§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (3.10.) MR. SEXTON: (Belfast, W.)
This Bill has two objects, both of which I conceive ought to be dealt with, not by means of a Private Bill, but by the Local Government Bill before the House at the present time. One of these objects relates to the contributions of the City of Belfast for the maintenance of Reformatories and Industrial Schools. The City of Belfast at present contributes in this respect with the Counties of Down and Antrim. By the Local Government Bill the Corporation of Belfast will become an Urban County Council, and will acquire the fiscal powers now exercised by the Grand Juries of the counties. It is evident, therefore, that the purpose intended by this portion of the Bill will be more effectually attained under the general law, and this portion of the Bill ought not to be entertained by the House. But my main objection to the Bill concerns the Lunatic Asylum at Belfast, and the extent of the asylum district. At present the Antrim district is included with the City of Belfast, and the asylum is governed by a Board of Governors, nominated partly by the local contributors and partly by the Lord Lieutenant. Some time ago the Board of Control, a State Department instituted by Parliament for the government of Lunatic Asylums in Ireland, agreed to the erection of a second lunatic asylum in the County of Antrim, to meet the requirements for further accommodation; and for convenience and the health of patients it was arranged that transfers should be made from the one to the other. The Board of Governors of the existing asylum at first approved of the project, and the promoters of this Bill have circulated a statement for the information of the House, which I cannot but characterise as extremely misleading, and one which, in my experience, is unprecedented in its recklessness; for they state that the 1335 Board of Governors are in favour of this scheme, whereas the fact is, that although the Board of Governors a long time since—I think in 1890—at a small meeting passed what may be described as a snatch resolution in favour of a scheme of which they had not then had a clear view, this statement entirely suppresses the fact that within the last few weeks the existing Board passed a resolution adverse to the scheme. I see no Representative of the Irish Government present, or I should like to ask for an explanation of what effect was produced on the mind of the Lord Lieutenant by this change of mind on the part of the Board of Governors. Does the Lord Lieutenant think, does the Board of Control think, that this is a scheme that ought to be carried out? The intention of Parliament, by the Lunatic Asylums Act, manifestly and indisputably was, that changes of this kind should be carried out, if at all, under the authority of the public law by the constituted Department, and not by means of a Private Bill. What is the proposal? The proposal is, not that there shall be two asylums in one district governed by one Board, but that there shall be two Boards constituted for separate management, although it is intended that patients may be transferred from the one to the other. Upon this I may say at once, that to institute two Boards for the two asylums will mean that both the County of Antrim and the City of Belfast will be heavily mulcted. Two staffs of high officials, two staffs of assistants, two sets of contractors, with the certainty that higher prices will be paid for two sets of supplies purchased in smaller quantities, two sets of advertisements, and two sets of machinery for the transaction of business generally. On its merits, I say the scheme is one that the House ought not to entertain. But I do not lean most upon that. I rely on the principle that Parliament by Public Statute has created a Department for dealing with questions of this class, and if circumstances require that these matters should be revised or reviewed, then that should be done by Public Act, and not by means of a Private Bill. The Lord Lieutenant and the Board of Control have power 1336 to separate, extend, contract, or alter any County Lunatic Asylum District, and they have so separated the Counties of Down and Antrim. I am told that the Lord Lieutenant cannot separate a city from a county, and, if so, it is manifest, I think, that if a difficulty present itself in this respect it should not be solved by a Private Bill; and, since we have a Local Government Bill before Parliament, why not insert, as a matter of general law, a provision which shall give the Lord Lieutenant power to separate a city from a county? This Bill proposes that the City of Belfast shall be a district in itself—an unprecedented proposition; there is nothing of the kind in Ireland—and that control shall be vested in the Corporation. Now, I fail to discover any argument why an institution supported in one moiety of the cost by the State should be vested in a Local Body. It is proposed to give the Corporation absolute control of the asylum, and on that I have to make two remarks. In the first place, as I have said before in the House, though it led to no practical result, that although one-third of the population of Belfast is Catholic, some three or four score thousands, such has been the jerrymandering of the wards in past times—some 50 years since, when Belfast was a small place—that Catholics are unable to return a single member to the Corporation. There are 80,000 Catholics in the town, yet out of 40 members of the Corporation there is not a solitary Catholic. Now, the proposal is that in regard to the Governing Body of this asylum, in which Catholics have so much interest, the Corporation shall have the power to nominate 12 of the 18 Governors, giving them simply absolute control, and this is in direct contravention of Clause 15 of the Local Government Bill, which provides that the Lord Lieutenant shall nominate half of the Governing Body, upon the principle that as the funds are provided in moieties the representation shall be equal. But the Corporation of Belfast, ignoring this rule, wish to appropriate two-thirds of the representation. It is evident, I think, that the House cannot for a moment entertain the idea of giving 1337 this extension of power to a Local Body by means of a Private Bill, and in contravention of a Bill by which the Government propose to establish a general rule of law in regard to a Government Department. I say, also, that if it be intended that patients should be transferred from the one to the other for the sake of their health, then it is not expedient to have two Boards of Governors subject to the conditions of establishing two asylums in the county. The establishment of two Boards will certainly not contribute to the harmony of management. There are in the Bill elaborate, I may say portentous, provisions for the settlement of disputes between the Board of Guardians in Belfast and in the county, as to the accommodation of patients, and the charges to be made. I must say the institution of two Boards must needs bring with it a conflict of authority. I submit, that if the public law in respect to the administration requires to be amended, as to which no cause has been shown, this should be done by public enactment, and not by a Private Bill for one city. I submit, also, that there are matters of account and arrangements to be adjusted in the relations between the city and the county consequent upon Belfast being constituted an Urban County Council; and, lastly, I submit it is extremely inconvenient and inexpedient that the House of Commons should promote this exceptional, piecemeal legislation in regard to one city on a question concerning as it does the whole nation, which is unquestionably a matter of public law. If the House entertain this proposition and, still more, if it he passed into law, what will be the effect on the Local Government Bill? That Bill will be overloaded with Amendments claiming particular legislation for every part of Ireland. We shall have to present an Amendment in respect to the City of Dublin, vesting the asylum there in the Corporation of that city, and giving the Corporation of that city two-thirds of the representation on the Governing Body, and providing for two asylums; we shall have to present Amendments for the alteration of the various districts in Ireland, and for the increase of the power of the local contributory bodies. On point of principle, and in point of 1338 expediency, the House should decline to entertain, in a Private Bill, these proposals touching a matter of public law. Therefore, I ask the right hon. Gentleman who now represents the Government (Mr. Ritchie), and in whom I have every confidence, though this is a matter more concerning the Irish Minister, to assent to the proposal I make, that the Bill should either be rejected to-day, or that, at any rate, it should be postponed until the mind of Parliament is ascertained in regard to the principle, and even the details, of the Local Government Bill. If the Bill is now persisted with, we must meet it with determined opposition at every stage.
§ *(3.25.) SIR EDWARD HARLAND (Belfast, N.)
I quite hoped that the hon. Member for West Belfast would have given us hearty support rather than have put opposition in the way of the Bill, though I am glad he has adopted the latter course in a rather mild, and I may say rather a good-hearted spirit. It is well known in the neighbourhood of Belfast that such has been the rapid and enormous growth of the city that the Lunatic Asylum which has served for all the patients in Belfast and Antrim has become totally unfit for its purposes; and when I had the honour of a seat as one of the Governors, three or four years ago, the question was continually before the Board of Governors, and the point was raised how the Asylum could be enlarged and made suitable for the increasing requirements. Structural enlargement was deemed impossible, and at that time it was determined that the building should be offered for sale to the War Office, to be used as a barrack. This will give an idea of the extent to which the Governors had at that time gone towards the conclusion that the building was quite unfitted for its purpose. Since then Belfast has still more rapidly increased, until at last it has been found impossible to arrange matters so as to accommodate the whole of the patients from Belfast and Antrim, many of whom have had to be sent to Ballymena and other unions in Down and Antrim. The necessity for an extension of the asylum having been shown, very grave consideration was given to the problem, and in the 1339 result we have this Bill, which we submit to the House for Second Reading. The objections the hon. Member has raised should be looked upon rather as minor points which can readily be adjusted by a Committee upstairs, should the House give the Bill a Second Reading. Since the Bill was printed we have had before us the Local Government Bill, some of the minor clauses of which would undoubtedly to some extent affect this Bill, but the promoters, the Corporation of Belfast, are perfectly willing on these points to alter the Bill in Committee. But what we broadly urge on the consideration of the House is that, the necessity for some such change being shown, we were bound to carry it through, and with the object of getting authority for the transfer we submit our proposals to the House. Further, I say the Board of Control in Dublin, having had the matter thoroughly laid before them, came to the conclusion that this was the best course to take, expressed regret that they had not the power to carry it through, and urged proceeding with a Private Bill. County Antrim will erect an asylum for county patients, and the present building will be sold to the Corporation.
§ MR. SEXTON
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to ask him one question? Has the mind of the Lord Lieutenant and has the opinion of the Board of Control been ascertained since the Board of Governors rescinded their resolution in favour of the scheme?
§ * SIR E. HARLAND
With reference to that, I may say distinctly that the Board of Governors came to a definite and decisive resolution in the year 1890 to make this transfer; the Grand Jury of County Antrim approved and raised no objection to it, and it is only within the last two or three weeks that the Board of Governors again reviewed the matter, and it seems to me that it is an unbusiness-like proceeding to raise objections at the last moment, when the Bill had been entered upon, and it was ascertained that the Grand Jury of Antrim raised no objection, and when the points of difference can be adjusted after consideration of all interests by the Committee upstairs. All this was shown to the County Authorities; they 1340 waived their objections on minor points, and the County Members are here to support the Second Reading of the Bill, if necessary. It can be shown, I think, that the supposed rescinding of the resolution was a momentary thought, and should not stand in the way of a large transaction of this kind, to which serious consideration has been given for years. If at the last moment a momentary change of opinion should be allowed such weight as to change a course of policy deliberately entered upon, what progress can be made in any important public undertaking? The promoters of this Bill are business men; they have come after serious consideration to the opinion that this change is necessary, and I beg the House to view the proposal of the Belfast Corporation in a favourable light by giving the Bill a Second Reading, leaving points of detail to be fairly and fully discussed before a Committee.
§ *(3.29.) SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
The hon. Baronet has not in the slightest degree removed the main objection—that being, that principle and expediency are opposed to such an attempt to deal piecemeal with Local Government administration in one of its most important details, the management of lunatic asylums. The hon. Member for West Belfast has so forcibly, and lucidly, and so unanswerably stated the objections, that I certainly will not attempt to go over them again. I appeal to the Chief Secretary not to allow this Bill to pass, for it conflicts with certain principles in the Local Government Bill for Ireland introduced by the Leader of the House within the last few days. I shall give my most emphatic opposition to the Bill in the shape in which it now appears, and I am sure that if it passes it will be the cause of many objections and amendments being raised to the Local Government Bill.
§ (3.30.) MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I do not think there is any dispute as to the necessity for making provision for lunatics in the district. The hon. Member for West Belfast has objected to details in the Bill.
§ MR. SEXTON
The establishment of a second asylum has nothing to do with the Bill, that is determined; the main point is, the division of the governorship of the two asylums.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
One of the objections of the hon. Member was on the score of expense; but I think he must see that if two asylums are established it is impossible that the same staff can do duty in both. The Governors are unpaid, so that the establishment of two Boards will add nothing to the expenses imposed on county or city, Then the hon. Member objected to the clause dealing with the transfer of patients. Now, I am not so locally connected with the city as with the county; but I have authority from the promoters to say that this clause was introduced at the direct suggestion of the Board of Control.
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. Member entirely misapprehends me. I do not object to the transfers. I approve of them, they are excellent; but I object to having the control of these transfers of patients under two Boards of Governors.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I am dealing with the hon. Member's objections generally, and I wish to explain that this clause did not originate in any deep design or sinister intention of the Corporation of Belfast; but it was introduced at the instigation of the Board of Control. The Board of Control is responsible for this suggestion in the Bill. Then as to the vesting the asylum in the Corporation, where again I think the hon. Member raised an objection. I have authority to say that the promoters will consent to any clause that the Board of Control desire should be introduced. They do not wish to depart from any clause, they will accept anything the Board of Control think it is necessary to insert. On the general question as to the desirability of delaying this Bill until the passing of the Local Government Bill, I think it is hardly reasonable to ask this from the promoters, the necessity for a Bill of that kind being admitted. If I understand the attitude taken up by the hon. Member and his friends, the passing of the Local Government Bill may not possibly become an accomplished fact within the present 1342 Session; and the necessity for dealing with this question being admitted, I hardly think the House will object to the Second Reading. But all the objections of the hon. Member go to the clauses, and on these points of objection the promoters are ready and willing to accept suggestions which may be made by the Board of Control before the Committee upstairs.
§ (3.35.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I did not hear with any satisfaction the declaration from the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir. E. Harland) that this Bill has been drawn by business men. Now, if there is anything I abhor in relation to matters of this kind it is an arrangement entered into by business men, for there is almost sure to be some attempt at fraud at the bottom of it, some attempt to take an advantage of somebody. It is part of the system of business men in these business-like arguments on which they plume themselves upon having a superiority over the rest of creation. I have the most profound distrust of the talk about the arrangements of business men. My hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has taken an attitude which entitles him to the gratitude of the House, and especially of Her Majesty's Government. He has hit the blot in the Bill, and I am amazed that the Irish Secretary should have thought this Bill of so little importance that, until he was urgently sent for by the President of the Local Government Board, he did not think it worth his while to attend this discussion. This business arrangement on the part of the Corporation of Belfast is an attempt to contravene the general law; but contrast the action of Her Majesty's Government with that taken towards the Municipal Franchise Bill which we introduced a week ago. What did the First Lord of the Treasury say no later than Wednesday last week? "We cannot have your Bill," said he, "because it is in contravention of our splendid Local Government scheme," the boon he proposes to cram down our throats. But here, as my hon. Friend has said, is a direct attempt to contravene your Local Government Bill, an attempt by Belfast to secure for itself a specific legislative enactment 1343 and facilities above all the rest of that part of the United Kingdom called Ireland. Dublin, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, all the rest of the Corporations of Ireland, are to be subject to the general law, all but Belfast, because Belfast happens to be a centre of that "loyal" minority where so much harmony exists, except on the 12th July, and is to have special legislation.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
Will the hon. and learned Member allow me to say that, as I have stated, the Corporation are quite willing to drop the exceptional clauses.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Then there remains no necessity for the Bill. The Local Government Bill can be availed of much more cheaply and without the expenses of counsel, who, I understand, get very fine fees for their arguments upstairs. It can be done more cheaply and expeditiously without the expenses of counsel and solicitors, who benefit so largely from this Private Bill legislation. I am amazed that the Chairman of Committees does not interpose with opposition to this Bill. He had hardly been a week in his office when he took part against us for altering the franchise in a Private Bill. In 1885 Sir Charles Dilke put a Franchise Amendment into the Rathmines Bill. We the following year tried to follow that up, but the Chairman of Committees got our proposal rejected, and the borough franchise has remained ever since. What is this but to alter the franchise and derogate from the general law? Here is the general law of Local Government, that the Lord Lieutenant shall have half the power of nomination. Why does not the Chairman of Committees, why does not the Leader of the House, intervene and say, "You must not alter the franchise simply for the erection of another Board of Governors?" What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. From our point of view, why should not the Corporations of Clonmel or Waterford have similar powers? Where is the keen anxiety of the Chairman of Committees with regard to the alteration of the franchise, when this very week we have had before us a scheme of Local Government, in which dealing with this very question of lunatics is included? The 1344 Government were willing that this Bill should pass sub silentio, and but for the vigilance of my hon. Friend this might have been done. I do not interest myself with proposals dealing with lunatic asylums, especially when they are contained in Private Bills; but here the Government were willing to acquiesce in a proposal in a Private Bill to derogate from the general law as embodied in their own Bill. Fortunately my hon. Friend read the Bill, and was here to challenge it, while the Irish Secretary stayed out of the House until he was twice urgently sent for.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Did the right hon. Gentleman hear one word of the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast?
§ MR. JACKSON
No; I did not, because I was in attendance upon a deputation, and unable to be present here; but I hurried to my place as soon as I was able to do so.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Very good. Accepting that in full, what was the duty of the Representatives of the Government who were present? Why did not the President of the Local Government Board get up and say, on behalf of the Government, that this was an attempt to derogate from the general law, and that it must be postponed until the Chief Secretary could be in his place? Why was not some action of the kind taken? No, but for the vigilance of my hon. Friend, the Bill would have slipped through, because of this arrangement with business men, to whom the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Harland) has alluded. We have business men on this side of the House. The whole question can be dealt with just as well in the Local Government Bill as it can be in the Bill now before us. I say it can be much better dealt with. Of course, we may be asked, "How on earth does the question of Protestant and Catholic come in on the question of the management of lunatic asylums?" We say we are entitled to a fair proportion of the representation on the Local Bodies, and this, owing to your jerrymandering of the wards in past years, 1345 we are now unable to obtain. It often happens that some of the unfortunate inmates of these asylums have their reason restored towards the close of their days, and we say at these moments the consolation of religion should be offered to them. We are entitled to have more than a third of the representation, but we have not a single representative on the Board of Control; we have not one representative on the Corporation; we cannot even have a Catholic scavenger in Belfast—there is not a Catholic employé of the Corporation of Belfast, from town clerk to scavenger. My hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton) represents a third of the population of Belfast, and to say that he is not to be heard by the Chief Secretary upon this Bill, because the right hon. Gentleman is attending a deputation, and that the Bill cannot be postponed, is a little too much. I think the time has now come for the Government to be heard. They have their own Bill, and if they believe in the virtues of that Bill for healing the woes of Ireland, let it have equal application to Belfast. You may amend that Bill to include all these questions, and certainly the stand you have taken against the Municipal Franchise Bill is one we may fairly ask you to adopt against this Bill.
§ *(3.41.) MR. JACKSON
The hon. and learned Gentleman might have saved a great deal of his warmth, for there is not the slightest foundation for any of the suggestions and insinuations he has thrown out in regard to my absence from the earlier part of this Debate. It is very gratifying to me, as one of those interested in the Irish Local Government Bill, to find, from expressions the hon. and learned Member has used, that he has a deep conviction that the Local Government Bill is going to pass this Session.
§ MR. JACKSON
And, therefore, the provision of this asylum will not be prejudiced or delayed to any great extent, even though this Bill should be rejected. Now, I want just to make clear the position, so far as the organisation of this Bill is concerned. I believe there was, long prior to any 1346 knowledge on the part of the Local Authorities of what the Local Government Bill would contain, a general opinion that such proposals as these were necessary. There is no connection between the introduction of this Bill of the City of Belfast and the Local Government Bill, as the hon. Member implies there is. This question has been before the Board of Control on many previous occasions, and it is, I believe, admitted on all hands that there is a necessity for some more adequate accommodation for the insane. That everybody is agreed upon. Then the two Local Bodies have been in consultation and communication, and the question comes before the Government of Ireland in this form, their consent being necessary to enable the Local Authority, the City of Belfast, to promote this Bill. There was, I say, an agreement between the two Bodies—a general agreement—that further accommodation was necessary.
§ MR. SEXTON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, am I not right in saying further accommodation has been provided for by order of the Department in Ireland and has nothing to do with this Bill?
§ * MR. JACKSON
The insane, of course, had to be provided for; but no detailed provision was made in this manner. With regard to the Governing Body, I understand that both the hon. Member for West Belfast and the hon. Member for Longford complain that under the Bill the representation is not fair. As regards the clauses in this Bill which conflict with the Local Government Bill, the Irish Government, in due course, as soon as they saw the Bill, gave notice to the promoters that these clauses would have to be amended or omitted.
§ * MR. JACKSON
I am speaking of the clauses in this Private Bill now before us relating to the election of Governors, and to which, I understand, the hon. Member has made objection In the promotion of the Bill the Government take no part; it is purely a local question, but it seems to me to be a reasonable attempt on the part of the City of Belfast to solve the difficulty and make the provision necessary Before a Committee upstairs all objec- 1347 tions can be urged, and upon the evidence before them it will be for the Committee to decide. So far as I am concerned, I am not prepared to vote against sending the Bill to a Committee to be dealt with.
§ (3.47.) MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I think the statement of the right hon. Gentleman is far from being satisfactory. Of course, we learn with pleasure that the right hon. Gentleman intends to insist that the clauses relating to the election of Governors are to be withdrawn. That we understand to be definitely settled. I must say that I am surprised that it ever entered into the heads of the promoters to insert these clauses. They appear to think that Belfast is entitled to be placed in a different position to any other community in Ireland. Why, this question of representation on the Board of Control is one upon which there has long been controversy between Irish Members and the Government. What is the position in the City of Cork? The Cork Corporation has not a single member representing it on the Board of Control for Cork Lunatic Asylum. Over and over again the Lord Lieutenant has refused, in a manner calculated to give the greatest offence to the great body of ratepayers in Cork, to permit the Corporation to elect a single member to the Board of Control for Cork Asylum, to the maintenance of which the citizens of Cork largely contribute. Cork being in this position, why is Belfast entitled to this privileged position? In a similar way, four or five years ago a municipal franchise was conferred on Belfast which was refused to the rest of Ireland. The doctrine seems to have gone forth that Belfast is entitled to an exceptional electoral position to which no other town can attain. Now, the right hon. Gentleman assumes that our opposition is based on the idea that the Local Government Bill is certain to pass this Session, but I beg to say that no such absurd hypothesis influences our action. But whether that Bill passes or not, this Bill is equally objectionable. If the Local Government Bill passes, then this Bill confers on Belfast electoral privileges in advance of the Local Government Bill, and it it does not pass the position 1348 is worse, for then the City of Belfast, under this Bill, would have the right to elect two-thirds of the Governors of the local lunatic asylum, whereas other communities in Ireland would have no right to elect a single member. I should like to have a frank statement from the promoters; if the clauses relating to the election of Governors are dropped, is there any advantage in their Bill at all? What purpose will it serve? It is admitted that under the existing law provision can be made for the erection of an additional lunatic asylum. The only question, therefore, the Bill deals with, the only clauses which are necessary, the only clauses to change the law, are the clauses regulating the franchise, and if these are dropped, then surely that is the death warrant of the whole Bill, for no advantage will be conferred on Belfast, and no privilege that cannot be gained under the existing law. I presume there are some clauses for rating purposes, but that is all. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months.
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ (3.51.) MR. KNOX (Cavan, W.)
I beg to support the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend. I object equally to every part of this Bill. I object, in the first place, because I think the interests of the Counties of Down and Antrim have been neglected in the way the Bill has been prepared in favour of the clique who manage the municipal affairs of Belfast. As a ratepayer of County Down I personally object to the Bill. But I do not merely object on that ground, which would not be a sufficient ground for opposing the Second Reading of the Bill, inasmuch as it is a detail which could be treated in Committee. I object to the Bill, because it proposes to set up a religious tyranny over the Catholic minority in the City of Belfast. ("Oh, oh!") The hon. and gallant Member for North Down (Colonel Waring) expresses his horror at such an accusation being brought 1349 against his friends in that city; but I wonder why the hon. and gallant Gentleman and his friends in Belfast, instead of expressing horror when the accusation is made, do not use their influence with the promoters of this Bill to introduce a certain amount of tolerance towards that minority in regard to the management of the municipal affairs of that city. At the present moment, as I had occasion to remark in discussing another Bill the other night, there is not a single elected Poor Law Guardian, not a single member of the Town Council, not a single Harbour Commissioner in Belfast, who is a Catholic. There are 80,000 Catholics in Belfast who are absolutely refused any representation on the Local Bodies. I ask how, in the face of facts like these, the House can purpose to hand over to a body of this exclusive character the right to control matters which affect in the very closest degree the religion of the people? Of course, hon. Members may say, "What do the lunatics care about religion?" but I think anybody who has any knowledge of the treatment of the insane will admit that though men are in a lunatic asylum they may none the less, but rather the more, require the consolations of religion to soothe them in their terrible disorders. I say a lunatic, just as much as a sane man, can be made the subject of religious tyranny. This is not an imaginary danger. For years the Poor Law Guardians in Belfast persistently refused to increase by one farthing the miserable pittance paid to the Catholic chaplain for his ministrations to the Catholic poor in the workhouse, and out of 60 nurses in the workhouse they have only one who is a Catholic. They refused, I say, to increase the miserable pittance paid to the Catholic chaplain, and the Local Government Board had to interfere, and got his salary doubled. But the Local Government Board cannot interfere in these matters if this Bill passes; the Board will have no power to interfere to insure common and decent fairness in the treatment of the people of Belfast. Not merely does this danger exist in reference to lunatics; there are other clauses in the Bill to which I venture to draw attention. There is a 1350 clause which proposes to transfer to the Corporation of Belfast all powers in connection with Industrial Schools and Reformatories. Now, everybody knows that Industrial Schools and Reformatories are religious institutions; they are attached to different denominations and controlled and administered by ministers of different denominations; therefore, in this respect, almost more than in any other department, there is danger of religious tyranny, and this I can show from experience of the county I represent. Cavan is a Catholic county, but the Grand Jury is Protestant. For 16 years in succession, and in spite of continual protests, the Grand Jury of the County of Cavan gave grants to Protestant Industrial Schools and refused to pay a farthing to Catholic Industrial Schools out of the money contributed mainly by Catholic ratepayers. I leave the hon. Member for South Tyrone and others, who abuse the Catholics of Ireland and say they are not fit for self-government on account of their tendencies towards religious persecution, to deal with facts like these. As a Protestant I say, and I deplore it with sincere regret, that the Corporation of Belfast cannot be trusted to give fair play to those members of the Catholic religion who are seeking under unexampled difficulties to bring up young persons of their own faith in Industrial Schools to lead better lives than their fathers did before them. I ask Members of this House, Conservative and Liberal, to pause before they set up an engine of religious persecution, which will be done if this Bill is passed. I hope this Motion of my hon. Friend will have support from both sides of the House. Of course there is one compromise open, if hon. Members who promote this Bill will assent to a redistribution of the wards at Belfast so as to arrive at a fair arrangement by which there may be Catholic representation upon the Town Council. In that way a compromise might be possible. In the Municipal Corporations Act for England there is a provision for the periodical revision of wards, and the Home Secretary, in whose Department the matter is controlled, knows that the power is frequently used in England. In Ireland there is no such power: the 1351 wards of Belfast can only be altered by a Public or Private Act of Parliament. It would be possible to make such a compromise in the Bill and prevent the Bill becoming an engine of persecution against the religious minority in Belfast. I ask the House to pause before it sets up an engine of persecution, as would be done by the Bill. It would be in the interests of religion to throw out the Bill.
§ (4.3.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I regret the opposition of hon. Members below the Gangway. I cannot help thinking that if this Bill had been promoted by any other body than the Corporation of Belfast it would have been treated in an entirely different manner. The complaint is, that under this Bill there will be a chance of the Roman Catholic community of Belfast being unfairly dealt with. This is the head and front of the charge that is made against the Corporation of Belfast in this matter. The complaint is that the Catholics of Belfast have no representation on the Corporation. There is household suffrage in Belfast, and the reason why the Roman Catholics are not represented on the Corporation is that the minority are not strong enough to secure representation. The cumulative vote would have secured Catholic representation on the Corporation, but when the Local Government Bill which sought to confer that privilege was before the House, no one opposed it more strongly than the hon. Member for West Belfast.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The hon. Member opposed the cumulative vote. This is a Private Bill promoted by the Corporation of Belfast, and I do not see why it should not receive the same treatment as any English town would receive. The Bill is right in principle, and hon. Members cannot pretend that it is not. Therefore, if it is a right Bill it should be sent to be dealt with by a Committee dealing with Private Bills, where anything that may be wrong can be rectified.
§ (4.10.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I rise merely to ask one question, and my view of the 1352 matter will be determined by the answer to it. I understand that there are certain clauses in the Bill to which objection is taken by hon. Members well acquainted with the locality. I understand that these clauses have been withdrawn, and I hear from hon. Members below the Gangway that if this is so there will be no necessity for the Bill at all. If these clauses are withdrawn, and if the residuum of the Bill is not necessary or operative for any useful purpose, why should not the discussion cease and the Bill be dismissed? Why should we go into the differences that exist between the religious bodies of Belfast? There has been a good deal of time unprofitably spent, but if we can come to some understanding as to what remains in the Bill which makes it worth while to pass it when these clauses have been withdrawn it will be very desirable.
§ *(4.12.) MR. JACKSON
I understand that as to Clause 4, which deals with the appointment of Governors to the asylum, the Corporation have expressed their willingness to either withdraw it or to amend it in Committee in accordance with the wishes of the Committee. When the Bill came before the Irish Office, notice was given to the Corporation that the clause in question could not be allowed to pass in its present form, as it would conflict with the Local Government Bill. The clause merely deals with the nomination of Governors of asylums, and is only a matter of detail to which objection has been taken by the hon. Member for West Belfast. The clause seems to me to be perfectly capable of being made to deal fairly with the nomination of Governors proposed in the Bill. The other portions of the Bill deal with the main question, which is that of the financial adjustment between the City of Belfast and the county of Antrim, and the removal of patients from one to the other. It is quite open to Dublin or any other city to promote a similar Bill.
§ (4.14.) MR. SEXTON
I think the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of the Bill must be very recent. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman has looked at Clause 9? That clause proposes to give certain powers to the Corporation in respect of the 1353 formation of industrial schools, and the same subject is to be dealt with under the provisions of the Local Government Bill. We desire that Belfast should be treated like the rest of Ireland, but we do not think that it should occupy the time of the House when the House is about to consider a Bill which deals with the whole question. I never expected that the extension of household suffrage would give the Roman Catholics a representation on the Corporation, or that any franchise would be equal. The city was divided into five wards 50 years ago, when the population was 70,000. No alteration has been made since then, although the population at the present time is 280,000. The Roman Catholic population has been deprived of all representation, because they have been crowded into certain parts of the city. I hope the Bill will be withdrawn or postponed until we see what Parliament does with the Local Government Bill. I shall oppose the Bill to the utmost unless the promoters agree to an instruction to the Committee to divide the city so as to give the Roman Catholics some representation on the Corporation. If no such representation is given, and if the Bill is read a second time, I will move that it be referred to a Hybrid Committee, with special powers to divide Belfast in such a manner as will give the Roman Catholics the representation they desire.
§ (4.17.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
Any appeal based on a wish to procure the better representation of minorities will be received by me with a favourable ear. The question, however, before the House does not turn upon such considerations. The House, I admit, is in rather an awkward position. Belfast is proposing a Private Bill and the Government are proposing a Public Bill, and if the latter becomes law much of the advantages proposed in the Private Bill will become unnecessary. The practical question is, whether Belfast, having presented a Private Bill to the House, shall be hindered from going on because the Government have proposed a Bill which deals with the same subject? There are always uncertainties with regard to Belfast, but I confess I do not see any reason for destroying the 1354 ordinary right of Belfast to go on as it proposes to do with a Private Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Longford, in a vein which is common with him, made a speech full of sound and fury, in which he confused two things—the introduction of a Private Bill which is at variance with public law, and the concurrent introduction of a public and private measure which are at variance with one another. The public proposal does not take away the ordinary right of Belfast to go on with their Bill. We have had a good deal of declamation—partly deserved, no doubt—about the bigotry of the Corporation of Belfast, but with respect to the 9th clause it is to be remarked that the commencement runs thus—From and after the passing of this Act the Council of the city shall have the same powers that are conferred upon the Town Councils of the boroughs of Dublin, Cork, and Limerick.
§ MR. COURTNEY
That does not affect the question. The real question which deserves consideration at this stage is as to the management of the lunatics. The lunatics of Antrim are going to be separated from those of Belfast. In the interests of the lunatics this may be doubtful equity. This is, however, a question which we cannot decide here, but which may be inquired into by a Select Committee upstairs. The hon. Member for West Belfast wishes that the Bill should be referred to a Hybrid Committee, but I see no reason why it should not take its ordinary course of being read a second time and then referred to such a Committee.
§ (4.23.) MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman says that I have made a speech full of sound and fury, but I think he has made one of sound and ignorance. The Bill is a departure from the invariable law which Ireland enjoys. The Chairman of Committees has asked us to support the Bill and allow it to proceed in the ordinary way, but I do not see any good reason he has given for us to adopt that course. The fact that the Government are willing to allow special provisions to be passed for Belfast, and different from those contained in the Local Government Bill, shows that they neither expect nor 1355 wish their own Bill to pass. If the Local Government Bill is to be proceeded with, why should the Belfast Bill be proceeded with? There is not a clause in this Bill which cannot be put in the Local Government Bill. If the Belfast Bill goes on, I shall move to, insert in it the Assize or "Put-Me-in-the Dock Clause." I move that the Debate be now adjourned.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ MR. SEXTON
Have we not a right to claim from the Government the ordinary courtesy of an expression of opinion? I think they should have time to consider my proposal that the Select Committee should be instructed to reconstruct the wards of the City. For that reason I support the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ * MR. JACKSON
The question of the re-construction of the wards of the City is one for the promoters of the Bill. The Government have taken no part in the matter. I said that, so far as I was concerned, I should vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, but that statement bound no one else but myself, and I did not, therefore, think there was any need for me to get up and say any more.
The House divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 149.—Div. List, No. 8.)
Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. WILLIAM JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ (4.45.) MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
One thing has been noticeable about this Debate, and that is that none of the Gentlemen who support this Bill have offered a single reason why it should be accepted by the House, or shown the slightest acquaintance with any of its clauses. The most interesting portion of the debate, however, was the reason offered by the Chief Secre- 1356 tary why the Bill should pass. He stood up and with the greatest frankness said he thought it ought to pass, because, after all, it was doubtful whether the Local Government Bill would or would not pass.
§ MR. CHANCE
The right hon. Gentleman's words distinctly conveyed to the House the impression that he had some doubt in his own mind with regard to the Local Government Bill. It was interesting to note that the Gentleman who first repudiated that suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman was the Chairman of Ways and Means, who said the true reason why the Bill should pass was that as a Bill dealing with some of the points had been introduced by the Government, a Private Bill should be brought in pari passu. The position of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be that a change of the general law was improper in a Private Bill, but he distinguished this case because there was a Public Bill before the House. When he was dealing with the Belfast Main Drainage Bill of 1885, he took exception to the introduction of a Franchise Clause in a Private Bill. I am afraid I fail to find what sound and practical ground exists for the exceedingly subtle distinction in the case of the present Bill. The first question is, what case has been made out for the passage of this admittedly exceptional Bill? The right hon. Gentleman thought it his duty to support the Bill, and argued that it was necessary to provide the necessary extra accommodation for the lunatics of Belfast, and that in some way such accommodation would not exist unless the Bill were passed. In the Preamble of the Bill, so far from that point being taken, it said that an Order had been duly made authorising the erection of additional asylums in the City. The Bill would not in any way facilitate the provision of such accommodation. The Bill resolves itself into two distinct provisions—the franchise branch and the financial branch. I do not intend to labour the franchise portion of the Bill, as the Chief Secretary admitted that the Franchise Clause is bad in principle, and said that it was to be withdrawn, and then modified that by saying it would be amended.
§ MR. CHANCE
Surely the Government, who properly object to this clause, ought to tell us before they ask us to pass the Bill how they desire or expect the clause to be amended. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman has formed an opinion on the subject himself as yet.
§ MR. CHANCE
Then I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to inform the House what that opinion is. As to the other division of the Bill, we are in the position that not a particle of reason has been alleged why the financial relations at present existing in respect to the accommodation of the lunatics of Belfast should be interfered with. The preamble carefully avoids any statement that the present financial relations on that subject are unjust or oppressive, or that any change is necessary or proper. We have not had one iota of information on the reason why the Government has consented to the division of this district into two. I oppose it on the ground that it will increase the public burdens on the people of Belfast. You will have two Asylums Boards and two distinct sets of officers, half of whom might be idle for a great part of their time instead of being transferred to the other asylum. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have overlooked the fact that as soon as this Bill was published it was repudiated by the Board of Governors of the present asylum, who are best informed in the matter, and they are prepared to undertake the government of the whole district, and did not desire two sets of offices and officials. In spite of that the House is asked by a Private Bill to make an alteration of the general law which the best authorities in Belfast have declared to be unnecessary and extravagant. The Bill proposes to create a body unique in the country, but its sole object appears to be to enable Belfast to escape the Local Government Bill, which its three Members following the Government are pledged by their Party ties to support against their convictions.
§ *(4.56.) COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
In my opinion this Debate has gone on long enough, and if hon. Members opposite think so I will sit down. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said there would be two sets of officers. As the two asylums are 20 miles apart it is obvious that there must be.
§ COLONEL WARING
But the ground is purchased and the arrangements made for the erection of the second asylum. Is that money to be thrown away? I hardly think that hon. Gentlemen opposite, with their love for economy, would urge that course being taken. The only body it creates which could possibly be dispensed with is the Board of Management, which, however costs nothing. I cannot see what possible reason there can be against the arrangement proposed. I should not have risen but that I was challenged with having neglected the interests of my constituents. Their interests will be looked after by the Committee upstairs, and it is perfectly unnecessary for the details to be discussed in this House. We have been told that Belfast should not be differently treated from other towns in Ireland, but Belfast has placed itself in a different position, and I cannot imagine that the matter is worthy of long discussion, or that the business of the House should be so delayed for an hour and a-half. These proposals do not throw any responsibility or charge upon the Roman Catholics of Belfast, and I am surprised that those statements should be made, that we desire to do anything exceptional in regard to that class of the community. From the remarks of the hon. Member for Cavan, it would appear that the Roman Catholics were trying to bring up their children in reformatory schools. I have no doubt very many of them are very likely to qualify their children for these reformatory schools, and the words are not mine, but those of the hon. Member for Cavan. I must say that had it not been mentioned, such a question is the last I should have introduced. I do sincerely think that the House will be well advised if it will persist in getting to a Division upon 1359 this matter at once, and so allow the House to proceed with the Public Business, which is of considerable importance.
§ (5.5.) MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I cannot understand the hon. Member opposite in his suggestion that there has been a too prolonged Debate, or that waste of time could reasonably be charged against us. The facts, it seems to me, are quite the other way, and the last speaker—
§ COLONEL WARING
I said that I would sit down if you would take the Division, and as I sat down I asked you to take the Division.
§ MR. DILLON
I must say, upon my part, and upon the part of those upon these Benches, that we have no desire that a Division should not be taken now, and that I believe the discussion is being carried on for no useful purpose. What seems to me is that the House of Commons is just now engaged in the purest waste of time in carrying on an attempt which ought not to be carried on, and which simply results in nothing but pure waste of Public Business. The Home Secretary seems to be so absolutely indifferent to the convenience of the Members of this House and to the progress of Public Business, that he is just now, I presume, sauntering about some of the rooms of the House; while he saunters into this House and out again, leaving the House unadvised as to its proceedings. We have heard in the course of this Debate no word as to what the course of the Government will be. We are told that the Government are indifferent as to whether this Bill is passed or not. But while that was the statement made by the Minister left to take charge of the conduct of affairs in the House, we have discovered that the two wings were covertly engaged in treating this Division as a Government Division. Are the Government absolutely indifferent to the Business in this House; and, if not, would it not be manifestly for the interest of Public Business, and for the interest of the Government themselves, if they would consent to adjourn this Debate until the general views of the Members on this side of the House and the Members interested in this Bill are more fully ascertained? One thing I think is 1360 abundantly manifest, that progress with this Bill will not be facilitated by continued discussion; and therefore I do not propose to occupy the time of the House in replying to the argument of the hon. Member for Down, who complains about the waste of time, as if he would prevent all other Members from taking part in the Debate.
§ (5.10.) MR. A. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
I would wish to point out, in connection with this Bill, that it relates to the expenditure of public money; money which the taxpayers contribute, and yet that money is left to the control of men who are absolutely devoid of any authority. These Grand Juries have so little authority, and their past performances have been so much defamed, that the Government themselves have condemned them, and let it be in the recollection of the House they are about to take over their fiscal authority. I ask the House to say, are we to hold that these men, to whom fiscal authority cannot be delegated, who are not worthy of it, are to have the uncontrolled expenditure of thousands of pounds? Why, there is not a man in the County Antrim, irrespective of religion, who would not have something to say in objection to it. There are thousands of people in Belfast, and thousands of people in the County Antrim, who have really nothing to say to the Grand Jury system, or to the management of the Grand Jury in the county. Over and over again I have heard County Antrim men and Belfast men complain that they have nothing to do with the Grand Jury system; with the Grand Jury who strike those rates they have no connection. The Grand Juries raise those rates, and expend them as they like, and no ratepayer can interfere; while if any ratepayer would interfere, his interference would be scouted as a piece of impudence. So thoroughly are these people imbued with the idea that they are all-powerful, that a large amount of public jobbery consequently takes place, to the extent of a vast loss to the ratepayers themselves, arising from an expenditure in which the people themselves have no voice. I say it is monstrous to ask the House to enable, under these circumstances, a Grand Jury to expend these thousands of pounds, knowing as I do, 1361 and as every ratepayer in the North of Ireland knows, that these men represent nobody; that they represent themselves alone, and that they represent themselves, by-the-way, exceedingly well. In fact, there can be no doubt about this question of accommodation. I myself saw, while in prison, a large number of men brought in from Belfast, who were chargeable to the County of Antrim; I saw them searched, and weighed, and measured; and what I want to know is why you cannot do the same with your lunatics, who can be removed from one county to another with convenience, the county from which they came being debited with their cost. If this matter of removal works so exceedingly well in regard to prisoners, and under the control of the Prisons Board, and the Prisons Board says it works exceedingly well, why should we not put it into effect elsewhere? The fact of it is that this Bill is, in a great measure, like most other Irish Bills that pass through this House—it creates a multiplicity of offices and devours the substance of the people. It reminds me of a Bill passed for appointing Inspectors of Explosives, and in one county the only man who sold explosives was the Inspector himself. Great complaint has been made that Irish Members occupy the time of the House with purely local affairs. In reply to that complaint, I say that you should allow us to manage our local affairs at home. [An hon. MEMBER: In Belfast.] And supposing you do allow us, I have no doubt we could do it a great deal better than you can. I should not have interfered in this Debate but for the fact that I know the feeling of the people, and I should be inclined to say, from some observations made in the course of the Debate, that the objection to this Bill is not purely upon a question between Catholic and Protestant. There are, as I know well, thousands of Protestants in the North of Ireland who have no representation whatever, whom this matter affects deeply, and who yet are entirely excluded from having a voice in the control of these affairs. I say that just as the General Prisons Board can manage their affairs so as to be satisfactory to themselves, so the affairs 1362 dealt with under this Bill could be managed, and I think the Bill should, therefore, be withdrawn.
§ *(5.18.) MR. JACKSON
The hon. Member for Mayo and the hon. Member for West Belfast made a suggestion that this Bill should be referred to a Hybrid Committee. I would venture to say that there would be no objection to such a Motion if it were made, and I would suggest to hon. Members whether it would not be best to agree to a Second Reading of the Bill at once on the understanding that it will be referred to a Hybrid Committee. That will save the time of the House, and, I think, meet the views of the hon. Members opposite.
§ (5.20.) MR. T. M. HEALY
Speaking on behalf of my hon. Friends who sit beside me and for myself, I have to say that we are prepared to accept the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, provided that the Government will undertake that amongst the names suggested on behalf of the Government for the Hybrid Committee the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast should be one.
§ * MR. JACKSON
The hon. Member must be aware that I have no power whatever to determine what the names on the Committee shall be. The Government do not desire to be responsible in the matter; but so far as I am concerned, I must say that I should be glad to see the name of the hon. Member for West Belfast upon the Committee.
§ MR. DILLON
I understand that the Government will support the nomination of the hon. Member for West Belfast to the Committee.
§ MR. JACKSON
Yes; so far as I am concerned myself, I will support his nomination.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill read a second time.
Motion made, and Question proposed ,That the Bill be referred to a Hybrid Committee of seven Members, and that the Committee have power to appoint the hon. Member for West Belfast as one of the Members."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ MR. SPEAKER
The proper course is to wait until the Bill is committed. When the Bill is committed, it can then 1363 be settled what proportion of Members shall constitute the Hybrid Committee.