§ [Mr. RITCHIE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 (Short title).
§ MR. SEXTON
asked whether the Attorney General for Ireland would offer any explanation of the measure? Would the Board of Guardians of West-port be allowed to offer any alternative scheme in place of the one whereby the Unions of Newport and Westport were to be amalgamated?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES)
said, the Bill enabled the Union of Newport to be amalgamated with that of Westport—a process which had become a matter of absolute necessity. No doubt, the Local Government Board had already the power to abolish Unions or amalgamate them; but he did not think that power had been exercised arbitrarily or capriciously, for he believed that no Union had been abolished under it. Inquiries had been held by the Local Government 1858 Board into the proposed abolition of the Newport Union, and his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary had looked carefully into the matter himself. His right hon. Friend had requested him (the Attorney General for Ireland) to state what had been the result of his consideration, which had been approached without any predilection in favour of one side or the other, and which, would probably show that there must be some misapprehension on the part of the Westport Board of Guardians. He would, therefore, state in a few words what was the view which the Local Government Board had taken. He believed there was no difference of opinion at all as to the necessity of abolishing Newport Union. The best thing that could be done with it was to abolish it in some way or other, for this reason—that the Union was not a very large one, the valuation was not great, and the expenses of workhouse management had considerably increased in Ireland. Taking those expenses in connection with the poorness of the locality, the rates of Newport had become excessive. Some remedy must be found for that state of things, and the remedy which suggested itself was to abolish the Union, as a separate Union, and amalgamate it with some other, and thereby save the greater part of the staff and house expenditure. He thought that no hon. Member could object to that being done; and the only difference of opinion was as to whether, if Newport was abolished as a separate Union, it should be handed over to Westport, or whether it should be divided between Westport, Castlebar, and Belmullet. That point had been considered, and the result was that in the interest not only of Newport, but of Westport itself, it was considered best to hand it over to Westport, and once more let it form a Union of the same kind as existed about the year 1847. So far as he could understand, the objection of the Westport Guardians was a financial objection, and they urged that while up to the present time their rates had been moderate, they would now become excessive. But so far as he could understand the figures, he thought there must be some misapprehension about this. Of course, the greater number of paupers would be charged, as at present, upon the electoral divisions. The ordinary paupers 1859 would be charged upon the electoral division of Newport, and in no respect whatever would they be thrown upon Westport. But there were the charges of the Union at large, which amounted at present at Westport to £1,000 a-year. The addition which would be thrown on those charges by the amalgamation would be about £135 a-year, making the total establishment charges for the amalgamated Union £1,135 a-year. Now, the Westport Union at the present time had for its rating valuation £31,000 a-year, and that would be increased by the addition of the Newport valuation by a further sum of £13,000 a-year, so that the establishment charges would be raised by £135 a-year, while the rating area would be raised by £13,000 a-year. As a matter of fact, therefore, the establishment charges would be considerably reduced, so far as each individual ratepayer was concerned, and there would be a distinct gain instead of a loss to Westport. The same thing would hold good in regard to certain other charges, which would be spread over the amalgamated Union. The result of the inquiries was that this was the best way in which a change could be made. He had only one further observation to make. It was clear that, for the sake of the inhabitants of Newport, the Newport Union could no longer continue to exist. Everyone admitted that there must be some change, and the only object of passing this Bill was to enable the change to be made in the best way for the interests of justice and the interests of the people. If the Bill was not carried the change abolishing the Newport Union must still be made, and the only result would be to inflict injustice upon those whom the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Sexton) would not like to see unjustly treated. Under the circumstances, he asked the hon. Gentleman to allow the Bill to pass.
§ MR. SEXTON
quite agreed that the amalgamation of the Newport Union was necessary, for the ratepayers could no longer stand the burden that was thrown upon them. He only regretted that the Local Government Board had not taken pains to impress upon the West-port Guardians what were the real facts of the case; and he would ask the Government to make some effort even now to convince the Westport Guardians, 1860 who at present were strongly impressed with the belief that they would suffer. However, he now understood that that would not be the case; and, under the circumstances, he did not feel justified in offering any further opposition.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Remaining Clauses agreed to.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time upon Monday next.