§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
, in rising to move for leave to introduce three Bills for the drain-age of land within the catchment areas of the rivers Bann, Barrow, and Shannon, said,—It will be in the recollection of the House that the Government in the year 1886, shortly after they came into Office, announced their intention of introducing measures for promoting the material well-being of Ireland—[Laughter]—and in order to carry out that object, not, I think, a ludicrous object in spite of the laughter I heard, they appointed a Commission, who have made two elaborate Reports. These Reports have been laid on the Table of the House, and it is my business on the present occasion to introduce to the House the first steps in that general policy which was announced to the House by my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) and by the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) on the occasion to which I have referred. I can well imagine that there are Gentlemen in this House who are of opinion that it is not the function of a Govern- 90 ment to expend public money in the direct promotion of the material well-being of any special part of the Kingdom. The policy of undertaking great public works is wholly alien to the general spirit of our legislation. It is universal, I believe, on the Continent, and it has been practised to a great extent by Great Britain in her dealings with India; but it has never been the practice of the English Government to spend very large sums of money within these Islands—at all events, in the promotion of public works, though of great public utility. I may be asked, therefore, why we propose to depart from that general practice in dealing with Ireland. I think, Sir, there are many reasons. In the first place, I am bound to say I think that we owe something in the nature of an historic debt to Ireland. I think that of all the transactions of which Englishmen and Scotchmen—I do not know that I ought to say Scotchmen, because some of those transactions took place before the Union—have to be ashamed of in their dealings with Ireland, the transactions by which the English Parliament made use of its superiority over Ireland to destroy her budding industries was the most shameful. Bad as the Penal Laws were, they were the offspring of bigotry and political terror, and the motives that prompted them are elevating as compared with the mean and sordid action of the English Parliament in crushing the Irish industries. I do not think there is much object in dwelling on this historic question. In addition to that I would point out that during the present century it has been the practice of the English Government at intervals to spend, with more or less success, considerable sums out of the Exchequer on Irish objects; and, therefore, I may also refer to the action taken by the United Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland during the years of the present century. But if we are to accept the general policy I have indicated, which was specially brought forward by my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, in what direction ought our energies to be concentrated? Now we are dealing, as everybody knows, with a country which, comparatively with this country, has not shown much industrial enterprize. I, of course, exclude the Province of Ulster. It has 91 been a subject of regret to everybody interested in the welfare of Ireland that the whole of Irish energy is displayed in the single operation of agriculture, and, as far as I know, that is deplored by all. In order that hon. Gentlemen may see the full extent of the difference between England on the one hand and Ireland on the other in this particular respect, I would call their attention to some figures I have abstracted from the Income Tax Returns, which are full of a rather melancholy significance. I find that if you take Schedule D, which deals with the profits of trades as distinct from the landlords' interest under Schedule A and the farmers' interest under Schedule B, the two countries compare in the following manner—there is a profit return of £9 per head of population in England, whereas in Ireland the corresponding proportion is £2 per head, so that Ireland is more than four times as poor as England in the matter of profit returns other than those derived from agriculture. But the question is, is it possible or desirable for the State to attempt to foster great industrial enterprizes directly in Ireland? I believe it is not possible. I do not believe that in these days we can carry out what has been carried out in different ages and countries—namely, the creation of a vast industry by means of Government subventions. After all, what you want for carrying out a great industrial enterprize is not merely an abundance of skilled labour, for that exists in Ireland, nor is it merely capital—for I do not believe that capital is insufficient in Ireland if profitable undertakings could be found in which to employ it. Indeed, I am told that the deposits in the Irish Banks stand at £30,000,000. What is really wanted is that organizing capacity of capitalists which is found so abundantly in England and America, but in so small a degree in Ireland. I do not know whether it is due to any peculiarity of the Irish race. That possibly, though greatly endowed as they are in other respects, it may be that they are lacking in this particular. It is certainly a remarkable fact that while every Irishman in Ireland rushes to agriculture or one of the professions, Irishmen abroad always avoid all resort to agriculture, and turn their attention to the great industries of England and America. If, however, we cannot do much in the way 92 of promoting great industries, can we do anything in another direction which finds great favour with certain persons—I mean in promoting cottage industries. I do not myself think that we ought to place too much reliance on the extension of Irish industry in that direction. It is to be noticed that at the present time cottage industries produce the luxuries of the rich and not the necessaries of the poor. In times past the clothes of the people were produced by cottage industries, but that is not the case now. The Irish peasant finds it much cheaper to buy Scotch cloth and Northampton boots than to rely on any local industries. Machinery has dealt a death blow to such cottage industries. These no doubt still produce stuffs that the English sportsman may buy and lace that may take the fancy of the English lady; but they no longer produce articles fit for the consumption of the masses, and I point this out for this reason. Articles of the kind I have mentioned are at the mercy of the caprices of fashion. Large orders may be given one year, and the next, owing to a change of fashion, no orders whatever may be forthcoming. The success of such industries is, therefore, very unstable and uncertain. Even the great manufacturers of Leeds and of the Yorkshire towns require all their power of organization, all their skill and experience, to enable them to foresee and follow the rapid changes of fashion. You cannot expect that organization and experience from those who carry on Irish cottage industries; and, therefore, I am distinctly of opinion that however much may be done by cottage industries—and I think much may be done—it is not in that direction that we can look for a great alteration in the material prosperity of the Irish people. There is another subject which has to be considered in this relation, and that is technical education. I know that I am speaking before many hon. Gentlemen who are much better authorities than I can profess to be on this subject, and I therefore express my views upon the matter with much humility. But I am certainly of opinion that technical education will not create an industry. You cannot, by merely teaching a certain number of people how to manage their tools or how to design, build up a great manufacturing industry. Technical in- 93 struction is absolutely invaluable when an industry already in existence is being hard pressed by foreign competition. But, if you have not your industry already established, I do not believe that you will effect much by any system of technical education. On that point, however, I would remind the House of a fact with which I venture to think very few hon. Members are acquainted. Ireland is, in this matter, far ahead of England. There has been spent on industrial schools in Ireland two-and-a-half times as much as in England, having regard to the population. In the 10 years 1877 to 1887 the expenditure out of Imperial sources for industrial schools in Ireland was no less than £800,000. There is besides a system of agricultural education which is far in advance of anything of the kind in England. Since 1837 £400,000 have been spent in teaching agriculture, and the annual grant from Imperial sources is for Ireland about £14,000. Having regard to these facts, I am of opinion that technical instruction, valuable as it is, is not the means by which we may look principally for promoting the material prosperity of the Irish people. There remain substantially three great subjects on which the Commission have inquired and reported—namely, fisheries, railways, and arterial drainage. To many persons the fisheries are by far the most attractive. There is something very tempting in the proposal that the population in the congested districts should turn their attention from the barren soil and endeavour to reap out of the boundless harvest of the sea. But closer inspection will show that, valuable as the fishery industry is, it is not an easy matter to create a great fishing industry in Ireland. The whole history of that industry militates against any such idea. Fish are abundantly caught off the Irish coasts, but it is not principally by Irish fishermen. French, Manx, English, and Scotch fishermen bring their boats and catch the fish off the South Western Coast of Ireland. In 1846 there were nearly 20,000 boats employed by Irish fishermen; now there are only 5,600. In 1846 there were 113,000 persons employed in the industry; now there are only 21,000. Thus there has been a startling diminution in the industry since 1846, and this, notwithstanding that there has during the same period been a large expendi- 94 ture of public money in completing harbours, and in other ways promoting that industry. I admit that much of this money has not been very fortunately expended; but there has been a large amount well expended, and yet accompanied by a reduction in the industry. It must not for a moment be thought that I am not most anxious to promote the Irish fishing industry. I hope to be able next year to introduce measures which may have that object in view; but, at the same time, the House ought to have all the facts before it, and ought not to be too sanguine in jumping at the conclusion that because there is a poor population on the coast and an unlimited supply of fish in the sea, all that is necessary is to give the Irish people good harbours, boats, and fishing nets in order to raise them from pauperism to comfort. It is perfectly true that in one place a population of over 3,000 souls, who might at one time have been described as being chronic mendicants, are now substantially happy and prosperous; but this change has been accomplished not merely by the liberality of the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, but also by the active supervision of Father Davis, and such an example shows that it is not merely Government aid that is required, but also the supervision of an able person on the spot. For these reasons I do not think we should be acting wisely if we started any great fishery scheme. There remain, then, railways and arterial drainage. In my opinion the railway question is by far the most important in Ireland. It is my belief that by increasing the means of communication, and by improving the communication that already exists, we may do most to promote the prosperity of the population. [An hon. MEMBER:—Tramways.] I do not require to be reminded that a great deal of money has been expended in recent years upon tramways, and I do not put forward the Skibbereen tramway as a model; but the hon. Member will not deny that if you could improve the relations which exist between many Companies, if you could do something to equalize and lower freights and to promote intercommunication between different parts of the country, poor as it may be and small as the actual profit on the traffic might be, yet we should confer incalculable benefits upon the population. The hon. Member for Cavan, 95 whose prejudice against railways is almost morbid, would, I think, admit that if the plan I have sketched were carried out it would result in great benefit to the country. I believe that in the promotion of railway communication we should find the solution of many difficulties, and that it would probably be the most effective method of meeting the greatest of all Irish difficulties—that of the congested districts. I frankly acknowledge that difficulties are inherent in a question so great, and I have had so little time since the Commission reported to form a mature opinion as to the best way in which the problem is to be attacked, that I should never have thought of laying a scheme upon the Table, and if I had, there would not be the slightest chance of getting the assent of the House to it this Session. The questions, therefore, of railways and harbours are inevitably postponed; but I trust the plan will not be postponed beyond next Session, and that next Session I may be able to lay before the House plans dealing with the question. We must also recollect that the Commission distinctly puts drainage first, and I think the Government is well advised to deal with the three great river basins which most require drainage. I may remind the House that in doing so we are only carrying out a policy already begun. It will, perhaps, be a surprise to many to learn that the Exchequer has already freely given very nearly £2,000,000 in aid of arterial drainage and navigation in combination in Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not making out a debtor and creditor account between the Exchequer and Ireland. I do not approach the question in that spirit; I only remind the House that the British Exchequer has already given nearly £2,000,000, and by loan nearly another £1,000,000, for the combination of drainage and navigation, and, in spite of that, the Lower Bann and the Shannon are quite incomplete and unsatisfactory, while the Barrow is practically untouched at all. The Barrow remains the chief example of the evils incident to the want of arterial drainage in Ireland. These Bills are by no means the Arterial Drainage Bills that have been laid before the House, 96 and they differ from their predecessors in several important particulars. In the past a great deal of money has been wasted in attempting to combine navigation with drainage. It is possible to combine the two objects, but it cannot be done effectually without great expense. For the purposes of navigation it is necessary to have weirs across a river, so as to keep up the water at a certain level, but you cannot deal with floods unless you have very large and costly sluices, and the absence of sluices results in damage from floods. Then, when you are dealing with the rocky part of a river, if you want to get rid of flood water, you turn the rocky part into a rapid, but you cannot do that if you are to keep up the navigation. You cannot have the rapid current required to carry off flood water in a navigable channel. Therefore, the cheapest method of dealing with a rocky part is absolutely to keep the flood from it, if you insist upon using it for navigation. While, therefore, navigation renders a system of arterial drainage costly, its utility varies from day to day. I do not enter upon the competition between railways and canals, but I merely point to the traffic receipts upon the systems of navigation with which we have to deal upon the Lower Bann and the Shannon. Practically, the system of navigation upon the Lower Bann is absolutely worthless; it brings in nothing at all, and we have obtained the assent of the Grand Jury to abandoning it, which we propose to do. With regard to the Shannon, the navigation above the Shannon is practically used by one individual only. The tolls amount to no more than £30 a-year, and it will be admitted that it would be gross folly to continue it. We therefore bring in Arterial Drainage Bills, and not Navigation Bills. The next great difference between these and former Bills is that we do not propose to deal in any way with landowners. Hitherto, naturally and properly enough, landowners were the persons with whom the Government dealt directly; they were the persons responsible for the loans made by the Government in accordance with their wishes. We feel that the Act of 1881 has altered all that entirely, and we propose to deal with the occupiers of the land, to give the whole benefit of our scheme to the occupiers, and to throw 97 the whole charge upon the occupiers, so that landowners will be excluded from the operation of the Bill. The Bill involved loans to localities, and their repayment involved local taxation. We do not propose to compel any of the three localities to take advantage of the gift we offer. We intend that they shall judge what the burden and the benefit will be, and if they choose to reject the scheme there is nothing more to be said.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Bill is permissive in this sense—it is open to the localities to accept or reject the scheme. There is a distinction to be drawn between two of the rivers and the third, and it depends partly upon historical and partly upon geographical considerations. The Shannon has always been entirely in the hands of the Government. The Board of Works have constructed all the existing drainage works for it, and, I believe, have constructed them effectively. It is to the Board of Works that everything has been entrusted, and we do not propose to alter that in the case of the Shannon. We therefore propose that the Board of Works shall construct the works and be responsible for them. It must also be recollected that the charge will extend to the whole basin and catchment area of the river. The river basin of the Shannon is very large, extending to 13 or 14 counties, and it is impossible to have an effective representative Board dealing with it. The Commission strongly advised that there should not be a representative Board, and the Government, after giving the matter their best consideration, entirely concur with the views of the Commission. [Ironical cheers.] If hon. Gentlemen will kindly explain to me the object and significance of that cheer later on I shall be glad. I confess I do not quite understand it. As I have said, we propose that the locality shall be consulted before it becomes responsible for any expenditure. It is proposed to take what is in effect a plébiscite of the ratepayers in the catchment area, and they will have an opportunity of objecting to and preventing the work being carried out. With regard to the Barrow and the Bann the cases are different. It is possible that a representative Board may here, with advantage, carry on such works as may 98 be suggested and be entrusted with the power of approving or refusing to sanction such works. I have told the House that the whole catchment area must in our opinion be involved in any of these schemes. In that we are not merely following the recommendations of the Royal Commission, but also the precedents set us by the Report of the Duke of Richmond's Commission and the Bills which have passed through this House and the other House dealing with England. The Duke of Richmond's Commission reported that not only what they called the benefited area should be taxed for carrying out drainage works, but that the whole river basin should be charged to a certain extent. They drew a wide distinction between the amount of charge levied upon the benefited area and the amount levied upon what I may roughly call the non-benefited area, though that is not an accurate description. The Report of the Commission brought out the fact that considerable benefit more or less direct would be obtained by the whole river basin by the removal of these chronic floods. They will be benefited climatically, and they will also receive the further benefit which they must derive from the increased general prosperity of the district. The non-benefited area is not only rightly involved in the system of taxation by the fact that it does obtain these indirect advantages from the drainage, but justly and properly involved in it by the fact that it is the drainage of the uplands that causes the floods of the lowlands. It is largely the system of field drainage in the uplands which causes the sudden rush of water down to the bed of the river, which, as it at present exists, is unable to carry off the water sufficiently quickly to prevent floods. The Duke of Richmond's Commission recommended that the whole catchment area of the river should be taxed; but the Commission also recommended that the uplands should never be taxed to a greater extent, I think it is, than one-tenth of the taxes of the benefited area. I am inclined to think that even that is too much, and I am disposed to differ from the Royal Commission appointed by my my right hon. Friend upon the amount of charge which, at all events in the Barrow case, they have thrown upon the uplands. My recollection is that, if the scheme of the 99 Royal Commission were carried out, taking in charge for construction and maintenance, there would be an increase of the county cess in the uplands of something like 4d. in the pound. But that is too much, and I trust that in no case will the charge exceed 1d. in the pound on the county cess. Then with regard to the charges on the benefited area, we propose that that should be estimated upon the same principle which has always been followed in these Bills—namely, that the amount shall be estimated according to the benefit which the locality receives. If, therefore, we say that the benefited area is not to be charged in excess of the benefit it receives, and that the other part should not be charged more than 1d. in the pound, we have data upon which to estimate the total free contribution of the Government. In this matter I have taken maintenance into account, but the Commissioners have omitted it from their calculation. The House will not be surprised to learn, therefore, that the figures which I have to suggest as giving the amount of the free grant of the Government differ from the figures given by the Royal Commission. I will, before I come to that point, deal with the method in which the representation is to be arranged in the case of the Barrow and the Bann. There are obvious difficulties connected with this system of representation. How are you to apportion it as between the different areas concerned in the taxation? You have the uplands, which are partly taxed for the benefits they derive, and which are also partly taxed for the injuries they inflict; and you have, on the other hand, the benefited areas below, which are simply and solely taxed for the benefits they receive, and not in any way for the injuries they inflict. After consideration, I have come to the conclusion that the great bulk and weight of representation on the Conservancy Board should be given to the benefited area. I propose that that area should have three-fourths of the representation, and that, in addition, every town within the catchment area which has Town Commissions should send a representative to the Board. I further propose that the County Authority, which at present is the Grand Jury, should send representatives of the uplands. I am perfectly aware, of course, that the Grand Jury, in many respects, is not a per- 100 fectly satisfactory body, but the balance of convenience is very decidedly in their favour in this matter. There can be no question here affecting landlord and tenant, because their interests are precisely identical. The difficulty of mapping out new catchment areas is so great that I am disposed to think the House will be content with the proposal we have made with regard to the Town Commissions and the Grand Jury. The next point is the authority under which the works are to be constructed. I am dealing, of course, with the Barrow and the Bann. The Treasury, it will be observed, are to supply, either by way of loan or gift, the whole of the money with which the works are to be carried out. Not a single 6d. is to be raised in the locality itself. Under these circumstances I could not refuse the claim which the Treasury naturally put forward, that the works shall be executed more or less under their supervision. It will rest, therefore, absolutely with the locality to decide whether the works shall be carried out, and it will rest with the locality to maintain the works if completed; but I have requested, on behalf of the Government, the Commission to report on these works, and the very able engineer who drew up the plans of the works to superintend their construction, and I am glad to say that they have been good enough to consent to do so.
MR. ARTHUR CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
What distinction is drawn between the main artery and the tributaries of the Shannon?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No distinction. It now only remains for me to state the financial proposals by which these schemes are to be carried out. The proposals of the Commission in the case of the Shannon were that the loans charged to the improved area should be £70,000; that the loan charged to the catchment area should be £50,000; that the loans secured on the property now belonging to the Board of Works should be £60,000; and that the Government should give a free grant of £100,000. That plan I have modified. In the first place, I think the catchment area might fairly be charged 1d. in the pound, including interest, which would very slightly increase the charge upon the area; and in the second place, by abandoning the navigation above Athlone great economy 101 would be effected in the Estimates. I hope I have put the figures clearly before the House. The Commission proposed that £70,000 should be charged on the improved area by way of loan, but they omitted in their calculations the cost of maintenance, and, in my opinion, the charge of £70,000 plus the cost of maintenance would far more than swallow up the total benefit to be derived by the improved area from the arterial drainage works, and therefore I have diminished the capital charge for the improved area from £70,000 to £35,000; I have increased the loan to the catchment area from £50,000 to £65,000; I have raised the loan on property belonging to the Board of Works from £60,000 to £65,000, and therefore the charge to the Government for the Shannon will be £65,000, instead of £100,000. Now, it would appear at first sight as if the Government proposals were less liberal than those of the Commission; but if regard be had to the fact that the Commission omitted any mention of maintenance, it will be seen that the contrary is the case. I now come to the Bann. The proposal of the Commission was that £11,000 should be charged on the improved area of the Bann; that £22,000 should be charged on the catchment area; and £20,000 on the area now taxed for navigation purposes. We propose that the improved area should not be charged £11,000, but £8,000; that is to say, for the same reason as I have already given in the case of the Shannon, I have reduced the total loan by £3,000. I do not see any reason why the land now taxed for navigation should be charged for the drainage works at all, and I propose therefore to alter the scheme in that regard. I propose to charge the catchment area of the Bann, as in the case of the Shannon, with an amount which, with share of maintenance, will bring up the charge to about 1d. in the pound—in other words, I propose to charge them with £37,000 upon the catchment area. The scheme, as regards the Bann, will, therefore, stand in this way—£8,000 will be charged on the improved area; £37,000 for the catchment area; and £20,000 will consist of free grant. Now I come to the Barrow. The proposal of the Commission was that the improved area should pay £210,000; that the catchment area 102 should be charged with an amount of £75,000, and that there should be a free grant of £75,000. According to the plan I have laid before the House, the whole scheme has been radically modified; because if you include the charge for maintenance, far too much would, in our opinion, fall both on the improved area and the catchment area. Instead, therefore, of £210,000 on the improved area, I propose that such area should only be charged £125,000, and instead of £75,000 for the catchment area, I propose that it should only be charged with £20,000; and it will be observed that in accordance with the general system on which I have modified the figures of the Commission to that extent, I must very largely increase the grant from Imperial sources if the works are to be carried out. Broadly speaking, I take off nearly £100,000 of the sum proposed to be charged on the improved area; I take off £55,000 from the charge on the catchment area; and I add about £140,000 to the proposed Government free grant. I do not think it can be denied that, at all events as far as the Imperial Exchequer is concerned, the plan I have submitted is a liberal plan. It is a more liberal plan than that of the Commission, though I do not say that at all in antagonism to the report of the Commission, and I trust it will be more workable. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have at certain periods given some indications that they do not view with unmitigated favour the proposal. I hope, on consideration, they will see that their disapproval has no solid foundation. I hope they will see that the scheme embodies a serious and solid effort to carry out the policy announced in 1886. I do not give this as more than an instalment, but I maintain it is no trifling instalment. We are proceeding on broad lines, and if anybody has a right to complain of the plan we are laying before the House, it is not hon. Gentlemen who represent Ireland, but hon. Gentlemen who represent the taxpayers of England in this matter. But I am convinced that as every section of opinion in England desires honestly the welfare of Ireland, that however much we may be divided on questions of Home Rule, or the administration of this or that Act, we are, at all events, absolutely united in desiring to see a greater 103 measure of material prosperity benefiting our countrymen on the other side of St. George's Channel, and the English taxpayers will not grudge the cost which these Bills are likely to throw upon them. It is in that belief—and in that belief the House will judge that the Government have acted wisely in trying, not in a niggardly or ungenerous spirit, to carry out the promises they have made to the country—that I confidently recommend these Bills to the attention and favour of this House. I move for leave to bring in the Bills.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the Improvement of the Drainage of Lands, and for the prevention of Inundations within the Catchment Area of Lough Neagh and the Lower Bann; also for one for the River Barrow; and for one for the River Shannon; and for other purposes relating thereto.—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had addressed the House that night in a somewhat unusual vein. As a general rule the right hon. Gentleman was answering Questions about Bills and the administration in Ireland on matters in which the Irish Members could not be supposed to take altogether a pleasurable interest, but that night he had given them his views on the material prospects of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had not confined himself solely to the question of drainage, but had very properly touched on the whole question of the various Reports from the Royal Commission that was instituted when Parliament first met after the present Government was returned to Office. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken rather disparagingly of technical education, and he (Colonel Nolan) was bound to say that there he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. To his mind technical education would be of great advantage in Ireland—it was possible for a great deal to be done in that direction. Take the case of the fisheries, for instance. What had already been done in certain parts of Ireland to improve the technical knowledge of the fishermen showed the importance of technical education, and the possibility of largely developing the fishery industry if such education were made more general. What the men wanted 104 in many places was not only boats and fishing gear, but instruction as to the newest and best methods of carrying on their business. He had been surprised to learn, from the right hon. Gentleman's observations, that although three directions had been indicated by the Royal Commissioners as those in which the resources of Ireland required development—namely, railways, fishing, harbours, and drainage, a measure dealing with railways and fishing harbours was to be indefinitely put off—for some people held that a Bill was put off indefinitely when it was postponed to "next Session." The right hon. Gentleman had seemed to think that it was wise to take up one question at the time—that he should now take up drainage, and next year railways and fishing harbours. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had stated that it was to simultaneity of dealing with railroads, fisheriers, and drainage that he looked for the permanent improvement of Ireland, and he (Colonel Nolan) agreed with that, and thought it was a pity that the recommendations of the Royal Commission had not been followed. They had now a scheme of drainage before them; but supposing the country chose to reject this measure, would measures dealing with the other questions—namely, railways and fishing harbours—be afterwards further postponed? Would Ireland lose the benefit of all improvements recommended on such high authority, simply because they could not accept a proposal as to drainage, believing it to be a bad bargain from a pounds, shillings, and pence point of view? He certainly, himself, took exception to the disparaging way in which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the possibilities of the fishing industry being created or revived in Ireland. Some of the right hon. Gentleman's facts were, he thought, open to very serious question. The right hon. Gentleman, for instance, had dwelt upon the alleged decrease in the number of fishermen since the time of the famine which had crushed out a large number of fishermen. But from his (Colonel Nolan's) recollection of the Reports of the Fishery Commissioners, the fact was, that the number of fishermen and the number of fishing boats in Ireland had been constantly increas- 105 ing of late. Though it might be true, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, that the people living upon the coasts of Ireland were very bad fishermen, it was nevertheless true that they were very bold, brave, and skilful boatmen. They went to sea in very bad boats, no doubt; but they were thoroughly efficient in the management of them, and he submitted that with a little technical education they might become very excellent fishermen, because it took many years to make a man a good boatman, whereas he might acquire the knowledge necessary to render him a skilful fisherman in a very few months. He thought, therefore, that it was a sine quâ non that the Irish boatmen should have instruction given to them in fishing. They wanted also markets for fish; they wanted railways established so as to tap the coasts in the proper places. He looked to a great extent for the regeneration of the coast population to the development of the railway system of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had expressed himself in that direction, but he seemed rather inclined to allow the matter to hang over for a considerable period. The Irish Members were to rest their hopes upon what next Session would produce in this respect. To his (Colonel Nolan's) mind the railroads were by far the most important of the three projects; because although it was essential to develop the fishing industry, the railways were essential to that development, besides being calculated to benefit other industries. Now, there was one point which had been once or twice mentioned in the House upon which he should like to say a word, and as to which he had interrupted the right hon. Gentleman whilst he was making his speech—an interruption which, by the way, he should not have made had he known at the time that he was likely to follow the right hon. Gentleman. However, he had interrupted not only Members of the Government, but many hon. Members in that House when they had flung in the faces of the Irish Members, as the right hon. Gentleman had done, this matter of the £2,000,000. The fact was, that during the famine period the Government established large drainage works to give the people work and to enable them to earn money to purchase 106 the absolute necessaries of life. The money was advanced to the proprietors, who were to employ the people, and these proprietors, after the famine was over, said, "We ought not to be called upon to repay the whole of this money, seeing that it was really advanced as a means of saving the people from famine and not in the first place for the purpose of improving our properties. The money was handed over for the public benefit, and not to benefit us." The Government had said, "Very well; we will not be hard upon you, and if you will allow the Income Tax to be established in Ireland we will put it as a set-off against these £2,000,000." In that way this matter was finally settled. Well, an examination of the Income Tax statistics showed that Ireland had by far a poorer population than this country, and yet, nevertheless, head for head, paid almost the same amount. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman's argument as to these £2,000,000 came to nothing. With regard to the three drainage Bills which the right hon. Gentleman had brought in, he (Colonel Nolan) thought the right hon. Gentleman was quite right in making his speech upon the three schemes together, as they were all so involved. He (Colonel Nolan) would speak mainly with regard to two of them, for the reason that he was not acquainted with the details of the third; and he felt it to be useless in matters of that kind to occupy time by discussing that with which he was not thoroughly conversant. He had had some experience with regard to the Shannon, and was able to express an opinion upon it, and he would also venture to say something as to the proposed drainage of the Bann, though, outside the information obtained by the Royal Commission, he did not pretend to have the same practical acquaintance with the circumstances of the Bann as he had with those of the Shannon. He had been a Member of the Royal Commission, and, therefore, might be allowed to say a few words on that point. In dealing with those two schemes the right hon. Gentleman had gone very largely in one direction. He had contended that it was useless to attempt to combine navigation with drainage, saying—"You never get value for your money when you attempt to give navigation and drainage at the same time, as in this way you never secure proper 107 drainage." It was a tolerably simple process to make a drain, and it was a tolerably simple problem to secure a sufficient depth of water for the sailing of a boat; but it was a difficult thing to combine the two; and, so far as he (Colonel Nolan) saw, every attempt to solve that problem in Ireland had been an utter failure. It might have succeeded in some isolated instances. They saw a combination of navigation and drainage to some extent below Paddington Lock, where they had tidal water, and they saw it practised above Teddington Lock, where they had not tidal water; but the conditions were entirely different there to those prevailing along the course of the Shannon and Bann in Ireland, because on the banks of the Thames a large amount of money was spent on pleasure grounds and on traffic. In Ireland, on the other hand, there were no pleasure grounds, and there was very little traffic. There were rich meadows, however, to take care of. The right hon. Gentleman had said they could not combine navigation and drainage, and he expected his scheme to be a success where all others had been failures; but when they regarded this question as to whether value for their money would be got by the people who would be called upon to make large payments under that Bill, he thought the point was open to very considerable doubt. If he thought the majority of farmers dwelling on Lough Neagh and the District of the Lower Bann were of opinion that they would benefit, he would at once give way upon the subject so far as the Lower Bann, but that statement would not apply to the Shannon. So far as he understood the matter, the chief difficulty in regard to the navigation of the Bann was the necessity of keeping Lough Neagh at a certain level. The whole basement of Lough Neagh would be a catchment area, and if a high level were maintained, it would be bad for the drainage of the low lying lands. The high level was kept up partly for navigation purposes, although navigation had been a total failure. The interests of the farmers in the Lough Neagh district had been entirely sacrificed to the question of navigation, although, as he had said, navigation had been a failure. He submitted that any drainage which did not lower the summer level of the Lough Neagh Weir 108 would be money thrown away. He, therefore, considered that the sum of money that the residents of the district of the Lower Bann would be asked to pay under this scheme was unduly large, as they would not get value for their contribution, even supposing Government money was put into the work. And now he complained of the case of the Shannon, although he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that expenditure for the purpose of navigation ought to be very much curtailed. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman went far enough, and, therefore, he was of opinion that the scheme would prove a failure. That was not the first time he had made a prediction of the kind, for when the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was Chief Secretary for Ireland, he had brought in a Bill for the drainage of the Shannon, which was to cost £300,000, half of which was to be found by the Government, the localities having to find almost the same amount as under the present Bill. He (Colonel Nolan) told the right hon. Baronet at the time that he should lessen the number of proprietors affected from two-thirds to one-half, but this the right hon. Baronet refused to do, feeling confident that he was right in his proposal; but the result was that he did not get a single proprietor in the district to go into his scheme—none of them thought it was worth their while. The present scheme he (Colonel Nolan) thought a much better one, because it recognized that no engineering skill had been able to reconcile navigation with the drainage of large areas in Ireland. The riparian proprietors, as he had pointed out on a former occasion, had been unwilling to pay what was asked of them, and not one voted for the scheme. In the present scheme, the riparian proprietors were to pay £135,000, and the Government £65,000, which would make £200,000, and there was an odd £65,000 besides the £200,000 to be obtained by the sale of the existing works or sources of revenue for the maintenance of the proposed works, one of these sources of revenue being eel weirs. Both on the Bann and on the Shannon a considerable revenue was derived by the Government as proprietors of eel weirs. These were to be sold and applied to 109 drainage; but if they had no drainage, all these sources of revenue would not now be wanted, because the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had pointed out that by abandoning a certain amount of navigation, the expenses of maintenance would be considerably reduced. It appeared to him (Colonel Nolan) that this saving should have been applied to improving the river in a different way to that proposed, and he thought it might be made of more use to the cultivator of the land. There would still be too much navigation, and that was why he did not think that plan would be a success. Trading on the Shannon was almost abolished for Athlone, and nothing of advantage in that respect would accrue from the present proposal. There were only two or three steamers trading on that part of the river, and he only knew one manufactory kept up in that district—or which used to be kept up there—namely, a certain pottery manufactory. Steamers were still to be kept up below Athlone; but it would be a mistake to decide that the river should be kept up at its present depth. In Ireland 7 feet were required for navigation purposes, while in England and other places 4½ feet were mostly considered sufficient. It had always been held, so far as the Shannon was concerned, that vessels trading along it should have a heavy draft, the reason being that the lakes were so large and that broad vessels were necessary to traverse them. But when they had one river to serve them both for drainage and navigation it was necessary for them to consider which was the most important feature. He certainly thought that in the case of the Lower Bann the navigation was of minor importance, the drainage being of considerable importance, and he thought it a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had not gone further and still more subordinated the navigation to the drainage. He did not think the scheme would work, because he did not think, from a pounds, shillings, and pence point of view, all the localities affected would be anxious to see these works established. If they spent £260,000 in improving the Shannon, he did not think they would get £100,000 value out of it. He did not think it was worth while to spend £260,000 in order to secure an advantage of £100,000; and his (Colonel Nolan's) constituents 110 would not be pleased if they knew that he was a party to putting a tax upon them from which they would derive no benefit. He did not think the climate would be improved by substituting one description of drainage for another, but, even if it would, climate was an Imperial question, and anything which could be done for its improvement which involved expense should not be imposed as a burden upon the local rates, but should be paid for out of the Imperial funds. So far as the Shannon was concerned, he (Colonel Nolan) strongly disapproved of a scheme which put any tax on the catchment area. The catchment area was very considerable in extent, and to tax people 30 or 40 miles away from the Shannon, whose land was 20 or 30 feet above the level of the river, would be extremely unfair, as those could derive no benefit whatever from the drainage. If it were absolutely necessary to put a charge of that kind upon the people, it should be put upon the counties. He did not wish to deprive other hon. Members of an opportunity of speaking upon these Bills. This was only the first reading, and therefore he would not oppose the measures. They might, after all, do good to Ireland, and as to that, the localities must be allowed to express an opinion through their Representatives. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman meant well; but he (Colonel Nolan) certainly did not think the scheme would answer on the Shannon or on the Lower Bann. The state of things might be different on the Barrow, because comparatively speaking large sums of money had already been spent on that river. He should have been glad to see any improvement introduced into Ireland, but so far as he knew anything about that question—and he was well acquainted with the Shannon and the Bann—he entirely disapproved of the scheme. He did not wish to speak at greater length on the subject, and had only one further remark to make. The right hon. Gentleman had said there would be a plébiscite taken. He (Colonel Nolan) understood that to mean that every cesspayer should vote in respect of the Shannon drainage. If that was the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought it would be a very popular suffrage.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, he had to say a few words relating to the Bann drainage. In the first place, he 111 had to congratulate his right hon. Friend (Mr. A. J. Balfour), and he believed Members from Ireland would congratulate him also, on the fact that he had taken a right line for dealing with these drainage works. Neither the occupiers nor anyone else acquainted with the district had ever differed with regard to the question of the navigation of the River Bann, and he was glad to find that his right hon. Friend had made up his mind to abandon it, because it had not been productive of any good to the community. There were, however, one or two points on which he would ask for information. He wished to know how the Conservancy Board was to be elected; of what the electorate was to consist; whether it was to be nominated by the County Authority or elected by the cesspayers? He would also like to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, whether the scheme for the Bann drainage proposed to deal with every flood—even an exceptional one, such as that of 1877—or did it propose to deal only with ordinary floods, because there was a very considerable difference in the amount of money required as between the two schemes that would be necessary. The Commissioners had adopted a lower figure than that of the two highest estimates which had been brought before them, and he observed that his right hon. Friend had taken a sum less by £10,000 than the amount named by the Commissioners. He rather differed from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) with regard to the proposal to tax the whole catchment area. The hon. and gallant Gentleman imagined that it had been a solution seized upon by the Commissioners in order to get out of the difficulty of expending a large sum upon the district which would not give an adequate return; but he thought the Commissioners had taken the idea from some of the English schemes where the plan had been in operation, and as he believed, without any complaint whatever. He thought, with regard to the proposal to place a considerable portion of the cost upon the catchment area at large, that it would be a much more satisfactory plan than the proposal of the Commissioners themselves. He could never understand why the Commissioners proposed to pay any sum in particular 112 for navigation purposes in connection with the Bann. They appeared to think that because the trustees had not carried out their duties, it was necessary to fine the unfortunate people who had contributed to the navigation. He was glad that his right hon. Friend was determined to impose the sum devoted to the Bann drainage in a different way—that was to say, place it on the catchment area, and to free the area which had been formerly charged for navigation purposes. He would also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how the necessary assent of the occupiers in the area was to be arrived at. Was it to be settled by a pure majority or by a majority of two-thirds of the ratepayers. The hon. and gallant Member for North Galway had dealt with the question of weirs. He (Mr. Macartney) believed that local opinion would confirm what he was going to say—namely, that if they did away with Toome Weir it would utterly destroy all prospect of carrying on navigation on the Lagan Canal. He admitted that it might be more simple to do away with the navigation and turn the Lower Bann into an ordinary drain; but he doubted whether in the case of a flood like that of 1877, the Lower Bann would be able to carry away the water. On the other hand, he felt that even if it were possible to benefit the flooded land by abolishing all the weirs, including Toome Weir, it would not be desirable, in respect of the commercial interests in connection with the Lagan and Tyrone Canals, to tamper with Toome Weir in a way which would imperil the navigation. All the engineers who produced schemes before the Commissioners were confident that it was quite possible to relieve Lough Neagh and the flooded land by one or two alternative proposals. He desired to congratulate his right hon. Friend on the manner in which he had attempted to meet this complicated question of the River Bann drainage, and also to thank him on behalf of those who had suffered from the flood, as well as from the heavy expenditure which they had been called upon to meet; and because the right hon. Gentleman had seen his way to introduce a Bill which he believed would give adequate relief in future, and which would throw no material burden on those whom it would benefit.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
said, he did not rise to enter into any minute criticism of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman; he thought it better that they should reserve such criticisms until the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was fully laid before the House. He wished to refer to one observation of the right hon. Gentleman, which had caused him considerable surprise—namely, that Ireland was better off with regard to technical education than England. He was quite sure the right hon. Gentleman did not intend to mislead the House in making that statement; but what was the technical education to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? The sum of £800,000 which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned as having been spent on technical education had really been expended in 10 years on industrial schools. But it was necessary, in order that the child might obtain advantage from an industrial school, that he should first have been convicted as a vagrant or a criminal, and sent by the magistrate, as such, to the industrial school. Surely it was not fair to tell the House or the English people that England had promoted technical education in Ireland to the extent of £800,000 in 10 years, or £80,000 a-year. That sum was spent not on technical education, but in teaching the criminal and vagrant classes, who, as he had said, had to be first brought before the magistrates and convicted before they could obtain the advantage of this supposed technical education. He ventured to say that if one-half of that money had been spent in connection with technical education in the national schools in Ireland, and the teaching of the children the use of tools, the right hon. Gentleman would not have been able to complain that the Irish people depended solely upon agriculture as their only resource. With respect to the railways in Ireland, he saw that the Government had abandoned the idea of dealing with them this year. As one who had been connected with trade in Ireland for many years, he could assure the House that there could be no more development of trade and manufactures in Ireland so long as the railway system existed as at present. He spoke from bitter personal experience in connection with their railway system, and he said that their trade and manufactures were 114 strangled by the present system of railway management. He did not know a railway in Ireland that would risk a-half per cent of its half-yearly dividend, in order to enter upon any new system that would give the manufactures of Ireland a chance of competing with their neighbours in England or Scotland; so that until they had done something with regard to the railway system, either in respect of the amalgamation or abolition of the numerous Boards under which the railways were now managed, he certainly could not hope for any development of trade or manufactures in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that no less than £2,000,000 had been spent in connection with drainage and navigation in Ireland; but he (Mr. T. A. Dickson) maintained that 75 per cent of that money had been absolutely wasted in useless navigation and drainage schemes. Let anyone go through Ireland as he had done as Royal Commissioner, and in Galway, or in the neighbourhood of the Bann, he would 'find that hundreds and thousands of pounds had been wasted in that manner. They had that afternoon seen an example of this; £300,000 had been spent in creating navigation in the North of Ireland in the most prosperous Province, as the right hon. Gentleman had described it, and the Government had given away that sum that night for nothing, and £3,500 in addition in order that the works might be taken off the hands of the country. He knew something of the district of the Lower Bann; he had lived there all his life, and was one of the Royal Commissioners, together with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan). The Commission he referred to investigated the subject for more than six months, and made certain recommendations that the navigation should be abolished. Five years had elapsed since that time, and yet the recommendations of that Royal Commission had never been acted upon or carried out. What had been the result to the people of the locality? The tenant farmers on the Lower Bann had paid for 30 years £1,200 a-year in order to maintain a navigation upon a river upon which a boat never sailed, nor upon which one ton of cargo ever passed. The traffic receipts had never reached £10 a-year from the Lower 115 Bann, and yet the tenant farmers had been taxed for this navigation to the extent of £1,200 a-year. In addition to that, however, the best land of these farmers had been flooded. He did not believe that in any district in Ireland outside Derry such an amount of expenditure and flooding would have been tolerated. He was sure that the weirs which existed were necessary, and he, for one, would not assist in their removal. The question was whether, in connection with the Lower Bann, the people who had paid £1,200 a-year were to be taxed for the removal of a navigation which had flooded their lands for the last 25 or 30 years. Surely, having paid for a navigation which had never been used, it would be unfair for the Government to say that the weirs and navigation works should be removed at the expense of the people. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, in framing his Bill, would take into consideration the case of the farmers on the Lower Bann. Their case was a most grievous one, as had been proved by the Royal Commission, and no persons in Ireland were more entitled to relief than the farmers in Derry. With regard to the observations which had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway on the subject of Toome Weir, he said that it was not possible to remove this, because it would be utterly destructive of the navigation on the Lagan and Tyrone Canal, which was really necessary. The Royal Commission had recommended the sluicing of Toome Weir in order that Lough Neagh might be kept at Summer level, and he hoped that this formed part of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, because otherwise there was no hope of relief for the enormous districts flooded. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the taxation for all this drainage work was to fall wholly on the occupiers, and he was afraid that if this was the case the plébiscite would fail owing to the unfairness of the proposal. He trusted that when the Bill was in print they would find that the question of taxation for draining the districts would be borne in fair and equitable proportion by both landlords and tenants; and he trusted that the Bill would be a measure which would really preserve the object which the right hon. Gentleman had in view. But 116 there were many grave defects in it, as the right hon. Gentleman himself had hinted, which he (Mr. T. A. Dickson) was afraid would render the rest of the Bill almost useless. He did not know anyone in England connected with public works that had any confidence in the Irish Board of Works. Every county in Ireland possessed monuments of the incompetence and failure of the Board of Works to deal with matters of this kind.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, he did not intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in all that he had said on this question. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why it was, if large sums of money were spent in India on public works, that large sums of money should not also be spent in Ireland. The occupiers in the district of the Lower Bann were, under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, to pay a large sum of money for the removal of flooding caused by previous expenditure over which they had never had control. He admitted there was an appearance of liberality in the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman as far as it went; but he contended that something more was necessary to meet the grievances of which his constituents complained. Many tenant farmers in the county of Derry were now paying 10d. or 1s. in the pound for establishing a system of navigation which had not been of the slightest use to them, which they never asked for and never wanted, and they were now going to be asked to pay another sum in taxation for the removal of the system. His hon. Friend who had just spoken (Mr. T. A. Dickson) said that the cost to the farmers in the district was £1,200 a-year, while the receipts were not more than £10 or £20; he believed, however, that they had amounted to £50 in the course of the year. The tenant farmers had for many years been knocking at the door of the House of Commons asking for relief from the floodings. He believed that the cost of knocking away some floodgates would not be more than a few thousand pounds, and it would have the effect of relieving the farmers who were already subject to the heavy taxation existing. He should like the reasons to be given why landowners who had borne their share of taxation should now 117 escape. He saw no reason why the landowners should be entirely relieved in this matter; and, moreover, he had received many letters and telegrams praying that the legislation of the House would not involve the farmers in any further taxation, but that steps might be taken to remove from them the grievances under which they suffered by the construction of a system of navigation which they never desired, and which had never been of the slightest use to them.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he had seldom heard from the present occupants of the Treasury Bench any scheme which appeared to him to be more satisfactory, taken as a whole, than that the outline of which they had received that night, because he thought if the scheme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman were carried out in its entirety, it would result in a very substantial benefit to Ireland at large. He did not pretend to have any particular information with regard to the Bann; but, with regard to the Shannon and the Barrow, he could say that he had traced both rivers from their source to their mouths either by walking or by boat, and he had seen them in flood from one end to the other. He had devoted many weeks to reading up the statistics furnished to the Board of Works during the present century, and he was unable to repress the great interest he felt in the question relating to these two rivers; but it appeared to him that the Government were making a mistake in the way in which they proposed to apply the money. He and his hon. Friends had had occasion to discuss this matter in view of the possibility of themselves, or some of their countrymen, having to deal with it as a public duty after the House of Commons had been relieved of the question. The right hon. Gentleman claimed generosity in connection with the figures he had placed before the House. The most generous figures he gave were with regard to the Barrow, and he was bound to say that the amount was £10,000 short of what they considered to be a reasonable contribution from the Irish Exchequer for the purpose in view. It was perfectly plain that to deal with a large river basin, with a large catchment area, was not a work for any Local Authority to deal with, however important such Local 118 Authority might be; no single county or even three or four counties could deal with the Shannon and the Barrow; the drainage of these rivers must necessarily be an Imperial work. Now, what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do was to treat the catchment basin as a whole, without drawing any distinction between the main artery and the tributaries. That was the respect in which the right hon. Gentleman's scheme differed from that which he had been able to draw up. He submitted to the Government that, where they had to deal with six or seven or eight different counties, it was a proper and reasonable and simple thing for the Government to concern themselves with the main artery and to leave the tributaries to be dealt with by local drainage boards. It would be found that in every one of these three river basins there were the same general features, and the same mistakes had been made. They would find that the same mischiefs existed, and that these mischiefs might be removed by a similar course of treatment. It would be found that not one of these rivers had been allowed to carry the surplus water to the sea. Lough Neagh was the natural reservoir which, if left to itself, would save a good deal of the difficulty which had been caused by artificial obstruction. The obstructions in the Shannon were so great that one of its tributaries was annually flooded for five or six miles. The navigation of the Shannon was a very limited concern. He recollected going on a barge from Athlone to Killaloe, through Lough Dearg, for the purpose of seeing what was the amount of traffic on that navigation, and in two days they met only two barges with anything in the nature of freight. The barge on which he was contained seven carboys of vitriol, and three rounds of steel wire, and some bobbin from a manufactory in Athlone; the freight did not pay the cost of going down to Limerick, in other words, of the men employed. In order to maintain the supply of water necessary for navigation, hundreds of thousands of acres were flooded, extending as far as the eye could reach from the Bridge of Athlone, and the people were driven from their homes for shelter in Athlone. Again, in the case of the Barrow, the waters overflowed, and the land was wasted year after year; and lower down, Port 119 arlington was so flooded that it was impossible to drain the grounds; and, although rates had been made by the Boards of Guardians and the Local Government Board, no effect had been produced; and ague and fever were epidemic in the lowlands, which could not be estimated in its consequences by money, but represented so much additional national loss. A little further down, at Monasterevan, the floods were depriving the people of their crops, which might otherwise be gathered in to the benefit of the people, to the extent of tens of thousands of pounds in a comparatively small area. All these mischiefs were caused by purely artificial means, and if the Government could remove the obstructions all the difficulties would disappear—that was to say, they should address themselves to the main artery of the river and take steps to free it, and then all objection to the drainage of the district would be removed. The Government engineers should estimate the fall of the whole catchment basin; they should estimate for the complete discharge, not only at the mouth, but at every important point above and below the tributaries. In the case of the Barrow, there would be considerable difficulty, because if they proceeded to drain the river in connection with the Portarlington drainage, such a discharge of water would be caused as would do an enormous amount of damage. He would lay it down, as a fundamental principle, that the work should begin at the mouths of the rivers and make provision for the greatest possible discharging capacity which the heaviest floods on record might show to be necessary. He believed that for the Barrow £200,000 would be ample, if the Government would confine itself to the proper duty of a Government—that was to say, that they should take in hand that portion of the drainage system which could not possibly be dealt with by any Local Authority. If the £200,000 for the Barrow were expended on the main arteries, the works being begun from the mouth and continued upward, he thought it would be only fair and reasonable, and it was what Irish Members would propose if they had the settlement of the question. They would propose that the tributaries should be dealt with by the Local Authorities immediately con- 120 cerned; and if the main artery was thoroughly dealt with, the several Drainage Boards would take the individual tributaries in hand, and the landowners, farmers, and occupiers might be trusted to deal with the lands remote from the river. But one condition was indispensable, and that was that the Government must abandon the idea of maintaining this unnatural and artificial navigation level. The Shannon navigation level did a great deal more harm than could be made good by any returns drawn from the trade on the river. The Barrow navigation caused an amount of flooding so great that it would pay the people of the basin of the river to pension off at full pay for the rest of their lives everybody connected with the navigation; and, with regard to the Bann, he was satisfied that if the Government would only allow the Lower Bann and Lough Neagh to do the work which nature intended it to do, and remove the weirs altogether, they would find that the amount of land reclaimed on the lower level would far more than compensate for the expenditure which might be involved.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's County, Ossory)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had reminded the Committee that foreign countries continually adopted legislation of this kind, and that we had done so in the case of India. But did that not strike the right hon. Gentleman as peculiar? Was it not manifest that it was because India was not a self-governing country, and because Ireland was not a self-governing country, that the same measures should be adopted for both countries? The right hon. Gentleman went on to speak of the great injury done to Irish trade in the last century by England; he spoke in terms very suitable of the wrong which had been done, and as if he was anxious to make reparation. He (Mr. W. A. Macdonald) believed the wrong then done was very great; but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, in their opinion, a greater wrong was done to Ireland when the English Government took away from Ireland that Parliament which was doing away with the bad effects which had been produced by the policy referred to, and was establishing something like prosperity and enterprise in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman 121 had said that it would be very difficult for the Government to legislate directly with reference to Irish trade, and that whatever assistance was given must be given indirectly. They knew that if the British Government were to propose to subsidise or otherwise directly to assist the trade of Ireland, there would be an outcry from the great centres of industry in England, and, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had not attempted to give any direct assistance. The right hon. Gentleman also said that next Session there would be legislation on the subject of railways. He could not imagine anything more miserable than the failure of the Government in that respect; and he could explain to the right hon. Gentleman why it was so, and why it was not likely that any legislation with regard to railways would cure the evils which existed. The difficulty was not merely that there were a large number of Companies, each pursuing its own interests regardless of the interests of others; it was also that railways were wanted in certain districts where it would not pay to construct them; and he believed that there would be no success with regard to the railways until the Government became owners of the whole railway system in the country. He did not expect the British Government would acquire the railways, but he hoped they would be acquired by the Irish Government at no distant date. Now, there were other difficulties in regard to the special point of the drainage of these rivers to which he wished to draw attention. In the first place, it was proposed to put the whole taxation upon the tenant farmers. The tenant farmers—if he knew them rightly, and he thought he was beginning to understand them pretty well—were very unwilling to bear any additional taxation; they knew they were becoming poorer year by year; that they were poorer to-day than they were 10 years ago, and they saw no immediate prospect of improvement. He believed it would have to be a very good scheme indeed—a very seductive scheme—that would induce the tenant farmers voluntarily to tax themselves in the way proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. Possibly they might do so in regard to the Barrow, because, in that case, the Government proposed a very large subvention on the part of the 122 State—£215,000, instead of £75,000, as suggested by the commissioners. But he was sure, speaking of the whole country to be benefited by these Bills, there would be a great reluctance on the part of the tenant farmers to submit to any further taxation; and he thought that in this case, where they proposed to put the whole burden upon the occupiers, it was quite reasonable that they should be extremely jealous and fearful of incurring this new responsibility. A number of these tenant farmers had their rents fixed for 15 years. At the end of 15 years those rents might be reviewed, and they required ample security, ample assurance, in these Bills or in some other way, that when their land came to be re-valued at the end of the 15 years they would not be charged in that rent for an improvement in the condition of their land, an improvement which had been brought about by the very taxation to which they, and they only, had contributed. Then again, in regard to the catchment area, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the benefit which the whole catchment area would derive from these drainage works. He ventured to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that these things were more evident to him than they would be to the men who would have to put their hands in their pockets and pay for the carrying out of the schemes. The climatic advantages would seem to them extremely small, and they would naturally say—"Our lands do not need drainage, why should we pay for the benefit of our neighbours, a benefit which will not to any material extent reach us?" There were various other points with regard to these Bills on which he and his hon. Friends would require very careful information. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman had spoken of other Navigation Companies; but he did not say anything about the Barrow Navigation Company, which had a Charter dated as far back as 1790. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to get rid of this Charter; did he propose to stop the navigation; did he propose to disband this Company; and, if he did not, how did he expect to keep apart the question of navigation and the question of drainage? Would not this Company do as much injury in the future by navigation as it had done in the past; and was it not a matter of importance 123 that they should have a clear and explicit statement with regard to the intentions of the Government in reference to it? He had said that the people who were concerned in the Barrow might possibly be induced to tax themselves on account of the very large subvention promised by the State; but he recommended the right hon. Gentleman not to be too confident in this respect. If the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded on different lines, if he had said that the taxation should be compulsory, he (Mr. W. A. Macdonald) would have trembled for the Bills, and for the Irish Members if they had in any way lent their countenance to the Bills. It was only the fact that the taxation was voluntary that made him think that, at any rate, they would not incur any odium if they voted for the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, for he was quite satisfied that if the proposals were compulsory, and if they were to say to these people—"You must contribute to these local burdens," they would raise a storm in Ireland which it would be very difficult for them to allay. The voluntary character of the Bills, and the liberal subvention in regard to the Barrow, were two points which seemed to give some hope of the passing of the Bills. In conclusion, he would only say to the right hon. Gentleman it was possible that the people of Ireland might accept these Bills, and it was possible they might work them. Of course, it was one thing to get the Bills through the House, but it was another thing to get them into practical working. It was possible the people might work the Bills, but they would not work them in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government proposed them. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government hoped that by a very large expenditure of public money upon Ireland they would lessen the demand for Irish self-government. They never made a greater mistake. The people of Ireland, because they were poor, because they needed help, might accept these free grants at the hands of the Government; they might accept the assistance which the Government offered in the way of loans, but they would remain as firmly attached as ever to the great hope that the time was not now far distant when they would be able to manage these concerns in a Parliament of their 124 own instead of coming to the British Parliament for aid.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, that as the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) involved a grant from the Imperial Exchequer, he felt entitled as an English Representative to make a few remarks upon the Bills which the right hon. Gentleman had foreshadowed; and not only so, but he claimed as a friend of Ireland to be deeply interested in the schemes submitted to the House. The right hon. Gentleman certainly went very far afield in his prefatory remarks in regard to the question of the drainage of these great rivers. It was not easy to see the direct connection between the change of fashion in Irish friezes and the question of the drainage of these rivers. There was, no doubt, a very remote connection; but it seemed to him that it was very far fetched. The right hon. Gentleman wandered still farther from the subject when he dragged in the question of the amount of money spent on technical education in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division of Dublin (Mr. T. A. Dickson) had already shown how very remote what they understood to be technical education was from the education given in industrial schools upon which the money was spent in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman gave them to understand in his opening remarks that there were three great subjects with which he and his Colleagues intended to deal—namely, railways, fisheries, and arterial drainage; and he (Mr. Illingworth) assumed that the question of arterial drainage had been taken up first because it was most pressing, and also probably because it was less intricate and involved the least outlay of the three great projects. At the outset let him say he personally was very doubtful when proposals of this sort were submitted to Parliament. It was now 20 years since he first entered the House, but he had always observed that, when in connection with Irish affairs any Minister wished to spice his statements and to assure the House and the country of the infallibility of his proposals, he invariably began by condemning the previous projects and admitting almost their entire failure. He was rather disposed to fear it might fall to the lot of 125 some successor of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to pronounce such a judgment upon the proposals he had now submitted to the House. The right hon. Gentleman favoured the House with a great deal of detail and information in regard to these projects, but still he left a good deal unsaid. The right hon. Gentleman had given them to understand what was to be the total advantage spoken of in pounds, shillings, and pence, for which the Imperial Exchequer was called upon to pay very largely. But he thought that the right hon. Gentleman, when he was proposing such a scheme as this, might very well have informed the House bow many acres of land would be relieved by these schemes of drainage and the removal of navigation and the sluices, and thus have enabled the House to examine, understand, and calculate for itself as to whether the outlay was going to be of any advantage. Hon. Members from Ireland had very shrewdly hinted it was possible the Irish people might accept these schemes. If the people did accept them, it would be because there were large free grants given, and because, besides that, the loans were to come from the British Exchequer. The question of repayment the right hon. Gentleman dealt with in a very slight way, and left a great deal unsaid. He certainly ought to have told the House how the money was to be repaid, and what the percentage was to be. That was an important piece of information which the House ought to have from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, that the interest, including the sinking fund, would be 4½ per cent. and, excluding the sinking fund, 3¼ per cent.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
Fifty years at 4½ per cent. It was of the highest importance that this part of the scheme should be submitted along with the other proposals which the right hon. Gentleman had laid before the House. In connection with this matter he really thought the right hon. Gentleman had not made good his case why the landlords and the landlord interest should be excluded from any share of the burdens to be cast upon the people by this great project. Did the right 126 hon. Gentleman mean to say that the interest of the landlords was not in any degree benefited by the projected outlay, and that the whole debt could justly be laid upon the occupiers? It seemed to him as if the right hon. Gentleman were anticipating some revolutionary change in regard to land occupation and land ownership in Ireland, otherwise the enormous innovation he had made upon previous schemes would not have been suggested to the House. For his part, he thought it would be most unjust to cast upon the occupiers or upon the present cultivators of the soil in Ireland the whole burden of this charge. They had been reminded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ossory Division of Queen's County (Mr. W. A. Macdonald) that the revised rents only lasted for 15 years; at the end of that time, of course, the landlords would go to Court, and if the Land Commission was then in existence the landlords would urge that the position of the occupiers was vastly improved by the carrying out of these schemes, and that they therefore were entitled to an increase of rent. The case would be very plausibly presented in that way, and it might be forgotten that the whole cost of carrying out the schemes had been defrayed by the occupiers. If such a project were submitted to Parliament in respect to England he was quite satisfied it would be received with no favour by those representing the occupying interest in this country. But there was another point which was of very great importance in this matter. In the dilemma in which the right hon. Gentleman found himself he had proposed that with regard to the Shannon, which, as he (Mr. Illingworth) understood, was the largest of these rivers and affected the greatest number of towns, there should not be the slightest introduction of anything like popular management. As it was in the past so it was to be in the future; the whole management of this scheme, interesting to the people, as the right hon. Gentleman had told them, of 14 counties, was to remain in the hands of the Government and under the control of the Board of Works. He did not think it would have been possible for the right hon. Gentleman to have made a more complete confession of failure in our present system of government in Ire- 127 land, or to have furnished a stronger argument in favour of a radical change in that direction. How was it possible with the discredit that had come over the Board of Works in Ireland as well as over all other branches of the Irish Government, that confidence could really follow this undertaking, especially in regard to the Shannon? Whether the scheme in regard to the Shannon were to be accepted or rejected was to be made the matter of a plébiscite, which was a method of foreign origin to which we were but little accustomed in this country, and, personally, he protested strongly against its introduction in any form into this country. In summing up, he was disposed to say it would be far better that this, like many other great projects absolutely necessary for the improvement of Ireland, should wait the settlement of the political question, which very soon, in his judgment, would be decided. The Irish people would not receive, they could not receive—they would not work, they could not work—projects having their origin in a British Cabinet, from which all Irish representation and Irish opinion was excluded. In his opinion, all these schemes of the future would be conspicuous failures, as had been those of the past, and for the simple and sufficient reason that there was no Irish sentiment or Irish opinion or Irish judgment—he would even go so far as to say, Irish spirit and pride in connection with them. They were alien in their origin, they would be alien in every step of their journey, and the result must be absolute failure. He supposed that this was the beginning of a very large outlay of public money, which he took to be in the form of a gross bribe to Ireland, the burden of which would largely fall on the British people, first in the shape of gifts and then in the shape of loans, and upon this beginning he looked with very great apprehension. He expected they would find some succeeding Minister coming down and announcing to Parliament that the money had been foolishly expended, and that the Irish people had not received the proposals in the spirit in which they were made; and that ultimately they would be driven to the conclusion that Irish affairs from first to last had better be submitted to the Irish people and the responsibility for those affairs cast upon them.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, that if the House were to be led in this matter by the opinion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), he did not see what business the Irish Members had here at all; they had better pack up and go. He, however, proposed to consider the schemes in the interests of the people, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland sat down, he (Mr. T. W. Russell) asked himself three questions. The first was—was it expedient to undertake this work at all? No one who knew anything about the districts in question could doubt that it was expedient, and anyone with knowledge must answer that question in the affirmative. The second question was, were the proposed schemes likely to meet the case? That was a matter upon which he was not going to give any opinion before he saw the Bills. The third question was, were the proposals of the Government adequate as regarded finance? What were those proposals? He had totted up the figures, and he found that the three schemes were to cost £682,000; £347,000 of which was to be met by local taxation, and £335,000 was to be an absolutely free grant from the British Exchequer. He thought that the Irish people would think once, twice, and thrice before they refused the proposals of the Government, and he was perfectly certain that the farmers who were affected by the floods would think a very long time indeed before they rejected them. His hon. Friend (Mr. Illingworth) ridiculed the idea of a plébiscite. A plébiscite was not unknown to the British people; as a matter of fact, there could be a plébiscite taken under the Borough Funds Act, and he remembered one being taken in the town of Manchester as to whether water should be brought from a distant part or not. All the denunciation of the hon. Gentleman as to a plébiscite being unknown in this country was outside the question, and not founded upon fact.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
asked to be allowed to explain. He did not say a plébiscite was altogether unknown in this country, but he said it was of foreign origin. He contended that so far as it had prevailed here, it was a most unsatisfactory arrangement.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
thought it was an eminently satisfactory way of dealing with the subject; he could conceive no better plan than to go to the farmers and ask them if they were willing to bear their share of the burden proposed to be imposed. If they were not willing, then the responsibility would not lie with the Government, but would lie with themselves. He did not wish to enter into the matter in detail until he saw the Bills, but there were one or two points in the Chief Secretary's speech to which he would like to refer. First of all there was the exclusion of the landlords from the area of taxation. The right hon. Gentleman said he had been led to his conclusion in the matter from the consideration of the Land Act of 1881. He (Mr. T. W. Russell) could not see how the consideration of that Land Act could lead up to any such conclusion, and for this reason—that in that Act the landlord, at all events, was part owner of the land; he was a partner in the land. Why the landlord should escape a reasonable share of the taxation on the land he (Mr. T.W. Russell) could not possibly see, and he earnestly hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider that part of his scheme. There was another point upon which he felt even more strongly than he did upon that he had just mentioned. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would consent to reconsider the scheme as it affected the Bann. The right hon. Gentleman had been extraordinarily liberal as to the Barrow; he did not know why, but there was no doubt the Barrow had been treated with a liberality to which the Shannon and the Bann were absolutely strangers. What were the facts? The farmers, whose lands on the bank of the Bann were flooded, were absolutely taxed for navigation works that they never wanted, never asked for, and which had never been of the slightest service or use to them. After paying, as had been said, 10d. or 1s. in the pound for these useless works they were now to be taxed for their removal. He really thought there would be considerable opposition to that, and he hoped that, therefore, before the second reading of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to reconsider that part of his scheme affecting the Bann. The hon. Member for the Ossory Division of Queen's County (Mr. 130 W. A. Macdonald) spoke about the unwillingness of the farmers to stand any more taxation The hon. Member ought to have remembered that their lands which were now flooded would be more valuable if the works were successfully carried out, and that the taxation would be a small matter as compared with the increased value of the land. He (Mr. T. W. Russell), for one, most cordially and heartily welcomed the proposals made by the right hon. Gentleman. They were not, he knew, heroic proposals; they were not proposals for the Disestablishment of a Church or the breaking up of an Empire; but at the same time they were perhaps a great deal more useful than either; and for his part, as an Irish Representative, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would persevere with his Bills, and that they would see them passed into law this Session.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
said, it was two years since he heard the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who was then Loader of the House, announce the Irish policy of the Government which had just then come into power. That policy was to be "equality," the noble Lord said, "similarity, and simultaneity," in regard to Local Government on the one hand, and efforts to develop the industrial resources of Ireland on the other. The policy of "equality, similarity, and simultaneity," had vanished into thin air, and this present proposal of the Government was the first introduction of the first instalment of the industrial development which they were promised. Although the equality and all the rest of it had given way to coercive measures, this matter was one of those which must be discussed on its merits; there was no reason why they should not accept these Bills if, on examination, they proved to be well-considered schemes, and possibly they could be worked out on their merits without any serious injury or injustice to any section of the people. He suggested, however, to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland that by some of the conditions he had laid down he had courted failure in the working out of the Bills. An insuperable objection to the schemes was that taxation was to fall solely on the occupiers 131 of the land, the owners of the land being exempt from all burden. That would be felt to be a gross injustice by the occupiers, who, he was sure, would not voluntarily tax themselves in the manner suggested. If the right hon. Gentleman really wished his Bills to work well he would remove this great blot from them. Reference had been made to the Report of the Royal Commission, and it had been very truly stated that in the first portion of their Report the Commissioners concerned themselves with the question of arterial drainage, which, if not the most pressing, was, perhaps, the most easy to be dealt with. But in their Report the Commissioners divided the question of arterial drainage into two parts: one was that part which was being dealt with now by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, the drainage of the three great rivers; and the other part, upon which the Commissioners laid great stress, was the general arterial drainage of large tracts of land along the smaller rivers of the country in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had not touched the latter part of the question at all, which was really the most important and most pressing portion of the question. Under the General Arterial Drainage Acts a great deal of useful work had been carried out, Drainage Boards had been established, and had arranged to tax themselves for the carrying out of useful drainage works; but the effect of the promise of the Government to introduce these measures was that, whereas a certain number of schemes were heretofore being continually pushed on under the Arterial Drainage Acts, all operations had been suspended and nothing whatever was now being done in this direction. Ho begged the right hon. Gentleman's attention to that branch of the subject, and asked him to consider whether he could not see his way to bring in some amendment of the General Arterial Drainage Acts this Session? He had only a word to say in regard to the engineering question affecting these rivers. He was not always at one with his hon. Friends around him with respect to the operations of the Board of Works. The Board of Works had, undoubtedly, made serious mistakes from time to time, but they had also done a great deal of good work. He understood, however, that instead of putting the work under the local Conservancy Boards in- 132 tended to be established, or under the Board of Works which was already established, the right hon. Gentleman proposed to elect a new Engineering Commission which would be independent of any existing Body in Ireland, independent of the people who formed the Conservancy Boards, who would hereafter have the maintenance of these works thrown on them, and practically responsible to no one. He would like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman something more on that point. A gentleman had been engaged in Ireland for some months past in laying out these works; that gentleman might be a very eminent man, but he reminded the right hon. Gentleman that in Ireland there were a great many eminent men of first-class reputation who had devoted a great part of their lives to the study of the peculiarities of these rivers. These men had done engineering work connected with these rivers for a great many years, and he did not think it would be just to them that they should be entirely passed over. He also desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the schemes he had foreshadowed were already designed and planned; and whether the plans and sections were part of the documents accessible to Members of the House? It was not at all convenient to discuss at any great length the details of Bills upon their introduction, and he personally did not intend to take up any further time of the House. He trusted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would answer the questions he had thought it his duty to put.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he could not help hoping that the discussion, which had been a very useful and interesting one, might now be brought to a termination, because hon. Members would probably feel that Bills so complex as those he had introduced to-night had better be discussed on the second reading, and that they would require more discussion at that stage than it was possible to give them to-night. He now desired to answer a few points which had been raised in the course of the debate. The hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin (Mr. Murphy) had asked him how it had come about that the Government had not introduced a general scheme of Arterial Drainage—a Bill to amend and consolidate the existing Drainage Acts? 133 Well, if the hon. Member would consider the matter for a moment, he would see that it was necessary for the Government to take into consideration the amount of time they could give to the general legislative proposals of the Session. He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) prophesied, as it was, that it would be extremely difficult to pass the three Bills he was now introducing; and if he had attempted to bring in another, not only would it have been practically impossible to pass it, but he should have imperilled the safety of the three Bills which he now proposed that they should pass. With reference to the objections of the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell), the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the Government wished to deal out a very different measure of justice to the Barrow to that which it dealt out to the Bann. It was true that the Barrow would get a much larger free grant than the Bann; nevertheless, the grant was ascertained and fixed by a precisely similar method in each case. He had in each case taken first 1d. in the pound on the valuation in the catchment area, which was the amount which he thought the catchment area should be asked to pay, and he had then taken the amount which the catchment area could afford to pay according to the best calculations which could be made, and he had added these sums together and subtracted them from the total cost of the proposed work, and in each case the difference he had asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to provide out of the public funds. It was true that the sum was much larger in the case of the Barrow than in that of the Bann, but that circumstance was due to the facts brought to light in the calculation to which he referred. He had been asked by the hon. Member for South Antrim (Mr. Macartney), with regard to the works on the Bann, whether the proposals in the Bill contemplated dealing only with ordinary floods or with exceptional floods, such as those which occurred in 1877? He (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had been informed, by those competent to give an opinion upon engineering questions of this kind, that the proposed works would adequately deal with all kinds of floods; and, if not absolutely preventing such floods as those which occurred in 1877, they would reduce them to insignificant 134 proportions. Then something had been said as to the Lough Neagh Weir being destroyed, and the level of the Lough being permanently lowered. The hon. Member who referred to this subject seemed to think that they would arrive at an excellent system of drainage in that way. Well, they must recollect that by destroying the weir in question they would entirely destroy the navigation; and if they did that, it would be necessary to pay compensation to the owners of that navigation, and to pay such compensation would cost more than to adopt the plan that the Government proposed, which was to put large sluices in the weir. It was proposed still to keep Lough Neagh a little above the ordinary summer level, but they also proposed that it should never be allowed to rise above that nor to fall below it; and if they could carry out that plan, as he thought they could, it would, he thought, be possible to reconcile the conflicting interests of the farmers and those interested in navigation. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) had referred in a similar strain to the project in connection with the Shannon, and he (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was glad to have an opportunity of assuring the hon. and gallant Member that they proposed, at all events, to carry out part of the objects he had in view by lowering the level of Lough Derg by two feet. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, no doubt, knew enough about the Shannon to be aware that, if they did that, they would greatly benefit the land near Lough Derg, and make the lake a kind of reservoir in flood time, which would alleviate and mitigate at such periods the severity of the floods. The hon. Member for East Donegal (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) had gathered, from an interruption of his (Mr. A. J. Balfour's), the idea that they were going to deal on a very large scale with all the tributary streams of all the rivers they proposed to deal with; but that was not the case. The whole expenditure on the Barrow and the Shannon would be substantially devoted to the main channels. Then almost every speaker who had addressed the House from the other side had commented upon the proposal by which the Government threw the whole cost upon the occupiers. He could not help thinking that his critics in that respect had 135 not really surveyed the whole situation. He proposed to give the occupiers an absolute veto as to whether the scheme should be put into operation or not. He proposed to give to the occupiers not only during the currency of their present judicial leases, but for all time, every penny of the benefit which would result from the scheme. If he gave the occupier the whole benefit, surely it would be a monstrous injustice, as well as a piece of monstrous folly, to ask the landlord to bear any of the responsibility.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would explain how it was that the Grand Jury, which was now a nonrepresentative Body, was to get a quarter of the representation on the Conservancy Boards?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he thought ho had explained that point. He quite admitted that he should prefer that a different Body should have the election of representatives; and when he had had an opportunity—as in the case of Town Councils—he had gladly availed himself of other Bodies. They had to weigh the different alternatives open to them, and the only alternative in dealing with the catchment area was to divide the locality into elaborate electoral divisions for the purpose of elections for three years, which would be of a most costly character, and which would be absolutely useless for any other purpose—they had to choose between that elaborate and costly and rather absurd scheme and the scheme he proposed to the House; and when the House recollected that this was not a case in which there could be any controversy between the landowner and the tenant, and where there could be no divergence of opinion between the Grand Jury and the landowner he thought the alternative he proposed was absolutely the only one open to them to adopt. He did not know whether there were any other questions he had left unanswered.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD
asked if the right hon. Gentleman would kindly say what he proposed to do with the Barrow Navigation Company?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he had altogether forgotten that point. They proposed to carry out the suggestion of the Royal Commission and take away the management of the River Barrow entirely from the Navigation Company, 136 subject always to this regulation—that they would still keep the river bed at its present depth of water. In no case where at present navigators had four feet of water in which to float their barges would the new Conservancy Boards be allowed to diminish that depth.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY
wished to know why the Government had departed from the lines they had adopted in connection with other borrowing schemes? Money for public purposes was advanced at 3⅛ per cent. but the Government itself would be able to procure money at a much lower rate of interest.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he thought that question fair enough, and he wished his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer were present to answer it. He believed that money had never been lent for public works in England at a less rate than 3¼ per cent. Three and a-quarter per cent was the rate they proposed to charge in this case, and 3½ per cent would be the amount to be paid in order to provide a sinking fund, so that the total loan might be paid off in 50 years.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, the money would be lent or given by the Treasury, but it was thought, on the whole, that the gentlemen who designed the works should be intrusted with the duty of carrying them out. When they were carried out, then, in the case of the Barrow and the Bann, their maintenance would be left in the hands of the Conservancy Board. In the case of the Shannon the works would likewise be constructed by the Board of Works, and would remain in the hands of that Board to maintain.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD
asked, how the three-fourths of the Conservancy Board which were to be representative were to be elected?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he thought that also a very fair question. It would be the duty of the Commission to draw up a scheme of electoral districts in which the elections would take place, and those areas would be so contrived that three-fourths of the representatives would fall to the benefit of those living in the catchment area. That was a substantial part of the scheme if it was to 137 come to any good at all. He did not think there was anything else he need say. He thought the discussion they had had a very useful one, and he was glad to take that opportunity of expressing again, in as strong terms as he could, the thanks which he thought they owed to the Commissioners for the work they had already done in carrying out the Reports and the readiness with which they had accepted the invitation of the Government to continue their assistance in order to see the works provided for in the Bills carried into effect. He had been rather sorry to hear the Board of Works attacked that night. He agreed that there had been mistakes made where the Board had not had undivided jurisdiction; but if anyone would look at the work carried out by the Board of Works during the last 20 or 30 years they would see, he thought, that a great deal of good work of a most solid and effective kind had been done by the Board. If they had made mistakes he did not think they were more blameworthy than many other engineering bodies placed in a similar position.
§ MR. O'KELLY (Roscommon, N.)
said, he thought, after the explanation the right hon. Gentleman had given of the objects and the character of his Bill, he would save himself and Parliament a great deal of trouble by abandoning his scheme altogether. He (Mr. O'Kelly) did not think there was any likelihood of that part of the scheme relating to the Barrow ever being brought into operation. So far as the Shannon drainage district was concerned, he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that district, in which £100,000 had already been expended on drainage works, would have to pay its quota towards the cost of further drainage works? With regard to handing over the Shannon district to the Board of Works, the people of that district knew very well that this Body could not be trusted with the carrying out of public works in Ireland. He was convinced that if a plébiscite were taken in the valley of the Shannon, with the knowledge that the works decided upon were to be intrusted to the Board of Works, not one man in 100 would vote in favour of works being undertaken. Under these circumstances, he was justified, he thought, in saying that the House 138 would be losing its time in passing these Bills, so far as that part of the scheme was concerned.
§ MR. HARRIS (Galway, E.)
said, he wondered very much that the right hon. Gentleman had omitted to introduce any scheme for the drainage of the River Suck, which was the largest tributary of the Shannon; and, seeing that so much had already been done, and so much anxiety was shown to improve the drainage of the district, he thought that the Suck should not be forgotten. Over £100,000 had already been expended, but the river was in a very bad state at present. It was not quite finished, and the Act of Parliament would expire at the end of this year. If, therefore, a grant of money was not given by the Government the drainage of the river would remain in an unfinished state. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to consider these facts, and not to pass over a real, practical, and substantial work of drainage which was at present under weigh, and which, so far, had been more successful than any similar scheme of the kind that had been carried out in Ireland. Another thing in connection with the Suck drainage was that the Board interested in the matter was the only one on which occupiers had got a representation; and between the representatives of the occupiers and the riparian proprietors who were interested in the Suck the work had been carried on harmoniously. The Board had succeeded so far in carrying out its intentions as to the improvement of the river. He (Mr. Harris) had a very intimate knowledge of the Shannon, and he would say to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and his engineers that in dealing with that river, if whatever they did should have the effect of injuring the navigation, they would be doing a very serious injury to the country. Not only as regarded navigation would great injury be done, but it must be remembered that to allow the depth of the Shannon to decrease would be to destroy the water power of the river. That would have the effect of diminishing the possibility of irrigating the meadow lands on the banks of the Shannon, which was a very important matter. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman should include in his scheme some plan to secure that the irrigation 139 of the land on the banks of the Shannon, especially where there were meadows, should not be interfered with. Unless some assurance of that kind were given, he feared very much that the inhabitants occupying land on the banks of the river would vote against the scheme if the right hon. Gentleman took a plébiscite. As be had mentioned the word plébiscite, he must say that he gave his entire approval to the taking of a plébiscite both on this and on every other law. There were four considerations which had to be taken into account. There was, first, the drainage, then the navigation, then the question of irrigation; and, lastly, as he had said before, the question of the water power. He was sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had gone out without giving him an answer to the point he had raised in reference to the River Suck. The right hon. Gentleman did not think it worth while to notice remarks of his (Mr. Harris's) as regarded the preservation of that part of the river he had spoken of, and yet it was a subject to which he (Mr. Harris) had given a great deal of attention.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
said, he was very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had commenced at the wrong end of the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman had said to-night, as he had done the other evening, that he had been guided in the course he had adopted by the fact that the Royal Commission had first reported on the subject of drainage. But was not every Royal Commission a creature of the Government? And would anyone believe that a Commission in a case of this kind would think of reporting on a question of drainage first if it did not know that it was the mind first to take up that question? Let them reverse the order of proceeding that the right hon. Gentleman had adopted. Suppose they took the fishery question first. Here they would have a matter to deal with where there would be no interfering with rights, and no dispute as to title. By a grant in the shape of a loan to fishermen, for the purchase of boats and nets, following the example quoted that night by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, there was no doubt they would be able to develop a mine of wealth on the Irish Coast. When once the taking of fish had been dealt with, 140 the Government might have gone on with their development of the resources of Ireland—seeing that they believed they were secure in Office for three years and had now an opportunity of developing a well-thought-out policy. They could then establish effective railway communication for the object, amongst others, of bringing about a better distribution of fish to the inland parts of Ireland and to this country; and, having settled these two parts of the question, they would be in a position to deal with the relative claims and liabilities of the landlords and tenants, with regard to improvements to be effected by the drainage of the catchment areas. By the time that this difficult question came to be dealt with they would very probably have the land in the hands of peasant proprietors, and it would be found easy of settlement, as there would be less doubt as to who derived benefit from the improvement of the drainage. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, could not make a second reading speech in introducing his Bills; but he (Mr. Edward Harrington) thought he might have been more explicit in dealing with the question of the plébiscite. He should like to know whether men on the mountain side were to have the same voice as men who lived on the banks of the river, and whose land was therefore affected by bad drainage? The declivity of the soil was not the same all round, and those men owning farms which lay high would not derive half so much benefit from the drainage as the men holding low-lying farms near the river. Was it proposed to charge these classes equally on some hard-and-fast mechanical mileage system? Then the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that he had entirely blotted out the question as between landlord and tenant on this subject by contending that wherever an improvement was effected it would be for the benefit of the tenant. Before they lost their grip of the Land Question he hoped they would make every effort to see that in future settlements of rent by Sub-Commissioners, the Sub-Commissioners should not, in taking into account £20 expended on a man's farm, say that the farm had been made £2 a-year better—and if at a subsequent period it was found that the improvements made, say under this Bill, actually came to £7, and not £2 a-year, as at 141 first estimated—that the landlord should not be allowed by the Commissioners the difference of £5 a-year. There was a blot in the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. Why on earth should he give the Grand Jury in the uplands any voice in the nomination of representatives on the Conservancy Boards? If the landlords were not to be taxed, why on earth should Grand Juries be allowed to have representation or nomination; and who were the Grand Juries but the landlords of Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman had said that he would not allow the landlords to have any voice in this matter, but in the next breath he declared that he would give them the nomination of representatives of the upland districts. He (Mr. Edward Harrington) did not believe that the Government were sincere in those proposals, which they declared were for the benefit of Ireland. He could understand that from a Unionist point of view some sacrifice would be made, and some semblance of common sense would be introduced into the development of Irish industries. He could understand that fisheries would first be dealt with, and then railways, and then, when the vexed question between landlords and tenants was settled in Ireland, the question of drainage could be dealt with; but the Government did not seem to be prompted by the same motives. They were prepared to deal with the drainage of the Bann and the Shannon, and to leave the fishermen of Ireland starving—to allow Manxmen, Scotchmen, Englishmen, and even Frenchmen, to come in and take away that which by right belonged to the Irish fishermen. It seemed to him that the Government were simply paltering with this question, and would be as glad as anyone could be to see this scheme thrown out, so that they might say—"See what we are ready to do for Ireland, and yet the Irish will not allow us to benefit them." They were anxious to spread this work over three years, so that it would reach to the furthermost limit of their political existence—if it was possible for them to live so long. The Irish people had not the power to move themselves in the direction which they considered necessary for the development of their industries; and the Government might easily, in dealing with these subjects, in which there could be no dispute, have satisfied the demands 142 of Ireland, but they did not do so. They had not dealt first with that subject about which the least possible objection could be raised. For what earthly reason had they refrained from dealing first with the fishery question and then with the railway question?
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
said, he was very sorry that he did not agree with all that had been said by several of his hon. Friends. He himself thought that the recommendation of the Royal Commission with regard to the order in which these reforms should be carried out was a proper one. It was well known that Ireland was an agricultural country, and he thought, therefore, that the class which it was their duty first to benefit was the agricultural class. It was all very well to hear about railways and fishery piers, and those sort of things; but he had his own experience to fall back upon when hon. Members raised these points. Some years ago he was in Galway, and he noticed that the place was doing extremely well in the matter of railways. There was every railway convenience required, and every harbour accommodation; and yet, so far as he could learn, the fishermen were not at all in a prosperous condition. The right hon. Gentleman had made some reference to his (Mr. Biggar's) prejudice, or supposed prejudice, against railways. Well, he was not prejudiced against railways; but he had an old-fashioned idea that any expenditure of money which was not remunerative was a waste of money. Now, the universal experience with regard to railways which had been made in recent times in Ireland was that they were extremely unproductive, and he (Mr. Biggar) should like some stronger evidence than the general statement that it was a desirable thing to have increased railway communication in order to develop the national resources. He had a great deal about the Schull and Skibbereen Railway, which, he believed, went to some fishing place, and yet he understood that since that line had been constructed no more fish had been carried along the route than had been taken by road by the carters. That was one of the most important of the recent railways constructed in Ireland, and yet he did not think there was much to say in favour of it, especially from a fisherman's point of view. He believed, in fact, 143 that that railway was an illustration of the mismanagement of the Irish Board of Works. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary found fault with the criticism which had been levelled at that Board of Works; but hon. Members had seen a great deal of evidence which pointed to the inefficiency of the Board. Here was an instance. Not long ago they had heard a great deal from Wicklow of the Arklow Harbour. It appeared that that harbour was built upon shifting sands, and the result was that the whole affair came down in a very short time. Something had been said about shifting sands not being a very sure foundation a long time ago, and he thought hon. Members might apply that old saying to the case of the Board of Works. Then, in another instance, in building a certain pier, the contractor was allowed to use local stone and concrete along the edge of the shore, with the result that when the pier was built it was found impossible to make a road on to it. Those were illustrations of the way in which the Board of Works managed its business, and he was very much afraid that if the Board of Works was to have the carrying out of this drainage it would be an entire failure. He was not so dispassionate as some of his hon. Friends were as to the taking of all this money by the ratepayers in the neighbourhood, because there was a very great propensity on the part of some people to borrow money. They were allowed a long time to repay it, especially if there was the promise of a gift along with it. He was very much afraid that the result would be that the Irish Board of Works would mismanage the drainage of these rivers in future, as they had always mismanaged things in the past. They had seen a very curious commentary on the views of the Government. They had had to-night before them a statement of the right hon. Gentleman that he proposed to offer a substantial gift towards the draining of the Lower Bann; and they had heard on the other side, from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan), in the earlier part of the Sitting; that the same Government had proposed a Bill which would make it practically impossible to have any drainage of the Lower Bann which would be of a satis- 144 factory nature. In point of fact, the Government seemed to be making two propositions, one cutting the ground from under the other. There was one point in the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman which was perfectly indefensible—namely, to give to the Grand Juries one-fourth of the seats on the Board. That was a most pernicious principle, and one which, if the Bills ever got into Committee, he hoped would be dropped. If the unfortunate occupiers were to be taxed, and no burden at all placed on the owners of property, the occupiers ought certainly to have the whole of the representation in their hands. After all, he was not very confident that the Bills would pass into law that Session. The introduction of the Bills, however, would afford an opportunity of discussing the subject; and, as a consequence, in some succeeding Session, some satisfactory Bills might be passed.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, he was not astonished when he heard the statement of the Chief Secretary for Ireland that night. For weeks these Motions had been on the Paper. There had been a great rumbling of the mountain, and it had at last brought forth a mouse. This was a truly Tory policy—having drained the country of people, the Government were now going to draw off the water. But he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman that he had at last made an attempt at remedial legislation. Several suggestions had been made by the Royal Commission relating to fisheries, drainage, and the piers and harbours. The right hon. Gentleman had stood up for his good old-fashioned friends, the Board of Works. Goodness knew that Ireland possessed many ancient works which redounded to the historical credit of the land; but the Board of Works were filling the place with structures which were no sooner built than they proceeded to tumble down like the right hon. Gentleman's Coercion Act. [Laughter.] Let any hon. Member who laughed accompany him (Dr. Tanner) to Ireland. He invited the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to accompany him to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had not been much to Ireland, and, accordingly, he had not seen very many of the celebrated structures which had been erected by the Board of Works. 145 If he had, perhaps he would change his opinion of the Board of Works. The right hon. Gentleman knew very little indeed of Ireland. They had never had the pleasure of the right hon. Gentleman's presence in the City of Cork. He hoped that in due time the Chief Secretary would screw up his courage to sticking point and favour Cork with a visit. Well, what was the measure the right hon. Gentleman had brought in? It was a drainage measure—merely a drainage measure. The right hon. Gentleman passed over some very important points, which were dwelt on at considerable length by the Royal Commissioners in their Report, notably the fisheries. The Chief Secretary made several statements in reference to the fisheries, which he concurred in. He said, for instance, that the increase of the fishing industry was proportionate to the increase of the fishery harbours in Ireland. It was very easy to make a statement of that sort; but it was a great mistake for a right hon. Gentleman in the responsible position of Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to make such a statement without also stating what the fishery structures were, and showing of what little benefit they were. Perhaps the House would let him narrate a little incident, which would show of what little use the fishery harbours of Ireland were. Last winter the hon. Member for West Mayo (Mr. Deasy) and himself left the Island of Achill and proceeded to cross Clew Bay. They had left the right hon. Gentleman's Constabulary behind, and had held a very successful meeting at the place they came from. On reaching the shore they found there was a newly erected fishery harbour. It was half-tide, and surely a fishing smack ought to be able to get into any harbour at half-tide. He and his hon. Friend, however, waited outside for upwards of three-quarters of an hour, exposed to the westerly breeze, which blew across the broad Atlantic, and then the people told them there was no chance of landing except at high water—that, in fact, fishing smacks could only land there once or twice a-year, when there were spring tides. The harbour at this place was one of the structures the right hon. Gentleman evidently wished to uphold, when he supported his colleagues of the Board of Works in Ireland. The 146 right hon. Gentleman also touched lightly upon the railway question; and upon him (Dr. Tanner) remarking that the Schull and Skibbereen tramway was not a highly satisfactory undertaking, although it had been helped on by money advanced by the State—[Laughter]—the right hon. Gentleman laughed. Would the right hon. Gentleman, when he did come to the South of Ireland, undertake a journey upon the Schull and Skibbereen line? He (Dr. Tanner) knew that nothing would hurt the right hon. Gentleman more than an affront to his dignity; and he was satisfied that if the right hon. Gentleman took a journey upon the Schull and Skibbereen line, and had to get out, as he probably would have to, to push, he would be convinced of the failure of the speculation. He invited the right hon. Gentleman's sincere co-operation in helping this tramway in its difficult and arduous career. Now, in regard to drainage, what did the right hon. Gentleman propose? He proposed to improve a large part of the land of Ireland by drainage, and to do it at the expense of the tenants. When the land had been improved by the tenants' labour and at the cost of the tenantry, the landlords would step in and endeavour to get an increased price for the land. That was was an iniquitous proposal; but, after all, what else could they expect? The right hon. Gentleman had to do something; but he had passed over the improvements which could be of real benefit to the country with which he was unfortunately connected by Office. There was no doubt that in due time, no matter what Government were in power, the land of Ireland would be handed over to the people at a reasonable price. But what was the Chief Secretary doing then? He was practically increasing the county cess; he was practically throwing a greater weight on the shoulders of the people who tilled the land. Looking at the matter in a common-sense light, he was of opinion that the House might deliberate conscientiously before it allowed these Bills to pass. He did not believe in the shameful policy of the past—smiting Ireland with one hand and holding out to it a sop with the other hand. That seemed to be the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, for he had a Coercion Act in one hand and Drainage Bills in the 147 other. It was an unworthy policy. However, they could not expect anything else from the present Government. He supposed it was well for them to accept those Bills—to take them as instalments, hoping that in the course of time, when the right hon. Gentleman came to study the Irish Question more minutely, when he came to see more of the people of Ireland, he might present them with something better than this dirty little two penny-halfpenny drainage scheme. He trusted the Chief Secretary would profit by that night's debate. [Mr. A. J. BALFODR: Hear, hear!] He would! It was never too late to mend; he commended that good old adage to the right hon. Gentleman. He was sorry he had detained the House so long; but he really thought that, everything considered, the Irish Members, and especially those who had noticed the failures of the Board of Works with which Ireland was bestrewed, could not let this opportunity pass without expressing their views.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne
(who was received with ironical cheering) said, he supposed hon. Members opposite thought that because he did not happen to represent an Irish constituency he had got no interest in that matter. He assured hon. Gentlemen they were entirely mistaken. The question of the drainage schemes for Ireland affected every English Member and every English constituency; and if hon. Members did not know that, the sooner they learnt it the better. He assumed that these grand arrangements and designs and schemes of the Chief Secretary could not be carried out without the employment of English money. Personally, as the Representative of one English constituency, he objected in toto to any English money being employed for this purpose. The introduction of these Bills was only another illustration of the essential necessity there was to pass a measure of Home Rule. But it appeared to him it would be well to follow the precedent set in the case of the Belfast Main Drainage Scheme, and that was to relegate this question to local decision. In the case of the Belfast Main Drainage Scheme, the principle adopted was that new works of great magnitude, involving much expense to the people of the city, should not be undertaken until the citizens 148 were properly represented and able to express their opinion and to control the expenditure. In that matter, hon. Members had a right to object to being called upon to interfere in affairs which ought properly to be dealt with by an Irish Parliament. But that was not the only objection he had to raise. As he had said before, these schemes could not be carried out without the employment of English capital. He presumed it was the English Exchequer the Chief Secretary was going to dip his hand in for the purpose of carrying out the proposed works. He was aware that there might be reasons why hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House should not strenuously oppose measures of beneficial reform introduced by a paternal and despotic country; but, as English Representatives, they had a right to do what they could to oppose these schemes. This was a fresh measure for robbing the English taxpayers for the purpose of assisting the Irish landlords out of the bog in which they found themselves at the present time. If the landlords' bogs were ever flooded, it would be a good thing if they would drain them themselves, or otherwise extricate themselves from their difficulty as best they could. At any rate, English capital ought not to be employed for these purely Hibernian affairs, which ought to be settled by an Irish Parliament.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill for the Improvement of the Drainage of Lands, and for the prevention of Inundations within the Catchment Area of Lough Neagh and the Lower Bann; and for other purposes relating thereto, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Arthur Balfour and Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 312.]
§ Bill for the Improvement of the Drainage of Lands, and for the prevention of Inundations within the Catchment Area of the River Barrow; and for other purposes relating thereto, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Arthur Balfour and Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 313.]
§ Bill for the Improvement of the Drainage of Lands, and for the preven- 149 tion of Inundations within the Catchment Area of the River Shannon; and for other purposes relating thereto, ordered to be brought in by Mr. Arthur Balfour and Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 314.]