§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ CLASS II.—SALARIES AND EXPENSES OF CIVIL DEPARTMENTS
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £104,809, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1888, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board in Ireland, including various Grants in Aid of Local Taxation.
§ MR. DEASY (Mayo, W.)
Some cases connected with the attempts which have been made by the Emigration Committee appointed by the authorities in Dublin to emigrate the peasants from Westport and Newport have recently been under investigation in the constituency which I represent — West Mayo. I have on more than one occasion put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on the subject. Under the Tramways Act of 1882, a sum of £100,000 was granted for aiding emigrants, and the Tramways Act of 1883 authorized the Treasury to grant a further sum for the same purpose. The money, I believe, was handed over to the Local Government Board, and is now being expended under their supervision. Close upon £1,450 has been expended within the last few months by a Mr. Stoney, a gentleman residing in West Mayo, in aid of the passages and expenses of emigrants from the West of Ireland, although not one of the emigrants was allowed to leave the country without the sanction of the Inspector of the Local Government Board, Captain Sampson. In connection with this emigration a great deal of scandal arose, which for a considerable time 787 was concealed from the Government. The parish priest of Newport, near which place Mr. Stoney resides, ascertained that many things were sanctioned by Mr. Stoney and the Inspector which were not creditable to the Local Government Board. He therefore demanded the strictest investigation and inquiry into the charges which were made against Mr. Stoney, with the result that an Inspector was sent down to inquire into the charges which were made. I have now to complain that, although a month has elapsed since the inquiry was commenced, I have been absolutely unable to obtain any details of the investigation from any Member of the Irish Government. I have put several Questions to the Chief Secretary, and I have received answers from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary; but he has only told me that no decision has yet been arrived at by the Local Government Board, and therefore that it would be neither fair nor just towards Mr. Stoney to give me the particulars which I ought to have in order to bring forward the question I desire to discuss. It is certainly important to know what conclusion has been arrived at in reference to Mr. Stoney and Captain Sampson; and it appears to me that information has been suppressed in order to prevent any hon. Members from going into the question as fully as it ought to be gone into. I must say that the deliberate refusal to give information has occasioned great inconvenience, and I hope the Chief Secretary will be able to give the Committee some explanation for the delay in producing the Report, which I consider to have been both unwarrantable and unnecessary. I have been told that the gentlemen against whom the charges have been made have given a complete and detailed account of the way in which the money was spent. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary believes that, but I certainly do not; and I have strong reason to believe, from information I have received from my constituents in West Mayo, that Mr. Stoney was not able to produce more than a few receipts from the hundreds of families he has emigrated from the West of Ireland. On the contrary, there is reason to believe that this gentleman has put a considerable amount of money in his own pocket, and that the agent 788 he employed was guilty of embezzling part of it. Of course, it is easy for the right hon. Gentleman to got up and say that Mr. Stoney has rendered a complete account; but he is only acting upon information he has received from Dublin Castle. The reason I press the Government for the particulars is that I think the Local Government Board desire to shield their own officer. The manner in which the Committee was appointed is worthy of mention, and I am afraid that I shall have to speak for some time on the question, because I look upon it as one of national as well as local importance. The policy of the Government has been to exterminate the population. They simply think it a good job to get rid of them at any cost. This has been their persistent policy, although over and over again it has been shown not to be in the interests of the people. I find that, in an underhand way, the Government appointed an Emigration Committee in February last, and another in March, with a view of getting rid of what they call the congestion. The policy of successive Governments has been to keep these unfortunate people in poverty and ignorance, and then to remove them from remote districts in Ireland, where no English is spoken, to the United States, or any other part of the civilized world, where they find themselves in a state of destitution and surrounded by evil influences. Surely it would be better for them to be in their own country than in the back slums of New York. I say this is a false policy, and one which the Government should abandon; and I trust that after the statements I shall be able to make, from information I have received in connection with the inquiry which took place at Westport, that the Government will desist from these attempts to emigrate the people. Who is the gentleman who was appointed at the head of the Emigration Committee, and of what is the Committee composed? Last February, the Local Government Board, or some other authority in Dublin, nominated a number of gentlemen in West-port and Newport, without their knowledge, to act on the Emigration Committee. I do not complain of the nomination of the Committee generally; but I do complain of the appointment of Mr. Stoney at the head of it. He was a 789 bankrupt landlord, notorious for rack-renting, and for exterminating the small tenantry on his own estate; and to give such a man complete control of the funds voted by Parliament for the purpose of relieving distress was nothing short of a public scandal. I have received a letter from gentlemen at Newport who say that they found their names among the Committee for the Relief of the Poor by Emigration entirely without their knowledge, and the moment they ascertained that they had been associated with Mr. Stoney and others they at once refused to have anything to do with the whole business. On the 5th of August several clergymen and shopkeepers disclaimed having anything to do with the proceedings of the Committee or the distribution of the money, although they found, to their amazement, that their names were made public as having been parties to what was done by Mr. Stoney. One of these gentlemen says that it was by mere accident he found his name mentioned as being allied to this gentleman, and he adds that he was in a position to deny from the commencement of the proceedings that he had any hand or part in them, and that on no account would he be concerned in any of the transactions to which this gentleman had been a party. Why I principally object to Mr. Stoney's connection with this matter is that he is notoriously a man who has been endeavouring to exterminate his own tenants. He is a man who wants money, and it is perfectly obvious to anyone who knows the relations between Mr. Stoney and the people of the district, and especially his own tenants, that nothing short of a robbery of the public funds could have taken place under his direction. The serious charge which I bring against him is a charge which I shall be able to show, from evidence taken by the Local Government Board Inspector at Westport, was fully proved. Evidence was given of a great number of disreputable transactions; although I willingly admit that many of them took place through the misconduct of his agent, of which he may have had no direct knowledge, but for which I hold him responsible, because he ought to have appointed an agent of respectability. About seven or eight years ago a Bill was passed by the Government giving to the Irish landlords £150,000 for the purpose of re- 790 claiming waste lands. We know what became of part of that money; and if the Chief Secretary will explain how the rest of it went, I am sure he will give most interesting information to the Committee. That attempt failed to do any good to the tenants of Ireland. The landlords, who borrowed the greater part of the money themselves under that Act, put it into their own pockets.
I must point out to the hon. Member that he is now entering into a question which is altogether outside this Vote.
§ MR. DEASY
Then I will not pursue the matter further. I was merely endeavouring to illustrate the policy of the Government, and attempting to show a direct connection between what was done then under the Act of 1881 and what has been done in this instance. However, as you, Sir, have ruled me out of Order, I will not pursue the subject. I will only say that to place the distribution of public money in the hands of a man like Mr. Stoney was an act of folly which cannot be too strongly reprobated. It is only because I believe that what has taken place is part of the policy of the Government that I desire to refer to what occurred seven or eight years ago. In my judgment, this system of emigration is nothing but a means for putting money into the pockets of impecunious Irish landlords. I propose to make three charges against Mr. Stoney—first, that he used the money for the purpose of exterminating his own tenants; secondly, that he profited directly by keeping a large amount of public money in his own hands to enlarge his own estate, without rendering a proper account of the money distributed; and, thirdly—and this is the most serious charge of all—that he applied a large amount of the money for the purpose, whether intentionally or not, of subsidizing and encouraging immorality among the emigrants. He offered bribes of a large amount to tradesmen in Newport, in order to encourage the carrying out of this policy, so as to secure that there should be no failure in it, and that he should profit by what went on. I have here a letter which I received a short time ago from a Mr. Moran, whose name was on the Emigration Committee, but who refused to have anything to do with Mr. Stoney in the matter. 791 He states, most positively, that a man named Gannon, an agent of Mr. Stoney, went to him several days before the first Latch of emigrants were sent away, and asked him if he would act on the Committee, intimating at the same time that if he consented to do so it would be made worth something to him. This man Gannon, on behalf of Mr. Stoney, told Moran that if he would only take part on the Emigration Committee in sending these people away by a Transatlantic line of steamers he would got at least £300. A more disgraceful proposal was never made; but Mr. Moran, who is a public-spirited man, refused to have anything to do with it, and then Mr. Gannon went about the neighbourhood stating that Mr. Moran had lost at least £300, because he refused to comply with his wishes. Now, if this agent was able to offer £300 to another person as profit out of the transaction, what was the Chairman of the Committee, through whose hands the money went, likely to get for his own purposes? I am quite sure that Mr. Stoney and his friends would have had nothing to do with the carrying out of the scheme if they had not thought that they would derive considerable benefit from it themselves. Of course, the statement of Moran may be discredited by the Treasury Bench, on the ground that he gave no evidence before the Inspector; but he tendered evidence, and the Local Government Board Inspector refused to allow him to put a single question to Mr. Stoney. What was the ground upon which. Mr. Micks, the Local Government Board Inspector, declined to hear what Mr. Moran had to say, and declined to allow him to put a single question to the witness, I am unable to say; but, as the inquiry was held for a specific purpose—namely, to investigate certain charges brought against the Emigration Committee by Father Greedie and Father Cohen—I do not complain of the course taken by the Inspector. It is obvious that if every man who chose to make charges against a witness were allowed to do so, there would have been no end to the inquiry. The second charge which I have brought against Mr. Stoney is that he has used this money for the purpose of enlarging his own estate, and for getting his tenants' land into his own hands, and for forcing people to accept emigration with- 792 out rendering a proper account of the money distributed. I have here in my hand a letter from, a rev. gentleman who resides in Mr. Stoney's district. He tells me that, in a short time, no fewer than 14 tenants of Mr. Stoney's were obliged to take passage tickets to America, and to give up their land to the landlord. [The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. A. J. Balfour) (Manchester, E.) dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head. At any rate, these tenants have been obliged to shift their quarters from the land they held formerly, and I am told that most of them have emigrated. I think I shall be able to prove, according to Mr. Stoney's own admission, that this charge is well-founded; and it is beyond all question that this man has been inducing his tenants to leave the country by bribing them to give up their farms. A very large portion of this sum of £1,450 has been used for that purpose, and that is the reason why I have mentioned the matter. My third charge is that Mr. Stoney has applied a large amount of the money for the purpose of subsidizing and encouraging immorality. The case3 to which I refer are cases which have been brought before the Local Government Board Inspector. They have been shown to be within Mr. Stoney's knowledge, although Captain Sampson, who from the first said he had great doubts of the fact, has not been shown to be connected with it. An admission was made by three of the witnesses examined that young unmarried men, and young unmarried women, were permitted to go to America as man and wife, although they were not relatives, and the money was voted by Parliament for an entirely different purpose — namely, to encourage people to go away in families, in order to relieve the congestion which existed in the West of Mayo. In a very nice way, assuredly, this congestion has been relieved upon Mr. Stoney's property. The first case investigated was that of Thomas Holding, and the first witness called before Mr. Micks in reference to that case was Mary Waller, who deposed that she was the wife of Thomas Waller; that her husband got a ticket from Mr. Stoney; that she had seven children— four boys and three girls—but that some of her children went away with her husband, although others went with 793 him as members of his family who were in no way related to or connected with him. Now, this is a case in which Mr. Stoney deliberately gave a passage to a man and allowed his family to remain, although one of the conditions laid down by the Acts of 1882 and 1883 was that whole families should be emigrated together, and that on no account should other persons go with the family. Mr. Stoney know very well everyone who lived within 15 or 20 miles of his own residence; and yet he not only allowed, without sufficient inquiry, a number of strangers to go to America in contravention of the Act of Parliament, but he encouraged young girls to go with families with whom they had no connection. This was distinctly shown by the evidence of a woman named Kelly. She was asked —"Did Mr. Stoney tell you he knew the names of the persons who went out?" and the answer was—"Yes; he named every one of them." On being asked if any of her own family went, she replied—"Yes; Bridget, father, and one daughter out of seven." She was then asked why her husband did not take the others with him, and her answer was that Mr. Stoney said he did not care who he took, he only wanted to let them have their fling. At the close of this evidence Mr. Stoney was asked if he had any questions to put to the witness, and he declined to do so. If Mr. Stoney had any denial to make to these statements, I should like to know why that denial was not forthcoming? [The hon. Member then referred to other cases, and read long extracts from the depositions of the witnesses.] Continuing, he said—From what I have stated there is abundant evidence to show that Mr. Stoney has misappropriated the public funds, and that he has been acting entirely contrary to the provisions of two Acts of Parliament passed for the purpose of assisting emigration. The Act of Parliament expressly stipulates that whole families should be emigrated; but Mr. Stoney, acting as emigration agent, has not only allowed parts of families to go, but has permitted strangers to accompany them. The Act of Parliament has thus been broken, and the public money misapplied. I submit that this is a most serious state of things, seeing that these acts have been done with the aid of money voted by this House. Perhaps 794 I may be allowed to refer to another case. John Mattherson was examined by Mr. Kelly—
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
Perhaps it may shorten the hon. Gentleman's case if I say that the evidence he has quoted is admitted, and that it is not my intention to make any defence.
§ MR. DEASY
If the right hon. Gentleman admits the fact, and will give me an assurance that the case of Mr. Stoney will be considered by the Law Officers of the Crown for the purpose of seeing whether they cannot institute a criminal prosecution against him, I should be quite ready to leave the matter where it stands at present.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot pledge myself to go as far as the hon. Gentleman wishes; but I am quite ready to admit that Mr. Stoney has been guilty of grave dereliction of duty, and possibly, in some cases, of something more.
§ MR. DEASY
To some extent I am satisfied with the admission the right hon. Gentleman has made, but only to a certain extent. Having regard to the serious nature of the case, I hope I may be permitted to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will consult the Law Officers of the Crown, and ask them to consider whether Mr. Stoney has not laid himself open to a criminal prosecution? If the Law Officers think so, then I ask that Mr. Stoney and his agent shall be prosecuted for the grave offence they have committed. I would further ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will lay a statement of the case before the Lord Chancellor, with a view of consulting him on the propriety—indeed, the absolute advisability—of depriving Mr. Stoney of the Commission of the Peace?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Report of the Local Government Board Inspector, who carefully inquired into the matter, has just come to hand. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the result of the investigation has been to show that Mr. Stoney has been guilty of very grave neglect, and in some cases of even more than that—namely, willful neglect. I shall certainly forward the Report to the Law Officers of the Crown; but I doubt whether a criminal action would lie against Mr. Stoney.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I think this is a case which calls for immediate action. If Mr. Stoney has misapplied the public money—and the Chief Secretary admits that he has—he is not a fit person to be on the Commission of the Peace in Ireland. Men have been struck off the Commission of the Peace for much less offences than that. The light hon. Gentleman says that the Lord Chancellor will see the case as a matter of course. I think, however, that we ought to have a distinct pledge that the matter will be brought before the Lord Chancellor at once, and that he will take immediate action upon it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There is no proof that Mr. Stoney has been guilty of malversation of public money.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There certainly has been misapplication, and I repeat that the matter will come before the Lord Chancellor in the usual way.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for West Mayo (Mr. Deasy) will be satisfied with the assurance he has received, and that he will not at the present moment press the matter further. I concur in the view that the Government ought to take stringent action; but I think my hon. Friend was well advised in what he said in regard to the Local Government Board Inspector not having developed any further charges than those which were laid before him. I believe the Inspector who conducted the inquiry is a public authority in whom complete confidence is reposed. I have risen now, however, to put a question to the Government upon the very grave national question which has arisen between this country and America in consequence of the emigration of penniless people from Ireland by acts similar to those which have taken place under Mr. Stoney. I wish to know whether the Correspondence which has passed on the subject between Lord Salisbury and our Minister at Washington (Sir L. Sackville West) will be published? I believe the last telegram was one from 796 Lord Salisbury, in which he sent for a list of cases in which these emigrants had been stopped by the United States. In view of the scandal which has arisen already from the way in which this emigration fund has been managed, and the grave scandals which may arise from the indiscriminate sending over of poor people from Ireland, I wish to know whether the Government intend to put a stop, in future, to this system of indecent emigration, which offends not only the public sentiment of America, but of Ireland, and produces the very gravest scandals by giving power to such persons as Mr. Stoney to squander the public money?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is not the intention of the Irish Government to allow any public money to be applied to emigration purposes during this year. I am afraid I cannot give any further promise than that.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
May I also ask when the further Correspondence on the subject will be published; because I believe that public feeling both in Ireland and in America has been keenly aroused on the subject.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am unable to say when the further Correspondence will be published. I can only repeat that there is no intention to allow further public money to be applied to emigration purposes this year.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly give an answer to the question I put to him yesterday in reference to the course which has been taken by New Ross and Wexford in regard to the payment of rates?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Gentleman has given the House to understand that peace is likely to be established in New Ross, and that the declaration against the payment of rates has been withdrawn. I believe that there is at this moment a financial disturbance in the Union in consequence of a recent dispute; but I hope in a short time to allow the Guardians to be returned. I am anxious, however, that financial order should be restored before the Union is returned into the hands of the Local Authorities.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
I wish to call attention to a Question asked by the hon. Member for West Clare (Mr. Jordan) a short time ago, in reference to the desire which has been expressed by 797 the Ennistymon Board of Guardians that one of the chaplains should be paid by fees, and not by salary. My hon. Friend complained that the Local Government Board insisted upon appointing a chaplain to the workhouse at a fixed salary. The salary, no doubt, is very small; but the objection the Board of Guardians take to it is that it is fixed. They do not object to the chaplain being paid by fees; their only objection is that he should have a fixed salary. As a matter of fact, the predecessor of the gentleman who was recently appointed had been 10 years in the chaplaincy of the workhouse, and during the whole of that time he had only visited two or three times. A fee of 10s. a visit would, I think, be considered a fair remuneration for walking half-a-mile to the workhouse and back again, and, of course, it would be much cheaper in the long run for the Union. I would ask the Local Government Board to ascertain the legal meaning of the word "salary," which I believe has never yet been defined. I believe, however, that when a person is paid a fixed rate per head for his visits that that is considered to fall within the meaning of the word "salary." There is no objection whatever to pay this rev. gentleman so much per visit; but in the course of 10 years his predecessor received £100 and only visited the workhouse three times.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Colonel KING-HARMAN) (Kent, Isle of Thanet)
In this case, the rev. gentleman who has been referred to was getting £10 a-year, and the salary has been reduced to £5. The Guardians now object to pay him anything, except per visit, and they have offered to give him 10s. per visit. The sum is very small, and I believe it would require fresh legislation to have a chaplain paid by fees. I have received a piteous letter from the rev. gentleman complaining of the smallness of the sum now paid to him, and expressing a hope that it will not be still further reduced.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
Considering that the sum has been reduced, I think I may waive the question of principle. The answer of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, however, is not entirely satisfactory. My hon. Friend the Member for West Clare, who put the Question 798 down on the Paper, is not now in his place, and therefore I have brought the matter before the House on his behalf.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
May I ask if it is the intention of the Government to send paid agents for the relief of the distress which is now existing at Clifden? I believe that the poverty of Clifden and the neighbourhood has been brought about by emigration, although I believe that Mr. Tuke and Captain Laslett have acted with the best intentions in their endeavours to relieve the people of the locality by providing them with the means of emigrating. But it has had an entirely opposite effect to that which was intended; because the persons who have been emigrated are the young and the strong people of the district, who have been in the habit of supporting the old and feeble. There have been about 7,000 people emigrated from Connemara, the old, the feeble, and the weak being left behind; and the consequence is that the shopkeepers and the persons who have remained have suffered alike. I should like to receive from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman some assurance that a little relief will be afforded.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I do not see how the Government is to say either yea or nay. If young people will go away, we cannot object. The Government are very well aware of the poverty of the district, and from my own experience I concur with the hon. Gentleman as to the injurious effect of emigrating the bone and sinew of the country wholesale; but I do not know that it is a matter in which any Government can interfere.
§ MR. HARRIS
I am very glad to hear the expression of opinion which has fallen, from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I should, however, like to know at whose expense these persons have been emigrated?
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I believe at the expense of an emigration fund which has been administered by Mr. Tuke and Captain Laslett.
§ MR. TUITE (Westmeath, N.)
The question I desire to call attention to is the delay which has arisen in carrying out the Labourers' Dwellings Act. I know that in my own Union the Guardians have made applications, and that months elapsed before the Inspector held any inquiry. Of course, the 799 labourers have suffered greatly in consequence of the delay. I think some power should be taken by the Local Government Board to reduce, if possible, the cost of carrying the Act into operation; and I should like to know from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary, Or from the Attorney General for Ireland, whether the proceedings of the Local Government Board in this matter can be expedited and the costs reduced? In cases where the Board of Guardians have promoted the scheme great delay and expense has been incurred in consequence of the claim of the landlords to be exempted.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool, Walton)
I am aware that there has been some delay, owing to the number of applications which have been made under the Act. I will inquire into the cause of the delay, and also into the amount of the cost. I am aware that a considerable amount of cost attends the working of the Act. The employment of engineers and of law agents, I am sorry to say, entails considerable expense; and then, again, there is the cost of an investigation by the Local Government Board, and of carrying it subsequently to the Privy Council. I should certainly be glad if something could be done to reduce the cost.
§ DR. FOX (King's Co., Tullamore)
May I call the attention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the fact that many of the resolutions which have been passed at public meetings, and which have been forwarded to the Local Government Board, have received no attention? As far back as 1885 the first step was taken towards the erection of labourers' cottages, and the great delay which has taken place in erecting them is principally due to the red-tape of the Local Government Board, assisted by the obstructive tactics of the ex officio Guardians. A resolution has been passed asking for a sworn inquiry before a Local Government Board Inspector; but no steps have been taken to comply with it. I hope that it is only necessary to call attention to the matter, and that the Government will do something in regard to it.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I desire to say a few words in regard to this labourers' question. I know the 800 great interest which has always been taken in the matter by Members of this House, and especially by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am glad to see that the Parliamentary Under Secretary, who for some time was blooming alone on the Treasury, like the last rose of summer, has now been relieved by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland. I only wish to remind the Government that they have long been endeavouring to ingratiate themselves with the labouring portion of the population. Therefore, I presume that they take a deep interest in this labourers' cottages question, and I wish to make an appeal to them to redeem the pledges upon which they came into Office, but which they have never yet carried out. I was accustomed to hear from my Irish Tory Friends before they Boycotted me that they were going to take up the case of the labourers in earnest.
I must point out to the hon. Member that this question can only be discussed in reference to the action of the Local Government Board.
§ DR. TANNER
I always feel glad, Sir, to bow to any ruling that may fall from you, and I will at once proceed to the point. This Vote includes the Local Government Inspectors who have to proceed to various districts in Ireland in order to carry out the duty of supervising the erection of labourers' cottages. In the district which I represent there are three Unions—Macroom, Millstreet, and a portion of the Cork Union, which from time to time have been subjected to serious annoyance and vexation in their efforts to get the Act carried out by hook or by crook. They have, however, failed, as a rule, to induce the Local Government Board to send down an Inspector. So sick and disgusted am I with the way in which the Government have behaved that, unless I get a satisfactory assurance from the Government, I shall take a Division upon this Vote, and upon three or four other points in connection with the Vote. I have tried again and again to obtain information. I have constantly put down Questions, and I have always been told that the 801 Government would take cognizance of the remonstrances I have made; but it has all been of no avail. Schemes have been passed, and money has been voted; bat owing to the continued and persistent obstruction of the Local Government Board in the district I represent, the cottages which are so urgently required have not been erected. I very much regret to find that in carrying out the duties of the Local Government Board, the Government are not paying that attention to the case of the labourers which their supporters have at all times demanded in the South of Ireland. Unfortunately they never practice what they preach. In connection with the subject, however, we have lately been furnished with a very valuable Return which was asked for by one of the Members for the County of Wicklow— namely, a Return in connection with the administration of the Local Government Board as to the Labourers' Cottages Act. That Return shows the miserable half-heartedness with which the Local Government Board have tried to carry on its business. In regard to the Macroom Union, there were 420 cottages applied for. Of that number 315 were authorized by the order of the Local Government Board; but of those we have only had 55 cottages erected. I do not propose to go into all the columns of figures contained in the tabulated statement which has been presented to every Member of the House. Hon. Members will be able to see for themselves, that in the Macroom Union the people have probably less to complain of than in any other district, and it was only because I happen to represent that district that I have brought the matter before the Committee. It will be seen that in the Macroom district, out of 420 cottages applied for, and 315 passed by the Local Government Board Inspector, and passed only in consequence of continual remonstrances, and only one-sixth of those which are authorized to be Greeted have been put up. I have been down to Macroom myself on three or four occasions in order to try and settle the differences which have existed, and to egg on the Government to get these homes erected. If hon. Members will compare this statement in connection with the Macroom Union with any other district they will see how unsatisfactory the whole state of the matter is. The 802 Labourers' Act was passed in the year 1883, and a second Act was passed in 1885, with the object of benefiting a long suffering class of a starving population. The Return I hold in my hand shows, however, that neither the Local Government Board nor Her Majesty's Government have done their duty in providing what it was the intention of this House to provide. In the Macroom Union something has been done in consequence of the action of persons connected with the Union. Her Majesty's Government are in the habit of saying that any delay or obstruction is due to local causes. I deny that that is the case, and I think that these facts and figures show that I am correct. In the Millstreet Union leave has been applied for to erect 133 cottages, and 108 were authorized. Of the total number only 25 were rejected by the Local Government Board, including those which were withdrawn by the Sanitary Authority. There have, however, been none built— not a single cottage has been erected. In the month of September last I tried to induce the Local Government Board to send down an Inspector; but they said it was of no use, because there were many other points to consider. I believe that an Inspector went down in May last; and that is the manner in which the Act passed in 1883 for the relief of the labourers has been carried out. If it had been a Coercion Act it would have been applied at once; but a remedial measure is always delayed. I have said that there have been no cottages erected. I believe there are a number in the course of erection; but not one has yet been completed. Nevertheless, the preliminary expenses incurred by the Local Government Board have been very considerable. I find that money has been spent in every way that was possible except in the erection of these cottages; £9 10s. was spent in advertising, £19 9s. in shorthand writers, £37 7s. in solicitors and counsel, £3 13s. in the publication of the Order, and there were minor expenses amounting to £66 1s. These are expenses literally incurred by the Local Government Board in relation to this scheme, and the total amounts to £159 1s. 6d. Nevertheless, nothing has been done. I maintain that the carrying out of the Act is shamefully neglected and delayed. Numerous efforts have been made to 803 induce the Local Government Board to do something in the matter, and surely the Board have a sufficient amount of power in their own hands to enable them to deal with the question. Nevertheless, this serious delay has arisen from some cause or other. Possibly it is owing to the fact that the authorities have been obstructed by the action of the people whose land is proposed to be allocated for the erection of labourers' cottages. Another cause, I am told, has been the position selected for the erection of the cottages. The Government say that the delay is entirely attributable to local differences; but surely the Local Government Board have Inspectors of great ability — for instance, there is Colonel Spaight, who has been mentioned in this House on more than one occasion. He is a gentleman of the greatest possible courtesy and ability, and he has tried, as well as he could, to settle difficulties. Then, why not send down that gentleman to this locality? I am satisfied that the oftener he goes down the faster the work will be carried out. I will put it to any man of common sense what the feeling of a man must be who proposed to build a house and directed it to be built in 1883, and then found that even the foundation of the house had not been laid down in 1887. I have no desire to be tedious or wearisome; but I wish to get an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman opposite that something will be done. Otherwise, I shall have to multiply the number of cases in which a similar delay has arisen. I am satisfied that I can mention at least 50; but I have no desire to go into them fully, because it would occupy too much of the valuable time of the Committee. Before I sit down, in order to show the delay that has occurred, I may mention that on the 14th of March last, and also in the preceding September, I asked a question as to—Whether, in October, 1885, all the necessary notices were served in the Blarney district of the Cork Union upon the ratepayers and all whom it concerned; … whether all the other necessary preliminaries were duly executed for the erection of 13 labourers' dwellings in the said district, and if, notwithstanding the lapse of a year and a-half, nothing has been done towards the erection of those houses, whether the cabins in which these 13 applicants lived were condemned by the sanitary officer as unfit for habitation in October, 1885, and if it is true that since then no at- 804 tempt has been made to improve those condemned dwellings, and whether some of tho3e labourers have on several occasions gone before the Board of Guardians, and were told the Local Government Board blocked the way?Well, Sir, I got no answer to that question. I have, however, seen some of these cottages, and the picture of the unfortunate people dwelling in them, with a mass of green mouldy moss growing over the roof, and falling through into the interior, the roofs themselves almost falling in, and the walls and rough stones unmortared, through which the winds of Heaven whistle unhindered—the sight of these cabins, and the poor little children in rags, with very little to feed them upon, is enough to touch the heart not only of a Local Government Board Inspector, but even of Members of Her Majesty's Tory Administration. [A laugh.] This is a matter for deep consideration, and no matter for laughter. The evil lies in this, that the Local Government Board do not pay that attention to their business which they ought to pay, and these people are still compelled to occupy these dwellings, because the Government refuse to pay attention to their demands. I think the people of England will consider the conduct of the Government a burning injustice, which cries aloud for redress. They have shown their activity in regard to coercion, and it is high time that they paid attention to the Christian demands of a Christian people. If this matter is not taken up, we shall be obliged to call attention to it by moving the adjournment of the House, as has been done this evening in regard to another question. I trust that a Tory Government, who have always tried to identify themselves with the cause of the labourers, will endeavour, by some means, to remedy this injustice, and relieve themselves from the incubus of responsibility which lies upon them.
§ MR. J. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
I also rise to impress upon the Government the importance of carrying out the provisions of the Labourers' (Ireland) Act. It is, I think, most unfortunate that a matter of such grave importance should have to be brought before the House at the end of the Session. I cannot but believe that if hon. Gentlemen opposite had the case of the labourers of Ireland placed clearly and fearlessly before them, they would unite their voices with ours for the pur- 805 pose of getting the Government to try to remedy the existing state of things. This question of the labourers in Ireland is not a question of to-day or yesterday. For 100 years, generation after generation, English Gentlemen of every shade of politics who have visited Ireland have brought before successive Governments the miserable and deplorable way in which the Irish labourers are housed. I do not intend to go back on the statements made by English writers from the time when the Bishop of Derry brought this question before the English public, down to the time when General Gordon spoke in striking terms of the Irish peasant labourer's position. As one of the Representatives of a constituency in which there are a large number of this class, I must say that from time to time since I have had the honour to represent that constituency, I have been appealed to, not only by the labourers themselves, but by friends in the district, to try to get the work of the Local Government Board expedited; but it would appear as if the officials at Dublin Castle cannot be induced to move in this matter with anything like speed. In the first place, it requires some time to get the Local Authority to act; the Board of Guardians have first to be set in motion; then, when the application is made to the Local Government Board, there is a long delay, and month after month passes before a reply is vouchsafed to the application. An Inspector is sent down, an inquiry is held on the spot, and, after the Inspector goes away, there is another long delay, after which a communication is sent to the Board of Guardians to say that a certain number of schemes have been rejected, owing to some trifling informalities in the schemes themselves, and, perhaps, that a few of the schemes have been approved. After another long delay, a Provisional Order is sent down, authorizing the Local Authority to proceed with the work of erecting the labourers' cottages. Now, that is the process which is being gone through over the length and breadth of Ireland, and it is a state of things for which the people of Ireland can find no remedy. It is said that the officials in Dublin Castle are doing their best in the matter. I venture to say that if these officials were sent down to live for one week in the cottages of these poor labourers, and were forced to live 806 under the same conditions as the occupants, at the end of the week Dublin Castle would bestir itself, and it would not be necessary for the Irish Members to complain of the delay of the Local Government Board. I, for one, if I had it in my power, would give these gentlemen a taste of what they are measuring out to the labourers in Ireland. Now, what would be easier, seeing that there is some difficulty in carrying out this Act, than for the officials in Dublin connected with the Local Government Board to send down a simple set of instructions to the Board of Guardians as to what is necessary to be done in order to get the schemes passed, and, having done so, at once to take action on the application made by the Boards of Guardians? Either the authorities in Dublin Castle have a sufficient number of Inspectors to put the Act in force, or they have not. If they have a sufficient number, there is no excuse for the Local Government Board interposing the delay; if they have not a sufficient number of Inspectors, then there is no excuse for their not applying for sufficient money to appoint a sufficient number for a few months, or until such time as the claims which are sent in are disposed of. We are told that money cannot be spared out of the Treasury; but you can find plenty of money to spend in Egypt, and we are told that it is spent on behalf of the poor fellaheen. The position of the fellaheen in Egypt is bad enough, God knows; but I say the condition of the labourers in Ireland is a good deal worse, and that we are compelled both by humanity and the principles of economy to do what is necessary for them. No one having the feelings of a man in his breast can go into one of these cottages without feeling that people in a Christian and civilized country should not be forced to dwell in such houses; and on the ground of economy, I take it for granted, even upon that low ground, that it would pay the nation to house the labourers better. When the tramway system was started, it was found that it was more profitable to feed the horses well than to keep them on a starvation allowance; and so it will be found in the case of labourers, that a nation will get more advantage from them when they are taken care of. Let the Committee imagine the case of 807 these men who have to work at all hours of the day and night, and in all seasons of the year, and at the end of their labour are forced to go into such houses as I shall presently describe. With reference to my own constituency, I find that so long ago as 1885, the labourers there made application to the Guardians to have the provisions of the Act put in force. In August, 1886, the inertia of the Board of Guardians was overcome; the schemes were sent forward to the Local Government Board, and in January, 1887, the Local Government Board sent down an Inspector, Mr. Connell, who spent between a week and a fortnight on the spot making inquiries, and it was February, 1887, before the Report reached the Guardians that a certain number of the schemes were approved by the Local Government Board. Now, I cannot understand how it was that the Local Government Board, having decided upon the adoption of a certain number of these schemes in February, 1887, should have only issued the Provisional Order to go on with the work in the month of May. The number of cottages for which application was made was 96, of these there were rejected 36, and 25 fell through for the want of some formality. So that only 35 out of the 96 received the final sanction of the Local Government Board. Now with regard to the condition of the labourers' houses in the Union. I have described a number of them before, and I shall only now trouble the Committee with a description of one or two of them.
That would be to travel outside the Vote. The only question which can be discussed under this Vote is that of neglect on the part of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. J. NOLAN
I should have liked to give a description of the cottages; but as you consider it out of Order, Mr. Courtney, I will only add in concluding my remarks that I join with my Colleagues in saying that in the interest of these poor and oppressed people, there is nothing which I shall not do to push forward this movement, and no matter how long we may be compelled to sit here, or what steps we may be called on to take within the rules of the House, I, for one, shall persist in the object I have in view. I say this not because the labourers in my constituency are an 808 important and influential body—the action I have taken in this matter is dictated simply by feelings of humanity. If the labourers had political power or influence, they would be in a different position from that which they are now placed in; it is because they are poor, ignorant and without influence that they occupy their present unfortunate position; and I say it is the duty of hon. Members on both aides of the House to see that justice is done in this matter.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON) (Liverpool, Walton)
I need not say that I fully sympathize with the hon. Member for North Louth in his desire that the condition of the labourers should be improved. At the same time, I may remark that the condition of the cottages of the labourers in Ireland now is very different from what it was some years ago, although I do not, for one moment, say that it might not be improved. With regard to the time occupied in putting the Act in force, I wish to point out that it is not so much the result of the action of the Local Government Board as of the provisions of the Act of Parliament itself. Under that Act, representation has to be made, first, to the Sanitary Authority — the Sanitary Authorities are the Boards of Guardians—and these sometimes act with a knowledge of the Statute, and sometimes they do not. When they act at all, they frame a scheme which is placed before the Local Government Board in Dublin; but before they do that, they have to publish a number of advertisements to enable the land to be taken compulsorily. The matter having gone before the Local Government Board, they send down an Inspector, who, after examination on the spot, proceeds to hold an inquiry, and then makes a Report to the Local Government Board; then a Provisional Order is prepared adopting the scheme in whole or in part; then an opportunity, which is considerably availed of, is given to persons affected by the scheme to petition against it; that petition goes before the Privy Council, and their order is final. The Committee will see that a number of steps have to be taken, and it is obvious that a considerable time mast necessarily be occupied by the successive stages of the business. The hon. Member for North Louth mentioned that 809 the labourers in his district set to work in November, 1885, to influence the Board of Guardians; but the real cause of the delay was the Board of Guardians, who, apparently, did not act until the month of August, 1886, or nearly a year afterwards. Then in January, 1887, the Inspector of the Local Government Board went down and made inquiry, which could not have been done, as I think the hon. Gentleman said it was, before that, because of the time required by the advertising in the newspapers. The Provisional Order was made sometime in the month of May, as the hon. Member has pointed out; but with regard to that, I do not think there was any ground for imputing delay to the Local Government Board, because I find that 36 cottages were struck out altogether from the original scheme for 97, besides 25 that were also eliminated on the ground of informality, so that there were only 35 cottages to the good, so to speak, in the Order. It must be borne in mind that the Local Government Board has a very responsible duty to perform in these cases, and that one mistake may invalidate a whole plan. I can assure hon. Members below the Gangway opposite that the Local Government Board, and those concerned in the administration of the Act, are not all to blame for the course that they have taken. With regard to the Millstreet Union, referred to by the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), it is obvious that the Guardians did not sufficiently consider beforehand the actual number of cottages which should have been applied for, because a number were struck out of the scheme by the Local Government Board. I do not know—nor did the hon. Member mention—when the Board of Guardians presented their scheme to the Local Government Board; but I am certain it was not presented in 1883. I believe it was much later. [An hon. MEMBER: In 1884.] When was the Provisional Order made? [Dr. TANNER: Early in 1883.] The hon. Member will see that there is great difficulty in dealing with the question of delay in the absence of dates, and that it is from, no unwillingness on my part if I am unable to give him a satisfactory answer. It is the Sanitary Authority that is responsible for the work, and the moment they get their Order they can act; and therefore- they, and no one else, are responsi- 810 ble for the subsequent delay. The same remarks apply to the other Union mentioned by the hon. Member. With reference to the point in connection with the Edenderry Union raised by the hon. Member for the Tullamore Division of King's County (Dr. Fox), I do not know the circumstances of the case, or whether they concern the Local Government Board or any of the officers whose salaries come under this Vote. I shall have to inquire into the matter, and see if there is any delay for which we are accountable, with a view to expediting the work if such is the case. I trust that explanation will be satisfactory to the hon. Member. Of course, hon. Gentlemen know well that when a general discussion of this kind is entered upon without specific Notice being given, it is impossible for anyone, however willing, to give a satisfactory answer to everyone; I trust, however, that hon. Gentlemen will recognize that I have tried to deal with the questions brought forward in a fair spirit.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I recognize the manner in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has looked on the very important question of labourers' cottages. We do not want to approach the consideration of this Vote in any polemical spirit; we merely want to point out the defects that are observable in the working of the Local Government Board, more especially in connection with the Labourers' Act. At the outset of my remarks, which will be brief, I wish to say that we in the South and West of Ireland have joined in recognizing that on the part of many Inspectors there is a praiseworthy desire to co-operate with the Sanitary Authorities in the matter of erecting labourers' cottages. But although this is true, in many cases there are exceptions which we want to bring before the Committee, and which can only be accounted for by the negligence of the Board. This is not very gross; but it is sufficiently grave in its character to call for the attention of Irish Members. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), took up the case of the Millstreet Union. Now, that involves a question of delay in connection with, labourers' cottages from the blame for 811 which the Local Government Board cannot possibly relieve themselves. As I understand the matter, it is that this scheme was applied for early in January, and that if the necessary representations had been sent in to the Local Government Board, the delay of close upon nine months would not have occurred before the Inspectors were sent down to report on the scheme. The effect of the delay has been that out of 108 cottages not one has been erected in the Union. The blame for this lies entirely on the Local Government Board, who did not send down their Inspectors to take the necessary steps in connection with the scheme for the erection of the cottages; and I believe that if there was delay on the part of the Board of Guardians, it is a delay for which the Local Government Board are largely responsible. This is one example of delay on the part of the Local Government Board. Another is that of the Cork Union, to which my hon. Friend also referred. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must bear in mind when he speaks of delay on the part of the Board of Guardians that the Act of 1883 was not largely availed of. The Guardians were not satisfied with that Act; but when the amending Act of 1885 came into force there was great activity shown throughout Ireland, with the exception of Ulster, for the erection of cottages under the Act. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not in the House when I expressed full recognition of the fact that the Local Government Board had in connection with many schemes acted with a great deal of liberality and public spirit; but while that is so, I think it is certainly within our province to point out where the Local Government Board has failed to act with the necessary promptitude. There has been delay in the case of the Millstreet Union, and delay has also occurred in reference to the Cork Union. There was great delay with regard to the scheme set on foot by the Cork Board of Guardians, who were very anxious to have the cottages erected, and who could not, at any rate, be accused of want of knowledge of the locality nor of the various steps necessary to be taken. There is one other point that I have to refer to, and that is in connection with the Inspectors when they go round the various districts inquiring into schemes brought before them by the Local Authorities. 812 I do not wish, on a Vote of this kind, to speak in a polemical spirit; but from my own knowledge and close observation, I say that on many occasions, even when the Sanitary Authority has approved the scheme, and the medical officer has certified that the cottages in the district are badly built and defective in point of accommodation, the Local Government Board Inspectors have refused to entertain the schemes. It is only reasonable that the Local Government Board should give directions to their Inspectors to treat these cases on their merits; to pay no heed to the fact whether a man is Boycotted or not; to divest their minds altogether of anything like political prejudices, and to take the schemes as they are presented to them. If they are satisfied that cottages should be built in a particular place, and are satisfied with the representations made to them, they ought not to pay the slightest attention to tittle-tattle, but to carry out the scheme. A Return has been presented of the various Unions in which schemes have been put forward. I am not clear on the point as to whether it was in answer to a Question, or in connection with some other public business, that the question of shorthand writing was raised in this House; I think it was in reply to a Question. It has been pointed out that enormous expense has been incurred in bringing down shorthand writers from Dublin to take notes of the proceedings before the Local Government Boards Inspector in connection with these schemes. The travelling expenses alone of the shorthand writers are very heavy. Of course, the expense of shorthand writing must be met from some quarter. At present we find it in the Estimates. All these expenses tend to make the cottages more costly. I find that in the Clontarf Union, which is in my constituency, 426 cottages were applied for, but only 132 have been erected out of 326 sanctioned. Now, the shorthand writers' expenses in the comparatively limited inquiry in Clontarf amounted to the large sum of £40 18s.l0d, I believe you could have got competent shorthand writers from the City of Cork, which is close to the Clontarf Union, for £10, or £15 at the outside. That would have been a considerable saving in the Estimates, and at the same time the business would have been done quite 813 as well, if not bettor, because in places like Cork you can always get reporters of the highest order of ability moat competent to do the work required in these inquiries. Besides, the shorthand writers naturally look jealously upon the fact that shorthand writers have been brought from long distances and at much greater expense, which need not have been the case. I do not know that there is any other matter in connection with the question of labourers' cottages which I wish to bring before the Committee. I should not like, as I have said before, to be regarded as indulging in any unfair or harsh criticism of the manner in which the Local Government Board of Ireland have acted in connection with this very important question of the erection of labourers' cottages. I believe that in many cases they have acted with great public spirit, and with anxiety to do their duty to carry out the schemes the Legislature intended when they passed the amending Act of 1885; but, at the same time, there are many occasions in which they have not so acted. There have been occasions in connection with some particular scheme such as I have enumerated—Millstreet and Cork —on which they have not so acted, and in which cases there has been an unaccountable delay, on account of which delay large numbers of labourers are still kept in occupation of these miserable hovels which are a disgrace to the fair soil of Ireland, and have long been a reproach to the civilization of the State ruling over the destinies of the people of Ireland. Having said this, I do not wish, generally speaking, to unduly blame the Local Government Board in this matter, because I know there are many Local Authorities which have been much to blame. We hope that when next we come to discuss the Estimates we may not find so many opportunities of criticizing so adversely the work of the Local Government Board in connection with one of the most useful measures that Parliament has ever passed.
THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Colonel KING-HAIUIAX) (Kent, Isle of Thanet)
I am sure it would be impossible to find fault with the tone of the hon. Member's remarks, which have been very fairly and frankly made. In his concluding sentence, he hoped that when next the Committee came to discuss the Estimates 814 he and his hon. Friends would not have the same ground for criticizing the work done by the Local Government Board. I think that if he will look back to last year, he will find that there were probably more grounds for complaint than there are this year. I am sure, considering the spirit he has shown, the hon. Gentleman will join me in saying it is absolutely impassible that a great measure like the Labourers' Cottages Act, involving as it does so many conflicting interests, can be administered without a certain amount of friction and delay, some of which delay may be necessary, almost unavoidable, and some of which may be unnecessary. The present state of affairs is certainly better than the former. The best sign of this is that there are less appeals, and that there is certainly a greater disposition on all sides to view the matter in a frank, fair and reasonable manner, to recognize the fact that a labourer is not only worthy of his hire, but worthy of a home in which he can be lodged and housed like a Christian being. I am sure it is hardly necessary for me to add that the Government have every desire that this Act shall be administered in the spirit in which Parliament intended it should be. Now, there are one or two remarks of the hon. Gentleman in regard to which. I should like to say a word. The hon. Gentleman desires a pledge from the Government that in all cases where objections have been raised to schemes, no question of what I may call politics will be allowed to enter into the minds of the Inspectors. I think he said the Inspectors should have no concern as to whether a man was Boycotted or not.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I would go a little beyond that. We are discussing this matter in a friendly and open and frank spirit, and I think the hon. Gentleman will allow that when the Bill was first brought before the House, I, then sitting on the Opposition Benches, supported the second reading. My sole fear was that the Act might be used for political purposes. When the Act became law it was undoubtedly, to a certain extent, used for political purposes, [Mr. FLYNN dissented.] The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I do not mean to say that it was used for political purposes on one side more than another. 815 Party differences did unquestionably enter into the consideration. In some cases Nationalist Guardians were found in conflict with the Act, while in other cases the Guardians who were not Nationalists opposed schemes which, I think, they are now inclined to look upon with favour. With regard to the question of shorthand writing, I confess on looking through the account I was struck in exactly the same way as the ton. Gentleman. The shorthand writers' expenses seemed to me a rather extravagant item; indeed, they were altogether disproportionate to the other expenses, The hon. Gentleman has done well in calling the attention of the Committee to this matter. He complains that in certain cases Cork reporters have not been employed. I do not speak from personal experience; but I have always understood that shorthand writers were engaged from the nearest town; if they are not they certainly ought to be. Reference has also been made to the charges of the solicitors engaged in the carrying out the operations of the Act. Now, if hon. Gentlemen will examine the account they will see that in two Unions where a great deal of good work has been done the solicitors' costs are very small indeed, and that in Unions where little work has been done the solicitors' expenses are enormous. That is a matter in which the Government are not responsible, but in which the Guardians are solely responsible. The Government do whatever they can to restrict the incidental charges as much as possible. In conclusion, I must impress upon the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Flynn), and all Irish Members who are anxious, as I am, to see this Act carried out in. the manner it ought to be, that the working of the Act must necessarily take time. The Government are certainly desirous of seeing the Acts properly administered; but, at the same time, administered with as little friction as possible.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim. S.)
I hope the Government will give us some information regarding the item for auditing. The total charge for salaries is £6,842, and of this £3,467 is taken for auditing. It appears to me that the charge is altogether disproportionate to the service rendered. 1 do not complain of proper salaries being paid to auditors; but I certainly think that the local 816 rates should not be overcharged with auditing expenses.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
The light hon. and gallant Gentleman's (Colonel King-Harman's) speech was certainly couched in a tone which we are very happy to recognize and to reciprocate. There are some points, however, in which I think he is a little mistaken. He says he does not consider that the Local Government Board are to be blamed for the largo expenses incurred in solicitors' costs where no work has been done. If there is anything in Ireland more painful than another to persons who have publicly mixed themselves up in local matters, it is the extravagant waste of public money in the administration of this Act, especially in districts where there is not a single thing to show for it. In many districts where solicitors, reporters, and proprietors of newspapers have received an enormous amount of money in pursuance of the proceedings under the Act not a stone has been laid. The intention of Parliament in passing the Act was that the money expended should go towards the employment of the labourers themselves in providing cottages for themselves. I think I could show the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel King-Harman) that if the Local Government Board progressed during the past and present years at the rate he thinks they have, a great deal of the expenditure incurred would have been obviated. I maintain that while the old Act required that there should be three publications in two months, the Local Government Board did not exert themselves to communicate with the local Guardians. There have hitherto been two classes of Guardians, ex officio Guardians and elected Guardians. The ex officio Guardians, since they have lost their hold upon the Chair of the Board, and since they have found that they can no longer be the masters of the Board, have abstained from attending the Board meetings. They, of course, have the advantage of education and the advantage of being in nearer touch with the Legislature than the elected Guardians, and they can in many cases be useful if they wish to bestir themselves. The contrary, however, has been the case. They have abstained, as I say, from attending the meetings of the Guardians, and the Local 817 Government Board have also abstained from doing their duty. They did not acquaint the clerks of the Unions with their duties. They did not put before the Guardians in letter after letter, as they should have done, the necessity of complying with certain regulations. I am afraid, therefore, I cannot altogether agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Local Government Board are free from blame in this matter. If hon. Gentlemen will look at the figures of the present Vote they will find an increase of £1,380 in law charges. Had I been present when this charge was reached I should certainly have challenged the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to give an explanation of this increase, and I should have been surprised if he had been able to show that any increase in value to the people had resulted from it. These law charges afford another instance of the intricacy of Irish government. I have been a witness of those things. I know a solicitor to a Board appointed in the time when landlords and agents had practically the Board in their hands. This man continued to be the solicitor to the Board even after the popular Guardians were elected, who, I am glad to say, have not taken any violent methods and removed the man for the sake of superseding him by a man agreeing with their own views. But what has happened? This solicitor, in his capacity of legal advisor to the Board, has come before the Board to show how they could best get labourers' cottages erected in their Union. This very solicitor has gone down next day to the next Union, and has opposed, in the interests of the local landlords, the erection of labourers' cottages. The solicitor to the Union to which the gentleman to whom I have referred went has returned the compliment in coming forward to oppose the erection of labourers' cottages in the adjoining Union. These solicitors are the representatives of the landlords. They get more from the landlords than they get from the Boards of Guardians, and solicitors, at best, are but human. There is more likelihood they will make their best efforts in the interests of those who pay them best, and they are the landlords. I fear that, however long I were to speak, I could not altogether adopt the tone and spirit of my hon. Friend the Member for North Cork (Mr. 818 Flynn) There is one matter which, I think, may fairly be raised on this Vote; at any rate, I think I may just touch upon it. It is with reference to the duties required at the present time of rate collectors. I do not know whether I am in Order in referring to this matter; but if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will indicate that I am not, I will not raise the point. The rate collectors of Ireland generally contract to do certain duties. Now, in many instances, owing to the depression of the time and to the reduced percentage they receive, their recompense has been diminished, while their duties have been increased. On account of the scarcity of money, these men have often to call half-a-dozen times for the rates, and they are now asked to do extra duty in connection with the services of the franchise notices. I have been very much surprised, after the series of Questions put to the late Government, and also to the present-Government, that there has been no indication on the part of the Government that they will take this matter into consideration. No doubt, I shall be asked how I would pay the rate collectors for the extra duty. My answer would be that they should be paid out of the Consolidated Fund.
The question does not come within this Vote at all. It is a matter of local power—it is not a matter under the control of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
Will you allow me, Sir, to say that my reason in venturing to raise the question was that certain Unions in Ireland have declined to impose these extra duties on the rate collectors. I presume that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who is also President of the Irish Local Government Board, is responsible for the acts of the Local Government Board, and therefore that the action of the Local Government Board may be reviewed on the Vote for the right hon. Gentleman's salary. I do not see how the Local Government Board can direct these men to continue the performance of that extra duty without directing how they are to be paid. I am thankful to you, Sir, for indulging me so far, because I have virtually stated all I intended to state. I do not now expect an answer from the right hon. and gallant Gentle- 819 man (Colonel King-Harman), as the matter does not come within the purview of the Vote; but I think the matter is one which may be fairly entertained by the Government with a view of lightening the duties of the rate collectors. Allow me to say, in conclusion, that while I do not wish to break the harmony of view which seems to exist with regard to the action of the Local Government Board, my experience gained in having attended, in my capacity as a newspaper man, Local Board meetings in Ireland, is that whenever the Local Government Board can find a flaw or irregularity in the action of Guardians, especially of elected Guardians, who will attend to delay the carrying out of schemes under the Labourers' Acts, they have only been too glad. I do not deny that there has been some improvement; but I wish to impress upon the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under Secretary (Colonel King-Harman) that there is room for even greater improvement. There is vast room for improvement in every Department of the Government in Ireland, and in none more than in the Local Government Board.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Edward Harrington) has expressed surprise that in face of the questions asked in this House concerning the extra duty imposed upon the rate collectors, the Government have not indicated their intention of dealing with the matter. I should like to remind him that the only question asked about rate collectors and their duties during this Session was that asked a few days ago.
MR. J. O'CONNOE (Tipperary, S.)
I rise for the purpose of asking my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) to emphasize his remarks by making a distinct Motion so that we can take a Division on this subject, which I hold to be one of very great importance to Ireland. It was once very truly said in this House that Ireland is the most deboarded country in the world. That expression was uttered by a great Irishman, Mr. Butt. Well, we have had a very interesting speech from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson). He told the Committee all about the Labourers' Acts; he described the routine it is necessary to go through in order to carry out a scheme for building la- 820 bourers' cottages. I am sorry the Committee was not fuller at the time the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke; because I feel that hon. Members would have been very much inclined to agree with the Representatives of Ireland as to the conflict between the manner in which laws are drafted in that country and the way in which they are carried out. But, Sir, if we have had the "laws delays" of the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson), we have "the insolence of Office" of those who carry out or administer law in Ireland. Certainly those who administer the law under the direction of the Local Government Board did all in their power by red tapism, by insolence, and by delay to frustrate the intention of Parliament. It is well known how this House laboured hard in the years 1881, 1882, and 1883 to pass the Irish Labourers' Act. We all know the efforts made since to mend that Act. I believe there have been two Acts of Parliament to amend the original Labourers' Act. At last, the Act was got into a fair shape. The Board of Guardians in Ireland were entrusted with the carrying out of the Act, and notwithstanding all that the Attorney General (Mr. Gibson) says, notwithstanding all that he has hinted at, rather than what he has said, regarding the action of the Poor Law Guardians in Ireland, I maintain the Act has had fair play so far as the action of the tenant farmers of Ireland who mainly compose the Poor Law Boards could give it fair play. But, Sir, the Boards of Guardians in Ireland are composed of two distinct classes. You have the tenant farmers who are the representatives of the people, and you have the ex officio Guardians who are appointed according to their property. The ex officio Guardians help the tenant farmers to make the mistakes that have been alluded to by the Attorney General.
Several times I have had occasion to point out that the only way in which this matter can be discussed is with reference to the action of the Local Government Board, and not with reference to the action of the Boards of Guardians.
MR. J. O'CONNOR
I am coming to that, Sir. I believe it was the duty of the Local Government Board to set the Poor Law Guardians right if they were 821 making mistakes. The Inspectors who went down to the Unions from time to time should, instead of hindering and preventing the erection of cottages, have instructed the Boards of Guardians as to the manner in which they were to perform their duties. There have been great objections put in the way of carrying out this Act of Parliament. We have to look to the Government for the administration of the Act; but what will the value of this discussion be if it is to go no further than the plausable speeches to which we have listened from the Government Bunches. Frankly, we have brought before the notice of the House the maladministration in Ireland of the Acts of Parliament. We have always been mot by plausable speeches from Members of the Government, but not one step has been taken to rectify the defect in the administration of which we complain. This is what we protest against. We have had a speech to-night from the Attorney General for Ireland of which no person can complain. We have had a speech from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman) of which no one can complain. The Government are full of the best intentions, but it is necessary to emphasize our protest against their neglect by every means in our power. This is the only time we have of bringing our grievances before the country; it is the only way in which we can make the Government alive to their duties; it is the only means we have of showing our constituents that we are watching over their interests, and therefore I protest against being put off with the mild and plausable speeches which have been delivered by Members of the Government to-night. I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) who opened this discussion, who pointed out the defects in the Poor Law system of Ireland, who pointed out and clearly proved that the Local Government Board in Ireland threw obstacles in the way of a proper administration of a beneficent Act of Parliament, an Act of Parliament in the passing of which the two sides joined, an Act of Parliament which was passed by the unanimous decision of the House, and with as little opposition as possible from anybody. I admit that some of the best provisions, the best Amendments that 822 were proposed to the Bill, were objected to, and that if they had been passed there would have been no need for this discussion to-night. I hope my hon. Friend (Dr. Tanner) will accept my suggestion—namely, to make such, a Motion that we can go to a Division. The people of Ireland will thus see that we are alive to our duties, and the Government will understand that we are not to be put off with plausable speeches, but that we demand that they shall put their expressed good intentions into effect.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I think this is a good time to bring before the attention of the Committee a matter in which 10 or 15 Unions in Ireland are greatly concerned. Of course the Chief Secretary and the Parliamentary Under Secretary are perfectly aware that this year the Local Government Board have ordered the levy of the last installment of the Seed Rate. I believe that 94 per cent or 95 per cent of the Potato Loan has been paid off, which everyone will agree is a very satisfactory state of affairs. In some well-to-do Unions, the whole of the loan has been paid off; but there is a balance of 6 per cent or 7 per cent unpaid, and the Local Government Board have ordered that the whole of this amount should be raised in the current year. I brought this subject before the House in the short Session we had last autumn.
Order, order! I think I told the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Nolan) last autumn that the subject could not be introduced.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
But since then the Local Government Board have taken action. Of course, if you rule that the subject cannot be referred to, I will not refer to it; but the Local Government Board have issued an order for the levying of the rate this year. And what I want to do is to impress upon them the desirability of reconsidering their decision on account of the exceptional circumstances of the year.
It is out of Order to refer to the subject this year for precisely the same reasons as it was out of Order to refer to it last year.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Limerick, W.)
There is a matter in connection with this Vote very worthy of the attention of the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) as President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman has 823 introduced a Bill called the Distressed Unions (Ireland) Bill, and the mere introduction of that measure has had the effect of certain Banking Companies in Ireland putting pressure upon various Unions throughout the country. The Union I have the honour to be connected with is greatly affected. The reason I wish to connect this with the Local Government Board is, that we find in former years the National Bank allowed the Limerick Union to have a considerable overdraft; but now, owing, no doubt, to the introduction of the Distressed Unions Bill, the National Bank is pressing the Limerick Union. We have made application to the Local Government Board to allow us to pay off our present treasurer and to appoint a treasurer who will honour our cheques to a considerable amount; we were met with a distinct refusal. This is a matter of considerable importance, because it is clearly the duty, and it is also to be the privilege, of any Union to change its treasurer at any time. Yet we are met in this case by the refusal of the Local Government Board to permit us to make this change I wish to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) whether if we can find in Ireland another Banking Company who are willing to take over the account of the National Bank, to pay off the National Bank, and to allow the Limerick Union to draw what is sufficient to carry on the work of the Union, the Local Government Board will permit us to change our treasurer in the manner I have indicated.
§ MR. DEASY (Mayo, W.)
Before the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. Balfour) replies, I should like to ask what he intends to do with the Distressed Unions Bill? The right hon. Gentleman must know the strong feeling there is on those Benches.
The hon. Gentleman can ask a question, but cannot make a speech respecting the Bill in question.
§ MR. DEASY
I will raise the point in a different way. Under this Vote I shall impugn the conduct of the Local Government Board in not using the power they possess to deal with certain Boards of Guardians in the West of Ireland. I complain that the Local Government Board have, through their Inspector, permitted Boards of Guardians in Westport and other Distressed Unions to misuse, if they have, as alleged, the 824 powers granted by this House under the Bill passed last year to distribute a sum of money amongst the poor people within their Unions. An inquiry was held under the auspices of the Local Government Board into the distribution of this money in Westport and other places during the last three or four months. The result of this inquiry is, I confess, not satisfactory to me, and not satisfactory to anyone else who has had anything to do with this particular district. It must be said in extenuation of the conduct of these Guardians that the Boards are not constituted on a popular basis. I have to complain of a Memorandum which was submitted to this House, setting forth some of the salient features of the Report made by the Local Government Inspector. That Memorandum entirely overstated the true facts of the case, and anyone reading it would imagine that the Guardians in these particular districts had been guilty of nothing less than fraud, and a little short of wholesale robbery. I frankly admit that these Guardians have not done their duty as well as they ought to have done; but, at the same time, it must be recollected that when hundreds of people are on the verge of starvation, and when the machinery at the disposal of the Guardians for grappling with this starvation is inadequate, irregularity is almost inevitable. The Local Government Inspector took part in the proceedings, and, as a matter of fact, he was present at the meetings of the Board at which the irregularity occurred. Why did not the Local Government Inspector report to his Board that the business of the Union was not being transacted as it ought to have been, and why did not the Local Government Board step in and give directions as to the mode in which the business under the Act should be carried out? Why did the Board permit the Guardians to run into arrear as they have done? It is perfectly true that the rates in the district are extremely high. It is perfectly true that, to some extent, the Guardians are to blame; but it is also true that the Local Government Board and their Inspectors are primarily responsible for the present state of affairs which exists in the West of Ireland and other districts. I ask the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) what he intends to do with these Unions; whether he intends to compel the Board, of which 825 he is the head, to exercise the power given to it by Parliament more than 40 years, of suppressing the present Boards of Guardians and appointing Vice Guardians? I think that is a very strong and objectionable step. I do not thick it is absolutely necessary; but it is preferable to the method the Local Government Board propose to adopt in dealing with the Distressed Unions. The Local Government Board can allow the Board of Guardians to carry on their work as best they can, possibly enabling them by giving them loans at no interest, to carry it on, or they can appoint Vice Guardians which will take up the business and the liabilities of the present Board, and will conduct the proceedings as if the Guardians were not in existence. The latter course is not one which commends itself to me; but, of two evils, I choose the lesser. I now ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, having regard to the opposition which the Distressed Unions Bill is likely to receive on these Benches, he will compel the Board of which he is nominally the head, to adopt the course which for the last 45 years the Local Government Board have adopted throughout Ireland, and not have recourse to the extraordinary and unnecessary measure of altering the present law which he has been telling us for the last three or four weeks, and which is necessary in order to prevent the poor people of the West of Ireland dying of starvation. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, in the interest of Public Business, would do well to adopt the suggestion I have made.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Deasy) asks me what course I propose to pursue with regard to the Distressed Unions Bill? The course the Government desire to pursue was adequately explained to the House the other day. Owing to the opposition offered by some of the Friends and Colleagues of the hon. Gentleman this Bill has not very much chance of passing this Session. The hon. Gentleman asks me whether, if I cannot pass the Bill, I will appoint Vice Guardians. Now, in the earlier part of the debate this evening, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) urged me to reinstate the elected Guardians in New Boss, and to dispossess the Vice Guardians— [Mr. DEASY: For different reasons.]— 826 I told the hon. and learned Member I was anxious on an early day to reinstate the elected Guardians. I desire to retain all the privileges of local self-government which exists in Ireland as they exist in England, with regard to Poor Law matters, and therefore I cannot promise to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Deasy) — namely, to appoint Vice Guardians to deal with the existing condition of things in the Unions in the West of Ireland. I grant that the state of affairs in these Unions is very disastrous; but to what is it due? It is due entirely to the wretched mismanagement of public funds by the Boards of Guardians of those Unions. The hon. Gentleman suggests, as an easy way of getting over the difficulty, that the English taxpayer should come to the relief of these Boards of Guardians. I do not feel at all disposed to ask the British taxpayer to supply funds for the relief of distress in Ireland, except under conditions which would render the repetition of the evils which have occurred impossible. I do not know I can add anything to what I have said. The proposal of the Government is clearly before the House, and if the hon. Gentleman desires that anything should be done, he should do his best to facilitate the passing of the measure I have introduced.
§ MR. GILHOOLY (Cork, W.)
I desire to ask for an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) as to why a letter sent by a returning officer of the Bantry Union to the Secretary of the Local Government Board was suppressed? The letter was in reply to a telegram sent by the Secretary of the Local Government Board in reference to a recent election in the Union.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
I think that if the hon. Gentleman had wished to call attention to this matter, it would have been better to have done so in the form of a Question. I remember I answered a Question on this subject some time ago. I did so to the best of my ability upon the information I received. If the hon. Gentleman had a copy of the letter in question, it would have been as well if he had supplied me with it.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
I had not the letter at the time I asked the Question, but I have since received one from the 827 returning officer. I furnished the Chief Secretary with a copy of it, and asked him for an explanation; but he treated the matter with complete indifference, if not with contempt. I now ask the right hon. Gentleman for an explanation.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I assure the hon. Gentleman I have never had the least intention to be discourteous to him, or to neglect any communication he made to me. I do not recollect the precise circumstances to which he alludes; but if he will put a Question upon the Paper on the subject, I will do my best to give him as satisfactory an answer as I can.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
I complained at the time of the action of the Parliamentary Under Secretary (Colonel King-Harman) in the matter.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
You answered the Question, and not the Chief Secretary. Now, in connection with this Vote, I have to complain of the action of the gentleman who audits the accounts of the Bantry Union. As I understand the law, it is that no work costing more than £20 can be done for the Union without there being a contract. The Chairman of the Bantry Union, aided by a number of ex officio Guardians who usually come in to do a job when the Chairman summons them, gave out work costing £61 without a contract. In my opinion, this was quite illegal and irregular, and the gentleman who audits the accounts at the Bantry Union passed the matter. I wish to know from the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) or from the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Gibson) whether the auditor acted properly and legally in so doing? I wish also to refer to the manner in which the Local Government Board treat Minutes of some Unions. The Chairman of the Bantry Union has refused to accept Resolutions in regard to which he could have his will. The Local Government Board never took notice of these irregularities, unless some member of the Boards of Guardians wrote to them. I hold, Mr. Courtney, that the Local Government Board ought to see that Resolutions referring to the business of the Board of Guardians is not refused by the Chairman. It is the 828 duty of the Local Government Board to remonstrate with Chairmen of Unions, and instruct them as to their duties. There is another matter in connection with the Bantry Union to which I have to call attention. The doctor of the Bantry Dispensary holds the keys of the place, and keeps the Minute Book locked up. On some occasions, the members of the Dispensary Committee have been inconvenienced by the doctor being absent, and neglecting to leave the key in some convenient place, in order that the Committee might gain access to the Dispensary in which to hold their meetings. A communication was sent to the Local Government Board upon this subject, but they took no notice whatever of it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Gentleman asked me whether the auditor has acted legally in passing certain expenses connected with the Bantry Union? I presume that the auditor acted illegally, if he broke the law.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am afraid I cannot give an opinion off-hand. The hon. Gentleman also asked me whether the Local Government Board ought to pass Minutes of the Poor Law Guardians which are not countersigned by the Chairman.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
What I asked was whether it was not the duty of the Local Government Board, when they saw that Resolutions were refused by the Chairman, to remonstrate with him and acquaint him with his duties.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Limerick, W.)
I regret to have to recur to a matter which I brought under the notice of the Committee a few moments ago; but it seems to me a matter of very great importance. The Limerick Union Banking Account is at the present moment something like £10,000 overdrawn. There is a large amount of rates due for which the Guardians are unwilling to press the ratepayers unduly in consequence of the scarcity of money in Ireland at the present time. The Union is in a position to get another Banking Company to take over the account of the Leitrim Union from the National Bank, and to advance all the money necessary to keep the Union going. I want to know how it is that the Local Government Board will not give the 829 Limerick Board of Guardians power to change their treasurer? In former years, we were obliged to make remonstrances to the Local Government Board in regard to the way which we were treated by the National Bank, which is treasurer of the Union. I think it is clear that the Board of Guardians themselves are the proper persons to judge who they will have for their treasurer, and I now ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) whether he is disposed to allow the Board of Guardians to change their treasurer, on the understanding that the new treasurer will pay the National Bank all the amount due to them, and that the Union shall keep their account with the new Bank? If the Local Government Board withhold their permission, I can assure them that the Limerick Board of Guardians will cease to lodge any money with the National Bank, and that will be a very serious matter. It is absurd that we should be compelled to retain a treasurer from whom we cannot get the facilities we require.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Perhaps I had better deal with this question at once. I am sorry to say that the Limerick Union has very largely overdrawn its account. I am afraid that is due to ladies on the part of the Board of Guardians themselves. [Mr. W. ABRAHAM: No, no!] Yes, the Union is a rich one. The rate made in March last was calculated to produce £31,500. Only £7,800 of that was collected up to the end of June, leaving £23,000 outstanding. It is clear, from the fact that such an amount of rate is outstanding, that there has been great neglect on the part of the collectors. I am now asked that the Union should be allowed to transfer its account to a treasurer who will lend them what they want. It seems to me, speaking without any full knowledge of the particular circumstances and considerations which have influenced the Boards of Guardians in desiring to make a change of treasurer, that the change is one which ought to be made with great caution. I am bound to say that, so far as I am able to form an opinion, the difficulties in which the Limerick Guardians find themselves are chiefly of their own creation.
MR. W. ABEAH AM
The right hon. Gentleman seems to ignore the fact that every effort has been made on the part of the Board of Guardians, through their collectors, to get in the rate. Surely, the Chief Secretary will admit that in such a year as this has been the Guardians ought to give every possible latitude to the over-burdened taxpayers. When the National Bank, which, in former years, allowed Boards of Guardians to overdraw their accounts more than at present, are putting the screw on a Board, and when another Joint Stock Bank is willing to relieve that Board, I think they ought to be allowed to deal with that Bank. The National Bank has sometimes £15,000 to the credit of the Guardians, yet now that they are overdrawn, they are coolly told that if they wanted money they must put more pressure on the ratepayers. The Guardians would not do that, and he had to complain on behalf of the Limerick Board of Guardians that in the management of their affairs they got very little assistance from the Local Government Board at any time, and now that they come to ask this favour—when they come to ask that they might be allowed to transfer their business from the National Bank to another Bank, so as to get the accommodation they required—they received no assistance or advice in devising a means by which they could get rid of their treasurer.
Might I point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, with reference to this very subject which has been so well put by my hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. W. Abraham), that practically the same state of affairs was in existence in the Macroom Union about four or five months ago; but in consequence of the strong attitude taken by the Boards of Guardians, because the National Bank would not allow them to overdraw, and another Bank—namely, the Munster and Leinster Bank—offering them the necessary accommodation, the difficulty was got over. After remonstrating on several occasions with the right hon. Gentleman, they finally got the matter squared, the National Bank gave the necessary advances, and everything was put right. The same thing could easily take place in connec- 831 tion with the Limerick Union, if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would only give his sanction to the transaction. The right hon. Gentleman knew that the Limerick Union was a rich Union, but the Macroom Union was not a rich one, not nearly as rich as the Limerick one. When they were able to settle the difficulty which existed iii a poor Union in the early mouths of this year, I do not see why, if the right hon. Gentleman seriously took the business of his Office into his own hands, and went into these local matters personally, and put the screw on his subordinates, the difficulties in connection with this rich Union should not cease at once. If the right hon. Gentleman would do this, the consequence would be that he would have a much more easy time of it than he has. He would have in every sense an easier position, and every one would be more satisfied, notwithstanding his very many shortcomings.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will answer the question put to him. Will he inquire into the action of the creditors of the Bantry Union, and into the action of the dispensary doctor in keeping the account book locked up, and refusing to allow members of the Board of Guardians access to it? Will he also inquire as to the action of the Local Government Board in regard to the resolutions passed by the Bantry Guardians?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
If the hon. Gentleman will do me the honour to communicate with me as to the various questions he has raised, I will take measures to have them inquired into.
§ MR.MURPHY (Dublin, St.Patrick's)
The question of the Distressed Unions Bill, which was raised by the hon. Member for West Mayo (Mr. Deasy), and replied to by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, requires, I think, little more discussion on this Vote, which will be the only opportunity we shall have of discussing it, unless the Bill at present before the House proceeds further. The right hon. Gentleman drew a comparison between the case of New Ross and the case of the Western Unions. He said that the hon. 832 and learned Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) bad called upon them to replace the Vice Guardians by elected Guardians in New Ross; but there is no parallel between the We cases. The necessity which arises in the one case is totally different from that which arises in the other. The right hon. Gentleman states the reason why nothing has been done in the case of the Distressed Unions Bill, and says it is owing to the opposition of Members on this side of the House. I regret that this Bill has been opposed; but I would point out that the opposition is not on account of the action of the Government, who consider it necessary to do something in the matter. The Irish Members them selves think that special legislation is required; but the objection they take to the Bill is on account of its form, and from that point of view they hold it to be objectionable in many respects. It is objectionable primarily from the point of view that it proposes to enable the Commissioners whom the right hon. Gentleman wishes to appoint—
It is out of Order to discuss this particular Bill. All that can be discussed is the action of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. MURPHY
I am afraid I have perhaps wandered somewhat beyond the limits I am entitled to walk within under the Vote; but I desired to explain to the right hon. Gentleman that our objection to the Bill was bondâ fide—that it was not for the necessity of doing something; but to the form in which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do it. I have some Amendments to the Bill on the Paper; but as I am precluded from going into the details of the Bill itself I will not say any more on the question. If the right hon. Gentleman would introduce a measure of a practical and useful kind, enabling the Treasury to help these Unions, and if he would strike out the objectionable clauses, there would be no opposition on this side. A very bad state of things exists in the Unions to which this Bill would apply. The right hon. Gentleman attributes it to the Guardians themselves; but I attribute it to the way in which the money was advanced by the Local Government Board of Ireland—that is to say, to it having been advanced without the Local Government Board assuming any control of its 833 administration. We know that these districts clamoured for money, and it was very natural that they should do so; but there can be no moral doubt that a system of advancing money without retaining control over its administration is an extremely bad one. The Local Government Board have not exercised the control and supervision over the administration and distribution of the money which they ought to have done. The present condition of the district arises from that cause. On the part of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo, who has put down a Notice against this Bill, I wish to point out that it is not for the purpose of preventing the Government from introducing a measure that will deal with this matter that he has taken this course. The objection taken is simply to the form of the Bill.
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
I do not think the Chief Secretary fully appreciates the difficulties under which the Guardians in those Unions laboured at the time this money was advanced by this House. There was very great and acute distress in those districts when this money was advanced. I know that for a fact, because I was in the district serving under another Commission at the time—
I would point out to the hon. Member that the question to be discussed is the action and power of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. MAHONY
That is precisely what I am going to deal with. I am going to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that he did not give credit to the Board of Guardians for the difficulties under which they laboured; and I am going to proceed then to point out that, in a great measure, the Local Government Board, and not the Guardians, are to blame for the mess into which these Unions have got. There was at this time very great distress existing in those Unions. There was undoubtedly very grave danger of death from starvation. These Unions had been asking the Government for relief sometime, when suddenly, very suddenly, the Government granted them assistance to the extent of £20,000; and I think I am correct in stating that they were actually authorized to commence this system of works for outdoor relief by telegrams. 834 The Guardians finally received a telegram saying that £20,000 was at their disposal. The Local Government Board had the power of dividing that £20,000 between the various Unions. They did not intimate to each Union how much money would be at their disposal. They went on working in the dark for some weeks; and it was after the damage had been done—after the irregularities had occurred—that an Inspector was sent down, and called their attention to the irregularities. Nearly all the damage had been done before their attention was called to it; and I therefore say that there is a great deal of excuse to be made for those Bodies, who were suddenly called in to perform duties of a totally new character. There is one other point I wish to bring under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is this, that at a trying time, when the Boards of Guardians were being taxed to the uttermost of their power, the ex officio Guardians, to a man, absented themselves, and did not attend a single meeting, though only a short time before they had been practically the managers of those Unions. Their conduct has been commented upon very strongly in the Commission appointed to inquire into the state of those Unions; and when the Chief Secretary gets up and finds fault with the elected Guardians, I think he must let a share of his wrath fall on the heads of the ex officio. I think, also, that the Local Government Board are in some measure to blame in the course they pursued. They gave no previous directions to the Board of Guardians as to how they were to proceed in administering the Act. They gave no idea whatever as to the amount of money which should be allocated to each Union.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. Member has asked me two questions, and I will answer him in very few words. He says the Local Government Board, when they sent the message to the Unions to spend the money, did not accompany it with instructions as to how it was to be spent. But that is not the case, and the Local Government Board cannot be held to blame in any respects. The hon. Member went on to attack the ex officio Guardians, declaring that they might have attended the meetings much better than they did. Well, 1 grant that; but I would point out, at the 835 same time, that the life of ex officio Guardians has not been made very pleasant to them during the last few years by the elected Guardians. The responsibility for the condition, of things at present existing clearly lies with, the elected Guardians.
§ MR. MAHONY
As a member of a Board of Guardians, and as an ex officio member, I am bound to say that the statement the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has just made is a most uncalled-for statement. I would tell him what my experience has been in connection with the Listowel Board of Guardians—a Board which Gentlemen of the right hon. Member's opinions declare to be one of the worst Boards of Guardians in Ireland. I do not think that the ex officio Guardians who have attended that Board have ever met anything but a most courteous reception at the hands of the elected Guardians, except when they went out of their way to introduce political matter, and matters upon which the Guardians could not agree. When they flew in the face of the elected Guardians, I dare say they got tit for tat. But I am bound to say that in that Board of Guardians I have always noticed that the ex officio members were treated with the greatest respect; and, more than that, during the first year I attended regularly on that Board, I was opposed to the elected Guardians. I acted almost universally with the ex officio Guardians, and in opposition to the elected Guardians, and I am bound to say I was always treated in a most considerate and most kind manner by my opponents.
§ MR. DEASY (Mayo, W.)
I merely rise for the purpose of correcting a misapprehension on the mind of the right hon. Gentleman as to what I said with regard to the appointment of Vice Guardians. I did not advocate the appointment of Vice Guardians, except against the plan of the Local Government Board. I maintain that some steps will have to be taken by the Government, and that, whatever their plan is, it will have to include the granting of money to the present Boards of Guardians, which they can spend in order to get over the comic g winter. I do not say that it will be necessary to hand money over to the Vice Guardians also. I think it will be necessary to do that in any case. A most important question—and I shall 836 only deal with it for a few moments— has just been raised. Hon. Gentlemen who have been attending to the duties of the Cork Guardians must know the difficulties that the Cork Board has had from time to time with regard to money matters. More than once when I was on the Board, almost the entire Board passed resolutions asking the Local Government Board to allow them to change their treasurer, and to allow them to deal with a bank which would be likely to treat them fairly. The Local Government Board refused them permission to go to the Bank of Ireland, in place of the National Bank, although the Bank of Ireland has a Government grant, and although no bank can be more solvent. I do not think there would be likely to be any disposition on the part of the Cork Guardians or the Limerick Guardians to invest the money of the ratepayers to the amount of some £50,000 a-year in any Joint Stock Bank that was not perfectly solvent. I think that in this matter the Guardians may be perfectly trusted always to exercise a proper discretion. I think it extremely hard on those Boards that the Local Government Board will not allow them to change their treasurer. With regard to the question of auditors which has been discussed, I would throw out a suggestion —although I do not expect an answer from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. The Parliamentary Under Secretary for Ireland seems to take great interest in the administration of Irish affairs, and I would ask him to give his earliest attention to one or two points I would raise, particularly as to administration. I have referred to the question of the treasurers, and I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to look into the matter, and consider the observations of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. W. Abraham), the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), and myself. He will find, if he will only consult the Local Government Board officers themselves, that there has been the utmost dissatisfaction upon those matters amongst the officials. But the point upon which I now wish to speak is this—I think the money spent upon the auditors is thrown away. These men do nothing. They go over from one end of the country to the other; they spend pleasant days chatting with the clerks and with some members of the 837 Boards. They know nothing about the condition of the Union; they make no inquiries as to whether items are legal or illegal, and the result is, that thousands of pounds are illegally paid under their very noses. The only thing they can do is to come down on the unfortunate Nationalist Guardians if they have taken it into their heads to sign for £1 a-week for an evicted tenant, or something of that kind. I have been fined in that way, but I have never paid the line, and the auditor who has come down has never inquired as to whether I have paid it or not. He has clearly neglected his duty in not making such an inquiry, and not insisting upon my paying the money. Of course, it would be useless if he did insist, because I should not pay it; but still I think it is his duty to insist. I have been fined £2, and I think this official is to blame for not endeavouring to got the money from me. I say that the Local Government Board, in regard to this question of granting relief, should give a discretion to the Guardians. They give us power to give relief. They have no right to tell us—" You may give 12s. 6d. a-week, but no more." A pound a-week is not too much for a family thrown on the roadside by the landlord, with no provision for them except the workhouse—which provision, if it were resorted to, would be infinitely more expensive to the rate-payers than the outdoor relief the Guardians would prefer to give. I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Lord lieutenant to consider these matters. There is another matter about which there is great dissatisfaction—namely, the way in which the National School Teachers are treated by the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board have power to sanction, or refuse to sanction, the salaries granted by the Boards of Guardians to these teachers. In no case does a salary exceed £80 a-year, and I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to consider whether the Guardians should not be allowed to exercise their discretion in this matter also. I hope that next year we shall find that during the coming winter the Boards of Guardians will have found their discretion enlarged on those points, owing to the action of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary as to the manner in which the lives of the ex officio Guardians are made unpleasant by the elected Guardians, are remarks of a thoughtless character, and tend to render discussions in this House heated and longer than they otherwise would be. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the facts are just the reverse of those stated by him. The question of the treasurers to the Boards of Guardians has been discussed on the Benches opposite, and on these Benches. A difficulty has arisen recently of obtaining advances from some of the treasurers of the Unions in Ireland, and I believe that it is in a great measure due to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, and the method in which he proposed to deal with the accumulated debts of the Western Unions. I am not, however, entitled to discuss the form of that Bill. Perhaps I might be allowed to suggest some means for meeting the case of the Western Unions, which would, to some extent, be accepted on this side of the House. I would, in the first place, suggest that as there is no bankruptcy in these districts, the Guardians should have time, when they would be able to pay all their debts. We think that money should be advanced to Unions temporarily distressed. It would not be reasonable to give entire control of the money to the Guardians; but whilst keeping the control in their own hands to some extent, the Local Government Board should provide for some combination of elected Guardians and representatives of the Local Government Board. Such joint Board would, I think, be able to get the Western Unions out of their difficulties. At any rate, I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to that proposition, and if he will consider it I should like to know what view he forms on the subject.
§ MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)
I am very sorry to stand between the Committee and this Vote, and as I very rarely trouble the House I think the Committee will forgive me if I stand up for a few moments to join my protest to those which have already fallen from this side of the Committee against the administration of the Local Government Board in Ireland. From my own personal knowledge, in my own constituency in 839 Ireland, the records of the Local Government Board are bristling with, scandals and injustice. The Local Government Board is not in touch with the people. The officials of that Board have no sympathy with the people, nor any sympathy with their sufferings. The Local Government Board is part and parcel of the system which we are determined to break down. I desire to join my Colleague in the representation of West Mayo (Mr. Deasy) in expressing a hope that even before we get some measure of Home Rule from this Parliament, you will adopt some method by which you will allow the auditors of the Local Government Board to do justice to the acts of the Boards in Ireland. Take my own constituency—the constituency of North Mayo. When last Session the distressed Unions were being discussed in this House, I suggested that the Ballina Union should be inserted in the Schedule. The House refused to do that; and, indeed, Sir, as events have gone, I am very glad that the Ballina Union was not inserted, and the people of North Mayo, I dare say, are themselves delighted that they were not put in. But, as a matter of fact, two other Unions — namely, those of Swineford and Belmullet, were permitted to be scheduled; and I remember I said at the time that no two Unions could be pointed out where there was greater distress and poverty than in those. I stated—and I think the House agreed with me—that this being so, there must necessarily have been a large amount of suffering in the Ballina Union as well. What was the result? As the hon. Member for West Mayo has pointed out, the result of this distress was that the Boards of Guardians gave power of making grants for four weeks of a larger amount than they can usually offer. The Ballina Union, in several cases, granted—say, to Edward Gallagher with six children, to Martin Garrette with a wife and seven children, and four or five others with families larger or smaller—a larger amount of money than is usually distributed. The Local Government Auditor went down to the Ballina Union, and, without acting upon principle or upon any definite system at all, disallowed half the grants that had been made by the Ballina Union in good faith, and because they were believed to be absolutely necessary 840 for the lives of those distressed people. The auditor disallowed half the grants which had been made; and what I protest against is this—that in Ireland this auditor is absolutely autocratic. In the case I refer to the Ballina Union made a bonâ fide grant. Knowing the circumstances of the poor people they had to deal with, they made a grant which they believed to be absolutely necessary; and this auditor, who, as has been pointed out, merely goes down to a Union, spends a pleasant day with the clerk, and merely puts his initials to the accounts in the book and goes away— this gentleman, on his own authority, and without the slightest knowledge of the locality, and without having sympathy with the people, disallowed the grant. The result is that one of the most respectable merchants in Ballina, the Vice Chairman of the Board of Guardians, finds himself surcharged to the extent of £12. This gentleman is called upon to pay this amount for merely acting as Chairman to the Board of Guardians, a Board consisting of Conservatives as well as of Nationalists. No regard was paid to the fact that the Guardians, feeling that the amount that was granted was required for the sustenance of the poor people of the Union, made it freely and unanimously. We have no appeal against the decision of this auditor. You have an appeal against the decision of the Local Government Board Inspector in England; but we have none in Ireland, we have no remedy whatever, except to stand up in this House and make our complaints. But that, as the Committee is well aware, is of very little use, particularly so far on in the Session. But we who have the interests of our people at heart shall, whatever the result may be, continue to rise in this House and make the most earnest protests we can against the evils of the present system. I have now only to say that, so far as we can do, we are resolved inside this House, and outside, to pursue a policy which will result in the administration of Ireland being re-organized from top to bottom; and I certainly join my Colleagues on these Benches in protesting against the action of the Local Government Board in Ireland for the past 12 months.
§ DR. TANNER
Might I finally ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he 841 will do anything in connection with the point which I have had the honour of bringing before him, and that is in connection with the working of the Labourers' Act? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be feasible, in connection with the working of this Act, and also in connection with the system of inspection, seeing that the officers who carry it out are under the Local Government Board, to offer something in the nature of a commission to look into these matters, so that we could have some Return made after the Recess. I trust I am not trespassing upon the time of the Committee by going into this matter; but my desire is that some practical result should come out of this discussion. We are approaching the Dissolution of Parliament. [" No, no ! "] Well, we are approaching the Prorogation, at any rate. We are approaching both, I hope; but, at any rate, as we are approaching the Recess, a great deal might be done if the right hon. Gentleman would take this matter, and try to force the Local Government Inspectors to furnish him with Returns as to the working of the Act, and to show us practically where the fault lies. If he would do that at the commencement of next Session, we should be placed in a much better position to deal with the subject. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will grant us, at any rate, that consideration. If he will do so, he will be doing a work not merely of practical utility, but a work which I consider an absolute charity. We have heard from his own lips this evening that he agrees with hon. Members sitting on this side of the House; and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Under Secretary (Colonel King-Harman) has also given expression to the same strain of ideas; and when they both agree, and might be said to agree with hon. Members on this side of the House, I think we might, at any rate, ask them for this practical consideration of which I speak. I should like to get an answer from them upon this point before I draw the attention of the Chief Secretary to another matter, in which both the Local Government Board and the Secretary to the Treasury are interested.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot admit that the working of the Labourers' Act has been unsatisfactory. 842 It cannot be considered unsatisfactory, seeing that the work has been overtaken by the Office in whose province it lies. If the hon. Member desires further information, and if he thinks that which has been given is not sufficient, I will endeavour to supplement it.
§ DR. TANNER
This afternoon I put a Question to the Chief Secretary with regard to the application of the Corporation of the City of Cork to borrow money for the erection of a Town Hall and offices. I understood I was putting it to the right person when I put it to the Chief Secretary. I was dealing with the action of the Local Government Board, who recommended the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury not to accede to this application on the part of the Corporation. I may as well remind the House of my Question. My Notice was—To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, if it is a fact that the Irish Local Government Board have recently recommended the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury not to permit the Corporation of the City of Cork to borrow money for the erection of a Town Hall and offices; whether it has been conclusively proved to the Board that such a hall and offices are necessary to the Corporation, and will ultimately prove a saving of expense; whether he is aware that the recommendation given by the Board that the Corporation should apply to Parliament for an extension of borrowing powers under the Cork Improvement Act will in its application entail not merely considerable expense, but, by delay incurred, possibly prevent the Corporation obtaining the desired promises; whether he will recommend the authorization of the proposed loan, as it is for a necessary public work, and one which will provide considerable employment for our artizans and labourers in this period of depression; and whether he can state on whose recommendation the decision of the Government was taken?Now, the City of Cork is a large city of over 80,000 inhabitants. It had, at one time, 100,000 inhabitants; but it has gone down 20,000. Well, Sir, that City is not provided with a Town Hall and Corporation offices, which, of course, are a desideratum; and the want of these necessary buildings puts the Corporation to a great deal of trouble and expense. They are obliged to carry on a portion of their business in a house in the South Mall, and another portion of their business, as well as the meetings of the Town Council, is carried on in the Grand Jury Room in the Cork Court House. Well, it is needless to say that where you have the work divided in this 843 way, and where the offices of the Corporation are apart from the place where the discussion of City affairs goes on, you must be at a manifest disadvantage in the conduct of public business. Well, Sir, to refer to the past history of this subject, it was rather difficult for the Corporation to get hold of a suitable site for a Corporation Hall and offices. the Corporation, to my certain knowledge, have been trying for many years to get some place which would be suitable and available for this purpose, and also which would not be too expensive. They were anxious to get a site where they would not have to clear away existing buildings, as that would save them the expense of demolishing what stood on the ground before they could put up another structure. I recollect that at one time it was thought that a site on the South Mall could be got—a site which is occupied by large stores. I suppose the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith-Barry) knows the site very well, as it is opposite—or nearly opposite—the County Club. Those buildings it would have been necessary to demolish in order that the Town Hall may be built upon the site; but it was found almost impossible to get hold of those stores, the firm in possession of them being anxious to keep it. A great many difficulties lay in the way of the Corporation, and accordingly from time to time this subject had to be deferred. Well, Sir, there is a building situate on the south bank of the River Lee, a building known as the Corn Market, and latterly the Corporation think they can acquire this. The Corn Market is carried on by a very antiquated Board, which consists of steady-going old Tories, and as usual they have got into trouble and are just as badly off as those unfortunate Boards of Guardians in the Western districts whose conduct has been condemned by the Chief Secretary. They have got into arrears and into terrible difficulties. They are prepared to part with the land in their hands. Originally, they wanted too much for it; but they are willing now to transfer a certain portion of the land to the Corporation at a reduced price, and the Corporation have nearly unanimously agreed to adopt the selection made by their officers of this site as a good one for the erection of a Town Hall and Corporation offices. Accordingly, I 844 would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that an opportunity has now arisen for obtaining a suitable site. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, in answer to my Question, says that the Cork Corporation have exhausted their borrowing powers; but at any rate now they have got a suitable site. I will deal with the site first, because at one time it was difficult to obtain, and now that difficulty has been removed. If they can get the money, the Corporation can now go on with the construction of a Town Hall, and on this point I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that when an opportunity occurs of getting a desirable site, it is always well to take the ball at the hop, and not to wait until by some means or other it falls and evades your grasp. Now as to the action of the Treasury. In the first place, in the year 1856 the Corporation obtained an Act, called the Cork Bridges and Water Works Act, which was to enable them to construct the present water works which are situated above the Wellington Bridge on the upper portion of the Lee. They are very excellent works, and a great deal of money was spent upon them. The Act was also to enable the Corporation to build two bridges, one known as St. Patrick's Bridge and the other known as the North Gate Bridge. Naturally enough, in connection with these large public works—namely, the building of two bridges over the widest branch of the River Lee, and the construction of these water works, there was more money spent than was allowed to be raised by the Act. The excess was actually £20,000. The Corporation finding that there was this excess over the amount they were allowed to raise did not like to go to the expense of getting a new Act for additional borrowing powers, but avoided that by borrowing money on the credit of a fund known as the Borough Fund, which consisted of property in land, tolls, and works. This fund was more in the nature of revenue, not being derivable from the rates, whereas the money which was borrowed for the construction of the water works was raised on the security of a mortgage on the water works and also on the water revenue—the income derived from the water supply which was furnished for manufacturing purposes. When they had got this money 845 raised on the Borough Fund to meet the emergency arising in consequence of the excess in expenditure by £20,000, a Memorial was presented to the Treasury setting forth the entire facts, and after a certain amount of pressure had been brought to bear upon the Treasury— such pressure as I am endeavouring to bring to bear upon them at the present moment—they sanctioned a loan in or about the year 1861. Now, Sir, that was a case in which the Treasury might very properly have refused their sanction. Why? Because the Corporation having exceeded the amount they were entitled to raise by Act of Parliament, Her Majesty's Government or rather the Lords of the Treasury, might very reasonably turn round, and say—"If you want this money, all you have got to do is to get an extension of the previous Act." Well, Sir, the Government behaved in a kinder way than that, and sanctioned this loan, as I have stated, in or about 1861. But then, in the year 1868, a new Act came into existence, an Act known as the Cork Improvement Act. This is rather complicated, but still I should like to put it before the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury as clearly as I can. There are really only two Acts, and the sanction of the Government for raising of this loan which I have just mentioned. In 1868 the Cork Improvement Act was obtained, and I will ask the hon. Gentleman's attention to these facts with regard to it. A clause was inserted for the purpose of making the water rate repay the £20,000, or, at any rate, the interest, and the instalments of the principal which had been up to that time paid out of the Borough Fund. The hon. Gentleman called my attention to that payment out of the Borough Fund. The Act also provided for future payments of interest and principal. Well, now, in this Act of 1868, it was enacted that a Town Hall was urgently required for the City of Cork, and the sole object of taking the power to increase the amount of money which that Act authorized the Cork Corporation to borrow on the credit of the Improvement Rate to the extent of £10,000 for the Town Hall and offices was because it would save the heavy cost of a mortgage deed. That I think explains itself The only expense in raising money on the credit of the rate 846 was about 2s. 6d. in the pound; whereas, on the other hand, we know that raising money on a deed of mortgage amounts to hundreds of pounds. Accordingly, I must say I think hon. Members will agree with me that, in acting as the Cork Corporation did at that time, they acted very wisely, and trying to save the money of the unfortunate ratepayers at a season like this is a matter of manifest importance. Well, Sir, I would point out that these borrowing powers in no way prejudiced or affected the powers given to the Corporations by the Irish Municipal Act, 3 & 4 Viet. c. 108. The powers given to the Municipalities to borrow under that Act enabled the Corporation to borrow money for the purpose of erecting a Town Hall, and hence what the hon. Gentleman said to me to-day. He was manifestly labouring under an error, because there was £10,000 under this Cork Improvement Act allocated to the erection of a Town Hall, yet the Corporation were practically not bound, as the hon. Gentleman wished to imply by this Improvement Act, to erect a Town Hall. They might do that, Sir, under the Municipal Act to which I have alluded. Now, that borrowing power in no way prejudiced or affected the powers of the Corporation, and the Treasury seems to be legally wrong as well as wrong in the matter of common sense in their assumption that unless the Act of 1868 had been passed the Cork Corporation would have had no power to erect a Town Hall at all. All that the Act of 1868 said was that a Town Hall was desirable, and that it was one of the purposes for which another sum not exceeding £10,000 was to be raised on the credit of the Improvement Rate. Well, £10,000 is altogether insufficient for the purpose. In the first place, you have to purchase the site, and the hon. Gentleman surely must know that in a city like Cork, which is a large trading city, anything like a satisfactory site would cost a great deal of money. Then the erection of the building must necessarily cost a large sum, and the furnishing must also be very expensive. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury will be able to take all these matters into consideration, and he will know and will be generous enough to admit that £10,000 would be totally insufficient. Now, the Corporation raised 847 all the money they could under the Improvement Act, and owing to the urgent necessity for and to the construction of very large drainage works, which were of the very utmost importance, owing to the opening of new streets and the clearing away of a certain number of slums—all very excellent works as the Committee will admit—the £10,000 has been spent. All the fever districts were cleared out by the judicious action of the Corporation of the City of Cork, and all the money which they had power to raise was spent in connection with this urgent municipal business. Well, having spent this money, and now having obtained a suitable site for a Town Hall and offices, they try to get sanction for an advance of money to enable them to carry out the work. They applied to the Lords of the Treasury. The Lords of the Treasury referred the matter to the Local Government Board for some unexplained reason, and the Local Government Board advised the Treasury not to advance the money. Well, I ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury who is responsible for the advice so given? Is it owing to any legal difficulties or deficiencies? I know, Sir, that in the City of Cork there is another body of gentlemen who want to try and force the Corporation to take over some premises they desire to part with. My hon. Friends have asked me not to go into that matter, and I will not go into it. I would a great deal sooner leave the matter, having made my statement as briefly as possible, to the tender mercies of the hon. Gentleman without doing so. I sincerely hope I shall receive a favourable answer from him. I must say this finally—that, at a period like the present, I conceive that all that is required is the sanction of the Treasury. Surely the City of Cork can give good security for the money they require; and at a time like the present it would be a great advantage to enable public works to be undertaken, because not only are these works necessary, but, if they are carried out, they will give a great deal of employment to the distressed population during the coming winter. I think the hon. Gentleman will not only be acting in a humane way, but acting in a way which I believe the whole population of the City of Cork will thank him for, if he gives favourable consideration to my proposal.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
I am afraid I shall not be able to give what the hon. Member calls a satisfactory reply to his question, because I am afraid I cannot promise to reverse the decision already arrived at. The hon. Gentleman himself has pointed out to the Committee that in 1868 a Town Hall, which is now said to be so urgently required, was then also said to be urgently required. I have no doubt that it would be a great advantage to the city. I do not wish to offer any objection to the proposed scheme, and I do not wish to say anything to the detriment of Cork, and to suggest that the city is not of sufficient importance to warrant the construction of a Town Hall. I would point out, however, that no one is responsible for this refusal but the Treasury. The whole question is in a nutshell. The Corporation of Cork must borrow money under the sanction of Parliament. As I understand it, the Corporation of Cork obtained Parliamentary sanction to borrow to the extent of £62,000. I also understand that they have exercised that power to the extent of £61,500, and therefore there is no margin, so far as Parliamentary sanction to their borrowing power goes, for them to carry out the work they desire to undertake. Then, in addition to that, they have already borrowed money on the security of the Borough Fund. Well, I am informed that this fund, as it at present exists, is in this condition—that the expenditure slightly exceeds the income. Therefore, there is no security there which the Treasury could consent to lend money on. A simple solution of the difficulty would be this—the Corporation ought to come to Parliament and ask Parliament for increased borrowing powers. Having obtained those powers, they could exercise them. So far as I can see, there can be no doubt that Parliament, on a good ease being made out, would give Cork power to exercise larger borrowing powers. I hope, therefore, that, so far as the refusal of the Treasury in this particular case is concerned, it will be clearly understood by the hon. Gentleman that there is no desire whatever to prevent the Corporation from borrowing money for the objects they have in view. The question is simply one of finance. We are 849 bound to consider the question of the security of the money advanced. I think Cork would have no difficulty in borrowing if it had Parliamentary sanction; and I am one of those who strongly believe that it is desirable to impress every district in Ireland, as well as every hon. Member, with the great importance of exercising—shall I say local self-government?—and helping themselves as much as possible, rather than trusting to the Government to do these things for them.
§ DR. TANNER
Might I point out that if the Government had acted on the suggestion of their own Royal Commission, and if they had extended the municipal areas as recommended, there would then have been no extra rate. If a fault exists anywhere, therefore, it is on the part of the Government of the hon. Gentleman, because they have not acted on the suggestion of the Royal Commission. I regret that the hon. Gentleman does not see his way to reconsider his determination, and I am sorry that he has misled me alogether; because, as I said, it was in consequence of the action of the Local Government Board's representation that the Treasury refused the application. We know what the Local Government Board is in Ireland, and I trust that my hon. Friends will show their disapproval of the action of the Board by not allowing the Vote to be taken without a Division.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ (2.) £23,751, to complete the sum for the Public Works Office, Ireland.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's County, Ossory)
I desire, as briefly as possible, to draw attention to a matter which has excited a great deal of interest in the central districts of Ireland —namely, the drainage of the River Barrow. That subject has lately occupied the attention of a Royal Commission, and the recommendations of that Commission have been before the House.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD
The Board of Works has entirely neglected its duty in this matter, and will not move in it, in spite of the urgent necessities of the case.
It is no part of the duty of the Board of Public Works 850 to take care of the River Barrow until the duty is imposed upon it by Parliament.
§ MR W. A. MACDONALD
Am I at liberty to speak on the question of £5,000, which was promised, but has not been given?
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I wish to call the special attention of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) to Item 28, on page 6. It appears that the sum of £647,000 has been advanced in Ireland, of which I am glad to see that £005,000 has been returned, and it is the balance of about £41,000 which is outstanding that I wish to refer to. I want to impress on the Secretary to the Treasury that there has been a great deal of drought in Ireland, and I do not think the Treasury ought to press for the payment of this amount during the present year, at any rate, without some inquiry into the manner in which the money was raised, which has been paid back into the Treasury. I understand that the Treasury have been pressing for the repayment of the balance this year; and I think, under the circumstances in which the money was granted, that the Treasury should exercise some judgment in the matter, and ascertain by inquiry if the money was in every case advanced to the people of whom payment is now claimed. I believe that, owing to the pressure and hurry, one half of the money was not advanced to the particular individuals from whom payment is demanded, and there is, consequently, very great difficulty in collecting it. When the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) was Chancellor of the Exchequer I had a sort of promise that there should be an investigation of this subject, or, rather, that the subject should be considered. I thought at the time that the Local Government Board should examine into the circumstances; but I am of opinion now that the Treasury should do so. I propose that the outstanding amount should not be pressed for this year, on the ground that so large a proportion of the debt has been repaid, and that no money has been advanced this year for seed purposes. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that 851 the hurry and pressure I have referred to was purely owing to the laches of the Government in sending out a wrong Circular, which, notwithstanding my representations, they refused to withdraw and substitute for it another. On the grounds stated, I think there is a strong case and reason why the balance should be remitted. The hon. Gentleman will see that the whole amount outstanding is only 6 per cent of the total amount advanced, and I think he might look into the matter, and see how much it is possible to recover, and how much could not possibly be got in. Then, with regard to Galway Harbour, which is now in the hands of the Board of Public Works. In this case, a large sum of money was advanced and the harbour authorities got into great trouble with the Treasury, with the result that the Board of Public Works have now taken possession of the work and are the authorities at the harbour. They have cleaned out the passage to the old dock; but the drift has blocked up the passage to the new dock. What I want to impress upon the Treasury is that they are losing money under the present system, because ships will not go into the new dock.
The question raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be appropriate to the Vote for Public Works Loans in Class I.
§ COLONEL NOLAN:
I am not asking for any improvement in the harbour, Mr. Courtney. The Board of Public Works having taken over the harbour, I am only asking that it should be kept in repair.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I shall be satisfied with the observations I have made, and I hope that, the Secretary to the Treasury's attention having been called to the subject, he will see that the ships are allowed to go into the new dock. I hope I shall not be out of Order in drawing attention to the way in which the accounts are made up with regard to fishery piers and harbours. I want the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to get the Board of Public Works to publish an abstract of the actual money spent on these works, and how much has now been spent on contracts. My point is, that if these accounts were published, it would be 852 shown that there is a large balance of, say, £20,000, which might be devoted to building and other purposes.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I wish to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) to one or two points in connection with the Board of Public Works, and to the way in which the Inspectors do their duty. A great many piers and harbours on the South Coast are, in the first place, erected at a considerable expense; a portion of the money is furnished by the Treasury, and a portion levied on the local rates; but, unfortunately, owing to the deficiency of inspection, and in many cases owing to the deficiency of engineering, which I believe may be referred to on this Vote, the work is not satisfactorily done. I wish to refer to some circumstances in connection with the new piers which have just been finished.
§ DR. TANNER
Then, I should like to refer to the subject of ancient monuments. Our country is one with a great and glorious history; its monuments ought to have that consideration which they would certainly receive from Irishmen if they were consulted about them. But their restoration and preservation are in the hands of a Department, at the head of which there is a Scotchman, and not an Irishman; and they do not, therefore, receive the consideration which they merit. In February last I happened to be in the county of Galway; I visited the town called Clonmacnoise, or "the Home of the Kings, "where there are two relics of the past—one the Abbey, and the other an old castle—which are well worthy of preservation, and demand that cognizance should be taken of them by the Inspector of Ancient Monuments. These relics are falling into a bad state of disrepair, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will call the attention of the Inspector to them, in order that he may visit the place, and see that proper steps are taken for their preservation. Then there is the Round Tower of Cloyne, which belongs to a class of antiquities that receive the greatest consideration at the hands of foreigners, although not be much at the hands of Englishmen. With regard to this tower, if it is to be repaired, I make the suggestion that it 853 should not be treated in the same way as the Round Tower of Kildare, which has been restored with battlements, which is absurd, and out of all character with those constructions, which were cone-shaped. The architect who had this matter in hand, and received a large sum of money for what he did, has made a great mull of the restoration, and I urge that these monuments should not be treated in the barbaric manner in which this gentleman has treated the Round Tower at Kildare.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
If the hon. Member will look at the records of public works in Ireland, he will see that they have received a good deal of attention during last year, and I believe he will admit that, on the whole, the work has been done in a very intelligent manner; indeed, the Treasury have felt that, so far from falling short of their duties, the authorities have rather exceeded them in this matter. With regard to what has fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan), I wish to say at once that there is no desire to press unduly for the arrears outstanding for seed. It is true that some of the amounts are small; but I dare say the hon. and gallant Gentleman is perfectly well aware that in some districts the amount outstanding is much in excess of what it is in others. [Colonel NOLAN: They are richer.] That is true; but in some districts although the persons who actually received the loans have paid the money back to the Guardians, who have not paid it over to the Treasury. I am quite sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman sees the distinction. [Colonel NOLAN: Hear, hear !] With that reservation, then, I am glad to say that I am entirely in accord with him in thinking that every consideration ought to be shown. I am afraid that I should not be in Order in replying in detail to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks on the subject of Galway Harbour and Dock, but I may venture to say that the question raised by him shall be taken into consideration, with regard to the contracts; although it is true that, as compared with the total amount of the contracts, there appears to be a surplus, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will know that Estimates are sometimes exceeded. I will, however, make a note 854 of the subject referred to, which is very worthy of consideration.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I quite agree that the Guardians who have received the money for the seed loans ought to pay it over to the Treasury; but there is a very small margin, perhaps not more than £7,000, with respect to which it is very difficult to ascertain who got the money, in consequence, as I have said, of the wrong Circular having been issued by the Government, and I think this amount might be wiped out.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I wish to say that Irish Members generally regard with the greatest satisfaction, and I, for my part, acknowledge the spirit in which the work with regard to ancient monuments has been carried on, and I trust the Treasury will act liberally in the matter.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
While agreeing with what has fallen from the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), I wish to point out that we object to the insufficiency of the work done, and to the amount of remuneration to the officers, which is not sufficient to stimulate perseverance in the work. This is a question I take some personal interest in. The attempt at restoration has in some cases been a failure, while in other cases it has been comparatively successful. I think fair praise is to be given to the efforts made, and I only complain that greater efforts have not been made, and a more liberal expenditure incurred for the purpose of preserving these ruins. Now, I want to call the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to one or two matters which crop up on this Vote. The point I wish particularly to refer to has reference to the reclamation of the Clare slob lands. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jackson) is aware, as previous Secretaries to the Treasury are aware, to their cost, that for some time past a considerable expenditure has been incurred in connection with these lands. I do not know the exact amount which has been expended upon these works in the past, but an additional sum of something like £5,000 is required this year for the purposes of this reclamation. A singular thing is that, when these works have reached a certain point of completeness, a storm invariably arises and 855 blows them down again. It is something like the attempts of Foreign Nations to invade England. Every time the enemy's ships have got near to the shores a storm has arisen and destroyed them. Now, I want to know whether this storm is to be annual, and whether the expenditure is to go on for ever? If we are to have many more of these annual grants, the result will be that the Treasury will expend something like £200,000 upon something like £10,000 worth of property. That would be an extremely bad bargain, and it would be very much bettor to let these works go by the board than to spend this sum of money upon them annually. I believe that if these works had been properly looked after—if the Irish Board of Works were a competent body, instead of meriting the distinction of being the most incompetent public body in the whole world, infinitely the worst body in Ireland, and, therefore, the worst body—if the reclamation of the Clare Slob Lands had been properly attended to they would now have been works of some value. I believe that if they had been reclaimed before the great depression of land in Ireland they would very nearly have recompensed the original outlay. The original design was a swindle undertaken by an English adventurer who imposed on the late Mr. W. E. Forster to such an extent that the right hon. Gentleman induced the Treasury in 1880 to make certain grants of lands towards this reclamation. The Treasury having been induced to make a grant of something like £48,000, I presume they feel they are obliged to proceed with the works. Fully £70,000 has been advanced by the Treasury, and still we are no nearer the completion of the works. It is a public scandal that this money should be thrown away— thrown as it were into the sea, or into the River Shannon. We have no guarantee whatever that these works when completed will do more than to, a very small extent, recoup the Treasury. This Vote comes on every year, and every year the Board of Trade have the same weary tale to tell. It is time the Secretary to the Treasury took some strenuous action with regard to the completion of these works. Within the past 12 months £5.000 has been spent upon what appears to be absolutely useless work, and unless we have some definite assurance 856 that this expenditure will not be continued any longer; but that the works will be brought to a completion, and something done to recoup the taxpayers for the amount expended upon the works, I shall certainly consider it my duty to divide against the Vote for Public Works.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
I should like some information from the Treasury with regard to loans made in respect of the construction of certain railways in Ireland. There is a railway in course of construction through the part of the County of Cavan which I represent, and I want to know to what extent the Treasury have made advances, if any, in respect of this line. Then there is the Cork and Coachford Line, upon which some information is very necessary. I desire to view this matter from an impartial point of view, and now that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) is in his place, let me appeal to him to put some restraint upon the system of lending money in Ireland upon bad security. Some of my hon. Friends think it is a very grand thing to borrow money from the British Exchequer; but they seem to forget that we are a partner in the Exchequer or firm. Only the other day I was impressing upon my hon. Friends the absurdity of encouraging the squandering of public money in Ireland. They said—"Oh ! it's all right; the money will be supplied by the English Exchequer, and we shall never be expected to pay." Now, I should like to offer one argument in opposition to the view taken up by my hon. Friends, and it is that if we ever get Home Rule these charges will probably be handed over to us as good assets, and the losses may possibly come out of the ratepayers. I therefore think it is a very short sighted policy to encourage the outlay of public money that is not going to be reproductive. It is all very good to spend money, if it is to be reproductive; but I do seriously object to a system of expending money which is not going to pay a reasonable amount of interest. Now, some of my constituents have recently held a meeting at which they criticized this new railway—the Cavan, Leitrim, and Roscommon Railway it is to be called. They criticized adversely the way in which the work has been done. One of the statements made at the meeting was that the 857 County Cavan ratepayers would have to pay 15 or 16 pence in the pound to make up the guarantee, and it was maintained that the loss to the ratepayers would actually be 3s. in the pound, which would amount to 15 per cent upon the rentals of the properties. This is by no means a political question. The chairman of the meeting was a Conservative landowner, one of the other speakers was a Conservative land agent; another was a Catholic magistrate who lives in the neighbourhood, and whom I know very well, and there were present Nationalists as well as staunch Conservatives. I should like to know, too, what has been done in the case of the Schull and Skibbereen Line, which appears to be a complete failure?
§ COLONEL NOLAN
I quite agree that the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) is justified in calling attention to the schemes in which his constituents are interested, though it must be remembered there are other Members for Cavan and Roscommon and Leitrim, besides the hon. Member. It may be the fact that it is injudicious to construct this Cavan Railway, and that the hon. Gentleman is justified in objecting to the expenditure of public money upon it. It is only when my hon. Friend gets more enterprising and goes into other parts of the country, and he falls into mistakes. Now, in Galway the people are very anxious for tramways and railways, and all the regulations passed have been in favour of the schemes. The rate of interest at which the Treasury have lent money has been reduced from 5 per cent to 4 per cent; 5 per cent was admitted to be too high a rate of interest; indeed, the Government have actually made money by the advances towards Irish railways. Whatever may be the case in Cavan, I know cases of small railways in which the Government have been paid most regularly. The Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) must recollect that if he makes a good railway he develops a whole district. The Treasury are quite right in getting in the money. I admit that in the present year the repayment has not been so large as usual; but that is owing to the present unfortunate circumstances of Ireland. The question of railway communication is really one for the Government of the country. In small countries, the State make the railways at their own 858 expense. Such a system is not suitable to England; but I believe it is suitable, to a certain extent, to Ireland. I must say that in the case of most of the tramways the Secretary to the Treasury now gets ample security. He gets the security of the rates of the whole land in the district, and there is a good collector in the shape of the Grand Jury. My hon. Friend is prejudiced against all railways which do not pay good dividends. I will not go as far as that, because I think it is very often to the interest of the State to advance money at a very low rate of interest. Of course, whatever interest is charged ought to be paid, and I maintain that up to the present the Treasury have made money on what they have advanced upon Irish railways.
§ MR T. M. HEALY
I entirely support the views of my hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar). I maintain that if we are going to take over Ireland, we must take it over as a going concern. That being so, we ought, at the present time, to be extremely suspicious of the vultures who come over from the City of London, and try to suck our blood. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman in regard to the tramways. What are the facts respecting the Schull and Skibbereen Line? I do not know whether it is true; but I am told that £60,000 has been spent upon the line, but that £50,000 could not be got for it. Take the ease of the Waterford Railway. When I first went to the country 15 or 16 years ago the rate was 8d. in the pound for the half year. Now it is 2s. 6d., because the people have to pay for this miserable railway. No works ought to be made that are not going to pay. Why should people be saddled with works which will be unremunerative? It is all very well for contractors to say that this is a very good thing, but it is not the interest of contractors which have to be consulted, but the interests of the people of Ireland. I advise the Treasury to beware of the railway contractors and persons in the City of London who only want to milk the Irish. Personally, I look with considerable suspicion upon Gentlemen who come over to Ireland with benevolent paunches to try and show their benevolence to the Irish people.
§ MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)
I have received strong representations from my 859 constituents respecting the Cavan, Leitrim, and Roscommon Railway. They are extremely anxious that the Board of Trade should not pass the line without the most careful inquiry. They believe that the line might possibly be useful, if it was properly constructed; but that as it is now being made it will be a burden to the ratepayers.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I quite agree with the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) as to the undesirability of the Treasury lending money for the construction of railways or tramways, unless there is a good prospect of the lines being successful. There cannot be a doubt that the Schull and Skibbereen Line is a standing disgrace to some Department or other. As far as my knowledge goes, it is a standing disgrace to the Board of Works in Ireland. They sent down an Inspector and the railway was passed, although it was quite unfit for a permanent way for any engine to travel on. An engine was sent over the line and it got stuck, and now the whole thing is an unworkable concern. It is a matter of grave reproach to a great Public Department that a short railway of this kind could not be properly looked after, especially after all the attention which was directed to it by the Members of the district and various other Irish Members. This is a matter we shall have to watch very closely indeed. Before the matter proceeds any further, we shall have to receive an assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury that they will hold the contractors so tight that they cannot receive any further money until the line is properly constructed, and until locomotives can travel safely upon it. With regard to the Cork and Coachford Tramway, I must take a different view to my hon. Friend (Mr. Biggar). The hon. Members for Cork, including myself, who have an intimate acquaintance with the locality through which this line passes, are of opinion that, with ordinary management, the line can be made to pay its way. If that had not been our opinion, we should have been slow to have voted for the construction of the railway, which we did in the early part of last year. I cordially agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) as to the general principles upon which these light railways should be constructed. 860 That is, that money should not be advanced unless there is a reasonable prospect of the lines paying expenses. I understand my hon. Friend's objection to tramway and light railway schemes is, that it is inequitable and unfair in the event of failure to saddle the occupiers of land or other rateable property with the entire amount. He thinks that if there is a loss, it should be borne in equal proportions by the owners as well as the occupiers; and that such being the case, there is great responsibility on Irish Members who sanction, or in any way aid and permit, the construction of these lines. I should like the Committee, and other persons who are not present, to thoroughly understand that we should have been very slow to have had any hand in the construction of the Cork and Coachford Line, if we had not been strongly of opinion, as business men, that with proper management the line would pay, and be a great factor in the development of the districts through which it passes.
§ MR. BIGGAR
Of course, it is not a pleasant thing to refer to a particular tramway system; but I may remark that the farming classes of Ireland, as a body, are very large lenders to Irish banks, and that if these railway schemes were fair and reasonable schemes, the local people have plenty of funds to invest in them.
§ MR. BIGGAR
It is a notorious fact that they have. Why, only recently there were two illustrations of this in the cases of Guinness's Brewery and The Freeman's Journal; the people rushed to invest their money, simply because they were convinced they were paying concerns. In the case of these railways, however, the Treasury lends money, and then it has to be dragged out of the unfortunate ratepayers, many of whom are on the verge of pauperism and can ill afford the money. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) knows better than I do the amount of money lent on schemes of different sorts in Ireland, upon similar representations to those made in the case of the reclamation of the Clare Slob Lands and the Schull and Skibbereen Lines. I sincerely hope that money will not be advanced by the Treasury upon these useless undertakings. Certainly I, personally, would never think of in- 861 vesting a shilling of my own money in a single one of them. Many of the railway schemes which have been promoted in Ireland during the last 20 or 30 years have ruined the promoters, and have proved a serious burden upon the unfortunate ratepayers. Indeed, the only people who have derived any benefit from them at all have been the contractors.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
Speaking personally, and on behalf of the Government, I may say we are extremely obliged to hon. Members who have spoken so strongly, and, I believe, so wisely, with regard to the advances of public money which are made from time to time. Now, Sir, before answering the question put to me with regard to those railways, I should like to answer the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Mid Tyrone (Mr. M. J. Kenny). I will admit at once that there is no case which has ever come before me since I have been at the Treasury which has more exercised me than the condition of the expenditure on the reclamation of the Clare Slob Lands. So far as I understand the matter—I do not wish to speak in too strong terms about them, but I certainly feel very strongly on the subject—the original estimates must have been based upon calculations which were entirely erroneous, or there must have been extremely bad management in the expenditure mentioned. We are landed in this position—that there has been a very large sum of money expended on this reclamation, and I dare say it may be that advances have been obtained in recent years on the understanding, or on the representation, that if a certain sum of money were advanced it would complete the whole scheme. But we were in this position, we had to face this difficulty—that a large sum of money had to be expended, and we were assured that a certain sum would complete the expenditure; and unless it is completed it is hopeless to expect that any return will ever be made for the amount expended. I do not feel in a position to defend the course which has been taken with regard to the enormous expenditure which has been made, and the extremely unsatisfactory result which has been obtained. I will join hon. Gentlemen in saying that I think the circumstances connected with the 862 reclamation, in this particular instance, are such as do not reflect credit on those who have had to do with the matter. The works which have been effected so far are extremely valuable; and it is not at all unlikely that we may get back a portion of the money which has been spent.
§ MR. JACKSON
We may get a portion of the money back. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar) has given voice to what I may call an extremely sound sentiment. He is extremely sound upon this question of light railways in Ireland; but I am sure he will agree that I am only bound to advocate proceedings for which I am actually responsible, and that, therefore, with regard to the schemes which he has mentioned I am not to be blamed. With regard to these schemes, I confess I heard, with some surprise, and a great deal of pleasure, from the hon. Member, who knows Ireland so well, that, in his judgment, whenever it is necessary to make a railway of this kind in Ireland the local farmers are able to lend all the money required for the construction of the line. I am glad to hear that the local farmers are sufficiently well off to be able to do this—it is extremely satisfactory.
§ MR. JACKSON
The hon. Gentleman has spoken about the Leitrim, Roscommon, and Cavan Railway. Since I have been at the Treasury there has been no advance made to that railway, and I do not think it likely that there will be any. My efforts have been directed to endeavouring, if possible, to obtain some arrangement by which a very considerable advance—I think, £100,000—would have been made by the Government, under which we should, if not immediately, at any rate, at some not very distant date, have obtained some interest on the outlay made, bearing in mind that the Government hold, upon this line, the first mortgage—that is to say, the first claim upon the whole property. I believe the hon. Member knows that the amount considered necessary for this railway is about £250,000. The line is being worked, and the returns show a very slight improvement in the receipts. I am not able to say 863 what is the condition of the rolling stock or the condition of the permanent way; but I can quite understand that, under the present circumstances, every economy that can be practised is practised. I am able to say, with regard to the Ballymoney and Ballycastle Railway, that no advance has been made by the Treasury.
§ MR. JACKSON
We have been receiving some interest; but this railway has been rather in difficulties. I do not know that I am not justified in saying to the Committee that the rolling stock, which certainly ought to have been included in the original contract, and ought to have been covered by the original advances, apparently was bought from some individual or from some company who retain a charge upon it, and the position is that unless the owners obtain payment for their roiling stock, they are in a position, being the owners of it, to remove it from the line. Therefore it is a question, of making the best of a bad bargain. But I am able to say to the Committee that arrangements are in progress by which I hope to bring affairs into a satisfactory condition, and that I have reason to believe, from the figures I have seen in the traffic returns, that the state of things is much more promising for the future. In fact, what I am informed leads me to believe that we shall get back our money with interest in the course of time. With regard to the Cork and Coachford Line, I must plead guilty to some responsibility. It appeared to me to be an instance in which a good case had been made out for some help, and a case in which unless that help were forthcoming the large expenditure which had already taken place on the railway would be more or less sacrificed. The district would have been saddled with a great responsibility. It must be borne in mind that in this particular case—and this is rather a curious instance of the way in which business is managed in certain districts in Ireland—that whether the railway continued to run or not, the locality would have been liable for payment of interest on the guarantee shares. The Government interest was only from a general point of view, and from a desire to promote the interests of the country. We have undertaken to find 864 £20,000 for the completion of the line, and we have endeavoured to attach to it such conditions as will secure that the money shall not be thrown away. The Committee must bear in mind that there has been already expended upon the line more than £40,000, and that to the advance which has been proposed, an additional £10,000 will be advanced for the completion of the line to Blarney. The additional £10,000 will only be advanced on the completion of the line to Coachford—the completion of the whole undertaking including the rolling stock—and the line being certified to be in working order. We have taken such precautions as we can to secure that this shall be found to be one of the light railways in Ireland of service to the district through which it runs. It will be found, I hope, ultimately not to be a charge either on the district or on the Treasury. Now, with regard to the Schull and Skibbereen Line, I have no personal responsibility for that, and the statement made by the hon. Gentleman with regard to inspection, I believe to be quite correct. What I would point out is, that it appears to be a fatal blot about all these concerns, that the baroney which, in the first instance, is responsible for giving encouragement to the scheme, and sanctioning the scheme, and guaranteeing the interest on the amount advanced, seems to take so little interest in the carrying out of the works.
§ MR. JACKSON
I do not care who it is; but I say it is their bounden duty, if they sanction these lines, to pay some attention to their future progress, and to endeavour to ensure that the work is carried on according to contract.
§ MR. JACKSON
I am not seeking to make the matter a Party question at all; but I am endeavouring to treat it in a business-like manner. What I say is that everybody who is responsible for sanctioning a line in a district is bound to see that the work is done.
§ MR. JACKSON
So far as I have been able to gather, the deficiency has rather been that the engines employed 865 upon the line were too light for the traffic—too light for the traffic, considering the gradients they had to overcome. It has been rather a question of that kind than a question of the construction of the line.
§ MR. JACKSON
Certainly not. The Inspector of the Board of Trade has nothing to do with the rolling stock. All he has to do is to certify as to the permanent way, and the safety of the line. I think I have noticed most of the questions which have been raised. All I can say, in conclusion, is this—that I am exceedingly grateful to hon. Members for the support which their speeches and the action they have taken to-night will give mo in my endeavours to resist the very numerous applications which I receive from speculative contractors. I should like to put it in this way—that I hope the action taken to-night will be looked upon as an indication that no encouragement will be given to fresh undertakings of this nature by hon. Members opposite, or by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
There is one defect in the Tramways Act which may, to some extent, account for the blot the hon. Gentleman has referred to. Under the Tramways Act there appears to be no power given to the County Inspector or Surveyor to inspect the lines of railway. I contend that the County Surveyor should always have power to go and inspect works in course of progress. If that were the case, I believe that a great many evils which now occur would be obviated. It is no use appointing Local Authorities to look after the lines, because they may know nothing about surveying—it is no use doing this, and leaving those persons in the country who know something about the matter no voice in the question. I think if that defect in the Tramways Act had been remedied when the Act was passed, a good many of the mistakes which have occurred would have been avoided. But I am principally concerned in the observations of the hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar), and the reply that they have elicited from the Secretary to the Treasury. My hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan enunciated certain principles with which I agree, and certain principles with which I utterly disagree. 866 I believe that the Tramways Act has been in a good many instances extremely beneficial, and that there have been certain cases where encouragement has been given to undertakings which are certain to repay any sum of money advanced upon them. I would point to the railway in which a Member for one of the Divisions of Dublin is interested —I refer to the Ennis and West Clare Line. Had no encouragement been given by the Government to that line it would probably never have been constructed; but now that it is made I look upon it as absolutely sure to pay its way, and more than pay its way. That is an instance which distinctly disproves the general principle laid down by the hon. Member for West Cavan. What I join with him in objecting to is the advance of money on insufficient security for projects which show no reasonable sign of giving any return. I believe that the onus probandi should be thrown on the promoters of those schemes, and that they should be proved to be sound before the Government advances one halfpenny towards carrying them out. I think that the Treasury should only advance money on schemes of this kind on security that can be considered ample. I have- seen a tabulated statement by the Board of Public Works as to the security afforded by the baronies and counties for public works. There are some cases in which the security given is totally insufficient, and, of course, there are other cases in which it has been ample. It is only in these cases, I think, that advances should be made by the Treasury. My hon. Friend spoke of the farmers in the localities and other persons being capable, or, rather, being in a position to invest money in undertakings of this kind. He said that if undertakings of this kind were of a healthy description, these persons would readily invest their money in them. I do not for a moment agree in any statement to the effect that any appreciable number of the Irish farmers have a single halfpenny to invest, so far as lending money to the banks is concerned. They do not lend money to the banks; on the contrary, as a general rule, the banks have to lend money to them. If you were to calculate the difference between the amount of the advances payable by the banks to the 867 farmers and the amount payable by the farmers to the banks, you would find that in the case of every £100 the farmers would have to be debited to the extent of £99. If my hon. Friend will look at the lists of the shareholders in Guinness's Brewery and The Freeman's Journal concerns, he will find the names scarcely include a single farmer. That is about the best test you can possibly apply to a question of this kind. But I quite agree that unless the promoters of a railway can satisfy the Treasury that there is an absolute certainty that their undertakings will pay working expenses, and will not be a burden on the Consolidated Fund or the baronies, the Treasury should not advance them a single halfpenny. With regard to the Clare Slob Lands, the money advanced on this reclamation has been looked upon by successive Secretaries to the Treasury as a concession from England to Ireland. I believe the works were originally undertaken not so much on the pretence of the reclamation of land, as that of the reclamation of the natives. A gentleman of lively imagination and great ingenuity came up to Dublin Castle, met the late Mr. W. E. Forster, and made a dramatic speech to him, in which he explained that if the money of the State were expended on the reclamation of those lands that concurrently with that reclamation would proceed the reclamation of the people from the state of savagery in which they then existed. I believe such a speech as that was made, and made in the presence of Mr. Forster, and I believe that Mr. Forster's philanthropic mind and heart were touched, and that he immediately used his influence with the Treasury to get this money advanced. Mr. Forster's philanthropy prevailed. It was on the representation of this Gentleman who went over to Dublin Castle, and succeeded in getting money advanced on these false pretences, that the Treasury were induced to enter on a bargain which will finally land them in the loss of something like £100,000. I will tell the hon. Gentleman this—that my honest belief is that this land can never be reclaimed, as it is considerably under the level of the Shannon, or, rather, under the level of the Fergus. This land is an extremely broad place where the Fergus branches out into the Shannon. You may almost call it the sea, and the tide 868 there has so much force that the waves are almost as powerful as in the Atlantic Ocean itself. Even if you had the seawall completed to-morrow, a storm might come like that of December last, which will never be forgotten by the people in the locality, and would break down the result of all your labour. The work is a bad job, and the Government will never be able to make anything out of it. The whole wall will have to come down with a run. If I were the Secretary to the Treasury, I would never spend another halfpenny upon what appears to me to be an altogether impossible and useless work.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
In the discussion concerning the railways and tramways promoted in Ireland under the Act of 1883, there seems to have been some little confusion in the minds of hon. Gentlemen. I think they have been confounding the question as to whether these undertakings should be completed or not by local expenditure with the question whether the Treasury should have lent money on them or not. It must be remembered that the Treasury can never lose a single shilling of the advance it has made, because it has the security of the rates of large districts for the repayment of the capital and interest. The responsibility with regard to the Schull and Skibbereen Tramway ought not to be thrown upon the Board of Works, the Treasury, or other high public authority. The contractors were local people, and it is to their neglect of looking after the line that probably the whole failure is due. The local people had the employing of the contractors, and it was for them to see that the work was done properly. I have no hesitation in saying that the whole responsibility lies at the door of the local people. There have only been some half-dozen projects under the Act, and some of these will be useful, whilst some will not be useful; but with regard to the general question touched upon by the hon. Member for West Cavan as to the desirability of these undertakings, I would point out that for 20 years back, with the exception of a very few short lines of railway, there has not been a single line made without local support—I mean without local guarantee. Now, out of the many lines for which guarantees have been given from time to 869 time, there have been two or three which have not turned out as it was anticipated they would, partly owing to the mismanagement of the promoters and the people who had charge of them, and partly owing to the fact that the schemes ought never to have been undertaken. It must be borne in mind, however, that in addition to the facilities for travelling which have been given by all those lines, the condition of the districts through which they run has been greatly improved. The price of butter and cattle and agricultural produce generally has improved, and other advantages have accrued to the locality. As I have said, some six or seven lines have been laid down under the Tramways Act; and it may be satisfactory to the hon. Member to know that of the English promoters who went over to Ireland in order to promote these undertakings, not a single one was successful in getting charge of a line. The Irish people have carried out the work themselves. I think that if the Treasury could see their way to giving assistance of one kind or another to the exceptional case of the Schull and Skibbereen Tramway, they would remove the only great scandal of this kind which is ever likely to occur in connection with these schemes in Ireland. I should like to hear from the hon. Gentleman whether the Treasury can see their way to do something. The liability under the Act, so far as the localities are concerned, is very great. They are not only obliged to pay interest on the money invested, but they are also obliged to raise more money in order to complete the tramways, to keep them in order, and, if necessary, to work them.
§ MR. GILHOOLY (Cork, W,)
In connection with this tramway, Sir, I think the hon. Gentleman had. not the means of ascertaining the facts in the same way as the Poor Law Guardians of the district or the principal ratepayers. Mr. Justice O'Brien, at the recent Assizes held in Cork, said that it was by the default of an officer of the Board of Trade that the line was now in the hopeless condition in which it is. A gentleman was sent down by the Board of Trade, and passed that line; yet seven months after he had done so it was practically useless for all purposes connected with traffic in the district; and it is very strange, Mr. Courtney, 870 that such a thing should have been allowed. I will not dwell upon it at any length; in fact, I suppose I would not be in Order in discussing the action of the Board of Trade in this matter; but I feel bound to point out that the very gentleman who passed the line was himself sent down to investigate into the causes of its collapse. That, I think, is most strange. According to his Report, which I have here, the locomotive in use was not a proper one; the banks had fallen in, the gradients were too steep, and the curves were too sharp; and if he were able to find all these faults with it now, surely he ought to have seen them when, he passed the line on his first inspection. But, however that may be, it is altogether a most lamentable occurrence. I can call it nothing else; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I see in his place, if he will take into consideration the condition of the ratepayers, who are a very poor class in that locality, and if he will come to their aid by giving them some grant out of the £50,000 which he proposes to set apart for the relief of Ireland?
§ MR. GILHOOLY
May I ask a question, at all events? Two of the baronies have guaranteed a sum of £57,000 for this tramway. I will ask is it not fair that the Government, by the default of whose officers this calamity has been brought about, should come to the assistance of the ratepayers, and relieve them of some of the unjust burdens which will be thereby cast upon them?
§ MR. BIGGAR
Before this branch of the subject is dropped I wish to say one or two words. I wish, first, to apologize to the Committee for speaking so often; but I am exceedingly anxious that this matter should be fully investigated. I need not say that in the remarks which I have made I spoke without reference to politics. Some of my hon. Friends have complained of what I said in regard to the farmers of Ireland having sufficient money to carry out any reasonable scheme. Well, I repeat that the farmers are able to make investments, and that there is in the Irish banks a large amount of deposits. 871 I happen to know that a substantial number of farmers have money to lend. Of course, there are others who are very needy. I did not intend to generalize, and to infer that every farmer was well off. But I just now asked a question about the Ballymony and Bally-castle Railway; and I should like for a moment to be allowed to refer to another railway which has been in existence a good many years—at any rate, 10 years to my knowledge—and which runs through some of the Northern counties. I refer to the Northern Counties Railway. Now, I believe that is not able to pay the interest on the money borrowed from the Government, and I wish to ask how are the railways which are made for and through poor districts where the traffic is exceedingly small to be expected to pay the interest on money borrowed for their construction? I really do not see any possibility of Ireland being able to pay for any new railway, and I therefore do protest against loans being granted for the making of any fresh lines. In the case of the Cavan, Leitrim, and Roscommon Railway, a few thousand pounds were first asked for, and having been obtained and spent, then the promoters came to us and said—"Unless you give us more money we shall not be able to finish the lines, and then you will lose all the money you have already invested." The same course was pursued in regard to the Slob Line in County Clare. A commencement was made by the Government on a comparatively small sum, and as soon as the cash had been exhausted, then they came to us for more money, and threatened that if we did not give it, what we had invested would be all lost. Now, I think that this is very wrong, and I wish to enter my protest against such a course of action, because the result is that money is obtained by one means or the other, and a great deal more is spent than was ever contemplated. A reference has been made to the line which is to have a branch to Blarney. I believe this is nearly finished; and it has been suggested, in regard to the application for another £10,000, that it would have been better to sink what has already been invested in the line, and not to spend any more money upon it. The fact is, the line will run through a village in which there are very few inha- 872 bitants, and very few houses. I am not speaking from my own personal knowledge; I have never been to the place; but I am told there are not more than 50 houses; that neither fair nor market is held in the village; and that it is perfectly absurd to talk about making a railway there. I advise that this line should be made a suburban tramway, and I think that probably then it might pay.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I will not enter at any great length into those matters, as I should have done had I risen earlier; but I would like to say a few words in reference to what has fallen from the lips of the hon. Member for West Cavan. But before I do so I should like to ask the Secretary to the Treasury a question. Our anxiety, I may say, is to keep communication by means of railways to the sea-coast; and we believe that there are many small towns which, if they could be brought into connection with the sea-coast, would afford great encouragement to the work of developing the fishing industries. Then with regard to the money provided for these undertakings. It is said that the money is got in England. But what is the cause of the money being got there? It is that the Parliamentary agents are in England; that the railway engineers live in London; and that the lawyers in London have the first grab at what is to be obtained from it. Therefore, it is not a matter of surprise that the money that is necessary to be advanced is also found in London. We do not find fault with Englishmen for investing their money in this case; we only wish they could continue to do so. And with regard to these tramways, I have no fear that if they were properly managed, if there were proper local management, they would show much better results. Let it be remembered that the Grand Jury of a county is called upon to pass these undertakings, and that in that Grand Jury there are not only the representatives of the baronies who will have to contribute to the cost, but there are representatives of other baronies who have no interest whatever in the matter. The Grand Jury do not have to pay anything. The majority of the Grand Jury have no earthly interest in the matter; practically they are non-cesspayers, not that there is anything in that that I wish to complain of very strongly; but 873 I do wish to direct the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury, and to got an answer—I hope a favourable one—with regard to the loans that are advanced to tenants by the Board of Works. In this matter this anomaly has often happened in Ireland, and I ventured to draw the attention of the Government to it some time ago by a Question; but latterly the putting of Questions has been so futile that I gave up the practice altogether. There is a class of tenants in Ireland who have not come under the recent Land Act of 1881. They practically ought to be under it, but technically they are not. These tenants are those on the estates of minors, or estates in trust for minors, administered by Masters in Chancery; and I believe this matter also affects the estates of persons in lunacy, and therefore the unfortunate tenants, in consequence of the minority or lunacy of their landlords. They have granted to them a series of seven years' leases which are really nominal, the object being to keep a legal grip on the property until it shall pass into the hands of a properly qualified owner. The Board of Works has positively refused to recognize this class of tenants as tenants for the purposes of these loans; they have refused to advance them any money. I contend that that is a very harsh course of action; because it should be remembered you are not advancing the money to a man; you are advancing it to the land; and if the money is advanced the Engineer to the Board of Works has to certify that it is properly and judiciously sunk in the land. I hope the Government will look to it, and deal with this matter from a common-sense point of view. We all know that the moment an attempt is made to disturb any of these tenants, or to treat them other than in the ordinary way, it is at once recognized that they have just as good a title as any other tenants. I do, Sir, think that this is a matter of some importance. I have got letters from several of these tenants enclosing letters from the Secretary to the Public Works Board refusing to make the loans, because he says that they have not a sufficient tenure of their land, or a sufficient security. Now, that is owing to the technical points to which I have drawn attention—namely, that they hold under seven years' leases. I have no doubt that there may be other points in 874 which injustice is done; but I would ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury if he will kindly inquire into this matter, and if the law be elastic enough to cover this class of cases, will he give instructions that loans be granted to such tenants? To my mind, the Board of Works are interpreting the law too strictly. I think the money should be advanced to those tenants who are desirous of improving their land. The land will be a security for the Board of Works, the same as other land is taken as security. Money cannot be pocketed, by these men; they cannot run away with it. It can only be advanced under a certificate of the Engineer of the Board of Works that it is properly sunk in the land; and therefore I trust that the Government will give attention to this important matter.
§ MR. JACKSON
My attention has been drawn to this subject generally, although not to particular cases. We think that the Board of Works are hampered by having to comply with certain conditions. The hon. Member has spoken about seven years' leases. I do not think that the Board of Works have power to lend money to tenants who have only seven years' leases.
§ MR. JACKSON
Well, I am afraid it is impossible for the Board to lend the money in such a case; but I will cause inquiries to be made.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I rise in consequence of the few remarks which fell from my hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan (Mr. Biggar). I also should like to make use of that Paul Pry-like apology for having only just popped in, and hope I do not intrude. Bat I wish to refer to the Cork and Coachford Tramway, because I have received a request from several of my constituents to giving attention to this matter. I think it is very unfair for my hon. Friend to couple the Cork and Coachford Tramway with that foolish switchback line—the Schull and Skibbereen Tramway. ["Oh, oh !"] Yes; I say it is a switchback line. Its gradients are something absurd; it is an up-and-down arrangement. I once or twice drove alongside when it was in course of construction, and I saw at the time that it would not work. Several 875 remarks have been very properly made this evening in reference to the money advanced for that tramway. Practically speaking, it was in consequence of the action of the Grand Jury that the line was hurriedly pushed to completion, and I hope that a similar course will not be followed in connection with the Cork and Coachford Line. When I was there last autumn, Mr. Courtney, I took the opportunity of driving over a portion of the line which was very nearly ready for the Government Inspector. He had not been down at that time; but it seemed to me that the line was very well laid down so far as I could see superficially; and since it has been opened great numbers of people have been availing themselves of this route to Blarney. The line has taken great numbers there. Unfortunately, it is in connection with the Cork and Coachford Tramway. Some people have been trying on a little job. I find that some private grounds at Blarney, which used to be open there to the public, are now only opened subject to an impost; and that, I think, is a reason why the hon. Gentleman should be cautious in advancing loans to tramways, because he may find that the people who are the supervisors of the line—the baronial directors are put on in consequence of a job—that they are elected, not by the votes of the tenant farmers, who have to look after every penny in these times of depression, and who, after all, have to pay for this land; but they are elected for interested motives. I see in this case one of the baronial directors was appointed by the men who owned land in the vicinity of the tramway. I do hope that the hon. Gentleman will look into this matter before he advances any more money. Now, Sir, in connection with this Cork and Coachford Tramway there is one point to which I should like to call attention, and that is the actual appointment of these baronial directors. One of those appointed is a gentleman who has spent the major portion of his life in the bush of Australia; but a gentleman left him a large sum of money, and therefore he came back home. He knows nothing whatever about tramways; and his colleague, I think, is a gentleman known as Mr. Hussey Townsend, whose appointment was a perfect job. I do not propose to trespass much further upon the attention of the Committee; but 876 I think we are bound to draw atten-to this matter, as the hon. Gentleman has told us he has advanced £2,000 to this tramway. But I ask him if he will look into this matter, and get some satisfactory assurance that in future the proper men shall be appointed to look after the interests of the ratepayers? I differ from the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for West Cavan. I think when there is any new railway or any new public work undertaken which may be of benefit to the country, it is very unwise indeed to go and make an attack upon it, without having sufficient grounds to justify the attack. I think my hon. Friend was extremely unwise in his remarks as to the tenant farmers having plenty of money to invest in schemes of this sort. I know most of the people in my own district; and I can certainly say that, owing to the way in which they have been robbed by the landlords, it would be utterly impossible for them to invest any money in these undertakings,
§ MR. HOOPER (Cork, S.E.)
At this late hour I do not propose to detain the Committee at any length; but I wish to make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, and I hope he will pay a little attention to what I am going to say. It is an appeal in reference to a matter affecting one of our great industries in Ireland—namely, the fishing industry; and I wish especially to refer to the pier in course of erection at Kinsale. This work was undertaken under the Kinsale Harbour Act of 1880. I would ask the attention of the hon. Gentleman to a few figures which I am about to quote in order to strengthen the line which I intend to take up. I wish to ask him for a reduction of the amount of interest which has to be paid in this case. I am informed that it is 5 per cent, and that I think is a a monstrously high rate of interest, because the money has been advanced for a work of national utility. The original estimate of expenditure was £16,000, to be made up by a grant of £7,600, a loan of £6,500, and contributions from the locality of £2,000; but it has now been ascertained that the sum which will have to be expended on the pier is about £18,000, and the difference between this and the original estimate will have to be made up by the locality. But I should like to call atten- 877 tion to the fact that the yearly instalments actually exceed the local revenue of the harbour on which this charge is made, and for the past year the locality has had to bear a deficiency to the amount of something like £100. This is due to the fact that the harbour revenue has declined in the past few years. It has declined from £835 in 1884 to £622 in 1886—a reduction of over £200. Now, I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider this fact; and in the face of this diminishing revenue and increasing liability on account of the loan, does he not think it desirable, and of urgent necessity, that some reduction should be made in the unusual rate of interest— 5 per cent—which is charged for the loan? The words in the Act of Parliament are that the interest to be charged shall be at the rate of 3½ per cent, or such other figure as Her Majesty's Treasury shall fix, in order to secure the Public Revenue from loss. The hon. Gentleman is, of course, aware that in works of public utility, such as artizans' dwellings and matters of that description, which are of great advantage to the population, the Treasury consent to grant loans at the rate of £3 2s. 6d; and, therefore, seeing that 5 per cent is charged in this case, I think the matter deserves the careful attention of the hon. Gentleman. And I make this appeal with greater reason from the circumstances of the time. This Government, which, when assuming power, made a considerable flourish on the subject of the development of Irish resources, ought to consider the case of Kinsale. Kinsale Pier was started for the advantage of what is one of the great industries of the South of Ireland; but it was not alone for the advantage of the local fishermen—it was for the advantage of quite 400 ships, one-half of which certainly come from Scotland and the Isle of Man. On that account the Kinsale Pier question has far wider than a local aspect; and I ask the hon. Gentleman, bearing in mind that the Government have decided that £50,000 shall be appropriated in developing the material resources of Ireland, to consider whether this charge of 5 per cent is not an unjust imposition in a work of national utility, and in face of the circumstance that it presses unduly on the resources of the locality? It taxes a locality which has a rapidly declining revenue, owing 878 to the recent adverse seasons. I would ask him whether he cannot, at any rate, reduce the charge to 4 per cent? I do not ask the hon. Gentleman to give his answer at once; I merely appeal to him to look into the facts of the case, and say whether it is not one of the most meritorious which have been brought under his notice for a considerable time? I trust that he will soon communicate with the authorities of the harbour and pier of Kinsale in the manner which we desire.
§ MR. JACKSON
As I understand the matter, the Act empowers the Treasury to charge 3½ per cent; but it is not necessarily to be 3½ per cent. I shall, however, be very glad to look into the question.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
I observe in the Report of the Board of Works relative to Howth Harbour a statement to the effect that—The roads and piers and wharves of this harbour have been kept in good repair during the past year, and we had a steam dredger at Kingston put in perfect order to be in readiness if so directed.I would ask if that would not bring the question of these works at Howth Harbour within this Vote?
The question of these works comes under the Vote in Class I., which deals with the work done under the Board of Works to the harbour referred to.
§ MR. CLANCY
But the Board of Works speaks of the dredger being put in perfect order to be in readiness if so directed, and I would submit that that would bring the matter under the purview of this Vote.
I have told the hon. Member that the matter is properly one which comes under the Vote in Class I.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
But this Report of the Board of Works says — "The roads and piers and wharves of this harbour have been kept in good repair during the past year," which, no doubt, comes under the Effective Vote of the past year; but it also says— "We bad a steam dredger at Kingston put in perfect order and readiness if so 879 directed." This, I think, shows that my hon. Friend is correct in supposing that this particular charge comes within the present year's Estimate.
But there are two Votes, one of them being for the works done by the Board of Works, and the other—that which is now under consideration—which deals with the question of loans made by the Board of Works. The matter the hon. Gentleman has alluded to is one that comes under the first of these headings, and ought to be considered in the Vote under Class I.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The salary of the Inspectors and officers falling under this Vote, would not my hon. Friend be right in speaking of the action of the officers under the Vote?
I do not think the discussion could be taken under this Vote. Where there is a separate Vote dealing with a point thus raised, the discussion must be taken under that Vote.
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the other Vote has not been taken; and therefore it would not be desirable for him to ask for indulgence from the Committee.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I should like to ascertain at this juncture whether hon. Members below the Gangway opposite would be willing to proceed with Class III.? The first Vote is for Law Charges, to which I apprehend there can be no objection.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
There would be no objection to taking the Admiralty Court Registry Vote, No. 24, the Registry of Judgments Vote, No. 26, and the Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum Vote, No. 33.
§ CLASS III.—LAW AND JUSTICE.
§ (3.) £785, to complete the sum for the Admiralty Court Registry, Ireland.
§ (4.) £1,388, to complete the sum for the Registry of Judgments, Ireland.
§ (5.) £3,630, to complete the sum for the Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report these880
§ Resolutions to the House."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
There is a matter I would call attention to in relation to the Vote with regard to the breeding of horses. If that could be taken some time to-morrow it would suit the convenience of many Members.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It might be taken at an early hour, provided it will only ocupy a short time. In that case, I will endeavour to promote the convenience of hon. Members:
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
We do not propose to take it now. If hon. Members will undertake that it shall not be discussed for more than half-an-hour, I shall be willing to take it, as I have just said, at an early hour.
§ MR. CLANCY
I know of only two points that are likely to be discussed, and one very obvious one is that in reference to the Chief Secretary's Office.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I shall not object to its being taken now, if hon. Members think it can be disposed of.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say when will the Allotments Bill be taken?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND) (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR), (Manchester, E.)
I will take it after Class III.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I understood the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clancy) was desirous that we should take the Public Buildings Vote now, and; if so, there is no objection to that course being adopted.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid.)
It is very hard to arrive at any agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. The other day I offered him four Bills for one miserable Bill, and he would not accept; and now he wants to monopolize all the time of the House. I now put it to the 881 right hon. Gentleman in all seriousness to allow Progress to be reported.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.