(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £13,728, he 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 for the purpose of renewing the question of Ballycotton Pier, which was under discussion when Progress was reported yesterday. At the present moment that pier was in a most unsatisfactory condition. The original plans and specifications had not been adhered to, and the result was that the centre of the structure was subsiding, besides cracking, and the end of the pier was in danger of falling out into the sea. The Cork Grand Jury had taken direct issue 1276 with the Board of Works as to the way in which the work had been carried out; they stated alterations had been made in the original plans and specifications which were not calculated to secure the soundness of the structure; that the walls of the pier were cracked and split from the top to the bottom. In spite of arrangements in the specifications that the hearting of the pier was to be constructed of solid stones, and not of clay and sand, the greater part consisted of the latter materials, which were being daily washed away by the tides. They had carefully inspected a considerable portion of the materials which had been taken out, and by sifting the material through a screen it was found that it consisted one-half of clay, and one-half of large and small stone. There should have been no clay whatever, and upon that ground alone he urged a strong complaint against the Board of Works who had permitted so insecure a structure to be erected. Since the beginning of the year the pier had not been in the charge of any public body. The Grand Jury of Cork refused to take it over, and the result was that every month fresh disclosures were being made as to the subsiding of the pier. That state of things was likely to continue, unless the Secretary to the Treasury stepped in and took the necessary measures for putting the pier in a sound and safe condition. This was not purely a matter of local grievance, but one which affected the expenditure of a great Public Department in Ireland. It was a typical case illustrative of the way in which the Board of Works carried out works of this nature. In this instance he spoke from personal local knowledge, but he believed there were very few Members who were not able to corroborate his statement that in almost every district in Ireland there was some monument of the incapacity of the Board of Works to carry out works of this nature. The whole coast of the country was strewn around with failures of this kind, and unless the Treasury stepped in to mark their disapproval of the manner in which the Board of Works gave certificates to contractors for unsound structures, and intimidated the County Authorities by requiring them to take over each unsound structure against their will, this waste, and worse than waste, of the public money would 1277 continue. Not only was the public money spent, but the work was worse than useless, because really useful work was prevented. Another pier in the same locality—Knockadoon—was almost in the same condition as Bally-cotton Pier. It was crumbling away, although it was only constructed a few years ago, and now the Local Authorities were called on to replace it. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to say that he would inquire into these matters. He also desired to know whether the contractor was not bound by his contract to make the harbour at Bally-cotton of a certain depth in different places? He held in his hand the last Report of the Royal Commission upon Irish Public Works, and one of the Members of the Commission was the very gentleman who lately went over with the Secretary to the Treasury to inspect the pier and harbour. At page 13 of the Report of the Royal Commission it was laid down that unless these harbours erected under the Fishery Act of 1883 were of a suitable depth, and accessible to fishing craft at all states of the tide, their erection was a waste of the public money. At page 19 of the same Report, there was a direct reference to the harbour of Ballycotton. The Commissioners, in their Report upon the harbour, without having visited the locality, but deriving their conclusions from the Report of Mr. Manning, said that there was a depth of 16 feet at low water in spring tides at the termination of the pier, diminishing to 12 feet at a length of 200 feet. As a matter of fact, there was no such depth of water at all. There never had been more than a depth of eight feet, and of that depth a great part of the harbour was deprived by the accumulation of the rubbish in the centre. On the very day the hon. Gentleman and Mr. Barry visited Ballycotton a large fishing boat was stranded in a dangerous position on this remnant of the old pier. They saw it themselves. Still, the Board of Works certified that it had been all removed. He supposed that, owing to the repeated criticisms that had been made in the House of the unsatisfactory nature of the work done by the Board of Works, the Board were very anxious to escape from under the public eye. They asked the Commissioners to report to Parliament in favour of taking the con- 1278 trol of these piers altogether away from the Local Authorities, and handing it back to the Board of Works, that Board to have full powers to raise rates for the purpose of maintaining and repairing the piers. What did the Chairman of the Board of Works stipulate for when the suggestion was made? He said that he thoughtThat in regard to these works the Grand Juries should have power to transfer their powers and duties to the Board of Works in each case in which the latter might be willing to accept the transfer, but which they should not do unless satisfied that the work under consideration was in a proper state of repair at the date of the transfer.The Board of Works took precaution beforehand against their being compelled to take over any work which was not in a proper condition. But, while they were making that statement before the Royal Commissioners, they wrote very threatening letters down to the Grand Jury in Cork as to the taking over of the pier which was reported by the engineer to be in such a state that even an ordinary layman could see that it was in a condition that was certain to end in complete ruin before, perhaps, this winter was over. Though he, as the Representative of the Division in which this pier was situated, had made several requests to the Secretary to the Treasury to let him know what was the nature of Mr. Wolfe Barry's Report, he had been unable to get the slightest inkling of the nature of that Report. The Representatives of the Board of Works, or, at any rate, the people connected with them on the spot, had boasted that Mr. Wolfe Harry's Report would back up the Board of Works, and that the people who had interested themselves in the matter would simply be jockeyed. He was sure that the matter would receive fair and ample consideration at the hands of the Secretary to the Treasury; and he believed that if the hon. Gentleman continued his action in the same spirit in which he commenced it—namely, by paying attention to the justice of the case rather than to the question of preserving or protecting the Board of Works from proper criticism and full responsibility for their action in certifying this pier was in proper condition, no doubt the people of the locality would have reason to be satisfied with the result. He begged to move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £800.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £800, part of the Salary of the Chief Engineer."—(Mr. Lane.)
§ MR. W. J. CORBET (Wicklow, E.)
said, that on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane) he desired to draw attention to two harbours in the Division of Wicklow which he represented, and which, he regretted to say, were very much in the same condition as the pier at Bally-cotton. The first case was that of the harbour of Arklow. On a former occasion he drew attention to the condition of this harbour, and to the mishaps that occurred there, owing, as he alleged, to the imperfect protection given to the pier and to its defective construction. The defective construction had been made good to a certain extent, but, unfortunately, at the cost of the inhabitants of Arklow and the baronies contributing to the guarantee. He contended that a sum of about £5,000 had been thrown away in making good the defects that originated through the inefficiency of the plans of the Board of Works. But other damage had recently occurred. He asked the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson) a question that day upon the subject, and the hon. Gentleman, speaking, of course, from the information that had been given him by the Board of Works, stated that the damage was quite trivial. He did not gather that the damage had been remedied, but that it would be remedied, and that the cost would be met out of the harbour tolls, and some small balance that remained from the original sum provided. He had received a communication that day from the Town Commissioners of Arklow, from which he gathered that in the construction between the old and the new pier an aperture about 28 feet in length, 20 feet wide, and nine feet high, had appeared. The present position of the pier, he was informed by the Commissioners, was most dangerous, especially owing to the fact that some of the work had slipped and left the structure in danger of toppling over altogether. His informants said—The present dangerous position of the new structure demands immediate remedy. The harbour master lately has had hags of cement and gravel put in to fill up the apertures, and we have teen informed that such were useless and of no effect, having been washed away.1280 He thought that that statement was not quite in accordance with the answer the Secretary to the Treasury gave him at Question time. He complained that the Board of "Works, when Questions were asked in that House, supplied misleading information, and he contended that the way in which this great Irish Department scamped its work was simply disgraceful. It was not fair or just that the baronies which had guaranteed this large outlay should be called upon to make good defects which, he contended, arose from the default of the Board of "Works. He now came to mention the facts concerning the Greystones harbour. A sum of £10,000 was provided for constructing a small fishing harbour at Greystones, and when the work was proceeded with for some distance it was found that the harbour was getting filled up with shingle. Before the pier was run out the shingle that was driven down by the north-east wind was driven back by the storm that came from the opposite direction, and so there was a counterbalancing influence. But since the harbour had been constructed it proved, as was said in the Report of the Royal Commission on Public Works, a trap for catching the shingle. He was informed—in fact, it was stated at a public meeting and reported in the newspapers—that some persons walked dry-shod from the shore into a portion of the harbour where formerly there was 10 feet of water. Two or three times last year and the year before be asked Questions with reference to the construction of a north groyne to stop the travelling of the shingle, but the invariable reply he received was that an officer of the Board of Works was observing it. That official's observation did not seem to have led him to any practical result, but he could now have the satisfaction of contemplating dry land where there was water before the Board of Works took the work in hand. He (Mr. W. J. Corbet) desired to know what the Treasury was going to do in order to let the poor fisher folk of Greystones have a fair opportunity of exercising their calling. There was a considerable sum of money raised in addition to the Government grant; certainly it was too much to be thrown away. He sincerely hoped that in regard to both these piers the Secretary to the Treasury would move the Lords of 1281 the Treasury to act in a liberal spirit, especially as the Board of Works incubus in Ireland was responsible for the damage which had occurred. He begged to support the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
said, that the Committee had had a very clear, complete, and perfectly truthful statement from the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane) in regard to the unfortunate condition of Ballycotton Harbour. It was, perhaps, well that he should point out exactly how the question of these works stood in regard to finance. There, no doubt, was an Act of Parliament, under which the Grand Jury, who now, at all events, represented the ratepayers of the county, could be compelled to take over such works as were passed by the engineer of the Board of Works. There was no apparent power left to the Grand Jury to have the works again inspected by an engineer, or for them to make any examination of the works before they were called upon to keep them in repair. Nothing would satisfy the ratepayers of the county of Cork except the clear statement of an engineer who would be above suspicion that the pier was capable of resisting the force of the sea, and that the harbour had a sufficient depth of water in it to be of use to the fishing boats of the locality. The Report of the County Surveyor as to the condition of the pier was a very strong one, and passages from it had been read to the Committee. There were fissures in it both long and deep, and he himself had seen an oar put into one of them to the full extent of the oar, or about 12 feet. He should like to know from the Secretary to the Treasury when the Report of Mr. Wolfe Barry would be produced? Mr. Kirkbey, the County Surveyor of Cork, no doubt smarted severely under the censure of the Board of Works in Dublin, which was both unjust and uncalled for, from a communication in which they used these words to the Grand Jury in Cork—It is with extreme reluctance that the Board feel themselves placed in the position of having to state that the County Surveyor has shown himself insufficiently acquainted with Marine Works, and has misled the Grand Jury in conveying an adverse opinion in regard to them.But the Grand Jury were not yet convinced, nor were the ratepayers who were 1282 interested in the matter, that Mr. Kirkbey was not right when he made the assertion that the works were not in a proper state. Certainly Mr. Kirkbey's view was entirely borne out by what had happened to the pier during the last gales. Father Norris, on the 8th of November last, spoke of large fissures having made their appearance in the pier since the recent gales. There had been large gaps from the beginning, but as the works were becoming settled the fissures were growing worse day by day. This was a pier with the expense of maintaining which for ever the Board of Works was anxious to saddle upon the county of Cork. He himself had examined the pier, and found it to be in a most unsound condition. Another gentleman, a friend of his, who had recently visited Ballycotton immediately after the last gale, indorsed word for word the statement of Father Norris. Damage was still going on, and the pier was in a most insecure position. So much for the pier. He had himself been anxious that a larger scheme should be carried out, so that not only fishing boats but coasters should have been able to enter. The Board of Works had even refused to let the plans and specifications be seen by the ratepayers. The depth of water was altogether inadequate for the purposes of a fishing harbour.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
asked, whether the hon. Member was alluding to the depth of water at the lowest spring tides?
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD
said, that at certain dates, generally in April and September, the tide fell lower than at other times, but there were also tides caused by off-shore winds. It was a spring tide when he was there, and it was a somewhat small one, but the amount of space inclosed was not sufficient to accommodate the fishing boats even under the present scheme. Over and over again the Board of Works had been applied to to produce the specifications, plans, and estimates, and over and over again they had refused to do so. And the County Authorities were not to be blamed if, when they saw the pier and harbour in the course of construction, they pointed out the absolute necessity of removing the old pier. The day upon which the Secretary to the Treasury visited the pier 1283 there was a low spring tide, but the flood tide had come in to the height of three or four feet before the hon. Gentleman arrived, so that the obstructions were nearly covered, concealing a state of things with which it was of the utmost importance the hon. Member should have made himself acquainted; whether that was the case or not they had no estimate in regard to the things which ought to be removed. They stretched all along the quay, and blocked up the wall of the quay way. The works were the laughing-stock of the locality, and had been strongly condemned. The old pier ought to be removed at any cost. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would now take means to allow the ratepayers to see the full report of the independent engineer who had been sent down to inquire into the matter.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, that the subject was a very difficult one to deal with, and he thought the difficulty had been well illustrated by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald), who not only possessed naval knowledge and skill, but had a personal acquaintance with Ballycotton. Of course, so far as the locality was concerned, it always wanted the largest harbour and pier and quay that could be made. At Ballycotton there was a large pier which the fishing boats had for some time frequented. Before the pier-head was made, and it was to be made a great deal more substantial than the rest of the pier, the County Authorities objected to the plan, and maintained that there ought to be a larger pier. That was the usual custom; and when works of this kind were finished there was generally a demand that everything should be done over again, or that they should return to the original plans. That was invariably the case, not only at Ballycotton, but everywhere else. Therefore he thought the Secretary to the Treasury in this instance would regard the complaint of the County Authorities with a very considerable amount of suspicion; indeed, he attached very little importance to the Report of the County Surveyor, whose personal experience of works of this kind upon the coast was not very great. Probably the County Surveyor knew enough about operations of this kind to be able to criticize them, although he would not 1284 be able to undertake them. He thought that most of the County Surveyors' Reports ought to be regarded with suspicion. He quite acknowledged that they might have a considerable amount of ability, but he very much doubted whether any of them were competent to build piers and harbours. No doubt it was the proper thing of the Grand Jury to desire to defend the interests of the ratepayers, and they would not want to take over any pier if they could help it. Certainly they did not want to go to the expense of making it. He had been one of the Fishery Commissioners who inquired into the question of piers and harbours and fishing accommodation on the Irish coast. Of course the Commissioners had the usual difficulty in deciding between the claims of different localities; but as he was not personally responsible he could not say that he had been a very warm advocate for any particular locality. The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), who was also one of the Commissioners, and the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. W. J. Corbet) were in favour of works at Arklow and Greystones. The Commission, however, were only responsible for recommending the sites without bearing responsibility for the construction of the works. The responsibility for the construction fell solely upon the Board of Works. The Commission simply decided upon the locality, and the proportion which it should contribute towards the expenses. He thought it was bad policy for Irishmen to abuse all the harbours which had been constructed, because, as a matter of fact, they wanted a good many more yet, and without more harbours it would be impossible to develop the fishing industry. Therefore, making indiscriminate attacks upon all the harbours which the Board of Works had constructed was, in his opinion, a very foolish policy. Certain complaints had been made by the hon. Member for East Cork and the hon. Member for Cambridge in reference to the state of the harbour at Ballycotton, and those hon. Members might be right in their strictures. His own opinion was that every harbour and pier ought to be handed over to the County Authorities in good condition. In this case it would appear that the site selected was bad, and that the harbour itself had been a 1285 source of considerable expense to the county; even 20 years ago heavy expense was incurred by the County Authorities. The new pier was proposed to be handed over to the County Authorities by the Board of Works, and, of course, as the county would have to maintain the pier, everybody who contributed to the rates would naturally challenge the manner in which the work had been executed. The Board of Works had very good engineers connected with the office, and some of them no doubt were acquainted with the construction of piers, but marine engineering was the most difficult branch of an engineer's business, and there had been a large number of failures even on the part of the most eminent engineers. There had, also, been heavy expenditure in order to continue and maintain what at first had merely been the result of an experiment. He was afraid that unless they would spend an extra sum of money as an insurance they would not be able to find out all at once whether a pier was well constructed or not. He was afraid that owing to the force of the sea upon the coast of Ireland two-thirds of the Irish piers had sustained much damage, and in order to meet that difficulty it was absolutely necessary at times to depart from the original plan. Now that the execution of this pier by the Board of Works had been publicly challenged, he thought the Secretary to the Treasury should instruct some eminent engineer, totally unacquainted with the country, and who was perfectly neutral, to make an examination and give a Report. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) and the Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane) had entered into the question from a totally different point of view. He would not say that it was not a point of view they had no right to lay before the Committee. But it was one which he did not think the Committee ought to entertain. He referred to the depth of water. No doubt that was a very important question; everybody wanted as much depth of water as possible, and it was constantly asserted that a particular pier was of no use, because there was only a certain depth of water in the harbour. He thought it would be sufficient if a moderate-sized vessel could get in at all states of the tide. Now, he did not 1286 suppose a good-sized fishing vessel would draw less than nine feet of water, and there must be one or two feet under her keel, so that it was very expensive to build a harbour for the accommodation of vessels of that kind. Of course the expenditure increased very largely, according to the increased depth of water. He did not profess to be an authority upon the construction of harbours, but if they were to have a harbour that was to be accessible to fishing boats at the lowest tides, then such a harbour would cost at least £40,000 to construct, whereas if they built a harbour sufficiently large to let fishing vessels in, the cost would not be more than £5,000, which would make an enormous difference. He thought the Harbour Commissioners were quite right in recommending the construction of a considerable number of small harbours round the coast. It must be borne in mind that the fishing population was a scattered population, and all wanted a harbour to which they could run. Such harbours were undoubtedly of very great use, and they ought to be constructed by the Government; but, at the same time, they would be of very little service unless they were connected with the railways. All the calculations of the Pier and Harbour Commissioners were based on low water at medium spring tides. It would make a very considerable difference if they were to take the lowest spring tides. It would make a difference of at least three or four feet in the depth of the water in the harbour, and the cost of the con struction would be proportionate. A very large amount of the £250,000 which had been set apart for the construction of those harbours was, he believed, available at the present moment. A large sum could be drawn upon in the shape of guarantees, and there was also an outstanding amount of interest upon the Government loans which could be rendered available. In addition to this, there was a sum of money which a former Chief Secretary for Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), said ought to go to Irish purposes. In point of fact, there was a sum of £8,000 absolutely available at the present moment. He thought the Irish Members made a bad bargain seven or eight years ago 1287 when they agreed to spend £250,000, and he thought the Secretary to the Treasury ought now to do something to show that the funds he had referred to were available for harbour purposes at Greystones and at Ballycotton. Good professional information ought to be secured as to what were the proper sites, and that information ought to come from a perfectly independent source. He did not see, however, why they should be asked to increase the depth of water, and entirely reconstruct the pier, without they were prepared to raise the whole question of the construction of piers and harbours in Ireland. The hon. Member for East Cork had not given the Committee fair information as to the depth of the water in Ballycotton Harbour. He had not stated what the depth was at spring tides, and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) declared that a much larger depth was required than was contemplated under the original plan. Was it proposed to go back to the original plan?
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he believed that was the original statement. But he did not think that it was necessary to do more than make provision for the accommodation of the fishing boats of the locality; that was all that those engaged in the fishing industry had a legitimate claim to.
§ MR. PENROSE FITZGERALD
wished to explain. It was proposed at Ballycotton to increase the small space which was provided as shelter for the fishing boats in the old harbour; but the new harbour was such that the piers inclosed the old pier, and the stones of this old pier now occupied the space that ought to be deep water for boats. Before that scheme was decided upon there was an inclosure already existing. The original inclosure was surrounded, and the old pier had been inclosed with it; therefore, when they spoke of the depth of water it should be understood whether they referred to the depth of water at the old pier, which used to be 5 feet at low water spring tides, or the depth of water that was necessary for the new harbour. He might say that he had walked practically dry shod across the old pier in an ordinary spring tide this year.
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (Mr. SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
said, there appeared to have been a diminution in the Vote, as compared with last year, of something like £6,000. He found that the salary of the Solicitor to the Board had been got rid of. He wished to know whether the reduction arose from the re-arrangement of the office, or whether it was a decrease in the total amount of the Vote? Then, again, the charge for Land Act loans, which last year was £7,400, was this year only £5,700, and the travelling expenses of the Inspectors, which last year amounted to £7,400, had been reduced this year to £5,400. He believed, however, that in the latter case there had not been an actual decrease. He found, however, under Sub-head E of the Vote, that the charge for Sub-Inspectors had decreased by about £3,000. The Committee, however, had no opportunity of ascertaining whether there had been any relative decrease in the number of Inspectors. He thought that the information for which he asked ought to be supplied to the Committee, and he asked the Secretary to the Treasury to give it. He did not know how long the present debate was to last; but when the same Vote was under discussion two years ago it took a considerable time to dispose of it. It was then brought to a conclusion in an unusual manner by the Head of the Government at that time informing the Committee that he considered the case which had been made against the Department was so strong, that if the Committee would consent to the passing of the Vote the Government would give a pledge to make proposals to Parliament at the earliest opportunity, the object of which would be to place all questions as to the administration of the Board of Works in the hands of the Irish people and under their control. A good deal had happened since then, but the control of the administration of the Board of Works had not been placed in any degree whatever in the hands of the Irish people. The Secretary to the Treasury was not a Cabinet Minister, or he should have liked to have asked him whether, before they could hope for the redemption of the promise, the Irish people were expected to abandon their national aspirations? He quite agreed with the hon. Member for East Cork and with the hon. Member for 1289 Cambridge that the state of Ballycotton Pier demanded serious consideration. He thought the Grand Jury of Cork had every reason to fight shy of the question. Some 30 years ago, when the old pier was constructed, the Grand Jury resisted for a long time every effort to compel them to take over the pier. At that time the Board of Works were a greater power in the House of Commons than they were now, and they succeeded in getting a small Act passed which compelled the Cork Grand Jury to take over the pier, and soon after the Cork Grand Jury took it over the pier fell down. The pier having fallen down, the remains of it were never cleared away, but were allowed to block up the place. He believed it was the existence of these remains which had created some of the difficulties of the case. One of the grievous complaints of the Irish people was that, notwithstanding the distress which existed on the coast of Ireland, even the very few piers which had been erected were not put into a safe and proper condition. The land around the coast was barren and unproductive, and it was very hard, as far as the poor were concerned, that so few harbours had been constructed. His hon. Friend the Member for East Cork had been raising this question for a considerable time. For years the attention of the Irish Department had been directed to the state of Ballycotton Pier. Now this pier was one of the necessaries of life to the people of that fishing village; they had borrowed money from the State for the purpose of securing improved fishing boats. They now went out to sea in the large decked boats which were best adapted to the pursuit of the fishing industry. It would, therefore, be seen that a good pier was absolutely necessary. It cost £6,000 for a boat, and at the present moment he believed that one of them might be seen standing high and dry inside this precious pier. A pier and harbour to be of any use ought, at any rate, to be large enough to enable boats to float. He asked the Committee to look at the position of the people of this fishing village and of the district. They had done all they could. They had given money for the erection of the pier; they had borrowed money from the State to enable them to secure larger boats. They had instructed their Representatives to bring the ques- 1290 tion before the House of Commons. Their Representatives had not failed in their duty, and they had brought the matter forward again and again, and yet they were now condemned to stand idly by and see their money wasted and their industry injured while an irritating controversy was being carried on between two bodies, neither of which represented the people. Neither the Board of Works nor the Cork Grand Jury was a representative body, and, so far as the Cork Purveyor was concerned, he was nominated by the Sheriff. The Local Authorities had made representations over and over again, and those representations had been backed up by his hon. Friend the Member for East Cork without the slightest effect. So far as Arklow Harbour was concerned, he could only say that if he found himself outside that harbour in a storm he should very much prefer to remain outside. He did not think that the representations which had been made in that House should pass unheeded. When an examination of works of this character was demanded, if the demand for examination was complied with, it was difficult to secure that the examination itself should be conducted by a person who was regarded by those concerned as both competent and independent. He thought it looked somewhat ill, and was not susceptible of easy explanation, that year after year examinations of this kind were conducted by persons who did not commend themselves to public opinion as impartial and independent. He thought it was not asking too much of the Secretary to the Treasury that in a matter of this kind consultation should be held with the Members representing the localities, and that if any persons were appointed to inquire into the merits of the case, only such persons should be appointed whose impartiality the Representatives of the people were disposed to recognize. Before he sat down he wished to call attention to a matter which had been brought to his notice by a well-informed gentleman in Ireland. There had lately been a correspondence between the President of the Board of Works and the Institute of Architects in Ireland, who objected to the system now pursued at the Board of Works with respect to the preparation of plans for structure, for which loans were procured by private individuals from the 1291 State. He asked that this Correspondence should be laid on the Table of the House. The Committee would be aware that the Board of Works was the medium through which the loans of the State were granted for the purpose of erecting buildings in Ireland, such as buildings for national schools, farm buildings, and other buildings of various kinds. The Board of Works prepared certain plans, and they expected the persons who applied for the loans to conform to their requirements; but they went beyond that. Not only did they require the applicants to conform to their plans, but they told the applicants themselves to prepare the plans and submit them for their approval. The Institute of Architects felt aggrieved by the course which had been taken by the Board of Works, who were placing themselves and their employés in competition with the professional element of the country. The gentleman from whom he obtained the information told him that in many instances, through certain influence, the applicants for loans managed to have their plans prepared by officials of the Board. For instance, a gentleman applied to the Board for a loan, and said that he wished to have certain works done. The cry of the Board was, "Get plans and send them to the Board." The next thing was to call in an official of the Board, through whose agency the plans were prepared. He asked that the Correspondence between the Board of Works and the Institute of Architects in Dublin should be laid on the table, because he insisted that such relations as therein described as existing between private individuals and officials of the State were incompatible with an impartial discharge of the duties of the Department. He maintained that it was an unfair and unjustifiable system of competition. When they allowed the Heads of Departments to put themselves into communication with the applicants for loans in respect of the preparation of plans, it naturally followed that there must be unfair play in the dealings of the Board with the applicants. He was told, further, that some of the officials were allowed to supplement their salaries by work for private persons. Was he to understand that officials at the Board of Works not only prepared plans, but that they prepared them at the Board of Works for nothing? He did not 1292 suppose that that was the case. Now, the third aspect of the case was also a very serious one—namely, that the Department entered into a competition with the architects of the country. He did not object to model plans where model plans were required. The money of the State should not be given away unless the Department were satisfied that full value for the money was given, but it was quite another affair to promote an unjustifiable system of competition, and the Board of Works had, in fact, told the applicants not only would they prepare the plans, but that they would draw them so as to suit the views of the applicants. If they were paid for doing this it was a highly objectionable system, and it was an extension of that co-operative arrangement which had been so frequently denounced in that House. The officials who held office in connection with the State were well paid already, and they ought scarcely to be allowed to compete and drive out of the market gentlemen who were not paid by the State, who were struggling to obtain a living, and who themselves contributed to the taxes from which the salaries of the officials were paid. He wished to ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury if this system did exist, and, if it did, would some representation be made in regard to it with a view of putting a stop to it?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
said, that he had been asked a good many questions, and he was afraid that he should have to trouble the Committee for a few moments in answering them. There had been, he thought, some statements made under a misapprehension. He was exceedingly obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for Gal-way (Colonel Nolan) for having pointed out to the hon. Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) that the construction of works on these lines was not always very easy, and it was somewhat difficult to determine beforehand with absolute certainty that a particular plan would always be successful. He thought that the strictures which had been passed upon the Board of Works had been a little too sweeping. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) was evidently unaware that what he was contending for had been 1293 actually brought forward and agreed to. He understood the hon. Member to say that when a complaint was brought forward, as in the case of the Ballycotton Pier, there should be a perfectly independent inquiry by a competent engineer, thoroughly independent both of the locality and the Board of Works. The hon. Member was probably not aware that an independent inquiry had been agreed to by the Government, and, in conjunction with one of the most eminent engineers of the day, he had visited the Ballycotton Pier. They were now waiting for Mr. Wolfe Barry's Report on the subject. He disclaimed having entertained any intention or desire to withhold any information he possessed; but the Report had not yet been received; indeed, he had reason to believe that it was not yet written. When he received it, hon. Members interested in the subject would see it. The hon. Member for East Cork had left an impression on his mind, and he was afraid on the minds of the Committee, that there was an indisposition on the part of the Government to give the Report. The hon. Member went further, and said he had endeavoured to obtain information as to Mr. Barry's Report, and that, although he could obtain none, an official connected with the Board of Works boasted that he had seen the Report.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he could not understand how anybody could boast of reading the Report unless he had seen it. The hon. Gentleman certainly implied that he (Mr. Jackson) had kept back information which he possessed, or that he refused to give certain information which he had received. All he could say was, that he had not received Mr. Wolfe Barry's Report, and he had reason to believe that the Report itself had not yet been written. He trusted the hon. Member would remove from, his mind the misapprehension that there was any desire to keep the Report back. If he had received any Report the hon. Member should certainly have seen it before the present debate.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he would not pursue the subject further. As soon as the Report was received it should be submitted to the House. This complaint about the Irish Harbour Question was not the first that they had had. He would venture to remind the Committee that years ago similar complaints were made about the Board of Works, and an inquiry was ordered. An inquiry was conducted by an engineer of great eminence into the condition of certain piers in the county of Donegal, and he thought it was only due to the Board of Works that he should read one short extract from the Report of Mr. Thomas Stevenson, who was appointed to examine into the alleged unsound state of the works. Mr. Stevenson, after having gone carefully into the matter, said—The result of my inquiry is to satisfy me that there has been nothing in the proceedings of the Board of Works or their engineer, or the Fishery Commissioners, with regard to these harbours to warrant the charges which have been brought against them. On the contrary, we are of opinion that they have carried out a number of harbour works in a short time, on an exposed part of the coast, with more than ordinary freedom from damage, and with such perfect skill as to be highly creditable to the Board, and to reflect credit also on the proceedings of any harbour authority in the country. I have also to say that I have particularly examined all the documents relating to the question, and there exists not a vestige of foundation for reflection on the honour and reputation of the Chief Engineer.That Report was made in 1885 in consequence of certain charges that were made at that time. In the Ballycotton case, so far from the Board of Works having, as the hon. Member for East Cork seemed to think, thrown any difficulties in the way of the examination of the pier by an independent engineer, either in the first instance or subsequently, he was able to assure the hon. Member that the Board themselves had said that they were perfectly willing and ready that the Treasury should take the opinion of any engineer they might think necessary. Therefore, so far from their having shirked investigation, it was only due to them to say that they invited the most searching investigation and the most complete criticism that could be passed in regard to this work. 1295 He felt that he was somewhat at a disadvantage in discussing at present the condition of this particular pier in the absence of Mr. Wolfe Barry's Report. What was the condition of the matter at the present moment? The Government, in answer to the representations which had been made, had consented that an inquiry should be made by an engineer of eminence. They had entrusted the inquiry to an eminent engineer, who had, he believed, gone minutely into every particular. He had visited the pier, and, by means of his own agent and assistant, had obtained every information from the Board of Works, which information the Board were perfectly willing to place at the disposal of Mr. Wolfe Barry, together with all the documents in their possession. As he had stated, Mr. Barry had visited the pier and, through his assistant, had obtained all the information that was necessary to enable him to form an opinion as to the condition of the pier. But he would not be in a position to discuss the questions raised by the hon. Member for East Cork until he had received that gentleman's Report. He promised that, when it was received, it should be presented to the House, and that every hon. Member should know what the real facts of the case were. Therefore, he thought that probably the Committee would not expect him to discuss further in detail the questions raised with reference to Ballycotton Pier. The inquiry would be searching and complete, and he was quite sure that, when they got Mr. Barry's Report, they would be in a much better position to judge, both as to the stability of the work and what alterations it might be necessary to make. The hon. Member for East Wicklow (Mr. W. J. Corbet) had brought forward the question of Arklow Pier and Harbour. In this case he was able to speak from some personal observation. He had visited Arklow with the engineer, and he had also visited Ballycotton; and he thought the hon. Member would agree with him that, so far, there had been no damage done to any portion of the work which had been carried out by the Board of Works. He was aware, having seen it himself when he was there, that where the old work was connected with the new some damage had been done, but it had not been done to the new work 1296 which had been carried out by the Board of Works, but to the old wall. The hon. Member seemed to lay blame upon the Board of Works for the design which had been carried out. He understood the hon. Member to complain that the design was not good, and urged that, to make the work complete, it was necessary to build the north groyne. But he was informed that that was the original suggestion in the design of the Board of Works, and it was not carried out because it was objected to by the people of the locality. From his own observation he could testify that a splendid piece of work had been carried out. There was no evidence that any portion of the work showed signs of giving way, and he thought the hon. Member might rest satisfied that, as far as the work had been carried out by the Board of Works, there was no fault to find with it. The people of the locality desired that the other portion of the work should be carried out. The hon. Member was probably aware that in the Act which authorized the construction of the pier it was distinctly laid down that if an expenditure exceeding £30,000 were incurred, it should be optional to raise another loan on condition that the Town Commissioners of Arklow should bear the responsibility for the additional loan. In this particular case there had been constructed blocks of concrete in excess of the work already carried out. He understood that those blocks of concrete represented a value of about £4,000, and it was estimated that if the additional portion were carried out it would cost another £4,000, making a total of £8,000. It had been already intimated to the Town Commissioners of Arklow that, if they would assume the responsibility for the £4,000 which it was necessary to spend, the Board of Works would be perfectly willing to carry out the remainder of this work. He confessed that Arklow, when he visited it, gave him the impression of being one of the most prosperous fishing districts he had seen. There were more evidences of life and energy, more boats, and a larger real fishing population than in any other district he had visited. The new work would, no doubt, be of great value in providing a sheltered harbour, and in protecting the work already done, which was not completed because the Local Authorities were not prepared 1297 to take a comparatively small burden upon their shoulders. The hon. Member for East Wicklow had brought forward the question of Greystones. He did not understand that there was any complaint at Greystones in regard to the quality of the work which had been done, but he thought it must be admitted that there was truth in the statement of the hon. Member that the shingle had shown a tendency to fill up the harbour. He was informed that this was due to the unusual prevalence of north-east winds on that part of the coast. When north-east winds prevailed there was a tendency to drive the shingle round the coast into the harbour. There had been no objection taken either to the design or to the quality of the work as far as regards the pier which had been built. As the hon. Member said, it probably did act, to some extent, in checking the shingle. It had been suggested that a short north groyne would prevent what was going on at present. But, in the opinion of the engineer of the Board of Works, that would not be effective, for, unless the north groyne were carried out to a sufficient distance, the sweep of the shingle would come round the groyne and could not possibly be got out again. He was told that in one week, when the wind shifted round to the opposite quarter, 7,000 tons of shingle were cleared out of the harbour. The Board of Works had, from time to time, taken careful note of the subject, and he did not deny that if the present action went on, and the shingle continued to fill the harbour, it might be necessary to consider some means of preventing the evil. Probably the hon. Member would know what the facts of the matter were better than he did, but, according to the information which had been supplied to him, there was no actual urgent necessity to take this course arising from any practical inconvenience, and there was a sufficiency of deep water to accommodate a much larger number of boats than now went into the harbour. He hoped the hon. Member and the Committee would be satisfied with the assurance that if actual inconvenience were proved, and that this action went on to such an extent as to cause practical inconvenience and interfere with the use of the harbour, he would bring the question before the Treasury. He trusted that that statement would be accepted 1298 as fairly satisfactory, and as an indication, at all events, that the Government desired to deal practically with any difficulty they found to exist. The difficulty was not confined to this particular harbour; but, as the hon. Member for East Cork had pointed out with much force, the difficulties connected with marine engineering of this kind were so great that it was not always easy to secure complete success. The hon. Member for West Belfast had asked him one or two questions in reference to the Estimate now under discussion. The hon. Member pointed out that the Solicitor to the Board had retired. The explanation was, shortly, this. There was at the end of last year, or towards the beginning of the present year—he thought in January—an alteration made, and what was usually known as a re-organization of the office. He was happy, however, to assure the Committee beforehand that in this particular case re-organization had led to economy of expenditure. In reality there had been a concentration of work, and the old Solicitor to the Board of Works had retired, so that his salary was now being saved. Under the old arrangement there was sometimes a confusion, and almost a collision, of authority in connection with some part of the work, such as the collection of the interest on loans and arrears of loans. He had gone into the question when he was in Dublin, and as the result of the investigation he had made a concentration of the work had been carried out. Mr. Coll had been made head of the office, and the assistant solicitor acted under Mr. Coll. The salaries were borne now on the Vote for Law Charges, Ireland. At any rate, as far as the present year was concerned, the money taken would be sufficient to pay the whole of the salaries.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, the saving effected would be about £1,900 a-year, and he believed that not only was there a saving, but that the work of the Office would go on much more smoothly, and so far as the arrears of money out were concerned they would be put in a much better position. Certainly, the collection was now going on much more rapidly than heretofore, and the arrears, which had been showing a considerable tendency to increase, were now, he believed, 1299 showing a tendency in the opposite direction. The hon. Gentleman had also put a question in reference to the Inspectors. Possibly the criticism of the hon. Member might be justifiable, and more substantial information might have been given. As a matter of fact, the number of Inspectors had been reduced from 25 to 18, and the amount of the salaries thus saved represented the saving on the Estimate. The hon. Member also asked a question as to some complaint by the Institute of Architects, but he did not call to mind that any such complaint had come to the knowledge of the Treasury.
§ MR. SEXTON
asked how the reduction in the expenditure of the Office had been found to act practically?
§ MR. JACKSON
said, that practically it was found that all the work necessary to be done would be done with a largely decreased expenditure and a less number of officers. It was also found that, with a diminished amount of work, more systematic order was secured. In regard to the preparation of plans, he was given to understand that there was no foundation for the statement of the hon. Member that the Board of Works desired, in any sense, to compete with the Dublin architects. The object of the Board would be understood and appreciated by every Member of the Committee. There were in the Office, in connection with schools and houses of various sizes and numbers, model plans described by the hon. Member, but which were called in the Office standard plans. These standard plans represented school houses and other buildings of various sizes, and they had been adopted as the result of great experience and as a matter of economy. Many people made an application for them, because it was understood that these standard plans were supplied free of cost by the Board of Works. In cases where the plans required special adaptation to local circumstances, or where special requirements were needed to meet the local circumstances, he was informed that there was a practice, as the hon. Member suggested, under which plans were made by the Board of Works and given to applicants free.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he had already stated that he was not aware of there having been any correspondence.
§ MR. JACKSON
remarked that it certainly had not been before him. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would allow him to inform himself upon the matter by making some inquiry.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he happened to know that there had been a correspondence between the Board of Works and the President of the Institute of Architects. He had read it himself.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he would rather inform himself upon the matter—first, whether there was a correspondence in existence, and, next, what it consisted of. He thought he had now answered all the questions which had been put to him, and he trusted that he had satisfied hon. Members. He made no complaint of the hon. Member for East Cork for having called attention to the case of the Ballycotton Pier. The hon. Member had simply discharged his duty in bringing the question before the Committee. He thought, however, that the Committee would agree that as far as the Government could meet the question fairly and properly they had done so.
§ MR. LANE
said, he could not find fault with the manner in which the hon. Gentleman had replied to the questions put to him in regard to the various matters which had been brought before the Committee. To a certain extent the answers were satisfactory; but he had to take exception to the fact that, while on the 27th of September last a letter had been received from the right hon. Gentleman's Department promising that an inquiry would be made into the complaints that had been made as to the stability of the Ballycotton Pier, they found themselves now, on the 6th of December, called upon to vote the expenses of the Department which had had the work under its control, just as wise as they were before, with the probability of having to wait for another 12 months before they got a Report. He felt bound to complain, and complain very strongly, that the right hon. Gentleman had not insisted upon Mr. Wolfe Barry making his Report during the past two months, so that there might, at any rate, have been some attempt at a reply to the 1301 strictures which had been made upon the proceedings of the Board of Works. No intimation had yet been conveyed as to when the Report would be received; but he trusted that as soon as it was received a copy of it would be placed in the hands of hon. Members. Unfortunately, no opportunity would be afforded for discussing the Report until this Vote was brought on again next year, nor would it be possible to ascertain what action the Treasury would take in the matter. In the absence of Mr. Wolfe Barry's Report, he asked the Secretary to the Treasury to say what the position of affairs was in regard to the Bally-cotton Pier, and whether he would undertake, on behalf of the Treasury, to give a simple guarantee that, no matter what might be the nature of the Report, the Treasury would give instructions that the pier should be put in an adequate state of repair in order to prevent it from becoming permanently injured, and by that means throwing a serious and heavy burden upon the shoulders of the ratepayers of the county of Cork in the event of Mr. Wolfe Barry siding with the Board of Works against the Grand Jury and their surveyor? Whatever the Grand Jury might feel inclined to do, he (Mr. Lane)should certainly advise them, whether Mr. Wolfe Barry's Report was in favour of the Board of Works or not, to refuse to take over a pier which even an ordinary layman could see was crumbling away. Although they might be technically liable for the maintenance of the pier, the Treasury, in common justice, ought not to compel them to take it over. The hon. Gentleman, when he paid a visit to Ballycotton, must have seen the fissures which existed, and, therefore, he hoped the Treasury would come to the rescue of the Local Authorities, and make up for the deficiencies of the Board of Works in not having secured that the pier should be completed satisfactorily and handed over in a proper and sound condition. As there was to be no opportunity afforded for seeing Mr. Wolfe Barry's Report, they ought, he thought, to ask for a simple guarantee to this effect from the Treasury.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, it would be obvious to the Committee that he ought not to give the guarantee asked for by the hon. Member. Certainly no such guarantee could be given before the 1302 Treasury had the whole of the facts before them. But the hon. Member was wrong in contemplating that he would have no opportunity of again raising the question for 12 months. He hoped that the opportunity would be afforded within the next three or four months. They were now in the month of December, and the Leader of the House had stated that he hoped next year to take the Estimates pretty early; so that the hon. Gentleman would have an opportunity of discussing the matter that interested him before many months had elapsed.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
said, he had no doubt that the discussion of these local matters might be irksome to English and Scotch Members. It was certainly ridiculous that the time of such an Assembly should be occupied with matters which concerned Irishmen only, and ought to be discussed in an Irish Legislative Assembly. It was, however, the result of the policy of Parliament, and he could not help it. On the other hand, it was humiliating for the Irish Members to come to Westminster, and year after year appeal to an English and Scotch Parliament on matters quite foreign to their Parliamentary interest and knowledge. The Secretary to the Treasury had made a defence of the Board of Works, and had quoted their testimony as to the general capacity of an engineer who had examined certain marine works in the county of Donegal.
§ MR. CLANCY
said, that those 22 piers were situated in the county of Donegal. Even in that case it was difficult to get over the fact that every year, for the last 20 or 30, before the Irish Parliamentary Party were heard of, there were constant complaints from all parts of Ireland about the Board of Works. He hoped the Committee would understand that these debates were not initiated from political motives. The interposition of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald) in the debate showed that he was correct in this remark. It was certainly humiliating to find that when all parties in Ireland were united upon these local questions—about which they were bound to know more than anybody else, and 1303 when an hon. Member opposite like the hon. Member for Cambridge joined them—it was humiliating to find that they were compelled to come there year after year and appeal to the Secretary to the Treasury without obtaining the slightest satisfaction. He was certainly astonished to see the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway standing up in his place to support the Board of Works. When the Piers and Harbours Act was passed a few years ago persons connected with the harbour of Rush, in the county of Dublin, subscribed nearly £1,000 in order that they might avail themselves of the grant made for the construction of piers and harbours in Ireland in that year. But because the locality was not able to subscribe the full amount of £ 1,000, and only managed to raise £800, the Piers and Harbours Commission of that day, whose functions were now discharged by the Board of Works, passed them over, and made a most inadequate distribution of the money, giving it to localities which had made no such effort as that which had been made by the people of Rush. Of course it was of no use to cry over spilt milk, and, without complaining of what had been done in the past, he thought it was right to call attention to the fact that the people of Rush still maintained their harbour, and that the sum originally collected was still intact. Some large local proprietors had wished to withdraw their subscriptions, but he had advised the people to stick to the money and see that it was only devoted to the purpose for which it was originally intended. He called attention to the matter because he wished to show that there were means, in this case, of satisfying the demands of the locality without drawing upon the Imperial Exchequer for a farthing. The fund originally came out of the Irish Church surplus, and, therefore, he made no apology whatever for asking that a portion of it should be applied to this purpose. It involved no Vote of money by Parliament that would come out of the pocket of the British taxpayer. He knew that the fund was comparatively exhausted, hut, according to a Return for the year 1888–9, repayments of loans would be coming in during the financial year to the amount of about £3,000 or £4,000; and, if that were so, he would ask the Government to consider the case of the people of 1304 Rush, who, to a certain extent, had been cheated out of their rights two or three years ago, notwithstanding the great efforts which had been made in the locality. It would, in his opinion, only be an act of justice to the people of Rush to give them this £3,000 or £4,000 that was now available from the repayment of loans advanced to other localities two or three years ago. He had, however, a still more important matter to the taxpayer generally and the House of Commons to bring under the notice of the Committee. Indeed, he had to call attention to a circumstance which looked very like a charge of corruption against the Board of Works. In the county of Kerry there was a lady named Miss Lucy Thompson. She had acted as the guardian of the property of certain minors for some years, and had been proved by the Land Courts to be a rack-renter. He was speaking, not of his own personal knowledge, but on the authority of a gentleman who had had exceptional opportunities of becoming acquainted with the facts of the case. Miss Lucy Thompson—according to this gentleman—was not only a rack-renter, but had done something even worse. A short time ago this lady obtained a sum of £400 from the Board of Works for a piece of land at Tralee, about two acres in extent, for the erection of a lighthouse, or some other purpose. It was land upon which, as it had been described to him, it was impossible to feed a snipe. He did not know how many years' purchase she got according to the rate allowed by the Ashbourne Act. The bargain, however, was not concluded under that Act; but he presumed it amounted to at least 40 years' purchase, and, instead of £400, £100 was the outside sum this lady ought to have received from any purchaser. The information in regard to the transaction had been obtained quite by accident, and the fact that the existence of such a fraudulent transaction was unknown suggested to him that other things of the same kind might have been going on, and that the British taxpayer might have been swindled of a very large sum of money by the Board of Works. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury might not be able to explain the matter that night, but now that he had the facts before him he would probably-cause inquiry to 1305 be made. He gave the hon. Gentleman fair warning that when the Estimates were next under consideration the whole of this case would be brought up, and an answer would have to be given to the very serious charge he now preferred. He had another charge to bring in reference to this lady. She appeared to have obtained loans, at different times, for the improvement of her property, from the Board of Works, and, adopting the usual practice of Irish landlords, Miss Thompson had failed to repay the instalments. The way she had got out of her obligations was very curious, and unless some explanation could be given the whole transaction, he thought, was most destructive to the reputation of the Board of Works. Having obtained one loan, this lady, when the time for repayment came, obtained another. Failing to pay the instalments on one, she wrote up to the Board of Works, who sent down an official—he was prepared to state the name of the official if necessary—who altered the prices which had been agreed to and fixed by the County Surveyor of Kerry, and allowed her to put to her credit the cost of certain improvements at an increased sum. A pliable Board of Works sent down an equally pliable official to survey the improvements, and the difference in the estimate was added by the Board. If these statements were true, he thought the Committee would agree with him that nothing short of a scandalous fraud had been perpetrated on the public by this lady in collusion with the Board of Works. Passing from that subject, they had heard that night that the office of Solicitor to the Board had been abolished, and that £1,900 had been saved in the Department by a system of concentration of business. He thought more could be done in that way. The salary of a Chief Inspector was £500, and of a Chief Examiner £400 a-year. He wanted to know whether both these gentlemen did not perform exactly the same functions, and whether one would not be sufficient to do the work 10 times over? He had heard that two gentlemen, pronounced to be perfectly competent to discharge their duties, had been dismissed, while another, whose dismissal had been recommended by his superiors on the ground of incompetency, had been retained. He con- 1306 sidered that the charge was a very serious one, and, if there was no answer to it, the only conclusion in the minds of the Irish people would be that the partizanship which was displayed in purely political Departments of the State was extended in Ireland to every other Department. Certainly the discontent and dissatisfaction which were now expressed in regard to the Government of Ireland would become intensified by these disgraceful transactions. There was another matter to which he also desired to call attention. He wanted to know what rule there was in the Board of Works, and in Dublin Castle generally, as to the participation of officials of the Crown in public and political movements? When those English strollers—the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington)—went over to Dublin to excite the loyalty of the citizens they were entertained at a very select banquet, at which all the chief officials of the Board of Works, except one, were present. General Sankey, Mr. Roberts, and Mr. Soady were there. He was not certain about Mr. Le Fanu. Not only were they present at the banquet, but they signed the highly partizan address presented to these two English strollers. There might be two opinions as to whether prominent officials of the Crown in Ireland ought to take part in political movements; but, for his own part, he considered that the present unfortunate position of Ireland—when so much suspicion attached to the action of Government officials—necessitated the abstention of all officials from political movements. He did not think that such abstention should prevail in England or in Ireland when once a normal condition of things was established. But, as matters stood at present, let all abstain or all be allowed to participate; but there must not be one rule for the Tories in Ireland and another for the Nationalists. He claimed that if Mr. Roberts, Mr. Soady, General Sankey, and others of the Orange fraternity in the pay of the Government were permitted to demonstrate in favour of the Government, that Nationalists who were in the pay of the Government should be allowed to do the same thing. He challenged the Government to say that 1307 all Government officials were to be allowed to participate in political movements in Ireland, or that all should abstain. Either of the two courses would satisfy him, but he warned the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury that if one of these principles only was allowed to be put in practice, he would never cease to draw the attention of Parliament to the scandal of permitting Members of the Tory Party to display their political sympathies with the Government, while the Nationalists in the pay of the Government were not allowed to do the same thing.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, he thanked the hon. Member for East Cork (Mr. Lane) for having called attention to the Ballycotton Pier. His hon. Friend pressed for a distinct intimation from the Government as to what was to be done in connection with the effective condition of the pier since the visit of Mr. Wolfe Barry. He happened to be present when the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury visited Ballycotton, and he had called the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the remains of the old pier, which protruded into the newly-made harbour. He showed the hon. Gentleman a fishing boat at half-tide, about 100 yards or less from the entrance, hanging on by its tail, a sort of thing they might expect to see in the Zoological Gardens, but not a very desirable item in a newly-constructed harbour. He thought that the more hon. Members considered the subject the more ready would they be to subscribe to the truth of the old adage that "when doctors differ the patients die." So, also, when engineers fell out the fishing boats got stranded, and the unfortunate people for whom the works had been constructed got stranded too. He trusted that the Government would promise that some experiment should be made in order to see whether the remains of the old pier could be removed or not. Owing to remonstrances which he (Dr.Tanner) had made, a certain sum of money had been spent in the removal of the pier, but as yet it had not been entirely removed. The question to which the hon. Member for Cambridge had called attention had been judiciously shelved by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury. The new method of stilling the troubled waters was to pour oil upon them, and 1308 the hon. Gentleman never rose to reply in a debate in which material points had been raised without reminding him of the cask of oil that was judiciously spilt in calming the troubled, waves. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would direct his great intelligence to the various subjects which had been brought under his notice. He would not enter into the question of the structure or construction of the new pier, but he would confine himself to inquiring whether the remaining portion of the old pier could not be removed. That was all he bad to say about Ballycotton Pier; but there were one or two other subjects on which he desired to say a word. In the first place, he held in his hand a communication which had reached him from a gentleman who had pressed forward this business—the Roman Catholic clergyman at Ballycotton, who said that the people of fiallycotton wished to have assurances that Mr. Wolfe Barry's survey of the inner harbour would be laid before the House of Commons, and whether the stone and rubble used in the construction of the works had been washed away, leaving one-half of the old pier dry. The pier at Rosscarbery was another of the monuments of public incapacity which strewed the Irish Coast. They already paid an Inspector of Ancient Monuments, but if the Board of Works were permitted to continue their present action unchecked, it would be necessary to increase his salary or add to the staff. Fortunately, there was no harbour in the part of the county which he represented, but he had visited many of the harbours around the coast, and most of them were in an unsound and unsatisfactory condition. When he last visited Rosscarbery Pier, there were four colliers lying down at an old pier which had been condemned years ago. It was in consequence of the old pier not being considered equal to the requirements of the harbour that a new pier was erected at a cost of £4,299; but so badly had it been constructed that solid blocks of concrete had dropped out into the channel, and the colliers were obliged to discharge their cargoes at the old condemned pier, and the people, as a result, experienced great difficulty in getting a livelihood. He was afraid that these matters would never be properly attended to until the Irish people had a Parliament of their own in which 1309 they could discuss them. He would further like to call attention to the condition of the people of Achill Island. It was one of the poorest districts in Ireland, and if there were any people in the world for whom something ought to be done it was these unfortunate people. They had many troubles and privations to contend with, and their life was one long struggle from year end to year end, notwithstanding the great harvest of the sea which lay at their very door. But they were without means and appliances, and it was a scandal and a disgrace to the country that something was not done to improve their condition. In a visit which he paid to the locality in company with the hon. Member for West Mayo (Mr. Deasy), they had to go by means of a small boat from the Island to Achill Beg, and then take another boat, which they found it extremely difficult to get launched into Clear Bay. The passage was so dangerous that no boat could pass from Achill Island to Clear Bay except at full tide. No one who was unacquainted with the facts of the case could fully realize the enormous dangers and terrible difficulties these unfortunate people had to encounter in their endeavour to obtain a livelihood; it was, therefore, greatly to be regretted that the steps hitherto taken to promote their welfare had been so ill chosen. He wished to call attention also to the harbour in Newcastle in County Down, about which he had over and over again raised complaints in that House, which complaints, he considered, demanded attention, and that there should be some practical solution of the question relating to these harbours, because unless this was done the want of confidence would be increased among the people, owing to the mode of action which had always been characteristic of the Board of Works in Ireland. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman, with his practical power of dealing with these matters, would give them his kind attention.
§ MR. GILHOOLY (Cork, W.)
said, he rose to refer to the unsatisfactory pier accommodation at Schull.
said, it was not within the competency of the Committee to discuss on that Vote the business of the Board of Works, but only the action of the Board.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
said, that he had already drawn attention to the subject of the action of the Board. In the Harbour of Schull had been captured in the last year over 1,000,000 mackerel, and he pointed out that each mackerel boat required 10 feet of water, but that there was only a depth of seven feet, the consequence of which was that the fish had to be brought from the vessels in boats to the pier, which was, of course, a great disadvantage to the fishermen. It also had the effect of prejudicing the sale, because it caused the buyers to give a smaller price for the fish than they would have done if they were landed expeditiously. Again, over 250,000 mackerel had been salted and cured, and sent from Schull to America within the last few months.
asked the hon. Gentleman to point out in what way the Board of Works was liable to criticism under this head.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
said, the pier had been very badly constructed, and it was a great disadvantage to the locality. He would only say that the answer which the hon. Gentleman gave was that the pier had been handed over to the County of Cork, and that, therefore, it was impossible either for him or the Treasury to deal with it. He now wished to ask whether there was any remedy in the case of badly constructed piers and harbours, and if they were to believe that every attempt to develop the resources of Ireland would be met with a statement that the Treasury had no power to deal with the matter, and that the pier had been taken in hand by the county? Another matter to which he desired to call attention was the advancing of loans to tenants for the improvement of their lands. It was almost impossible for any tenant who owed 12 months' rent to his landlord, and whom the landlord had a spleen against, to get any money under the Act. A tenant on an estate in Kildare divided his land between his two sons; each of the sons applied for a grant, and the younger of the sons having voted against the nominee of the landlord, the landlord interfered to prevent the Board of Works granting the loan. The father, who was the lessee, wrote to the Board of Works saying that he was perfectly agreeable that the son should get the 1311 money; yet, owing to the influence of the landlord, through his bailiff, the money was not advanced. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether, if there was sufficient security, the money would be advanced to the people of Ireland for the purpose intended? He also pointed out that the Royal Commission had recommended works to be done on two piers on the coast, and he asked when that would be carried out?
§ MR. M'CARTAN (Down, S.)
said, he had to thank his hon. Friend for calling attention to the pier at Newcastle. The pier was constructed in 1854 by the Board of Works, and it was then that the Grand Jury of the County sent down their surveyor.
The hon. Gentleman is speaking of a fact which shows that the matter is not relevant to this Vote—namely, that the work was done by the Board of Works 30 years ago.
§ MR. M'CARTAN
said, he wished to point out that the present state of the pier was both dangerous to navigators and in a bad state for the unfortunate men who had to make their living there. He asked the hon. Gentleman if he would send some persons to make an independent inquiry in order that some remedy might be found for the present state of affairs? He had no doubt that if such a person were sent he would report to the Board of Works that the pier required improvement, owing to its having been constructed in a very faulty way.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
said, he wished to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to the pier at Ballycotton. He held in his hand a letter from the Treasury, dated 27th September. In consequence of the receipt of that letter by the Secretary to the Grand Jury of Cork, a visit was made to Ballycotton Pier. An independent engineer made an inspection, and the Committee were now asked to wait for three months longer after the Recess, and when the Session was over they were told that this independent engineer's Report would be forthcoming. The request he had to make to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury was that he would promise that the Report should be produced before the Session was over. The hon. Gentleman wrote the letter on the 26th of September, ap- 1312 pointing the 6th October as the date of inquiry and investigation, and, two months having elapsed, there had been sufficient time for the engineer to make his Report and to bring it forward for the satisfaction of those concerned. Considering that a few points only were to be reported upon, it was too great a trial of the patience of hon. Members to put them off for three months longer. Let the Committee remember that the pier itself might pass away, as many other piers had done, before the Report reached their hand, in consequence of the winter storms and heavy seas which might prevail during the time. Hon. Members said that the pier had not been built according to specification; that the blocks originally designed to be five tons, and arranged so as to keep out the water, had been changed to blocks of 50 tons each and that the water now came in; they also complained that the filling should have been of hard stone, but that it was at best soft stone, and that there was about 1,000 tons of soft clay used. The clerk of the works had reported to Mr. Barry that 1,000 tons of stone rubble were never touched at all. These were the few heads under which this engineer was to make his Report, and he did not think it unreasonable to ask that the Report should be expedited, so that the Committee might have information upon this interesting matter. That was all that he had to say upon the subject, and he trusted that the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would give a satisfactory answer upon it.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, the hon. Member had complained that the Report of the engineer might have been prepared and placed in the hands of hon. Members before that time. But he thought he himself had furnished the very best possible reason why they ought not to hurry the production of the Report. If there was one point more than another which it was desirable to clear up, and on which they ought to have the most reliable evidence, it was as to whether the movement in the pier was going on or not. Now, he ventured to submit to the Committee that nothing but time could ascertain that fact. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of another three months elapsing, and about it being possible that in that time the pier might have passed away, but surely if 1313 such a contingency was likely to occur, and whether that were so or not, it would not be affected by the production of the Report. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman's fears would not be realized, and it was for the very reason that they might have other storms, and also as a matter of justice to the Board of Works, that he ventured to point out that the matter should receive the most careful consideration, so that, when the Report was received, it should be based upon the most minute investigation to determine whether there was any movement going on or not. He was sure it would be very much to the advantage of every one concerned that this question should be settled definitely, if possible, once for all. Now, with regard to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), he did not think anyone would accuse the hon. Member of lack of oratorical power; he had referred to the old pier, and he (Mr. Jackson) ought perhaps to have made reference to his observations on that subject a little while ago, but the matter had slipped his memory at the moment. The question of Ballycotton Pier was one of those referred to Mr. Barry. As a matter of fact there were two questions—first, as to whether the pier was to be removed in accordance with the specification, and, secondly, as to whether this was desirable.
§ DR. TANNER
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman was wrong in making that statement, because everything had been settled. £30,000 were advanced in order to remove the old pier, and still the complaint was made by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald), one of the hon. Gentleman's own supporters, that although this money had been spent there remained a serious obstruction to navigation.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, certain work was alleged to have been done, and one of the inquiries would be as to whether that work had been carried out. The hon. Member for West Cork (Mr. Gilhooly) had asked him a question with regard to the other pier referred to. That pier was not really under the Board of Works; it was one of those piers handed over to the Grand Jury a long time ago; he was afraid that he had not got the date. However, he might say that quite recently an examination of the pier had been made, and it was 1314 found at the time that some slight amount of damage had been done. That damage had been remedied, and he had it on authority that the work was now in order and perfectly substantial. The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. M'Cartan) asked whether he would cause inquiry to be made with regard to the pier at Newcastle. That pier was long ago constructed and handed over at the time by the Board of Works, who had now no responsibility in connection with it. Whether it was desirable to build a harbour at Newcastle or not was of course a question on which he could express no opinion. If it were necessary to have a harbour there it would be of course open to take steps for the purpose in the district as in any other district. The hon. Member for West Cork had asked him a question with regard to loans to tenants. If the hon. Member would supply him with the name of the tenant to whom he referred he did not for one moment hesitate to say that he would inquire into the facts in connection with the case. With regard to Schull Harbour he stood in the same position as to the harbour at Newcastle, because he was under the impression that it had been handed over to the Grand Jury in 1854. It was, in fact, transferred to the Grand Jury on the 29th June of that year. Of course, at the time when it was taken over it was examined, and he thought that so long a period as 30 years having elapsed it was hardly possible for him to answer questions with regard to it at a moment's notice. He was afraid, as far as the Board of Works was concerned, that the matter having passed out of their hands, it was not in their power to spend any more money upon it. It might be desirable to have another pier constructed, but that was not a question for the Board of Works. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) he pointed out that there had been a reduction of 10 on the staff, but he thought the hon. Gentleman was misinformed as to Mr. Manning having been incompetent to discharge his duties.
§ MR. CLANCY
said, he did not speak of him as being incompetent, but that he was reported to be incompetent, and dismissed on that ground.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House 1315 (Mr. W. H. Smith) had already expressed his opinion with regard to Civil servants attending political meetings, and he (Mr. Jackson) hoped that the time would never come when men occupying the position of Civil servants would lose their rights of citizenship.
§ MR. CLANCY
said, he thought he had expressed himself clearly to the effect that in Great Britain the Government of the country being in a normal state, there was no reason whatever why any man serving the country should be deprived of the rights of citizenship. But he had shown that in Ireland Tory officials of the Government were permitted to do things which the Nationalists employed by the Government were not permitted to do. He had stated as a notorious fact that men like General Sanky, Mr. Roberts, and Mr. Soady could attend Unionist meetings and Unionist banquets, whereas it was known to every man in Ireland, and was a fact incapable of contradiction, that any Nationalist who ventured to do the same thing would be instantly dismissed from the Service. A short time ago a Nationalist teacher was sent about his business for having hinted his political opinions. The hon. Gentleman had not given the Committee an assurance that what the men he had named were permitted to do would be allowed to be done by Nationalists. He repeated what he had previously said, that the very next time he saw Mr. Roberts, Mr. Soady, or General Sanky, or any other official of the Government in Ireland on an Unionist platform, and taking part in Unionist proceedings, he would call attention to the fact, especially if any Nationalist was harassed and eventually driven out of his position for the same thing.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he had only wished to make it clear that he did not want to go into the question whether Civil servants ought to attend political meetings or not. That was a question which he thought ought to be set at rest by the Leader of the House.
§ DR. TANNER
said, there was another item included in this Tote which would require a certain amount of consideration. For his own part he thought he could expect hon. Gentleman opposite to listen to this matter with the attention which it deserved. He referred to the preservation of ancient monuments. A 1316 certain amount of money was passed for this purpose, but he did not consider that Parliament obtained an adequate return for the amount so expended. They had here an Inspector of ancient monuments under the Act of Parliament. This gentleman received a sum of £50 this year and the same amount last year in addition to a salary of £200. What he would say in connection with this officer was, that apparently he was sent down to a district where it suited the convenience of certain individual landed proprietors, and the result was that the major portion of Irish National monuments, of which his countrymen were reasonably proud, were allowed to go to wreck and ruin while the number of small and minor articles of antiquity were preserved to gratify the taste of certain proprietors of the soil. This proceeding was neither just nor honest. They received very little consideration from an expenditure which was literally a National expenditure; they were called upon to pay this money, and if this Vote were passed in an Irish deliberative Assembly he was certain that his countrymen, being proud of matters in the past, would pay considerable attention to the question of the preservation of ancient monuments. But it was not so at the present time; these points were habitually slurred over in a Committee of Supply, when there were, perhaps, occasionally only two or three Gentlemen occupying an official position seated on the Treasury Bench. He contended, that when they kept up an official Inspector, he eared not who he might be, that at any rate the historical remnants which were still in the old Town of Athenry should not be allowed to perish. He had had the opportunity of showing two Members of the Conservative Party over these grand old relics of the historical past, and these Gentlemen were just as much grieved as he that nothing had been done to preserve them as they would have been preserved in other countries. When they were called upon to pass considerable sums of money in that House, he maintained that they ought to receive an adequate return for it, and surely the inspection of these historical remains did not take up very much time or give very much trouble. He sincerely hoped that before the Vote was passed they would get some information from the hon. Gentleman the 1317 Secretary to the Treasury, who, he always knew, took time by the forelock and threw oil upon the troubled waters, which would lead them to the belief that something would be done in connection with this old City of the Kings in Connaught. He had heard many complaints from Catholic and Protestant Clergymen about the want of attention paid to that very historical city, and he sincerely hoped that some definite assurance would be given by the hon. Gentleman that this matter should receive the attention which it deserved. But there was another item to which he desired to refer. He saw there were three surveyors of buildings in Cork with minimum salaries of £400, increasement £20, and maximum £500. The increase under the head of salaries, however, was a very small matter and he would not dwell upon it. But he thought he knew nearly everybody in the City of Cork, and, until he cast his eye over the Estimate presented to the House, he was not aware that in that city such an official existed as a surveyor of public buildings. If such an official did exist in Cork he would like to know what he bad to do. He was to a certain extent acquainted with all the public buildings in Cork, and the major portion of them were undoubtedly under the care of the Municipality. Now, in that case, if this official existed to take care of any buildings in Cork the office must be a very small one and quite unworthy of public consideration, for which reason he thought that the sooner it was done away with the better.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he was not aware that such an officer existed; he saw nothing in reference to Cork on the Estimates.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, in that case, he supposed that he was stationed in Cork. The hon. Gentleman must see that it was quite impossible for him to give an answer to all these details, and he would probably understand that the Office of Public Works in Ireland extended to the charge of all public works, and that it was necessary to appoint men in different districts. That, he thought, would be the explanation of the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member asked him some questions on the 1318 subject of ancient monuments. All he could say upon that point was, that if he would give him the particulars in such form as could be communicated by him to the Board of Works, he would do so, and then, if they came within the scope of the Act of Parliament dealing with such buildings, he was sure that the Board of Works would give the matter every possible attention.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
said, there was very many subjects on which he wished to dwell in connection with the duties of the Board of Works; but he would confine himself to local matters. He feared that the Board of Works neglected the general interest in their desire to please. In connection with the River Sugg there were some important drainage works going on; but he had remarked, in connection with this work, that the Board of Works had been wanting in knowledge, or in that amount of capacity which it was necessary for Public Bodies to have established in connection with such a scheme of drainage as this. The original estimate made for the drainage of this river was £103,000. It was the duty of the engineers of the Board of Works to see that the amount of money specified, or agreed upon between the Committee of the Sugg drainage and the Government, should be, at all events, somewhat approximate to the amount of money required for the finishing of the works. They found, however, that this £103,000 were expended, and that a further sum of £60,000 or £70,000 were required for completing the works. Then, he thought, the Board of Works should also have regard to the necessity of keeping in repair such works as they had given their consent to. As regarded the River Sugg, in addition to what he had already said, he held it to be the duty of the Board of Works to take care that the industries along the river were not interfered with too largely. There were several undertakings on the river which used to give valuable employment—such as weirs and mills—and although they had been of great ad-advantage to the locality they had been ruined. No doubt the owners had been compensated for the loss of their property; but the general public suffered by the removal of the weirs. He should think, as a matter of public interest, it should be the duty of the Board of 1319 Works to see that in the matter of these contracts between Drainage Boards and the owners of property no injury should be sustained by the general public. There was one other point he should like to touch upon. There had been a large amount of money spent under the Board of Works, not in carrying on arterial drainage works, but works of a minor class. These works, especially in County Galway, or that part of County Galway he represented, year after year—works which had been accomplished at very great expense—were being closed up, and were becoming useless. It would seem as though supervision on the part of the Board of Works had altogether ceased. No doubt the Grand Juries in some cases might have taken over these works; but he thought that care should be taken, before such works as were necessary for the reclamation of the land were handed over to the Grand Juries, or any other Body, to see that they were in proper repair. Therefore, he complained, first of all, that the Board of Works did not see that the estimates put in were such as would cover the expenses of the works; and, secondly, he complained that the Board of Works allowed such industries as milling and fishing to be affected, and did not take sufficient precautions to preserve them. Thirdly, he complained that minor works of drainage were generally in certain districts, and were maintained in such a manner as to allow them to fall into decay. Drainage works required to be attended to from time to time. The water-courses required keeping open, and everything in the shape of obstruction required moving. He should be glad if the Government would take these points into their consideration, and would endeavour to remedy the deficiencies on the part of the Board of Works to which he alluded.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, he desired to signalize this occasion by saying a word in favour of the Board of Works for a satisfactory procedure which he thought hitherto had been almost unknown. He desired to return his best thanks to the Board for what they had done in relation to the bridge across the Liffey in connection with the new Vandal railway which was being made in Dublin. The Board had, for the first time, done an admirable service 1320 to the public of Dublin in protecting the Custom House from the railway Goths. He desired, as a member of the public, to return his best thanks to Mr. Soady, of the Board of Works, for the letter that gentleman had addressed to the railway people, and the care he had taken of the interests of the public in respect of the Customs House. He (Mr. T. M. Healy) sincerely trusted that this gentleman and the Board of Works would be induced to continue their opposition to the atrocious structure which the railways had obtained permission from Parliament to erect, and he trusted the Board would not be intimidated from their position of protecting one of the remaining beauties of the City of Dublin, built by the last Irish Parliament, notwithstanding any clamour which might be raised against their action. The Board were supported in the position they had taken up by all the intelligence of Dublin. He hoped they would stick to their point; and if newspaper rings, or railway rings, or any other rings of capitalists endeavoured to induce them, in the interest of what was called trade or commerce, to sanction the unsightly and brutal structure that the Railway Companies proposed to erect, he hoped they would maintain their position and insist, as they had power to insist, themselves or through the Board of Trade, upon the structure being made an ornamental one. He was stronger in his opposition in this matter as he observed that this Rail way Company, having come before Parliaments 1884, and having come twice since, would have to resort to Parliament for another Bill in the coming year. Certainly if the Board of Works did not stand to their guns when the Bill was before the House, he (Mr. T. M. Healy) and his would have some general observations to make all round.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ DR. TANNER
said, he rose for the last time to try and get some definite assurance from the Government with regard to the harbour to which attention had already been called. The matter was a small one, and he did not wish to detain the Committee for one moment longer than was absolutely necessary; but he desired to get some 1321 definite assurance on the subject. Would the Board of Works see to the removal of the pier?
§ MR. JACKSON
said, as he had already stated, if it was necessary in the interests of the harbour to make a further removal, the work would be carried out. At all events, if the harbour was found to be in an unsatisfactory condition the whole matter would be most carefully inquired into.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ (2.) £2,010, to complete the sum for the Record Office, Ireland.
§ (3.) £4,747, to complete the sum for the Registrar General's Office, Ireland.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, he did not see any Representative of the Irish Office in the House, but he desired to ask a question with regard to this Vote. The Registrar General was responsible for the criminal and judicial statistics of Ireland, but in his Report he said that, following the lines adopted in connection with the Scotch criminal and judicial statistics, the Report he had been in the habit of returning would not be furnished in future. He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) desired to have some information on this matter. The change proposed was a very serious one, from a statistical point of view. The judicial statistics of England which the Irish Report had been endeavouring, since 1883, to follow, were a very complete, intelligent, and valuable statement of the whole of their criminal and judicial expenditure. The Scotch Report was an extremely unsatisfactory one. Last year he called attention to this Scotch Report, and expressed regret that in Scotland they did not follow the English example. In Scotland they simply put down on the Table of the House a large mass of undigested statistics, whereas in England and Ireland an intelligent summary was given of the whole of the statistics in a short and tangible shape. Now, he wanted to know upon what ground they were to be deprived of the Irish Report? Who was the authority in Dublin Castle who had decided that Parliament should be deprived of this Return which it had been in the habit of receiving for many years past? What was the ground upon which this omission was founded?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. JACKSON) (Leeds, N.)
said, he was afraid he was not able to give the right hon. Gentleman complete information as regarded this Vote, but, so far as he knew, this information had been supplied hitherto from Dublin Castle. He was afraid that what had been done in this case was due to one of those many attempts—which the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he knew, did not appreciate—to save £100 in what was called duplicate work. If the right hon. Gentleman would inquire into the matter he would find that that was the fact. This £100 had been paid to the Registrar General for duplicating important information supplied from Dublin Castle, but if the right hon. Gentleman desired it, he (Mr. Jackson) would ascertain definitely the facts of the case, and give the right hon Gentleman all the information in his power.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, the duplicate consisted not so much as the table of statistics, but of an intelligent résumé. These résumés, with which they had been supplied for some years, could not be altered without the assent of Parliament. The Government seemed to be desirous to change the method of producing very valuable statistics. When the Scotch Votes came on he would ask a question in regard to Scotland. He submitted that in the present state of politics in Ireland, these statistics were most valuable, and he would ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to say that no change would be made in this matter without the consent of Parliament.
§ MR. JACKSON
said, he could only promise to ascertain whether there would be any difficulty in continuing the Return as supplied in the past. If there were none, of course the Return should be presented in the old shape. As he had stated—but he was only speaking from memory on the point—a sum of about £100, which had hitherto been paid for duplicating this information and putting it into proper form, would be saved by the arrangement proposed. It had seemed to the officials unnecessary to continue that payment. He (Mr. Jackson) was not aware that any statement had been made on the subject in the Report to which the right hon. Gentleman had called attention, although he remembered that the question was one 1323 which had come before him with the result he had stated.
§ THE LORD MAYOR OF DUBLIN (Mr. SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
said, he had listened to this conversation with very great surprise. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) had raised a point of the greatest importance. He was not aware that it was intended to limit the extent of the information given to the House from year to year with regard to the criminal statistics of Ireland. The statistics were compiled by Dr. Hancock in recent years.
§ MR. JACKSON
I beg pardon; they were not compiled by me, but information was sent up to the Registrar-General.
§ MR. SEXTON
Yes, and duplicated. Those who were connected with Irish public affairs found it necessary to render themselves familiar with these statistics; and at a time when Ireland was subjected to a special coercion law it was highly important that full information should be in the hands of the public with regard to criminal and judicial statistics. Ho, therefore, thought it meet that the form of this Return should not be altered. It would be a great mistake, in order to effect a paltry saving of £100, to alter the form of the Return, and prevent the Irish Members and the Irish public having that information which was necessary in discussing Public Business. If the form of this Return were altered, it would enable the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to pursue with success the policy of evasion and suppression of facts which he had lately pursued in that House. It was necessary that the Vote should be postponed. He (Mr. Sexton) had not been aware that any great change as that proposed was in contemplation. He would ask the Government to postpone this arrangement until they made up their minds as to whether or not the Return should be altered.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
asked, whether the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury did not intend giving any reply as to this Vote—as to whether it should not be postponed until he was able to give the House definite information?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he hoped the Government would be able to say something. It would facilitate Business if they did. There was an old-established form of Return which had been constantly given to Parliament, and, therefore, it would always be a grave objection, when they had a well-known form existing from year to year, to depart from that form. That was the case in regard to all classes of Returns. If the Government would say that in future they would issue the same form of Return as they had issued in the past, everyone would be satisfied.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
said, that of course if the statistics had been given habitually for years in one form, and there was a desire that they should be continued in that form, they would be so continued. His hon. Friend near him, the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Jackson), was anxious to effect any economies he could in this and in other Departments, but if statistics had been given, he could assure the Committee there was no desire on the part of the Government to discontinue them. There could be no desire on the part of the Government to make any change in the form. He would inquire into the matter, and if he found that there had been a discontinuance of a Return which any section of the House desired, no consideration of expenditure should stand in the way of its being resumed.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he did not know what objection there was or could be taken to the production of the Return in the old form, but it was essential that this information should be at hand.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (4.) £5,973, to complete the sum for Valuation and Boundary Survey in Ireland.