HC Deb 11 July 1887 vol 317 cc447-51

Resolution [July 8] reported. That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of the salary, remuneration, and allowances of any Commissioners that may be appointed in pursuance of any Act of the present Session, to make better provision for the administration of the Acts relating to the relief of the destitute poor in certain parts of Ireland, to authorise the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland to make loans, and the Treasury to make a free grant, to the Board of Guardians or Commissioners of any dissolved or altered Union under the provisions of the said Act.

Resolution read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

Debate arising.


I think we should have from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) a formal statement as to what will be the charges he imagines will fall upon the ratepayers with regard to the working of this Bill. Surely there is a sufficiently large staff in Ireland for carrying on the work of the Local Government Board without having extra officials for the purposes of this Act; and I do enter a protest against the idea that we require in Ireland more clerks and more Inspectors for the purpose of carrying out the Poor Law. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to tax the English taxpayers simply because representation has been made to him that the Act cannot be carried out without extra assistance. I assure him that, to my knowledge, the Local Government Board in Ireland have practically an army of officials, who really have little enough to do, and are quite able, as far as I can understand, to discharge the duties which will have to be performed under this Bill. Why increase the officials? I think we should know exactly how many officials it is proposed to create; what salaries will be paid to them; what the time occupied in the performance of the duties will be; and who are the officials the Government have in their mind's eye?


It is intended that there shall be Vice Guardians appointed, two to each Union. There will, therefore, be 10 Vice Guardians altogether, and they will be paid by the ratepayers, and not by the taxpayers. The hon. Gentleman appears to think that the staff at the command of the Local Government Board is sufficient to do the work under this Bill, in addition to their other work. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman in that; indeed, the Government think it would be well to appoint four or five Commissioners, and to charge their salaries upon the ratepayers.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I think it would be well to adjourn the discussion of this Resolution until after we have got into Committee on the Bill itself. Such a course will, I am sure, recommend itself to the common sense of the House. There are considerable and important principles, and novel principles, involved in the Bill, and until we have some clear knowledge as to whether the House is going to consent to the Bill or not, it would be absurd to agree to this Resolution. There is one principle involved in the Report of this Committee to which I am most strongly opposed, and it is the principle that the House ought not to consent to an expenditure without understanding thoroughly what it is consenting to. The House is probably aware that the proposition in this Bill is to entirely abolish representative Government in five Unions in the West of Ireland, while, at the same time, the Bill, practically speaking, gives no relief to the Unions, except the very extraordinary and novel relief of enabling them by law to cut off the remedy of their creditors. It is proposed to substitute for the representative Guardians a Body of two or three Guardians appointed by the Executive Government of Ireland, and these are to administer the affairs of the Union for an indefinite period of time. I am of opinion it will be for a great number of years. It is deliberately proposed that these gentlemen shall have the power to pledge and mortgage the rates to an unlimited extent, without the people having any voice in the proceeding. We may be brought face to face with this fact, that the unfortunate creditors of the Unions will not only be debarred from any right, or hope, of recovering the money which they advanced under the idea that they would have a chance of recovering it, but they may see non-representative Guardians mortgaging the rates to obtain further advances. It must be manifest to hon. Members that most extraordinary and important principles are involved in this proposition. Irish banks, for instance, who have allowed these Unions to overdraw their accounts in order to prevent the paupers being starved, are to be denied a chance of recovering their money. And the Guardians, or the Commissioners who are to take the place of the Guardians, will have power to mortgage the rates of the Unions in such a way that they may, at the end of the 10 or 15 years, hand the Unions back to the elected Guardians in a state of absolute insolvency. Creditors will actually see the security for their debts mortgaged anew. I do not wish to enter into a long discussion of this question at the present time. All I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is that, until the principle of the Bill he has introduced is accepted, he will postpone this Report stage.


I hope the hon. Member will not press for the postponement of this Resolution, which is only a preliminary proceeding, and without which the clauses of the Bill cannot be discussed.


I remind the hon. Gentleman opposite that we are some distance yet from the Report of the Bill. With regard to the fund to be advanced from the Treasury for paying the expenses, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that we have not yet formally gone into Committee, and I hope that before we do so we shall obtain from the Government a little more information with regard to the Bill than has hitherto been vouchsafed, and also with regard to some modifications which have been suggested.


I point out to the hon. Member that his remarks are out of Order. This is a preliminary discussion with regard to payment, and is in the position of a Money Bill.


I submit that my remarks would be relevant on Report, because the Resolution specially provides for an advance, and the Government have told us that there are advances to be made. What I would ask is, that the Government should consider whether some modifications cannot be made. It is impossible that they can expect to take the Report stage on the same day as they get into Committee; and if they cannot get into Committee before the end of the week, I ask them, in order to give time for consideration, to adjourn the Report stage until Thursday.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)


I would earnestly appeal to the hon. Gentleman opposite not to delay the passage of the Bill, which is to enable the Government to deal with the eminently pressing condition in which these Unions now are. Of course, if hon. Gentlemen exercise their power of delaying the Resolution we cannot help it; but the Government have no alternative to offer, and the responsibility for what may ensue must rest with hon. Members.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government have no alternative to propose; but we have, on former occasions, seen them driven sometimes to alter an irrational proposal which they have endeavoured to press upon this House. I am opposed to the principle of dealing with the Unions as the Government propose, and I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman that he should attempt to cast on the public taxes 10 or 12 Vice Guardians at salaries of £400 a-year; and I think that if the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) was in his place, the Government would probably give us time to turn round and consider this important question. I say that if the proposal were for 12 months we might agree to it offhand; but if you are going to enact this like your Coercion Bill for ever, I think, at least, you should give us time to consider it. The meaning of the action of the Government is that the right hon. Gentleman, when he goes to the hustings, should be able to say that this Bill was pressed upon the Irish Members, and that they were obliged to accept it. I repeat that the Government should give us a little fur- ther time for consideration, because at present we have not been fairly dealt with, seeing that we are asked to accept a measure placing the control of these Unions in the hands of other Guardians for all eternity.

MR.MURPHY (Dublin, St.Patrick's)

I am certainly of opinion that we ought to have further time than has been accorded to us to consider this Bill. When the Motion for the second reading was before the House, the right hon. Gentleman suggested to my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in reply to his criticisms on the Bill, that he should offer some alternative proposal to meet the case of these Unions. It is obvious that any alternative proposal must require time for preparation, and I am at a loss to see why the Government do not assent to our request for adjournment.


I intimated that the Government would not resist the Motion for postponement of the Resolution; but I pointed out, at the same time, that the whole responsibility for the consequences of delay would rest with those who proposed it.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

I should like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this is a case in which Irish Members have not been consulted, and that, having regard to the importance of the local matters with which the Bill proposes to deal, I think that further time ought to be allowed us for the consideration of this Resolution.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned, till To-morrow.