy effort to deal justly with Ireland. He thought that if the Prime Minister were informed of what had taken place during his absence from the House he might be inclined to reconsider the question. He would not move to report Progress, because he understood there were other hon. Members who wished to address the Committee; but he thought that before the debate was brought to a conclusion it was desirable that the view of the Prime Minister should be had with respect to the appeal which had been made to the Government by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell).
§ MR. PLUNKET
desired very respectfully to add his voice to the unbroken chorus of unanimous approval which had come from all the Irish Members in that discussion. He did not know what answer could be given in justice or in equity to the demand which was now made. It was perfectly plain on the face of this Estimate that large sums were being given to England and Scotland for the purposes of meeting the requirements of the turnpike roads. It had been proved, and it had not been questioned by the Government, that the necessity for such subvention was stronger in Ireland than it was in either England or Scotland; and, under those circumstances, he could not see why the Government should not frankly undertake at once that they would, pari passu with the relief which they were now giving to Scotland and England in this matter, give similar and proportionate relief to 532 Ireland. It could not be a very large sum; but to make the grant would facilitate the course of Business very much. It would be not only a gracious but simply a just thing to do if the Government were at once frankly to say that they would, without postponing the matter until that vague and shadowy time when they could introduce a measure dealing with local taxation gene-rally, redress this admitted grievance. Let the Committee have an assurance at once that the Irish people should not be kept out of that which he sincerely and honestly believed Ireland was entitled to; let them be told at once that the Government would concede the unanimous demand of the Irish Members of all Parties, to which demand the Government had not attempted to make any proper or just answer.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) was good enough to give him a more accurate version of the statement of the Prime Minister than that which he had been able to receive otherwise. It now appeared that the Prime Minister desired to leave the question over until the consideration of the question of local government in the Three Kingdoms. They were also very candidly told by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that, in his judgment, the reconsideration of the whole question of local government would end in the withdrawal of the two Votes which they had been considering that evening, or, in other words, instead of Ireland getting relief, relief would be taken away from England and Scotland. The hon. Gentleman had also reminded the Committee that the Vote which they were now discussing was one of a temporary character. That consideration, however, strengthened very much the position of the Irish Members. They were willing to leave the final settlement of the question of relief of local taxation out of the Imperial funds to the time when the Government might bring it before the House, either in that Parliament or the next. That time might be next year, or it might not be for several years to come. Their case was simply this—that it was not just to vote these sums annually for England and for Scotland without at the same voting a proportionate sum for Ireland. Parliament might decide upon 533 stopping these Votes when the whole question of local taxation and local government came up for consideration; but what the Committee had to do now was to deal with the situation of affairs at the present time, and as matters now stood the Irish people were by their contributions to the Imperial Revenue paying a certain portion of the expenses of the roads in England and Scotland, while the English and Scotch people paid nothing whatever in aid of the maintenance of the roads in Ireland. Such a state of affairs might last for one year, or for several years, or it might last always. These contributions might always be given; but whether they lasted for a short time, or for a long time, it was the duty of the Irish Members to exhaust the means at their disposal to insure that the same treatment should be meted out to Ireland with regard to grants from Imperial sources as was meted out to England and Scotland. He thought that was a fair and reasonable proposition. He noticed that since the debate on this particular Vote commenced, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan), a Member of the Cabinet and a Gentleman who, from his position, was qualified to speak on this important question, had entered the House. The right hon. Gentleman was Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during a very important period; he discharged the duties of that Office to the satisfaction of the Members of the House of Commons, and, no doubt, of the majority of the people of England, though certainly not to the satisfaction of the Irish Members, or as they believed to the satisfaction of the majority of the people of Ireland, and anything that came from him upon this question would have great weight. It might be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to assist the Committee in unravelling this entanglement into which their proceedings had unfortunately got, and if he would do so he would certainly earn the gratitude of all present.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
desired to say a few words in justification of the position he took up upon this question. Hon. Members had urged equality of treatment between England and Scotland on the one hand and Ireland on the other. It must, however, be borne in mind that there were some items of 534 Imperial taxation in respect to which Ireland had an advantage over the other parts of the Kingdom. While equality of treatment in this matter might be urged with unanswerable force, it was only fair to recognize the fact that there were items which were paid by England and Scotland, but which were not paid by Ireland. Having said that, he hoped the Government would understand that the strong objection in principle and in practice that many Members of the House entertained to these grants in aid remained with them as forcibly as ever. He trusted the Government would adhere to the often-expressed determination to remove this system of subvention, which he considered was as vicious a system as could be imagined.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
remarked, that the unanimity on this question had, at last, been broken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford—[Mr. ILLING-WORTH: No, no!]—but, after all, the hon. Gentleman dealt rather with the general principle than with the particular question under consideration. It might or might not have been wise in Parliament to have given these grants in aid; but that was not the question the Committee were discussing. Parliament, whether rightly or wrongly, had given these grants in aid, Ireland being debarred from any participation in them. He rather regretted the attitude which the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) had taken up on this matter; but he did not despair even yet that the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) might be able to give them some satisfaction in this matter. The statement of the Prime Minister, which he had not the advantage of hearing, was very good so far as it went; but he thought it gave the Irish Members very little satisfaction indeed. According to the statement of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert), the Prime Minister meant to say that when the large and general question of local government and local taxation came to be considered the case of this particular grant in aid would be considered also. The Prime Minister must be very sanguine indeed if he supposed that the Irish Representatives could gather any great amount of consolation from such a general promise as that. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) and his hon. Friends were very desirous of seeing 535 a thorough reform of local government in Ireland. They had been waiting for some such reform ever since the very beginning of this Parliament; and they would not be at all displeased if, when the future arrangements of the Session were announced, a Bill for the reform of local government in Ireland took its place amongst the proposals of the Government. So far so good; but surely this was a very small part of the general question of local government. The question of local government in Ireland was a very large question indeed, and he was afraid that the two right hon. and learned Gentlemen (Mr. Gibson and Mr. Plunket) who had given such strong support to the proposal in respect to this small reform would not be found amongst the supporters of the larger reform. He was afraid that any such proposal propounded by Her Majesty's Government would receive a considerable amount of opposition from hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway; it would, indeed, be by a stroke of singular good fortune if the Government succeeded in getting such a measure passed during the present Session of Parliament. To postpone this question until the larger one of local government was considered was practically to postpone this grant in aid to Ireland until the next Parliament. Looking at all the facts of the case, and at the moribund condition of the present Parliament, he feared that any hope of getting such a large reform as local government in Ireland passed that Session was very remote. He hoped the next speaker from the Treasury Bench—and he assumed there would be another speaker—would assure the Committee that this question would receive immediate consideration. That was the demand of the Irish Members. No one needed to be at great pains to see the monstrous injustice of giving large rates in aid to rich countries like England and Scotland, and leaving Ireland out in the cold. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) had referred to the sum contributed by Ireland to the Imperial Revenue. He assured the hon. Gentleman that the comparison between the amount of taxation contributed by Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer and the amount contributed by other parts of the Kingdom was one on which Irish Members would enter with 536 the greatest courage, for they were firmly convinced that any fair and impartial comparison of the contributions of the Three Kingdoms would show that Ireland contributed not less, but far more, than her due share of the general taxation of the Kingdom. He had no desire to enter into that subject now; but he might state that in the case of whiskey, for instance, Ireland was far more heavily and disproportionately taxed than England. The point now under consideration was that the two richer countries received grants in aid of local taxation, while the poorer country did not. That was a monstrous injustice, which ought not to be tolerated a moment longer than was necessary.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, that the hon. Members who were present when the Prime Minister made his statement would admit it was extremely difficult for anyone upon the Treasury Bench to add to that statement. It would be conceded that the right hon. Gentleman said the very utmost which the situation justified him in saying. ["He did not say anything."] Yes, the right hon. Gentleman said something; and from the account which he (Mr. Trevelyan) had heard, both privately on the Treasury Bench and through the speeches of hon. Gentlemen and the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert), he gathered that the Prime Minister said all that he thought safe under the circumstances. In saying any thing more he would have shown an indiscretion of which he was quite incapable. This was a question which had been started for the first time. [Mr. HEALY: No, no; nor the second time.] It was a question which had been started, not on its own merits, but by way of objection to two Estimates laid before the House for the first time. [Mr. HEALY: What other way have we?] He did not complain, by any means, of the way in which it had been started; but it having been started under such circumstances, the point was what amount of response it was possible to give to it. The response of the Prime Minister was to the effect that the question would be considered as one of the items of account when the whole matter of local taxation came before the attention of the Executive. It was impossible to go further than that. He (Mr. Trevelyan) certainly could go no 537 further, except to say that all the arguments which had been used since the Prime Minister left the House should be brought before the right hon. Gentleman's notice. He would personally engage himself to urge the right hon. Gentleman to take the matter into immediate consideration. He objected to go deeper into the matter, because, if he did, he should at once embark upon controversies that were not unfamiliar to hon. Members of the House, both with regard to the incidence of taxation in Ireland, as compared with other parts of the United Kingdom, and with regard to contributions, direct in the shape of grants and indirect in the shape of advantageous loans, which Ireland received, but which other parts of the Kingdom did not receive. Let him take the single instance of loans to Irish farmers. The argument the hon. Member had used on the subject differed from those which reached the ear of the Prime Minister, and should be brought before his right hon. Friend, who would be urged to give the question a broad and comprehensive consideration of a nature which would enable him to make a statement on the subject at the very earliest opportunity. More than that it was impossible for any Member of the Government to say at that moment; and, as hon. Members were well aware, it was impossible for the Prime Minister to say more. Under those circumstances, he earnestly trusted that the Committee would allow the Vote to be taken, and enable them to get on with those which, directly or indirectly, concerned Ireland.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that hon. Members had extended the scope of the debate by introducing a sort of comparison between the local taxation of Great Britain and Ireland. Now, it was not a question of the comparative local taxation between the two countries, but a question between the State and the locality. It was a question between the public, as an entire body, and a smaller body of the people on whom the taxation really fell; and the reason why the question arose at all was that the public, as a body, had a user of the roads which was not confined to those who dwelt in the locality. It seemed perfectly fair to him that the State should recognize that fact, and should make a contribution out of the Imperial funds 538 in aid of the local rates. It was, therefore, not a question between England and Ireland, but one between the State and, the locality; and that being so, there was no reason why the State should do one thing in England and another thing in Ireland, or why it should do more in Cornwall or Yorkshire than in any of the Irish counties. It was unjust to deprive a certain number of localities, because they happened to be situated in Ireland, of the right to relief in regard to local taxation, which in Ireland pressed so severely on the occupiers of land. The Committee had been much impressed by the magnificence of the language of the Prime Minister; but, after all, it did not amount to very much. They were all fond of putting forward some grand scheme which would embrace all the areas of local taxation with all their complexity—some grand telescopic plan blinding in its results when seen through a kaleidoscope, but when calmly contemplated through an ordinary medium discovered to be nothing more than a gorgeous vision. He hoped they would all remain Members of the House until that prospect was realized, and he thought they would have a pretty long enjoyment of their seats. He only hoped that he might live to see the day when this grand scheme would come off. He was afraid, however, that it never would be realized either in this or the next Parliament. The earlier days of the coming Parliament would be very much occupied in considering Constitutional questions and the position of Parliament itself; and, after those questions were disposed of, it would be found that there were a great number of new Members, all of whom would have their own ideas, and there would be very little prospect of this grand scheme of local government taxation being carried out.
I must remind the hon. and learned Member that he is travelling from the Question before the Committee, which is really a Vote in aid of the maintenance of roads.
§ MR. WARTON
begged the hon. Gentleman's pardon; but he had been led astray by the almost impossibility of rigidly adhering to the text. As they all knew, a sermon very often differed from the text. The question was really one of granting relief to Ireland. They were all agreed that the 539 relief asked for ought to be granted, and the only question was whether it should be immediate or prospective; but after the warning he had received he would not touch upon that question further. He ventured to think that this was the Parliament in which the relief should be granted. At any rate, something should be done quickly, for the purpose of remedying an injustice which the Government themselves admitted was only to be continued temporarily.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
remarked that the Committee were placed in an extraordinary position. The Irish Members were asked to consent to the taxation of their own constituents for the benefit of England and Scotland. Every single Member who had spoken, as the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had pointed out, had spoken in one voice with regard to the sense of the House about an injustice which was recognized by the Conservative and Liberal Members alike. Even upon the Treasury Bench there was an admission of the injustice, and, that admission having been made, the Committee were quietly asked still to vote the money without any further discussion, so that they might get on, as the Chancellor of the Duchy suggested, with the other Votes. The right hon. Gentleman had not the advantage, as he had himself admitted, of hearing the remarks of the Prime Minister; and he was also under the disadvantage of not having heard the two previous discussions of the question before the Committee of Supply last year and the year before. The very same arguments and the same objections urged that night had on both of those occasions been brought under the notice of the Committee of Supply, and then, as now, the answer was that this was only to be a temporary charge, and that as soon as the general question of local expenditure and local government could be dealt with, as it would be in the near future, the difficulty would be removed. That was exactly what had been repeated by the Prime Minister that night. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy said—"Oh, yes; the Prime Minister did say something. He said a great deal; but he did not go beyond a certain point, and he exercised a wise discretion in the matter." Now, it seemed to him (Mr. A. O'Connor) that the Chancellor 540 of the Duchy had exercised a wise discretion also; because, although towards the end of his remarks he said that he would urge upon the Prime Minister that the question should receive immediate consideration, he gave the Committee clearly to understand what his own general bias in the matter was—namely, that Ireland had counter-advantages to be thankful for, and he pointed out that those advantages consisted in the advances made to the owners of property for improvements. It was no satisfaction to the taxpayers of Ireland, in respect of the distribution of the present Vote, to know that other persons could, if they paid interest for them, obtain advances from the Treasury. The present question was not one of loan, but of granting and voting money from the Imperial Exchequer; and the retort he would make upon the question of loans was that any advantage the Irish tenants were able to derive in respect of them was a great deal more than counterbalanced by the manner in which other grants were distributed. In this case England and Scotland got all the money, and Ireland got nothing at all. In the same way, the Army and Navy Votes were distributed almost exclusively for the benefit of the taxpayers of this country, and the Irish taxpayers, who contributed an equal proportion, got merely a nominal share of them. Every Member on both sides of the House who had taken part in the discussion had expressed an opinion against the inequality of the present system. The Prime Minister, although, no doubt, an important Member of the Cabinet, could not be the only man who was authorized to speak on behalf of the Government. Surely, any other Cabinet Minister ought to be able to express his opinion upon a matter of this kind frankly and boldly, and to say whether he would be prepared to give the Irish Members his substantial advocacy when the question came to be discussed, and whether he would, between this and the Report of Supply, ascertain if the Cabinet were not able to take some further step. The Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. George Russell) had frankly admitted at that Table that he entertained a strong opinion as to the unfairness of the present system, and, as far as he could gather, that was also the opinion of the Secretary to the 541 Treasury (Mr. Hibbert). He asked, then, that the Government should lot the Committee clearly see what their view was, and it ought not to be too much for a Cabinet Minister to say what he was prepared to do personally—even if not in a position to speak for the Cabinet—when any proposal upon the subject was brought forward. He could not understand why, long ago, the Prime Minister had not been asked to reconsider his utterances. A mere reference to the possible discussion in the next Parliament of the whole question of local taxation and expenditure was simply to laugh at the Committee, and treat them like a parcel of children. In the meantime, the Irish taxpayers were being unduly burdened for the benefit of the rich taxpayers in England and Scotland. The simple statement of a grievance should be enough to secure that the Government would either withdraw the Vote or promise to bring forward some measure to provide equal treatment for the Irish taxpayers to that which was meted out to the taxpayers of England and Scotland. The attitude of the Government, however good their intentions might be, was such that he found he had no other alternative than to divide the Committee against the Vote.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that, if he remembered rightly, there had been one Vote in the present Parliament, and others as long ago as 1873, in favour of assistance to local taxation in England. The Vote now before the Committee carried out that principle, and there was no reason to think that the new Parliament would alter the principle of taxation which had been affirmed by two Parliaments. For that reason he thought the Irish Members ought to still press for an extension of the principle of subvention. It was all very well in theory to say that it would be brought forward at some future time; but, unfortunately, although the consideration of this important question had now been promised for a very long time, the introduction of a Bill for establishing local self-government seemed to be as far off as ever. In the absence of any tangible scheme of that kind, what the Irish Members wanted was a temporary measure which would place the Irish people on the same level as those in England and Scotland in regard to this 542 particular question. He did not see upon what grounds the Government could refuse such a fair demand. This grant to Ireland, if it were now made, would only continue in existence until the time shadowed forth by the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert), and supported by hon. Members behind him—namely, the time when this assistance to local taxation would be cleared away for ever. But, until that time came, it was only fair and reasonable that Ireland should get her fair share of these Votes. As had been pointed out, in the course of the debate, there were no doubt that several taxes, such as the House Tax and the Carriage Tax, were not paid in Ireland. Now, in regard to the House Tax, if it were laid on in Ireland it would bring in a very small amount of money, because a large proportion of the population were so poorly housed, that no tax could be levied; and in regard to the Carriage Tax, it was levied on a particular class of the people who were well enough off to keep their own carriages, and therefore a large portion of the population either in England or Ireland was not affected. It was only those people who lived in a luxurious way, who were able to drive their own carriages, who paid the Tax, and the Committee had already been told that the collection of the Tax cost seven-eighths of the entire amount raised. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) had pointed out, as a counterbalancing advantage, that loans were made in Ireland; but he (Mr. Biggar) presumed they were not made unless good security was given for the money advanced. It was not a grant, but a loan, on the condition that the money was repaid to Parliament or the Government; and, on the whole, he thought Parliament had no cause to complain of those loans. The whole case resolved itself into this—whether they ought to be called upon to wait until some time in the future—perhaps the remote future—before they were placed on this footing of equality with the other parts of the Three Kingdoms. He thought the arguments of the Government were no real defence at all. A complete case, showing the inequality of the treatment of Ireland in comparison with that of England and Scotland had been made out; and so far as the loans to the Irish tenants were con- 543 cerned, it must be remembered that they only benefited a very small number of persons, and not the majority of the whole people. In the county of Down, according to a local paper, there had only been two loans granted in the whole of the county, and it was very rarely indeed that any demand was made upon the Treasury. That argument was, therefore, of the weakest nature, and one which it was hardly worth while for the Chancellor of the Duchy to use. Seeing that the mind and sense of the Committee had been clearly manifested in favour of the contention of the Irish Members, he trusted that the Government would give way.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the justice of the case of the Irish Members was not denied in any part of the House. It was obvious that it could not be called in question. No Party in that House denied their claim, and there was nothing in the state of Public Business, or in the prospects of the Session, to relieve the Government from the duty of providing relief. The Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) had been good enough to promise his personal influence with the Prime Minister; but even that promise did not make the case of Ireland more hopeful, because in making it the right hon. Gentleman had let in some rays of light as to the state of his own mind by hinting that, if it were necessary to go further, something to the disadvantage of Ireland, in reference to this claim, might easily be established. Now, he challenged the right hon. Gentleman either at the present time, or any other, to come to an issue upon that point, and he (Mr. Sexton) would be fully prepared to go into all relative injuries sustained, assistance given, and advantages enjoyed by the Three Kingdoms. The right hon. Gentleman said that loans were given upon beneficial terms to the Irish tenants; but fortunately for themselves the English tenants required no loans. They were generally possessed of some capital, and in that respect they differed from the Irish tenants who were possessed of no capital at all. The English farmers had money enough to enable them to cultivate the land themselves; but in Ireland it was found necessary to assist the tenants on terms which saved the Treasury from loss, and even left a profit. How, then, could the Government talk 544 about their philanthrophy in a case of that kind when they were actually making a profit out of the money granted? Then, again, out of the large number of tenants in Ireland who had applied for loans, but very few indeed had received them. He was afraid that the right hon. Gentleman, in putting forward a plea of that kind, had somewhat lost his grasp of the details of Irish questions, or, if he had not, the observations he had made must be attributed to his ignorance. The only loans which had been granted on advantageous terms were those which had been granted to the landlords. Something like £150,000 had been lent to the tenants at a good rate of interest; but more than £1,000,000 had been lent to the landlords at 1 per cent, and there was not an impecunious landlord who had not taken advantage of that circumstance. The right hon. Gentleman remarked that the idea of the Government was to abolish this Vote altogether. If that was the latent intention of the Government, there was certainly no evidence of it on the surface. How could it be said that it was intended to abolish the Vote, in face of the fact that the amount of the grant itself was increasing year by year? It might have been thought that the Government would desire to emphasize the fact of the withdrawal of the Vote by gradually reducing it year by year. Last year Scotland got £25,000, and this year it was proposed to give her £35,000, while to England, which received £100,000 last year, it was now proposed to grant £215,000. If that was to be taken as an exhibition of the tendency to abolish these grants, it was the most retrograde and crab-like way of proceeding towards an end which could be conceived.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
expressed a hope that the Government would meet the case which had been put before them frankly, and that they would, that Session, redress the inequality. Scotland and England, during the last three years, had received in aid of local taxation a sum of £700,000, while Ireland had received nothing. There was no reason whatever why Ireland should be treated in a different way from England and Scotland. All he had to say was, that if the question was allowed to stand over for the Reformed Parliament, Ireland would never receive a single 1d. of the 545 money, because, no doubt, the tendency of future legislation would be to abolish these subventions. He therefore asked the Government why they refused that year to redress the inequality? He would suggest that the Vote should be postponed until a later hour in the evening, in order to give time for the Members of the Government on the Front Bench to announce something more reassuring in regard to their policy.
§ MR. DEASY
said, he hoped the suggestion which had been thrown out by the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson) would be accepted by the Government. He was sure that its acceptance would save time rather than otherwise. It was quite plain that if the debate closed without having the views of the Prime Minister upon the subject, it would be necessary to raise the question again upon the Report stage of the Estimates when, in all probability, the discussion would occupy a longer time than if it were settled to-night. So long-as Scotland was so strongly represented in the Cabinet by an hon. Gentleman who possessed the sympathy of the great majority of his fellow-countrymen, the House would be afraid to resist any claim that the Scotch Members put forward. The Irish popular Party had no such Representative, and the Government, therefore, treated them in an entirely different manner. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) could not have been present during the early part of the discussion, or he would have heard the arguments the Irish Members urged in support of their claim. No doubt the Income Tax was much less in Ireland than in England and Scotland; but it was right to remember that the manufacturing industries in that country were not in a flourishing condition, and that while there were large coal and iron mines in England and Scotland, in Ireland the people were entirely dependent upon agricultural pursuits. The late Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. Trevelyan) alleged that it was no injustice to Ireland to place this tax upon the farmers of that country, because the Government were in the habit of granting loans to them; but the profit made in consequence of those loans went into the pocket of the landlords, and did not benefit the tenant at all. Even under the Land Act the 546 Commissioners had confiscated all the improvements effected through those loans; and the result was that the tenants were actually in a worse state than if no loans had been granted to them. He was rather inclined to think that the Irish farmers would have been better off if not 1s. in the shape of a loan had been given to them for the last 10 or 20 years. He was further of opinion that, owing to the way in which the Land Commissioners had proceeded, it would be impossible to settle the Land Question until the people of the country took a determined stand. ["Question!"] He might be out of Order in raising that question, but he would not have referred to it if it had not been for the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy; and he would simply say that he saw no excuse for the course taken by the Government in refusing, that Session, to grant a Supplementary Estimate in aid of local taxation in Ireland. He could not believe that such a proposition would meet with any opposition from any section of the House. They were often told by the Government that they could not ask for Supplementary Estimates because certain Gentlemen strongly objected to them; and yet they never hestitated about bringing in Bill after Bill, and carrying Money Votes, to which Irish Members were strongly opposed. The Government were now asked for an Estimate in regard to which the Committee were all united; and although it would only occupy a very short time to dispose of, the Government objected. They put the Irish Members off by saying that the new Parliament would be able to make provision in some general measure for all that the people of Ireland demanded. But it I might happen that the Liberal Party would not be in Office in the new Parliament, and that they might have changed sides with the Opposition; and the consequence might be that the next Parliament would be allowed to go by, just as this had gone by, without remedying the injustice complained of. So long as he could remember he had hoard of promises made by successive English Governments to introduce a large measure of local government reform, and yet they seemed to be as far off as they were 10 or 15 years ago. He did not think the Government were really 547 serious in offering this. He thought their real motive in not acceding to the views of the Irish Members was that they were not inclined to do justice to Ireland. Of course, they did not avow that intention openly; but it was perfectly obvious, to those who had watched their proceedings night after night, that they had no intention of doing justice. No doubt, they had passed certain Acts for the benefit of that country; but they had not passed them as Acts of justice to Ireland, but simply because hon. Members on those Benches made it impossible for them to refuse. In the next Parliament the Irish Members would probably have an opportunity of getting their views still better known; but that was no reason why the Government should rob Ireland of £40,000 in the meantime, and compel the poor taxpayers of the country to maintain their own roads unaided by the State, while they contributed towards the maintenance of those in England and Scotland. He saw that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Childers) was now in his place, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would give the Committee his opinion and that he would endeavour to induce the Prime Minister to bring in such a Bill as would meet the demands of Irish Members. He was certain there would be no desire or disposition, in any part of the House, to obstruct such a measure. The Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Trevelyan) had told the Committee that he would place the views of the Irish Members before the Prime Minister; but the right hon. Gentleman had carefully abstained from stating what his own opinion on the subject was. He was inclined to believe that the right hon. Gentleman had given no opinion, because he was rather against the claim of Ireland to receive a sum out of the Imperial Exchequer in aid of local taxation. It was unfortunate that the people of Ireland, who were paying in some cases rates and taxes to the amount of 10s. in the pound, should be obliged to contribute £40,000 for the maintenance of highways in England and Scotland. The proposal was made two years ago that Scotland should receive a portion of the grant, and that proposal was accepted by the Government, and there was no reason why Ireland should not be included. The Government acknowledged 548 that they were right in asking for relief, and only said that the question would be dealt with in the new Parliament amongst the first measures to be taken into consideration, or else there would be a total abolition of grants to England and Scotland. That, however, was no reason why, between this time and the new Parliament, the present injustice, in the case of Ireland should be continued. If the Government acknowledged that the Irish Members were right now, surely they ought to give them back the amount they had contributed towards the maintenance of highways in England and Scotland. It would be a very easy matter to give them what they asked. The Government did not hesitate to spend £100,000 in additional police in Ireland, and they would not hesitate to spend millions to-morrow if they were wanted in order to uphold the power of the landlords in Ireland, or to give annoyance to the Irish people. He did not see, therefore, while the fairness of their demand was acknowledged by everybody who had spoken in the debate except by the Chancellor of the Duchy, why even at that hour they should not adjourn the debate until they could have the views of the Prime Minister on the subject, or a promise that a Supplementary Estimate would be introduced.
§ DR. LYONS
concurred with the observations which had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson); and he trusted that the Government would not consider it worth their while to persevere in the attitude they had taken up, but that they would find it possible, by bringing in a short Supplementary Estimate, to redress the injustice proposed to be done to Ireland in the matter. It was conceded, on all hands, that the days of this grant were numbered, and that they would hear very little more about it. Under those circumstances, was it worth while to continue what was practically a grievance and a cause of complaint in Ireland—namely, that a grant of such a considerable amount should be paid to England and Scotland, and that nothing should be given to Ireland for the same purpose? As far as he understood, it was not proposed to ask the Government to refund what would be a considerable sum of money if totalled up; but it would be a satisfactory settlement of the 549 question to Ireland if the amount asked for that year were made to include a grant in equal proportion to Ireland. He had said that he presumed the days of grants in aid of those rates were numbered, and that the Government were looking forward to an early day for the introduction of a new system of local rating under local supervision and management in Ireland such as partially existed already in this country under much less expensive arrangements than those which were adopted in the case of Ireland. He had hoped that the time for the consideration of that subject would have arrived long before this; and last year, with the assistance of the Foreign Office, he had been able to procure some exceedingly valuable information from a country with which they were now, unfortunately, not upon the most pleasant terms. In the Returns which had been laid upon the Table the whole of this subject was minutely gone into, and details were fully supplied by the Embassy at St. Petersburg in reference to the Russian system of local administration. In those Returns the Committee would find much to assist them in the consideration of the subject. He trusted that in the very small shape in which the matter now stood the Treasury Bench would be able to see their way to do something to carry out the views which had been so generally expressed by the Committee.
§ MR. P. J. POWER
said, that to this most reasonable proposal of his hon. Friend's the Government had opposed an objection of a very unreasonable kind. That proposal had been supported by a number of hon. Gentlemen—by the two right hon. and learned Members for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket and Mr. Gibson), who, as a rule, dissented from proposals made on those Benches; by the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson), and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons). Again, not only was it supported by Irish Members of all shades of political opinion, but it had also received the support of Scotch Members. The hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) had, he believed, spoken more than once upon the subject. He was bound to say that the manner in which Her Majesty's Government had received the almost unanimous opinion of the Committee 550 on that occasion was most disappointing. They had not held out the least hope that they would remedy the grievance complained of; they merely asked Members to postpone the question for two or three years in view of the introduction of legislation that would be introduced to deal with the entire question. A more unsatisfactory proposition could not have been made to hon. Members who raised this question. Everyone knew the difficulty of forecasting political matters; and from the manner in which legislation of the kind proceeded as a rule, they might take it for granted that nothing would be done in the matter for several years; in other words, it was not competent for this Parliament to speak the mind of a future Parliament; and therefore, if the Government adhered to their position in reference to this question, it was obvious that the grievance would continue. He did not think there could be a greater example of unfairness than the way in which Ireland was treated in respect of those subventions. Here was a case in which England and Scotland received from Imperial sources a large grant in aid of the maintenance of roads. Both England and Scotland were rich countries; but Ireland, the poorest of the Three Kingdoms, received nothing at all. In fact, the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Dr. Lyons) had put the case in a nutshell when he said that on this question not only ought they to legislate for the future, but make some restitution for the past. It was clear that for many years England and Scotland had been receiving considerable sums from the public purse, while Ireland had received nothing. The proposition of legislation on the subject was entirely vague; and even the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, with all his knowledge of Parliamentary life, was not in a position to promise that this Government or its successor would be able to deal with the matter. His hon. Friend the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), certainly a competent judge of the subject, was of opinion that considerable time would elapse before Parliament would be in a position to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan) had said he would convey to the Prime Minister the views which had been expressed in the Committee in his 551 absence; and in saying that he thought the right hon. Gentleman had led them to believe that his own opinion was certainly not favourable to the view taken by hon. Members on that side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had in the course of his remarks spoken of the great advantages which farmers had in Ireland in respect of Government loans; he said that money was advanced to tenant farmers for the improvement of their holdings, which was not the case in England and Scotland, and that they in Ireland had exceptional advantages. It was certainly peculiar that those advantages, if they existed, should not be availed of; but there were some reasons which, perhaps, accounted for that, and amongst them he would point to the very cumbersome and unsatisfactory manner in which the business was worked. On that point he had some personal feeling, because he had lately induced two farmers to apply for loans for the improvement of their holdings. One farmer applied for a loan of £600 or £700.
said, the hon. Member was not entitled to refer to the question of loans in Ireland on this Vote. It was not in any way germane to the subject before the Committee.
§ MR. P. J. POWER
said, he of course submitted to the ruling of the Chairman. He was pointing out that one of the exceptional advantages referred to by the right hon. Gentleman as existing for the Irish people had no existence at all. If they were not to have legislation on this subject for some years, this question had to be answered. Was this great injustice towards Ireland to continue in the meantime? In his opinion, nothing could be easier than for the Government to fall in with the unanimous feeling which had been expressed in the Committee, and to promise to bring in a Supplementary Vote which would remove the injustice complained of. He did not suppose there was any necessity to bring in a Bill to deal with the subject; and the course he had suggested would remove from the minds of the people of Ireland the opinion that they were suffering in this matter, as in many others, a great injustice. At any rate, he thought that the Government, bearing in mind the view that had been expressed by Members in all quarters of the House, should, as 552 had been suggested by the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. T. A. Dickson), postpone their decision until they had consulted with the Prime Minister and others whom they might find it necessary to consult, especially as that reasonable proposition had been put forward by one of their staunch supporters.
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, it seemed to him that Irish Members could not consistently allow this Vote to pass without a distinct and definite assurance on the part of the Government that the injustice which admittedly existed in this case should be remedied as far as possible without delay. If a division were taken he should have no other course open to him that to add his protest against the continuance of this inequality as between the three countries, by going into the Lobby against the Vote now under consideration. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would see their way to give the desired assurance; and this was emphatically one of those cases in which "where there's a will there's a way." If the enormous sum of £11,000,000 could be granted so easily by Parliament for warlike purposes, surely the very modest sum that would remove the admitted grievance complained of could be provided by means of a Supplementary Estimate. If the Members of Her Majesty's Government then present did not feel justified in giving the assurance asked for without consulting their Colleagues, he hoped they would postpone the Vote. He did not think that details very much signified at the moment; but he might mention that a number of the roads in Ireland were made for military purposes. In his own county (Waterford) there was a military road which ran from one end of it to the other, and the ratepayers had to contribute very heavily towards its maintenance. There were several parallel roads by which the local traffic could be carried on; nevertheless they had to pay for the maintenance of the military road referred to; and if the aggregate sum contributed since its first construction towards that road by the poorer classes in the county were ascertained it would be found to amount to an enormous sum. Looking at all the circumstances, he said that an injustice had been shown to exist, and that it ought to be removed.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, the position in which the Committee stood at that moment recalled the story of the farmer who was drinking at the house of his landlord some splendid wine; on being asked his opinion of it, he said—"It's very good, but we seem to go no for arder." If the right hon. Gentleman would postpone the Vote until the Prime Minister had been consulted, he would save the Committee a great deal of time. It seemed to him that Irish Members must continue to press the Government until they forced upon them their conviction in this matter. Exactly the same arguments, the same prospects, and the same hopes were before them as had been put forward on previous occasions by Her Majesty's Government in replying to the just and reasonable representations of hon. Members on those Benches with respect to the great and unjust inequalities existing as between Ireland and the other portions of the Kingdom in the matter of those grants in aid of the maintenance of roads. They were too familiarized with the way in which those who represented Her Majesty's Government at that moment on the Treasury Bench had dealt with this question to attach any weight to the old arguments they had re-introduced into the discussion of this question; and therefore he suggested that they "get no for' arder." He was glad to see on the Treasury Bench an hon. Gentleman who probably was as well acquainted with this question as any Member of that House, and on that occasion he should endeavour to take the hon. Gentleman along with him while he went over the well-marked track of his previous speeches on this question. When his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) got up and raised this question, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) said, in the course of his remarks, which referred to the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister on the subject of grants in aid of the cost and maintenance of public roads in Ireland, that the right hon. Gentleman had not undertaken to deal with that point singly, but that the right hon. Gentleman had stated that this question would have to be considered in connection with the larger questions of local government and local taxation—that, in other words, 554 while the Prime Minister admitted the injustice of the particular grievance, he was obliged to postpone the remedy that ought to be applied to that injustice until the larger and more general question had been dealt with by Parliament. Now, he did not know whether the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury really thought hon. Members from Ireland on those Benches so ingenuous that they would take that statement of his as a sufficient answer to the complaint they had put forward with regard to this long-standing injustice on the present occasion; because if that were the view of the hon. Gentleman, and if it were correct, hon. Members on those Benches would not only be committing the original sin of helpless Parliamentary imbecility, but they would have proved themselves to be utterly un-teachable by all the lessons that had been placed before them, and by the abundant debates which had already taken place on this subject. He would take up the debate of 1883 on the question—it might be called one of the milestones along the road traversed by the hon. Gentleman—and he found that in the course of that debate the right hon. Gentleman now the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) said that he thought the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was by no means alone in this matter; and in answer to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) he said that he could only assure the Committee that the arrangement now existing must be looked upon as being in one sense of a temporary character. How often had they listened to that explanation of the injustice complained of from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench? The arrangement was of a temporary character in 1883; it was so in 1884; they were told that it was of a temporary character now in 1885; and if they lived long enough and were Members of Parliament in 1895, they would, if the Government were allowed to deal with the matter as they had done hitherto year after year, find that it was a temporary grant then. So much as to the question of its being a temporary grant. Then he looked to the debate that took place upon the grants in aid on the 5th of June, 1885. His hon. 555 Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. A. O'Connor) had raised the question some time before; and on the occasion referred to, in answer to that, the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), then Secretary to the Treasury, said that the arrangement "was a temporary one." Again it was called a temporary scheme; but there was no sign whatever that he could discover of its ceasing to be practically a permanent arrangement. Thus, in spite of this being a temporary arrangement, the disappointment of the Irish people was to continue; and while the money voted by Parliament for the grant in aid of the maintenance of roads was to go to England and Scotland year after year, Ireland was not to get any portion of it. Then he came to the second argument, that the settlement of this question and the removal of this injustice was to be part of a larger scheme; and in entering upon the consideration of that argument he would venture to remark that it was just as truthful as the argument drawn from the "temporary character of the grant." The right hon. Gentleman said the subject was one that must be dealt with when the subject of local taxation was examined. He hoped that the matter would come before the House at an early period; and whenever the question was considered it must be dealt with as one of local finance, and as one affecting the relations between the Imperial and local funds. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) and the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) were simple enough to take these words as meaning-something, and as foreshadowing legislation promptly to be introduced for dealing with the question. The hon. Member for Bradford said he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had informed the Committee that the Vote was only temporary, and that its removal from the Estimates was only awaiting the settlement of the larger question of local government and local finance. That was in the month of May, 1883. The statement was made at a time when the Government had before them two or three years of Parliamentary life or Ministerial existence. That promise of dealing with the whole question of local government and local taxation had never been carried out up to the present moment, although, as he had 556 shown, it was made at a time when it would have been easier of accomplishment by the Government; and now Irish Members were asked again to be satisfied with the same assurance, when the existence of the present Parliament would come to an end within three or four months. He said—and he was convinced his observations would be confirmed by hon. Members—that there never was a more absurd appeal than that made to any body of men. He passed on to the 5th of June, 1884, on which date their venerable friend the Local Government and Taxation Bill reappeared. The Secretary to the Treasury then said that the Government would have to settle this question of local government and taxation. Here, again, they had the same promise, which had been given over and over again, that this matter would be dealt with in a larger scheme. Let the Committee consider the question as to whether the Government ought to put forward this same argument now, and whether hon. Members could receive it seriously—if the Government making this promise in 1883 were unable to give effect to it; if the Government repeating that promise in June, 1884, with respect to a Local Government Bill were unable to carry out that promise, under what pretext could they expect to redeem it now? He did not wish to say anything disrespectful of the present Parliament; but if he were called upon to describe it, he should say that it had about it the close and disturbing fumes of approaching dissolution. The right hon. Gentleman must know that it had all the characteristics of dissolution about it—if one only listened, he could hoar the death rattle in it. And in the face of that Irish Members were told that they were to expect the matter to be dealt with in a large and comprehensive scheme of local government and local taxation. Why, he repeated that it was trifling with hon. Members to ask them to postpone the settlement of this question until the time when that oft-promised measure should be before the House; and, therefore, he hoped that his hon. Friend would persevere, and press this question on the Committee, who he hoped would not allow the Vote to pass until they had from the Government a more satisfactory statement than they had received, for certainly, as far as they had gone, the reply from the 557 Treasury Bench was by no means of a satisfactory character. It was true that the Secretary to the Treasury said that those Votes would probably be discontinued altogether. But that argument was a very old one, as he had shown, and it had been put forward over and over again. Hon. Members for Ireland saw no chance of those Votes being discontinued; and he was convinced that if he were returned as a Member of the next Parliament he should find that four or five years hence they would have exactly the same state of things to deal with. Therefore, in view of the future, he should urge his hon. Friends to do all that lay in their power on that occasion towards putting an end to a long-standing grievance by continuing to press this question upon the Government.
§ COLONEL O'BEIRNE
said, he wished to endorse what had been said by hon. Members opposite and in other quarters of the House with reference to this Vote. It was, in his opinion, simply a monstrous injustice that England and Scotland should receive large sums from the Imperial Exchequer toward the cost and maintenance of roads, while the Irish people were left to bear the whole cost themselves. He was glad to be present on that occasion to vote against this grant.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, in the discussion of this question Irish Members were in the peculiar position of having an admitted grievance. He remarked upon that circumstance, because it was a very unusual thing for hon. Members on those Benches to put forward a grievance on behalf of the people of Ireland which received any real attention at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. But here was a case the justice of which was admitted years ago. Notwithstanding that admission, the grievance from which the people of Ireland were suffering had been allowed to exist and to continue year after year. He thought that hon. Members on those Benches had reason to congratulate themselves that this complaint of theirs was not, as was most frequently the case, called by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench a sentimental grievance. They were often charged with placing great weight from time to time on what Her Majesty's Government were pleased 558 to style their "sentimental grievances." The present complaint had certainly nothing of that character about it; it was, indeed, a very practical grievance, affecting the pockets of the Irish people, and one which largely rested on the promises given on many occasions by Her Majesty's Government. Now, the question raised upon this Vote in aid of the maintenance of disturnpiked roads in Scotland involved the question also of the undue taxation of the Irish people to the amount of £40,000 per annum. Now, that amount was probably looked upon by the two countries—England and Ireland—in different lights—that was to say, in the estimation of the British Government and people the sum of £40,000 per annum was a very small matter; but in the estimation of the Irish people it was a very considerable matter. The reason of that was that the people of Ireland were a poor people as compared with the English people; and, moreover, they had been long suffering from the burden of an undue and unfair amount of Imperial taxation, besides the inequality which his hon. Friends were now urging upon Her Majesty's Government. When from time to time hon. Members on those Benches claimed any relief on that score in the House of Commons; whenever they made a claim for any grant for useful purposes in Ireland, they were met by the arguments that had been referred to, and were, moreover, told that they were once again wanting to dip their hands into the pocket of the British taxpayer. Irish Members, however, took an opposite view of the matter; they contended, on the contrary, that in financial affairs as between the two countries the British taxpayer had very much the best of it, and that this British taxpayer, with all his great professions and allegations of generosity towards Ireland, had his hands constantly in the pockets of the Irish people, and filched therefrom a considerable amount of undue taxation. He and his hon. Friends challenged discussion and investigation into the facts of the case. They had done so for years; and it was well known that whenever inquiry had been instituted into the circumstances the truth of their allegations had been abundantly established. He would remind the Committee that it was distinctly set forth in the Report of a 559 Select Committee of that House that the taxation of Ireland was out of all proportion to the Revenues of the country. Moreover, it had been stated on high financial authority, and it had been adopted in the Report of the Select Committee to which he referred, that in the matter of Imperial taxation England was at once the lightest and the heaviest taxed country in the world—it was the heaviest in respect of the gross amount raised from the people, and it was the lightest in respect of the ability of the people to bear that taxation. But the case was entirely different as regarded Ireland. Notwithstanding that Ireland was oppressed and unduly taxed, she paid a larger proportion out of the Revenues of the country than was paid by the English people. That fact had been established, and the matter was beyond all dispute. Nothing could be more unfair—he might say nothing could be more disgraceful—than for an admittedly wealthy country like England, along with all the other grievences and oppressions which she inflicted on the Irish people, to wrong her in a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. "What could be more unfair, on the face of the matter, than that the Irish people should be denied the same amount of relief of local taxation which was accorded to England and Scotland, and, moreover, that the Irish people should have to pay a share of the relief of local taxation accorded to England and Scotland? They were put off with the allegation that some reform of the whole question of local government was intended. It was said it was just as well they should wait until they saw what reform was effected. But it must be borne in mind that years were rolling on, and that in the meantime the Irish people were paying £40,000 per annum in excess of right and justice; and that, looking to the pressure of important questions of home and foreign politics, there was no guarantee whatever that the promised relief in this matter was at all near at hand, at all within measure-able distance. The present Parliament and the next Parliament were likely to have their hands very full; and it was doubted very much whether they would concern themselves with questions which most intimately affected the fortunes and the interests of the Irish people. The Irish Members would be very glad if 560 Parliament would so concern themselves; but at all events they had a claim, and a very strong claim, for immediate redress and reform in this particular matter. He thought it was neither fair, nor generous, nor just on the part of the Government that the present system—which amounted to nothing less than robbery of the Irish people—should be allowed to go on year after year, and that the Representatives of Ireland should be put off with such flimsy pretences as had been adduced by the Government that evening. The Irish people had a claim not merely to relief in the future, but, if they pressed the thing to the utmost, they had a claim for the re-imbursement to them of the large amount that had been unfairly abstracted from them under this particular head for years past. The fact was undenied, the grievance was admitted, the wrong was patent; it was a practical matter, a pressing matter, a matter of £40,000 per annum to the poor people of Ireland. That unjust abstraction of £40,000 a-year had been going on for many years; but, instead of making a claim that all the money wrongfully withheld from their people should be refunded, the Irish Members merely asked that they should from the present get the relief to which they were justly entitled. They certainly could not assent to the passing of this Vote. They were bound to oppose it and divide against it. Of course, they would be defeated in the Lobby; but he asked the Government if truth, right, and justice were not to prevail? Had they no consideration for the facts and the truth of the case, irrespective of their majority in the House of Commons? Did a majority make right wrong, or wrong right? Did the majority which the Government could command in the Lobby change the aspect of the question by one iota? Did it justify them in placing this admittedly unfair impost on the Irish people? He maintained it did not—the fact that he and his hon. Friends would be outnumbered in the division did not affect the principle involved. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite who represented the Government wanted to figure before the three countries as honourable men, as reasonable men, as upright men, they should, instead of putting the Irish Members off with empty phrases and worthless promises in a matter of this 561 kind, agree to let right and justice be done. They should act upon that principle, which was the best, and in the end the cheapest, whether they were dealing with an Irish or any other question.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) knew very well that he (Mr. Biggar) would not advocate any expenditure of public money unless he thought it necessary. He approved of the relief in question being given to Ireland; but the very next Vote he should feel it his duty to oppose, for the simple reason that the money was absolutely thrown away. In his opinion, the Executive Government very often assented to money being given for unworthy objects, while they refused grants for purposes of a beneficial character. Earlier in the debate it was stated that part of this Scotch Vote went to places where no turnpikes had existed. When the Turnpike Votes were first granted, the theory was that they amounted to compensation for what might be called vested interests—compensation to those people who in times past had kept up the roads. It was particularly hard upon the Irish people that they should get no part of the public money, because they bad not only made the main roads through the different counties, but supported them out of the public rates. It had been pointed out that the turnpikes in Ireland were abolished 30 years ago. If that was so, the local ratepayers had been keeping the roads in order during the whole of that time. In some counties where turnpikes did not exist the roads were made, in the first instance, by the ratepayers, and afterwards maintained by them. For those reasons he thought the Government ought to give way upon this question, and thus do justice. If the Government would take the advice of the Irish Members with regard to the grants of public money made with the intention of being expended in Ireland, they could effect a very much greater saving than £40,000, which was all he and his hon. Friends asked. All they asked was that simple justice should be done to Ireland with regard to the question of local taxation. They need not go into the question of general taxation, though, of course, if they did, the Irish Members would be quite prepared to defend their position, and to show that instead of paying too little to the Re- 562 venue of the country Ireland paid more than its share. That, however, was beside the question of subventions in mitigation of local rates. The House had decided, over and over again, that assistance should be given to local rates in respect of disturnpiked roads in Scotland and England. All that was now asked was that the same assistance should be given in Ireland. The proposition made by his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), that the Government should undertake to bring in a Supplementary Estimate which would enable them to give to Ireland in the future the same relief given to England and Scotland, was a very reasonable and fair proposition, and one against which no valid argument had been advanced.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that if the three countries stood upon an equality in point of taxation he should have thought that the Irish Members had shown a fail-grievance. But the three countries did not stand upon an equality. Ireland was not taxed to the same extent as England or Scotland. ["There is only the Carriage Tax!"and "Put them on!"] Hon. Members demurred to that statement; but, at the same time, the fact remained that Ireland was not taxed in the same way as England or Scotland. That created the difficulty there was in dealing with this question. In the first place, the House Tax did not apply to Ireland. It might be said that if it were applied to Ireland it would not produce a very large amount. They were all sorry that the generality of tenements in Ireland were of such a character that the House Tax would not yield much revenue. Then there was the Carriage Tax, and the other taxes imposed upon what were called luxuries, which did not apply to Ireland—there was no tax upon the employment of male servants, or upon other luxuries of that kind. When the question of those grants in aid of disturnpiked roads was before the House, there was a proposal made by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Carriage Tax in England and Scotland should be increased in amount, and the reason of that proposal was that the Exchequer should be able to recoup itself. That increased tax would not have applied to Ireland. There were several other taxes not of so large an 563 amount which did not apply to Ireland. He believed the Income Tax under Schedule A was not levied at so high a rate in Ireland as in England. On those grounds he thought he was fairly justified in saying that the three countries did not stand upon an equality He was quite prepared to admit that if they had stood upon an equality hon. Gentlemen from Ireland would have been perfectly justified in saying Ireland had not been fairly treated as compared with England and Scotland. The Prime Minister had said that before they could deal with this matter they must consider the whole question of local taxation as affecting England, Ireland, and Scotland. He, therefore, did not think hon. Members were justified in saying that what the Prime Minister stated really amounted to nothing. He (Mr. Hibbert) believed that when the whole question was considered justice would be done to Ireland as well as to other parts of the United Kingdom. He, therefore, appealed to hon. Members from Ireland to allow this Vote to pass, and to trust to the representations which would be made to the Prime Minister by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan), and by himself (Mr. Hibbert), and other hon. Members who had been present during the debate, as to what had occurred. The Government had a duty to do to England and Scotland, and, at the same time, they were desirous of doing justice to Ireland.
§ MR. HEALY
said, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) had used very admirable arguments, from his point of view, for getting the Vote passed. But those arguments did not influence the Irish Members in the least, The hon. Gentleman had taunted the Irish people upon the fact that they did not want body servants. Who wanted body servants? The Government might tax body servants as much as they pleased. None of the Nationalist Members ever had body servants, and none of the people they represented employed body servants. Again, the Government were not sparing the peasant class in Ireland if they did not put on the House Tax. Then, it was said, the Irish people did not pay a tax on carriages. Who kept carriages in Ireland? There were not 99 in 100 people in that country who indulged in a carriage, so that it could 564 not be said that the Government were sparing the people of Ireland because they did not put a tax on carriages. Who thanked the Government? The Government might put a tax of £1,000 a-year on a carriage for aught he cared. It would not affect the mass of the people; it would not affect the vast majority of the people who had to pay for the roads; and therefore such arguments as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hibbert) had advanced were utterly beside the question. The Government might, if they liked, put a tax upon the miserable shanties of Ireland, upon body servants, and upon carriages. Who stopped them doing so? Those were the absurdities to which Members of the House of Commons were treated. These three luxuries, which in no way affected the daily lives of 99–100ths of the people of Ireland, were made an excuse for not giving the people the relief which was given in England and Scotland. Everybody had to pay for the roads; and the fact that that was so, and that people who had carriages got off without paying for them, was used as an excuse why the country should be treated differently to England and Scotland. He really would advise the hon. Gentleman to refrain from indulging in such arguments as he had put forward, unless he wished to figure as an Artemus Ward or a Mark Twain. The contention of the Irish Members was very simple. England was receiving something like £250,000 a-year, and Scotland £30,000 or £40,000 in aid of the roads, while the Irish people were required to support their own roads, and they had not even had the pleasure of deducting half from the landlords, as was the case in respect to the poor's rates. For the last two or three years, he and his hon. Friends had urged on the Government the necessity for redress in this matter; but successive Secretaries to the Treasury, according to their humour, had indulged in the same reasons for not granting it. At the present time the House was voting £11,000,000 for guns and sabres with which to fight Russia; they were spending thousands of pounds upon a railway in the Soudan; but they refused this just claim made on behalf of Ireland. It would be much more to the purpose if, instead of making a railway in the Soudan, the Government were to cut roads in Connaught. If they did that, 565 they would do something to bring the resources of civilization to the door of their own subjects; and that was one of the reasons why he and his hon. Friends objected to bloated Estimates on the one hand, and niggardly payments on the other. He could not understand why the Irish people should not be allowed to enjoy this relief in common with the people of England. Ireland paid the Government between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 sterling per annum, and yet it was quite impossible to ascertain what it got in return, owing to the absurd way in which the Estimates were prepared. The Government spent their money in presents to the Ameer of Afghanistan, and now they were going to war on account of a miserable dunghill in that country, about which no one cared a pin; but they refused to give Ireland £30,000 or £40,000 a-year, which was required to put it on an equality with England and Scotland. One of the curses of Ireland's dealings with England was that they never could get anybody who was actually responsible for the government of the country. When those Estimates came on the Irish Secretary sloped off, and the Solicitor General for Ireland was not in his place. The men who ought to be responsible for those things were not present. At one time the Irish Members had to meet the Secretary to the Treasury, at another time the Solicitor General for Ireland, at another time the Chief Secretary, at another time the Prime Minister, and at another time the Home Secretary. One set of men dealt with them on one set of affairs, and another set of men on another set of affairs; the Irish Members were shifted from one person to another until they really did not know where they stood. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) suggested earlier in the evening the possibility of meeting this difficulty by the abolition of the Votes for England and Scotland. That was a step which the Irish Members would not view with any satisfaction, because, by taking it, the Government would simply injure the English and Scotch taxpayers without doing the Irish taxpayers any benefit. He and his hon. Friends did not wish to play the part of the dog in the manger; what they preferred to do was to share the Imperial boons with their fellow-subjects in England and Scotland. He 566 hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would see his way to say that this matter would be considered in relation to the contributions of Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer, and to the expenditure which was made in Ireland. If the hon. Gentleman would strike what would really be a Civil Service balance as between England, Scotland, and Ireland, apart from the Military and Constabulary Expenditure, he would find that Ireland was treated most unjustly. Under the circumstances, he trusted the hon. Gentleman would not allow himself to be hampered with the fact that his official superiors were not present in the House. It was quite true that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the First Lord of the Treasury were present; but, unfortunately, they were never able to get the whole battery of the Treasury Bench present at the same time when Irish questions were under discussion. They withdrew themselves into space, and they only got one person to speak to, and he, however distinguished and intellectual he might be, was always obliged to say—"I must consult my Colleagues." They never got the Cabinet, en bloc, on the Front Ministerial Bench, so as to secure an opinion from them. He would ask the Secretary to the Treasury to press this matter on the Government.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he wished to say a word or two with regard to the question of assessed taxes referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury. It would be a positive ease to Ireland if those assessed taxes were imposed on that country. Those assessed taxes were a two penny-halfpenny matter in Ireland; but they were invaluable to the Government as an ad captundum argument whenever the question of the relative taxation of the two countries cropped up. They were a very trivial matter indeed, and did not really affect the argument as between the two countries on this question. The wealth of England was 17 times greater than that of Ireland—or was on a recent calculation, and no doubt the disproportion had increased rather than the reverse of late. But instead of England paying 17 parts to one of Imperial taxation it paid only nine parts to one. That was the brief fact of the case, and it was really in no way affected by reference to this small matter of assessed taxes. There were two 567 or three small changes which might be made which would not, however, touch the body of the Irish people, and which would produce a result hardly worth mentioning. He was astonished to see the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury—whose honesty they all recognized, and whose honour and honesty they all believed in—producing, as an argument at the Table of the House of Commons, this reference to those miserable assessed taxes, when the disparity between the taxation of the two countries was so great as it was at present.
I must remark to the hon. Gentleman before he begins his speech—for I do not wish to interrupt him if I can help it—that this discussion on the Scotch Vote has now been continued for nearly five hours, and that the hon. Member himself has addressed the Committee no less than six times.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, that very likely that was the case; but he had been obliged to speak so often because the Government would not listen to reason. If they would not listen to reason it was the duty of hon. Members to try and make them do so. He wished to say a word or two with regard to the argument of the Secretary to the Treasury. He had told them that Ireland was too leniently dealt with.
§ MR. BIGGAR
Well, had not been put on an equality. Ireland was less taxed in regard to the three particular items pointed out than England was. The three items were the tax on male servants, the tax on carriages, and the tax upon houses. Now, if he might make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before the Budget was introduced, he would recommend that those three taxes should be fully imposed upon Ireland. He (Mr. Biggar) was not arguing that the right hon. Gentleman, if he imposed those three taxes upon Ireland, should be even asked to give the pledge the Irish Members were requesting in regard to the particular Vote they were discussing. The people who would have to pay those taxes were people the majority of the Irish Members did not 568 care about. The majority of the Irish Members spoke on behalf of the great mass of the ratepayers in Ireland, who would not have to pay a single 1d. if those three taxes were imposed; so that, in point of fact, the argument of the Government, founded upon those three taxes, was not entitled to the slightest amount of consideration. [Then there was another question as to Irish taxation. It was notorious that the principal beverage of the Irish people was whisky and not beer, which was the great drink of the English. It was well known that, according to alcoholic strength, the tax on whisky was much heavier than that on beer, so that the unfortunate people of Ireland had to pay a much larger sum to the country on the alcoholic drinks they used than the English people. The hon. Member's argument, therefore, went for nothing. The Chairman complained that they had spent so much time on this Vote; but whose fault was it? The Front Treasury Bench was to blame for having gone into all sorts of questions which the Irish Members had had no idea of bringing into the consideration of the matter. If the Government had met them fairly, and had said—"You are suffering an injustice, and we will remedy it," there would have been an end to the whole business; but, unfortunately, the Government did not do that. They had instead raised a discussion upon man servants and carriages. With regard to carriages, he had always been of opinion that if a man wanted his business well done it would be very much better to hire a horse and conveyance than keep one of his own. It did not add to his personal dignity so much; but if he wished to travel any distance it was unquestionably better to hire a horse and machine to take him than to use one of his own. This question was not much to the point perhaps, but it had been introduced by the Government. He really would impress on the Government the desirability of laying taxes on those three items. They would by that means do away with the cry of future Secretaries to the Treasury when the Irish Votes came on that Ireland was treated with partiality, and would narrow and lessen the amount of labour the hon. Member (Mr. Hibbert) or his successors had to perform.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the Irish Members had occupied a considerable time in the discussion of this question, because it was a question of considerable importance to them, involving, as it did, payments by those they represented amounting to £40,000 or £50,000 in aid of English and Scotch rates, whilst those who paid it had no voice in its disposal. As Ireland was a very poor country, inhabited by very poor people, the Irish Members felt that, in view of the very extraordinary attitude of the Government, they would not have done justice to their constituents, or those they represented here, without dwelling at some considerable length—at, perhaps, unusually great length—on the subject. He did not augur from the statements which had been made either by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy, or the Secretary to the Treasury, that they were really going to do a just and fair thing in connection with this matter. They had scarcely attempted to dispute the justice of the claim of the Irish Members. They had scarcely attempted—from the Prime Minister, who had appeared to admit even the justice of the claim, to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy—to bring forward any valid argument against the claim of the Irish Members. There were very few two-wheel or four-wheel carriages in Ireland, consequently the Government had never considered it worth their while to put a tax on those articles of luxury. They were perfectly welcome to put a tax on then to-morrow so far as the great majority of the Irish people were concerned. The Government were attempting to put off this question until the whole question of local government came to be dealt with. The Irish Members could not accept that as a satisfactory answer; and they were bound to say that on this occasion they could not describe their action as anything less than an attempt to rob the Irish people out of a large sum of money every year without giving them any equivalent in return. The Government had not sought to defend the attempt. They admitted that things ought to be equal as between the Three Kingdoms. If they admitted that, why did they not make things equal? They said that, at some future time, they would do it when they came to consider the larger questions. But this little question had 570 been looming before the House for many years, and the Irish Members did not know when it would be considered. Meanwhile this injustice and inequality was going on. Already the "Kingdoms of England and Scotland had obtained something like £800,000 as Imperial contribution in aid of local rates, whilst Ireland had not obtained a single 1d. He should have thought that a Government, such as that of the Prime Minister, when it had been clearly shown that Ireland was suffering an injustice, would have been only too ready to come forward and say that though it might necessitate a re-arrangement of their finances, yet that they would not allow a single moment to pass by before remedying the inequality. The present case was similar to that involved in the Royal Irish Constabulary Redistribution Bill, which had passed through that House and had reached the other House. An admitted inequality and injustice had been exposed, and the Government had not put forward any valid argument—which even they themselves claimed as valid—against the statements of the Irish Members; therefore he said their consciences certainly ought not to be at ease until they had introduced a Supplementary Estimate for the purpose of remedying this gross inequality.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he would only say one word in reply to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and it was that he could not agree with him in his statement that the English and Scotch taxpayers appeared to be robbing the poor of Ireland. He must say that he, for one—and he was sure the feeling was entertained by everyone connected with the Government—had a strong desire, in dealing with this question, to avoid doing any injustice to the Irish people. At the same time, he thought the Irish Members had been right in bringing on that discussion. For his own part, he could only promise that he would lay before the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer the suggestions of the Irish Members as to the taxation in Ireland, and see if any means could be adopted for the purpose of arriving at a proper solution of the question.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he had been anxious to see the debate confined to the subject of the Vote. The Ministry 571 had raised collateral issues; but so had the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar). The question was not so much as to the amount of money raised in Ireland, but the amount spent in it. Ireland sent over a surplus every year which was spent in England, and that was their grievance. It did not matter how much money was raised in a country if that money was spent in it; but the money raised in Ireland was not spent in it, and that was always the case in one country subject to another having the power and arms. The greatest injury which could be done to a country was to tax it heavily, and then spend the money raised in the form of taxation out of it. That was what the Government were doing in Ireland. The hon. Member for Cavan had taken up a weak position. They might tax two-horse carriages in Ireland as much as they liked, and they might put on drays and four-horse conveyances 10 times the amount of tax that was charged in England if they liked; but he was not anxious to see the one-horse conveyances taxed. Those general grievances had not been raised to any extent by him, his great grievance being that lreland was heavily taxed, and the money raised was spent in England. It became outrageous when England took money from Ireland and spent it on English roads, and made Ireland pay for her own roads herself. He had always looked upon this as a remarkable instance of the general policy of the system of taxation carried on in Ireland. That policy was wrapped up in accounts, but it was easy to discover the plan pursued. Ireland sent over to this country £1,500,000, or £2,000,000 a-year, and that he had proved before now by the Returns he had received. Amounts that were described as having been spent in Ireland were frequently—as in the case of the soldiers—found to be fallacious. When £1,000,000 was put down as being spent by the military, the fact was that the amount distributed was only about £600,000. It was only in rations, &c, that the money was spent, the money for the arms and equipments of the men going to England, where the articles were obtained. There was no doubt about it that the money was sucked out of Ireland and spent in England, and that was a glaring injustice that Her Majesty's Ministers would do well to rectify.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 78; Noes 26: Majority 52.—(Div. List, No. 125.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £191,784, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1886, for the Erection, Repairs, and Maintenance of the several Public Buildings under the Department of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, and for the Erection of Fishery Piers, and the Maintenance of certain Parks, Harbours, and Navigations.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he wished to address the Committee upon one point in connection with this Vote; and he thought the Committee would be glad to know that the Irish Members, who had been objecting to English and Scotch Votes because sufficient money was not spent in Ireland, now desired to save a certain sum expended in Ireland—namely, the £3,000 spent on the Ulster Canal. Not only did the Irish Members wish to save the Treasury this expenditure, but the £4,000 or £5,000 in addition which would probably be asked for. He had never been able to make out why the Government should incur this expenditure. They not only put the Vote down, but also brought forward a Bill on the subject; and whenever the Bill came on, every Irish Member who knew anything about the matter objected to the expenditure, and told them so—told them that, so far as he could see, it was a useless expenditure, and that the whole thing was a job. The Bill had been put down night after night. He was convinced—he could read it as plainly as he could read anything in the House of Commons—that the Government intended to slip it through some night when the Irish Members were not present. And why they proposed to spend the money was this—The Government issued a Royal Commission some years ago to inquire into the Ulster Canal, which Commission consisted of eight Gentlemen, four Irish Members of Parliament, Lord Mounteagle, and Representatives from the Public Offices. One gentleman was sent to represent the Treasury—an officer who had been engaged in irrigating land in India, and had been connected with hydraulic works in that country. Well, the seven Irish Commissioners 573 sent in a Report, to the effect that the Ulster Canal was useless, that it was a very heavy expense, and that it would be well to sell it, or otherwise get rid of it, to save the amount it was costing. That was the advice of the seven Irishmen. Six were present when the Report was agreed to. The seventh happened to be away; but he (Colonel Nolan) believed he was of the same opinion. He was not, however, so sure of him as he was of the other six. The eighth Commissioner—the officer representing the Treasury—had no local knowledge and no political position, though of high rank in the Army. Well, this gentleman sent in an adverse Report, stating that the Government had spent so much money on the Canal that it would be a pity to let it go to waste. The Government had chosen to take the advice of this gentleman, and had decided not to sell the Canal, but to give it away—to spend £3,000 on it to put it in a state of repair, and then give it away. He (Colonel Nolan') did not think £3,000 would be enough to do what the Government proposed to do, and he was strongly of opinion that £1,000 or £2,000 more would be required. All this outlay would be wasted. The whole of the Commissioners, with the exception of the one he had mentioned, believed that this expenditure would be simply so much money wasted. Every Irishman upon the Commission was against it. The Government, however, had got a fancy into their head, and they sent down a Representative from the Treasury, who took a fancy to expend a sum of money. The Commission came to the conclusion that the inland navigation of Ireland was of very little use; and in a great many cases, such as the Lower Bann and the Shannon, it was positively hurtful. The Commission were very strong about the Lower Bann, and terribly strong about the Shannon, and the majority of the Commissioners thought they would leave it to the Board of Works, believing that there was a strong ease for considering drainage in the case of the Shannon, but none at all to any extent for navigation. The Government were spending their money everywhere in keeping up these ridiculous navigation works; but they knew the matter ought to be inquired into, and therefore they appointed this Commission, who went dead against them, and gave them a strong 574 Report, which would have saved their money. He remembered an observation that was once made by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen) that the first thing to do with Ireland was to dry it. That, no doubt, was a very useful thing; but here the Government were keeping up this waste of money, and they would not take the advice of Irishmen on the subject. They were still going to have a good many thousands of pounds spent upon this business.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he had the pleasure and honour of being one of [the Royal Commissioners who were appointed to inquire into this question, of which body the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) was also a Member. The Commissioners travelled over a great deal of ground in Ireland in connection with these canals. The Royal Commission reported, in reference to this Canal, that, in their opinion, no public money should be expended upon it; and they recommended that the Canal, and all the property attached to it, should, as soon as possible, be offered for sale to the public, for they could not doubt that if there was a fair prospect of its being profitable, its value would easily be understood and appreciated by the prosperous towns in the North of Ireland, and it would be readily purchased and put into working order, and there need be no hesitation in disposing of it, so that it might be turned to some useful account. That was the Report of the Commissioners. He wished to call attention to one fact—that in the five years up to 1880, the average receipts from the 46 miles of this Canal amounted to only £55 per year, whilst the annual expenditure incurred in keeping the Canal in order, and paying the wages of the lock-keepers, amounted to £1,153, leaving a deficit of £1,098 a-year for keeping up what was admitted, by every Member of the Royal Commission, to be a useless navigation. What happened in 1865? The Canal was lying derelict, and the Board of Works, in order to give it a new trial, did that which produced £55 of tolls per annum. One member of the Board of Works said that after they had spent an extra sum of £22,000 upon it, the traffic remained nil, although the tolls were not more than half those imposed by the Grand 575 Canal and the Royal Canal. Now, he thought the common sense of the Committee, and the intelligence of any man in this House who had any idea of business, would recognize the fact that there never was a grosser case of expending public money in an utterly useless manner; and he would ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) if he had read the Report of the Royal Commission and the evidence upon which that Report was based? He would also ask what was the use of appointing Royal Commissions and sending them to Ireland to report on questions of this kind, if then, after they had gone over the whole ground and sat for weeks and months, and given a Report to that House, not a single one of their recommendations was to be acted upon? He asked the Secretary of the Lagan Navigation, who was one of the witnesses before the Commissioners, whether that navigation would take this Canal, and the Secretary replied—"Not unless the Board of Works expend some £10,000 or £12,000 in putting it into proper order." Well, why should £240,000 of public money be handed over to the Lagan Navigation without 1s. of purchase? He did not object to giving them the Canal; but why should that gift be accompanied by £12,000 more in money? One difficulty of the Ulster Navigation was that the locks upon its Canal were not of the same dimensions or capacity as the other locks upon the Lagan or Tyrone Navigation. He would say, give the Canal over to the Lagan Navigation, and so save the expenditure of £1,100 a-year; but they should not throw away £12,000 besides. They tried the same experiment in 1865, and spent £22,000. He was quite certain that if the Committee considered this question they would reduce this Vote by £3,000. He had no wish that this continued and useless expenditure of £1,200 a-year should go on year after year. The Treasury should offer the Canal for sale. They did so before, as his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Nolan) very well knew; but how did they offer it? They embarrassed it with conditions which nobody would accept. If it was offered for sale to-morrow unconditionally, there would be buyers, and he ventured to say that £10,000 would be given for it for the value of the ground, 576 and the houses, and the other things about it. But it must be offered without the conditions which were imposed before. It should be offered for sale in the open market, and he would venture to say that, if the Lagan Navigation did not buy, private enterprize would step in and give a fair price for it. But nothing could be more insane than to follow up the expenditure already incurred by spending £12,000 more, when all the previous expenditure had hitherto been useless. He should certainly oppose the Vote, as he should also oppose the Bill.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, that he also was a Member of the Royal Commission which had been referred to. He was not aware, until he entered the House, that this matter was going to be under consideration, and he was rather in the dark as to what had occurred, for he had only just come in. But certainly his recollection of the matter agreed entirely with that of the two hon. Members who had last spoken. The Commissioners were quite unanimous as to the entire uselessness of the Canal, and they reported accordingly that it should be given up. He could not for the life of him understand what the £12,000 was now going to be spent upon the Canal for. He should be glad to hear what the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had to say—perhaps there was some argument to use which he (Mr. Tottenham) had not yet heard—but if that were not the case, he should certainly support the reduction of the Vote, if for no other reason that this—that he could not see what was the object of getting a Royal Commission to investigate the question of this Canal, and to devote a great deal of time and attention to the matter, if all their efforts and recommendations were to be so utterly and entirely disregarded in the end.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the Committee had now been addressed by three Members of the Royal Commission, who spoke of proceedings not at a very remote date, for it was only some four years since the Commissioners started on their labours. In point of fact, it was only about two years ago that they reported in the most direct form against this proposition; and not only was that the case, but if this grant were made, and the Bill connected with it were 577 passed, the result would be that it would be perfectly impossible to lower Lough Neagh to such a depth as would be required. The whole thing would be a most egregious blunder. The Canal had cost £130,000 of public money already, and what happened was this—that the parties who borrowed the money did not give any reasonable or personal security. If they asked Mr. Robinson, one of the Directors of the Company, to give a special guarantee for the payment of the money, they would precious soon find that no money would be taken. This Canal, in times past, had been able to do very little work, and yet it was a Canal on the security of which they proposed to lend a sum of £10,000; and not only that, but the Ulster Railway was in competition with it; and, in addition to that, there was a Bill in Parliament this very Session, promoted by the Great Northern Railway, by which they hoped to be able to put themselves in communication with this district, and to take coals and heavy goods at a substantially less rate than they were ever able to do before, for, formerly, they carried their goods from the quays to the goods station; whereas now, if this Bill passed, their trucks would go alongside the vessels, and the result would be that they would be able to make the position of the Ulster Canal much more untenable than it was at present. There was another canal in the neighbourhood which only paid l½ per cent dividend to its shareholders, and that not upon the original expenditure upon the undertaking, but upon the remarkably small sum which the canal cost its present owners. What really would happen if they gave this £10,000 now was this—that the money would be spent, and then the people would go to the Secretary to the Treasury, and they would intrigue, and they would lie, and they would get a further credit from a future Parliament upon the pretence of this want of communication in the North of Ireland; while all the time they would take very good care not to work the Canal at all, and would simply pocket the money.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he thought he might, perhaps, be allowed to offer an observation or two upon this unfortunate Canal, the misfortunes of which would not surprise anybody who had been connected with the Treasury. But 578 he did not recognize, in the statements that had just been made, any absolutely complete account of the facts of the Canal. It was perfectly true that the Commissioners recommended that this Canal should be sold; but their first recommendation was that it should be sold as a canal; and even as to that there was a dissentient member of the Commission—a gentleman named Dickins.
§ MR. COURTNEY
He might not have been an Irishman, but he was not officially connected with the Treasury, and he was in favour of the Canal being kept up. There had of late years been a considerable modification of the opinion which prevailed a few years ago in reference to canals. At one time there was a movement in favour of their absorption by railways; but nowthey were looked upon as good checks upon railways. The first recommendation was that the Canal should be sold as a canal. He was aware that a proposition had also been made to break up the Canal; and as to that, there was a considerable objection made to it by hon. Members from Ireland when it was proposed. [Colonel NOLAN: A very small body of them.] The Colleague of the hon. and gallant Member himself raised an objection, and other hon. Members did so also. As to selling the undertaking as a canal, that was what the Treasury attempted to do; but they discovered that they could not find a purchaser—nobody would make an offer. Then came the consideration, should they make any other efforts to release themselves from the Canal; and the Lagan Company offered to buy it, if a certain sum were spent to put it into a condition for use, which sum they agreed to pay by annual instalments. This sum, therefore, was not a gift—it was a sum to be repaid by the Lagan Company; and it was, after all, a good bargain for the Treasury, for the money would be repaid by annuity, and the Treasury, would be relieved from all further responsibility. As to the security of the Lagan Company, it was a Company which realized a dividend. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes, of 1½ per cent.] He thought it was 2 per cent; but, at all events, it was sufficient. 579 Their surplus was quite sufficient to repay the annuity which they would have to repay, so that the arrangement under the Bill, which would have become law had it not been for the opposition of Irish Members opposite, would have been this—that the Treasury would have been relieved from the expense of £1,100 a-year; and though they would have incurred a fresh outlay to put the Canal in order, that amount would have been repaid. From the point of view of Irishmen, the Canal would have been kept in working order as a check upon the competition of the railways. They all knew the sort of complaints of which so much had been heard of late on the subject of railway rates; and it was no small gain to a country, if they could get an independent Company to keep a canal in working order, and operating as a check upon the railways. From the point of view of the present Committee, the agreement entered into with the Lagan Company was economical, and would have been adopted but for the opposition he had described; and in that way the Treasury and Parliament would have been relieved from an annual charge, and the repayment of the money advanced would have been secured. He had not heard anything tonight, nor did he hear anything last year, which really suggested a well-founded doubt about the matter.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Courtney) had stated that the hon. Gentlemen who preceded him (Colonel Nolan, Mr. T. A. Dickson, and Mr. Tottenham) had given a very incomplete account of the proceedings in regard to this matter—that they had left out some items in the Estimates which ought to be taken into consideration. But the hon. Gentleman had himself given a very incomplete account of the scheme which was proposed. One part of the business was that there was an annual sum of over £1,000 in connection with this Canal taken under an Act of Parliament, and it would require another Act of Parliament to alter the present arrangement. The Ulster Canal was perfectly worthless as a going concern. It involved a dead loss every year, as had already been pointed out. The Treasury wished to get rid of that annual charge of over £1,000, and they proposed to sell this Canal to the Lagan Navigation 580 Company. But there would be absolutely no security at all for the £12,000 which, in that event, would have to be expended to enable the Lagan Navigation Company to make the Canal a paying concern; and in the very Bill which the Government last year introduced to sanction the proposed arrangement there was a provision that, in case the £12,000, or any part of it, was not enough, the Treasury should again assume the position of mortgagees of the Canal; and, therefore, they had no security at all, except the security of the Canal itself, that the Lagan Navigation Company would ever repay the sum for which they became indebted to the Government. He maintained that that was a most ridiculous arrangement. They would get rid of a charge of over £1,100 a-year on the Estimates; but, in order to do that, they would have to undertake to make an outlay of £12,000. They affected to consider that they would have a security for that sum in the Lagan Navigation Company, which undertook to take the Canal over; but the only security was this—that when they had paid £12,000, they would have the Canal itself in case the mortgagors failed to discharge their liability. They would be in a worse position than before, because they would have expended £12,000 which there was no necessity for expending at all. Since he had had the honour of a seat in Parliament, he had raised his voice every year against the system of these navigation arrangements in Ireland. Hon. Members might not understand that there was, from Coleraine in the North of Ireland, down to Limerick in the South, a system of water communication; but, as a matter of fact, it was only nominal, not real. It was supposed to connect the North with the South by means of Lough Neagh and certain other loughs and canals; but, as a matter of fact, one canal in that chain was altogether non-existent. One of the so-called canals was not a canal at all—he doubted very much whether there was any water in it, but certainly there was no boat at all upon it. There was no system of navigation along that line at all, and the Ulster Canal did not connect them. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Courtney) said that the first proposal was that the Canal should be sold as a canal. Now, in page 14 of the Report 581 of the Commission the hon. Gentleman would find it set forth that in 1861, long before the appointment of the Commission, Sir John Macneil reported that the only plan he could suggest by which any return could be made for the undertaking was to take up the lock-gates and drain the Canal, and convert its bed and slopes into grasslands which could be let for grazing. That was after the Treasury had spent no less than £147,767 of public money on the Canal, with the result that the annual income was £55, and the annual expenditure somewhere about 30 times as much, the Government having to make up the difference. The Commissioners went on to say that since that Report of Sir John Macneil, £22,000 of public money, in addition to the annual expenses, had been expended with no substantial result in increasing the traffic. They further pointed out that for the purposes of the navigation the water had not been shut off, nor had the drainage area of the country been interfered with, and that it was now worked at an annual loss of £1,098 for want of traffic. The Commissioners added that they did not think there was a probability of the Canal being profitably used within such a time as would justify any immediate outlay of public money for the purpose of putting it into order. Now, in the face of that Report, the Treasury were prepared to fritter away a further sum of money. The Commissioners said—Nor do we think there should be any further outlay made. In our opinion no more public money should be expended upon it. We recommend that the Canal, with all the property attached to it, should be as soon as possible offered for sale to the public, for we cannot doubt that if there is really a reasonable prospect of its becoming a profitable enterprize as a water communication, its value as such will be understood and appreciated in the prosperous and wealthy towns of the North, and it would be purchased and put into proper working order.But it should be borne in mind that that was not a recommendation of its prosperity. The Commissioners merely said, in effect—"We do not believe it is worth anything as a canal; but, if not, those who understand it may take it up." In any case they recommended that no further public money should be spent upon it. This was all the Irish Members had contended for; and, moreover, it should be remembered by the 582 Government that, in this instance, they had the Irish Members asking them not to expend public money in Ireland. Of course, there was a reason for this, and here the reason was that instead of the expenditure being a useful one that would do good to Ireland, it was one that produced no advantage, and really did injury to the country by unnecessarily absorbing in one direction money that would be far bettor applied in other ways. In this way it was an injury to the community at large. The Irish Members wished to save the pockets of the people, and did not want to take money from the Treasury which they well knew had to be subscribed to by their own countrymen. To spend money in that wanton and reckless manner was, in their opinion, nothing but mere jobbery. The Treasury officials might not be aware of this; but, whether they were aware of it or not, it was so, and those who were committing the Treasury to this expenditure knew that the only advantage to be gained by carrying out the proposal was a present advantage to certain individuals, and that it would be of no good to the country or to the people of Ireland, or to the district in which the money was to be expended; while, in the end, the mortgagees might throw the property on the hands of the Government, as the security was a mere nominal one, and was in reality worthless, and would prove a dead loss to them as it had proved for the last 50 or 60 years. As had been persistently urged upon them for a long time, the best thing the Government could do would be to sell the property for whatever it would fetch. He would strongly urge on the Government that they should simply surrender the Canal to anyone who would buy it, and upon any terms they could get; for so long as they held it, it could be nothing but a loss, as they would have to spend more and more upon it without obtaining any return for the outlay. They had already wasted more than £ 150,000 upon it together with the interest on that sum, and had done no good, but, on the contrary, had done a great deal of harm to the country. He hoped, therefore, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert), if he had not fully examined the Report of the Commission and did not know the circumstances of the country, would pause before com- 583 mitting the House to a scheme involving so utter a waste of public money and so utter a defiance of the opinions entertained by the Irish people.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had asked what was the recommendation of the Royal Commission on this subject. The fact was that the Royal Commission had made two recommendations. Their first recommendation was that the Ulster Canal should be offered for sale as a going concern—namely, as a canal. The Treasury had adopted this recommendation, and offered the Canal for sale on the stipulated condition; but they could not find a buyer. The second recommendation of the Commission was that it should be offered for sale without any stipulation, and in that case there need be no hesitation in disposing of all the works and land and buildings, so that the undertaking might be converted into some useful purpose. Well, he wished to know why had not the Treasury acted upon the Commissioners' second recommendation, and offered the Canal for sale without imposing any stipulations that might have the effect of preventing anyone from purchasing it? They had, however, done nothing of the kind. With regard to the question of railway competition to which the hon. Member for Liskeard had referred, he would place before the Committee one fact which was put before the Commission in the evidence they had taken on this question. He (Mr. T. A. Dickson) had asked one of the witnesses what was the charge for the conveyance of coal from Belfast to Monaghan by the Canal, and the answer given by the witness was 6s. 6d. He then asked—"What is the rate by rail?" and the answer was "4s. 6d." Now, he would put it to the Committee, was there not in this one answer sufficient evidence to show that the Canal never could be made a paying concern? Was it not evident from this state of things that it would be utterly useless to expect that, with a railway running alongside it, the Ulster Canal would ever be made to pay? But, as far as he was concerned, he had no desire to see the Canal closed. He would say let the Lagan Navigation Company take it over without any purchase all, but as a free gift; but he was utterly opposed to its being handed over in this way, and to 584 the proposed Vote of £3,000 being also made. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard had impressed on the Committee the desirability of keeping the Canal upon; but in a clause contained in the Bill which was to be brought under the consideration of the House, it was provided that subject to any undertaking entered into by the Navigation Company, the Company might close the Ulster Canal, and might sell, lease, or otherwise dispose of the land and other property of the Canal. The Bill proposed to confer these powers for the advantage of the Company; why should not the Government exercise those powers now? If the Canal need not be kept open, why not sell it at once without the stipulation requiring it to be kept open? Did the Committee believe for a single moment that if this question were to be referred to the whole of the Irish Members, they would report that the useless expenditure proposed by Her Majesty's Government should be continued. But notwithstanding the recommendation of two Irish Peers—Lord Monck and Lord Monteagle, concurred in by four Irish Members of that House—this suggestion had been entirely put on one side. It would seem as if it were thought that the hon. Member for Liskeard, who had occupied the position of Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and other hon. Gentlemen who were also connected with that Department, knew all about these questions, while the Irish Peers and Irish Members, who had inspected the Canal and walked over the ground and had gone fully into the whole matter, knew nothing about it. He must say that if the recommendation of the Royal Commission were not carried out in regard to the disposal of the Canal, and the proposed expenditure of £12,000 was gone on with, there would be no use in again going through the farce of appointing Royal Commissions to inquire into the mismanagement of Irish affairs.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, after what had fallen from his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Courtney), who had had a good deal to do with the previous management of this matter, he should have been very much inclined to listen and act according to his views; but the observations that had been made by so many hon. Members representing Irish constituencies made him feel that he 585 ought to take time to consider the position the Government ought to take in reference to this Vote. It seemed to him, however, that there were two sides to the question. If the Government had proposed to do away with the Ulster Canal, as had been suggested during the debate, and to drain the Canal and sell the land through which it ran, they might have been met with the complaint that they were raising another Irish grievance by seeking to deprive the Irish farmers of an alternative route for conveying their goods to market. He must say that this was what would have been his first idea in looking at this question, as he admitted that the Canal was not paying. Well, then came the question, had the Government taken what means they could in order to carry out the proposal that the Canal should be sold? The Committee had already been told that the Government had endeavoured to sell the Canal, but that they were unable to find a purchaser. Then he came to the suggestion that they should get rid of the Canal by giving it away, and not trying to sell it. Several hon. Members had asked, "Why do not you give the Canal away? "The answer to that question was that it appeared that no one would have it. [Mr. BIGGAR: I will take it.] He did not think the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) would have a very good bargain if he were to take it with the view of keeping it up. But, without going further into the matter, it appeared to him that the best thing they could do, under the circumstances, after what had taken place, was to propose that the grant of £3,000 which was then being discussed should not be made, unless the Bill before the House, to which attention had been called, was passed. Before that Bill was proceeded with he would take time to consider the question, and decide whether the Bill should be proceeded with or not. This was as far as he could go on the present occasion. He would undertake to consult with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Childers) on the question, and he trusted that the Committee would, in the meantime, allow the matter to remain where it was.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, his difficulty was as to whether his hon. Friends behind him desired to press the matter to 586 a division, in order to show what the feeling of the Irish Members really was in regard to this particular question. The Committee had had the opinion of the Royal Commission upon it as well as that of hon. Members on that side of the House, and he believed the opinion of those who represented Belfast was the same. If the Treasury persisted in the payment of the £12,000 for the purpose intended, the matter would not end there, because, under the Bill to which reference had been made, it was proposed to give power to the Navigation Company to borrow a further sum of £10,000, which, added to the £12,000, would make a total of £22,000. After the election of the next Parliament there would be an agitation among the farmers in the district for lowering the level of Lough Neagh, and this could not be done without some provision being made for payment of compensation to the Navigation Company. When this was done the position of matters would be simply this—that the Company would have £12,000 of the public money in their pockets; they would have raised another sum of £10,000 under their borrowing powers; they would have the Canal to drain and break up into land, which they might sell for £10,000 or £15,000 more, for it would be worth something like that when capable of being utilized for agricultural purposes; and they would also have a claim upon the Treasury for compensation for the stoppage of the Canal. That was what would be the result of the passing of the intended Bill. The Government clearly had paid very little attention to the second recommendation of the Royal Commission, and he did not know whether they had consulted Lord Monteagle or Lord Monck upon the matter; but he certainly did think they ought to be glad to get out of the matter without having to pay the £12,000. He should feel obliged to his hon. Friends if they would not insist in pressing the question further on that occasion after the promise that had been made on behalf of the Government.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he had listened to the discussion that had taken place on this subject with a good deal of interest, and he thought the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had come to a very wise conclusion in promising to take time to consider the 587 position in which he found himself with regard to the matter. It certainly seemed to him that it would be a perfect piece of folly to go and spend the proposed amount on the Ulster Canal at the present moment. He never knew a case in which all the Members for Ireland in all parts of the House were so unanimous. This being so, the Government ought to attach the greatest weight to their views upon the question; and unless he heard very strong reasons why the opinion of the Irish Members should be passed over, he should urge upon them the advisability of giving to that opinion a favourable consideration.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he only desired to say another word. He was very strongly opposed to this Vote, and he thought the Government ought to withdraw it, and agree to refer the Bill which was to deal with the subject to a Select Committee of the Irish Members for them to send in a Report upon the question. If the Government would promise to do this, the time of the Committee would be saved. There would be no difficulty in the withdrawal of the Vote, and no hardship would be involved in such a procedure, and it would, he thought, be much better to let the question be left, like so many others, for the House to deal with.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, he hoped his hon. Friends would not press the matter any further on that occasion, as he thought it would be quite sufficient if he promised, on behalf of the Government, that full consideration should be given to the Bill, and that the money should not be expended unless the Bill was proceeded with.
§ SIR E. ASSHETON CROSS
thought there could be no objection to the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the present grant was mixed up with other matters which might make it difficult to withdraw it from the Vote.
§ MR. BIGGAR
asked for some explanation with reference to the Vote for the Lough Erne Canal. He wanted to know what was to be done with the money?
§ MR. BIGGAR
wished to know what the money put down in the Estimate for Lough Erne was to be given for?
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, the Vote was in connection with the drainage of Lough Erne. Last year £3,000 was paid towards that expenditure.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, the explanation was very satisfactory, and he was not prepared to oppose any Vote of money that was to be given for drainage purposes in Ireland. Another matter he wished to mention was that he had made inquiry of the Great Northern Railway Company as to the different rates charged for the carriage of coal delivered along that line, and he had found that the rates were quite as low at all the non-competing points as they were at the points where the line competed with the Canal; so that, as far as those carriage rates were concerned, there was no benefit derivable from the Canal.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he was quite of opinion that, as far as possible, the navigation should be made subservient to drainage.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, if the Government acted on the view just expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert), the Irish Members would have every reason to be satisfied. Their complaint had always been that the rivers provided by Nature had not been allowed by the Government to do the work rivers were intended to do. The business of a river was to carry the surplus water from the land to the sea; but either the Government or private Companies had interfered to prevent this, and had erected all sorts of artificial barriers, so that the rivers could not do their legitimate work, and the water was consequently kept back in many cases until it flooded hundreds and thousands of acres, and inflicted a vast amount of damage and ruin upon the country. He wished for a few minutes to call attention to another matter in connection with this Vote—namely, the sum put down for the purchase of sites and for new works and alterations. The sum for the purchase of sites figured in that Vote at the small amount of £15; but last year it was £520. The sum for new works and alterations was put down at £87,321, which showed an increase of £16,311 on the amount voted under the same head last year. In the Appropriation Account of last year the large sum voted under Sub-head B for new works and 589 alterations included new post offices to I be built or premises to be converted, and for this purpose £6,900 was voted, of which only £1,600 was spent, so that over £5,300 had to be returned to the Treasury, the explanation being that sites were not available. Then there was an item for new barracks for the Constabulary in Galway, of which the greater portion was not spent, the explanation in that case also being that no site was available. There were similar items for Constabulary barracks in other places, and the money voted had, in the same way, remained unexpended for the same reason. The Government had obtained money year after year for these purposes, and had not been able to erect the intended buildings, because they could not get land for the sites, in consequence of which the money had had to be returned to the Treasury. They were now asking for money again for the purchase of sites, although the amount was small; and what he wished to suggest was that the Government should not ask for money to purchase sites until they had the sites to purchase. What, he asked, was the use of going on in such a manner? It was, in fact, sheer nonsense to submit to reasonable men such Estimates as these. He would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he understood such a mode of doing business; for he (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) confessed that he could not? He had examined the Appropriation Accounts and the Estimates, and he could not find out how it was the Government carried out all the works they proposed. The system adopted required amendment; as it was, a large number of works were put down every year under the head of this Vote, and the money was voted by the House, but not expended, while there were a large number of other works that were never submitted or mentioned, and he supposed the money was expended in that way. On page 69 of the Estimates there was a long detailed account, from which it would be seen that sums varying from £20 to £1,800 had been expended on matters that were never even mentioned in the Estimates, and of which the House of Commons never knew anything. He asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to explain how it was that the Government spent money they never asked for?
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, the sites for which the money was asked in the Vote had already been arranged for. He very much agreed with the hon. Member (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) in some of the remarks he had made. When the Estimates were in course of preparation, he had struck out certain amounts that were proposed for new barracks in various places for which the sites had not been already obtained, because he thought the money should not be put down in the Votes if the money was not to be expended.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
asked if the hon. Gentleman would explain how, if this Vote were passed, it was possible for the Board of Works to expend in the purchase of land so small a sum as £15?
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that sum was merely wanted for the purpose of compensation, and was not for the purchase of sites.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he agreed with hon. Members opposite in the hope which they had expressed that Her Majesty's Government would not incur any further expenditure in connection with the Ulster Canal Navigation, seeing that the weirs, locks, headings, and other things which impeded the drainage ought to be swept away. If the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) would read the evidence given before the Royal Commission which sat to inquire into this question by the people of Antrim, he would perceive that they contributed annually a large sum towards the expenses of the Canal—that was to say, that the farmers who lived towards the lower part of the district had to pay from £1,000 to £1,200 per annum as taxation for the purpose of keeping up this perfectly useless navigation. It had been shown that the tolls charged on the Canal did not produce more than an average amount of £50 annually. The £1,100 or £1,200 a-year was a very considerable tax upon the farmers of the district; and especially so, when it was considered that it went for the purpose of keeping up a system of navigation on which there was no traffic. But that was not the sole objection to the Canal. Not only had the farmers to pay the sum mentioned, but they lost several hundred pounds per annum in consequence of the damages sustained from the floods caused by 591 keeping up weirs that ought to be condemned. He thought that a promise that no more money should be spent on the Canal would be satisfactory to the people of the district.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he was somewhat surprised that the opposition to the Vote should continue, because he had, on the part of the Treasury, expressed almost the same views with regard to the Ulster Canal Navigation as had been expressed by hon. Gentlemen in the course of this discussion. He had replied to the objections raised by hon. Members for Ireland by saying that the best thing probably that could be done under the circumstances was that the Vote should be allowed to pass, and that the £3,000 now asked for should not be used, unless the Bill already before the House was passed. As he had said, he was prepared to give an undertaking that that Bill would not be proceeded with without very careful consideration.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had pointed out, with regard to the money voted by Parliament, that if there was any portion of it not applied to the purposes for which it was intended, it should be returned into the Exchequer. There was a question which presented itself to him in connection with this Estimate to which he desired to call the attention of the Committee and the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Estimates. The question he desired to put to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was this—Was it a fact that sites had been obtained for the erection of public buildings on account of which the sums that appeared on this Estimate were asked? If so, he would then ask from what source the money was derived, because, as he had said, he understood from his hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) that money not spent on the purchase of sites as intended by Parliament was returned to the Exchequer? If no money had been obtained since the money formerly voted was unavailable, he admitted that he was quite unable to understand how the Board of Works in Ireland could obtain funds for the purchase of sites for the new buildings proposed to be erected. For these reasons he appealed to the hon. Gentleman 592 the Secretary to the Treasury for information with regard to this matter, and he certainly thought that before the Vote was passed by the Committee a clear explanation ought to be forthcoming from the Treasury Bench on the subject of the purchase of sites.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, with reference to the question of the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) as to this item in the Estimate, he regretted that he was not at the moment able to give the cases in which sites had been obtained for new buildings. But he might say with regard to coastguard stations that one or two works were in progress, and that, therefore, sites must have been obtained for those works. With regard to the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks, he was unable to state what works were in progress, and, consequently, what sites had been obtained; but he would make inquiries into the matter, and give the information asked for by the hon. Member for King's County.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, there was an item of £1,800 for estimated cost of a new post office at Galway, and he would ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury if he was in a position to give him any information with regard to that proposed new building? He would like to know whether the arrangements for the purchase of a site for the building had been completed, because he was certain that any number of suitable sites could be obtained in Galway? Was any progress being made with the work at Galway? He observed that part of the total estimated sum of £1,800—that was to say, £900—was called a Bo-Vote in the Estimate. He would be glad to know if there was to be a new site for the post office?
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, in page 56 of the Estimates there was an item on which he desired to have some information before the Vote was agreed to. Under the heading "State and Official Residences in Phoenix Park and Dublin Castle," there was a charge to the amount of £5,000 for sanitary improvements. As the Estimate gave no details of the improvements in question, he thought that before the Vote passed out of the hands of the Committee, hon. Members were entitled to receive an ex- 593 planation from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury with regard to the nature of those sanitary works.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, that the Vote on which the hon. Member for King's County asked for information related to Dublin Castle and the Viceregal Lodge. It had been found that the whole of the sanitary arrangements there were in a bad state, and it was accordingly thought desirable that they should be placed in a more satisfactory condition. He might mention that the reason why attention had been called to this matter was that the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Spencer) had suffered from typhoid fever at the Castle. An inquiry had been afterwards made into the state of the buildings, and it was then discovered to be necessary for the health of public servants and others that improved sanitary arrangements should be carried out.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, there were a number of items in connection with the State and Official Residences and Departments in Dublin to which he felt it his duty to call the attention of the Committee and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury. He found on page 59 of the Estimates charges amounting to a very large sum—no less than £15,000—on account of maintenance and repairs in the course of the year at the official residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, at the Viceregal Lodge and Gardens, and at the Chief Secretary's Lodge and the departments connected with the Office of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. If so large a sum were proposed to be spent by the Treasury on the maintenance and repair of the official residence of the Prime Minister, or any other official in England, he asked what would be said? The Committee must bear in mind that these charges were for the maintenance and repair of the private residences of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Chief Secretary, as distinguished from their public offices, for which there was a large Vote presently coming forward. They had to deal with the fact that they were now asked for a sum of no less than £14,000 for painting, papering, mending window-sills, and such like matters, at the private residences of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, that was not so. The particular items he was referring to were all stated separately on page 59, and they were as follows:—Dublin Castle Residences, £5,971; Under Secretary's House, £198; Viceregal Lodge, Gardens, &c, £3,808; Private Secretary's Lodge, £312; Chief Secretary's Lodge, Gardens, &c, £1,607; Under Secretary's Lodge and Demesne, £1,000; Chief Secretary's Office and Branches, £1,174. The total of these sums amounted, as he had already pointed out, to about £15,000, or, to speak with accuracy, £14,070. Now, the sum in question was so very large that he considered the Committee were fairly entitled to ask for some of the details of the maintenance and repairs of the residences of the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He would draw attention particularly to one of the items relating to the Dublin Castle Residences. The Committee would observe under the general head of "Maintenance, Repairs, Fittings, &c, by Servants of the Board of Works," that there was in column E a charge of £39 for materials used by them. Without the attention of the Committee being drawn to the circumstance, he believed hon. Members would hardly imagine the amount of the charge for labour in using up the materials supplied to the servants of the Board of Works. It was no less than £1,080—the cost of the materials, as he had already pointed out, being £39 only. Then, again, if the Committee would refer to the charge on account of the Chief Secretary's Lodge, Gardens, &c, it would be found that the amount of payment for labour was £300, while the charge for the materials used by the servants of the Board of Works was £10 only. Now, without the details, it was impossible for the Committee to see how these large amounts were arrived at; and, in the absence of such details, he was obliged to say that the whole thing had very much the appearance of a job.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, there were a number of questions arising on this Vote in which hon. Gentlemen on those Benches took a strong interest; and at that point of the discussion he thought it might be convenient if he stated what 595 course he and his hon. Friends proposed to take with regard to it. His hon. Friend the Member for Wicklow (Mr. W. J. Corbet) desired to refer to the subject of the harbour at Arklow, and to raise the question as to the manner in which that harbour had been dealt with. The vital question would also be raised as to the way in which the Office of Works in Ireland were in the habit of dealing with the piers and harbours in the country generally. Under the circumstances, therefore, and seeing that the discussion of the points referred to were likely to occupy some time, he would put it to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Hibbert) to consider whether it would not be convenient to postpone the further discussion of the Vote, and to proceed with Votes No. 21 and 22—that was to say, the Votes for the Royal University, Ireland, Buildings, and the Science and Art Buildings, Dublin. He thought those Votes might be passed, if his suggestion that the present discussion should determine were agreed to.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, a Report would be laid on the Table of the House with reference to Piers and Harbours, and he thought that discussion of the question had better await the publication of that Report. He did not think the policy of the Board of Works, Ireland, could be discussed on this Vote. He asked that they might be allowed to proceed with the Vote for Public Buildings that evening, and take the discussion on the Arklow Harbour when hon. Members were in possession of the Report he had mentioned.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he could assure the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that the suggestion he had made for the postponement of the Vote was for the purpose of meeting the convenience of the Committee; if, however, the Government insisted on the discussion of the Vote continuing, all he could say was that he and his hon. Friends would proceed. The discussion of the question that would be raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Wicklow (Mr. W. J. Corbet) would occupy a considerable portion of time; and if the Government desired to get on with other Business, he thought their general plan would be served by falling in with the suggestion he had thrown out.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, with regard to the Registration of Voters (Scotland) Bill, it had been expected by hon. Members for Scotland that the Motion for going into Committee on the Bill would come on at a reasonable hour of the evening, and therefore they had not thought it necessary to block the Bill.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he should be glad to agree to an arrangement which would be convenient to the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. W. J. Corbet); but he doubted whether it would be right to raise the question of the policy of the Board of Works, Ireland, with respect to fishery piers on this point. There was no money taken for fishery piers in the Estimate.
said, it would not be in Order to discuss the action of the Board of Works, Ireland, with reference to fishery piers on this Vote. He gave no opinion as to the other point with regard to the harbour at Arklow; but the discussion on fishery piers could not be taken on the Estimate before the Committee.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, he would ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury if he would consent to postpone the Vote until after the discussion suggested on the policy of the Board of Works, Ireland, had been taken on the Vote for the Board of Works?
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (3.) £29,000, to complete the sum for Science and Art Buildings, Dublin.
§ (4.) £23,428, to complete the sum for the Royal University, Ireland, Buildings.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, there was one question that presented itself in connection with this Vote. The sum asked for was for the Royal University Buildings, the foundation stone of which had recently been laid by a distinguished Person. He would point out that the gross Estimate for the buildings had been £74,000, that the gross expenditure, actual and estimated up to the 31st of March last, had been about £42,000, and that the amount of the Vote now asked for was something over £27,000, leaving a further amount of between £4,000 and £5,000 to be voted 597 to complete the work. As this matter had occupied some years, he urged that it should be concluded without delay, and with that view he would suggest that the balance of about £4,000 left over for next year should be added to the current Vote, and that an effort should be made to close the work in the current financial year.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, it was considered impossible to complete the work this year, and, therefore, the Vote had been proposed as submitted, and could not conveniently be altered.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
rose to Order. It appeared that the question which his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had been discussing was that of the Royal University, Ireland, Buildings; but he was under the impression that, before the Chairman put that Vote, he had read the heading of the Vote for Science and Art Buildings, Dublin.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that was his impression, whereas the Vote for the Royal University, Ireland, Buildings, came first in order, and the Vote for the Science and Art Buildings, Dublin, afterwards. He had been turning over the pages of the Estimates, and had never contemplated that the Chairman had come to the Royal University Vote.
said, he was going somewhat on the statement of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), who had suggested to the Secretary to the Treasury that the two next Votes should be taken, and the discussion on the Vote for Public Works and Buildings, Ireland, postponed. Having put the Science and Art Buildings Vote, and seeing no one rise, he had passed it.
§ Vote agreed to
§ (5.) £16,398, to complete the sum for Lighthouses Abroad.
§ (6.) £25,103, to complete the sum for Diplomatic and Consular Buildings.
§ Committee report Progress.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow;
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.