HC Deb 24 June 1889 vol 337 cc582-644

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

* MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to propose the Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name, but in a rather altered form. I propose "That this House is unwilling, under existing circumstances, to grant further sums from the Imperial Exchequer for local drainage improvements in Ireland." I regret that on this occasion I should appear to be in antagonism to the interests of Ireland. I feel sure, however, I am seeking her best and truest interest in moving this Amendment. This Bill and the sister Bills involve an advance by way of loan of a sum of half a million from the British Exchequer, and a free grant or free gift of about a million sterling out of the British Exchequer for purely Irish local purposes. Sir, I oppose this proposal on various grounds, because the House has experienced failure in this direction, because the Bills are not the outcome, with one exception, of local initiation, because they are not framed in concert with the trusted and acknowledged leaders of the Irish people, because it is unjust to lay the greater portion of the cost of local drainage work in Ireland upon the British taxpayers, many of whom are already heavily burdened, and, lastly, because the Bills represent that hybrid policy of mingled coercion and bribery which ignoble and unstatesmanlike in itself, has proved fatally futile during a mournful past. I will, of course, confine myself to the Bann Bill which is before the House, but it will be necessary that I should briefly exhibit, if the House will permit me to do so, the dimensions and scope of the policy of which we have now the latest, and, as I hope, final sample. The House is, of course, aware that it has been the policy of successive Governments to advance and to give—I use the two words as expressing in the one sense a loan, and in the other a free gift—for public works and for local works in Ireland enormous sums from the British Exchequer. But although the House is aware of this it may not be within the knowledge of hon. Gentlemen that the amount advanced for Public Works in Ireland during a considerable number of years is no less than £35,617,000. Now, Sir, out of this large sum advanced, and which ought to have been repaid to the taxpayers, there has been written off no less a sum than £7,953,000—in other words 8 millions out of 35i millions which should have been repaid to us, never has, for various reasons, be repaid. That refers to grants in Ireland, as a whole, but coming to the particular matter which is before the House, I find that apart from free gifts of money made during past years for drainage purposes in Ireland, there has been advanced a total in round numbers, of £2,800,000, all of which ought to have been repaid, but of which no less a sum than £1,200,000 has been written off by Parliament because of that imposibility of obtaining what was due. All this money, Sir, is lost to the British Exchequer. I was struck with the amount that had to be written off, but I was more struck with the reasons given for the writing off, because I find the reasons given for writing off this enormous sum of money as a bad debt and lost to the Public Exchequer were these—solemnly given by a Department of Parliament and accepted by Parliament—firstly, the inadequacy of the benefit which was to be derived from the works; secondly, the remote period at which the persons who were to be benefited could expect to benefit at all; and, thirdly, the enormously increased cost over and above the estimate at which these works had been carried out. Now, Sir, the drainage works of Ireland, so far as they have been carried out by, and under the control of, Parliament, have been carried out, namely, under two Acts—the Act of 1842, supplemented by the Act of 1847, and the Act of 1863; and I beseech the particular attention of any who are interested in this question to the difference in the results achieved under these two Acts. Under the Acts of 1842 and 1847 the number of drainage schemes actually carried out I cannot say how many of them were finished, or how many of them were of use when finished, was 121. It was estimated originally that the cost of these schemes would be £1,310,000. By a Return published in 1858 I find the actual cost was £2,110,000, being an increase of 60 per cent; and there was written off this a sum of £1,207,000, or much more than half the original cost. In other words, the original Estimate having been £1,300,000, practically the State has paid the whole original Estimate, and has in other ways contributed towards the balance of extra expenses. Now, Sir, the Irish Board of Works initiated these projects; the Irish Board of Works carried them out; the Irish Board of Works never consulted the population; the Irish Board of Works, as I say, practically provided the money, as a gift or as a loan. And what was the result? The result was this—waste in the carrying out of the works, and failure in the consequences of the works. I admit freely that in a certain number of instances there has been success. I do not mean at all to pledge myself to this—that all the works carried out by the Irish Board of Works were bad and insufficient; but I think the figures and the facts, if hon. Members choose to examine them—Members from Ireland I know have done so—demonstrate that under that system of carrying out the works the result, as I say, was that there was waste in the expenditure, and failure in the issue. Now, in 1861 and 1862 that system was admitted to be a failure, and so admitted to be a failure that Parliament altered the system, and passed a new Act in 1863. Under the Act of 1863, 42 schemes of drainage were, or are, being carried out. The cost, all of which has been advanced by the State, has, up to the present moment, been advanced by way of loan to the amount of £747,000. The amount repaid at the date of the last Return was—of principal, £150,000; of interest, £130,000. Not a single penny has been lost, or is likely to be lost, except in the one case of the Suck, under the schemes carried out under the Act of 1863. But now, Sir, what about the schemes of 1863? What was the policy then? Under the Act of 1863 the people of the district initiated the scheme; the people in the district control and carry out the schemes; the people in the district may, if they like, find the money; but if they do not, Parliament has power to lend it. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will deny that the figures and facts available for consideration demonstrate that, under the old system of 1842 and 1847, the result was loss to the State; but that under the system initiated in 1863, and which is yet extant, there has been resulting no loss to the State, and whereas in the former case many of the projects were partial or wholly failures, under the altered system, I believe, a very great portion of the 42 schemes carried out have been useful and beneficial to Ireland. I emphasize the difference between the results obtained, because I want the House to agree with me that the cause of that is simply this—that in the one case local initiative and local interests and local control existed; whereas in the other case the Government, or a Department of the Government, went down and bestowed upon the people what they never asked for, and which in many cases they did not want, and so did what all Governments must do in similar circumstances—failed in securing what they wanted to achieve. The successful method of 1t 63 is, under the Bill of the Irish Secretary, to be entirely set aside. Yet he, perversely, as I shall prove—I do not mean that I shall prove his perversity, but I shall state the facts, and I hold them to be perverse—returns to the old, discredited policy of 1842 and 1817. He does not follow the representations of his own Royal Commission, but he proposes a new Board whose purpose it is to go down to the people, and not to meet them like men, but like a wheedling nurse to say—"Open your mouth and shut your eyes, and see what Goody, in the shape of anew Commission, will send you." I say that the Chief Secretary is ill-advised that he does not go upon the policy of 1863; I think he was more ill-advised being Secretary for Ireland, and not Secretary for a section of Ireland, in not consulting the representatives of five-sixths of the people of Ireland. Suppose when Secretary for Scotland—a position he once held—he had proposed four Drainage Bills, would he have dared to come down to this House and say he proposed them without some sort of—I do not say official—but unofficial communication with the people of Scotland, through their Representatives in this House? But he comes down here to-day, as far as Ireland is concerned, without consulting the people in the districts that the Bill affects, or the Representatives of the people in this House, and he proposes measures for the drainage of four districts in Ireland; and this under a policy which means mis- management, waste, and failure, want of concert with the Irish Leaders, all of which considerations compel me to say that I object to this scheme as a whole. I will take the Bann Scheme, and I will undertake to prove, with respect to it, three or four allegations I made in the early part of my speech. The Bann, as I suppose every one knows, flows into and out of Lough Neagh. It has been treated under the Acts of 1842 and 1847, under which there has been spent on its drainage £264,000, of which the Government made a free grant of £109,000, advancing the rest. I do not know how much of the latter sum has been repaid, or how much is outstanding. Now, the result of the operation conducted by the Board of Works without reference to the people was at first partially advantageous; but, finally, it has been found that the advantages which accrued from that large sum of money are exceedingly trifling, and in some instances new evils have been created where old ones were mended. That is not my opinion, but the opinion of the Royal Commission which the Government appointed, and which reported two years ago. The Government, undeterred by the failures of the past, propose now to spend £65,000 more on Bann drainage, dropping the navigation scheme, spending part of the money to do away with the evil consequences of the navigation scheme, recognizing at last that drainage and navigation schemes do not go well together. The proposal of the Government is that this £65,000 shall be provided as follows:—The lands to be specially dealt with are to contribute £8,000, or one-eighth of the whole. The county cess of the area to be created is to pay the cost of £37,000, and the Government propose a free grant out of the public money of £20,000 in order to make up the total of £65,000. Now, there is one point about this new proposal, at any rate, which pleases me. I am thankful to say that the Chief Secretary has thrown over the Irish Board of Works, as far as the Bann is concerned. He is not going to be troubled any more with them. He has found them to be a failure in this, as he will find them to be a failure in other matters. In order to carry out his scheme he is creating a new Board, which he calls a Commis- sion. It is to be composed of three English engineers and one Irishman who does not know anything about engineering. A more extraordinary proposition was never made to this House. If the Chief Secretary had come down and confessed that the Irish Board of Works had failed, and had proposed representative Irishmen as a new Board, if he had consulted the Members who represent the majority of the Irish people, and had nominated one of their number, even if he had balanced him by the Member for North Armagh, I say a Board like that might have commanded some sort of assent on this side of the House, even although it labours under the fatal defect that it is in no sense elected by or representative of the people. But when it is proposed that three English engineers, I daresay very worthy men, and an Irishman, also, no doubt, a very worthy man, but who will be in the hands of the engineers like clay in the hands of the potters—I say, when the right hon. Gentleman proposes a Board like this, I fail to be able to give my personal sanction to his proposals. This new Board is to have a whole set of officials—engineers and clerks—and doubtless it will have to appoint some one to the dignified position of Secretary. A considerable sum will have to be provided for this new English Board to manage the affairs of Ireland. In fact, the Chief Secretary seems to be determined to satisfy the Irish people that if they are to be saved by works it shall not be works of their own, Then I have a more serious objection to make to the proposal. Why is this House, and especially the English, Scotch, and Welsh Members, to be asked to vote £20,000 out of the Public Funds to enable this Board to carry out its business? The Chief Secretary said it was only fair that these poor districts of Ireland should be helped by a generous Parliament and a generous British people. But who says that the Bann district is poor? Why should we spend money out of the Exchequer to help the people of the Bann district to drain their lands more than to enable the people of Oxfordshire to drain their lands? The land is not poor. He will doubtless tell me that he founds himself on the Report of the Commission. But I say that his proposed scheme for the Bann drainage deliberately runs counter to the basis of the scheme of his own Commission. What does the Commission recommend? At page 507 they say— The initiative of measures shall rest with those interested, and on the motion of such persons the Government shall frame a scheme to be embodied in a Provisional Order. 3. The Conservators shall have wide powers of doing works. In fact, glancing down the whole of the recommendations, I find that they declare that the Conservators are to be elected by the people. They are to initiate, they are to plan, they are to get estimates, they are to do the works, they are to assess the cost, and they are to raise the money. The right hon. Gentleman's plan is the very opposite of that. He sends down this English Board, and the only time the people are at all interested in the matter is that they are called upon to elect a Conservancy Board which is not, however, to act or do anything until such time as the whole of the works have been completed. The Chief Secretary is really reverting to the evil system, and the effect of it will be exactly the same as in the old time, namely, the estimates will be exceeded, and the ultimate results will be trivial. The policy of 1842 was, as he said, for the Government to initiate, and for the Government to do everything. Mark what the Commissioners say:— The first question that arises is whether a return shall be made to the old system which was in force between 1842 and 1863, under which drainage schemes were not only initiated by the Government, subject to local approval, but were undertaken, designed, and carried out entirely by the Government officials. We have considered this method of procedure, but we cannot recommend that it should be again adopted. No doubt some of the evils which it gave rise to in an earlier period may not be expected now, but the great objection is that the responsibility was removed from the persons most interested, and thrown on others having no local concern in the matter. The possibilities of change on the part of the Government in regart to this subject, such as occurred in past years, the danger of discouraging habits of local self-reliance and fostering dependence on a central government—these considerations, in our judgment, outweigh any advantages which might be hoped for from any such direct use of Government agency in carrying out drainage works as existed under the Act of 1842. In face of that strong and vehement consideration of the Act of 1812, the right hon. Gentleman makes it the basis of these Bills, though it is true he substitutes for the Board of Works a new Board which he calls by some newfangled name. This new Board is entirely unconnected with the localities, yet it is to initiate and carry out works just as under the Act of 1842. I cannot conceive how the right hon. Gentleman can say that these Bills were founded on the Report of the Commission. In my opinion, they go counter on this serious and vital point to the recommendations of the Commissioners. Why did we give this £20,000? It may probably be urged that the district is poor, but I deny that this £20,000 has been suggested because the district is poor. It is proposed, because the Irish Board of Works has blundered so in the past, and has made such gross and terrible mistakes that the Commissioners suggest that now we ought to make some compensation to the people of the district by giving them £20,000. That cannot be disputed, because the Report on the Bann states some very curious things. They proposed to lower the bed of the river, and in order to do that, they left dams across the bed at certain distances, and they scooped out the earth and sand and stones, if there were any, between the dams. They left dams across the bed of the river like the rungs of a ladder, and they turned on the water, and left it to take its course. What was the result? The Commissioners tell us that for the first few years there was very much more room for the water to flow, and that there was some benefit from it. But gradually in the winter seasons there were deposits in the gaps between the dams, and in the course of ten years the bed of the river was as high as ever, and in consequence no good result was achieved. It is upon the ground of the shocking mismanagement of the Irish Board of Works in the past, and that ground alone, that the Commissioners recommend that we should give now, out of the public exchequer, £20,000 to help the people of the Bann district. That we are to give £20,000 in expiation of the mistakes of the old Board seems to me an extraordinary thing. If the Irish Board of Works, or the officials who had charge of the works, could be made to pay, I should not object. But this vicarious mode of compensation, under which my constituents, who are called upon to pay their portion, to expiate the offences of 40 years ago, I do not agree with, and it is a method I cannot support. I certainly dispute that it is a proper thing to come to Parliament for aid to carry out local works. This work on the Bann may be a very good thing for the people of the Bann district. I hope it may turn out well, though I have got doubts of it. First of all, I think it will cost a great deal more than has been said, and the good results will be more than counterbalanced by the evil results not yet apparent. But even if it is admitted that it is a good work for the Bann and for the people of Ireland, why should the people of England be called upon to pay towards it. It seems perhaps hardhearted on the part of a representative of a rich nation to say that they are not disposed to help the people of a poor nation. I, for one, am prepared to take that hard.hearted line, if you choose to call it so. I have for years supported the Irish people in their demand for self-government. My policy has been always to treat them like men, and one of the prerogatives of men is that they should pay their own way. Upon that ground I certainly feel myself entirely consistent, when to-night I say that I love Ireland, and seek her best and truest interests, that it is not because I love Ireland less, but because I love justice and sound policy more, that I am compelled to protest against these Bills. Take our own land. Is it an extraordinary thing for great local works to be undertaken locally? Take the North Eastern Coast, where we have the Tyne, and Wear, and the Tees, at the mouth of each river there are great works being constructed together with seaside works. We are doing those works at our own cost. We are not asking this House for money. We find it as best we can, and on the best terms we can. We expect to get a commensurate return, it is true, but that is the case with regard to the Bann also. Therefore, the two cases are on the same footing. But the Government urge they are going to carry out the great work of pacifying Ireland. I do not mean by these little Bills alone. We quite understand that these Bills are only the forerunners of many other and similar Bills, which will be presented to this House by-and-by. I say the Chief Secretary fondly hopes by such Bills as these to succeed in pacifying Ireland, and making under his rule a happy and contented people. Doubtless that is a great public object to achieve, and the Chief Secretary is perfectly justified in putting it in argument before the House. But to revert to our North-Eastern District, we are expending millions on our harbour works, which are not only for the purposes of trade, but will afford protection to life and property at sea. We are practically making harbours of refuge, and we are thereby securing a great national object—quite as important an object in my opinion as the pacification of Ireland. The people of Bann, who are competent to pay for their own works, come to petition for money, and it is pleaded that in addition to the benefit to themselves there is a great public object to be served. We on the North-East Coast can equally plead that by our works, in addition to trade objects, we achieve a great public benefit by affording shelter to life and property at sea from storm. But we do not ask Parliament for any money. The rule has been laid down that in all these matters which are mainly, though not altogether, local, the expenditure shall he local, and it is only on that safe and sure rule that Parliament can act in such matters. Why should we, Liberal and Radical Members, consent to-night to give £20,000, the said £20,000 being the first of hundreds of thousands of pounds to come? We do not mean to assist the Government in any such way. The policy of the Government is a very simple one. They propose to dragoon the Irish people into quietness if they can, and when they have got them into enforced quietness, then to bribe them into friendship if they can. I say deliberately that this is a policy of bribery to Ireland, deliberately conceived and deliberately carried, and bribery at the expense of the British Exchequer. The Chief Secretary is too discreet a man to say everything that is in the soul of the Government. I should like to draw the attention of the House to a very curious speech made some years ago by the noble lord the Member for Paddington. It will hear reconsideration in the light of these Bills: It is high time to pull up. Concede nothing more to Mr. Parnell, either on the land, or on the franchise, or on Local Self Government. We have gone in three short years too far, and we have gone too fast. The hill is very steep, and the drag has not been sufficiently weighted, and unless we take a long pull, the horses will get away from us. Now comes the curious part:— Develop if you like, in any way you may, the material resources of Ireland. Advance public money on the easiest terms for railways, tramways, canals, roads, labourers' dwellings, fisheries, and objects of that kind. We owe the Irish a good deal for our past bad Government. And if we are not stingy there are few injuries, however deep, which money will not cure. Anything more brutally frank as an exposition of policy, I never read in my life. It marked the inward contempt which the noble Lord felt for the people of Ireland. And it is in some such spirit that the right hon. Gentleman proposes his scheme to-night. I am told the Irish Members are not going into the Lobby against this Bill. In fact one of them told the Chief Secretary:— We know you are going to bribe us. We will take your money, but we will bear you no gratitude. That is a cynical confession. It is not a high souled one. It is not one that commends itself to me as that which should be made by public spirited men. If anyone came to any of us in his private capacity and sought to offer a bribe, every sentiment of decency and manliness within us would lead us to reject it. ["No."] Well, then, I will speak for myself. If I were an Irish Member, and such an offer were made to me by the right hon. Gentleman, I would fling his bribe back in his face, and say, "I want nothing more from you except justice and the right to manage our own affairs." I ask myself, what are English Radicals and Liberals going to do? I never have any communication with right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, and I cannot say what course they may take, but I would venture to suggest that this little question should be looked at in the light of a larger question that is coming. If this were a question of £20,000 alone, or of £350,000, or even the whole million, under the five Bills, I might still have been silent. But we all know that these Bills are the beginning of projects which will be matured by-and-bye, with the ultimate result that the British Exchequer will be involved in responsibilities for, perhaps, more than a hundred millions. It has been signalled to us that next year we shall very probably, almost certainly, have an Irish Land Bill, with the object of buying out one set of landlords in order to create another set of landlords, by money to be provided mainly by Great Britain, and to be administered by a Government in antagonism to the people of Ireland. I shall resist the thing from the beginning to the end, knowing what the cost was to the Liberal Party in the election of 1886 of the right hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Gladstone) proposal to advance a large sum of British money for buying out Irish landlords. It was the explanation of many of our defeats, and of our diminished votes in many districts. I trust the lesson taught then may have a good effect, and that now we shall take this early opportunity of resisting this first measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, not merely because it is likely to be inefficient in itself, and to be administered by a Board unelected by and non-representative of the Irish people, but because it is founded on a proposal to give grants from the British Exchequer for purely local objects in Ireland. For these reasons, and not without regret that I have to take the line I have taken, but, nevertheless, in the firm conviction that I am taking the right and just line, which a lover of Ireland and a supporter of the interests of his own country ought to take, I move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "that" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, This House is, under existing circumstances, unwilling to grant further sums from the Imperial Exchequer for local drainage improvements in Ireland"—(Mr. Storey) —instead thereof.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

* MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone)

I think that when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) talked of the amount of money advanced by the British taxpayer, he might have remembered that there is such a thing as an Irish taxpayer, who, after all, has contributed a good deal to the Imperial Exchequer. He has referred to the sum of £38,000,000, of which £7,000,000 had been written off, but most of the £7,000,000 in question were advanced at the time of the famine, and ought to have been given as a grant, and not as a loan. I think the hon. Gentleman has rather misrepresented the Bill, for, had he read it carefully, he would have seen that the new Board it is proposed to set up will consist of a Commission which is to draw up a scheme. This scheme will then be submitted to a Conservancy Board who are to be elected by the people. And what are to be the powers given to that elected body? Why, they will have power over the whole thing, including the sanctioning of the necessary works and their construction. This is not a return to the policy of 1841, as there is no connection between a veto to an elective body and the policy pursued in 1841. The hon. Gentleman would not have objected had the Chief Secretary proposed to make the Drainage Board a political Board. In that case he might have approved of it.




If the Chief Secretary had added the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Armagh, and a Member from below the gangway, the hon. Member for Sunderland would have approved of the Commission; but, for my part, I do not think he would have improved his scheme for the drainage of the Bann by adding the political element to the composition of the Commission. I sailed up the Bann, a distance of about 120 miles, last week, and inspected the works; and whatever hon. Members may say of the Board of Works (and they can hardly make that Board out to be worse than it is, for it has been one of the most striking failures any country ever produced, and had this Bill proposed to trust to that Board I should have been inclined to have opposed it) this much must be said of the navigation works undertaken by that Board, that they are good and substantial, and are in good repair at this moment. The British and the Irish taxpayers should remember that £250,000 has been spent already, and the real question is, whether by a small additional expenditure that is to be made productive? In the district itself two schemes have been talked of. There are many who say they would prefer to have the navigation works swept away, so that the water might have free course, and no further expense be incurred. I am perfectly satisfied that no engineer who has inspected the Bann will be of that opinion, as every engineer who has made the inspection has declared that that would not be sufficient. The other scheme is that which is proposed by the Royal Commission. Well, what is it that it is suggested? It is not proposed to abolish the navigation works; it is intended to leave the locks intact, to widen the river, to erect sluices, and to construct embankments at certain points. I believe the scheme to be a good one, and I believe that the sum of £65,000 which is asked for is not too much to carry out the great work, on which so much has already been spent. I would appeal to the Chief Secretary as to whether he will not re-consider the question of the Shannon, and take from the Board of Works the control it is proposed to give that body, who have botched what they have had to do front the beginning; in fact, I know of no work they have had to do which they have not bungled over and botched, and I would not trust them with any measure of the kind. Believing the scheme, as to the Bill immediately before the House, to be a good one and the cost reasonable, I am glad to support the second reading of the measure.

MR. COSSHAM (Bristol)

I am inclined to look on this proposal from the British taxpayers', and not from the Irish, point of view. The Government policy seems to me to be this—on the one hand to strike the Irish people with a stick, and on the other hand to offer them a bribe. That is a policy which I cannot support, and which I hope the Irish Members will not support. This measure asks only for £65,000; but it is proposed altogether to take £385,000 from the general taxation. Now, I come from a district which suffers a good deal from floods. In the neighbourhood of Bath and Bristol, within the last two or three months, we have had floods which have cost us over £100,000; but we are not stupid enough to come and ask the Government to give us a grant to put right that which we can put right for ourselves. What we object to is that while it may be right to drain the Bann district, the money of the British taxpayer should be asked for that purpose. I am, therefore, here to protest, on behalf of my constituents, against this form of Imperial grant for purely local purposes. Moreover, I believe that this proposal is made very largely in the interest of the Irish landowners, because a scheme for draining their property must be for their benefit. They want first to increase the value of the land and then sell it; while, for my part, I should prefer to see the value of the land run down before we are to be called upon to buy it. That is what the scheme really means, and it may as well be openly stated. The Irish landowners are putting pressure on the Government to spend money in the purchase of their land, and this is a part of the policy that is to be carried out in their interests; but it shall not be carried out this time without being exposed. Every penny of this money is wanted to put cash in the pockets of the Irish landlords, and I hope that the Representatives of the English constituencies will oppose all these schemes tooth and nail. For these reasons I am here to second and support my hon. Friend in the Amendment he has proposed, and which comes before the one I have placed on the Paper. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone that the Irish Board of Works is not to be trusted in regard to these matters, though it is the Shannon Bill and not the present Bill that raises this point. What I object to is the allocation of the British taxpayers' money for purely local objects in Ireland. Scotland would not come here and propose such a scheme; the Scotch people prefer to manage their own affairs in their own way. I trust the House will refuse to give its sanction to a Bill with such an object as that to which I have called attention.

SIR W. EWART (Belfast)

The hon. Member for Sunderland has dwelt on the amount of money that has been lost in works that have been undertaken in Ireland, and I think he has made a great deal too much of that point. It has been said that this money has been lost through bad management—not altogether on the part of the Board of Works—but bad management on the part of those to whom the money was entrusted. Of this we have from time to time heard in this House many notable examples; and I do not think that it can be regarded as any ground for the rejection of this Bill. As to the Board of Commissioners proposed, I think it a very representative Board, and one which I trust will amend all the errors that have been previously committed in regard to these matters in Ireland. I trust that this Bill will pass, and that the works it will authorise may be carried out in a complete and effective manner. I do not concur in the remarks of the hon. Member who last spoke with regard to the British taxpayer, as I am one of those who think that in the past the sum of money spent in Ireland has been altogether out of proportion to the amount spent in England, and that instead of this Bill being a proposal to bribe Ireland it is one for the payment of a debt due to that country. Ireland has had a great deal to struggle against In the olden times—in the days of her manufactures—Ireland had a number of small industries—her iron works and cotton factories, and so forth, but she suffered greatly from the introduction of improvements effected in machinery, and, being unable to avail herself of the progress of mechanical science as England did, she lost nearly all the manufactures which used to give employment to her people, I recollect wall when there was a large cotton trade done in Ireland, but that has been almost done away with by the competition of the English manufacturers; and I cannot blame the Irish people for having failed to keep pace with this country. Again, I would say that something is owing to Ireland on account of Free Trade, for whatever benefits England may have gained from Free Trade in Ireland, which is purely an agricultural country, it has been a source of great injury. I hope the House will pass this measure and those which are to follow it, and that Ireland will be enabled to derive great benefit from them, so that a better state of things may grow up in that country.


The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland has stated that this Bill is put forward in the nature of a bribe, and before I go into the moral question as to whether it is a bribe, I will refer to the material question. Either we are going to receive the grant proposed or not; for my part, I positively deny that it is a grant to Ireland. Let us suppose the whole million in relation to these several schemes is voted by the House. I suppose the hon. Member for Sunderland will agree with me that it cannot be spent in less than five years, which would be at the rate of £200,000 a year for that period. Now although I can quite understand the hon. Member calling this a bribe, I maintain that the money will really come from exclusively Irish funds. The Returns I moved for show that the amount of money paid into the Exchequer in 1882 by Ireland was £8,889,400, of which £7,011,000 was spent in Ireland. But of this £4,000,000 were expended on the Army and Constabulary. No doubt the £200,000 I have referred to would do us a great deal of good, which is more than can be raid for the £4,000,000 spent on the military and police; and if you would only let us have the spirit and tobacco duties for the material improvement of the country, we should not -need to ask you for a half-penny more. Instead of this you say we give you £200,000 a year as a bribe." I deny this altogether, and I say that if we do get these Drainage and Light Railway Bills we shall be merely getting a little of our own money, and spending it in the way we wish it to be spent. But, supposing that instead of spending four millions on the Military and Constabulary in Ireland you only spend two millions, the balance of two millions could be expended in industrial improvements. These are the grounds on which I repudiate the statement that this Bill is a bribe. I do not want to go into the question of gratitude now. I would rather speak of gratitude when the work is done, and when there may be some reason to speak of gratitude. What I say is, if the Government wish to spend so much money, let them spend it in a right direction. I regard this proposal as a considerable step in the right direction—that is to say, they are propos- ing to spend the money in Ireland. The hon. Member for Sunderland offered a patriotic reason why Irishmen should object to this, and said the proposed Board is to be composed of English engineers, with only one Irishman added, and he not an engineer. In my opinion, it would be just as unreasonable to reject this Bill because there is to be a Board mainly constituted of Englishmen, as it would be for my hon. Friend to quarrel with a good dinner because he did not like the nationality of the cook. If the hon. Member for Sunderland were to propose that an Irish National Member and an Irish Conservative Member be added to the Board, I should give him my vote, because I should consider that a move in the right direction. I think it is too much to appoint three English engineers, and that the Government ought to have been content with two. Still, they propose to constitute a Commission, although a faulty one, and I do not think this objection sufficient to warrant us in rejecting a measure which seems to be an eminently practical one. I am willing to take the opinion of the Northern Members on this question of the drainage of the Bann, as to which I have some knowledge, inasmuch as I sat on the Royal Commission on that question. I have heard several Members speak on the matter, and have talked with others representing North of Ireland constituencies, and I have found that, upon the whole, they are in favour of this scheme. In my opinion, taking these Bills as a whole, they ought to be accepted. The hon. Member for Sunderland said the Drainage Act of 1863 was a very good one, and worked advantageously; but he objected to the Acts of 1842 and 1847, because they were not initiated by the Local Authorities, and the money in the case of the 1847 Acts was not always paid. If the hon. Member looks into the matter he will find that in 1847 the drainage works were essentially famine works, instituted for the purpose of keeping the people alive. The system, however, was not a good one, and more money was spent than the people in the famine districts received; and I believe a large portion of the money was balanced against the Income Tax in Ireland, it being said that a good many Irish Members voted on the understanding that there would be a reduction of the Income Tax. I am not well acquainted with the circumstances connected with the works in 1844, but in 1842 they were not merely of a local character, but were connected, as I have said, with the famine. I believe that what has happened in Ireland has been without exception this—that when the drainage schemes have been combined with navigation they have failed; while several schemes which have been referred to drainage alone have been fairly successful. The Chief Secretary for Ireland has swept away a very considerable portion of the navigation works, and so far he has done well; but had he swept away the whole of them he would have done better. I think the Bills may well be amended in Committee. I think it would be a terrible pity if, for political reasons, we were to stop industrial progress in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland is a very sincere friend of the Irish people, although he may be a little too close about money matters. Let me ask him what, supposing nothing is done in Ireland, is to become of the Irish people if you stop all these works? If you prevent the development of our fisheries and of our railways, the population, which is now decreasing at the rate of sixty thousand a year, will continue to diminish, and you may be sure that Ireland will not grow stronger with a diminishing population. We may be able to manage these affairs better when we get a Home Rule Parliament; but surely it would be a pity to stop all industrial progress for three or four years, or until such time as we obtain Home Rule. If we reject these Bills, we shall, if we are honest, have to admit that the Government were determined to do a sensible thing, but that we prevented them doing it. The hon. Member for Cavan has said that any Irish Member would he a fool who refused the million sterling which is now offered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I quite endorse those words. I think we should be very foolish to refuse it, and while accepting it, I think we can fairly go back to our constituencies with the full conviction that those who voted for Home Rule at the last election are not likely, by reason of this expenditure of money, to be inclined to vote against it on a future occasion.

* MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)

I think the Opposition would have been more justifiable if no previous effort had been made by the inhabitants of the districts affected by these Bills to help themselves. But I may point out that the owners and occupiers along the line of the river have already contributed very largely towards the work which it is now proposed to complete. I would ask the House to consider what is the position of the people around the places which are affected by the Bill. They have been fully taxed for some years for the purpose of carrying out the works the non-success of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland attributes entirely to the Irish Board of Works. The hon. Gentleman contended that the Government are now going to tax the English taxpayers for the faults of the Irish Board of Works. It is even a more popular thing, I know, to abuse the Irish Board of Works than to abuse Irish landlords; but I am bound to say that, if the works they have carried out in Ireland have not been entirely a success, it is largely due to the diversity of opinion upon which they have had to act. The Irish Board of Works are not, I repeat, entirely to be blamed. If the blame is to be laid anywhere this House should be blamed. If the Bann Drainage Scheme has been unsuccessful up to the present moment, I may point out that when it was originated, it was not at variance with the Irish public opinion of the time, and if a mistake was made, then the Irish Board of Works made it in accordance with the best engineering advice which was to be got at the moment. There was at one time a general desire to combine drainage and navigation, but that experiment has proved injurious to all interests. Had the Government attempted, in regard to the Bann, to continue this dual system of drainage and navigation, I should have been obliged to offer the Bill my strongest opposition. I myself am closely identified with a large proportion of the district in question, and have examined very closely as to what is the local opinion there. I have been over the whole course of the lower Bann, and while I can say with regard to the whole scheme that it met with the general approval of men of every section of political opinion, I admit that there really is a difference of opinion as to the question of retaining the locks. On the one hand we have the opinion of the people who live along the banks, and who have no practical engineering knowledge, and that opinion is to the effect that the object of the scheme would be secured if all the locks and the obstructions at present existing were cleared away. On the other hand, we have the opinion of engineers that something must be done beyond clearing away locks. Whether the engineers are right, or whether there is something to be said for local opinion, I have not been able to make up my mind, and the questions are such as the House need not discuss at this moment. They do not effect the decision which the House is asked to come to, and they might well be reserved till the Bills are considered in Committee. One of the hon. Gentlemen opposite has based his objection to the scheme on the profit which he apparently sees accruing in the distance to the Irish landlord. He is mistaken. Whatever the benefit may be it will not increase the value of the landlord's property one farthing. Speaking on behalf of a large number of occupying tenants who have recently suffered very severely from the flooding of the Bann and who have often so suffered, I beg the hon. Gentleman to reconsider the opinion he has rather too hastily formed. I entirely repudiate any suggestion as to bribery with regard to the measure. The fact is that men in these districts have been induced to make a large outlay because Parliament has directly guaranteed certain results. Those results have never been realized. I do not blame anyone for that, but I think the Chief Secretary is now only asking Parliament to deal justly, and in the least generous manner with the men in question.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)

The hon. Member who last spoke, referring to the Board of Works, expressed au opinion that that body in dealing with the schemes placed under its control paid attention to local opinion, but I would venture to remark that instead of paying any such attention, this Board of Works has most conscientiously ignored and defied such opinion.


I meant to say that it had done so in some cases.


Perhaps the hon. Member knows some member of the Board of Works. That is exactly what often happens. A member of this loyal minority is acquainted with a member of the Board of Works, and is able to get what he wants out of that body. My experience is that the Board has not shown in the past the slightest respect for Irish opinion. The hon. Member has also said that he could not conceive a worse place than the British House of Commons for the discussion of measures of this description. I congratulate him on having taken the first step towards Home Rule, and if he will only pursue that train of thought, I feel confident that his magnificent intellect will lead him to that conclusion. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland referred to me to-night in the course of his speech in somewhat denunciatory terms. He remarked that what I said on the Second Reading was not what a sense of decency would prompt. Well what I said on that occasion I stand by, and I intend to repeat it to-night. I shall ask him to tell the House what would be said of us if we Nationalist Members opposed these Bills. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us he was going to-conquer the Nationalist Party in Ireland, by these means. Well, I challenge him to do his best in that direction. We-accept these Bills, but we are confirmed in our belief that the right hon. Gentleman, with all his bribes and promises, will not win a single. Constituency from the Nationalist Party We have had an election in Ireland even since the introduction of these Bills. That election took place in South-East Cork, and what, I should like to know, has become of the loyal minority in that division? The Chancellor of the Exchequer's promises and bribes certainly did not induce anyone to come forward on behalf of the Government to contest that seat. The hon. Member for Sunderland has suggested that the question of honour arises in connection with this matter, but does he not think that as between us and the British Government, we might, as Lady Teazle said, "leave honour out of the question." We are at war with the present Government; we intend to live upon it. We will take all we can get, but we will not give them a bit of thanks, and I say that instead of its being dishonourable, it is honourable on our part to warn the Government that if they were to spend 20 millions or 200 millions it would have no effect. The result will be precisely the same as if they had spent nothing at all. And when I look at the causes which have produced these schemes I cannot feel any gratitude. What has produced them? I have not the least hesitation in saying that they have been produced by the disturbance and agitation which have been going on in Ireland. Now, Sir, there is a harbour in the county of Dublin, which would take only £4,000 to put into repair. It is a very valuable harbour for the neighbourhood, and yet the people there cannot get a single penny towards the cost of repairing it, simply because there has been no agitation and no disturbance in the county of Dublin. If there had been such disturbance and agitation, you would have had the catchment area of the Liffey added to the other districts in Ireland to be drained, whether it wanted draining or not, and most certainly if there had been disturbance and agitation in the neighbourhood of Rush, where this harbour is situated, that harbour would have been attended to two years ago. It is for these reasons that I cannot feel any gratitude to the Government for these Bills. But there is also another reason why we should feel no gratitude, and that is that England owes an untold amount of debt to Ireland for the destruction of Irish industries and commerce in the past. The story of the destruction of these industries is only too familiar, and the Chief Secretary has spared me the necessity of repeating it, for he has admitted, in the most generous terms, that there has not been in history a more iniquitous act than the suppression from time to time of the industries in Ireland. The third reason why I can feel no gratitude for these Bills is that they are produced as an alternative policy to Home Rule. They are part of the price which this House has to pay for the Union. If we had Home Rule in Ireland we should have to pay for these works out of Irish money. As long as we are governed by the people of England, or rather, by a portion of the people of England, so far as I am concerned, and I believe I speak the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people, we will not pay a stiver for anything; we will make you pay. I have no notion, however, of opposing these Bills. If they proposed to spend one hundred millions I would not oppose them. I would take the money from you, and I would not give you any thanks whatever, and under these circumstances I cannot support the Amendment of my hon. Friend.

MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

I rise with the greatest satisfaction to renew my opposition to this idiotic policy of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which is worthy of the man who has imbrued his hands in the blood of the Irish people, and who rejoices—


Order, order! That expression is not Parliamentary, and I must call on the hon. Member to withdraw it.


I did not mean to say that, physically speaking, the right hon. Gentleman has done so, but I meant that in view of the numerous murders by the Irish Constabulary, which have every one of them been condoned in this House by the Chief Secretary, I am justified in using the expression metaphorically.


Order, order The hon. Gentleman must withdraw it.


Of course withdraw the metaphorical expression. The right hon. Gentleman having made himself directly responsible by condoning the action of the Constabulary on many occasions, now comes forward with a direct bribe, which, he thinks, the Irish people are fools enough to welcome and accept. I hope, if he has entertained that idea, the speech we have just listened to will have dispelled it. Now, I have consistently and repeatedly opposed these proposals, and I shall continue to do so so long as the Chief Secretary permits me to be at liberty, which, I suppose, he will not do long and I shall explain to the House presently the reasons why I oppose these proposals for robbing the British taxpayers and bribing the Irish people. Last year my opposition was practically single-handed. What it might have been if it had not been for the unconstitutional method by which the closure— —


Order, order The hon. Member is aware he is now entering on a subject which, under any circumstances, is one of great difficulty; but it is quite out of order inasmuch as he has a notice on the Paper in reference to it. I must ask the hon. Member to direct his attention to the Bill before the House, and not to wander into needless and offensive irrelevancies.


I do not propose to wander into any needless irrelevancies. I was pointing out that last year my opposition was single-handed, and I was explaining—(Mr. Deputy Speaker signified his disapproval.) Well, I will not refer further to the circumstances of last year. However, Sir, I am glad you have reminded the House that my Motion is still on the Paper. I hope it will continue there until I have obtained an opportunity to introduce it. I was going to say I am glad that the opposition which I carried on single handed last year in the face of great difficulties is no longer left entirely as a burden upon my shoulders. At any rate, to-night we have had the satisfaction of hearing several vigorous speeches against this wretched policy of the Government from hon. Members on this side, and although our Front Bench are not setting us the example of protecting the British taxpayer's pocket, which I should have expected from them and which we might have hoped from them, I apprehend that Liberal and Radical Members who do not sit on the Front Bench will not waver in support of our principles on that account, but will all the more strenuously oppose these Bills at every stage and in every way the forms of the House will permit us. Perhaps it is owing to the occurrences of last year that Radicals are beginning to wake up to what is wrapped up in these Bills. Perhaps Members opresenting British constituencies, who do not care to squander their taxes for the benefit of the Irish landlords, are beginning to receive intimations from their constituents that they had better be in their places and oppose these measures. Another thing which shows the remarkable difference in the attitude taken up in these Bills this year from the attitude which was taken up last year, is that it is no longer intimated that this is a question for Irish Members to discuss, and that if Irish Members do not discuss or show any disposition to discuss these Bills it is not for British Members to do so. Whatever my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) may say, we have to find this money, and if we have to pay the piper it is only reasonable we should call the tune, or at any rate, do what we can to prevent the tune being called. Last year it was thought a sufficiently complete answer to us that Irish Members had discussed the matter and that no English Members need open their mouths. On this occasion we have shown we do intend to open our mouths, and I hope there will be no lack of English, Welsh, and Scotch Members to protect their constituents from this specious robbery which is being practised upon them by the Chief Secretary. Before going further I desire to say that my Amendment to the First Reading of the Bann Bill was withdrawn without my knowledge or sanction. It has been said I withdrew the Amendment at the dictation of and in order to please my hon. Friend the Member for Cork, the Leader of the Irish Party. I had no communication with the hon. Gentleman, and that my bon. Friend the Member for Cavan seconded the Amendment was due I believe to the fact that there was no Liberal or Radical Members in the House at the time. I did not think, though my hon. Friend seconded the Amendment, that he was in favour of it, because I rather inferred he like other Irish Members was in favour of getting all the money he could from the British taxpayer. Now, I venture to thank the Chief Secretary for the distinguished honour he did me by making an attack upon me in the speech he recently delivered at Portsmouth. The right hon. Gentleman argued that I am always ready to go over to Ireland to advocate the Plan of Campaign, but that whenever his Party proposes any measures of relief for the benefit of the Irish tenants I am always the first to oppose and thwart their beneficent designs. The hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), too, has accused us on this side of not being the true friends of Ireland. I am quite content to take the opinion of the Irish people upon that point. But in reply to the Chief Secretary I wish to say that although I am at all times disposed to support my approval of the Plan of Cam- paign, I have gone to Ireland, not to break down proposals for arbitration, as the hon. Member for South Hunts (Mr. Smith Barry) has done, but with the honest desire to try and ascertain what are the facts in regard to this and other matters upon which the House will be called upon to form its judgment. Certainly I cannot be accused of having caused infinite harm, distress, and suffering, and even the deaths of many innocent persons, by pursuing a detest able, invidious, and effete policy. Why should the British taxpayer be called upon to pay this large sum of money for Irish drainage? I take my stand in opposing these Bills on sound principles of finance accepted on both sides of the House. Before the Chancellor of the Exchequer became a Protectionist and a Tory he was, I believe, at one in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. I may say the same of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). I believe that those eminent authorities were agreed upon the principle that where undertakings are required for local purposes it is not a sound financial principle that public money should be granted as a free gift to the Local Authorities for such a purpose. In May, 1885, I was one of a deputation from Cornwall who waited upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who was then President of the Board of Trade, respecting the construction of harbours of refuge. The deputation pointed out that Cornwall was a very poor county, that it was almost in as bad a condition as some parts of Ireland, and that we ought to have, at any rate, the easiest terms possible for loans for the purpose of erecting harbours of refuge. I think we went so far as to suggest that we were entitled to free gifts. The right hon. Gentleman scouted the idea, and said it was a most improper principle that any free gifts out of the taxpayer's pocket should be lavished upon local works. Our case was much stronger than that of these drainage schemes, for harbours of refuge would be of benefit to the whole country, and even to the whole world. Who in this country will benefit one cent by the lavishing of any number of thousands or millions sterling upon the River Bann? It is not suggested by the right hon. Gentleman himself that these works are necessary in the interest of Englishmen, Scotchmen, or Welshmen. One of the reasons assigned for the proposed expenditure is that the Board of Works have blundered so much in the past that we ought to make good some of the money squandered and wasted. I maintain that that is no reason at all, and that we have no right to pay this money unless it can be proved it is essential in the interest of the United Kingdom as a whole. That has not been proved, and I unhesitatingly say it never can be proved. Last year a deputation asked the President of the Board of Trade (Sir M. Hicks Beach) for a grant of £250,000 to carry out the most important work of improving the harbour of Holyhead. The right hon. Baronet scouted the idea that money could be granted out of the Exchequer for any such purpose. I want to know upon what grounds, which would satisfy reasonable and intelligent men, you can admit to-day you should do that for particular districts of Ireland which you refuse to do for portions of Great Britain, which do not ask it simply in the interest of particular local and circumscribed areas, but for the benefit of the whole of the United Kingdom? If I were arguing this matter from a Party point of view, I would be glad the Government were introducing these measures, because I know they will cost them the loss of many votes at the next election, but I am not arguing it from a merely obstructive and partizan standpoint. I am arguing it in the interest of those whom I am in duty bound to represent to the best of my power in this House. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) told us that he spent last week in cruising up and down one of the rivers. If he had spent his time in advocating these precious measures in England he would probably have got a little enlightenment, and been able to assist his dear friends on the Treasury Bench. If he had taken the trouble to address English, Scotch, and Welsh meetings, as I have done, he would have realized the fact that there is a strong feeling of antagonism to this proposal to lavish British money upon objects which have nothing whatever to do with the interests of our constituents, and which is solely intended as a bribe to the Irish people, and to improve the position of Irish landlords. We have crying wants in this country. We have enormous arrears to make up in the way of developing the local resources of different parts of our country. In my own constituency there are thousands of acres of land which only need the expenditure of capital upon them to bring great resources to the State. From that point of view I might properly argue that such a work would be of material importance as increasing and extending the resources of our own country. When I was a candidate for the representation of Wick, I realized the great difficulty the people of that district had in raising loans from the Government for the purpose of carrying on the necessary harbour works there. Throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain you find that if it is a question of free gifts of public money, there are any number of claims which ought to be satisfied before thousands and millions of pounds are thrown into the laps of Irish landlords. But we do not ask for them, at least we do not at present. I do not pledge myself that we shall not ask for them, if in order to get yourselves out of a scrape you will lavish our money upon projects with which we have nothing whatever to do. But there is another ground on which we shall be justified in asking for free gifts. The present Government always boast that their policy is based upon a just and equitable application of similar loans to both countries. If you are so proud of that policy, act upon it in respect to public works in England as well as in Ireland. Either grant us the sums of public money as free grants which we require in this country when you are doing the same for Ireland, or else refuse to Ireland, as you refuse us, any grants out of the public Exchequer. That is an intelligible policy, but the policy of the Government is neither intelligible, just, or safe. There is another reason why we should bestir ourselves to get these Bills rejected or else to limit the output of English sovereigns as much as possible. The hon. Member for South Tyrone told us just now that we have to consider whether all the previous expenditure has to be thrown away, or whether the present works shall be maintained for making a free grant in the way suggested. The same argument will be put forward next year, the year after- wards, and 10 years hence. In the Memorandum the Chief Secretary has affixed to the Bill, we react that the works executed between 1846 and 1861 cost £261,000, of which £103,000 was the amount of a free gift from Parliament. Now, we are asked for another £20,000, and are told that the estimated cost of new works will cost £65,000. I should be inclined to say to this, "stuff and nonsense!" The right hon. Gentleman must know these estimates are bogus affairs, and if he has not had experience of the estimates of engineers and architects we have, and we know from experience in similar cases that this estimate of £65,000 is likely to be trebled or quadrupled. It is pursuing an insane policy of throwing good money after bad, and so long as I can make my voice heard against the project I will do so. Why should we sully our hands with this attempt to bribe the Irish people? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it will not have the effect he expects in tranquillizing and pacifying Ireland. The Irish people are not so foolish as to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage on the very eve of entering upon their inheritance. At the moment when the eloquence of the greatest orator and statesman of the age is enlisted at the head of a great Party to bring to a determination the struggle of centuries the Irish people are not to be blinded with English gold. The Irish people will be satisfied with nothing short of that National Parliament which they claim, and which they will have before the right hon. Gentleman is many years older. And, moreover, the moment when Home Rule is granted, and the curse of landlordism has been got rid of, there will be an influx of capital from all parts of the world into Ireland, so that there will be no difficulty in raising the necessary money for public works. There are many successful Irishmen in the Colonies who, when Home Rule is established, will be glad to return to Ireland and devote their time and money to the development of the resources of their native country. When I was travelling in South Africa, I made the acquaintance of many sad men, and I could mention forty families in Port Elizabeth alone, who are ready to return and settle with their capital in Ireland under Home Rule. That being so, the statesmanlike and economical way of dealing with a subject such as this is to leave it to be dealt with by the Irish people, and with Irish capital, not to rob the British taxpayer, and bribe the Irish people against Home Rule. I am not surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) should have spoken strongly in favour of the Bill, though I do not admit the soundness of his arguments. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) should have charged Irish Members with accepting a bribe. They are justified, considering the way in which their country has been treated in the past, their people ill-used and robbed, in accepting everything this House is foolish enough to vote for them. I certainly should do so if I were an Irish Member, and I hope that Irish Members will, out of kindly consideration for us, abstain from voting with Ministers, or if they prudently wait and avoid evil communication, refrain from voting at all. Let not the hon. Member for South Belfast indulge in any hope of the co-operation of all parties. What the action of the Front Bench may be, I do not know, but I give hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite full warning that we who represent the Radical sentiment in the country intend to divide on all these Bills, and to offer the greatest possible opposition to them seriatim. I am sure that there are many Members opposite who in their hearts would wish to do the same, and they will have to settle accounts with their constituents for not doing so. I cannot blame Irish Members if, considering the way in which their countrymen have been brutally ill-used and robbed in the past, they accept every penny they can get out of the British Exchequer. The action of the Irish Members, whatever it may be on this matter, will not offend us. I do not care whether they vote with us or against us, or abstain from voting; but if they take my advice they will walk out of the House and not vote at all. To go into the Lobby with the Government may not be very good for their morals, and I cannot ask them to vote against what they think is for the interest of their constituents. But the arguments of my hon. and gallant Friend do not convince me. He tried to argue that this is only a portion of the money that belongs to Ireland, and quoted figures in support of that view. But I join issue with him. The money will be spent, in addition to all the expenditure absorbed, and which will still go on in the maintenance of 30,000 troops and 15,000 constabulary for throttling Irish liberties. This will be a million sterling in addition to all that has been nefariously filched from us for destroying, exterminating, murdering our Irish fellow subjects. I do not like bloodshed at any time, but my objection is increased when it is conducted at our expense. I have dwelt on the powerful points of objection to this Bill, but there is one that might be more clearly brought out. With regard to the Bann Drainage Bill, the Bann is not a river that runs through a particularly poverty-stricken district on behalf of which an appeal ad misericordiam might be made. It runs through Ulster, which we are constantly told is the wealthiest and the only prosperous part of Ireland. If the Bill affected Dunfanaghy or such wretched districts as those in Donegal, where Mr. Olphert is doing his best to restore the desert solitude that reigned when his predecessors gave £300 for the property some two centuries ago, there might be something to be said for it. If hon. Members opposite will assure me that the poverty of the district through which the Bann runs requires this assistance, I will offer no opposition; but I know they cannot maintain such an absurd proposition. We know this part of Protestant Ulster is held up to us as a sort of Irish Eden, and an example of what all Ireland might be but for wicked Land Leaguers and professional political agitators. If there is money to be granted from the British Exchequer for any such purpose, let us have a proposal to devote the assistance to the wretched and miserable districts that need it, not to wealthy and prosperous Ulster. This policy of taking money from the English Exchequer for Ireland is another direct violation of the pledges which nearly every one of the hon. Members opposite gave at the last election. But we are so accustomed to these violations of pledges that they are scarcely worth mentioning. It has been shadowed forth that you are going to pursue the evil practice instituted by Lord Ashbourne's Land Purchase Act. We pointed out the violation of pledges in that case, and if there was one thing more than another that brought our opponents in power it was opposition to the advance of large sums of money for the purchase of Irish land. Go back to the electors now, and proclaim as qualifications for their confidence that in November you voted £5,000,000 for the Irish landlords, without security, under the extension of Lord Ashbourne's Act; and, if this Bill passes, that you have given another £20,000 to the people of Ulster, who do not want it, but as a bribe against Home Rule and a sop to the landlords. You are ever ready to boast of your popular mandate to maintain the Union; can you claim any mandate for taking the money of the English taxpayers to benefit the Irish landlords, or, indeed, Irish tenants either? You deliberately go back from your election pledges, and, from a Party point of view, we should rejoice, knowing what the judgment of the constituencies will be when the day of reckoning comes

* MR. R. T. O'NEILL (Antrim, Mid)

It is not my intention to make any lengthy remarks because, up to the present,. Representatives for Ireland appear to be in favour of the Bill, and I think I may say, without contradiction, that all Irish Members on this side of the House are prepared to support it.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Mr. Deputy Speaker counted, and 40 Members being present,


I will not go into the motives that have actuated the Government in bringing forward the Bill, though several hon. Members who have preceded me have attributed the Bill to motives of an unworthy character. I speak only of the Bann scheme, of which only I know anything among this group of Bills. It has over and over again been stated that this money is to be advanced as a bribe to Ireland. Well, I suppose a bribe implies that some service is to be rendered in return, but there can be no such effect in the district through which the Bann flows. That part of the country is inhabited by people who are distinctly prosperous and loyal, and those who dwell near the catchment basin of Lough Neagh require no bribe to support Her Majesty's present Government, and a bribe of fifty times that amount would not tempt them to support Home Rule. Then another reason alleged for the Bill is that it will assist the landlords who, as one hon. Member said, were actuated with a desire to exterminate their unfortunate tenants; and another hon. Member found in the scheme a means of enhancing the value of the land preparatory to the introduction of a great purchase scheme. But this is a perfectly untenable position; for whatever benefit the country may get from the Bill, certainly the landlords will not derive a penny from it. If this grant is made and the money given, the benefit will be reaped by the occupying tenants, not by the landlords. Yet another reason alleged for the Bill is that it is brought forward in response to local agitation. Now, I can speak for the inhabitants of the Lough Neagh district, and say there has been no agitation whatever amongst them. Any gentle pressure that might have been exercised would have been in favour of carrying out to perfection the works originally constructed and so badly carried out by the Board of Works that they do not effect the objects with which they were undertaken. I support the Bill most heartily, but for none of the reasons mentioned by hon. Members. In the first place, I honestly believe that it will be of very great use to the country that now suffers, and occasionally suffers very severely, from excessive floods in wet seasons. There was an immense amount of money spent some 30 years ago—I think £264,000 in all—to prevent these losses from floods; but, unfortunately, the system adopted combined navigation with drainage, and the result has not been successful. I have for a great number of years been a member of the Lough Neagh Drainage Trustees, and, therefore, I am in a position to say that the fact of the works being placed under two Boards has acted very injuriously for the public. That part of the works connected with drainage has been under the control of the Lough Neagh Trustees, and they have the power of levying a rate upon landlords for the maintenance of the works over a very large district—I think an area of 1,800 square miles. Now, the only outlet from Lough Neagh is through the Lower Bann, and only this way can the water flow down. But, unfortunately, the control of the Lower Bann has been put into the hands of the Navigation Board, and this Board contended that they have no interest whatever in the drainage, and are concerned only with the navigation. So when they discovered there was really no navigation on the Lower Bann, the Navigation Trustees were naturally loth to spend money on that object, and by degrees the channel of the Lower Bann was allowed to silt up to such an extent that it seriously interfered with the drainage of the catchment basin of Lough Neagh. Twice I have joined in deputations to Lords Lieutenants on this subject—once when Lord Marlborough held office, and again during Lord Spencer's second Viceroyalty—to see what steps could be taken to oblige the Navigation Trustees to fulfil what we considered their duty. They at first rejected all responsibility connected with drainage. They said, "We will keep the river open for navigation." I cannot say they did, for there was no navigation. Certainly, I remember a very small steamer, called The Kitty of Coleraine, used to ply between Toome and Coleraine; but nobody ever went by her, because 9 times out of 10 she stuck on the mud of Lough Neagh and did not complete her voyage. The navigation, in fact, is an absolute failure, and I heartily support a Bill to sweep away the useless Navigation Board and its charge on the county cess of Antrim and Derry. I support the Bill also for the reason I have hinted at, that instead of having control divided between two Boards whose interests were often in conflict, the control will, by the Bill, be vested in a Board elected by those whose interest it will be to see the work properly and carefully carried out. There is a strong reason that influences me in supporting the Bill, that the works constructed by the expenditure of the large amount of £264,000 are now of little or no use; but the opinion of competent engineers is that with this further expenditure of £65,000 these works can be made most useful and productive. To gain this end the money will be thoroughly well spent. I will not occupy the time of the House any further because, as I have said, Irish opinion is practically unanimous. The only opposition comes from a section of English Members, who plead the interest of the British taxpayers. But as the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) has well remarked, it is right the money should come back to Ireland occasionally, when so much Irish money is expended on English objects.

MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)

When we have before us such a group of Bills as this, I think it is essential that we should at the outset try to ascertain, if we can, what the policy of the Government is in regard to this great financial question. We know that the Government rode into office upon declarations made almost universally by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen on this side, that it is an unsound and a profligate course to devote money from the Imperial Exchequer or Irish to other local purposes. Hansard and the local newspapers of this country are scattered with declarations, with assertions, with strong utterances on the part of hon. Gentlemen that they would have nothing to do with such an expenditure. Well, the Government, we understood, were about to treat the affairs of Ireland in precisely the same spirit and manner as the affairs of Great Britain were treated. There was to be no coercion; but equal treatment was to be accorded in every respect to all parts of the United Kingdom, and I think we ought not to be surprised that the Government, having turned their backs on their own declaration as to no coercion, should have found themselves under the necessity of making some attempt to conciliate Ireland. Therefore it was that last Session we had sprung upon us the measure they brought in at the last moment, and it is my belief that the Supplementary Session was created for the purpose of bringing forward what is known as the Ashbourne Act. We are now asked to make a grant of £380,000, accompanied by loans on very easy terms, all of which will probably prove to be money thrown away out of the National Exchequer. We are told that all this is being done in the interests of the tenants. Supposing this were true—and I do not admit that it is—I would point out that the money is only to be given to certain parts of Ireland. If equal justice is to be done to all parts of Ireland, enormously larger sums must be given. Why should money be given merely for the sake of assisting particular localities? As to the River Bann, no one has ventured on the other side of the House to say that the case stands on its own merits, as shown by the poverty and distress of the people. What are the facts? We have heard that £360,000 has been usefully spent on a scheme which was of no benefit to those it was originally intended to advantage, and that now a further sum of £65,000 is needed to make the scheme complete. And here I would ask why is the scheme not undertaken by those who will derive the benefit? Surely the small supplementary sum which is now to be handed over might have been provided from Irish resources, and there might have been some evidence of public spirit on the part of those persons in Ireland who are always loyal and always boasting of their loyalty. We have been told that Ulster needs no bribe, and that loyal Ulster will never accept a bribe; but, in my opinion, the loyalty of Ulster can never be depended upon unless it is bribed by the continual making over of grants of public money. Now, I think the House of Commons is called on by a sense of public duty to inquire where this policy is likely to lead us. Her Majesty's Government have attempted no general justification of their scheme. My conviction is that the Government feel they dare not rely on coercion exclusively, and find themselves at length obliged to resort to the schemes for the purpose of conciliating Ireland. It has been said that Irish feeling is almost unanimous in favour of this Bill; but so far from regarding that as a sound and safe argument in favour of these proposals, I regard it with great doubt and suspicion. What do hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House say? Why, they say "Instead of doing the work ourselves, instead of copying the example of England and Scotland, we must fall back on the public money if these schemes are to be carried out." But on this side of the House the Members of the National Party put it in the most impartial way, and say—"We will take all the money the House is disposed to grant us; but so far from being conciliated thereby, we simply accept it on the ground that it will introduce public money into Ireland, and somebody must get the benefit of it." I must say that, in my opinion, we could not teach a more immoral and dangerous lesson to the Irish people; and if there are no further reasons in its favour, I would offer my most strenuous opposition not only to this Bill, but also to the Bills by which it is to be followed. But I have another reason by which I justify myself in opposing these Bills. We are told that next Session a Local Government Bill for Ireland is to be introduced. Well, Sir, there is a Local Government Bill on the Table of the House at this moment, and in the case of Scotland, to which that Bill relates, the Government dared not have made any such proposals as are contained in these Irish Bills. Had they attempted it every Scotchman in this House would have said—"Leave these questions, which exclusively affect Scotland, as matters to be dealt with by Scotland, when she has the power of managing her own affairs." For my part, I only see in these proposals another argument on the part of the Government against conferring on Ireland the management of her own affairs. We have an almost uniform experience to warn us as to the action we ought to take on these matters. The Government have been obliged to admit that they can no longer rely on that broken reed the Irish Board of Works. And, forsooth, they are introducing a new authority into Ireland to manufacture these schemes and to carry them out. But it has been urged by the hon. Member for South Tyrone that there is some popular control permitted in regard to these four schemes. What really is the character of that control? The Government says—"You must either have this scheme or nothing." This new Board really sets up the schemes, and gives Hobson's choice to the people of Ireland, and says—"Take this or nothing." In my judgment, we are putting the cart before the horse in this proposed legislation. However good the schemes may be—though I should say there is not a particle of value in them—I would suggest that they be postponed until the Irish people have been consulted in the first instance, and until power is given, through a Local Government Act in Ireland, to initiate and carry out schemes of this character. I want to know how far this process of demoralizing the Irish people is to go? If Ireland is to be treated as are other parts of the Empire, why should she not be responsible for the carrying out of these mea- sures? Things cannot be worse than they have been. You have spent money largely in Ireland, and your schemes have almost universally failed. Things have come to that pass that I think it time to try a radical change. Our universal practice in England is to insist on local initiation and local control over all these schemes. We know well that it is impossible for any Board to succeed unless they gather round them local influence and feeling. It is urged that suffering is caused on the banks of these rivers by floods. But in England and Scotland I could point to a thousand instances where the people would be infinitely more benefited by an outlay of this character than in Ireland, and for not more than the amount suggested under these Bills. How many people in this country are driven from their occupation by mines being flooded? In the Forest of Dean, for instance, which is national property, judicious pumping near the underground water would lay bare immense quantities of coal, and it would be possible to give employment for generations, besides largely increasing the national wealth. But who dare to propose to the Government to spend money for such an object? Why should we be deterred from mentioning these things in the House where Great Britain is concerned, and pass over without criticism or opposition these unsound schemes regarding Ireland? I can only say that, in my judgment, the Government will get nothing for the trouble it has taken in this matter. There are a few Gentlemen in this House who have a particular purpose to serve, and who desire to retain popularity with their constituents, who will support these measures. But there are independent Members, not representing Irish constituencies nor the landlords, who feel that they must act as guardians of the general purse of the country, and they enter their protest against this policy. I cannot conceive where these proposals are to end. Is one single scheme of light railways going to satisfy their demands? Are a few hundreds of thousands of pounds going to satisfy Irish demands? All I can say is that the probable result will be that you will have increased demands, and that you will find the Govern- ment demoralized and compromised, and that the public purse will be again applied to, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be involved. Before the right hon. Gentleman changed sides there was no stouter champion against the whole of these doubtful financial schemes. At present I do not suppose there is a Gentleman to be found on the other side, notwithstanding the pledges to constituents, who will have the courage and consistency to vote against this Bill. My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Nolan), whenever there is a proposal to spend public money in Ireland, is always in favour of it. [Colonel NOLAN: We do not get our share.] My hon. and gallant Friend always insists that Ireland does not get her share. In some respects that may be true; but I cannot think that the Irish Members are taking a wise course, or one calculated to strengthen the good feeling of this country towards Ireland, when they say—"We accept English money." [Colonel NOLAN: It is Irish-money.] The hon. and gallant Gentleman calls it Irish money. I think that is rather an Irish way of putting it An hon. Member, who is no longer in this House, used to point out that spirits were made in Ireland and consumed-in England and Scotland. [Colonel NOLAN: Tea is made in England.] Unfortunately the proportion of tea sent to Ireland is very small. The amount of spirits sent out of Ireland is consumed in Great Britain. It is true that only a minority on the present occasion are in-opposition, but they have the merit of consistency. We are opposing that which we believe to be injurious to Ireland. We are going into the Lobby against Gentlemen who, if they adhered to their declarations, would be obliged to follow us; and our only consolation is that the day is not very far distant when they must stand before their constituents weighted by broken pledges and plied with questions as to the inconsistent course they had pursued. The opponents of this Bill have strongly maintained from the first to the last that the Second Reading should not be allowed until the Government have given some undertaking that they are not going to open the floodgates of extensive bribery to the Irish people, but that they are going to put some limit to the expenditure. We want to know that limit, and where they are going to stop. If they give indication that they will go no further then we will ask why they have begun a policy of this kind, conferring special benefits on limited parts of Ireland without being prepared to go very mud further, and treating the country with equality.

MR. J. W. PHILLIPS (Lanark, Mid)

I rise to speak upon this Bill from the point of view of one of the Member for Great Britain. I rise to defend the interests of my own constituents, and to ask why we should assist the landowners and tenants of Ulster? I should very much like to advocate the plan of building workmen's dwellings all over Great Britain; or Parliament may be asked to spend small sums on co-operation as an experiment. But the present proposal is not an experiment. Money has been spent time after time in draining the bed of this river. No good has been done, except for the first ten years. These ten years seem to show outsiders that precious little good could be done after wards. Experiments having failed, we are asked to pay for another—a plan of drainage that is to be complete in itself. In former times, when we have had to pay money to benefit the landlords or tenants, it has been by way of loan and interest upon it. Here we are asked for £65,000, £20,000 of which is to be a simple gift. We have been asked to do this for Ulster, which is described as rich and indisputably the most prosperous part of Ireland. Why, there are representatives of Ulster who could subscribe the £120,000 amongst them. Who are going to benefit by the Bill? If the tenants are to benefit, why should they not pay? Is this to be a mere alteration of the scenery of the Bann, or is it to do permanent good to the agriculture of the district? Will each 20s. to be spent be represented by an improvement to the extent of 20s.? We have not had yet the statement from a single Member of the Government whether or not this expenditure will be remunerative. We shall be told that we are opposing the interests of the poor tenants. I do not' know the condition of the tenants of the district, but I know this—that we are constantly being told that the tenants of the mountainous districts are very poor, and that they have often had to carry soil to improve their holdings on the desolate hillsides. It is not the tenants who have holdings on the bare mountain sides who are to have their farms improved. I think it is the rich tenants and the landowners who are going to be benefited, and I should like to hear some Member of the Government show us how the poor tenants will be benefited. And, again, are we to obtain 20s. worth of value for every 20s. that will be expended under these Bills? If we are not, I would suggest that it is a very poor policy, indeed, to spend money on drainage when we cannot get a remunerative return. If it is only wanted to give employment for labour, why not build a breakwater, and reclaim land from the sea? There are many places around the coast where this could be done; but it is not done because people know they cannot get 20s. worth of land for every 20s. they have to spend. If, however, the expenditure under these Bills is to be remunerative, where is the hardship in asking either the tenants or the landlords to pay? Why should anybody else pay for them? I have a great suspicion that the landlord is the person who is going to get the benefit of this Bill; and during my experience in this House, I have frequently noticed that landlords seldom come forward to advocate anything in the interests of the tenants unless they themselves are also likely to reap some benefit. The landlords in this case will gain, because the improved value of the holdings will give them increased security for their rent, which is a first charge upon the holdings. But they will also gain indirectly in another way. One of my hon. Friends who preceded me has spoken of this as being a bribe by the Government to the people of Ireland. I do not think it can possibly be imagined that the expenditure of a few hundred thousand pounds will have any appreciable effect on the Irish Vote, or gain many votes for the present Government. But I believe this scheme is rather offered as a salve to the consciences of the people of this country. The English people have had to put up with evictions, although they did not like them, and the Government, having terrorized the people of Ireland and enabled the landlords to grind exorbitant rents out of them, now come forward and suggest that they are willing to do as much good now as they have done harm in the past. I protest against the people being called upon to pay, first, for the stick, and then for the jam. We pay for the Judges, the Magistrates, and the policemen by whom Ireland is governed, and by whom the Irish landowners are enabled to wring the rents out of the tenants, and now the British taxpayer is to give the jam which is to console the Irish tenant. A great Liberal wit, speaking in past times of a Conservative Minister, said he was trying to play the Good Samaritan without possessing either the oil or the twopence. Well, the Irish landowners are somewhat in the same position. They have first knocked down the tenant, evicted him, and robbed him, and now they come here and try to force us to supply them with the oil and the twopence with which to heal the victim's wounds. I call that playing the Good Samaritan on the cheap. We are always being asked to do something or other for the benefit of the Irish landowners, and I think it is now time that more attention was paid to the case of the tenants. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, when he was speaking a night or two ago on the proposal to use arbitration as a substitute for the law, said he "would sooner break stones on the road." What an awful threat! I do not see why anybody need be afraid to have recourse to such a dreadful alternative as doing a day's honest work. There are people who break stones on the roadside who are very honest, deserving people, and who do not ask us to pay their debts. They are not ashamed of breaking stones, and I should take a delight in seeing some of the Irish landowners engaged in a similar occupation. At any rate, I say this—that breaking stones on the road is a more honourable thing than is their action in coming down to this House to a great Conservative Government, backed up by a great Unionist majority, and trying to throw their liabilities and debts on the nation instead of paying them themselves. I may be told that this country is rich, and can afford to adopt a policy of generosity to Ireland; but I may remind the House that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to ask for money the burden, as a general rule, falls upon the poor people who already bear too heavy a share of the taxation of the country, and it is because the poor have already to pay too many taxes that I, for one, intend to do my utmost to resist this Bill at every stage.


The Bills we are considering, or rather the Bann Drainage Bill, which is the prototype of all the others, has been made the occasion of a discussion which would, to the uninstructed, appear to be extremely alien to the matter in hand. One hon. Member has indulged in a general attack on the present Government and their policy, and upon the whole Unionist Party, has introduced an apology for Home Rule, and rehearsed all the commonplaces of Separatist rhetoric on the current topics of the day. It has been said that those Bills are Bills to help landlords. I wish the hon. Gentleman who made that criticism upon the Bill had deigned to explain to the House in what particulars these Bills have any relation to landlords' interests at all. The Bills, as a matter of fact, have been carefully and elaborately framed so that the landlord interest shall be entirely apart from them. The landlords will not have control over the management of the drainage works, and will derive no advantage from those works. If the hon. Member took the trouble to read the Bill in even the most cursory manner, he would see that it the Government have taken trouble about anything they have specially taken, trouble to prevent those Bills being open to the charge which is levelled against them. Those Bills are nothing if they are not tenants' Bills. No Irish Member who has examined the provisions of the Bills and knows their contents has been found to get up in his place and say the Bills are for the benefit of the landlord and not of the tenant. The hon. Member for Sunderland has accused the Government of having reverted to the old bad methods of 1842, and of having rejected the better system brought in in 1863 by which the parties in the locality were given the management of any drainage schemes by the Government. The hon. Member quoted against me the Report of the Royal Commission; but I think I can show him it is not so opposed to the plan of the Government as the hon. Member seems to think. His contention was that by the Bill of 1863 no Government Department was allowed to meddle with these affairs, and that everything was left to the locality to do—[Mr. STOREY: Except supervision]—and everything went well. It is true that in some respects the Government has de parted from the recommendations of the Royal Commission; but on this particular matter there is not the material difference he would lead the House to suppose. The Report of the Royal Commission proposed that it should left to an officer of the Government to determine what the scheme was to be. No doubt it was left to the locality to carry it out; but in carrying it out the locality were not allowed to depart from the original plan. Therefore, the amount of local control was not materially greater than it will be under this Bill. As a matter of fact, for the first time in the history of drainage schemes our Bill brings in the tenantry of Ireland as the people who are to have the chief control. I quite admit that under the Act of 1863 there was a certain amount of local control; but it was not tenants', it was landlords' control. While the Government have sustained the recommendations of the Royal Commission in deciding that some Government officer shall determine the scheme, and that the carrying out of it shall be supervised by Government Inspectors, they have left the maintenance of the scheme when completed absolutely and entirely to the tenants of the locality—to the same constituency who determine whether it should be adopted or not. As to the Board of Works, upon which severe strictures have been passed, it is noe under my control, but it is under the Treasury, and I have no special interest in defending it. I admit that in the public works it has carried out during the last two generations it may have made mistakes, sometimes grave and sometimes trifling; but all engineering schemes, by whomsoever carried out, are liable to miscarriage, and it is not fair to apply a severer test to a Government Department than would be applied to private engineers carrying out similar undertakings. If any one will cast his eye over such operations carried out by private enterprize he will, I think, find quite as many blunders as have been committed by the Board of Works. When it is said that we are unduly using the Board of Works, I would remind the House that the Board have nothing to do with the Bill before the House, and the only Bill that is left to it is the Shannon Bill. In leaving to it the the drainage of the Shannon the Government are following the spirit of the recommendation of the Royal Commission that the continuation of the work should be left to a Government department. Nor can it be said, because local Members of Parliament are not to be upon the new Commission, that local opinion has been ignored, for the Royal Commission took a good deal of local evidence, and the Bills which have been under discussion for a year has been the subject of much local criticism. And what has been the upshot of it? A certain number of attacks no doubt have been made by those who think that private rights are interfered with; and their case will be heard by the hybrid Committee to which the Bill will be referred. But from neither the Members of Parliament for the district nor Irish Members generally has there come any criticism of a serious character, such as would warrant the belief that the Bills in any way run counter to local feeling. Now several hon. Members have contended that we are not justified in voting funds derived from the Imperial Exchequer for public works which are not to be carried cut in poor districts. I have never pretended that the district of the Bann or that of the Barrow ought to rank among the poorest or most congested districts of Ireland, and never upon that ground have I recommended the Bills to the House. The Railway Bill, I admit, is framed to meet the conditions of extreme poverty which exist in some parts of Ireland; but these Bills have never been recommended on account of the destitution of the districts through which the rivers run. They are framed principally upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission, which investigated the condition of the river areas where these difficulties of drainage prevail. It is because they recommended that these great river basins should be dealt with in preference to others that the Government has undertaken the task of dealing with them. And as to the suggestion that this Government policy must be extended to other parts of the United Kingdom, I will say boldly that this House must undoubtedly exercise great caution in adopting a policy of public works for any part of the United Kingdom. The general condition of Ireland was considered to justify an extention to that country of a principle which would not be justifiable in and is not demanded by England or by the greater part of Scotland. And when an hon. Member says that this is adopting a policy of Home Rule for Ireland, I reply that it is nothing of the kind: it is adopting the recognised principle that as the condition and history of Ireland differed in essential and important particulars fro n the conditions which prevail in England and Scotland, Ireland may be more generously treated. Now I do not know that there is any other matter I may deal with except the statements by hon. Members as to the motives which have actuated the Government in this matter. The hon. Member who spoke last desired to prove that the Government in adopting this policy were animated by the cynical desire to buy Irish support which they could not obtain by more legitimate methods; and in order to sustain that contention he had apparently ransacked the previous speeches of Members of the Conservative Party. The only quotation he gave, however, was one from a speech delivered by my noble Friend the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), in which he said that we ought not to give Local Government or the franchise to Ireland, but that we might lavish public works on her as much as we liked. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that the noble Lord has altered his views on that matter considerably since that speech was made, and that no man has been more anxious to extend a large measure of local self-government to Ireland. The noble Lord was, indeed, the author of the famous phrase "simultaniety," and it is therefore hard for the Government to have thrown at them a speech made by one of their friends behind them, which speech my noble Friend has himself qualified in subsequent utterances as a responsible Minister. The hon. Member for Sunderland talked as if the Government were adopting a new policy for Ireland. The expenditure of Imperial funds to carry out local works in Ireland is not new. It is a policy which in a more or less fragmentary fashion has been carried out by previous Governments belonging to both parties. We are always being told that our Irish policy should be framed to meet the wishes of the Irish people. Here is a policy which undoubtedly meets the wishes of the Irish people. How comes it then that the Radical Party are endeavouring to defeat it? The opinion of the majority of the Irish Members it is said should be considered in a matter of this kind.


Not when we have to pay for it.


Not when we have to pay for it says the hon. Member. Now we know the value of the hon. Gentleman's theories. He believes that the opinion of the Irish Members should govern the conduct of Parliament with regard to Ireland in every case except where the hon. Member for Camborne has to pay for it. I congratulate the hon. Member for Camborne on having so successfully dotted the "i's" of his policy. His nationalism is an economic nationalism. He is for preserving the rights of op- pressed nationalities so long as he can do it cheaply. But ask him to spend money, and with all the virtuous indignation at his command he denounces the iniquity of a Government corrupt enough to do something really substantial for the benefit of those oppressed nationalities whose interest he professes to have at heart. The Government have been accused of attempting to buy the gratitude of Irish Members. The Government desires to buy no commodity so perishable. It is not with that end in view that the Government have introduced these Bills. We shall be amply content if we are able by the series of Bills we have laid before the House to do something material and substantial towards increasing the economic prosperity of a country whose good we have apparently far more sincerely at heart than has that section of the Radical Party represented by the hon. Member for Camborne.

* SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

The right hon. Gentleman passed over somewhat lightly two or three of the last speeches made on this side of the House, and went very rapidly to a speech which he treated with the respect which certainly was due to it—the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland. But the right hon. Gentleman would, I think, have done well if he had detached from the very effective political part of the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Phillips) one particular question which the hon. Member put to him. I think it is a question which we ought to have answered. The hon. Member said we were spending an immense number of pounds in the shape of grants and, perhaps, in the shape of loans, and he asked whether everyone of those pounds would increase the value of the land on these rivers by al least twenty shillings. I am afraid that the question is answered otherwise that by the Treasury Bench. The serious thing in dealing financially with Ireland is that men deal too much in generalities They say, "We must do this or that for Ireland by means of British money," and they do not look to see whether that British money is well spent. With regard, for instance, to the question of land purchase, I think that certain land purchase schemes under certain conditions are very good for Ireland, but I do not think we examine the conditions well enough. I am one of those who think it would be well for us to help the poverty of Ireland; but I think we ought to be sure we are really helping it. In this case I think I can answer my bon. Friend the Member for Mid-Lanark. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said this was not a new policy. It is because it is not a new policy, because it is not the policy of this Government, but of many previous Governments, that we are afraid of it. We were afraid of it because the sinking of the taxpayers' money in Irish drainage has made Irish drainage a perfect by-word. The sum of £860,000 has been spent in the Shannon drainage alone, and of this amount £573,000 has been a gift from the British taxpayer. Thirteen thousand acres have been preserved from floods and 21,000 acres partially benefited. Putting the value of each acre preserved at 10s. per year, and of each acre partially benefited at 5s. a year, the calculation comes to £6,900 a year. That is to say, the people benefited have got less than 1 per cent for the money spent, while the English taxpayer have got nothing at all. That is my answer to the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark. There are some of us who are willing to spend money in benefitting Ireland if the money is properly spent in relieving poverty. But, though the surplus of this country may be great, the taxpayers are poor, and I know no country which, with its complicated industries, would find more means of spending public money satisfactorily and profitably than this country of England, Scotland, and Wales. In this case it is not even pretended that the Government are aiding poverty. They are going to aid a district in rich Ulster, and in the richest part of Ulster. We are asked to give £380,000 in all, and to lend £450,000, and the experience of Irish drainage schemes is that giving and lending such sums means giving what we propose to lend, and doubling what we propose to give. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets off with that sum he will have to congratulate himself. Personally I believe we do well to aid the poor districts with light railways. A tentative step was made in that direction. It was partially successful and it failed partially. It failed partially because it has not been carried far enough. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to supplement the previous Bill, which, whether financially sound or not, has been a benefit to the country. But the teaching is as clear in the case of Irish drainage as it is in the case of Irish railways, and experience tells us to go no further. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the remarks made about the motives of the Government. This has been called a bribe. I will not say it is, but it is a continuation of a system of grants which have thrown a heavy burden on the taxpayers of this country and have done very little good to the people of Ireland, which are not so much a bribe as one of the necessary condition of a state of things in which Ireland has not self-government. One of the lessons I learnt in Ireland was that all classes—the richest and the poorest—do not regard the relation of the state to economical, financial, and agricultural question as we do in this country. There is a great deal of Socialism in Ireland among all classes. If the Irish had the management of their own affairs they might do their Socialism at home; they might lend or give their money for Irish public works. But it is because the House is asked to apply to Ireland a system radically unsound, a system which, if applied to English constituencies, their very members would refuse, that I, as one charged with the guardianship of the public purse, oppose these Bills.

MR. BIGGAR (Cavan)

I intend to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. I do so because I have not heard from the other side a single argument which entitles the Bill to any consideration. The right hon. Gentleman, the Chief Secretary, occupied a very considerable time in criticizing some small points in the arguments of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, but did not offer a single argument in favour of his scheme. He did not tell us that the tenant farmers in the valley of the Bann were not able, if willing, to drain the valley of the Bann at their own expense. The Chief Secretary told us the Board of Works had made mistakes, but he did not mention a single case in which the Board have been really successful. It would be very difficult, indeed, to find a record of so great a number of failures as that furnished by the Irish Board of Works. But the Chief Secretary has gone further in his condemnation of the Board of Works than any speaker on this side. He has taken the improvement of the Bann drainage out of the hands of the Board of Works, and handed it over to a nondescript commission. The right hon. Gentleman is not content even with the Report of the Commissioners, because he does not propose to carry out intact the recommendations of the Commission. The Commissioners recommend that once for all we shall have done with inland navigation in the lower Bann, but the right hon. Gentleman says he will continue to keep up some of the works, so that if navigation should even become feasible, they can be used. The right hon. Gentleman also says that the ratepayers shall have an opportunity of expressing their opinion. But there is no practical machinery through which he can get an expression of the opinion of the ratepayers. A very large number of the people will not know even whether they come within the scope of the scheme. The best suggestion made was that the Government should wait until they pass their Local Government Bill for Ireland, and then let the local governing bodies drain the Lower Bann at their own expense, if they were so disposed. The ratepayers on the lower Bann are not paupers: they are well able to pay for their own drainage, and if they get it under their own supervision, they will save far more than £20,000. Some £260,000 has been already entirely thrown away, and it is now proposed to add £60,000 more, which, it is said, will finish the work. But instead of £60,000 finishing the work, there will hereafter be a further application for a fresh loan or a further grant. The House will do well to refuse the Second Reading of the Bill and to ask the Government to bring in a Local Government Bill for Ireland. Then the new governing body, if they think it desirable, may borrow the money to drain the land at their own expense. This is not a work which ought to be undertaken by the Imperial Government.

SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)

The Chief Secretary for Ireland said a great deal about the administrative view of this question, but when he came to the reason why the British taxpayer should pay money for these improvements, he lamentably failed. I protest that having heard the speech of the -right hon. Gentleman, I am as ignorant as before of the grounds for asking the British taxpayer to give this money. I do not altogether object in every case to the expenditure of Imperial money in local improvements, but I wish to confine the grounds to special cases of special need. I object on general grounds to scatter Imperial money on local purposes, and I know of no reason whatever why the taxpayers of this country should be required to put their hands in their pockets to give money to districts which are not distressed. It is admitted it is a rich district, and no more claim can be made for it than could be made for any district in the United Kingdom. It was on this ground I gave notice of my Amendment, which I shall not be able to move:— That this House declines to sanction a measure which proposes to devote public money to the improvement of private property in a part of the country where no congestion of the population or special poverty is shown to exist. In my opinion no special case has been made out, and no grounds have been alleged except such as might be advanced in favour of exceptional treatment for any other district. One of my hon. Friends mentioned Scotland, and said Scotland never made any claim for Imperial assistance in matters of this kind, and in regard to the Clyde there is an instance in point. There are works on the Clyde we have undertaken for the benefit of very poor and congested districts, and I cannot see if nothing was done for us by Imperial assistance there why we should vote this large sum for the Bann. Shortly we shall have before us a Bill in which special treatment will be proposed for the poorer districts of the western islands of Scotland, and there, if anywhere, such proposals as these would he justified. When we come to the Light Railways Bill, there may be something to be said in justification of the relief of poor districts, but we know that it is as the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) has told us with that manly independence for which he is remarkable, that the money voted in this way is usually jobbed away and wasted. I can see no hope of any improvement in the present instance, or that you can have any improvement until you have more local control. Members from Ireland are justified in accepting this money for their country, but from the British taxpayers' point of view we, on behalf of our constituents, must resist the proposal. It is an attempt by the Government to stave off the day when Home Rule will have to be conceded, and on the grounds I have mentioned I oppose this Bill.

MR. O'HANLON (Cavan, E.)

In my opinion this Bill amounts to a proposal to secure to Ulster landlords their rents. I do not say it will be made a reason fur raising rents, but it will be urged as a reason against reductions and for keeping the rents at a higher figure than could otherwise be justified. But I rise to offer an apology for being caught voting on the side of the Unionists, emergency men, and a Government who have tried by every means to de- grade and harass our people, have put our Representatives in gaol, and have prevented even any meeting to consider the proposals under this Bill. We are asked to accept a Bill upon which those interested have never been consulted. We take the money, as indeed we must so long as England denies us the right of providing for ourselves. We take as much as you like to offer, whatever may become of it, but we take it under protest.

MR. MOLLOY (King's County, Birr)

I think it right to explain the course I propose to adopt. When the Chief Secretary brought in these Bills we had a very short debate and hardly any explanation beyond the merest outline, but the right hon. Gentleman told us that on the Second Reading we should have the opportunity of making ourselves acquainted with all the details. Well, I have listened to his speech tonight, and I am bound to say that throughout it all ho gave nothing in the nature of an explanation. I heard nothing but replies to the smallest criticisms offered from this side. Now, I think that one in the position of the Chief Secretary, with enormous power, having the control as he has of the government of the country in his hands, and having taken this measure entirely into his own hands, refusing us any consultative voice in its preparation, should have given us some explanation or justification of the Bill. But we have had no justification whatever. Indeed, it seemed to me that he was speaking of a Bill which he believed himself to be already dead; he did not seem to have any heart in the business. As to explanation there was not a word of it given. We have been absolutely boycotted by the right hon. Gentleman, who practically holds the position of Governor of Ireland. I mentioned my objections to the Bills when they were introduced, because in the past proposals of this kind have ever been attended with much ruin and taxation. I know in my own county where lands have been drained at large expenditure, and from 1842 to the year before last we have been taxed for this expenditure, the lands for which all the expenditure has been incurred are now flooded. That is the result I anticipate from this proposal. It is the same with all drainage schemes and harbour schemes for the coast. All local opinion is boycotted when offered in good faith, and the work is put into the hands of men appointed by the Government, who have no knowledge of the local requirements or the conditions under which the works should be undertaken. I know it is difficult to refuse money offered under these circumstances; it would undoubtedly give very desirable relief to many who find it hard to continue the struggle for existence; but in taking it I feel we shall be taking part in a fraud on the public purse of this country. I speak entirely for myself. I do not know what my hon. Friends intend to do, but for myself I take the stand of refusing charity while justice is denied. I refuse, so far as I can, to place my countrymen in the position of paupers upon the public purse of this country. For these and other reasons, with which I need not now detain the House, I shall give my vote with the hon. Member for Sunderland, and against the passage of this Bill into law.

* MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)

I came with an open mind to the consideration of this Bill, and was prepared to receive from the Chief Secretary some defence that would justify me in voting with him. When I heard the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Storey) I thought it was unanswerable, yet I waited, suspending my judgment until I heard the Chief Secretary, and now I am bound to admit that I have not heard the slightest justification for proceeding with this measure. The right hon. Gentleman said he had not heard from Irish Members any opposition to the Bill, but he has had that opportunity since. Two at least of the Irish National Party, who have considerable influence in Ireland, have offered the strongest opposition to the Bill. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman with great interest. I did not hear the whole of his speech; bust as I entered the House I heard him declare that this is nothing if it is not a Tenants' Bill. I do not know how he led up to this, but certainly the right hon. Gentleman said nothing subsequently in support of that declaration. So far as I can gather the drainage scheme will tend to increase the value of property in the Bann district, and I know nothing whatever in the Bill that will secure any additional value to the tenants' improvements. I feel sure that the only result will be the increase of rentals, and ultimately tenants will get no advantage whatever. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to defend the Board of Works, and I confess I know nothing of the doings of that Board in Ireland. But I know something of the action of Boards of Works elsewhere and the reputation of the Metropolitan Board of Works is well known and does not admit of much defence. I am not surprised that the Chief Secretary gave up the defence of the Irish Board. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Government were not actuated by any desire to secure Irish support, but I can find no other reason for the promotion of the measure than that advanced by several speakers to produce a plan in harmony with the views of many Irish tenants and secure their votes. Then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to charge my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland with having quoted the noble Lord the Member for Paddington without giving his qualifications, but I think the only qualification in that speech had reference to the Local Government Board, and he was the only Member of the Government who did make that qualification. Until I hear anything from Her Majesty's Government to show that they do not agree with the sentiments of the noble Lord—and the Chief Secretary guarded himself against anything of the kind—I shall continue to believe that the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord express the views of Her Majesty's Government. Another reason why I oppose the Bill is a reason the right hon. Gentleman advances in support of it. He says it is less in the nature of piecemeal legislation than any measures that have been put forward previously in regard to these matters. Now, I agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Storey) on looking with the greatest suspicion upon the beginning of grants to Ireland. Giving of grants is like the letting out of water, slow and gradual at first, but growing to an unmistakable and dangerous volume. On that ground I cannot give any support for a proposal of this kind. Then the Chief Secretary proceeded to make a strong attack upon the hon Member for Camborne because he grounded his objection on unwillingness to give £20,000 to the Irish people, but I maintain that is a very strong objection. I say you have no right to give Imperial grants for local purposes until you can make out a strong case for doing so. No strong case; no case whatever has been made out in this instance, and the objection remains. We have as much right to expect Imperial assistance in reference to our splended river the Tyne as have the inhabitants of the Bann district. We have spent four millions of money in improving our waterway, but we did not think of coming to the Government for assistance though we have thousands of poor people on Tyneside poorer than any of the inhabitants of the Bann district. We believe that there is great safety in having local control over money raised in the locality, and we have no right to enter on this expenditure in Ireland without the safeguard that local control gives. I believe that the Irish people are quite capable of effecting many of their local improvements themselves, and I believe it will be a great safeguard to have these enter-prizes under the control of a local Irish Government. Until they have such a safeguard I must refuse to assent to the grant of any money from the British Exchequer unless satisfactory reasons are shown, and a justification such as has not been attempted in this case.

* MR. PHILIP STANHOPE (Wednesbury)

I am glad that the House is at last awake to the very important character of the measure under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Trevelyan) has expressed a view from the Front Bench which I feel sure will soon be shared by all his countrymen. I believe that the longer this question is examined, the more fully it is discussed the larger will be the vote against each Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is very much mistaken if he supposes that the debate which we have had to-night at all exhausts what can be said on the subject; the Chief Secretary for Ireland has not heard the last of what ho was pleased to call "the commonplace rhetoric of Separatist orators" in regard to it. It must be disappointing to that right hon. Gentleman to find that all his kindness of heart and all the warm affection for the Irish people to which he has given utterance has met with so slight a response from their Representatives. Four Members of the Irish Party have spoken to-night, and on a previous occasion the hon. Member for Cork, the Leader of the Irish National Party, in a very short but telling speech, warned the House and the country they were proceeding in a career he thought would lead to financial disaster, and I am glad to see to-night that two of his colleagues have spoken out with no uncertain voice and have declared that the Irish people will repudiate these Bills as they are repudiated by the Radical Party in Great Britain. The Chief Secretary was extremely eloquent in respect to a suggestion that came from one of my hon. Friends that it was desirable that the Commission which is to regulate expenditure should have on it some kind of National representation and his objection was that in such a case it would be impossible to exclude politics. The dogma of the Chief Secretary is that in all matters of administration and control in Ireland the Nationalist element is to be excluded on the ground that it is impossible to admit politics into them. He therefore gives expression to the old Tory creed which has ever been the evil of Ireland, that the Government of Ireland is to be left to the minority of Ireland through the supervision of the Board of Works and a feeble expression of the opinion of Dublin Castle. This Commission provided by the Bill has some curious administrative features. I quite admit that the Government were justified two years ago in fulfilment of pledges given by the Tory Party in sending a Commission to Ireland to inquire into the possibility of developing by public works the resources of Ireland, but the constitution of the Commission to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred was not entirely of an impartial character. When you send a Commission charged with such authority as this Commission enjoyed, it is desirable to combine with the professional element something of a more representative character. I am proud of the profession of which I cannot pretend to be now a very active member, and I enjoy the friendship of several members of that Commission, but this I may say without offence that you can always find four eminent engineers to come to an opinion diametrically opposed to the opinion of four other eminent engineers, yet it is on the authority of four engineering gentlemen alone, without any examination, such as is given to an ordinary private Bill, that the Government suggest to the House an expenditure of a million, which will probably in future lead to a very much larger outlay of money. It does seem to me desirable that we should know a little more what we are about, and I should like to hear more than intelligent cheers from the other side of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer must feel some interest in this question, but neither that right hon. Gentleman nor any other of his colleagues in the Ministry have risen to support the Chief Secretary's proposals. Let me point out that the supposed control of the elected Commission under this Bill is not of a permanent character, that their control is limited to a simple veto or sanction of the scheme, and that sanction being given, as it probably will be, then the expenditure will be left to the engineers, and, without doubt, many an apparently good reason will be assigned why the original estimate must be largely exceeded. I am quite willing, for one, to be generous. If the right hon. Gentleman had come down to this House and asked for money, the expenditure of which would have tended to alleviate the poverty of Ireland, if he had asked for money for the purpose of removing some of the redundant population in the congested district to other districts, and if he had put the expendi- ture of the money under local and popularly elected control, I do not believe one of my colleagues would have objected to the expenditure. But we do object to the proposed expenditure, and we shall continue to resist it, and I hope my hon. Friend beside me will, on each one of these Bills, call the attention of the House, and, by so doing, arouse the attention of the country to an expenditure which even the Member for North Armagh will not speak of with great satisfaction wken he addresses Unionist audiences in England, and when he is obliged to explain to them the disinterested loyalty of the Irish Landlord party, and how he simply desires from England sympathy and affection, but no money. When he has to encounter the difficult task of showing, that while he speaks in that way, he is assisting the Secretary for Ireland in abstracting money from the National Exchequer, without security, or sufficient control—and, as we think, without justification—I think he will find that the momentary popularity, which he has enjoyed on certain platforms, will for ever disappear.

* MR. F. FULTON (West Ham, North)

I do not wish to detain the House, which is anxious for a division, except to make one or two observations in regard to the remarkable speech to which we have just listened. I think it is a great advantage we should at length understand why it is a new Party has been called into existence in the House—namely, in order that they may come forward and carry out the same tactics which have been pursued by another Party, when it is not convenient for that Party to pursue the course which otherwise they would pursue. It is a remarkable and significant circumstance that these Bills are not opposed by the Irish Members in a body; on the contrary, they are supported by those hon. Members his, indeed, true the hon. Member for King's County has spoken against the Bill, but, unless I am mistaken, his constituents as are not in any way interested in the Bann Drainage Bill. But those Irish Members whose constituents are interested, are careful to say that so far from opposing they will support the Bills. Therefore it is desirable it should be understood by the country that the new Party on the Opposition side of the House has been created for the purpose of stepping into the breach, in order to oppose measures which are practically universally accepted by the Irish Members, and in order that they may go about the country, and say they are the only persons who have any regard whatever for the pockets of the British taxpayer. I only desire to offer these few observations in order to make that point clear.

The House divided:—Ayes 209; Noes 78.—(Div. List, No. 151.)

Main Question put, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

The House divided:—Ayes 205; Noes 59.—(Div. List, No. 152.)

Forward to