§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. MAYNE,
in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it did not contain anything which could, in common fairness, be described as of a really contentious character. It was drawn to meet and overcome certain difficulties, chiefly technical, that had developed themselves in the working of the Labourers' (Ireland) Act of 1883, which Act, although passed in that year, might be said to have only come into practical operation since the passing of the 1811 amending Act of 1885. The Act of 1883 was really a great measure—great in the principles that it established, and great in the concessions which it made in the interests of the Irish agricultural labourers; but, however, like many other great measures which proceeded largely upon new lines, small points were apparently omitted from it, which might appear insignificant, but which, in the hands of ingenuous persons, had proved very serious bars to the proper working of the measure. The very first operative section of the Act of 1883 enacted that a representation signed by 12 ratepayers of a sanitary district might be presented to a sanitary authority, which authority was the Board of Guardians; and if the representation alleged a sanitary defect in the district, it should be accompanied by a certificate or a report from the sanitary officer of the district upon that representation. It was then competent to the Guardians to take steps to have a scheme adopted by themselves and approved by the Local Government Board; but the Act failed altogether to make it the duty of the sanitary officer to give such certificate, or make a report; and, accordingly, they were face to face with this difficulty in certain Unions in Ireland, that, unfortunately, there were certain Boards of Guardians, the majority of whose members were hostile to the operation of the Act, and the sanitary officer taking his cue from what he saw to be the feeling of the majority of his Board, neglected, more or less wilfully, to make any report whatever; and in that way the representation made by the 12 ratepayers was strangled at the outset, the House would therefore see that thus an official had the power of preventing the operation of the Act altogether in the district to which he was attached. Now, they proposed, in this amending Bill, to meet that difficulty by enacting that the representation signed by the 12 ratepayers, should be presented to the Board of Guardians either with, or without, a report from the sanitary officer; that it would then become the duty of the Board to require their officer to inspect the district, and report to them as to the necessity for the proposed improvement scheme as suggested by the ratepayers. The Bill further proposed that in case the sanitary officer's report should be unfavourable to the proposed improve- 1812 ment scheme, an appeal should lie from the 12 ratepayers who had signed the original representation, or from any other 12 ratepayers in the district, to the Local Government Board, who, on having this appeal lodged with them, should send a Sanitary Inspector of their own to inspect the district, and report to them as to the necessity for the proposed improvement scheme. In case the Inspector reported in favour of the scheme, the Bill provided that his report should take the place of the unfavourable report of the local sanitary officer; and that, with this exception, the proceeding should go on as if no hitch whatever had occurred. Ho thought the House would consider that that was a reasonable way to meet what was a very real and substantial grievance. Another portion of the Bill which might be considered contentious was that portion in which they wished, under the Act of 1883, to give the Local Government Board power to amend Provisional Orders already made. The necessity for this had arisen in this way—When the Act of 1883 was passed, and before its few shortcomings became known, many Boards of Guardians in Ireland and in some Unions where the operation of the Act was very urgently needed, rushed at once into the preparation of schemes, and had them approved by the Local Government Board in the regular way authorized by the Act. When the proceedings were brought so far, they found that the areas of charge-ability were so circumscribed, that the serious cost of the improvement schemes would prove such heavy burdens on the ratepayers of these small areas, that they preferred letting the schemes stand in abeyance, and taking their chance of relief from the Legislature. In that way, there were some excellent schemes fully matured, ready to be put into operation to-morrow in certain parts of Ireland, if the area of chargeability could be so extended as to make the necessary rating more oppressive. They now proposed, by means of the Bill, to meet that difficulty, by giving the Local Government Board powers, which they might exercise within one year, and within one year only, from the passing of the Bill, to alter the area of chargeability in such way as they might deem desirable. He did not think any hon. Member would question the advisability of that 1813 which was probably the only way of getting over a difficulty that must be overcome, because the present arrangements involved an absolute breakdown of the Act. There was another portion of the Bill which some hon. Members might consider contentious. He was very sorry for the necessity of having to notice it, but it had become absolutely necessary. It was found that in some Unions, after the question of these improvement schemes and the erection of labourers' cottages had been fought out in every fashion that was legitimate at the Poor Law Boards and elsewhere, when the question was finally decided in favour of the adoption of the scheme, then an effectual bar was put to the further progress of it by the owners of the local quarries in the districts affected by the scheme refusing to allow their quarries to be used for the obtaining of stone or sand, or the other necessary material. The Board of Guardians, finding that the cartage of such materials from long distances greatly increased the cost of erecting cottages, dropped their schemes rather than they would burden the construction of the cottages with such an enormous expense; and, in that way, schemes which had been approved by the Local Government Board were standing still, awaiting help from the Legislature to meet that difficulty. In order to provide that help the promoters of the Bill had copied into it, almost verbatim, the sections of the Grand Jury Acts which enabled road contractors to enter quarries in the district in which their contract lay, and to draw there-from the materials necessary for its execution, subject, of course, to reasonable restrictions, which hon. Members would find were also included in this measure. The only other point upon which he thought hon. Members would be disposed to raise any question, was the proposition that, before a labourer's cottage was ready for occupation, the Board of Guardians should be empowered to permit the labourer to occupy the half-acre of land intended to be attached to the cottage. At present, the expectant tenant had to wait until the cottage was completed, and meanwhile the ground lay waste, supplying seeds of weeds for the whole town land. The only other provisions of the Bill were technical alterations, which might be more conveniently explained in Committee. He 1814 thought the House would agree with him, in repeating what he had before observed—that the measure contained nothing that was seriously contentious, and that it was a reasonable and moderate attempt to meet the difficulties which, though apparently small in themselves, had proved very serious, and which must be met, if the Act of 1883 was to be the success which the Legislature intended it to be. He appealed with strong confidence to that new House, that they would complete the work of the late Parliament bypassing this measure, and thus securing that in no part of Ireland should any unfortunate man, whoso labour was necessary to the soil, be any longer condemned to dwell in a miserable hovel, in which his own life was shortened, and, probably, the health of his wife and family sacrificed. In conclusion, he begged to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Mayne.)
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY)
The hon. Member who has moved the second reading of this Bill has described very clearly the matters which the Bill embodies. He, no doubt, was fully justified in speaking of the Act of 1883 as a measure proceeding on new lines, and involving very important principles. I find great difficulty, however, in discovering what are the principles, or what is the principle, underlying this measure, and the hon. Member probably will not contend that it is animated by any very important leading principles. On the contrary, the Bill is rather intended to cover a number of individual instances in which the Acts of 1883 and 1885 have been found to work less effectually than the framers intended. I do, however, find two approaches to general principles in the Bill. The first is, no doubt, to give a quickening impulse to the Acts of 1883 and 1885 by relaxing the checks which Parliament imposed on the proceedings of the sanitary authorities; next, by relieving the sanitary authorities from local and Imperial taxation on the land acquired by them under the Act—that, I am sure, hon. Members will see is a very important relaxation—and, lastly, by extending the area of chargeability. The 1815 second approach to a general principle is that the Bill gives new compulsory powers of taking land, which at present can only be taken by consent of the owner, as well as digging for gravel and stone, in cases where at present they can only be taken by the Grand Jury. The Bill goes even further in the same direction, by giving absolutely new powers to take these against the will of the owner. These are remarks, from a general point of view, to which the Bill is open. I would point out to the hon. Member that a Select Committee sat upon the Act of 1883 in the summer and autumn of 1884, and that this Committee, having heard a great number of experts of great competence and influence, did not recommend the proposals which he has embodied in his Bill. That, of course, would not be a conclusive objection to the Bill or any of its clauses; but it is a primâ facie reason for exercising considerable vigilance in scrutinizing the proposals now before us. Apart from the discussion of the details of the proposal to give greater facilities to carry out the Acts already passed—about those details I will say a word presently—I would wish to point out to the House that the working of the Act, so far from showing that there are undue obstacles and impediments interposed to impede the acquisition of land, shows that the processes that the Acts contemplate have been extremely rapid and successful, and some timid persons may think that they have been so rapid as almost to be alarming. I would like to describe very briefly what have been the proceedings under the Act of 1883, which the hon. Member has rather disparaged. The number of Unions which made applications under the Act of 1883 was 70; the number of schemes proposed, 734; the number of houses, 6,837; and the estimated cost of the schemes, as submitted, £635,716. Now, we will come to the schemes sanctioned under the Act. The number of schemes sanctioned was 462; the number of houses contained in those schemes, 3,401 the estimated cost, £356,120; and the loans actually sanctioned, £220,000, and the residue of the loans were now pending. The reason, as may be justly asked by hon. Members, why there is so wide a difference between the schemes proposed and the schemes actually sanctioned, I 1816 believe may be summarized as being threefold. First, the withdrawal of the scheme by the Guardians, in consequence of adverse reports by the Inspectors of the Local Government Board; secondly, the refusal of the schemes by the Local Government Board for discretionary reasons; and, lastly, no doubt, the general expectation that the legislation of 1883 would be amended—these three considerations explain the withdrawals. Let us now go to the working of the Act of 1885. The Returns of the new schemes under that Act present the following figures:— The number of Unions that put the Act in force is 84; the number of schemes is not given, but the number sanctioned is given at 554; but it is estimated that the actual number will be probably between 600 and 700; the number of houses, 9,035; and the estimated cost, £847,211.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
They come down to a couple of months ago, and they are in addition to the schemes under the Act of 1883. There is, therefore, no ground for alleging that the working of the Acts of 1883 and 1885 has been very tardy, or backward. Next, as justifying my position that we must move with the greatest circumspection, I would point out the very important fact as to the rents, that the rents charged for these cottages, so far as built, vary from 8d. to 1s. per week; and in one Union only—I believe near Dublin—the rent amounts to 1s. 6d. a-week. Manifestly, these rents are not sufficient to pay off the interest and sinking fund of the capital sums borrowed, and the loss which will arise must fall either upon the Union, or on the Treasury, should the Union unfortunately become insolvent. In many Unions the rates, as hon. Members must know, are already as high as can well be paid, and many ratepayers in the poorer districts are themselves as much in need of help as those for whose benefit the Act is passed, and to whom help was given. The conclusion to be drawn from these facts is that, for the present, at all events, we must exercise great caution in relaxing the cheeks which Parliament in 1883 and 1817 1885 imposed, and we must scrutinize the hon. Member's proposals with some degree of vigilance. For example, Clause 9 is one of very great importance; it is a very great extension of the principles which Parliament sanctioned in the two previous Bills. I am not, at present, however, going to discuss that clause. I have very little objection to the spirit and purpose of it; on the contrary, I think it is very likely that legislation in the future, not in Ireland only, but in Great Britain, will move more and more in that direction. Clause 11 raises a principle which I am afraid I cannot very willingly assent to. The principle of allowing Boards of Guardians to meddle with the payment of the Grand Jury cess, and still more to meddle with an Imperial tax, is one which I do not believe that the hon. Member will be able very readily to persuade the House to sanction. The clause on which the hon. Member himself lays most stress is the 8th— that for extending the area of charge. That clause will have a very serious effect upon mortgages already entered into. If we extended the area of charge, the term of every mortgage that has been drawn will have to be amended, and the mortgages reconstructed. That is not, perhaps, a very formidable objection; but it is a point that the hon. Member will have to consider. In relation to the same clause, I will remind the hon. Member that, under the Act of 1883, Boards of Guardians proposed the area of charge and the Local Government Board determined it; but, under the Amending Act of 1885, the Boards of Guardians fix the area of charge, and in most of the schemes already made, as I am informed, an area of charge less than the whole Union has been deliberately selected. It will be, therefore, I submit, manifestly unjust to re-open the question now, and not to give any locus standi to the outside ratepayers who may wish to oppose the change. It may well have happened that such ratepayers abstained from opposing the schemes because the charge was limited to a certain area. However, those, and other points, no doubt, can be dealt with in Committee, if the Bill should ever reach that stage. My general conclusion upon the Bill is that, at the present time, it can scarcely be said to be urgently called for; particularly at a time when Boards of Guar- 1818 dians ought to try, and ought to be urged by the Legislature to try, rather to contract their obligations and expenditure than to commit themselves to wider obligations. It is not, I think, necessary—not absolutely necessary— for carrying out the intentions of Parliament; because I think I have shown, by figures, that those intentions are already being carried out in a very tolerably satisfactory manner; and, thirdly, I will remark that the reasonableness of all the proposed amendments of the Acts is not quite apparent. They will require a great deal of consideration. The upshot of what I have to say is that, while the Government will not oppose the second reading of the Bill, we are not prepared to promise any facilities for its further discussion, and we do not pledge ourselves to support all the clauses which the hon. Member has included in his measure.
§ MR. SHEEHY
said, he was glad the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, on behalf of the Government, did not intend to oppose the Motion for the second reading; but he regretted to hear him say that he could not give facilities for the further progress of the Bill on ascertaining more of the facts relating to it. The right hon. Gentleman had indicated that some of the clauses of the Bill were somewhat contentious; but, if they were more closely inquired into, they would be found to contain very little about which there would be any contention. In fact, he (Mr. Sheehy) thought that the right hon. Gentleman would find that the Acts of 1883 and 1885 had not worked so satisfactorily as he supposed, and that the numerous small amendments provided for by this measure were absolutely necessary to bring them into general operation and make them work smoothly. The promoters of the present Bill did not desire to introduce any new principle which would give rise to a difference of opinion between Parties in the House. All they wished to provide was that the Acts of 1883 and 1885 should not be open to obstructions to which they were at present exposed at the hands of the enemies of the Acts, and which they had placed in the way of the poor people in Ireland, for whose benefit the Acts were intended. There were two sources from which those obstructions came. One of the obstructions 1819 they were exposed to arose from the landlord class, who were the ex officio members of the Boards of Poor Law Guardians. [Cries of "No, no!"] He could assure the House that it was so, and that, if not for the obstruction of these gentlemen, there would be much less necessity for any Bill of this kind, neither would he and other hon. Members from Ireland be there in their places to say so. The other cause of obstruction was the delay of officials and the obstacles put in the way of Unions by the Local Government Board. The obstruction of ex officio Guardians was not apparent in all Unions, because, in some Unions, the elected members had a preponderance of power; but in some of the Western Unions of Connaught, the ex officio members still ruled the roast, and, as a consequence, they endeavoured to postpone and procrastinate the working of the Acts, the result being that, while they were fully in operation in Munster, and to a large extent in operation in Leinster, they were practically a dead letter in Connaught. The ex officio members, in short, had obstructed the Acts wherever they had the power to do so. When the Act of 1883 was introduced, the labourers of Ireland looked anxiously and hopefully to its results. It was found, however, that that Act was practically unworkable, and the labourers had to wait until the Act was amended, in 1885, before they got any benefits from it. Even under the latter Act very little had been done. Though a great many schemes were proposed and sanctioned under the two Acts, still very few houses were built, while the schemes still remained in abeyance. There were hundreds of half-acre plots through the country belonging to the Guardians which were now waste, and which might be given to the labourers, pending the building of the houses. So far with the poor Irish labourer it was hope deferred. The labourers were still waiting and waiting, and hoping and hoping; but, up to the present time, their condition had not been materially improved, because of the defects in the Acts, and the obstruction to which he had referred. Apart altogether from the opposition of the landlords in Unions where they were sufficiently powerful to put obstacles in the way, a great deal of delay was caused by the circumlocution of the Local Government Board. In 1820 many cases Unions had agreed to schemes, after bestowing great care and labour on them, as far back as last December; but they were not yet sanctioned, because the Inspector of the Local Government Board had not come down to make the requisite inquiries and report. The most important clause of the Bill, in his opinion, was that which enabled the Boards of Guardians to let the half-acre plot to the labourer while his house was being built for him. That would give work to the labourers, at the present moment, in fencing the plots; and it would enable the labourer, for whom the plot was intended, to till the ground. He was very glad that the Government had consented to the second reading of the Bill; and he hoped that when it was taken in Committee, the Government would see that the measure was more urgently called for than the Chief Secretary for Ireland imagined, and that there was no ground for the apprehensions he entertained in regard to certain of the clauses. He thought it would be found that the contentions referred to were not essential, and were only philosophical contentions.
said, that as an Ulster Member, who had had frequent opportunities of studying the Labourers' Question in Ireland, he thought he did not require to make any apology to the House for prolonging the discussion on this subject. Indeed, he thought hon. Members sitting on both sides would be glad of hearing a full and thorough discussion on the question, in view of the larger question of the same kind which they would soon have to deal with in England. With regard to the Bill before the House, he did not propose to enter into some of its details; but, speaking for himself—and, he thought, he might also say for hon. Members of the loyal North of Ireland Party who sat near him—he might say that they were prepared to support any clauses in the Bill which would have the effect of giving increased facilities to the labourers of Ireland to take advantage of, and secure the benefits of, the Acts of 1883 and 1885. But he thought that the Bill before the House was not, by any means, a satisfactory or complete measure, and that what they required was, that a Bill of this character should be based on a full inquiry into the whole operation of the La- 1821 bourers' Acts. For his own part, he considered that when those Acts were amended, they ought to be amended in a thorough manner, and their provisions ought to be extended so as to include classes of the community in Ireland who, at present, were excluded from the benefits of such legislation, such as fishermen, who spent a great deal of their time on shore, and also weavers and other deserving classes of the labouring population, of whom much the same thing might be said. In the course of his canvass at the time of the General Election, lie had had an opportunity of ascertaining the opinion of all classes in regard to this subject, and more especially those of the labourers themselves; and he was in a position to inform the House that there was a considerable amount of disappointment and discontent among labourers of all kinds that the Acts had not been brought more extensively into operation. They considered—he would not say with what justice—that the Acts, and especially the Act of 1885, had conferred certain legal rights on them to acquire a cottage and half-an-acre of land at a certain rent, and that the Poor Law Guardians were preventing them acquiring the advantages thus given to them. It appeared to him that the Acts were working in two very different ways in two different parts of Ireland. In some districts, and chiefly, if not entirely, the Northern districts—the more prosperous parts of Ireland—where the Poor Law Guardians consisted chiefly of farmers who occupied farms of moderate size, they looked on these Acts in a very different light from that in which they regarded the Land Act. He thought that Parliament, having passed these Acts—and their justice and necessity had been admitted by both sides—it was only right that the Acts should be really utilized. He therefore cordially agreed with the promoters of the present Bill that some change should be made, and an alteration and improvement effected in the administrative machinery of the Acts. The only question was as to how that should be done, and he suggested that some independent Government Inspector or Commissioner should be appointed to take the initiative in all these matters, and bring them before the Guardians, with the view of getting them to carry 1822 out the Acts. In the North of Ireland the compulsion should be effectually applied. As to the other parts of Ireland, with which hon. Members below the Gangway were connected, and in which the National League, he was sorry to say, held sway, the condition of things was different indeed. [Mr. SEXTON: The Act works there.] In other parts of Ireland he found cottages were being built on a somewhat extensive scale. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members cheered what he said, and no doubt considered that they were entitled to take credit for liberality in taking advantage of the Act. But, in their parts of Ireland, the chief burden of the rates was not borne by hon. Members and the class they represented. [An hon. MEMBER: Who bears it?] Hon. Members who were acquainted with local affairs in Ireland were, doubtless, aware that when the holdings were rated at under £4 a-year, the whole of the rates were paid by the landlords. Now, this was the case in parts of Ireland where the National League held its sway; and, therefore, the Poor Law Guardians, in putting this Act into force, and this burden on the rates, were putting no burden on themselves, or on the classes whom the National League principally represented. He ventured, on those grounds, to suggest that before any new amending Act was passed there should be an authoritative and searching inquiry into the whole working of the Acts, and that this inquiry should include such questions as the cost of the cottages, the rents charged for the same, and the burdens which fell on the rates. In some parts of Ireland, he regretted very much to have to say, the Acts had been utilized for political purposes, as he had seen numerous resolutions passed by the branches of the National League, recommending that cottages should be built only for those labourers who were members of the League. He found also that persons chosen to build these cottages were selected from those belonging to the National League. It seemed to him (Mr. Mulholland) that these things should be carefully considered, and, moreover, that they ought to be considered in reference to the state of Ireland, and to the amount of intimidation exercised by the Society to which he had referred. ["Oh, oh!"] He would 1823 not enter further into that matter now, but would simply add that, for his own part, he was prepared to support many parts of the Bill before the House, but there were other parts which he considered to be very objectionable; and, looking at the Bill as a whole, he must say that he regarded it as by far too incomplete a measure to be accepted as a final settlement of this important question.
§ MR. O'HEA
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had given a very valuable contribution to the debate, and he (Mr. O'Hea) thought it a very happy, as well as a very healthy, sign to find a Member of the Ulster Party stating that he considered that the legislation for the Irish, labourers was to his mind not complete. When the Bill got into Committee, he hoped the hon. Member would have a full and ample opportunity of giving them the benefit of his large views and liberality of sentiment. He, for one, would certainly be very glad if the measure could be extended so as to give a share of its benefits to the classes referred to by the hon. Gentleman, who were well worthy and deserving of attention being shown them, more especially the fishermen along the coasts. When the Acts were originally passed they were intended to refer only to agricultural labourers; but it was not too late to introduce fishermen and other classes in the present Bill. He had carefully followed the observations of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and, although the right hon. Gentleman had led the House to believe that the Acts had been made to work with expedition and despatch, he thought the figures the right hon. Gentleman had quoted recoiled on himself, and showed that the Acts had been almost wholly inoperative, and that they had not, in any way, been a success. He had himself been professionally concerned in the working of the Act of 1885, and he could say emphatically that it was a most cumbersome measure, full of vexatious delays and difficulties. Under the Act of 18 S3, the number of cottages provided for was 6,700, which would not represent a population of more than 40,000. The Act of 1885, again, had been only a small improvement, because the number of houses provided for was only some 9,000; and, putting down six as the number of the 1824 occupants of each house, the entire number benefited would not be much more than 50,000. The entire number, therefore, was less than 100,000—a rate which would necessitate a labourer waiting five years before he could get any benefit from this legislation, and which showed that the operation of the Acts had been incomplete, and much less than the requirements of the people or the intentions of the Legislature. The Bill now proposed was in the direction of a much-needed improvement; and he hoped that the House would practically recognize the fact. It would, he was convinced, produce a marked and decided improvement in the condition of the people of Ireland; and, therefore, he hoped it would be passed into law, and so make it possible for the people, instead of living in hovels, to have comfortable roofs over their heads.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the differences of opinion in politics should not prevent hon. Members from recognizing the merits of their opponents, and he gladly bore testimony to the character of the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Derry (Mr. Mulholland). It was a fluent and remarkable speech, and the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Major Saunder-son), sometimes called the Leader of his Party, would now have to look to his laurels and to deal with the fact that he had a powerful rival near his throne. However, fluency was not all that was requisite in order to make a successful Parliamentary speech; and when he admitted that the hon. Member for North Derry had made a fluent speech, he (Mr. Sexton) thought his praise must end there. It would have been desirable if, before he rose to speak, the hon. Gentleman had made up his mind as to what result he meant to leave on the mind of the House; for, after the most careful study of the speech of the hon. Member, he (Mr. Sexton) was entirely at a loss to understand what was the state of the hon. Gentleman's mind on the subject. The hon. Member complained that the Bill was not a complete measure. Well, it was certainly not a complete measure; but in allowing it to remain an incomplete measure his hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary (Mr. Mayne) had a view to his chances of passing it through the House; and when the hon. Member for North Derry said it was incomplete, 1825 he (Mr. Sexton) would have thought that he would have endeavoured to induce the Chief Secretary for Ireland not merely to assent to the second reading, but to reconsider the statement as to his giving further facilities. He thought the hon. Member, to be consistent, would have urged the Government to hasten the measure, and afford him the opportunity of completing it. But the hon. Member rode off on a side issue. The Ulster Tory Members, speaking generally, admitted admirable principles; but when you came to ask them to put those admirable principles into operation—to come in on the broad track of reform—they at once performed an operation well known in Ireland—they went "up a boreen"—they found, at a critical moment, a convenient siding, and then disappeared from view. The hon. Gentleman was, in some sense, in sympathy with modern views; but his methods were rather antique, and when asked how to got rid of the incompleteness his only suggestion was—"It wants thorough inquiry," the usual convenient form of shelving a disagreeable subject. Surely, the hon. Member could not forget that the question had been for a long time before a Committee of the House in 1884. He (Mr. Sexton) was a Member of that Committee, and he could assure him that the inquiry was very full and searching. The object now was to amend the Act of 1885, and the character of the defects of that Act was certainly not of such a kind as to necessitate another like inquiry. Was it a proof of the sincerity of the hon. Member that ho would again postpone the settlement of this question for another year, leaving so many deserving people landless and homeless? The sympathy of the hon. Member appeared to be very great, so far as his mind was concerned; but it did not appear in the least to agitate his heart. He entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman that there were other classes besides the agricultural labourers who needed help in this matter. The fishermen of the coasts had suffered more, perhaps, than any other class from the parsimony of British legislation, and ho thought they should be brought under the influence of some similar legislation. He (Mr. Sexton) himself, when the original Acts were in Committee, had made a similar proposition; and when the Member for 1826 North Derry saw his way to taking any practical action to assist the fishermen he would find for him more active support than, perhaps, he could get from his hon. and gallant Friend and Leader the Member for North Armagh. Another point was this—as to the composition and action of Boards of Guardians in Ireland. Those Boards consisted of about one-half landlords and magistrates, and he would ask the attention of Irish Tory Members to this. The hon. Member (Mr. Mulholland) had urged that Poor Law Guardians in the North of Ireland should be compelled to put the Act in force. That was rather a strong step to take, and he (Mr. Sexton) did not know how the hon. Gentleman's Colleagues would like it; but, anyhow, it would be interesting to know whether he and they thought that landlords in Ireland, acting as Poor Law Guardians, ought to be compelled to put the Act in force. If the hon. Member meant that, he (Mr. Sexton) quite agreed with him, though he would be a little bit surprised, for it was surely a little inconsistent on the part of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member admitted that in certain parts of Ireland—in the North—the Act had not worked, and he would compel the Guardians to act. Let the House mark the inconsistency. In the same breath the hon. Member complained that, in other parts of Ireland, where the Act did work, the National League used intimidation; in fact, ho complained of the National League doing what he himself urged ought to be done. Besides, the landlords had half the seats at the Boards.
§ MR. SEXTON
Surely the hon. Gentleman could not be ignorant of the fact that the landlords held half the seats at the Boards of every Union in Ireland. Every Union had two elements, the elected Guardians there sent by the ratepayers, and the other half was composed of magistrates—ex officio Guardians.
§ MR. SEXTON
Quite so. Of course, the landlords, in that regard, as in everything else, neglected their duty. They stayed away from the Board, except when there was a job to be done. But they possessed one-half the seats at 1827 the Boards; and if they did not choose to attend, he was sorry to say it was not in his power to compel them. Another absurd statement made was that Boards of Guardians were intimidated by the National League into erecting cottages where they "held sway," as the hon. Member expressed it, because the farmers paid less of the rates than in other parts. He took issue with the hon. Gentleman on that point, and contended that the contrary was the fact. The holdings in Ulster were usually small, and in Munster and Leinster extensive; and in the latter case they were certain to pay a larger proportion of the rates than where they were small. As to the phrase used "Where the National League held sway," it was held that the Irish National Party and the National League were synonymous. Well, all he could say was, that the part of Ireland "where the National League holds sway," as tested by the return of Irish Members, was all Ireland, except three counties, and even in those they had had effected an inroad, and would doubtless get a further advance. On the whole, he must say that while the hon. Member appeared to have a platonic affection for Tory Democracy, and was disposed to speak quite sympathetically of the labourers, his affection did not seem to have advanced a bit beyond the platonic stage. He asked the hon. Member, if he really wanted to show that he was interested in the poor of Ireland, whether, instead of contradicting himself in every third sentence, instead of saying the measure was incomplete and then shelving it, instead of saying the Guardians should be compelled to act, and, at the same time, blaming the National League for doing that, instead of making such speeches, the hon. Gentleman should consider how he could best and most effectually help to bring to a satisfactory settlement this important question? As to the Income Tax, there was not very much in that point, and he would be prepared to strike it out. He hoped that facilities would still be given by the Government for the Committee stage; and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if that were done, he would find a readiness on the part of Irish Members to accept any reasonable modification that might be suggested, and which would be justified by argument. He would ask the attention of 1828 hon. Gentlemen to a letter which he had received from a labourer in Ballymena Union, pointing out that a committee had there been appointed to consider the erection of labourers' cottages, and one member of the committee resigned in consequence of the way in which the proceedings had been conducted.
§ MR. SEXTON
It did not matter. If he was elected it was a credit to him; and if an ex officio he acted so honour-ably that he could scarcely he an Ulster landlord. The whole question of Local Government would soon be discussed and dealt with. This was not the time to deal with it, and in view of that fact he would stop short of a proposition to make the Guardians take action; for if they were to be compelled, the power to do so would fall to an official Bureau devoid of representative capacity, and he was not inclined to give power to such a body. The true way to settle this matter would be to make the elective system supreme on these Boards. Last year ho had endeavoured to induce the Treasury to give the Guardians, for the purposes of the Labourers' Act, the same terms that the late Government held out to tenants under the Land Act—that was, to give them £100 for £4 a-year. He was quite sure that if the Government would do that, the Guardians might then be compelled to take vigorous action. In conclusion, he would urge upon the House to give practical effect to the sympathy expressed on all sides for the labouring classes.
§ COLONEL WARING
said, that he did not intend to enter into this discussion had he not been challenged to do so by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) who had just sat down. He thought that his hon. Friend and brother Officer the Member for North Derry (Mr. Mulholland) did, no doubt, owe an apology to the hon. Members below the Gangway for infringing their patents; but it was the intention of himself (Colonel Waring), and those who sat near him, to infringe a good many of the patents those hon. Members had hitherto exclusively looked upon as their own. He had been told that the obstruction that had been given to the operation of the Labourers' Act was by the landlords, as represented by ex officio Guardians. Well, he knew a little about the action of the Boards of 1829 Guardians in the North of Ireland, inasmuch as he had been a member of one of them for many years, and had latterly been vice-chairman; and, from the knowledge thus gained, he could say that the obstruction to the operation of the Act of 1885 had come not from the ex officio Guardians, but from the elected Guardians. References had been made to the action of the Ballymena Board of Guardians in regard to the provision of labourers' dwellings. Well, in the Ballymena Union the National League did not hold sway, and he did not think it ever would; but the greatest opponents of these Acts were the elected Guardians, while the most vigorous supporter was Mr. Patrick, who might not be an Irish landlord, but was what hon. Members below the Gangway disliked still more—a highly respected officer of the Orange Association. The hon. Member for Sligo had twitted the Irish Conservative Members with having merely a platonic sympathy for the Irish labourers; but he (Colonel Waring) did not think that the sympathy of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway extended much farther. They talked about the interests of the labourers; but before any warm attention was paid to the claims of labourers they had to produce apiece of paper, showing that they were members of the National League. Not only did he (Colonel Waring) feel sympathy for the Irish labourers, but he thought that sympathy should not be confined to the agricultural labourers alone, but should be extended to the fishermen. Indeed, hon. Gentlemen opposite were not unwilling to go so far; but they did not hear of their sympathy being extended to the weavers. They belonged to districts to which the sway of the hon. Gentlemen he referred to had not extended, and wore, indeed, the most formidable opponents to its extension; and, therefore, they were not to have the benefit of these Acts. His hon. Friend (Mr. Mulholland) had never said, as was imputed to him by the hon. Member for Sligo, that Guardians were being intimidated by the National League into putting these Acts into operation. What his hon. Friend said was that agricultural labourers were intimidated into becoming members of the National League in order that they might obtain the benefit of the Act. He (Colonel 1830 Waring) was desirous to promote any legislation which was for the interest of the community generally, and not of the one class who happened to be the present occupants of land. They were a very important class; but there were other classes above and below and around them whose interests had to be fully considered; and he did not think that anyone, except actually existing occupiers, had gained one atom by the recent legislation for Ireland. If he and his Colleagues occasionally expressed an intention to go a certain distance with those hon. Members, it was, at the same time, but natural that they should hesitate to go along that high road which, as they were told on the highest authority, led to destruction. While, therefore, he was ready to facilitate the passage of the Bill through Committee, and hoped the Government would give the requisite facilities for that purpose, ho trusted that something might be done to extend the benefits of its provisions to classes who had not yet been reached by previous legislation on this subject.
§ MR. DILLON
said, ho thought that after the speech just made the discussion might close, for there really did not appear to be any difference of opinion. There were statements made concerning the Labourers' Act which he desired to contradict as a matter of public duty. It had been alleged, for instance, that in the South of Ireland, where it was admitted on all sides that the Acts had been put in force, to a considerable extent, with the approval of the Irish Members, the labourers who desired to put the Act in motion were desired to produce their cards of membership of the National League. He utterly denied that any such system had either their approval or connivance. On the contrary, they utterly discountenanced any such proceeding, although attempts were made by an Association, the Freemasons, who carried on an organized system of I "Boycotting" in regard to those who did not belong to their organization. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland only yesterday; stated that, according to reports that had been sent to him, an attempt was I made to induce the members of the Tipperary Board of Guardians, every man of whom belonged to the National League, to show some favour of that 1831 kind, and the attempt was resented as an insult to their Board. The hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) said, after referring to the action of the Ballymena Board of Guardians, that there was a particular body for which Nationalists entertained even a greater dislike than the landlords of Ireland. Now, although the Irish Catholics had suffered much from the Orange Body, they had not a greater dislike to that Body than they had to the landlords. He (Mr. Dillon) challenged the Orange Members for Belfast to deny that the Catholics voted for them, and helped in the return of the hon. Gentlemen who sat for South Belfast and East Belfast. ["No, no!"] Well, he challenged either of those hon. Members to stand up and deny that the Catholic Nationalists had voted for them at the poll. No; the Nationalists did not hate them, except when they were doing evil; they were ready to support them in every honest effort they made to defend the rights of the Irish people. The hon. and gallant Member also said that the obstruction to the Labourers' Act was mainly given by elected Guardians. Well, if that was true, it was a very strong argument for introducing the National League into Ulster. Wherever the National League existed, the Act was, according to the hon. and gallant Member, put in force; and wherever it did not the contrary was the case. In the portion of the North of Ireland where most complaints were made of the obstruction, there were large numbers of the landlord party in the Unions, both as elected and ex officio Guardians. There seemed to be a determined effort to make an extraordinary misrepresentation to that House. It had been insinuated that the Irish Members desired that the benefits of the Act should be confined to one class of labourers only. The Irish so-called "Loyal; Party"—for it might be a matter of argument which was the real "Loyal Party"—had suddenly woke up to a great amount of zeal in advocating the extending of the benefits of the Act to all classes of labourers. Well, his hon. I Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had sat on a Committee, and endeavoured, day after day, to have those benefits extended to these very classes of labourers and fishermen, and weavers 1832 and workers of every class. That fact was perfectly well known to those acquainted with the history of the measure, and the hon. Members above the Gangway appeared to be entirely ignorant of the efforts of the Irish Party on behalf of the labourers of Ireland. For several years the "Loyal Party" never took any interest in the subject; but, now that many of their seats were in imminent danger, they became deeply interested in the cases of the glebe purchasers, because they knew that there wore 300 or 400 of them scattered over the divisions of Tyrone, whose votes would be badly wanted by the Orange Party at the next Election.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
said, that hon. Members below the Gangway were fond of arrogating to themselves the right of initiating all remedial legislation for Ireland; and when they found that Members above the Gangway also I had a duty to perform in regard to legislation and the improvement of the condition of the people of Ireland, hon. Members were good, enough to laugh and sneer derisively at any proposal in that direction. It was undoubtedly true that there were a great many labourers in Ulster, and a considerable number of them voted for the Conservative candidates who now had seats in the House of Commons. But he would remind the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) that a great number of hon. Members who now represented part of the Ulster population—a considerable number—did not sit in the House of Commons before, and had no opportunity in the past of taking action in the direction they were now inclined to go. Also, he might observe that, on the opening of Parliament, Members below the Gangway had an enormous advantage over himself and his Friends, in that they had all their preparations ready beforehand, and all their Bills prepared. The preparations were made before the Elections took place; and before the Elections it was settled who was to represent certain constituencies, and when he did so what measures he would propose. But Members of the Conservative Party had not the advantage of knowing for certain the result of the election before it took place. They had the disagreeable necessity of applying to the wishes of the electors whom they desired to represent. 1833 They did not ascertain from two or three gentlemen, sitting in Dublin, who was to represent certain constituencies in the North. That, of course, gave Members below the Gangway an advantage; but perhaps, in the future, Conservatives would meet them in a similar manner. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) objected to certain statements made in the House, and probably alluded to Questions asked, especially one he (Major Saunderson) asked of the Chief Secretary for Ireland as to the action of the National League. The hon. Member denied, as far as he could understand his speech, that the National League in Ireland had taken the action indicated in that Question. Now the Question asked had reference to a letter written by a Roman Catholic clergyman in Tip-perary, to which he (Major Saunderson) called the attention of Her Majesty's I Government. In his letter the Roman Catholic clergyman said there wore two men, one named Timothy O'Brien— probably a relative of some hon. Member below the Gangway—and another who was called Fitzgerald; and he pointed out that Timothy O'Brien was a member of the National League, and Fitzgerald was not; therefore the Guardians were to vote for O'Brien. The Chairman of the Board said it was a dangerous letter, for it might get into the Press, and if it did it was almost certain to get into the House of Commons; and ho (Major Saunderson) took precious good care it did. Since then there had been another letter from the reverend gentleman, giving an explanation of a peculiar circumstance that cropped up. It appeared that the Rev. Mr. Hennessey signed for both parties, and the Board could not make out the object of the reverend gentleman; but his explanation was that Fitzgerald humbugged him, and represented that he was a member of the League; but afterwards, finding ho was not a member, Mr. Hennessey signed for O'Brien, and hoped he would get the cottage. So much in reference to that Board.
§ MR. DILLON
The statement of the hon. Member for North Down that I contradicted was that it was necessary to have a card in order to get a cottage.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
said, that he had another case which he wished to call attention to, that was reported in 1834 The Leinster Leader, February 27th. At a meeting of the Athy branch of the National League, the hon. secretary announced that he had received a letter from Mary Doyle, complaining that, though she had sent in a representation to the Athy Guardians for a labourer's cottage, she saw no reference to it in the advertisement of the scheme published in The Leader. The secretary went on to say that he wished to remark, with regard to the state of the labourers in that county, though they seemed to think they could obtain cottages without going through the open door of the League, it was important they should know that the branch would only recommend as tenants of the cottages to the Guardians such as were members of the League. That showed in these two places, and no doubt in hundreds of others, what was the action of the League. What ho wanted to point out was that it was quite clear that in hundreds of places in Ireland an Act passed by the House of Commons for the purpose of alleviating the condition of the Irish labourer was made use of by the organization which was under the immediate direction of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway as a political lever on their part to subjugate the will of the Irish people. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] If that was not the ease, and if hon. Members objected to the action of the National League, why did they not get up and condemn it in public and in the House of Commons?
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
asked why they did not do so when they went over to Ireland? He quite admitted that hon. Members below the Gangway speaking in Ireland and speaking in the House of Commons wore quite different animals. ["Oh, oh!" and "Shame!"] He would withdraw the word "animals," and say they had a quite different method of speaking and mode of oratory. Why did they not in Ireland say that no difference at all should be made between one Irishman and another in granting the advantages of this Act? With regard to the Amendments proposed in them by the hon. Member (Mr. Mayne), he had to say that he would decidedly support its second reading. What was more, he was quite ready to join in the 1835 appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that facility should be given without too much delay for its further discussion and consideration. He knew something about the labouring population, and he was not a new convert to legislation having for its object the protection and alleviation of the condition of the Irish people. He had always supported the Land Bill, and did not regret having done so; and he had always been in favour of advancing, as much, as it was possible to do so, the condition of the Irish labourer, for, in his opinion, he was badly clothed, badly paid, as well as being badly fed. It would be an intense satisfaction to him if, by any action on his part, he could assist in helping him. He was, therefore, ready to support any Bill which was brought in to ameliorate the labourer's condition, and to make him what he believed he could be made—a law-abiding citizen. He would not criticize the subject further; but he would say that if the right hon. Gentleman opposite would give them an early opportunity of discussing the Bill he should be ready to take part in the discussion that might arise, and to suggest any improvement that might be desirable.
§ MR. JOSEPH NOLAN
said, he deeply regretted that the hon. and gallant Member who had last addressed the House was not now in his place. He (Mr. Nolan) wished to say that the hon. and gallant Member would remain in his mind as the Gentleman who had the good taste to make a personal attack upon him the very first night he took his seat in the House; and therefore he was not surprised to find that the hon. and gallant Member had had the very questionable taste of referring to Timothy O'Brien as being possibly a relative of some of his (Mr. Nolan's) Colleagues below the Gangway. Knowing the Gentlemen who bore the name of O'Brien in the House and his Colleagues, he thought he could take it upon himself to say that, although he believed that the person in question had not the slightest connection, whether by relationship or otherwise, to any of those Gentlemen, there was not one of them who would think of repudiating any such connection with any honest man, such as he presumed Timothy O'Brien to be. That, however, did not lessen 1836 the animus of the remark made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh. Another intelligent allusion which the hon. and gallant Member made to himself and Colleagues was that they were animals. Now, they did not at all intend to deny the charge, nor did they at all intend to say that they did not belong to that class of animals that had got a little backbone in them, which the hon. and gallant Gentleman would perhaps find out. The hon. and gallant Member also spoke of himself (Mr. Nolan) and his Colleagues as arrogating to themselves the right of initiating reforms for the Irish people. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman or his Colleagues would only take upon themselves the duty of introducing the reforms necessary in the North of Ireland, he would find that they would obtain every support from the Irish Party. One statement the hon. and gallant Member made was, that there was a great deal of intolerance displayed in Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, by the members of the National League. It was an old saying that people who lived in glass houses should not throw stones; and he would undertake to prove to any hon. Member in the House, no matter to what Party he might belong, that intolerance in its rankest forms was practised by hon. Gentlemen who claimed to represent Ulster in the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the hon. Member that, although he has been allowed, during the earlier part of his speech, to answer some charges which he regarded as personal, he is not now discussing the second reading of the Bill, which is the Question before the House, but is indulging in personal recriminations which have nothing whatever to do with the Bill now before the House.
§ MR. JOSEPH NOLAN
begged to bow to the ruling of Mr. Speaker; but ho thought that, having listened to those charges made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman above the Gangway, he should have been permitted to say what could be said on the other side, and he was sorry to find that he was mistaken.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order! order! The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to speak of my ruling in that manner. I have said that the charges are matters of personality; and I hold these questions are 1837 irrelevant to the Question, which is the proposal that the Bill now before the House be read a second time.
§ MR. JOSEPH NOLAN
said, he begged respectfully to submit to the ruling of the Chair; and he would not carry the discussion further in the direction in which he had been proceeding, but deal with the merits of the Bill before the House. He was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had announced that ho would not oppose the second reading of the Bill; but he was sorry to find that he was not prepared to grant any facility for its further discussion. One objection to the Bill was based on economy. He would respectfully submit to the right hon. Gentleman that there would be greater economy in providing for the support of a numerous class outside the workhouse rather than inside. A great many labourers were at times forced to take refuge in the workhouse under existing conditions; and if the Bill were carried into law these people would be able to maintain themselves outside. There was nothing which militated against working people's success so much as the want of proper habitations. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to see his way to withdraw his objection to affording time for going into Committee.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, he rose principally for the purpose of joining in the appeal of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) for an opportunity for further discussion of the Bill in Committee. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not now in the House; but he hoped that some of his Colleagues would inform him of the appeal that was made. He did not wish to enter into any of the painful elements that had been introduced into the discussion; and whilst ho was quite prepared to acknowledge the sincerity of hon. Members below the Gangway in bringing forward that Bill, he, at the same time, in return must ask for similar credit for himself and those near him, in their efforts to realize those objects which it was intended by legislation they should possess. Neither did he wish to refer at any length to the discussion that had already taken place; 1838 but he certainly did not understand his hon. Friend the Member for North Derry (Mr. Mulholland) desired to take the course attributed to him. Ho believed his hon. Friend would be quite prepared to consider this measure in Committee, and give it the fullest and most favourable hearing. To a great extent, he (Mr. Macartney) agreed in the defects indicated in the previous Acts. The machinery of the Acts might be greatly improved, though he was not prepared to accept every detail of the Bill, nor did he think it desirable to subject the Bill to a lengthened examination by a Select Committee. For his own part, ho believed that those measures, which were designed to give to the labourers of Ireland what, in so many instances, they were so much in need of—proper house accommodation, necessary sanitary arrangements, and an allotment of ground at a reasonable rent—would not really attain their ends until the right of putting in motion the machinery of the Bill was given to those who wore outside the ratepayers of Ireland. He was very much inclined to give to labourers themselves powers to put in motion the representations that were made, under proper administrations, and subject, of course, to the ratepayers having the right of appeal to the Local Government Board for the purpose of protecting their own interests. There were also one or two other matters that required consideration; but ho would not enter into them upon the present occasion, as the time was rapidly passing. Beyond that it was unnecessary to enter into details, seeing there was a general concurrence of opinion above and below the Gangway. The hon. Member who moved the second reading (Mr. Mayne) in a very moderate speech admitted there was a certain amount of contentious matter in the Bill; and, of course, he was not prepared to give an unqualified assent to all; but, after an opportunity of communicating with his friends in Ireland engaged in administering the Act of 1885, they would be able to give full consideration to the Bill, and, he hoped, a large measure of support. The clauses extending the power of compulsory purchase required the closest attention; and on that and other points he reserved to himself complete liberty of action in Committee. He did not wish to say, at the present moment, 1839 that he was going to limit himself to an absolute refusal to consider these matters; but he wished to retain to himself complete freedom of action in Committee upon the Bill. The main object of his rising was to make a strong appeal to Her Majesty's Government to give facilities for the future discussion of a measure which, he believed, would conduce to the benefit not only of the class to which it was specially designed, but of all classes in Ireland.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, that the labourers' dwellings through out Ireland stood sadly in need of considerable improvement. He would therefore appeal to the Government to give the utmost facilities in their power for discussing the details of the Bill, and in bringing it to a successful conclusion, for there was much in it that was deserving of support. In regard to the South of Ireland, he believed, from personal knowledge, that the opposition to the Act of last year by Boards of Guardians came as much from the elective Guardians, and in some cases more, than from the ex officio Guardians. Of course, one Board of Guardians differed from another; but he thought it was an erroneous idea to believe that the ex officio Guardians had any desire to interfere with the agricultural labourers. He also agreed in the advisability of extending the benefit of the Act to other than purely agricultural labourers, as he believed that those who gained their livelihood by fishing were as well entitled to receive the benefit of the Act as those who were engaged in agricultural pursuits.
§ MR. DEASY
said, he believed that further discussion would be utter waste of time; therefore he would not follow the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Dawson) upon the question as to how the Act had been worked by Boards of Guardians in the South of Ireland. Had he any desire to do so, he thought he could show by statistics that the Act had been obstructed by a class of people different to those who represented the ratepayers of Ireland; but he would not do so, as he did not wish to introduce any contentious matter. What he desired to do was to contradict the statement made in the House by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson), that the National League availed themselves of the Labourers' Act to annoy the landlords.
§ MR. DEASY
said, that it was said that the National League would not allow the benefit of that Act to any labourer not a member of the National League; and a similar statement was made, some time ago, at Chester in the presence of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, by the gentleman who was known as Chairman of the Defence Association of the South of Ireland, Mr. Smith-Barry, who said that the National League used the Labourers' Act for political purposes in the Cork Union and in other Unions in that county. One of his (Major Saunderson's)greatest friends, Captain Bainbridge, one of the Orange candidates at the recent Election, stated that if Mr. Smith-Barry made such an assertion in regard to the Cork Board of Guardians, it was a he, and that had the effect of drawing from Mr. Smith-Barry a letter, in which he withdrew the imputation. It was merely for the purpose of bringing that matter under the attention of the House, and of showing how groundless were the charges made against the National League organization by its opponents, that he had risen to make these few remarks.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said, he quite agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Deasy) in the statement that any further discussion on the principle of the Bill would be waste of time, and he could assure the House he had no intention of further discussing the principle of the Bill. He had merely risen for the purpose of enforcing one point of his hon. Friend's speech as to the misrepresentations of the action of the National League constantly indulged in by Gentlemen holding the views of those above the Gangway; and he would not enlarge further upon that were it not that the charge which was made was a serious matter—namely, that with reference to the alleged action of the National League in intimidating Boards of Guardians to give the cottages to members of the National League only. He wished, with the permission of the House, to call attention to a statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh himself, which, when proved to be untrue, the hon. and gallant Member did not withdraw. The statement was made on the occasion of a deputation to Lord Salisbury by the Loyal and Patriotic 1841 Union, which statement was a specific statement to the effect that the New-bridge National League, which consisted, he said, to a great extent of members of the Board of Guardians, had passed a resolution declaring that the Board of Guardians should not give labourers' cottages to any persons who were not members of the National League. One of his (Mr. Redmond's) hon. Friends and Colleagues, the Representative of Kildare, at once communicated with that branch of the League and with the Board of Guardians. He elicited from the National League a statement that no such resolution was ever proposed or passed; and he elicited from the Board of Guardians, at a meeting at which a well-known Conservative landlord of the county was in the chair, the statement that, so far as they knew, nothing of the kind had occurred, and that in their opinions the hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to withdraw the charge. It was further established that only one member of the Board of Guardians was a member of the National League. In point of fact, the statement of the hon. and gallant Member was proved to be without one tittle of foundation. The hon. Member for Kildare communicated with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and pointed out to him that the statement was erroneous, and asked him to be manly and fair enough to imitate the action of Mr. Smith-Barry, and withdraw; but the hon. and gallant Member wrote to say he could not withdraw the charge, because, forsooth, ho had seen a statement to its effect in the columns of The Daily Express. [Laughter.] This might seem to many hon. Members a very trivial matter; but it really was not a matter of little importance when statements of this kind were made on English platforms to English people, and when they were believed by the people. He trusted that what had now been said upon this subject would be sufficient to put the point at rest, and sufficient to cause the English people to receive similar statements with caution and reserve.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
said, he wished to ask the permission of the House to make a personal explanation. It was perfectly true that he had made the statement to Lord Salisbury that certain facts had taken place, and when he received the communication from the hon. Member for Kildare he refused to 1842 withdraw it, because, as he had informed the hon. Member, it was a statement on which was founded a leading article in The Daily Express. ["Oh, oh!" and laughter.] Hon. Members below the Gangway probably did not read The Daily Express; but he did, and he could not see what other course any public man could take but to found his opinions upon what appeared in the Press, and which had been uncontradicted.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
pointed out that the hon. and gallant Member did not withdraw the statement, which was proved to be incorrect.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.