§ (1.) £553, to complete the sum for Charitable Donations and Bequests Office, Ireland.
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (Mr. SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
said, he wished to ask whether the Commissioners had made any Report or suggestion to the Government, or whether the Government intended to take any action in regard to the better administration of the charities in Dublin, especially of the charities devoted to the maintenance of the hospitals in that city? The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) was no doubt aware that the condition of the administration of the charities, so far as it related to hospitals, was in an extremely unsatisfactory condition. The condition of things had been recently a matter of inquiry by Royal Commission, who took extensive evidence and made a very valuable and elaborate Report; the matter had also engaged the attention of the Municipality of Dublin. It was well known that in consequence of the great number and variety of hospitals in Dublin the funds administered by this Department, as well as other funds for similar purposes, were at present very much wasted. He believed that one of his Colleagues presented a Bill some time ago on the subject, which followed generally the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Those recommendations were the diminution of the number of hospitals and the establishment of a central board, having partly a representative character, for the purpose of administering the funds. He should be glad to hear from the hon. and learned Solicitor General whether the Government intended to leave this extremely important matter to the whole of the country as well as to Dublin to the initiation of private Members, or whether they intended early next Session to promote a Bill for the purpose of carrying into effect the recommendations of the Royal Commission?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN) (Dublin University)
said, that the subject to which the right hon. Gentleman had called attention was one of great importance. The Report had been before the House 1146 more than a year. The Commission was appointed to inquire generally into the management of hospitals, including the administration of charitable as well as Government funds, and there was a suggestion also made with regard to the way in which certain of the smaller hospitals should be dealt with. The Commission took a great deal of evidence in regard to various hospitals in Dublin, and presented their Report more than a year ago. The late Mr. Dwyer Gray took the matter in hand, and brought in a Bill. The Bill, however, was not proceeded with during the last Session of Parliament. Unfortunately the death of the hon. Member occurred during this year, and he (Mr. Madden) had made inquiries from time to time, but he was never able to ascertain that any other person had taken up the position Mr. Dwyer Gray occupied in relation to the carrying out of the recommendations of the Committee. But he was authorized to say that the Government would look into the matter most carefully; the matter was one which obviously deserved attention, and they would be prepared next Session to say what course they would take.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he was obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his valuable statement. The unfortunate death of his hon. Friend prevented the Bill being proceeded with as early as it could have been wished. The Corporation of Dublin had requested him to give attention to the subject, and he should be glad next Session to re-introduce the Bill of his late Colleague if he was to understand that facilities would be afforded for it by the Government.
§ MR. MADDEN
said, the right hon. Gentleman would understand that, while the Government would consider carefully how the recommendations of the Committee could be carried out, they could not pledge themselves to the details of the Bill introduced by the late Mr. Dwyer Gray.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (2.) £61,698, to complete the sum for the Local Government Board, Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, he desired to bring under the notice of the House a matter relating to the Longford Union, but before doing so he could not help bestowing one word of commendation on the Local Govern- 1147 ment Board for their action in relation to the Labourers Acts. The Board had taken a very proper and independent course; the Inspectors had done their work fairly, and he thought he might say they had done their work thoroughly. But, at the same time, he had to complain that, when Inspectors came before the Privy Council, and gave evidence to the best of their ability, they were met by the Privy Council not in a fair and friendly spirit, but in a bullying and deprecating spirit. He was glad that the Local Government Board were honestly endeavouring, so far as they were concerned, to discharge their duties under the Act, and he trusted that they would go on unintimidated by the action of the Irish Privy Council. There were other matters under this Vote which he certainly could not expend any praise upon. He referred especially to the Board's action in connection with the dismisal or attempted dismissal of certain medical officers. In the case of Dr. Magner the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had given way. It would have been a life-long stigma on Dr. Magner, a gentleman aged 21, if the charge of conspiracy made against him had been sustained. The charge, however, would not have stood one moment's investigation in the Law Courts, and the Government had given way on the point, and therefore there was no need to dwell upon it further. The Board endeavoured to prevent Dr. Higgins from holding the two positions of Coroner and Dispensing Medical Officer. They had receded from that position in regard to Dr. Higgins also, but he (Mr. T. M. Healy) complained that in the cases of Dr. Magner and Dr. Higgins, because they happened to be Nationalists, the Board took up a position they did not assume in other cases. He also desired to refer to the deliberate attempt on the part of the Board to discredit the machinery of Local Government in the hands of the Irish people. The Local Government Board had recently adopted the plan, if any Board of Guardians made the slightest error, of at once suppressing it. He maintained that this was done for the purpose of discrediting the feeble efforts of the Irish people to manage their own affairs; feeble in the sense that the law did not allow them proper machinery for management. He 1148 admitted that in the case of the Ballinasloe Board of Guardians there was a rather heated scene at one of the meetings, but it was brought about because the Local Government Board would not give to the people what they demanded—namely, some kind of local satisfaction. But the scene was not half as bad as those which frequently occurred in the Holborn and Clerkenwell vestries; and he noticed that in Scotland scenes outstripping any which had occurred at the Ballinasloe Board of Guardians had taken place. It was the first time in the history of the Ballinasloe Board of Guardians, in that landlord-ridden country, that the popular party had a majority. They refused to be checked by the minority, and he could not understand why, because they endeavoured to imitate English methods, they should be suppressed. From that day to this the affairs of the union had been in the hands of three paid guardians, whose salary the ratepayers had to pay, and whose management, of course, could never be as pure as that of the unpaid guardians. He preferred rather to see the people blundering on in their own way than to see them bossed by English officials. A popular Board among them was a new thing, and they might be at first a little exuberant, but the ratepayers would soon check them. If there was exuberance at the start, he maintained that it was better to tolerate it rather than to send down paid aristocrats to manage the affairs of the people; it was better for the people to put up with 2d. in the pound extra rates a year while they were learning the ways of government than to have their affairs managed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Gentlemen he sent down. What had happened in regard to the Athy Board? That Board considered it right to pay to the evicted tenants £1 a-week under the system of outdoor relief. When the Local Government Board had the possibility of surcharging the men concerned, was it right or fair to take the men by the throat, dissolve their local organization, and put in three of the Local Government's own friends for the purpose of giving them salaries, and thus to practically suspend all local government? The last case of this kind he had to call attention to, and a case in which the Local Government Board had some 1149 amount of right on their side, was that of the Dungarvan Union. In this case there was an allegation that they had not given a contract to the highest bidder, or that they gave a contract to one of their own friends. He was not in favour of either over-payment or corruption; he would certainly deal with such matters with a very high hand. But the way to deal with them, he submitted, was to prosecute the offending parties, and not to dissolve the board. It was unfair to suspend the rights of the people at large, including the ex-officios. If the ex-officios would try to keep those boards pure and sweet and wholesome, they having all the wealth and intelligence, and every other good quality—if they would not come in and help their poor neighbours and their less intelligent countrymen—if Gentlemen opposite, who represented the land, divorced themselves from the administration of local affairs, what else could be expected, but that the first time a popular party had power, having seen their opponents jobbing for centuries, they would imitate them. The landlord party never gave a job to any but their own friends; no Nationalist or Catholic had a chance. Take the case of the South Dublin Board of Guardians. At that very time there they would not have a Catholic even for a gate porter. He submitted that landlords did not use their rights properly. Not one labourer's cottage had been erected in the whole of Ulster, where the landlords had complete control. He submitted that the Local Government Board, when representations were sent into them, ought to see that the landlord party should not be able to exercise the power of preventing the labourers getting any kind of shelter. It was a curious fact that the Local Government Board took the very opposite view of matters in the case of the Longford Union to that they had taken in the case of the Dungarvan Board of Guardians. The Longford Guardians made an attempt to save the rates; the Board considered that in the rich parts of the union, where the rates were easily collected, the poundage should be reduced from 6d. to 4d. In the poorer portions of the union, where the rates were difficult to collect, the Guardians were willing to continue the poundage of 6d. He was advised that in this matter they 1150 were following the example of the Grand Jury, who had reduced the poundage paid to the Barony cess collectors from 1s. to 6d. and 7d. in the pound. The Guardians did not make this a wholesale attack; they only said that in the richer portions of the union they would reduce the poundage. What did the Local Government Board do? They pointed out that the collectors were permanent officers, and that there was no power to supersede them by other men, and they referred to the 39th article of the Rules and Regulations affecting Boards of Guardians. If the Guardians had done wrong, he thought that they should be indicted and convicted, but the ratepayers ought to have a chance of electing new and better men in their place. Ratepayers had a right to representation, and the punishment of the Guardians ought not to be extended to the ratepayers, but that was really what the Local Government Board were doing. If a Member was expelled from this House—if, for instance, the hon. Member for the Lambeth Division of Kennington (Mr. Gent-Davis) were to be expelled—surely the rights of the electors of Kennington would not be suspended for a moment; a new writ would issue, and the people would have the power of returning a new Member to the House. If the Local Government Board were so anxious as they professed to be, with regard to the interests of the ratepayers in the Dungarvan case, what excuse had they for interference with the Longford Board when they, following the example of the Grand Jury, reduced the poundage paid to the collectors? The Longford Board of Guardians felt very strongly about the action of the Local Government Board, and had passed a protest against it. On the facts submitted to him he did not think that with the state of poverty which prevailed at the present time in the country, with the landlords having to reduce their rents, and the people having to put up with less than they had hitherto been receiving, and with the example of the Grand Jury before their eyes, it was too strong a thing for the Longford Board of Guardians to reduce the poundage paid in respect to the richer portions of the union from 6d. to 4d. There was one other matter he desired to make allusion to, and that was what was called the increase in the outdoor relief. 1151 It had been made a charge against the Irish people, especially in the columns of The Times, that an increase in outdoor relief had only taken place in unions where the popular party were in power. He was strongly of opinion that nothing could be more justifiable than the action of popular Boards of Guardians in giving outdoor relief, and he regarded it as a sign of returning Christianity in the management of Poor Law Boards. Formerly people were never relieved until they pauperized themselves, but now that the popular party were getting power they endeavoured to spare the feelings of their poorer brethren by giving them the means of keeping up their employment outside the workhouse. One of the great complaints of The Times was that a tailor was given 15s. to enable him to purchase a sewing-machine. He (Mr. T. M. Healy) maintained that, if they thereby kept this man and his family off the rates, it was a very proper allocation of public funds, a far more suitable allocation than it would have been to have given the tailor money to pay his and his family's passage to America, possibly to be sent back again, and to be planted on the Queenstown Union, where they might have no settlement at all. He rejoiced that the system against which complaint was made did prevail. He abhorred the system of the Poor Law, and he thought that O'Connel was right in denouncing it. There were 160 unions in Ireland, but he believed that if things were properly managed they could get along with six. At present workhouses in Ireland were merely receptacles for tramps and prostitutes. In most cases he was of opinion that they ought to be swept away, leaving the medical charity, which was an excellent system, in vogue. He had not the smallest sympathy with this kind of humanitarian humbug; he thought the ratepayers ought not to be saddled with burdens for people of the tramp and the other class he had mentioned. If people made mistakes, let them bear the responsibility of them. The Government had, in certain cases, tried to extinguish a number of the poorer Boards of Guardians. That policy of consolidation, in his opinion, ought to be continued, and he was of opinion that one workhouse in every county was quite as much as was necessary for the requirements of the country, keeping 1152 up at the same time the system of medical relief and of outdoor relief by means of Parish Committees. The sooner the immense workhouses, which, with the police barracks, were the main trade marks of British administration, were swept away, the better it would be for the country. He trusted the Government would go on restricting the number of Boards of Guardians, leaving the medical charities in full operation, for that was a wise way of spending the public money, or rather the money of the ratepayers.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, he quite agreed with what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had said with regard to the beneficial results which accrued in Ireland from the amalgamation of workhouses, though he could not go so far as the hon. and learned Gentleman had gone in supposing that one workhouse would be sufficient for each county. Upon that point he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) whether the Local Government Board had considered the question of the Gorton Union in County Tyrone. He understood they contemplated making a new experiment in that Union—namely, to see whether the union would be able to do without a workhouse. He believed that the Guardians were of opinion that the poor would be able to get relief without the establishment of a workhouse. The hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken of the working of the Labourers Act, and had said that there were no cottages erected in Ulster, and had attributed that fact to the action of the ex-officio Guardians. Now, in Ballymena cottages were being constructed under the Act. He (Mr. Macartney) utterly denied that, if the Labourers Act had not been productive of any good in Ulster, it was the result of the action of the ex-officio Guardians; it was rather the result of the action of the elected Guardians. In Ballymena, in County Antrim, where there had been a considerable struggle under the Act, the ex-officio Guardians, especially the leading ex-officio Guardians, were in favour of the erection of labourers' cottages, but they were strongly opposed by the elected Guardians. The elected Guardians were not on the side of the hon. and learned Member, and therefore it was naturally 1153 the policy of the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that the Board was under the control of the landlords. He would like the hon. and learned Gentleman to name a single Board in Ulster which was controlled by landlords. [An hon. MEMBER: All.] There was not one. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes; Donegal.] The hon. and learned Gentleman knew perfectly well there was not a single Board of Guardians in Ulster which was controlled upon this question, or upon any other question, by landlords. It was absurd to say that landlords controlled the Boards of Guardians; it was quite impossible that in Antrim, Down, or Derry the Boards of Guardians were, or could be, controlled by landlords.
To prevent the prolongation of a controversy which is quite irrelevant, let me say it is not the action of the Boards of Guardians we are discussing, but the action of the Local Government Board in relation to Boards of Guardians.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, he was afraid he had been led away from the point. He wished to ask his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary whether, in connection with the working of the Labourers' Act, he would consider this point? In one of the districts in Ulster a very strong feeling had been aroused among those who thought they ought to be benefited by the Labourers' Act, owing to the action of the Board of Guardians. Representations under the Labourers' Act had been with great difficulty in one instance procured, and those representations went before the Board of Guardians, and had been promptly thrown out by the elected Guardians. He knew of one instance in which accommodation for labourers was of a very bad description, but he was happy to say that generally speaking, in the counties in the North of Ireland with which he was acquainted, the labourers' cottages were fairly good, and that it was only here and there that there was a district in which the accommodation was inferior. He had applied to the Local Government Board to send down an Inspector. There was a power reserved by one of the Acts to the Local Government Board to do that where the Board of Guardians declined to entertain a representation. He believed that if the Local Government Board had sent down an Inspector 1154 to look into the case, independently of the Board of Guardians, there would have been removed a great deal of the irritation which existed owing to the action of the Board of Guardians. But the Local Government Board had declined to send down an Inspector, sheltering themselves behind the action of the Board of Guardians. The feeling of the labouring population in the district was that their representation had gone before a Body which was distinctly hostile to them. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy) would recollect that when the last Labourers' Act was before the House, he (Mr. Macartney) moved an Amendment to the effect that power should be given to permit representations signed by householders. He recognized the difficulty there was in some cases in getting ratepayers to sign the representation. The labourers in the district he had in mind felt that the representation, which they had secured at very great difficulty, went before a Board which was decidedly hostile. At all events, the representation was thrown out, as the labourers conceived, not on its merits. Possibly it was, but the labourers felt greatly aggrieved when the Local Government Board, to whom the Act reserved a sort of appeal as to the real merits of a representation, did not take the trouble to send down an Inspector to inquire into the merits of the facts alleged in the representation. He trusted that even yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would cause an independent examination into the facts alleged in the labourers' representation, because, if so, he believed the labouring population, with which he was acquainted, would feel that the Act was not a complete farce.
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (MR. SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
said, that one part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macartney) was certainly pertinent to the Vote before the Committee. Under Section 1 of the Labourers' Act the Local Government Board had power, not necessarily to initiate schemes under the Act, but when Boards of Guardians failed to act on representations made to them, to send down an Inspector to inquire and report. If the Local Government Board availed themselves of that statutory power, unquestionably 1155 the Province of Ulster would not be, in regard to the erection of labourers' cottages, in the neglected condition it was at present. Now his hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had referred to a question of great importance, and that was the continually intrusive and irritating conduct of the Local Government Board in regard to medical men who were subjected to their jurisdiction. The Committee was familiar with the case of Dr. Kenny, a Member of the House, but in a more recent case the Local Government Board endeavoured to intimidate Dr. Magner, a medical gentleman connected with the Department, by putting him, to quote the words of the Coercion Act, "in fear of his means of living." He (Mr. Sexton) failed entirely to see why the Local Government Board should interfere with a respectable man and a competent practitioner, because, in proposing a resolution at a public meeting, he stated his belief that the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not an admirable Minister and the Crimes Act was not a perfect piece of legislation. The action of the Local Government Board had been proved by experience not only to be despotic, but inefficacious. The intervention of the Board had been a failure in every case—they had retired from their position in the case of Dr. Kenny as well as in the case of Dr. Magner. He protested against the attempt to deprive a medical man, who was paid by the rates—paid by the people—of his means of living because he happened not to agree, as a politician, with the Local Government Board. He went a little further than his hon. and learned Friend had gone in reference to the case of Dr. Magner. Those cases had been occurring from year to year, and he thought the time had come when the people were entitled to some assurance that this system of petty persecution and imprisonment of official medical men, because of their political opinions, should not be permitted to continue. In the case of Dr. Higgins there was a gross case of persecution. The Local Government Board maintained that he should not be allowed to hold at the same time the positions of coroner and dispensary doctor, although they allowed the two positions to be held by a gentleman who was not op- 1156 posed to them in politics. The observations of his hon. and learned Friend with regard to the suppression of Boards of Guardians were well worthy of the attention of the Committee. He thought the Committee ought to press for a catalogue of the cases in which Boards of Guardians had been suppressed—for the names of the Unions, the facts which led to their suppression, and whether or not the facts which led to the suppression continued to operate. The Board of Guardians of the Ballinasloe Union had been suppressed, because, in their manners, they did not come up to the elegant standard of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. In England numerous cases could be found of Vestries and other local Bodies where there were not only irritating speeches, but where differences of opinion occasionally reached the length of physical combat. He did not object to a little freedom in the popular government of affairs in England, but he thought the same weight and measure might be applied to Ireland. In the case of the Swineford Board there was also suppression, but it was owing to the financial condition of the Union. A gentleman named Mr. Peter Welsh, however, had been since sent down as one of the Vice Guardians. The suppression of the Board meant a money fine upon the ratepayers of the Union, because two gentlemen, previously idle on account of the misappreciation of their intellectual force by society in general, were sent down upon comfortable salaries and quartered on the rates of the Union, which were not already in a sound condition. Mr. Welsh was already a magistrate in several counties, and the Government found him so useful a magistrate in other counties that the moment he went down to Swineford they made him a magistrate of the County of Mayo also. One of his first achievements as a magistrate for the County of Mayo was to come into the street on a Sunday, when the members of a foot-ball club were returning from their field to their meeting house, and to threaten them, in very harsh and brutal tones, with the use of the forces of the Crown against them. He did not intend to go into the details of the matter, nor was he going to argue whether Mr. Welsh was within his legal right in threatening to use the 1157 forces of the Crown upon the occasion; but he mentioned that a gentleman whe was sent down from Dublin to act as the paid servant of the ratepayers ought to be confined to that function, and should not be created a magistrate as well. His hon. and learned Friend had exposed the curious inconsistency in the action of the Local Government Board in suspending the Dungarvan Board of Guardians upon the ground of financial laxity, and in their censure of the Longford Board of Guardians on the ground that the Board was financially too strict. He imagined it was rather hard for one of these unfortunate members to strike a golden mean. Surely in the case of the Dungarvan Board nothing would have been easier, if they had acted corruptly, than to take one or other of the courses indicated by his hon. and learned Friend. Either the Guardians could have been prosecuted for an act of fraud, or else the Auditor of the Local Government Board could have surcharged the individual Guardians concerned in the act of maladministration or fraud. But the extreme and despotic course which was always most in favour with the Departments of the State in Ireland was adopted. The Government did not choose to take the course which would hit the guilty parties, but to take a course which would punish the innocent as well as the guilty. They suspended the whole Board for the act of a few, and, therefore, deprived the ratepayers of the Union of the valuable benefit of elective Local Government. In the case of the Longford Board the case was more extraordinary still. The Longford Board had been in the habit of paying 6d. in the £ for the collection of the rates, and they came to the conclusion that the collection of the rates—in fact, they had tenders from competent men to collect the rates for 2d. and 3d. in the £—ought to be made for less. They appealed to the Local Government Board, who said—"No; although you can get a man with good security to collect these rates for less, you must continue to pay 6d. in the £ whether you like it or not." He maintained very strongly that the Longford Guardians had a perfect right to have the rates collected for the cheapest practical sum, and that the Local Government Board were, by their action, insisting upon the imposition of a fraud upon the ratepayers of the Longford 1158 Union. Now, he had lately had occasion to refer to the Local Government Board on a matter connected with the public health of the City of Dublin. The Governors of Sir Peter Dunne's Hospital in the city erected a new wing, which they proposed to set apart for cases of infectious diseases. The wing was erected in close proximity to a populous court, and the proposal to use this new wing spread alarm and terror amongst the people inhabiting the court. He visited the court himself, and noticed that the windows of the ward to be used for fevers and other infectious diseases were far nearer to the doors and windows of the houses in the court than the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland was to him at that moment. The Municipality went to the Local Government Board, and saw the capable, and courteous, and genial Commissioner, Mr. George Morris. He asked the Local Government Board, through this gentleman, to take some steps which would prevent the use of the wing for the purpose he had specified. The Commissioner said the Board would refer to their legal agent, and on reference to that gentleman they reported to him (Mr. Sexton) that they had no power to do what was desired. Now the Municipality of Dublin had no power, indeed they found themselves controlled in the most ridiculous way in regard to matters of public interest and importance. The Municipality had no power, and the Local Government Board said that they had no power. The Governors of a hospital were absolutely going to set up a wing for fever and other infectious diseases in a court inhabited by hundreds of people, and where it might have the effect of submitting the city to a terrible epidemic. The Governors had, however, given the assurance that the wing should not be used for the purpose originally contemplated. He was thankful to the Governors for that assurance, but the people of Dublin had certainly nothing to thank the Government for. An appeal was lately made to the Local Government Board upon another question. A gentleman—Dr. Panter—died of poison in one of the hospitals maintained by the Government in Dublin. A medical student had to give a patient about midnight some bromide of potassium for the purpose of producing sleep, and he had to go from one hospital 1159 to the otter for the purpose of administering the draught. There was no pharmacy chest in the hospital where the patient was lying, but the medical student had to bring the draught from another hospital in the city. The student had two bottles in his possession. One of the bottles contained the draught which he was to give to induce sleep, and the other contained a solution of morphia to be used as a hyper-dermic injection in another case. The medical student gave the wrong bottle to the nurse; the patient took the draught and died in a few hours. At the inquest the jury returned the very curious verdict of "death from poison taken from misadventure," which, to the ordinary reader, seemed to infer that it was the act of the patient himself, and not the act of the medical student and the nurse. Of course, what happened in the case of Dr. Panter might happen in the case of any other man. The Public Health Committee appealed to the Local Government Board to make inquiries, because they were entitled to an assurance that precautions would be taken that such a misadventure should not occur again. He hoped his hon. Friends would join with him on that occasion in insisting upon the Government giving them some assurance that the inquiry asked for by the Public Health Committee would be held by the Local Government Board. The public ought to be certain that the hospitals, which cost so much money, and were maintained at the public expense, would be conducted in a manner which would render the occurrence of such misadventures impossible.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he desired to join his protest to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), and the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Sexton), against the action of the Government in respect to the Ballinasloe Board of Guardians. He thought the appointment of Vice Guardians in the place of elected Guardians had lasted too long there. He was not altogether adverse to appointing Vice Guardians where unions were totally incapable of managing their own affairs, but at no time had there been more than four or five of such unions. In a case like that of the extremely poor Union of Swineford, he was not at 1160 all indisposed to the Government stepping in, but he thought if they did they ought to give some assistance to the rates. But in no case did he think the suspension of a Board ought to last more than a month. The important subject of outdoor relief had been raised, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford had said it would be a very good thing if indoor relief in Ireland was practically abolished. He thought it would be a good thing if it was practicable, and, having some experience of Poor Law administration, he rather thought it was practicable. At any rate, the Local Government Board might take some steps in that direction. If an economical system was desired in Ireland, they must have either indoor relief altogether, or outdoor relief altogether. The double system was very expensive; at the same time he did not think they could ever get rid of out door relief in Ireland without causing enormous suffering to the aged poor, who were unable to earn their livelihood. Of course outdoor relief could be greatly abused. In the Tuam Union, with which he was connected, there was no abuse of the system, but the fact was owing to the great vigilance of the Guardians. If they had a workhouse they must have a master and matron, and they must have a clerk of the union, who must be a man possessing considerable knowledge on certain points of law, and to whom, therefore, a good salary must be paid, There were all the superannuation allowances to be taken into consideration, so that the establishment of a workhouse system was an extremely expensive matter. When it was said, as he knew it had been said, that an indoor pauper could be maintained for 3s. 4d., it was altogether illusory. If the unions could be broken up there might be a great cheapening of the poor rate throughout the country. Of course some provision would have to be made for orphans and aged persons. In other countries such persons were attended to by charitable institutions. Individual Members could not be expected to elaborate schemes which would totally change the Poor Law system in Ireland, but the Government might do so. The present was a very proper time for such a change to be made, because at present there was scarcely anybody in the 1161 workhouses except the habitual paupers. Of course, in any new scheme by which the number of workhouses was reduced, it was absolutely necessary that vested interests should not be interfered with. For instance, the present masters of workhouses would have to be compensated. Another point he had to draw the attention of the Committee to was the present overloading of the Poor Law system. Why the registration of voters should be connected with the Poor Law he could not understand. He would like to know what supervision was exercised over the work of the clerks in this Department? The Committee were asked to vote a considerable sum of money for extra clerks in Dublin, and, so far as he could see, the result of their employment was simply to put the Local Authorities to additional expense in answering their communications. This was not a condition of things that was created all at once, and subjected to the criticism of Parliament. It grew, and unfortunately there was no means by which the growth could be watched and checked. There was another point he wished to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. It was understood that a large sum of money was to be allotted in England in aid of the local rates, but only a very small sum was to be allotted in Ireland. Now, the present Vote not only dealt with the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland, but also with the administration by the Grand Juries, and he was anxious to know how far the Local Government Board would have power to allot this money to the different unions. He was told that the greater portion of the grant would be received in the course of the ensuing financial year; but very possibly a portion of it would be received before Parliament re-assembled next Session. He believed that certain poor unions had remonstrated as to the mode in which it was proposed to allot the grant, on the ground that that portion of it which was to be allotted in the relief of the poor rates, in accordance with the Returns which had been presented, would not fairly represent the claims of the Poor Law districts. One of their contentions was that a larger proportion of the grant ought to be given to localities where the rates were regularly paid without dispute than where they were squeezed 1162 down to the lowest possible point. He thought it was of the utmost importance that early information should be given as to the way in which it was proposed to carry out the allotment by the Local Government Board. He presumed that the duty of allotting it would be entrusted to the Local Government Board, and that they would have the power of regulating the apportionment.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Will the hon. and gallant Member allow me to explain? The allotment of the grant will not rest with the Local Government Board at all, but it will be made in accordance with the Act of Parliament. It is possible that, in the first instance, there will be a provisional allotment.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he understood from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that there would be a provisional allotment during the next three or four months. He had no wish to do anything to interfere with the provisional allotment of the money, but the question as to the principle on which it was to be allotted permanently later on would be another matter. There was a further point which he thought required attention at the hands of the Local Government Board, and that was the audit of the accounts of the treasurers and secretaries of the Grand Juries. He referred to Item C of the present Estimate, which hon. Members would find at page 199. He wished to know upon what principle the accounts were audited? The audit of the Poor Law accounts was a very effectual one. Not only was it effectual, but there were complaints that the auditors were even too stringent in the discharge of their duties. There was no such complaint in regard to the county accounts. In England the auditors were appointed by the ratepayers, but in Ireland they were appointed by the Sheriff, with the result that the accounts were audited upon a much more lax principle than corresponding accounts in England. Nor had the ratepayers any remedy. They had no voice in the appointment of the auditors, and had no control over the audit itself. The auditors themselves were paid a large sum of money, and if their audit was conducted upon an improper principle there was no redress. He thought it was essential to the interests of the ratepayers that the auditors 1163 should be properly looked after, and he was anxious to learn from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary what the system was upon which the county accounts were audited. He believed there was a book published every six months, which was supposed to give an account of the county expenditure, but it was prepared in such a manner as to be altogether unintelligible. He thought it was the duty of the Local Government Board to look after the way in which the money was spent, and to see that it was spent in accordance with the requirements of each county without undue extravagance. He had never, so far, seen a remark from an auditor which would imply that there had been an extravagant expenditure, and he, therefore, maintained that the auditors ought to be very strictly looked after by the right hon. Gentleman, either in his capacity of Chief Secretary or President of the Local Government Board, in order to see that they audited the county accounts in the most satisfactory and thorough manner. The salaries of the auditors were extremely high, and as the position entitled the holder to a pension on ceasing to officiate, it was generally held by persons of high standing. Indeed, if the patronage now exercised in the bestowal of the office were got rid of, he believed it was quite possible to get the work done better, and for one-half of the money. He was of opinion that this was a matter which the Local Government Board should be required to look after, in order to provide that the appointment of auditors should be properly made. There had been constant changes in regard to the staff entrusted with the management of county affairs, and it must not be forgotten that whenever an office was abolished compensation had to be made. In some places the county cess was much higher than the union rate, and in the interests of the ratepayers it was most desirable that the expenditure should be kept as low as possible. In England it was not unfrequently the custom for the Auditor General to criticize even the acts of Her Majesty's Government when he came to the conclusion that they were spending money in an irregular manner. Nothing of the kind was done in Ireland. There was another point to which he desired 1164 to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. There was a long-standing complaint in Ireland as to the mode in which extra constables were employed in some of the Irish counties, and charged upon the cesspayers. Although extra constables were allotted to a county, it not infrequently happened that the normal Constabulary Force of the county was beneath its full number. It was, therefore, felt to be a grievance that the county should not only pay its full quota for the Constabulary that belonged to it, but that it was required to pay for an extra body of men, who would not be required if the force was maintained upon its proper footing. It certainly appeared ridiculous and grossly unfair that in such a case a charge for extra constables should be made. He thought the auditor ought to be instructed to look after the matter, and, at any rate, express an opinion upon it. At the present moment it was extremely difficult to get at the facts. The Government shielded themselves behind the plea that they had no information, even in regard to the books relating to the county accounts, which were published every six months. They said they were not Government books, and, therefore, the only way of obtaining information in regard to them was to require the auditors to draw attention to the matter in their reports. It was certainly, in his opinion, a matter that required to be looked after. It was no answer to say that the law would probably be altered before long. For the last 14 years it had been universally admitted that the Grand Jury system in Ireland was very bad; and when any complaint had been made, they were told that it was impossible for anybody to defend the system, but they must wait until the Government were able to introduce a reforming Bill. Nevertheless, no reform had been brought about, and the defects of the system were worse than ever. He, therefore, thought that anyone who occupied a responsible position in Ireland ought to take the matter in hand, instead of leaving it to be dealt with by the Secretary to the Treasury. The work which the Secretary to the Treasury had to do in connection with England and Scotland was quite enough, without supposing him to be master of everything financial that happened in 1165 Ireland. There ought to be some official of the Government responsible who was more specially connected with Ireland. He believed that if attention were directed to the extravagance of the expenditure in Ireland, both in connection with Imperial and local matters, a great benefit would be conferred upon the Irish people. At the present moment there was an extravagant waste of the public money, and everything done was badly mismanaged. He trusted that next Session they would be told that a greater check had been imposed on the public expenditure than that which now existed, and he hoped to have from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary some assurance that he would carefully consider the matter.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
said, he desired to express his concurrence in the views of the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) in reference to the mode in which the Local Government Board administered the duties of their office. The attack which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had made upon the Board was amply justified by the facts of the case. He believed that hitherto they had persistently set public opinion in Ireland at defiance, and had pursued an arbitrary course of action which was highly detrimental to the interests of the ratepayers. The hon. and gallant Member had adverted to several cases in which the Board had taken a high-handed and objectionable course, and he (Mr. Mac Neill) proposed now to bring before the Committee an instance equally glaring in relation to a case in which the Local Government Board had not interfered, although their interference was imperatively demanded. His contention was that the Board invariably interfered where their interference was not called for, and that they remained inactive and supine where they ought to interfere. The matter to which he desired to draw attention was a case which he had been prevented from bringing under the notice of public opinion in England by the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Before he went into the merits of the case itself, he should like to explain to English Members how impossible it was for them to understand the action of the Local Government Board in Ireland. The term "Local Government Board" was 1166 in itself simply a euphemistic expression, signifying the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself. The right hon. Gentleman dominated the Board, and the Board in turn dominated the Poor Law Guardians. As the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary acted as the head of the Local Government Board, he was, therefore, responsible to the House of Commons for the acts of the Board. Like all other Public Bodies in Ireland, the Local Government Board were full of paraphernalia and circumstance, and did everything under a big flat-faced seal, bearing the arms of the Office, the only addition required being the motto, "We have done those things we ought not to have done, and have left undone those things which we ought to have done." The instance he desired to mention was one in which a portion of his own constituents had, by the action of the Board, been deprived of their Constitutional rights, and the evil had occurred through the non-intervention of the Local Government Board in the action of the South Donegal Board of Guardians. It was certainly a case in which it was the duty of the Board to have interfered, seeing that the action of the Board of Guardians amounted to a positive scandal to civilization. There was a widespread conviction that the Local Government Board did not mete out the same measure of justice to the localities in which there was a strong National feeling as to others in which the Nationalists were in a minority. On the contrary, a feeling of hostility to the Nationalists was carefully encouraged and nurtured, and this feeling could not have been more strongly exemplified than in a case to which he had already called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary—namely, the action of the Board of Guardians of the South Donegal Union. The Protestant majority of that Board during the past five years had systematically appointed Protestants to positions which ought to be held by Catholics. He had put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on the subject as to the reason of the non-interference of the Local Government Board, but he had failed to receive a satisfactory reply. The circumstances had been repeatedly brought under the notice of the Local Government Board, but there had been no attempt to interfere with the action 1167 of the Protestant majority of the Guardians who, as magistrates, held an ex-officio position at the Board. The Guardians, had the control of Donegal Workhouse and while they were Protestants 99 per cent of the children in the workhouse were Roman Catholics, These children, by the mode of procedure adopted by the Board of Guardians, had been entirely deprived of religious instruction. One of the items contained in the Vote was the salary of the schoolmistress of this workhouse. On three occasions during the last five years there had been a vacancy in the post of schoolmistress, and three times, in the teeth of the representations and views of the elected Guardians, a Protestant schoolmistress had been appointed by the Protestant ex officio Guardians. The children, consequently, were left entirely without religious instruction, and he could not conceive a more degrading or more shocking thing, having regard to the interests of society at large and the future prospects of the children themselves, than that pauper children should be brought up without religious instruction. A more gross and wanton act of arbitrary power could not be imagined than to deprive persons who happened to belong to another creed of the means of obtaining religious instruction. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had admitted the facts of the case; but, although he deprecated the action of the South Donegal Board of Guardians, he would not direct the Local Government Board to interfere, and had allowed the scandal to continue. Another Question he had put to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland a few weeks ago also remained unanswered—namely, what steps would be taken on the part of the Government to push on the scheme of railway and fishery development promised for next year, seeing that the potato crop had failed, and the small farmers of the county of Donegal had nothing to depend upon for subsistence except a scanty crop of oats? He had put the Question succinctly, both to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and to the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland. He had certainly no complaint to make as to the mode in which the hon. and learned Solicitor General 1168 answered the Questions put to him. He always treated the Irish Members with courtesy. That was not always the case with the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and in this instance the Question was so large and so long that the right hon. Gentleman economized his own time and that of the House by not answering it at all. The consequence was that no reply on the part of Her Majesty's Government appeared in the English journals, where it was most desirable that it should have appeared; and, so far as Ireland was concerned, the people of that country knew all about it a great deal better than the right hon. Gentleman did. The question of the appointments by the Protestant majority of the South Donegal Union had been repeatedly brought under the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He himself had asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the Roman Catholic priest of the district, at the suggestion of the Bishop of the diocese, had not resigned his position on the ground that he was utterly unable to give religious instruction to the children in the work-house? He had further asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the Local Government Board had not power, under the circumstances, to dissolve the Board of Guardians, and if they proposed to take any, and, if so, what, means of doing so? All the right hon. Gentleman did was to give an expression of his regret and sympathy? He (Mr. Mac Neill) presumed that it would have been far too cruel a kindness to suppress the Board of Guardians. Why? Was it because they were engaged in keeping up the worst and most bitter passions of mankind? He knew that the Roman Catholics of Donegal entertained a strong sense of the wrong and injustice which had been inflicted. Instead of receiving censure, the Guardians had been patted on the back. It could not be said that the Local Government Board had no power to check their own creatures, who, at the end of the 19th century, were guilty of such flagrant religious intolerance and persecution. He did not complain of useless expenditure, but of the way in which the money of the people was used in suppressing and degrading all the instincts of liberty—and then, because through some accidental circumstance the power 1169 of the Board of Guardians was vested in a small minority, allowing that minority to use their power for political purposes. That was the case in Donegal at this moment. He wished the Committee clearly to understand that for the last five years the Donegal Workhouse, the most Catholic place in the Empire, through the action of a party who were simply the nominees of the Government, and who could be removed by the Chief Secretary by a stroke of the pen, had been prevented from giving religious instruction to the pauper inmates. The persons who were responsible for this state of things were the Local Government Board, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was the ex officio President. As head of the Irish Government, the right hon. Gentleman possessed absolute control and could put matters right if he chose; instead of which he said, with a shrug of the shoulders, that he would be only too delighted to interfere if he possessed the power.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
said, he joined with his hon. Friend in protesting against the highhanded proceedings of the Local Government Board in dealing with the elected Members of the Board of Guardians in Ireland. The Local Government Board possessed great power over Boards of Guardians through the use of "sealed orders;" and their auditors had the power of surcharging members of the Boards who might sign the cheques with any improper expenditure; he therefore did not think they were justified in taking the extreme step of superseding a Board of Guardians altogether, and of sending down stipendiary Guardians to replace them, except in the very last resort, and in cases where the Unions were left derelict by the local Boards. Unfortunately, the Boards of Guardians which had been singled out recently for the exercise of these powers were Boards on which the popular or Nationalist representatives had secured working majorities, and the action of the Local Government Board was not free from the suspicion that on this account they had been attacked and trifling irregularities made the excuse for suppressing them. He had not risen, however, for the purpose of addressing the Committee on the subject, 1170 because, while he thought that the proceedings of the Local Government Board had been wrong in those respects, the central authority of local government in Ireland had various useful functions to perform in directing and assisting the Local Bodies in various ways, with a view of obtaining efficiency of administration and uniformity of practice. His complaint against the Board was that it did not in all cases exercise its powers and duties properly in regard to the local questions with which it had to deal. As an illustration he would mention the unsatisfactory manner in which the Board had exercised its powers under the Labourers' Cottages Act. The labourers' cottages were erected, as the House was aware, under the orders of the Irish Privy Council, obtained by the different Unions. The proceedings were altogether novel, and the works were carried out, in a great part of the country, in a good many places where it was not easy to obtain proper professional architectural advice or competent builders to carry out the building of the cottages. It was, therefore, a case in which he thought the Local Government Board might have stepped in with great propriety, in order to assist the local Boards of Guardians in having the work carried out economically, in the best possible manner, and with some degree of uniformity. The Local Government Board had an engineering Inspector at a salary of £700 a-year, and two assistant engineering Inspectors at £300 a-year each; and he thought the Board ought to have directed those officers to prepare type, plans, and general instructions for the use of the Boards of Guardians, and see that the work was properly carried out, in order that the money that was advanced for the erection of labourers' cottages might not be wasted. He had some personal knowledge of the way in which the work had been carried out in particular districts. It was not to be supposed that there were persons in the outlying districts of Ireland who had personal knowledge or were able to get professional assistance in regard to the construction of these cottages, and it was, therefore, desirable that the Local Government Board should intervene in order that the buildings might be erected in a suitable and satisfactory manner. It must not be for- 1171 gotten that the expense would be a serious charge upon the ratepayers of the district. He would mention one case, by way of illustration, which had occurred recently, where he saw huge stones of 2 cwt. or 3 cwt. had been placed on the roof to keep it from being blown off the house. It was much to be regretted that such a state of things should exist, when the Local Government Board were at hand to lay down proper plans with the engineering assistance they had at their command. The Board should see that proper specifications were prepared, and that proper persons were selected to carry them out. He thought that in every case in which an application was made for the erection of these buildings the Local Government Board should send down an Inspector to see that some uniform plan was adopted, and insist on having the work let to competent contractors, and properly completed before sanctioning the payments. Another question arose in regard to the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. It was well known that Dublin was the great cattle market of Ireland, and that three-fourths of the cattle imported had to pass over the Dublin quays. During the last 12 months the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act had assumed formidable dimensions in Dublin. One of the provisions of the Act was, that not only were all cattle that were diseased to be slaughtered, but that cattle which were brought into contact with them should be slaughtered also. This regulation had imposed upon the people of Dublin an expenditure of at least from £18,000 to £20,000 a-year, and it was felt to be a great burden on the Dublin Unions.
I fail to see how the remarks of the hon. Member are connected with Vote now before the Committee. Will the hon. Member point out the connection?
§ MR. MURPHY
said, he thought it would be regular, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant was also Head of the Local Government Board.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
speaking to the point of Order, said, that there were individuals whose salaries were included in the Vote who certainly received their remuneration under the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act.
said, the question then ought to have been raised under the Vote for the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that the payments certainly came under the head of the Chief Secretary's Department.
§ MR. MURPHY
said, he regretted that he was unable, through the Forms of the House, to call attention to this very important matter. He would, under the circumstances, defer what he had intended to say until the Report of Committee of Supply was brought up.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)
said, he wished to call attention to the circumstances under which the Local Government had suspended the elected Guardians of the Athy Union and replaced them by Vice Guardians sent down from quite a different part of the country who did not possess the confidence of the people of the district. In England, the Poor Law Guardians had considerable powers in regard to the granting of outdoor relief, but in Ireland that power was extremely restricted. There seemed to be an entire want of trust in the Irish Guardians, and certainly that appeared to be the case in reference to the Guardians of the Athy Union. He believed that the Vice Guardians in this case came from the Province of Connaught—quite a different part of the country. As they had brought their wives and families with them, and taken up their abodes there, it was evident that they expected to be very comfortable, and to remain undisturbed for a considerable period. In the meantime the ratepayers were deprived of representation. Of course great dissatisfaction was felt, and he was told that there was likely to be a strike against the rate by the Vice Guardians. The purpose, however, for which he had risen was to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary how long this state of things was to go on? A question, however, was asked the other day by the hon. Member for South Kildare (Mr. Leahy), whether the present condition of affairs would come to an end in March, and the newly-elected Guardians be allowed to take the place of the Vice Guardians, and the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was that the matter was under his consideration, and that there had been communications upon the subject. He (Mr. W. A. Macdonald) 1173 thought he should be wanting in his duty to his constituents, and, indeed, to the people of Ireland generally, if he did not press for an answer to the question. He wished to know how long a state of things which involved taxation without representation was to continue; and whether the right hon. Gentleman was really anxious to preserve the peace and order of the district, because he was quite sure, from what he saw when he was there in September, there was a strong feeling of dissatisfaction. This feeling would be altogether allayed if, next March, when the new Guardians were elected, the Vice Guardians were removed and the ordinary mode of Government restored to the Union.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had put a question in reference to the suspension of the Guardians of the Athy Union and their replacement by Vice Guardians, but that question had already been answered by his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) at a time when he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was unable to be present. He was extremely anxious that the elected Guardians should be restored, and this he anticipated would have been done before had there not been some attempt to obstruct the Vice Guardians in the execution of their duty. The hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. Mac Neill) had asked a question about the appointments in connection with the South Donegal Workhouse, and he had asked that the Local Government Board should reconsider the action they had taken in the matter in regard to the course pursued now by the Guardians, for some years, in reference to the appointment of teachers. He had never attempted, nor had any of his Predecessors attempted, to defend the action which the Donegal Guardians had taken, and he had asked them to reconsider the course they were now pursuing with regard to the selection of a Roman Catholic teacher. It must, however, be remembered that it was not in every case in which the Local Government Board objected to the action of the Guardians that they had the legal power to interfere. The hon. Gentleman told them that they had power to dissolve Boards of Guardians, and that they in- 1174 variably exercised their power whenever the Board of Guardians they were dealing with had a majority of Nationalists upon it. [An hon. MEMBER: Quite true.] On the other hand, it was stated that they were unduly lax when they were dealing with Local Authorities of another complexion. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that he was quite mistaken. He would come to the question of the action taken in regard to other Boards directly; but in regard to the Donegal Board of Guardians, the Local Government Board would not have been merely straining their powers, but overstepping them altogether, had they taken power to dissolve the Guardians in reference to the selection of this teacher.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, they would have been overstepping their powers, because the Local Government had not been formed for any such purpose. The Donegal Guardians, in this matter, were exercising a discretion vested in them by law. The hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) had raised the question of the auditing of county accounts; all he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had to say was that it would be foreign to any duties imposed in England or Ireland to revise the action of County Authorities in such matters, or to criticize the propriety of their proceedings.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the auditor was never allowed to revise the policy of the County Authorities. He had always been in favour of the strictest system of auditing the accounts of Local Authorities, and if he had any authority in the matter in any question where legislation was involved, he would endeavour to make the auditing of local accounts more stringent. Under the existing system, however, he feared that he was unable to do anything in the direction indicated, although he sympathized with the general spirit of the criticism which had been made. His hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney) had put two questions to him. The first referred to the action of the Local Government Board in reference to the Gorton Union, and in that case he believed that the 1175 Local Government Board Inspector was of opinion that amalgamation was desirable. The Guardians themselves were originally unanimously in favour of amalgamation, and for some years had passed resolutions in that direction. His own view had always been in favour of the amalgamation of Unions in Ireland wherever possible, but he had deferred coming to a decision on that question until he was able to go to Ireland and see those who were more particularly connected with it. He was informed that at the last meeting of the Board of Guardians the unanimity which had hitherto prevailed was not so great, and the majority showed a considerable falling off. His hon. Friend also wished that the Local Government Board would exercise the powers vested in them by the Act of Parliament in reference to the erection of labourers' cottages. The initiative rested with the Boards of Guardians. His hon. Friend said that in Ulster the Boards of Guardians had been slow to act, and he, therefore, desired that the Local Government Board should send down Inspectors to act behind the Local Authorities. He would not say that the appeal of his hon. Friend was not one that deserved careful consideration. He was inclined to think that it did, but he agreed with the view expressed by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that it was a matter of doubt whether they ought to interfere with the action of the Boards of Guardians. He wished to point out that the course pursued by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite was two-sided. Whenever they approved of the action of the Local Authorities they desired the Local Government Board to exercise their full powers, but whenever they disapproved of that action they complained of the Local Government Board, because they supported the action of the Local Authorities. He would now pass on to the observations of the right hon. Member for West Belfast and Lord Mayor of Dublin (Mr. Sexton). In regard to the case of Mr. Welsh, who had acted in a magisterial capacity while performing the duties of Vice Guardian, he might point out that his gentleman had acted with the single desire of maintaining the public peace at a time when there was no other magistrate on the spot. He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) 1176 was, however, prepared to give his assent to the general proposition which had been laid down—that unless very exceptional circumstances arose it was undesirable that any gentleman who was intrusted with the difficult functions of Vice Guardian should add to them any other duties which should bring him into conflict with the public. Reference had been made to the case of a patient poisoned in a hospital. He should not like to give a conclusive opinion on the point without first making an investigation, but it appeared to him that it was not a case in which the Local Government Board could be properly called upon to interfere. The right hon. Member for West Belfast had, he understood, made representations on the subject, and his representations were successful.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, that the same thing might happen to-morrow. What he desired was that the Irish Local Government Board should do what the English Local Government Board had done—namely, issue a Memorandum upon the subject.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he gathered that the opinion of the legal advisers of the Local Government Board in Ireland was that under the Irish Statute the Board had no power to issue such a Memorandum. If there was any doubt as to the accuracy of that decision he was perfectly ready to have the matter carefully looked into. He was not himself a lawyer, but he feared that nothing but legislation would remedy the evil of which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sexton) complained. There was no doubt that there had been a melancholy accident—to some extent a stupid accident—but he did not know that any regulation could be laid down by the Local Government Board to prevent such mistakes on the part of medical students. A Coroner's jury had inquired into the matter, so that complete machinery for an investigation already existed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford had dealt with a good many questions connected with the Local Government Board in Ireland. He had laid down a general proposition on the point of 1177 outdoor relief which he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) did not wish to discuss at length, but he hoped he might be permitted to say a few words. He earnestly trusted, in the interests of the poorer classes, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would not use his great influence for the purpose of rashly encouraging the idea that outdoor relief was best suited to the necessities of the people. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would examine the evidence brought before the Commission of Inquiry in England as to the effects of indiscriminate outdoor relief as administered in this country, he would find that nothing more dangerous to the ultimate interests of the people whom he desired to benefit could be conceived. With regard to the case of Dr. Higgins, the Local Government Board had, with some reluctance, allowed him to continue to hold the two offices; but if experience should show that the duties of both could not be properly discharged by the same person, he would be required to give up one of the appointments. Reference had been made to two cases in which the Local Government Board had suspended the elected Guardians and appointed stipendiary Guardians—namely, the cases of Ballinasloe and Dungarvan Unions.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he had never heard of that case until it was mentioned to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford stated that the Longford Board of Guardians had attempted to cut down the poundage or remuneration given out of the rates from 6d. to 4d., and that the Local Government Board had suspended the Board of Guardians on the ground that they were too strict. As the case had not come before him, he was unable to give the hon. and learned Gentleman any account of the action of the Local Government Board in the matter. But of this he was quite sure—that the Local Government Board were not actuated by any desire such as that attributed to them by the right hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) to keep up the rates. He was satisfied that if the only question before the Local Government Board was that they could get done for 4d. that for which 6d. was formerly paid, 1178 the Local Government Board would have only been too ready to carry out the scheme of the Guardians. Of course, he accepted the statement which had been made in regard to the matter, but he was satisfied that there must be some misapprehension as to the action of the Local Government Board. He would now say a few words about the cases in which the Local Government Board had exercised their power and had substituted Vice Guardians for the Guardians elected by the ratepayers. There were two cases of that kind, one in connection with Ballinasloe Union and the other with the Dungarvan Union. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that some of the proceedings on the part of the Ballinasloe Board of Guardians had certainly been discreditable, and that on more than one occasion there was a free fight between the various parties on the Board. He would not attempt to apportion the blame, or to raise the question whether ex officio or the elected Guardians were the offending parties. For anything he knew to the contrary, it might have been the ex officio Guardians or the elected Guardians. There might have been discreditable proceedings on the part of the ex officio Guardians that were quite as worthy of condemnation as discreditable proceedings on the part of the elected Guardians. Therefore he would not raise the question as to who was responsible, but he would point out that when the right hon. Gentleman said there were equally discreditable proceedings in regard to local Bodies in England, the right hon. Gentleman was mistaking the ground on which the Local Government Board had acted. Nor did he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) believe that similar scenes occurred with a like persistency among any Board of Guardians in England, although it was possible that some such scenes had occurred in connection with Vestry meetings. It must, however, be recollected that to the Local Government Board in Ireland, as in England, there was given, by the rigid provisions of the Statute, a power of superintendence over the Boards of Guardians more extensive than the power of any other Department over local and subordinate Bodies. If the questions at issue were merely whether a particular locality or Local Authority had acted decently or indecently, the Local Government Board 1179 might have washed their hands of the questions and left it to the Local Authority themselves. If the question was merely whether the ratepayers were to be mulcted by the misuse of their funds, even that, under certain circumstances, might be left to be settled by the ratepayers; but the Local Government Board had to consider the interests of people who were not ratepayers, as the Local Government Board were largely given the enormous powers they possessed, both in England and Ireland, because they had to pay regard to the interests of the poor of the districts which were to be relieved. One natural result—indeed the inevitable result—of the succession of scenes such as those which took place at the meetings of the Ballinasloe Board of Guardians was to show that that Body was incapable of transacting its business, the effect being that not only the interests of the taxpayers, but also the interests of the poor were neglected. The scenes that had occurred there were discreditable to local government. The same general observation applied to the case of the Dungarvan Board of Guardians; in that case the Board of Guardians were apparently guilty of corruption, and not for the first time. It would appear that the Board of Guardians not merely took a contract for bread which was not the lowest contract, but they took the higher contract from a man who, on a previous occasion, had supplied bread so bad that the medical officer had to refuse to allow it to be used out of consideration for the poor under his charge. If, in those circumstances, the Local Government Board had declined to use the power of supervision, it would, in his opinion, have failed to discharge the duty imposed upon it by law. Therefore the Local Government Board refused to continue to the Dungarvan Board of Guardians the power of acting. He thought that he had now gone through the main questions which had been brought before him, and he believed hon. Members would do him the justice to say that he had not shirked any of them. He had endeavoured to answer every one of the questions that had been raised, and he trusted that his answers were satisfactory.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
said, he had nothing to complain of in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had answered the queries put to him, 1180 but a suave and affable manner was a very poor substitute for justice and fair play in the administration of the law in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken about the occurrences which had taken place at the meetings of the Board of Guardians in Ballinasloe. Now, he fully admitted that there had been some strong language used, and, probably, upon two or three occasions the Board of Guardians went beyond the strict bounds of that propriety which the right hon. Gentleman had laid down in connection with the conduct of public affairs by Boards of Guardians and other Public Bodies; but there had not been one word used by the Guardians of Ballinasloe which was one whit worse than that which he had often heard used in the House of Commons. If the right hon. Gentleman would read carefully through the debates of that House he would find that there was much more straightforward, honest, and manly truthfulness in the language of the Ballinasloe Board of Guardians than was often heard on the floor of that House. There happened to be a contention between the elected Guardians and the ex officio Guardians, and the result was that some strong talk took place, whereupon the son of an ex officio Guardian who occupied that position, not because he was the choice of the ratepayers, but because he happened to be a magistrate, struck one of the elected Guardians, a gentleman named Bull. He believed that was the only occasion upon which the two parties came into actual collision, and it was certainly the fault of the ex officio Guardian. However, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it was not a question whether the conduct of the ex officio Guardians, or the elected Guardians, was worst. That was a matter which might be put aside altogether. The truth of the matter was that most of those rows occurred in consequence of the conduct of the Local Government Board itself. When the last election took place a Nationalist Guardian was put forward at the first meeting of the Board on the part of the elected Guardians to act as Chairman. An ex officio Guardian was proposed by the other side, and the contest was very close. How did the elected Guardians act? They found that three of the ex officio Guardians, Mr. Beake, Mr. Hodgson, and another, 1181 were not entitled to vote as ex officio Guardians, but instead of using violent language they wrote out a protest and handed it to the Clerk of the Board by whom it was forwarded to the Local Government Board. The protest disputed the legality of the election of Chairmen. What did the Local Government Board do? Ignoring the straits in which the Guardians of the Ballinasloe Union were, and the fact that the contest was a very bitter one, they withheld their decision as to the legality or illegality of the election, although it ought to have been given at once. Instead of doing that the Local Government Board waited for a fortnight, and there was then another meeting of the Board of Guardians, and, as there was no legal authority at the head of the Board, every man did his best to hold his own. He should like to know why the Government remained so long without taking action in the matter; and why all this cavilling, snivelling, and tinkering had taken place on the part of the Local Government Board? He would tell the Committee why it was. It was because they knew in their hearts that the Nationalists had a majority at the Board. He had known the Board of Guardians of the Ballinasloe Union for 30 years, and he ventured to say that while it was under the control of the Conservative Party there was not a Board of Guardians in Ireland, or out of Ireland, worse managed. If the history of the Board of Guardians of the Ballinasloe Union—its conduct in relation to the administration of the Poor Law, and its mismanagement of the funds of the ratepayers—were placed before Parliament, he believed there would be sufficient facts adduced to justify the condemnation of the entire Poor Law system in Ireland. In this case everything went on amicably, and possibly so long as the Tory Party had control of the affairs of the Board of Guardians, but, as soon as Nationalist Guardians were elected, strong language was used, a collision occurred between the two rival Parties, and everything was said to go wrong. That was the real state of things in Ballinasloe, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland got up in his place and stated, with the utmost calmness and moderation, that there was nothing wrong at all, the right hon. 1182 Gentleman was encouraging a system in Ireland which was driving the country into what he might call a hell of discord. There was not a single part of the country under the supervision of the Local Government Board, or no Local Authorities with which the Board had any connection, in which the most strong and bitter partizanship was not displayed. In the administration of municipal matters he was of opinion that it ought to be carried on without any display of partizanship at all. Who were the members of the Local Government Board in Ireland? After all, the right hon. Gentleman, although his powers were great and his knowledge extensive, was unable, seeing the multifarious duties he had to perform, to exercise a proper amount of supervision. The only difference between the right hon. Gentleman and his Predecessor in the Department was simply this—that whenever the Whigs were in Office it was found that both the police and all the other agencies which were at work in Ireland acted as if there were some controlling power over them, but as soon as the Tories got into power they went recklessly to work without regard to right or justice or anything else. That was his experience of the working of the municipal institutions in Ireland, and he certainly had some experience of their action. The hon. and gallant Member who represented the county in which he (Mr. Harris) lived (Colonel Nolan) had spoken of the action of the auditors. The auditor with whom he was best acquainted was an old military officer, drawn from the class from which the Resident Magistrates were selected. Most of those positions were filled up in Ireland by officers who had left the Army, having been found to be of no use whatever. Every Department in Ireland was, as a matter of fact, a sort of refuge for broken-down naval and military men. Colonel O'Hara became an auditor when he was over 60 years of age, and he (Mr. Harris) did not suppose the gallant officer had ever looked at an account before. The hon. and gallant Colonel spoke about the want of revision of the county accounts and the accounts of the Poor Law Board. It was hardly fair to say that there was no revision, because, if the auditor found that even if a trifling amount of outdoor relief had been given, he at once struck it out and charged the 1183 expense to the Guardians. He had brought instances of that kind more than once under the notice of the House, and he thought it would be wise if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would exercise his power of supervision, and by that means endeavour to effect a saving of public money. When the auditor went through the accounts of a particular union, if he found some small charge amounting only to a few shillings a-week for relief distributed to ontdoor paupers, he at once surcharged it against the Guardians. The system of Local Government in Ireland was, in point of fact, a frightful and terrible system that could never be remedied until they had Home Government. The supervision of a central authority was, however, absolutely necessary, as, without it, Local Government in Ireland would be an utter failure. In the present Local Bodies there was not only too much partizanship, but too much personal feelings and private friendships. It, therefore, became difficult to get the members of those Local Bodies to act in an upright and straightforward manner. Respectable tradesmen in Ireland never received a contract, because they declined to condescend to bribe those who had the power of making the appointment. Therefore some central supervision or other was absolutely necessary. Even if they had Home Government to-morrow, he had come to the conclusion that without some strong central authority Local Government in Ireland would be an utter failure. Therefore, he did not object to supervision, but it should be by a body of men who were entirely above partizanship and above appointing one man over another because one of the candidates happened to be a Nationalist. All the Irish Members desired was to secure justice and fair play between man and man. He had already spoken about Colonel O'Hara, and if they went through the list of Commissioners or Vice Presidents of the Local Government Board they would find similar cause of complaint. Most of them were old Government hacks. No doubt he would be told that he was going outside the present Vote if he were to enter into the state of affairs in the County of Galway. He might, however, talk on for ever, and he was satisfied that all his remonstrances would result in nothing until the 1184 Irish people obtained Home Rule and were able to manage their own affairs.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. P. J. O'BRIEN (Tipperary, N.)
said, he would only occupy the attention of the Committee for a few moments, but he bogged to ask the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to a matter connected with the Nenagh Board of Guardians of which he (Mr. P. J. O'Brien) had the honour to be Chairman. This matter was the surcharge recently made by the auditor of the Board with reference to a sum of £100—a payment made on account to their engineer in connection with a scheme for labourers' cottages which had been carried out in the Union. This payment was made by the Board of Guardians in a bonâ fide manner—in consideration of the large amount of work that the engineer had performed in discharge of his duties to the Board. This gentleman had had to do extra work owing to the default of some of the contractors, who failed to carry out their contracts. The engineer had to make repeated visits, and had to perform a large amount of extra duty in consequence of this default. The Guardians had to take action against 14 or 15 of the defaulting contractors, and subsequently to annul their contracts. New contracts were taken out, and the works had been steadily going on, and he (Mr. P. J. O'Brien) was prepared to say that the amount of work now done by the contractors fully entitled the engineer to this payment which had been made by the Board, but which had been surcharged by the auditor on the technical ground that the entire amount of work had not been completed. The engineer, in a communication he addressed to the Board and which came before that Body on Thursday last, expressed regret at the surcharge, which he thought he was perfectly entitled to as an instalment in regard to the amount of work he had performed in pursuance of his duties to the Board. He said that the money he had received had been entirely swallowed up in the performance of the large amount of work he had to do. This gentleman pointed out that his work 1185 had consisted of making maps of nearly 500 sites as originally projected, and in connection with which the preliminary work had been something enormous. He pointed out that the 500 cottages originally contemplated had dwindled down to 200, so that all the work he had done in connection with 300 cottages he should not receive a penny for. The work which had been now completed would, he thought, satisfy the requirements of the auditor. In conclusion, the engineer said that in any case he would not allow the Guardians to be put to any trouble or inconvenience on his account, and that if the surcharge were insisted upon he should refund the £100 which he had received. He (Mr. P. J. O'Brien) thought this engineer was fully entitled to the £100 awarded to him, and under the circumstances hoped that steps would be taken to prevent the surcharge being enforced.
§ MR. KILBRIDE (Kerry, S.)
said, he wished to draw the attention of the Committee to the case of the Athy Board of Guardians. If he understood the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland aright, he had said that an election should be ordered by the Local Government Board in the near future. The right hon. Gentleman said that an election would already have been ordered if it were not for the fact that some attempt had been made to interfere with the Vice Guardians in the discharge of their duty. He desired to press upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of having this election take place as soon as possible, because any friction there might have been between the ratepayers of the union and the Vice Guardians would be obviated by that means. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that a good deal of dissatisfaction existed amongst the ratepayers of the Athy Union at the continuance of the Vice Guardians in office. He did not stand up to defend the illegality of the Athy Board of Guardians for which they had been suppressed, but he desired to place before the Committee the consideration that although the old Board might have acted illegally, the punishment to which the union had been subjected was altogether beyond the gravity of the offence committed. He would point out that when the Board were suppressed, they were suppressed for having acted il- 1186 legally. Why was it that the Local Government Board did not have a new election? If they had had a new election, and the new Board had acted illegally, then he could have understood the Local Government Board interfering and appointing Vice-Guardians. What did the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Irish Local Government Board consider to be the necessary qualification for the position of a Vice- Guardian of the union. He (Mr. Kilbride) had endeavoured to find out what that qualification was, and looking at the Vice-Guardians of the Athy Union, the only qualification he could discover was that they were needy landlords coming from the West of Ireland. The only qualification was that having dissipated their own patrimony—having succeeded in badly financing their own affairs, they were in a position to look after the financial affairs of a union. No other qualification could he find that they possessed. He could not understand how it was that Dublin Castle with these paid Guardians were entitled to salaries of £250, considering the fact that a short time ago one of these Guardians was granted leave of absence or vocation from his very arduous duties, and that when a substitute was appointed the Local Government Board allowed him the extraordinary sum of 1s. per month. He was aware that this gentleman appointed to the position of Vice-Guardian was already an official of the Irish Local Government Board, and he supposed it was too great a job for a man who was already on the pay of a Board to receive a further stipend for acting as Vice-Guardian in the Athy Union. He should like to know how it was that this gentleman, already an officer of the Local Government Board, could afford time to come down to Athy. It was plain that he could not be very fully occupied by his official duties in Dublin. How was it that he could be spared to come down to Athy and live there for a month? He (Mr. Kilbride) would press the right hon. Gentleman to give some sort of definite answer as to the time when the election of the Athy Board of Guardians was likely to take place. He would put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it was in the interests of the peace and public order of the district that this election should take place at an early date. He was certain that if the elec- 1187 tion took place earlier than the 25th of March, which was the ordinary date for elections under the Poor Law Act, there would be less likelihood of serious friction taking place between the ratepayers and the Vice Guardians of the Athy Union. For this reason he would strongly press upon the right hon. Gentleman the advisability of allowing the elections to take place in the cause of law and order, though he (Mr. Kilbride) did not usually advocate the cause of law and order as it was at present maintained. He noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy), that the Board were not actuated by political motives in so long refusing to recognize the appointment of Dr. Higgins, who had been selected in a certain district as dispensary medical officer. The right hon. Gentleman had not told the Committee that the members of the Dispensary Committee had brought under the notice of the Local Government Board that Dr. Higgins already occupied the position of Coroner for the district. The gentlemen who raised the question, and who had brought it prominently under the notice of the Local Government Board, were strong supporters of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He presumed, however, that the right hon. Gentleman was aware that precedents already existed for the appointment of gentlemen already filling the post of Coroner to be dispensary medical officers. There was the case of Dr. M'Carthy, for instance, in a district in the County of Limerick, a gentleman who held the post of Coroner, and who was so lately as 1885 appointed dispensary doctor to the district, and he was told by the hon. Member for East Galway (Mr. Harris) that there were other precedents of the same kind in the South of Ireland. He was glad the Local Government Board had sanctioned the appointment of Dr. Higgins. He must say, however, that the people of the district did not consider that they had to thank the Local Government Board for the appointment. They believed, rightly or wrongly, that the appointment was consequent upon the strong attitude taken up by the Dispensary Committee. The right hon. Gentleman might not be aware of all 1188 that went on in Ireland. He did not very well see how the right hon. Gentleman could be aware of what went on in Ireland, because if the presence of an individual was necessary to an understanding of the political condition of a particular district, the right hon. Gentleman went the best way to work not to understand anything about Ireland. He would again, in conclusion, press upon the right hon. Gentleman to accede to the request made to him and order a new election to take place at Athy.
§ MR. TUITE (Westmeath, N.)
said, he wished to call attention to the serious delay of the Local Government Board in sending down an Inspector to Mullingar to inspect the 85 cottages built under the Labourers' Cottages Act. He (Mr. Tuite) had local knowledge of the fact that for 12 months the engineering Inspector had refused to inspect, or that the Local Government Board had refused to send an engineering Inspector to inspect these 85 cottages, the greater pnrt of which were built 12 months ago, whilst a small number of them had been built at periods ranging from four to six months ago. The Local Government Board, in reply to several letters sent to them by the Mullingar Board of Guardians, had said that the Guardians could take over the cottages pending inspection by the engineering Inspector of the Board. Well, if the Guardians took over the cottages and they were rejected by the Government Inspector, the cost of the buildings would be thrown upon the Guardians, and the loan would not be sanctioned. The tardiness of bringing about an inspection was great injustice, not only to the Guardians themselves, but to the ratepayers, who had to pay interest on the greater portion of the instalments which had been already granted. It must be borne in mind that the Local Government Board would not grant the last portion of the instalment until the cottages were passed by the engineering Inspector. What did the Local Government Board intend to do? He was informed that there were only two of these Inspectors for the whole of Ireland. How on earth could only two Inspectors go over the whole of Ireland and inspect the cottages erected to different Boards of Guardians throughout the country within any reasonable period? There were a great many red-tape titles to be gone through 1189 in connection with these cottages, and the result was that a great deal of money was wasted. He believed that the appointment of two new Inspectors would be sufficient to cope with the work, and that a curtailment of the red-tape system would make up for any additional expense which would have to be incurred. He desired also to call attention to the fact that when an inquiry was held under the Labourers' Cottages Act, the Inspector held it to be essential that the Guardians of the division in which the cottages were to be built should be present during his inspection. He (Mr. Tuite) had known cases in his own union where witnesses were summoned from very long distances to these inquiries, and where, owing to accidental causes, the local Guardian was unable to be present. In such cases the inquiry had been adjourned, entailing great expense, not only to the witnessess, but also to the ratepayers. He thought the Local Government Board should not hold it to be essential for the local Guardians to be present on such occasions. Already a Board of Guardians, in meeting assembled, must have sanctioned the scheme or schemes to be considered at the inquiry, and why on earth it should be necessary to have the attendance of the local Guardians at such inquiry he was at a loss to imagine. At any rate, the absence of the local Guardian should be taken as indicating his assent to the scheme. He did not know whether instances of this kind had been brought under the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary already, but he (Mr. Tuite) certainly thought that they were worthy of the right hon. Gentleman's attention, and if the difficulty he (Mr. Tuite) pointed out could be got over—if they could dispense with the necessity of requiring the local Guardian to be present at the inquiry—it would be a great advantage to the Guardians, the ratepayers, and all concerned. There was another matter to which he should like to direct the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. A secret circular had been issued from Dublin Castle as to the method of distributing advertisements in Ireland. That such a circular existed there appeared to be no doubt, and the thanks of the country were due to those who had unearthed that circular and brought it to the light of day. Now, what was the result of 1190 this action on the part of the Local Government Board? Why, the advertisements in many cases had been given to Tory and Unionist organs of limited circulation. For instance, quite recently the Carlow Union had put forward a scheme for the construction of labourers' cottages. The Local Government Board had sent down an advertisement calling the attention of the ratepayers to the fact, and asking witnesses to attend the inquiry. That advertisement had been given to the local Unionist paper, The Carlow Sentinel, which had no circulation amongst the mass of the population. The result was that when the day of the inquiry came round there was not in attendance one of the supporters of the different schemes, the only persons present being those who were opposed to the schemes, and who were readers of The Carlow Sentinel. He held this to be a monstrous state of things. In the case of the Selbridge Union a similar thing was done, and the consequence was that all who were interested in the scheme were absent, and no one attended but the landlords and bailiffs and the agents, although the Guardians had to bear all the expense. Guardians elected by the popular vote had to pay for advertisements in papers which were directly opposed to the sentiments of the population. Another case had recently occurred, although he was afraid he should be out of Order in calling attention to it—namely, the publication of an advertisement relating to an inquiry as to the River Slaney under the Fishery Commissioners. The same grievance existed in connection with that case, but the cases he had already quoted would be sufficient to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the matter. The action of the Government was nothing short of boycotting the Nationalist newspapers. Hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House were charged with boycotting people in Ireland, but could there be a more conspicuous art of boycotting the Nationalist newspapers in Ireland. He did not suppose that his words would have much effect, because no matter how the Irish Members kept on hammering at Dublin Castle they never got any remedy, and he did not expect that any remedy would be obtained in this case until they got a Home Government of their own. However, what he 1191 said might have some little effect in drawing attention to abuses, and particularly to the exclusion of the Nationalist newspapers from these important advertisements and the employment of Tory papers of limited circulation.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
said, that as to this new patent system of boycotting invented by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, of giving advertisements to papers which supported his pet policy and refusing them to the Nationalist Press, he (Mr. Edward Harrington) might claim to be allowed to say a few words as representing the Nationalist Provincial Press of Ireland. The Nationalist Press had been a good deal boycotted by the landlords and the Grand Juries before, and it did not require the Government to come to their aid in the way in which they had done. There was a large amount of county money, sometimes £300, £400, or £500, given away for advertisements and printing, and this usually went to the offices of the local papers where job printing was done. Well, it was perfectly useless for the Nationalist newspapers to tender for any of this work or for any of these advertisements. The Grand Jury would either all vote against such applications, or, if granted, they would exact full quantities, or require everything up to specification in a manner that was never insisted upon in a case of Conservative or landlord organs. When advertisements were given to Nationalist newspapers they were kept back to such inconvenient times that they could not be inserted with anything like advantage. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would deny that this policy was first adopted in his time, but would he deny that a circular had been sent out to all the departments of the Local Government Board, of which the right hon. Gentleman was the head, directing that the advertisements should not be sent to such newspapers as differed from him in politics? The policy of the Government in this respect was a cruel, paltry, and mean one, and one in all respects worthy of its patentee. If the Nationalist Party could bring any of the magistrates of Ireland to deal fairly with individuals brought before them, without doubt he would be able to bring the right hon. Gentleman the Chief 1192 Secretary before them for having issued this circular, and get him convicted of conspiracy to boycott the Nationalist newspaper proprietors. He (Mr. Edward Harrington) was about to go to Ireland to meet a prosecution for making a speech, one word of which he defied anyone to pick out as being in any way directed against law and order. He was to be prosecuted and imprisoned for that, and yet this officer, the Head of the Local Government Board, who boycotted his (Mr. Edward Harrington's) paper, and deprived him of his living in Ire-land, was to be allowed to loll on the Treasury Bench. It was not so very long ago that the same policy was adopted by a gallant Admiral, who thought it a noble thing to send a picket to stand at the door of a certain public house kept by a Nationalist in order to prevent sailors and marines from spending their money there. This was a noble effort symbolized in the gallant phrase which had been quoted the other night, "England expects every man to do his duty." It was a noble thing for English Admirals and Scotch Chief Secretaries to do their duty by injuring the trade of persons opposed to them in politics. It was a noble thing for the Chief Secretary to sit in Dublin Castle boycotting Nationalist newspaper proprietors who were endeavouring to make a living out of those newspapers. It was not enough to imprison the editors, and to come into the offices seizing and scattering about the type and other property, but they must send out boycotting notices to the Public Departments in order to prevent them getting their fair share of public advertisements which it was absolutely necessary should appear in the popular newspapers in order that, consistently with the spirit of Acts of Parliament, notices should be given to those interested in the subjects to which the advertisements referred. It might be said that, so far as he (Mr. Edward Harrington) was concerned, this was a personal matter; but those who knew him would believe him when he said that he simply referred to this subject as a matter of public policy. The result of the system adopted by the Government was that the advertisements relating to labourers' cottages were circulated amongst landlords who were opposed, as a rule, to the system, and 1193 did not find their way to the tenantry and labourers in whose interest such schemes were propounded. This was obviously unjust, seeing that the money for these advertisements came out of the rates. If this money was paid by the public, the representatives of the public had a right to demand that the advertisements should be published in those papers which had the best chance of meeting the public eye. There were hardly a dozen of the newspapers in which these public advertisements were inserted which were subscribed for by the ordinary public; but they were, as a rule, maintained by the bonuses given by the Grand Juries. These Conservative and Unionist papers received a vast amount of money, not one quarter of which they really earned. In times past they had been maintained on Secret Service money year after year. They were off-shoots of the landocracy, and were largely maintained by the Grand Jury subsidies. He maintained that when public money had to be paid in advertising for contracts, and in other matters involving the expenditure of public money, the least that could be done was to advertise in turn in those papers which were read by the ratepayers concerned. He wanted the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to stand up and defend his boycotting policy in the House. He (Mr. Edward Harrington) wished to goodness he could have the loan of a Crown Prosecutor in the County of Kerry. Would the right hon. Gentleman take an offer from him? There were a pair of Crown Prosecutors in Kerry. There was one Crown Prosecutor engaged in defending moonlighters. He was the cousin and partner of the nominal Crown Prosecutor. Just now both these Crown Prosecutors were joined together for his (Mr. Edward Harrington's) prosecution, and this anomaly was to be witnessed in Kerry—one Crown Prosecutor defending moonlighters, and another prosecuting free speech. Would the right hon. Gentleman toss up with him for one of these Crown Prosecutors, and in the event of his winning, let the right hon. Gentleman bring an action against himself for boycotting The Kerry Sentinel.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
said, he was referring to the Vote by com- 1194 plaining of the action of the right hon. Gentleman who was President of the Local Government Board of Ireland, in directing that these advertisements should not be given to Nationalist newspapers; and he was asking that they should be allowed to try the question. Of course he knew it was in vain to appeal against the solid majority sitting opposite; but if the right hon. Gentleman would only consent to an action of this kind being brought into a Court of Law, they would see what view was taken by the Resident Magistrates of the right hon. Gentleman's boycotting policy, and if the right hon. Gentleman was imprisoned, they would see whether he would whine to the extent he had accused other people of whining when imprisoned under his coercion policy.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
said, he was very curious to know upon what legal ground, or upon what ground of administrative policy, the right hon. Gentleman could defend the issue of the secret circular to which reference had been made. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman could quarrel with the description which had been given to the House of that circular. For his own part he believed that no word in the language more aptly described that circular than the word "Boycotting." They all knew that the pretext under which the circular was issued was that the newspapers which were thus cut off from the patronage of Dublin Castle were those papers which were guilty of what was called "illegality." Were they to understand that a Court sat in the office of the Local Government Board of Ireland to determine what was legality and what was not? He (Mr. Maurice Healy) was under the impression that nothing was illegal except that which was declared by a tribunal of the land to be illegal. He was under the impression that it was not within the prerogative of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, or any of the distinguished gentlemen who constituted that Body, to sit in some private apartment in the Custom House in Dublin, or whatever other building was chosen, and to take it upon themselves to say that this or that journal had been guilty of illegality, and that therefore they would decline to give it the patronage of the Government. This was another illustration of the force of 1195 the adage that one man might steal a horse while another was not permitted to look over the hedge. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary took upon himself to issue the circular directing Government officials to do that very thing for which the right hon. Gentleman gave Members of Parliament frequent doses of the plank-bed. With regard to the Labourers' Dwellings Act, reference had been made to the fact that the cost of advertisements, the manner of publication of which the right hon. Gentleman so arbitrarily decided, was borne by the Boards of Guardians. The advertisements were paid for in the first instance by the Local Government Board, but as they were issued under the Labourers' Dwellings Act the cost was ultimately borne by the Boards of Guardians. He should like to know in this context what was the meaning of the Vote under Sub-heads E and F, which stated that only one-half of the money voted was refunded by the Guardians to the Local Government Board. He was under the impression that the whole expenses, legal and otherwise, incurred by the Local Government Board in connection with the administration of the Labourers' Dwellings Act were ultimately refunded to the Local Government Board by the Guardians themselves. According to the Estimate, although the expenses of Provisional Orders were £4,488, the sum that was refunded only amounted to £2,604. He should like to have an explanation of this, because he thought he was right in saying that the whole cost of the working of the Act was paid by the Guardians. In regard to the point raised in the course of this discussion, the right hon. Gentleman had not dealt with the question of the proper supervision by the Local Government Board over the erection of cottages in various localities. All would agree that if the Guardians were to spend large sums of money on the erection of labourers' cottages, some steps should be taken to see that the money was properly and effectively expended, and was not spent in such a way as would ultimately throw on the hands of the Guardians elaborate cottages which would be no good for any purpose whatever. There was no doubt whatever, as was shown by an hon. Member who had preceded him, that in a large number of Irish Unions there was an impression prevalent that 1196 the cottages which were being built for labourers were not being properly built, and that the Guardians were not getting good value for the money they were expending. The money that was being spent amounted to large sums—hundreds and thousands of pounds. The Local Government Board undertook to supervize all expenditure, and to send down officers to inspect the cottages before the money was paid. In the face of that undertaking, however, there had been frequent cases where cottages had been built which turned out altogether unfit for habitation. That seemed to him a most unfortunate state of things. All Parties would agree that something in the nature of what was provided for by the Irish Labourers' Dwellings Act was very necessary, and it would be a most deplorable thing if, owing to the laxity of any Irish Board, it turned out that the cottages when erected were not what they ought to be in all respects. The taxpayer of the country was concerned in this matter, because public money was being spent on the building of these houses, and that was the ground upon which the Local Government Board undertook to supervize the building, and the ground upon which they said, "We will not advance the money until we see that proper work is done." It was, therefore, most incumbent upon the Local Government Board to see when they did send down their Inspectors that the work was not scamped and ill done, and that the cottages were fit for the unfortunate labourer, and were not, as they had turned out in many cases to be, perfectly uninhabitable. He thought there was a general consensus of opinion that the most important point dealt with in the discussion of this Vote was the question of suppressed unions in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had adopted unquestionably a conciliatory tone on this subject, and he (Mr. Maurice Healy) was glad of it. He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman was at this late hour of the day beginning to learn that "a soft answer turneth away wrath," and the right hon. Gentleman would not be surprised to find that this conciliation was not thrown away upon the Irish Members. However, he (Mr. Maurice Healy) did not think that anyone who listened to the right hon. 1197 Gentleman's statement could have been entirely satisfied with his explanation of the conduct of the Government. There could be no doubt that there was a very prevalent impression in Ireland that this policy of suppressing Irish Boards of Guardians was simply a part of the general policy of "Twenty years of resolute Government," which they were promised when the present Government came into Office. It was a very suspicious fact that, whereas during the whole 50 or 60 years during which Irish unions had been in existence, and especially during the seven or eight very disturbed years during which the late Liberal Government were in Office, not a single union—he thought he was right in saying not a single union—was suppressed in Ireland. In not a single case did the Local Government Board of Ireland exercise this power of suspending Guardians and dissolving Boards. This lent some colour to the idea he (Mr. Maurice Healy) had, and the idea was a very prevalent one in Ireland—namely, that during the short time the right hon. Gentleman had been in Office, he had taken upon himself to suppress either seven or eight Boards of Guardians, with the object of discrediting the whole system of Local Government in Ireland. That was a very serious matter, and might justify the idea he had stated. He was not going to say that the Local Government Board in Ireland was wrong in suppressing Guardians in every case. If a Board was guilty of corruption, then he thought the Government acted quite properly in suppressing it. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary could have told the right hon. Gentleman, however, that ever since the days of the late Parliamentary contest in Dungarvan the traditions of electoral corruption had prevailed there, and there was perhaps some truth in the statement of the President of the Local Government Board with regard to Dungarvan. As he had said, if the Local Government Board of Ireland were right in coming to the conclusion that the election was corrupt, no doubt they were right in the action they took. No doubt the Local Government Board were also right in the action they had taken in connection with another case which had been mentioned to day. Where Boards of Guardians were unquestionably turbu- 1198 lent the Local Government Board had done right in suppressing them, but he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had announced that this policy of suppressing Boards of Guardians was not to be a permanent one. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that as regarded at least one of these unions they might hope within a reasonable time to see elective Guardians re-instated in the place of the Vice Guardians, and he (Mr. Maurice Healy) hoped that promise would apply to all cases. He had said that the idea was prevalent in Ireland that the Local Government Board under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman, had taken the action they had taken, not in a bonâ fide spirit, but with the object of discrediting the whole system of Local Government in Ireland, and colour had been lent to the conclusion by the fact mentioned by the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. Mac Neill)—namely that the Donegal Board of Guardians had been admittedly guilty of misconduct, and yet the Local Government Board had not suppressed that Board, but had allowed it to go on with perfect impunity oppressing the poor. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Irish Local Board had sat up a very peculiar defence of the action of the Local Government Board. He (Mr. Maurice Healy) questioned the correctness of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. He had admitted that the Donegal Board of Guardians had mis-conducted themselves, and he would not undertake to defend them, but he said that it was not within the authority of the Local Government Board to suppress that Body. Well, he (Mr. Maurice Healy) declared, with the Act of Parliament in his hand, that the Local Government Board had the fullest and amplest power to suppress this Board of Guardians. The charge made against them was that in defiance of popular wishes, and of the expressed wish of the Local Government Board, the Guardians refused to provide sufficient religious instruction for the pauper children submitted to their care. That was a very serious charge, and a charge affecting the character of the Board in a most essential matter, because the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Irish Local Government Board had told them that the primary interests that the Guardians had to look to were not the interests of the rate- 1199 payers but the interests of the unfortunate poor under their care; and the right hon. Gentleman told them now that though the Guardians had, in this important matter, refused to yield to the popular wish and to carry out the express directions of the Local Government Board, that the Local Government Board was helpless and must continue to leave the Guardians to act as they were at present, doing in secula seculorum. The right hon. Gentleman justified his statement by referring to the Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman said that though all manner of subjects constituted reasons why a Board should be suppressed, recalcitrancy to the Local Government Board did not form one of those reasons. He (Mr. Maurice Healy) had the Act in his hands, and he took most direct issue with the right hon. Gentleman on this point. The Act, in the plainest manner, directed that in cases where, through default of the Guardians, the duties of the Board were not duly and effectually discharged according to the intention of the several Acts of Parliament, that then the Board should be suppressed. That was the power under which the Local Government Board was acting, and he (Mr. Maurice Healy) was at a loss to know, therefore, on what grounds the right hon. Gentleman had said that it was not in the power of the Local Government Board to suppress these Boards of Guardians in one case and in another case it was. He should be very much surprised if the legal adviser of the right hon. Gentleman would undertake to defend the legal opinion which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed with such confidence. He (Mr. Maurice Healy) was sure the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Madden) would agree with him that the powers given in the section of the Act to which he referred were of the widest character, and would cover not only these cases in which the Irish Local Government Board had already acted, but every case where the Board of Guardians had been guilty of misconduct. Now, he should like to say a word with regard to the case of Dr. Magner. In that case the right hon. Gentleman had not attempted to seriously controvert anything which had fallen from previous speakers. The right hon. Gentleman gave the case of Dr. Magner the 1200 complete go-by, and said he would not discuss it at all, inasmuch as a satisfying termination of that matter had been brought about. He said the case having satisfactorily terminated, it was not for him to go into the conduct of the Local Government Board in the Constitutional action they had taken. The ground he (Mr. Maurice Healy) and his friends took was, that if the Local Government Board had in the end acted reasonably, they had been obliged to do so, and had no option but to do what they did. The Local Government Board refused to appoint Dr. Magner to the position to which he had been elected because he had been guilty of a certain political offence. Ultimately they yielded on that point, but it was because the whole medical body in the South of Ireland backed Dr. Magner up. There was a fixed conviction on the part of persons in the South of Ireland who were acquainted with this subject that if the Local Government Board could have got any medical man so cowardly and sordid as to go against the opinion of the whole Profession and accept Dr. Magner's appointment, they would not have taken the action they did, but would have made Dr. Magner another victim of their coercion policy. It was, therefore, not correct for the right hon. Gentleman to say that this case ultimately terminated satisfactorily, and that it was not for him to defend the Local Government Board in the matter, for he (Mr. Maurice Healy) certainly thought that the Local Government Board required defence in that case. Its action had been most tyrannous, and of such a character that the right hon. Gentleman could not reasonably expect that it would be passed over in silence. Similarly was the case of Dr. Higgins, a gentleman who was entitled to the consideration of all sides of the House. There was, however, no necessity to discuss that matter further. He would merely say with regard to it that if the action of the Authorities had been limited to the vesting on any one individual of two offices, the Local Government Board would not have been attacked from that (the Opposition) side of the House on the matter. None of them were in favour of any improper dualism, but what they complained of was that the Local Government Board should have been first seized with this 1201 desire to prevent plurality in the case of a gentleman who notoriously held advanced Nationalist views. It was certainly unfortunate that in the first case where the Local Government Board had raised this question of holding the two offices of Coroner and dispensary doctor at the same time that the victim affected should be a doctor holding Nationalist opinions, whereas the Government had previously passed over similar cases when the individuals happened to be gentlemen who held their own views. It was also a suspicious circumstance that the Government should raise this question of holding the office of Coroner and dispensary doctor when it became awkward for them to have occupying the post of Coroner a man holding Nationalist opinions. If this election of Dr. Higgins had been five or six years ago, before the action of Coroners' Courts had come to be discussed so much as they had been lately, there was no doubt that this arbitrary action on the part of the Government would not have been taken. These were the only points upon which he wished to say anything, and, in sitting down he would merely urge upon the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland to offer some defence of the legal opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said, there was a point to which he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and it was a very important one, having reference to the systematic evasion of the law on the part of certain landlords, the persons alluded to in a certain Report made to Parliament by two Inspectors employed by the Lord Lieutenant to make an inquiry during the year 1887 into the position of the distressed unions in the West of Ireland. This Report showed the way in which the law was evaded in respect of the payment of poor rates. The law in Ireland was that the poor rate on holdings above £4 should be shared between the landlord and the tenant, but it was shown that in certain congested districts, where the occupiers were rated under £4, and therefore not liable to pay poor rates, a custom pre vailed of joining a number of small tenancies together so as to bring the 1202 rateable value above the sum of £4, and in this way the tenants were compelled to pay the poor rates conjointly. This might seem a very small matter to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he could assure them that it was a very great grievance and hardship to the poor tenants of Ireland. He remembered being on an estate 20 miles out of Galway, on which people did not feel so much the high rent as that they were, by the artifice of the landlord, made to pay that which the law had declared they should not be bound to pay. The right hon. Gentleman had sent about 100 persons to gaol per month for disobeying the law, and he knew that in this Report the Marquess of Sligo was declared to be disobeying it. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would take steps on this estate, and others where this practice occurred, to have the law carried out. On the 9th June, 1887, he had been astounded by the reply of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who was then Assistant Secretary for Ireland (Colonel King-Harman) that he knew nothing of this state of things in Ireland, while the Report was in the possession of the Irish Office. The evidence on this subject was absolutely overwhelming, and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to take care that the law was obeyed in respect to the subject he had brought before the House.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, that the very thing which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. E. Ellis) had referred to in connection with the Local Government Board, and in connection with the Poor Law Act, had occurred in the County of Cork, and the reply given last night by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary could not apply to the case which he now referred to. At Bantry it was brought under the notice of the Local Government Board that the Earl of Bantry systematically aggregated his holdings in order to deprive tenants of their right at law, and escape the payment of rates. If this were a solitary case he should not have risen to support the hon. Gentleman; but it was in his recollection, and in that of the inhabitants of the locality, when the mattor was under consideration for a period of two years, and was brought under the notice of the Local Government Board by certain members of the 1203 Poor Law Board in the district, and by the hon. Member for West Cork (Mr. Gilhooly). The Local Government Board sent down a letter to the Bantry Board of Guardians, but they took no notice of the matter, but it was left to the initiative of individuals to set the law in motion against the Earl of Bantry. That was clearly a case in which the Local Government Board refused to act where they were bound by law to do so, and, whereas, in every other case they had acted very much as hon. Members believed ultra vires. The explanation of this was that the law and the action of the officials of Dublin Castle lay entirely on one side; that, at any rate, was the impression which prevailed in Ireland with regard to circumstances of such suspicious character. There had been so many references to Boards of Guardians who had been superseded at various places that he did not intend to go into that matter at length, but he would refer to the action of the Local Government Beard with reference to the Cork Board of Guardians within the past few weeks or months. The Cork Poor Law Board was perfectly solvent, and had been managed in a manner that elicited the admiration of Colonel Spaight, Inspector for the district for some time past, but, somehow or other, it seemed to synchronize with the advent of a Nationalist majority, that the Local Government Board came down upon them with such resolutions as were entirely unprecedented. Some little discussion had occurred, when one member of the Board rose to move a resolution condemning a large number of evictions which were threatening the Union. He (Mr. Flynn) had at once said that the proper course would have been to propose that resolution after the ordinary business of the Board was discharged. But the Local Government Board, not content with pointing out to the Cork Guardians that they had gone outside their ordinary business and trangressed the Rule laid down for Boards of that character, but they also threatened them in the most mandatory and arbitrary manner, that if they heard any more of these breaches of Rules they would be superseded, and paid Guardians sent down. Now, the effect of that would have been very considerable difficulty in collecting the rates, and the entire district would 1204 have been thrown into turmoil and disorder, all because the Local Government Board had lashed itself into fury under very suspicious circumstances. He had no desire whatever after the last two days of damaging debate on the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to pile up proof of his incapacity at Dublin Castle with regard to the Local Government Board in Ireland, but the notion was largely held that the exercise of arbitrary power on the part of the Local Government Board was owing to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was ex officio President of the Board, and that therefore he very largely controlled its operations. It might not be uninstructive to the Committee to remember that the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) had moved for Returns of certain Poor Law Unions in Ireland with their assessment. What was the obvious drift of the hon. Gentleman, taken in connection with the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, but to throw discredit on the administration of the Local Boards in order to damage the position of Irish Members in future when they should come forward with schemes of Local Government. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that in July last a claim was made on those Benches that Local Government should be assisted very much more than it was, and in the course of the debate which took place one of the strongest arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was a reference to the acts of the Local Government Board. Members for Ireland contended that the course of the Local Government Board in dealing with Local Bodies in Ireland was marked by partiality and partizanship. He had referred to the fact that under the notice of the Local Government Board was brought the scandalous state of things at Bantry Union, but, nevertheless, for two years they took no step in connection with it to compel the Earl to do that which the law required of him. On the other hand, when the most trifling circumstances in connection with the state of affairs which might be antagonistic to the right hon. Gentleman occurred, then the Local Government Board put out all its force and went to considerable expense, and was prepared to bring 1205 about the largest possible amount of turmoil and disorder in the Union in order to back up the notion and administration of the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Flynn) desired to impress on the Committee that these charges were not made at hazard or in the heat of political partizanship, but they were put forward as the complaints of the Irish people, who looked with grave suspicion on the facts which could not be disproved. He asked for a clear answer on this subject from one or other Members of the Government.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. J. E. Ellis) appeared to be under the impression that the regulation of the rates on owners and occupiers rested with the Local Government Board, but, as a matter of fact, it had nothing to do with the Department, and it was therefore not relevant to the Vote before the Committee. This was a case of private right. He was perfectly aware that a Committee had called attention to the practice which prevailed, which he considered most reprehensible, but which, although it was so, did not come within the duties of the Department. It was altogether outside their province, and the only remedy was by legal proceedings against the landlords who attempted to escape from their liability. More than one hon. Member had alluded to the question of labourers' cottages. Hon. Members said that these were ill-constructed, and appeared to think that the Local Government Board ought to watch the whole process of construction and see that the Guardians carried out the Act of Parliament. He had to repeat that the Local Authority had power to manage its own affairs in its own way, and he did not think that the Local Government Board could interfere more than they did in keeping the Local Authority straight against its will. He had not had time to investigate the question, but he did not believe it possible that the responsibility for construction should be taken over by the Local Government Board. Of course the Board could send down an Inspector, but that was a very different thing from watching the entire course of construction.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes. No doubt that was so; but, as he had said, this was very different from watching the whole course of construction, and it would be a straining of the Act of Parliament to throw responsibility upon the Local Government Board. With regard to the case of the Chaplain of the Donegal Union, he understood that the Local Government Board had made a communication to the Guardians which it was hoped would settle the difficulty.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not, even by ricochet, referred to the question of advertisements in newspapers.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
said, he had no desire to interpose between the Committee and the Division which he thought it was now desirable to take, but he had one or two observations to offer. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that he looked with favour upon the proposition that every Union should be amalgamated, and he (Mr. J. O'Connor) believed that that was a very desirable result to achieve. But how could they be amalgated unless they diminished the amount of work which the unions had to perform at the present time. It was his duty, a short time ago, to defend a certain union in Ireland against an attack made by an hon. and gallant Gentleman who sat opposite. One of the charges made against that Board was that the amount of outdoor relief had been increased. He maintained that it was an advantage to increase the amount of outdoor relief, and diminish, if possible, indoor pauperism in Ireland. It would first be necessary, for the purpose of amalgamation, to diminish the expenses, and the question he asked the right hon. Gentleman who was responsible for the Government in Ireland was whether he would in future cause statistics to be laid before the House giving, in separate columns, the amount expended in the relief of the poor, and the amount expended in the maintenance of the Establishments. They all knew by experience that a vast amount of the money collected for the purpose of relieving the poor in Ireland was expended upon offices, buildings, and other matters, and that a large proportion of it did not reach those for whom it was intended. He had been looking through Thom's Directory, and he could 1207 not find that the separate expenses were given in it, and he had no recollection of any Paper having been laid before the House which contained that comparative statement, and he therefore asked the right hon. Gentleman if it were possible that this Return should be laid on the Table in future. Against the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman he was bold enough to maintain that outdoor relief as administered in Ireland was vastly more beneficial to the people than indoor relief, and he believed that it would cause a great amount of benefit in a short time if the principle were extended in its application. He agreed that indiscriminate outdoor relief would be disadvantageous, but it was not his belief that outdoor relief as now administered in Ireland was bad for the people. It was more humanitarian. They knew the children put out to board amongst the people were well cared for; that they were looked after by the Inspectors, and that a report was regularly made as to their health, manner of bringing up, schooling, and everything with regard to the children which it was necessary for the Guardians to know. He believed the principle might be extended with great advantage, and he contended that money expended in relieving people in their own houses was better spent than it would be by withholding it and compelling the poor to enter the workhouses, and there to occupy what the Irish people regarded as the degraded position of a pauper. The people of Ireland, although poor, were proud, and they looked with horror at the idea of entering a workhouse; and, by aiding them outside, you maintained the self-respect and at the same time relieved the rates. He, therefore, held that the extension of outdoor relief was defensible on the grounds both of economy and humanity, and on the ground put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself, that it would lead to the amalgamation which he had referred to that day. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had stated that he had not used the administration of the Poor Law Board for political purposes. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had stated that he had not used the administration of the Local Government Board for political purposes. But there was a widespread opinion in Ireland that the Local Government Board 1208 had been so used. They had persecuted their political opponents, and evidently, in every case where that persecution had occurred, the Local Government Board and the Squirearchy had been in league. The Poor Law Boards had resented the interference of the Local Government Board, and the fact was established that the Poor Law Guardians had been bullied by the Local Government Board in Ireland. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, or if not, the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, would lay these lessons to heart, and that in future they would avoid as much as possible coming into collision with the Guardians in Ireland with regard to their appointments of doctors and other officials. He hoped there would, if possible, be no cases of the dissolution of Boards of Guardians. He was not sorry that Guardians individually or collectively should be punished for faults of their own. If they had acted illegally or fraudulently, no one would rejoice more than he that they should be punished, but he trusted that the faults inevitable in the performance of new duties to which people were unaccustomed would not be turned to their disadvantage politically, commercially, or socially. There was a widespread feeling, however, that the Local Government Board had turned these unavoidable faults to the persecution of the Boards and the persecution of the people in Ireland. The Committee would not, he trusted, be in any way angered because Irish Members had pressed home this point, because their constituents demanded of them that they should impress on the Government the necessity of avoiding the course of conduct complained of and gratifying feelings which had led to so much turmoil among the people of Ireland. He looked forward to the discussion having an effect in the direction he had indicated, and would again ask the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, that the statistics presented to Parliament should in future show in separate columns the cost of the Establishments and the amount actually expended on the relief of the poor.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, under Sub-head 1 there was a decrease of £470 in the Grant in Aid, and hon. 1209 Members would find that this was principally due to the cost of medicines. He did not complain that there was no decrease in the item for salaries, but simply pointed out that this diminution had been arrived at in consequence of the bad quality of the medicines constantly supplied to the Poor Law medical officers in Ireland. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that complaints had again and again been made in and about the City of Cork of the very bad quality of those medicines, and when they considered the amount of the Estimates passed in that House it was easy to understand that the Government should try to make some little saving at the expense even of the poor people of the country. He could furnish many specific cases in which medical men in the county of Cork had complained of the quality of the drugs, and he contended that there should be some investigation of this matter. Large sums of money were frequently voted in that House without examination, but in the present instance he would ask the Committee to join with him in demanding an investigation of the facts of the case.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN) (Dublin University)
said, he would point out to the hon. Gentleman that the best way of conducting the investigation would be to bring under the notice of the Local Government Board the specific cases which he had alluded to, and he could assure him that they would receive the most careful consideration; and then, if the statements were shown to be well founded, the attention of the Government would be immediately directed to them. As to the observations of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. John O'Connor), with regard to supplying statistics in a certain form to show how much money was expended upon the cost of buildings and salaries, and upon outdoor relief, if the hon. Gentleman would put a Question on the Paper he would communicate with the Board and ascertain whether the information could be given in the shape desired; and then, in the answer to his question, he would get that which it was not at that moment possible to give—namely, a distinct statement whether it could be done or not.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, he should like some explanation as to how 1210 the economy had been made with reference to the item he had refered to.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN)
said, there undoubtedly appeared to be a reduction in the cost of medicine, but it did not follow that there was any deterioration of quality. He fully admitted, however, that the subject, whatever the cost might be, was one of the greatest importance, and he invited the hon. Gentleman to bring before the Local Government Board the instances to which he had alluded, and they would receive careful examination.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not replied to his question as to the distribution of advertisements.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he had refrained from answering the question of the hon. Member because he thought the Committee would see that he could hardly regard it seriously. The hon. Gentleman said that the policy of the Government was to refuse advertisements to Nationalist newspapers, but there was no foundation for that statement.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
said, he should certainly advise that preference should be given, for the sake of publicity, to newspapers that would come into the hands of the Nationalists.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
said, he knew, as he had stated, that a circular had been issued to all the Departments of the Government, as well as to the Local Government Board, by the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland, to prevent the giving of advertisements to Nationalist papers, and asking that preference should be given to those papers which supported the policy of the Government. He knew this, because the advertisements had been refused, and the officials had apologised for their inability to give them. This, he said, was an aggravation of the mean policy pursued by the Government.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, it would be an assistance if the Government would give a promise that the advertisements should be given to journals without any distinction of politics. It was essential that advertisements, especially those 1211 relating to the Labourers' Act, should appear in newspapers through which they would be most certain to reach people of the class.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would bear him out when he stated that he had brought forward repeated complaints of Unionist newspapers being refused Government advertisements.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, the complaint was against the policy of using public money to encourage one section of the Press and to starve out another. Charges and incidents of this kind had been brought forward over and over again in the most specific manner where advertisements had been given to such and such newspapers, although they had the most limited circulation. The hon. Member for North-West Meath (Mr. Tuite) had pointed out a particular instance in which the newspapers referred to did not circulate among the farmers, and, consequently, when an important investigation was held the ratepayers who were interested and paid for the advertisements were not present, because they had no knowledge that the investigation was to come off. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland sat silent, and refused to state whether the Irish Government were engaged in using the public moneys for the purpose of subsidising the Tory Press, which could not exist by its own circulation, and of Boycotting the Press of the people.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he thought he had already given a clear explanation. But he said that the mere fact that a newspaper was a Nationalist newspaper, and advocated Nationalist views, and supported the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, was not, in his opinion, a reason for not giving it Government advertisements, provided it had a sufficient circulation. He had never laid down any such principle.
§ MR. SEXTON
said he would leave the Committee to judge whether the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not an evasive one. When a Nationalist paper was excluded by a Government Department it could always be ruled out on some other ground than its politics. What he asked was that in this matter the Irish newspapers should be treated 1212 alike all round, and unless the right hon. Gentleman would state that the Nationalist papers with a large circulation were entitled to a fair share of the expenditure he would advise his hon. Friend to take a Division as a protest against the manner in which they were treated by the Minister. He did not want newspapers of shadowy reputation to receive the advertisements, but he contended that those newspapers which circulated amongst the people, and were really the media for the dissemination of information, should have as fair a chance as any in Ireland.
§ MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
said, it was perfectly well known to the Committee that it had been the usage in dealing with Government advertisements to favour solely the newspapers which supported the principles of the Government of the day. He had frequently heard protests against that lingering remnant of the old system of patronage, which they all wanted to get rid of, and he could not help thinking that the Government ought to confine the advertisements to those organs which would reach particular classes whom it was desired to reach, and it was very odious that upon a change of Government the Treasury, or whatever authority it might be, should make a fresh list of newspapers to which the Government advertisements should be sent. It was perfectly notorious that this was done, and he had heard many protests against the practice in that House. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland would give expression to a very wide-spread opinion on this matter if he would state that with regard to these official advertisements favour would be shown to those newspapers which had the largest circulation and influence without respect to political opinions.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he had told the Committee what was the Government policy in this matter. They had always believed that the course condemned by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken was initiated by his own friends; but he would not press that point. Of course, if they were to give advertisements to every newspaper in Ireland, the proprietors would be well satisfied, but he need not point out that this would involve a large and wasteful expenditure of money in Ireland which 1213 he did not think would be satisfactory to the House. In his opinion, if a newspaper in any locality had a distinctly superior circulation to any other, and if the advertisements were only to appear in one, that paper should be chosen wholly irrespective of political opinions. He had already said that, and thought he could not state the case more clearly.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON
asked if the right hon. Gentleman would deny that he had issued a circular ordering that advertisements should be confined to newspapers that were friendly to the Government?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he had never issued a circular giving the order which the hon. Gentleman had described.
§ Vote agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £13,728, 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 1889, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of Public Works in Ireland.
§ MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)
said, he rose to move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £800, the amount of the salary of the engineer of the Board. He regretted very much that the Minister responsible for the administration of this Vote was not then in his place, because he had taken special interest in the matter to which he was about to call attention. The hon. Gentleman had, moreover, a special knowledge in connection with it which he did not think was possessed by any other Member of the Government. It was hardly necessary to say that he did not move the reduction of the Vote out of any personal hostility to the Gentleman whose salary was in question; but he was bound to say that if they were to judge of his capacity by the discussions which had taken place on the work of his Department, and by the wrecked structures which surrounded the Irish coasts, he was afraid that a high opinion could not be formed of his ability or fitness for the place he held. He called attention to this subject for the purpose of showing how public and private money was squandered by this Department in Ireland, and he believed, amongst all the mismanagement and maladministration in that country, no Department had 1214 continually given greater occasion for complaint by the Representatives of the Irish people than that which was then under consideration. As the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was now in his place, he desired to acknowledge the very unusual course which he had been good enough to take with reference to the specific matter he was about to bring under the notice of the Committee. He believed it was the first time that a Representative of the Treasury, when a complaint had been made of the conduct of the Irish Board of Works, had adopted the course of making himself personally acquainted with the facts by a journey to the locality concerned, and of appointing an independent engineer to draw up a report on the subject of the grievance complained of. In his (Mr. Lane's) constituency they were deeply grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the action he had taken; but he was afraid that at this point his expressions of gratitude to the hon. Gentleman must cease. Since the opening of the Session he had made repeated efforts to induce the hon. Gentleman to give them an opportunity of seeing the Report of this independent engineer, so that they might have information to enable them properly to discuss the question. This eminent engineer taken over to Ireland by the hon. Gentleman visited the harbour at Ballycotton on the 6th of October, and, as far as he knew, there was nothing in the nature of the investigation which would prevent him, after the lapse of two months, making his report, and nothing to prevent the hon. Gentleman allowing hon. Members to examine it before the present time. Ballycotton Pier had a very curious history, and it was a history which repeated itself after the lapse of 34 years. In 1854 a pier was built on the site for the accommodation of fishing boats; it was built by order of the Board of Works, and when completed a certificate was given by this engineer at the time that it was properly and effectually built. The Grand Jury of the county, when they were asked to take it over, sent down their engineer to report upon it. The engineer certified that the pier was faultily constructed, and that it would not be safe for the Grand Jury to become responsible for its maintenance. At the Assizes, therefore, the Grand Jury refused to accept the maintenance of the pier, and Chief 1215 Baron Pigott would not compel them to do so. In the following year a similar attempt was made by the Board of Works to compel the Grand Jury to take over the pier; but they made an application to Judge Perrin, and he, following the example of the Chief Baron, declined to cast the obligation on the Grand Jury to take over the pier which their own engineer had certified to be of faulty construction. Thirty-four years ago, as he was instructed, the Board of Works applied to Parliament for and got a short Act to compel the Grand Jury to take over the work which, as he had said, was certified to be badly constructed, and which was liable to be washed away in a short time by the action of the sea in stormy weather. Of course, the Grand Jury had nothing to do but to comply with the Act. They were at the time a loyal Body, and, he believed, at the present moment there were no more loyal supporters of the Government in Ireland, but they were now opposed to the action of the Representatives of the Government in connection with this matter, just as their predecessors were 34 years ago. That was the history of the old pier which justified the Report of the engineer, and which had to be replaced four or five years ago. Under the Irish Fisheries Act, the Board of Works began to build a new pier on the site of the old one, and for the same purpose. There had been such a development of the fishing trade in the South of Ireland that it was reported to be of no use to build another pier on anything like the proportions of the old work, and the specifications were drawn up to meet the increased requirements of the trade. The pier was commenced in 1885, and was sanctioned by the House of Commons to be built at the cost of £20,500; it was built by Martin & Co., of Dublin, under the superintendence of the engineer of the Board of Works; it was finished some time in the year 1887; and, in the usual course, the Board of Works applied to the Grand Jury to take over the pier, and the Grand Jury, in accordance with their usual custom, sent down their engineer to inspect it. This gentleman's qualifications were undoubted; he held a high position in his profession, and was in every way fully qualified to express a professional opinion on a work of this kind. His second Report to the 1216 Summer Grand Jury was to the effect that, in his Report at the Spring Assizes, 1880, he stated that in a portion of the pier in deep water a series of settlements had taken place, and that cracks had appeared in some places; that one of the most serious of the cracks had considerably increased since last spring; that it might be that the settlements would not go further, but, on the other hand, they might increase so as to weaken the stability of the structure, or entail continuous charges upon the county in order to prevent it; that he had examined the pier on the 11th of July, and observed that most of the cracks had been filled with cement; that the settlement had still gone on, the head of the pier showed unmistakable signs of falling out; and that the floor of the pier was still subsiding. He went on to say that some improvement had been made in the harbour since his last Report to the Grand Jury, but the foundations and much of the old pier still remained; under the circumstances he would not recommend the Grand Jury to take up the pier, as he considered that by doing so they would be incurring liabilities so serious that he did not think they could fairly be called upon to undertake them. In addition to getting that report the Grand Jury, in order to satisfy themselves that they were not in any way doing an injustice to the Board of Works by refusing to comply with their request, sent two of their members to make further inspection on the spot. These gentlemen corroborated everything stated by the engineer, and advised the Grand Jury not to take over the pier, and the Grand Jury passed a resolution to that effect.
§ It being half after Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee also report Progress, to sit again To-morrow.