HC Deb 06 September 1887 vol 320 cc1504-11

Resolutions [5th September] reported.

First Eleven Resolutions agreed to. (12.) "That a sum, not exceeding £50,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment daring the year ending on the 31st day of March 1888, for the execution of certain Public Works, and the promotion of certain Industries in Ireland.

Resolution read a second time.

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

MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)

I desire to bring under the notice of the House—and I will speak very briefly at this hour—two items in this Vote, £5,000 for the drainage of the Barrow, and £7,000 for preliminary inquiry and plans in reference to parts of the Barrow and the Bann. I want really to get some information in regard to these matters. The £5,000 provided in this Vote is a very small sum indeed considering the work to be accomplished. The Royal Commission has recommended not a loan but a gift of £75,000 for these purposes. The Royal Commissioners use these very remarkable words— We think that in this case the Government may treat the improvement of this extensive tract of country as of national concern, as the injuries are very wide-spread. Now, I think the Government will see that the sum of £5,000 is a mere flea-bite compared with what will be required. The entire cost will be something like £350,000, and of this the Commission recommended the Government to give £75,000. Now the first question is, do the Government really mean to carry out, to any thorough extent, the recommendations of the Commission with this £5,000 as an instalment of £75,000 to be presently granted? Then another question I want to put to the Government is whether they really intend legislation on the subject? But first I ought to mention that there is a strong feeling in the district that no more money need be expended on preliminary inquiry. The Royal Commissioners have sketched the history of what has been done. The Barrow drainage survey was practically executed as far back as 1847; and, I think it has been revived in various forms since. In 1882 there was a survey and valuation, half of which was carried out by the Government. In 1885, Lord Spencer appointed a Commission for the purpose of considering the matter, which reported in the next year. That, also, resulted in nothing, and now we have the elaborate Report of the Royal Commission to which I have referred. It would seem with all this we have sufficient information already, and I want to know whether the portion of this £1,200 which is going to be granted for preliminary expenses, in connection with this Barrow drainage, should not be spent on the actual drainage itself. Another question is, whether this is to be followed by legislation. The Commissioners say, the entire scheme cannot be carried out with- out legislation, and they lay down certain lines on which that legislation must proceed, Now, if that is so, I want to know definitely, and I hope the Chief Secretary recognizes the importance of the question, whether this legislation will be brought in early next Session, or whether it will be allowed to hang on from month to month and from Session to Session. I can indicate the importance of the question, when I mention that it has been reported that a bad state of health, bordering on pestilence, exists at Portarlington, and the medical officer of the district, after consultation with others, arrived at the conclusion that nothing could be done to remove the danger until the Barrow is drained. The local officer declares, that if a fever were to break out at any time in the neighbourhood the consequences would be disastrous; and at this time of cholera epidemics, the importance of proceeding rapidly with the works is evident. I may mention before I sit down, that the whole of this area the catchment of the Barrow, 700,000 acres,46,000 are subject to periodical inundation, so, under the circumstances, there is every reason to proceed with the matter at once. The people say they would prefer a less expensive scheme than that recommended by the Commission, and that there was an excellent scheme devised by Messrs. Lewis and Stoke to cost £153,000, but as to that I, knowing nothing of it, do not commit myself. At a meeting, held on August 17, to consider the whole subject, resolutions were passed urging the Lord Lieutenant to proceed at once with the work and the formation of drainage districts. I hope this desire of the people to help themselves will induce the Government to do what they can to assist, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will reply to the questions I have put to him.


I think the Government ought to be pressed to consent to an adjournment on this question. One of the great inconveniences of discussing such a subject on an occasion like this, is that we can only speak once. [Laughter.] Well, we allowed the Committee stage to go through without debate, and I think we ought to get an opportunity of expressing our opinions on this subject at some hour other than 3 o'clock in the morning, when it is idle to attempt to say a few words with any hope of their being reported. [Laughter.] It is rather difficult to enter into complicated details, when one is subject to interruption from the few hon. Members who are not sleeping. However, as my appeal meets with no response from the Government, I shall adopt the course of stating my argument as best I can, and possibly, I may conclude with a Motion. The first thing I have to point out is, the extraordinary system that has been followed. When the House consented to this Vote of £50,000, I dare say many Members were not aware how this sum is obtained. It is, with the exception of a small portion from the proprietors, money out of the small tenants of Ireland. This £50,000 is a corresponding sum in two amounts voted for England and Scotland £450,000 and £60,000, the one in the form of a grant for highways in England, and the other for Scotland, and voted for the first time to-night in pursuance of the remission of local taxation announced on the Budget night. But there has been no corresponding remission of County cess in Ireland, but the Government intended to distribute this £50,000 in consultation with the Irish Members. Now, first I object totally to this. I think that when you were giving large grants for highways in England and Scotland, members would have been more willing to relieve the tenants of Ireland from the heavy county rates they pay; in some parts of Connemara as much as 4s. 6d. in the pound, much higher than anything paid in England. Secondly, I object to the manner in which the Government have acted since the declaration on the Budget night. They have never consulted Irish Members; they have simply allocated this £50,000 according to their own fancy. Possibly a few county gentlemen, possibly a few Conservative Members, may have been spoken to on the subject; and I cannot say positively that no Member on this side has had an opportunity of expressing an opinion; but no message has been sent to the Irish Party generally. This proposal for taxing the small Irish farmers was determined on without consulting the Irish Members; it is a crying case in favour of a Home Rule Legislature, especially as the Government now insist upon taking the final stage of the Vote at an hour when the public can know very little about it. I will not say that every part of the scheme for distributing this sum of £50,000, contributed mainly by small Irish farmers, is bad; but I say you are taking upon yourselves an enormous responsibility without sufficient acquaintance with facts when you dispose of it without proper discussion and without submitting your proposals publicly or privately to the consideration of Irish Members. Now, first there is £12,000 for the Shannon. I was on the Shannon Commission; it was a mixed Commission, upon which, I believe, I was the only Home Ruler. All Parties were agreed that there was no gigantic work to be undertaken on the Shannon. All you have to do is to take off a certain amount of water, which you can take off by a stroke of the pen. [Laughter]. Yes; I will take it off tomorrow by a stroke of the pen if the Chief Secretary will give me his signature ordering the sluices to be opened. You keep up a certain amount of water in the interests of navigation; but as the Royal Commission recommended the interests of drainage should be consulted rather than the interests of navigation. But you have not done that, and you are now going into elaborate works to combine the interests of drainage and navigation. But I do not see the necessity of the large expenditure; all that need be done—and it will, I admit, lessen the conveniences of navigation —is to reduce the quantity of water in the Shannon, and that will satisfy everybody so far as drainage is concerned. Navigation would be interfered with to the extent of reducing the depth of water by about a foot. Upon this point you would do well to consult Irish Members before you take advice of engineers and embark upon a large expenditure, of which £12,000 is a beginning. Now, I come to the Bann. This question came before the Royal Commission, and it recommended that something should be done. I do not know that it is good policy to tax Kerry for the Bann drainage, taxing in the sense that you do not remit taxation because of this; but something has to be done. You have locked up the waters of Lough Neagh and put a dam across the upper part of the Bann; also for purposes of navigation, and I admit that something must be done. But the hon. Member for Queen's County has laid a policy before you, and has showed the enormous ultimate expense in which the country and the district will be involved, and this before it has been voted upon by any representative Irish Body or Party. You are doing a serious thing in spending this initial sum without giving heed to public opinion in reference to an expenditure of between £300,000 and £400,000, an enormous sum for a district in Ireland where there is little ready money. Passing over the piers and roads, to which items I do not object very much, I come to the amount to be devoted to the encouragement of the breed of horses and cattle in Ireland. Now, we know what has been done with £3,200 of the money; but we do not know what has been done, or is to be done, with the other £1,800. The £3,200 is given for 16 stallions selected by the Royal Dublin Society. Now, I do not know that the Royal Dublin Society was certainly the best body to have the selection, and I rather think that, instead of 16 stallions at £200 each, it would have been better to have had 32 at £100 each; but this is a matter of opinion. I do not blame the Government much for that; but you have not laid down any system by which farmers are to take advantage of what is offered, and are to send their mares. If you leave it to the selection of owners you throw the arrangement very much into the hands of the groom, or you leave it with the Poor Law Board, and unless you have recourse to the ballot—the only other way—you will find that a few farmers will be favoured at the expense of the many. And then I want to know what is to be done with the £1,800. I do not pay much attention to the other items, that for Donegal, and for the Munster Dairy School; in my county we have no large dairies, and I do not feel prepared to talk about that. As I have said, I doubt very much the desirability of what you propose to do in the way of drainage. You pick out three rivers, but it is not only in regard to the great rivers that drainage is wanted; the glands that feed the great rivers often require attention quite as much. In no case is attention more required than at Tuam. There a large amount, some £70,000 or £80,000, has been spent in arterial drainage, and that requires keeping up. There is no great river; but here and in many other places you may see the effect, of arterial drainage, and can form an opinion as to what is required to be done. But, as was to be expected, engineers turn to the great rivers. I should not have selected the Shannon, and my hon. Friend has referred to the Bann. The Government are working in the dark, and are incurring a great responsibility in taking away money practically in the most unconstitutional manner. Practically, though I admit not theoretically, they are taking money never voted; they are taking the rates of the country and applying them to fancy purposes. I know they have not done it theoretically, but practically they have, because there are remissions allowed to the local rates of England and Scotland; but in consequence of the use to which these funds are to be devoted there is no corresponding remission to Ireland. To mark my protest, I beg to move the adjournment of this debate.

MR. PYNE (Waterford, W.)

I differ from my hon. and gallant Friend—


I cannot help regarding this as wilful repetition of a discussion that has already gone far enough.


But I am speaking— [cries of "Order !" and interruptions.]— You speak much more often than I do. My hon. and gallant Friend—[Interruptions.]


Order, Order !


I claim to move, Sir, "That the Question be now put."

Question put accordingly, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 16: Majority 100.—(Div. List, No. 460.)

Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee on the said Resolution."


I moved the adjournment of the Debate.


On a point of Order, Sir. Was not the Question upon which we decided just now "That the Question be now put; "and is not the Motion moved by my hon. and gallant Friend now before the House that this Debate be now adjourned?


No Motion for adjournment was put from the Chair. It was not a completed Motion. An hon. Member was in the act of seconding the Motion when the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury claimed to move that the Question be now put. That Question, which I now put, is that this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.

Question put.

The House divided; —Ayes 115; Noes 16: Majority 99.—(Div. List, No. 461.)

Resolution agreed to.