§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3.
§ (3.5.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
moved the omission of the 1st subsection, which names grants—For rates and contributions in lieu of rates on Government property in Irelandas part of the contingent portion of the fund. The hon. Member said: I ask upon what principle this and other grants have been selected to bear the brunt of the guarantee? They are called "local grants," but it would have been more correct to call them Imperial grants in aid of local expenses, seeing that they apply in a large porportion to Admiralty buildings, barracks, and so forth. There is a considerable area of choice, and the Government ought not in the first instance to take the money which they owe to the rating authorities. The Government have seized the money designed to prevent the spread of disease among 1604 human beings, but they have left free that which is given to prevent the spread of disease among cattle. The Bill takes all the money for National Schools in Ireland, but this money is not a "local grant" in Ireland. In Ireland primary education is not a subject of local taxation; it has never been a charge upon local funds; therefore the grant for education is not a grant in aid, and on that account it ought to be struck out. The best thing to do is to strike out all these "grants," and to substitute the charge for the Irish Constabulary, or perhaps one-half or two thirds of it, which would be enough.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out lines 13 and 14.—(Mr. Sexton).
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."
§ (3.10.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I have listened to the remarks of the hon. Member with surprise and disappointment, because on Friday the hon. Member made a lengthened statement as to Amendments which he desired to introduce respecting these guarantees. After dis- 1605 cussion, it was stated that the Government would make certain concessions, with which the hon. Member expressed himself satisfied. It was, therefore, anticipated that, so far as the hon. Member and his friends are concerned, this clause might pass almost sub silentio. Now, however, the hon. Member has made distinctly different proposals, and he asks the Government to remodel the Bill in respect of these Guarantee Funds. If attempts to meet the views of hon. Members are to be responded to in this way, there is little inducement for the Government to endeavour to get through the Bill in harmony with hon. Members opposite below the Gangway. The most important suggestion made on Friday was that the grant for pauper lunatics should be struck out, and that has been conceded; but now the hon. Member proposes to strike out the grants for education and Industrial Schools, and to substitute the grant in aid of the Constabulary. That may be a good proposal or a bad one, but it is entirely different from that made on Friday. In selecting these grants I purposely and deliberately omitted everything connected with law and justice. It appears to me that these are necessarily and essentially part of the work of the Central Government, but the objects selected have never been so considered either in this country or in Ireland. The Central Government have come to the aid of the locality, and sometimes largely, but it has always been considered a matter for the localities themselves in the first instance to deal with such questions as education, pauper lunatics, and poor relief. The hon. Member says that the whole cost of national education is borne by the State, and it has never been regarded as a local charge.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I admit that it is not, but I do not admit that it is primarily and essentially the duty of the Central Government, as distinct from the locality, nor has it ever been so regarded in Ireland. The authorities who set the system in operation are the School Managers, and the Central Government conies in to relieve them from the burden of the cost. I cannot hold out the slightest hope or expectation that the Government will depart from the line 1606 they have taken in the Bill, and the idea of substituting the grants for the Magistrates and the Constabulary for those named in the clause is one that I cannot entertain.
§ MR. SEXTON
The expenditure of the National Education Board is strictly Imperial expenditure, because the system of education maintained in Ireland is one the people do not accept. The right hon. Gentleman's argument does not show that the adoption of my suggestion with regard to the Constabulary grant would cause either interruption or danger to the Public Service.
§ (3.20.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I wish to point out that by the 2nd Schedule, Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Limerick, and Londonderry are excluded from the operation of the Bill, but it is to those very cities that the largest proportion of the Government grant is given in relief of rates. The Government contribution, as it at present exists, is a swindle on the ratepayers. If Dublin Castle and such places paid rates, as they ought to, the ratepayers would get 20s. where now they only get 14s. Now the Government propose a second swindle on the ratepayers by depriving them of the grant, which is itself insufficient.
§ (3.25.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN, Dublin University)
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that Clause 8, Sub-clause 3, provides that—Nothing in this Act shall apply to a county of a city mentioned in the 2nd Schedule to this Act, except that it shall he entitled to the same share in the Exchequer contribution and the Irish Probate Duty grant as if the Act applied.That very comprehensive expression excludes the operation of the clause to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers.
§ (3.27.) MR. T. M. HEALY
There are two points. First, assuming the Government to be right in the interpretation they put on Clause 8, Sub-clause 3, it is not fair that, having made a composition with the ratepayers which is a "bankruptcy" composition, they should further hypothecate that composition, such as it is. The first was an act of scoundrelism, and the second is an act of meanness. Take the case of Kilkenny, where there are barracks for Cavalry and Infantry. Those barracks 1607 ought to contribute 20s. in the £1 to the local rates, but you have only paid 15s. in the £1. Having done that, you now turn round and take away your own bankruptcy contribution. The proposal to capture the contribution in aid of rates is neither honesty nor good government. The second point is that if the towns named in the Schedule ought to be excluded from the operation of the Bill on the ground that they do not share in the benefits under it, many other large towns in Ireland ought also to be excluded. The Corporation of Dublin will be hit under the Bill as it stands, and there is no remedy in a Court of Law. I submit that there is a strong case on behalf of the Irish taxpayer for the omission of this sub-section.
§ MR. SEXTON
Nothing would be easier than to insert words to say that the share of these cities in the local grant shall be preserved.
§ (3.30.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
With regard to the last suggestion, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland will see whether it will be expedient to insert words to this effect later on in the Bill; but we are certainly of opinion that the Bill as it stands meets the case. I would point out that when the Government gave up the right of not paying rates on their property it was considered as an immense boon, and was given and accepted as such. Then comes the question whether such rates should be taken or not for the purposes of this Bill. It is said that the sum is small; but it amounts to £30,000, which capitalised means something like £800,000 or £1,000,000, and I cannot consent to withdraw such a large capital sum as £800,000 from the Bill. It has been stated that these cities have no interest in land purchase. The Government had to draw the line somewhere, and they have drawn it at the five big cities, whose interest in land purchase is relatively remote. But on the other hand, to say that any ordinary county town throughout Ireland is not dependent upon the condition of the agrarian question is to ignore the whole conditions of Irish life. The one industry of Ireland, outside the five great cities, is agriculture; the smaller towns will share in the benefits arising from any great reform in the agricultural question, and therefore, in the opinion of the Govern 1608 ment, they ought to pay some share of a possible burden. I hope the hon. and learned Member will not press his Amendment.
§ (3.40.) MR. T. M. HEALY
May I ask why the Chief Secretary should not pay rates for his lodge in Dublin, just the same as I pay rates for my residence in the same city? The right hon. Gentleman contracts himself out of the obligation by an Act of Parliament.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is altogether wrong as to the facts. He is also speaking irrelevantly.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I did not know, Mr. Chairman, that you would supply us with debateable matter; but I accept your ruling. The Government are now proposing to take advantage of their own wrong. Having already made a mean contribution to local rates, which they describe as a boon, they now propose to capture it. I am not aware that any barracks or police station in England is exempt from local rates. To first of all relieve yourselves by Act of Parliament from the ordinary burdens of other people, and then to describe your conduct in only paying one - half or three - fourths of the rates as a boon, and finally to turn round and capture the whole, is really pushing things to an extreme. It is most unfair, and I know of no instance in which the unfairness is more exemplified than in this subsection. Of all the proposed inclusions in the Bill it is the one which we may most fairly ask the Government to abandon. It is most unfair that persons living in towns, who can get no benefit from land purchase, should have to contribute towards the default of others; and great soreness will be caused in Ireland.
§ (3.45.) MR. SEXTON
I shall test the question of the propriety of this subsection by taking a Division.
The Committee divided:—Ayes 163; Noes 106.—(Div. List No. 155.)
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 16, to leave out Sub-section (ii.)—(The Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Question proposed, "That Sub-section (ii.) stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
It is exceedingly difficult for any private 1609 Member to ascertain how the Bill will work in regard to any particular county. As the Bill is to be worked by counties I presume that the Government, before drafting it, marked out how it would affect the different counties. I think it is necessary that we should have that information, and I would therefore ask the Chief Secretary if he will lay on the Table a Return showing how any particular county is affected; taking for instance an almost purely agricultural county, such as Queen's County, or King's County, showing the estimated advance, and the mode in which the Government anticipate that the payments will work out, so that we may judge what is the particular amount of risk involved to any of the funds it is proposed to hypothecate? Without that information we are altogether in the dark.
§ (3.59.) MR. T. M. HEALY
What will the effect be in regard to Dundrum Lunatic'Asylum? It is put outside the City of Dublin, and you have declared that the City of Dublin is not to be included in the Bill. There is to be a kind of in and out running in regard to these local contributions. I have to ask the Government have they considered this question of the Dundrum Asylum, and the lunatic asylums outside nearly all the other leading cities of Ireland?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Return which we last produced, and which lies upon the Table, gives a general outline of our scheme.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
This is only a link in the chain. My position is this, that it is perfectly impossible for a private Member, however carefully and patiently he may go through the statements, to realise how the scheme is likely to operate with regard to any particular amount. The Government is aware how much money is expended under different Services, which are classed under the total "local grants." What I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is that he should select any county which would suit him, and he could then show the amount available 1610 for land purchase, the rate of repayment within the county, the amount available for securities, marshalled in different classes of securities, in order of priority, so that we may be able properly to see what is the amount of risk attaching to each class of security.
§ (4.10.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not see how any. information is to be given other than that already in the possession of the House. There is the Return dated the 17th April last year. That shows in every county in Ireland the amount of Exchequer contributions, the Imperial grants for local purposes, the amount available for land purchase, and so forth. I find the total amount of the cash portion of the Guarantee Fund last year was £248,950. The contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund was £584,509, and the capitalised total amount available for the County of Donegal at that time was =£833,459. That is the information which the hon. Gentleman has already before him. He asks us to give further information. I have no means of knowing what the course will be in each county, and unless one makes an arbitrary hypothesis of the essential factors, it is impossible to lay on the Table of the House a Return showing the operation of the Act.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
What I propose is that the right hon. Gentleman should take a county in a congested district— not like the County of Dublin, but an agricultural county like Kilkenny, Kil-dare, Queen's County, or Tyrone, and show us not only the amount which is to be available for land purchase, but the repayment and so forth. I believe the right hon. Gentleman could not have projected a scheme like this without having made calculations with regard to some specimen county. If the Government have not made such calculations, then they are taking a leap in the dark.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Take King's County. The amount available for land purchase there is £424,175 capital value. The hon. Gentleman asks how much will be taken for land purchase, and what are all the varied circumstances upon which an investigation could be made. I can assure him if I could forsee the future I would lay the Return on the Table, but with the limited means at my disposal, I do not see how I am to make the Return.
§ (4.20.) MR. SEXTON
I move to insert, in Sub-section 5, the words "model schools." The model schools are quite as local as national schools, the only difference being that the former are much more costly and a great deal less useful.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 28, after the word " headed," to insert the words " model schools and."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, N.)
I hope my right hon. Friend will not agree to the Amendment, which would throw a peculiar burden on Ulster, where there are a number of model schools. I find that out of the 25 model schools in Ireland, 14 are situated in Ulster. It is perfectly evident that the religious denominations outside the Roman Catholics attending the model schools, would have to bear more than two-thirds of their share of the burden.
§ MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
I hope the argument of the hon. Member for North Antrim will not cloud the eyes of the Committee. This Amendment does no injustice to Ulster, our only object being to get for Ulster a larger amount for land purchase. I think the amount available under the Bill for Ulster is not as large as we would like to see it.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
The hon. Member is not pledging the payment to teachers of model schools, he is pledging those salaries for the purposes of land purchase, and I should be very glad to see an increase of the amount available in Ulster, where there will be no default.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I object to the argument being confined to Ulster, and these invidious distinctions should be dropped by Members on both sides of the House. The hon. Member has said there will be no default in Ulster. I presume there will be no default in other parts of Ireland, unless the rate of purchase is too high.
§ (4.24.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The Amendment can only possibly affect those counties in which there are model schools, and therefore the part of Ireland which would be most affected would be Ulster. It is perfectly true that the model schools are specially used by the Presbyterians 1612 in the North of Ireland; but if these schools did not exist education for the children would have to be found in other schools. Further than that, I believe that in the accounts of the National Board of Education modern schools are included under the head "national schools."
§ MR. SEXTON
I think if the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the Estimates he will find model and national schools under separate heads.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I was referring to the accounts of the National Board of Education. Although by a slip in the draft Bill model schools are not included in this sub-section, I believe they must be treated as if they were included. On the whole, I do not think it would be fair to the North of Ireland to exclude from the contingent portion of the Guarantee Fund so important a part as that which was devoted to the support of the model schools. Putting it at the most modest estimate, the grant for these schools is about ,£20,000 a year.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That figure includes other schools. The actual sum for district model schools is £19,239, and no doubt there are one or two other items to be added. That will free exactly £500,000; and it would be very hard on the province of Ulster that it should not be allowed the advantage of this £500,000 of grant.
§ (4.27.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I think this argument shows the necessity for some power of appeal from the decisions of the Lord Lieutenant, say, to the Privy Council.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 24, after "1878" to insert — " (v.) in aid of the cost of maintenance of pauper lunatics in district asylums in Ireland."—(The Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Agreed to.
§ (4.31.) MR. S. KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
Th.3 object of the next Amendment which stands in my name is to prevent either the present or any future Government from enlarging the total amount of capital to be advanced under this Bill beyond the sum which is at 1613 the present moment named by the Government, and more or less contemplated by Parliament and the country. I have also another object equally in view, and one which should enlist the sympathies of Irish Members, and that is that the Amendment will have the effect of permitting future increases in the amount of the Imperial grants to Ireland, provided that the needs of the country—owing, perhaps, to famine—should demand them, without what I think would be a perfect atrocity, i.e. increasing the advances to landlords by 25 fold the additions to the grants. It will be observed that there is no fixed maximum named in this Bill. The Chief Secretary talks of it as a £30,000,000 Bill, but it is only by a detailed examination of each clause, and by a constructive method, that one arrives at the conclusion not that it is a £30,000,000 Bill, but that the capitalised amount of the Imperial grants to Ireland last year represents £30,000,000. That seems to me a most unsatisfactory way of framing a Bill of this nature. Some months ago I ventured to put a question on this subject to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I asked him if it were the case that if the Imperial grants were doubled, and amounted to £2,400,000 instead of £1,200,000, it would be the case automatically that the original sum thereby made available for advances to landlords under the Bill would be £60,000,000 instead of £30,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman's very frank reply was that as the Bill stood no doubt the maximum amount might be increased in proportion as the Imperial contributions increased. But he added that he did not think the suggestion that the Government would double the amount of Imperial grants to Ireland came within the range of practical politics. Now, that is not surely the manner in which such an important matter should be dealt with by the Government. By this Bill the amount made available for advances is left absolutely unsettled; and this is, in fact, an insidious method of obtaining larger advances in the future than the present House of Commons would be willing to allow. The explanation is that the Government believe that the grants to Ireland will be increased and 1614 the country will perhaps find 10 years hence that much more than £30,000,000 has gone out of the Treasury to Irish landlords. This is a very real danger. In the House of Lords there are 121 Members who own in the aggregate an acreage of land in Ireland which produces a rent-roll of £2,250,000. Hence it will not be long before the £30,000,000 contemplated in this Bill is exhausted, and then pressure will be brought to bear on the Government for further advances by those who have not benefited by the first advance. The noble Lord the Member for West Down so far has not sold the estates under his control, with a rent roll of £100.000 a year I believe-that the family of the Marquess of Down-shire will require at least £3,000,000 of the £30,000,000. The only way to checkmate the tortuous policy of this Bill in placing no limit on the amount of the advances is to adopt my Amendment. What, I repeat, will be the result if this clause passes as it stands? There will' be two classes of persons who will put pressure on the Government to increase the Imperial contributions to Ireland from time to time, and neither class will have the faintest interest in the aims and objects of the other. You will have the friends of Ireland in times of famine and distress praying the Imperial Government to enlarge the limit of its contributions to local finance, and you will have a body of Irish landlords, the hungrier Members of the other House, who could not get any of the first. £30,000,000 urging the Government to increase the contributions solely in order that more money may be available for advances under the Bill. Some time since I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he could quote any precedent under which Parliament had ever authorised the borrowing of money on the elastic principles embodied in this Bill without naming a definite sum. The right hon. Gentleman replied that he-had had no time to examine the point raised, so a few days later I repeated the question, and he replied that on several occasions Parliament had authorised the State to make loans without naming the amount. I consider that that reply was one of the most ridiculous character.
§ MR. KEAY
I contend it was not a straightforward answer. I asked if there was any precedent for Parliament allowing the Treasury to borrow money without fixing the amount, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that there was a precedent for Parliament lending, without naming the amount, monies which had been already borrowed The Chancellor of the Exchequer declared, on the 3rd February, that it would be open to any future Parliament to limit the advances if the contributions from the Treasury are increased. But why is not that limiting put in the present Bill now by this Parliament sitting in this Committee? If in a future Parliament an attempt is made to impose a limit, hungry Members in the other House will negative it, and no limit will be imposed. I ask the Government for an explicit statement of the reasons for the adoption of this ingenious and tortuous system of satisfying the greed of Irish landlords.
In page 3, line 22, after " schools," to insert, " Provided that the whole amount paid to the Guarantee Fund from the Imperial and Local grants mentioned in this section shall not exceed one million two hundred thousand pounds in each financial year."—(Mr. Keay.)
§ (4.50.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think that the hon. Member who has just sat down would be a more useful Member of the Committee if he would avoid going back upon his pastspeeches, the past questions he has put to the Government, and the past replies that have been made to him. The hon. Member has got into his brain that this is "an ingenious, tortuous Bill introduced for the purpose of satisfying the greed of Irish landlords." I can assure the hon. Member that it is nothing of the kind, and that its main object is to benefit the small tenants in Ireland. I have not been fortunate in my past attempts to convert the hon. Member, nor can I hope to be successful now, but he may rely upon it that whatever the demerits of the Bill, it is not open to the particular kind of objection which he is so fond of raising. The hon. Member suggests that I have deliberately concealed from the House the real character of the Guarantee Fund. I have in no way concealed the character of the Guarantee Fund. We never intended to limit the amount available 1616 for advances; instead of desiring that the sum available for carrying out the objects of the Bill should be limited, I should be glad to see it increased. The difference between the hon. Member and myself is this—that the hon. Member desires to limit the operation of the Bill and I do not desire so to limit it.
§ (4.54.) MR. SEXTON
I only wish to say that I am quite unable to accept the argument of the hon. Member for Elgin. I agree with the Chief Secretary that the amount devoted under this Bill to land purchase will prove extremely inadequate. We are all desirous that it should be increased.
§ Amendment negatived.
(4.55.) Amendment proposed,
In page 3, after line 99, to insert "and the several sums constituting the cash portion and the contingent portion respectively of the Guarantee Fund shall he applicable to the purpose of that fund in the order specified in this section." —(Mr. Sexton.)
§ (4.56.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am aware that the hon. Gentleman opposite thinks that the Government have assented to this Amendment, and if any. thing I said has given rise to that impression, far be it for me to withdraw in any way from that position. But I would suggest that it is inexpedient to adopt it, because it will be better that the loss, if any, should be distributed. It might, I think, be distributed over the various funds without real injury to the undertaking to which the Government grants are devoted. I will not, however, labour the point. I hope the hon. Member will see on reflection the inexpediency of his proposal.
§ (4.57.) MR. SEXTON
I take it the right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that the point is not important as respects the cash portion of the fund.
§ MR. SEXTON
And that it only becomes conceivably important with regard to the contingent portion. If he looks at the sub-section as it now stands he will see it is pretty obvious that one sub-head may as well be exhausted before proceeding to the next. Furthermore, let me point out that the Government will possess an important discretion as to the order in which the items in each sub-head shall be dealt with.
§ (4.59.) COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I do not see why the Chief Secretary should not adopt this Amendment. It cannot make the slightest difference as to the order in which the Contingent Fund items are exhausted. If the Government contributions for any purpose are seized, the locality will have to make up the money somehow.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 31, to leave out " in any financial year."—(Mr. Knox.)
§ (5.1.) MR. MADDEN
My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has promised to bring up words on Report so as to make it clear there shall be no unnecessary delay in the allocation of the funds. I hope the Amendment will not be pressed.
§ (5.2.) MR. KNOX
If I remember aright a similar difficulty arose on the English Local Government Bill, and gave rise to considerable dispute in the Courts of Law. I think it would be more convenient now to insert the necessary words; but, in view of the promise to do so on Report, I will not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ (5.3.) Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 32, after "shall," insert "subject to the provisions of this Act with regard to the county per-centage."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ (5.5.) MR. SEXTON
In the absence of my hon. Friend (Mr. M. Healy), I beg to move the Amendment which stands next in his name. His object is to secure that the five cities referred to in Section 8, Sub-section 3, shall not be 1618 deprived of their share in the Exchequer contribution and the Probate Duty grant by the operation of the Bill. I see that the Attorney General for Ireland has an Amendment lower down on similar lines. Perhaps he has the same object as my hon. Friend?
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 33, after "shall," to insert " (subject to the provisions of Section 8, Sub-section 3)."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ (5.6.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of course, the position in the Bill by which the share of the counties and cities in the Exchequer contribution and Probate Duty grant is placed as it is, was adopted deliberately by the Government; but I do not say that the matter is of great importance one way or the other. But, on the whole, it appeared to us that this very small and almost insignificant aid we ask from the great towns is a sacrifice they might well be called upon to make. It is only until £200,000 have been carried to the Reserve Fund that any call is made upon the cities, and as soon as that amount is accumulated they will get their full share again of the grants; nor will any call diminish that unless some great Irish calamity should diminish that fund, causing it be drawn upon, and then the amount will have to be built up again to £200,000, and the five cities would be asked to make their contribution. But I do not think that in the face of such a calamity the cities would object to this. On the whole, I am disposed to leave this part of the frame-work of the Bill untouched.
§ (5.8.) MR. SEXTON
I understand that if the Amendment of my hon. Friend were adopted the five cities would be entitled to have paid over to them their part of the Exchequer contributions and their proportion of the Probate Duty. It appears they would suffer nothing by having the clause carried as it stands, but the whole of the £40,000 put into the Reserve Fund. That sheds a little light upon the argument we had lately. We were rather in doubt whether the cities would suffer in respect to the local grants. Now it appears that the cities would not be affected, and that by reason of the language of the Sub-section 1619 A they are deprived of part of the Exchequer contributions to which in the ordinary course they would be entitled, and when the Exchequer grant comes to be divisible it will be divided as the Probate Duty grant, except in a remote contingency, and in that event they will be entitled to a share in the £40,000. The contention of my hon. Friend is that they are entitled to it from the first. But I am not disposed to press the point. I think the cities might well assent to this.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Other Amendments made.
In page 3, line 37, after the word "and," to insert the words "the residue shall be divided between the counties us nearly as may be in the proportion of the shares of the counties in the Irish Probate Duty Grant, and such residue shall be applied towards the cost of providing labourers' cottages in the several counties under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, 1883 and 188G, on such terms and conditions and subject to such regulations as the Lord Lieutenant thinks expedient, save that where it appears to him, on the representation of the Local Government Board, that the whole or any part of such residue applicable to any county cannot with advantage be so applied, he may order the same to be applied as if it were a share of the county in the Irish Probate Duty Grant. Provided that the entire amount applied towards the cost of providing labourers' cottages under the present and the last preceding section in any year shall not exceed as regards any county the share of the county (calculated according to the above proportion) in the sum of forty thousand pounds, and any surplus over and above that share shall be applied as if it were part of the Irish Probate Duty Grant; and." —(The Attorney General for Ireland.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
(5.12.) MR.T. W.RUSSELL
It is quite impossible for anyone to understand this. Is this carrying out the arrangement made the other night as to the application of money for labourers' cottages?
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
The sum of money dealt with here, and under Clause 2, has now reached a very large amount. If the Attorney General for Ireland accepts the further Amendment in my name, it will reach the sum total when the £30,000,000 are expended of no less than £119,000 every year. Now, it will not be contended that in many towns in Ireland the dwellings of the 1620 working people do not require very considerable improvement, and every single town in Ireland, except the five exempted cities, will have to contribute towards the guarantee under this Bill; and as the Bill stands at present no single town can possibly derive any direct benefit from the Bill. The Government have conceded no inconsiderable benefit to agricultural labourers in agricultural districts under the Bill, and quite legitimately so, because they contribute towards the guarantee. Now, I ask the Government to extend that benefit towards working-class dwellings in towns, and to give them an advantage under the Bill, seeing that they, in common with other ratepayers in Ireland, will have to contribute directly in case of default. I do not think I need say more in support of my Amendment, which I hope will be accepted.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, in line 4, after the words "cost of," to insert the words " improving or erecting artisans' dwellings or."—(Mr. Mahony.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ (5.15.) MR. SEXTON
Under the 2nd section the Government have agreed that in cases where the Lord Lieutenant thinks a portion of the county percentage may be usefully so employed, it shall be applied to providing cottages under the Labourers (Ireland) Acts, and under Clause 3 they have now agreed that a portion of the Exchequer contribution shall also be so applied, after discharging the functions of guarantee, at the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant. The entire amount will be £115,000,1 think. Now, the Attorney General for Ireland proposes to introduce a limit of £40,000, but I am disposed to press him not to insist upon this. There is no doubt whatever that in many of our towns there is a great deal to be done on grounds of decency and health for the improvement of dwellings occupied by artisans, and, indeed, I may say by agricultural labourers, who, by reason of the cruel policy of former years, have been driven to reside in the slums of our towns, though they really belong to the rural population. Now, seeing that the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant is made 1621 supreme in. the 2nd clause, it would be an ill compliment to the Lord Lieutenant to impose this restriction here. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Lord Lieutenant would spend more money in Ireland in the year than is necessary? I would suggest that the amount applicable from this source should stand as in Clause 2, and let the Lord Lieutenant determine how much should be applied. Let the Attorney General look at this in a broad and statesmanlike spirit, and tell us, that, as many of the agricultural population have to find their homes in towns, he is willing to apply the full sum available under the:2nd clause, subject to the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant always as to how far it may be usefully employed towards the housing of agricultural and artisan labourers in towns, and I think that will give general satisfaction in Ireland.
§ (5.18.) MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to grant this concession suggested by the Amendment. It may be truly said that there are, perhaps, no people in the world, certainly there are none in Ireland, whose dwellings stand more in need of improvement than those of the artisans and labourers in Irish towns. It is also true that there is perhaps better opportunity of improving the condition of the labouring population in small urban communities in Ireland, than that which exists in respect to any other class in that country. There are sites in these towns and ruined habitations which could be purchased cheaply and made tenantable for the wants of the class the Amendment seeks to benefit. It may be said, and it is capable of proof, that a little expenditure of money would go further in the direction of ameliorating the condition of people in towns than the same amount of money spent under any other circumstances for our country districts. The argument also that a great many of our agricultural labourers live in towns is a very forcible one. As the Bill stands, these are precluded from the benefits of legislation for agricultural labourers by the, twofold fact of their living in towns and not being 'constantly employed in agricultural labour. It is impossible that they can obtain the advantages that labourers in rural districts can receive, they cannot have little plots of land which they 1622 can cultivate. These arguments have force in favour of the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and I trust that the Government will agree to put these classes of men in country districts and in towns, to this extent, in the same position.
§ (5.24.) MR. FITZGERALD (Longford, S.)
I cannot see any tenable ground on which this Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath can be refused. The demand is a moderate one on behalf of the artisans as they are called, though they are really labourers dwelling in towns. This Bill provides that the ratepayers in the towns shall contribute towards the Guarantee Fund, and they share the risk of having to make good any default that may arise among the agricultural tenants who may purchase, and surely they cannot fairly be denied the benefit that may accrue to men in a like position in the rural districts. I noticed during the course of the discussions on the clause relating to labourers in Ireland, that a good deal of trouble was taken to qualify labourers, and I think we may call those whom the Amendment of the Attorney General is intended to deal with," labourers proper"; and, indeed, the other night hon. Gentlemen from Ireland determined to push home this qualification by voting against the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Nolan), which was intended to extend the benefit of the clause to all under a £15 valuation. They went so far as to drag their friends below the Gangway into the Lobby to vote against the principle of a graduated Income Tax. It is a qualification I do not recognise, and everybody who knows anything about Ireland in this connection, knows that the position of this class with which the Amendment deals is that of labourers. These are simply agricultural labourers who have been pushed into towns by lack of work, and they are what are called handy men; they having taught themselves simple trades with which they eke out a livelihood when agricultural work fails. Everyone familiar with Irish towns knows that the houses in which this class of labourers dwell are a disgrace to local administration, and, indeed, to humanity; and the Government will but do an act of justice in accepting the Amendment which should specially commend itself at this time when we are 1623 approaching the end of the septennial period, when these artisans and labourers become the prey of political partisans. As the hon. Member for Cork has said, a much-needed reform in this direction can be carried out with little expenditure.
§ (5.28.) MR. KNOX
I support the Amendment, but, at the same time, I would suggest that the words will not carry the intention of the Amendment into practical effect. It is obvious that the authorities who would have to carry out a provision of this kind would have to act under some Statutory provision in providing labourers and artisans' dwellings. It would be impossible for Local Authorities to adequately provide such dwellings unless they were endowed with compulsory powers to acquire proper sites and to provide for the erection of suitable dwellings. A most useful purpose to which such an Amendment could be applied would be the removal of insanitary dwellings and erecting others on the site. Now, a most useful Act was passed last year, after mature consideration, by the Law Committee, the "Housing of the Working Classes Act," and I think practical effect would be given to this Amendment if it were adapted to the working of that Act. Therefore, I would suggest to the hon. Member for Meath that he should consent to the amendment of his Amendment in this manner. It is not, I think, a matter that need lead to much controversy; the Act I mention is a codification of existing Acts in relation to the subject of providing dwellings for the working classes.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be inserted in the proposed Amendment to the proposed Amendment."
§ (5.33.) MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
With respect to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath, I would point out that in most of the towns in Ireland the lighting watching, cleansing, and sanitary work is carried out under the Statute 9 Geo. IV. cap. 87. Therefore Mr. Fitzgerald 1624 scarcely a single artisan would have a vote for Commissioners in these towns, as they live in houses rated at less than £5, and therefore they would not have the slightest voice in the enforcement of the Act of 1890. I think, therefore, that the proposed Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath would have no practical effect.
§ (5.35.) COLONEL NOLAN
I hope the Government will accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath. I like the use of the word "improving" in the Amendment, for that will allow of much to be done at a small expenditure of money. As to the last Amendment proposed, I think it would be rather rash to limit the application to a single Act. I do not know whether the Act applies to the ordinary sanitary authorities, the Boards of Guardians, and I think it would be better to postpone the Amendment to the Amendment, so that we may consider the matter a little more, and it may be revised on the Report stage.
§ (5.37.) MR. KNOX
I wish to give the Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath operative effect. If that Amendment is carried in its present form there will be a certain amount of money devoted to erecting and improving artisans' dwellings in towns; but no man could tell who is to provide these dwellings, or how the money is to be applied. As to the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I may say it would be better to insert my Amendment now, and if on further consideration it should appear that further Amendment is necessary, let that be taken in hand on Report. As to the objection of relying upon a single Act, I may mention again that the Act of 1890 is a codification of all previous Acts dealing with artisans' dwellings, and authorities under it exist in every part of Ireland urban and rural. Although I agree that the franchise in Irish towns is not on that popular basis we desire, yet I am bound to say it is preferable to the Boards of Guardians, which contains so many ex officios. I certainly think the Amendment is necessary to give practical effect to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Meath.
§ Question put, and agreed to.1625
That the words 'improving or erecting artisans' dwellings under " The Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890," or ' be inserted after the words 'cost of, in line 4 of the proposed Amendment.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Amendment of the hon. Member would leave it open to the Lord Lieutenant to spend the money either in erecting or improving artisans' dwellings or in erecting labourers' cottages.
§ 5.42.) MR. MAHONY
The Amendment is an important one, and would involve, on the Report stage, the introduction of a similar Amendment of Clause 2, so that the whole of this sum might be made available for the purpose of providing dwellings.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No doubt, the hon. Member for Meath has been well advised in accepting the Amendment to his Amendment, so as to get it in a workable form. We are all agreed, in whatever part of the House we sit, in desiring to see the artisans' dwellings in the towns of Ireland improved; they need improvement beyond question. The hon. Member for Cork appears to be of opinion that under the Labourers' Dwellings Act, 1886, it would be impossible to provide houses except for agricultural labourers who are in constant agricultural work, or who at least do such work for the greater part of their time. I think the hon. Gentleman must have had in view some of the earlier editions of this Act. There were three Bills, and in each case I think the definition of " agricultural labourer " has been relaxed, until in the last form of the Labourers' Act it is that agricultural labourer means " a man or woman who does agricultural work for hire at any season of the year on the land for some other person or persons," and includes " handloom weavers and fishermen doing agricultural work." It appears, therefore, that if a man does a day's work on a farm, or if ever so little time be devoted to agricultural work, he comes under the definition of an " agricultural labourer," and it would be possible under the Act of 1886, as supplemented by this Act, to build him a cottage—and, be it noted, whether that cottage is to be built in the country or in a town. Some hon. Gentlemen appear to be of opinion that because an agricultural labourer resides 1626 in a town, he will thereby be precluded from receiving relief under the Act of 1886. That would not be the case. It matters not where the man resides. If he does agricultural work to the extent I have described, it will be possible to build him a cottage in a town or out of a town as may be most convenient, according to the view of the Local Authority. The class which in the towns will not be affected by this Bill is relatively a limited class. Broadly speaking, throughout Ireland, the great mass of the poorest of the labouring population consists of agricultural labourers, according to the wide definition contained in the Act of 1886, and therefore I conceive that the provisions we have introduced will go a long way towards meeting the views expressed by gentlemen opposite. Now, I would ask the Committee whether it is quite fair to the Government to ask them to graft on to a Bill for land purchase in Ireland so novel and so wide-reaching a proposal, and one that would involve the employment of funds contributed by the British taxpayer for the erection of artisans' dwellings in the Irish towns? I make no comment or criticism on the Irish Labourers' Acts. But it is a very strong order indeed to ask us, in addition to the provisions of those Acts—against which, though I fully acknowledge their merits, a very large number of arguments might be urged — in the middle of the Land Purchase Bill, to make an entirely new precedent for devoting the money of the taxpayers not only to the construction but to the improvement of the dwellings of labourers in towns. Without discussing a policy which is entirely novel, it is enough for me to ask the Committee to absolve me from the enormous duty of embodying in a Land Purchase Bill so new and far-reaching a proposal.
§ (5.50.) MR. MAHONY
The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was directed to proving that this proposal would not effect any great change in Ireland, but in the second part of his speech he went on to describe it as a novel and far-reaching proposal, and said it was not fair to ask the Government to introduce it into a measure of land purchase. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman why he 1627 himself introduced into a Land Purchase Bill a clause giving power to erect dwellings for agricultural labourers in Ireland? What have they to do with land purchase? This is a Bill for advancing money to Irish tenants, to enable them to buy their farms from their landlords. The labourers are brought into the matter for the sole and simple reason that they are asked to contribute to this guarantee, and if a novel and far-reaching proposal has been grafted upon the Land Purchase Bill it has been done by the Chief Secretary himself. We are now asking the right hon. Gentleman to extend these provisions so as to make them apply to the labouring population dwelling in towns. We have purposely excluded five cities from the Amendment, but have included all the other towns in Ireland, and I say we have an unanswerable case, because the labourers dwelling in the towns will have to contribute towards the guarantees. In asking the right hon. Gentleman to extend the proposal, so that some small benefit may go to those who are asked to give guarantees under this Bill, we are not making any unreasonable demand on the right hon. Gentleman, and we are making one which is supported by the consensus of opinion on the part of the Irish Representatives.
§ (5.55.) COLONEL NOLAN
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the interests of the British taxpayer, but I do not see how the British taxpayer is affected at all by this Amendment. It is of no consequence to him whether the money is applied to this or some other purpose. It seems to me that it would be well worth while to enable a Sanitary Authority to give £5, £10, or £15 to make a man's house habitable without going to the expense of building a new one. This proposal would for the first time introduce the principle of improving existing dwellings. You generally see a fringe of poor wretched houses when you drive in or out of a town, and these are the houses that might be improved under this Amendment.
§ (5.56.) MR. SEXTON
I really think the case is worthy of re-consideration by the right hon. Gentleman. I would point out, in the first place, that these towns, which are outside the excepted cities, are liable for defaults. The 1628 farmers buy; they get a reduction of rent, and then, if they fail to pay what they owe to the State, these towns, as well as the rural communities, will have to bear the brunt of the default. What do the towns get under the Bill? I am not aware that they get anything, and I think equity suggests that if a benefit of this kind were conferred on the towns it would not only make the Bill a more beneficial social instrument, but would bring its provisions more into harmony with the dictates of fairness. We are dealing here with the Exchequer contribution. What is the origin of that contribution? It is a sum paid out of the Imperial purse to compensate Ireland for the local taxation licences. I say, that instead of £40,000, we ought to get £186,000. But, leaving that aside, under the Labourers' Acts the labourers cannot be dealt with in the towns in a satisfactory manner. The hon. and gallant Gentleman below mo (Colonel Nolan) has pointed out that under the present law existing dwellings cannot be improved. The Labourers' Acts are very cumbrous and costly. They necessitate cumbrous local inquiries, shorthand notes, the production of maps, plans, and so forth. My impression is that under those Acts you cannot give a man a house without land. That is exceedingly awkward. I think it is worth while considering whether the Government might not engraft the Motion upon the Bill.
§ (6.1.) SIR J. COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow, &c.)
This is really a proposal for making the Exchequer contributions available for improving town landlord's property. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) talks about giving assistance towards improving labourers' cottages in towns. But this is a proposal not to give it to the labourers but, as a rule, to the landlords. My observation goes to show that the cumbrous machinery which has been referred to with respect to labourers' cottages is really very necessary. We are too apt in Ireland to be lavish in giving public money here and public money there, but I myself shall certainly vote against the Amendment, on the ground that to my certain knowledge it would operate simply as a means of using public money for the improvement of the property of town landlords.
§ (6.3.) MR. FLYNN
This is an Amendment supported by Members from Ireland on both sides of the House, and we hope the Government will give further consideration to it. We cannot congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his knowledge of the social condition of Ireland. He says these dwellings are more required in the exempted towns than in the small rural towns. But he forgets that in the exempted towns there are authorities which possess sufficient powers already to erect artisans' dwellings. As a matter of fact, such dwellings are being erected in Dublin, Cork, and Belfast with great rapidity. The hon. Member opposite (Sir J. Colomb) tried to show that this money would be utilised for the purpose of improving landlords' property. That is certainly not the intention of those who support the Amendment. Let me, however, point out that it might be possible for Town Commissioners to buy up old dwellings—and I am sure they could acquire them at a very low price —for the purpose of improving them. I hope the Chief Secretary will listen to the very strong recommendations that have been made to him in favour of the Amendment.
§ (6.8.) MR. MAHONY
I would ask the Chief Secretary to say what is to become of the money if it is not applied in this way? It is to go to the relief of the Poor Rate and the County Cess in Ireland. That is a matter concerning the Irish people only, and up to this moment not one single Member representing Ireland has raised a single objection to the Amendment I have proposed. In addition to this, the whole case is safeguarded by the fact that if the Lord Lieutenant is of opinion that it is not requisite to spend any money in this way in Ireland he may give directions accordingly. The whole discretion rests with him. Under the circumstances, I make a final appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to grant some concession on this point, for the benefit of the labourers.
§ (6.9.) MR. PARNELL
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will re-consider this matter. I was hoping that we should have had some intimation from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for. Ireland on the point that has been raised as to whe- 1630 ther a house can be built under the Labourers' Act in Ireland without a plot of ground being attached to it. That point has been raised to meet the argument used by the Chief Secretary that a considerable portion of the labouring population of these smaller towns do come under the provisions of the various Labourers' Acts. I am in doubt as to whether the definition has been so extended by the Act of 1886, but it appears that it has been made extensive in the direction indicated by the right hon. Gentleman, and I want to know why the provision has not been used in the small towns for the purpose of acquiring sites which abound, and of replacing the tumbledown dwellings with suitable ones. If the Boards of Guardians have power to build houses in the smaller Irish towns, apart from plots of land, why do they not do it? I am not aware of any case where it has been done by any Board. Certainly it would be an enormous improvement if they could do it, but I doubt very much if they have the power, unless they have been given such powers by one of the various Amendments in the Act of 1886. I doubt whether they have the power to build a house separate from a plot of land or without a plot of land. Section 6 of the Act of 1883 says the schemes should provide for the erection of a sufficient number of labourers' cottages, so as to provide for the accommodation of the labouring classes in suitable dwellings, with the requisite approaches, with proper sanitary arrangements, and should also provide for a plot or garden, not exceeding half a Statute acre, being-attached to the dwelling. It appears to me that that section, looking at it at first sight, supplies us with the cause of the failure of the Act, so far as the smaller Irish towns are concerned. If that is so—if the section is as I interpret it—it throws an entirely new light on this question. The Chief Secretary admitted that there is this want and grievance in the towns, and he pointed out that the definition of an agricultural labourer has been extended by the Act of 1886, so as to admit of provision being made for the building of houses in the smaller Irish towns. But if my interpretation of this section of the Act of 1883 is correct, it is evident that the Act does not contain practical provision for meet- 1631 ing the case of these labourers. These labourers, agricultural or not, cannot he placed in the country districts, because you cannot remove them from the main source of their occupations, which is in the towns, and, although they may come under the Act of 1886, they will undoubtedly be shut out from its beneficial provisions, owing to the impossibility of providing plots of land near their houses, and it would be useless to provide plots of land at a distance from their houses. I wish to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider this question. The right hon. Gentleman went to the West of Ireland recently for the purpose of studying the condition of the smaller tenant farmers in that country, and for the purpose of seeing what could be done to improve their condition, at all events temporarily, and in order to provide them with work. I think the right hon. Gentleman's experience, and the works that have been undertaken as the result of that experience, have been beneficial, and have carried out, to a considerable extent, in a beneficial way, the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman. I think these works were desirable with a view to affording work for the enormous population who most required it. The Chief Secretary went for the purpose of studying the conditions of the smaller tenant farmers—persons who live outside the towns—and probably he had not the same opportunity of seeing the condition of the labouring classes in the small towns. At all events, his mind was not at all directed to this question; but I am convinced of this fact: that had his mind been directed to the question, had he seen what the condition of these poor people is, and what an immense improvement the adoption of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend would effect in their condition, the right hon. Gentleman would not be opposing this Amendment. I wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that this Amendment gives the power to the Lord Lieutenant. He can spend all the money, if he likes, upon agricultural labourers' dwellings outside these towns. It gives him simply the power to supply a want which I think I have pointed out exists in the Labourers' Act regarding the welfare of the agricultural labourers or those who come under the definition, in the Act of 1886, of agricul- 1632 tural labourers; and that being so, I trust the Chief Secretary will take power from the Lord Lieutenant to supply this want and to relieve these hardships and grievances, if the Lord Lieutenant should think proper to do so.
§ (6.17.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I shall await with some anxiety to hear the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on this question, to know whether the Labourers' (Ireland) Act gives power to grant cottages without allotments or not. If it be true that the clause pointed out by the hon. Member for Cork has failed, and precludes the possibility of the Labourers' Act being taken advantage of in the small rural towns, I shall not be able to vote against the Amendment. I hope some arrangement will be made by which this difficulty will be got over; but I think an amending clause would be a cumbrous addition to this Bill, and ought to be added to the Labourers' Act, which is shortly to be renewed.
(6.19.) MR, KNOX
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is mistaken when he thinks the Housing of the Working Classes Act does not already apply to Ireland. It is, I believe, being practically enforced in several parts of Ireland, such as Cork and Dublin. I would urge on the right hon. Gentleman that, after all, this is not a very large question. The question of the housing of the working classes is a very large question, but the amount of money that it will be possible to use under this provision will be very small. One private individual has recently given in the City of Dublin a larger sum for the benefit of the working classes than can be given under this provision for the benefit of the working classes all over Ireland—I refer to Sir Edward Guinness. It is hardly worth while further preventing progress by resisting the Amendment.
§ (6.20.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is with the greatest reluctance that I oppose an Amendment, moved, I am sure, in perfect good faith, and with a sincere desire to benefit the poorer classes of the community in Ireland, and pressed on me, I admit, by gentlemen representing various interests in Ireland, who do not always agree on every question. But I think I can show the Committee that there are serious objections 1633 to the course proposed. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down tells us, and tells us truly, that the operations under this measure will be very small. But that is one of my objections to the Amendment—that for a very small benefit to the class concerned the Committee is asked for the first time to swallow an enormous principle never before discussed upon any Bill brought before the House, and which ought not to be decided in Committee on a Land Purchase Bill. Let us observe this: The Act for providing agricultural labourers with cottages is a very exceptional one; but, then, it is admitted that the condition of the agricultural labourers in many parts of Ireland is exceptional, and that there is no analogy between their condition and that of the agricultural labourers in England and Scotland. But when we come to the towns, can we make out any distinction whatever between the urban population of Ireland and the urban population of England or Scotland? And we must altogether exclude from our view those town labourers in Ireland who gain part of their livelihood by agricultural work, for as I have already pointed out they are provided for by existing legislation. Excluding those from our purview, I would ask is there any real distinction to be drawn between the Irish artisan and the Scotch or English artisan? If there is no distinction to be drawn, would the Committee for a very small and insignificant Amendment be justified in accepting so wide, so novel, and so far-reaching a principle? I respectfully submit that it would not. The hon. Member for Cork pointed out that the provisions of the Labourers' Dwellings Act of 1883, which requires that a small plot of land shall be attached to the houses of the agricultural labourers, prevent those houses from being built in towns. But in the villages and small towns in Ireland there is no difficulty whatever in obtaining small plots at the outskirts, and if it is thought that labourers' houses should be built without small plots of land attached to them, the proper way would be to amend the existing Labourers' Dwellings Act. That could be done without much difficulty. The hon. Member for West Belfast, in the able argument he put before the Committee, told us that while 1634 this £40,000 we are now concerned in is paid from licences, under the Bill as it at present stands and without the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, the money will be applied mostly to rural districts which have contributed nothing to it. I do not say there is no force in that objection to the Bill as it now stands. That objection could not be taken to the Bill, as I introduced it, because the £40,000 was not only distributed for labourers' cottages, but with the Irish Probate Duty grant. If hon. Members are of opinion that towns in Ireland will be deprived of the benefit of this £40,000—and I do not think such will be the case—by the Amendment I introduce, I think the proper course would be either now or on Report to introduce some Amendment which will restore to the towns the benefit we withdraw from them. For myself I do not think such a course is necessary, and I do not press it on hon. Members. My reading of the Labourers' Act leads me to believe that the case of the great majority of that part of the population who live in "agricultural towns," as they are called in Ireland—"villages" as they would be called in England—can be adequately met under the Labourers' Cottages Act. But my main objection to the Amendment is that we should not introduce into a Bill intended to deal with land purchase so new and extraordinary a principle as that the money of the British taxpayer shall be applied not merely to the construction, but to the repair of artisans' dwellings in towns.
§ (6.27.) MR. MAHONY
I just desire to point out that this matter is not so trifling as the right hon. Gentleman seems disposed to make out. When the £30,000,000 is spent under the Land Purchase Act this fund will amount to £115,000 a year, and if that for 49 years is an insignificant sum—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There are other objections to applying the fund as it increases in amount to the purpose indicated in the Amendment, but I did not think it worth while delaying the Committee by entering into them. I confined myself to the £40,000.
§ MR. MAHONY
Then I will not press that point. The right hon. Gentleman objects to my proposal as novel, and says that if this principle were applied 1635 to Ireland it could with equal justice be claimed for England and Scotland. But I would point out that all we want to do is to provide a certain sum of money, which is Irish money and not British money, and which will go to Irish taxpayers and not to British taxpayers, for the carrying out of an Act which is not a new Act, but one that already is in existence, and that applies to Great Britain as well as Ireland. The only novel part of the thing is the provision of the money. As to attempting to amend the Labourers' Act, we know how easy it is for a single Member to prevent a Bill from passing through the House. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman this question—and I will then no longer stand between the Committee and a Division—if he will not consent to an alteration of the Labourers' Act to such an extent as to give power under it to build these dwellings or improve existing dwellings without adding plots of land, will he give those powers in the present Bill so that we may be assured of their passing through the House?
§ MR. MAHONY
No, no. I ask that the right hon. Gentleman should bring forward such an Amendment himself.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That I must consider.
(6.30.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 78; Noes 261.—(Div. List, No. 156.)
§ (6.43) MR. SEXTON
If the further Amendment is adopted it will give the Lord Lieutenant discretion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We accept the Amendment as to the Lord Lieutenant's discretion so as to include the whole amount.
Amendment amended, by leaving out the words—
Provided that the entire amount applied towards the cost of providing labourers' cottages under the present and the last preceding section in any year shall not exceed as regards any county the share of the county (calculated according to the above proportion) in the sum of forty thousand pounds, and any surplus over and above that share shall be applied as if it were part of the Irish Probate Duty Grant; and.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.1636
§ Question proposed, " That Clause 3, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Really we have not had an opportunity of saying a single word on this clause. I have listened to the friendly conversation taking place between my hon. Friend and the Secretary for Ireland and I have not raised my voice, because I did not precisely see where the English taxpayer was concerned in it.
It being ten minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.