HC Deb 15 March 1886 vol 303 cc915-22

[Progress 12th March.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 3 (Amendment of 46 & 47 Vict. c. 60, s. 5, as to certificate of sanitary officer).

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

Mr. Chairman, I beg to move that you do report Progress. At this hour (1.30), I do not think it is unreasonable to propose that we should report Progress, and endeavour to elicit from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. John Morley) whether, in pursuance of the understanding we arrived at the other night, he has made any arrangement with his Colleagues to take this Bill at a reasonable hour. It is scarcely fair to ask us to enter on the discussion of the Bill at the hour at which the House decided to adjourn the discussion the other night. We have done a great deal of varied work this evening. [A laugh.] Hon. Members below the Gangway seem amused; but I may venture to point out to them this fact, that on the last three measures in Committee they have strongly supported to report Progress. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) has moved to put off two measures. The Government are willing to give full consideration to the measure, and hon. Members on these Benches are most anxious to ensure the passing of the measure. I rose to make this Motion without any consultation whatever with hon Gentlemen representing constituencies in the North of Ireland, and who sit near me, and I did so simply in the interest of the House. I think it is wrong that at this hour of the night we should be asked to consider a question which involves three intricate Acts. Besides, there is no reason why we should hurry on the consideration of this Bill. The measures with which we are dealing were passed in 1883 and 1885. One of them was only passed in August last, and has not yet been six months in operation; and I submit that a measure to amend a measure, before it is possible to test its operation, ought to be considered at a time when the House can deal with it properly. For my own part I have no wish to obstruct the Bill. I never have obstructed any measure in this House, and I am perfectly prepared to discuss this measure on its merits. I took up the question of the labourers long before hon. Members below the Gangway—["Oh!"]—and lean justify the statement when the time comes. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give some assurance on some later day this week, or on some day early next week, that he will do his best to get this measure taken at a reasonable hour, say, not later than midnight. I should think it might be arranged that the Bill should stand as the second Order of the day.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Brodrick.)

MR. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

I hope the Committee will proceed with this Bill. On a former occasion I supported the Motion to report Progress made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Brodrick); but in the interest of the labourers of Ireland I do not think it is well the progress of the measure should be any longer delayed.

Question put,

The Committee divided:—Ayes, 47; Noes 125: Majority 78.—(Div. List, No. 33.)

MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

The Amendment which I propose in this clause is one which I hope will meet with the sympathy of the Committee. It is one directed to an enlargement of the operation of this Act, though it does not interfere with the principle of the two previous Acts, or introduce any novel element into the legislation. These Acts, which were supposed to confer benefits upon the labourers of Ireland, have not, in many instances, operated, owing to the fact that it was difficult to put the preliminary machinery of the Acts in force. The representation which it is necessary to make under the Acts, and which must be signed by 12 ratepayers, cannot, in many districts, be made, because 12 ratepayers cannot be found to sign it. Now, this Amendment proposes to repeal that portion of the 5th section of the Act of 1883 which makes it necessary that the representation, which is the basis of the improvement scheme of the Act, shall be signed by 12 ratepayers. This will not in any way invalidate the rights of the ratepayers or the rights of the owners or the occupiers of the districts which will be chargeable under any scheme of improvement formed by the Sanitary Authority or indicated in the representation. They will have ample opportunities afterwards of protecting their rights or regulating the charge that may be made on the area either before the Sanitary Authority or before the Local Government Board. My Amendment simply enables that portion of the population of Ireland for which these Acts were passed, and which the Acts were designed specially to benefit, to put in motion the preliminary machinery of the Acts. The Amendment, of course, is not complete. I do not know whether I am in Order in alluding to the Amendment, in line 10, which stands in my name. That Amendment enables "12 householders" to be substituted for "12 ratepayers." I earnestly hope the Committee will allow this slight alteration to be made in the Bill, and that they will thus facilitate the material amelioration of the house and sanitary accommodation which the Acts had endeavoured to extend to the labourers of Ireland. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 21, after the word "alleged," to insert the words "and so much of the fifth section of 'The Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1883,' as enacts that a representation in pursuance of the said Acts shall be signed by not less than twelve persons rated for the relief of the poor within the sanitary district."—(Mr. Macartney,)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

I sincerely hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. John Morley) will not accept this Amendment. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) has at all made out a case for the acceptance of so broad an Amendment as this. The principle of all the measures we have passed for the amendment of the condition of the labourers in Ireland is that those who are to pay for these experiments—for they are nothing more than experiments—shall be the persons who shall set the Act in motion, and who shall carry out its provisions; and the proposal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Macartney) is that those who are not to pay a farthing are to set the Act in motion. I hope the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Morley) will consider that point in the reply he is about to make, and I hope, also, that if he advises the Committee to accept the Amendment, he will acquaint us with some previous instance in which Parliament has given so extraordinary a power to those who are in no sense affected by it except beneficially, and who are not in any way responsible for any payment in regard to the benefit they are to receive. I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the evidence given to the Committee which sat in 1884, and on which I had the honour to sit. Before that Committee it was plainly stated that the Guardians and those rated to the relief of the poor looked with the utmost concern at the prospect of carrying out schemes hurriedly, knowing, as they did, that in time of pressure, such as the present time, there would be most extreme difficulty in collecting the rates which would have to be levied in order to provide labourers' cottages. Every step which we take in the direction of taking the matter out of the hands of those who have to provide the necessary funds will be a step of political danger. On that ground I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will not accept this Amendment.


I confess I do not see my way to recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment, or rather the two Amendments, of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macartney). The two Amendments undoubtedly go together, because the first would not be complete without the second. Now, the effect of the Amendments is to substitute "householders" for "ratepayers" as the source of the representation which sets the Act in motion. That, of course, is a vital alteration in the whole principle of the Labourers' Acts; for what is that principle? It is this—that the ratepayers are to have a voice in the proceedings at every stage, from the signing of the representation down to the ultimate settlement of the scheme; and it is obviously right, for the reason the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Brodrick) pointed out, that they should have this voice. It is upon them that the sacrifice, whatever it may be, will ultimately fall. The whole weight and force of this security is involved in the representation proceeding from the ratepayers, and the whole weight and force of the security would, as I take it, disappear. The representation would become, shall I say a farce, if it is allowed to recede from the ratepayers to those who expect to get certain advantages at the price of others. If the Amendments of the hon. Gentleman are carried, the ratepayers would be placed in a worse position than they are in now; therefore I am unable to accept the Amendments.


I cannot allow this Amendment to be disposed of without saying one or two words in its support. I think the right hon. Gentleman has failed to show sufficient reason why it should be so peremptorily rejected. It appears to me that the persons who are the sufferers under the evil are the natural persons to originate the complaints against it. The rights of the ratepayers are sufficiently guarded in the stages subsequent to the representation, and therefore I think it is monstrous to expect a labourer to get the signatures of 12 ratepayers before he can set the law in motion. I do not apprehend that the interests of the ratepayers would be damaged by this alteration. If I did, it is not likely, paying, as I do, a very largo proportion of the rates which are imposed on the property in the district in which I live, I should be found advocating the Amendment. I hope this small but very important alteration will be agreed to.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. John Morley) had seen his way to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney). It does not follow that the 12 householders shall not be ratepayers; but even 12 householders who are not ratepayers are perhaps more likely to have sympathy with those who need the benefit of the Act. It cannot be said that 12 ratepayers are selected because they have to bear a portion of the burden. They may be spread over a wide area and not liable. I should be more reconciled to the view of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Morley) if I could learn from him whether he proposes to accept the Amendment of which I have given Notice lower down, which provides that where there are fewer than 12 residents in a division, sis may send a representation, and three may appeal to the Local Government Board to amalgamate divisions. The representation signed by the 12 persons, whether they be ratepayers or householders, only sets the Board of Guardians in motion. If the Board choose not to proceed they need not do so; and even if they act, the Local Government Board may withold its assent. There is abundance of security, and, therefore, I think no harm could be done by the acceptance of this Amendment.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 55; Noes 85: Majority 30.—(Div. List, No. 34.)

Clause agreed to.

Clause 4 (Appeal from certificate of sanitary officer in certain cases).

VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)

Sir, I rise to move that you do now report Progress, a course which I think is rendered really desirable by the condition of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen. On the last Amendment, I was listening to and watching with great commiseration the voice and expression of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I know, from personal acquaintance with the subject, that the right hon. Gentleman, who is leaving the House at this moment, was engaged this morning in duties of a very exalted kind, and must be quite exhausted. I am also sure that many hon. Gentlemen who took part in the last division were not in the least aware what they were voting for, and that, under the circumstances, the Government will be the first to say that the hon. Member who is now speaking was quite right in moving Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Viscount Cranborne.)


I think the next three Amendments will not take more than five or ten minutes; and perhaps, under the circumstances, the noble Viscount will withdraw his Motion.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I would point out that it is not an uncommon thing for Members of this House, at 2 o'clock in the morning, not to know what they are voting about.

MR. MOLLOY (King's County, Birr)

said, if the noble Lord was fatigued with the amount of work he had done in the House that evening, he should go home to bed.


After the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I shall be most happy to withdraw my Motion, on the understanding that after the Amendments are disposed of the right hon. Gentleman himself will move Progress.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 9 (Extension of powers of compulsory purchase).

MR. BRODRICK (Surrey, Guildford)

This is a very important clause, and one which we should, consequently, discuss with great care. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to say whether he can hold out any hope that we shall have an opportunity of discussing this clause at a reasonable hour on another night?

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Brodrick.)


I shall not oppose the Motion of the hon. Member. With regard to his question, however, I must point out that it is quite impossible for me to fix anything in the shape of an hour of the day for the discussing the clause. I can only say that I hope it will be brought on at a reasonable time.

Motion agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.