§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ 1. £162,105, to complete the sum for Public Works and Buildings, Ireland.
§ Notice taken, that forty Members were not present; Committee counted, and forty Members being found present,
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I think it is a most unprecedented and extraordinary thing that the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland is not present on the discussion of the Irish Estimates. It will be very difficult to make good progress with the work before the House if the Government behave in this unbusinesslike way. It does not follow, because we have shown a desire to get through the Estimates as rapidly as possible, in order to hasten the great event which we are all thinking about, that Irish officials should take advantage of our lenity and absent themselves from the Debate on those Estimates with which they are mainly concerned. I want to know, Mr. Courtney, what right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench is prepared to answer any questions in connection with this Vote which may be asked? I noticed that the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir John Gorst), when he came in just now, opened his box; but, as far as I understand, he is not capable of answering all the questions which may be asked with respect to public works in Ireland. I hope we shall have some explanation of the absence of the Chief Secretary, and be told what Minister present will take his place on this occasion.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir JOHN GORST,) Chatham
I may point out to the hon. Member that this Vote is connected with the Department which I have the honour to represent, and I will do my best to supply him with any official information he may seek for.
§ DR. TANNER
I have no desire to postpone this Vote. The only point I wish to clear up is whether the Government intend to attend to their business, or are going to allow it to go on in the haphazard and slipshod way to which they have accustomed us during the last few evenings? Now, Sir, on this Vote, I want an explanation of the items relating to the police barracks in Phœnix Park, in connection with which there is a contract for £2,000 for alterations, &c. As far as I can get information these police barracks, like the Royal Barracks not far from them, are always being repaired. Nothing is done satisfactorily, and the consequence is that year after year complaints are made about these buildings, and money is spent upon them. (Mr. JACKSON entered at this point.) At last we are happy. We have now the illustrious Chief of the present Irish Administration, I will not say at our disposal, but come to our assistance. I should like to ask him whether this £2,000 is final, or whether it represents only another piece of this patchwork administration that has been going on so long? If this system of patchwork is to go on to the tune of £2,000 a year, the best thing to do is to pull the barracks down and rebuild them. At any rate, let us have an end of the present system, which is nothing more nor less than a waste of money. As far as I am personally concerned, I have no wish to delay these Estimates, although there are hundreds of points that could be raised upon them. At the same time, there are points to which attention should be called, and I think the matter I have alluded to is one of them, and I should like some explanation of it.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
There is just one point on which I want some information. I notice there is an item of £23,000 down for the Suck drain- 966 age, a work of which I entirely approve. Last year the amount for the same thing was £20,000, and the question I have to ask is, was the £20,000 which was voted last year spent? It appears to be the custom of officials appointed to control Irish matters to put down a good Vote for Ireland for certain items, and yet not spend all the money. With regard to the item for the Congested Districts Board, I should like to know on what principle we get a Report from them each year. Then I see a Vote down for a chemical laboratory for the College at Belfast. This is a very useful work, and I have no objection to Belfast having a laboratory, but I want to know whether the other Colleges in Ireland, notably Galway, are to have laboratories. Of course, I recognise that you cannot give all the Queen's Colleges a laboratory at once, but I should like to have an assurance that Galway is to be placed in the same position as Belfast.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
Yes, but is it as good? Then I notice there is a sum of £30,000 for schools, but only a miserable £300 for teachers' residences. I think there should be some explanation of that item. Then on the subject of the Naval Reserve, I see there is an item down for Galway, and I should like an assurance from the Secretary to the Treasury that efforts will be made to spend the whole of that money in Galway this year.
§ *SIR JOHN GORST
With respect to the criticism of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I should like to point out that the money that is voted is not necessarily spent within the year. Provision is made for a certain amount of work, and the Government have no wish to prevent that work from being done; but the hon. Member cannot wish to encourage the Treasury to spend the money unless the work is properly done. The question of the Suck drainage is all regulated by Act of Parliament, and a sum of £50,000 will ultimately be spent on that work. In the present year provision has been made for the spending 967 of such a sum of money as may reasonably be expected to be required. It would be very unfortunate if too little money were voted, and the work had to be stopped because there was no money to pay for it. The usual plan is to vote the sum of money which would be required under the most favourable circumstances, and though I cannot make any pledge, I hope all this sum may be spent on the drainage works. With respect to the chemical laboratory, I may say that there is one already in Galway, and the reason of this Vote for Belfast is that the number of students rendered it necessary that improvements should be made in Belfast. Galway shall be treated as fairly as Belfast, and if there is such an increase in the number of students as to render a new laboratory necessary, arrangements will be made. The reason why so small a sum is spent on teachers' residences in Ireland is because the residences are built from loans, whereas the schools are built out of the Votes. With respect to the Naval Reserve Station at Galway, the Government will do their best to urge on the work, and to secure that the money is rapidly and economically spent. In reply to the question of the hon. Member for Cork (Dr. Tanner) on the subject of police barracks, I may say that the police headquarters are being concentrated in Phœnix Park. There are already two barracks in the Park, and the enlargement of the central building is the reason of this Vote. The final result will not be any large expenditure for police purposes.
§ DR. TANNER
I think we ought to have some better explanation than this. There are no barracks in connection with the Royal Irish Constabulary in Phœnix Park situated in Dublin, and the right hon. Gentleman has got into the foggiest fog imaginable. I wonder when we shall get the Phœnix Park Barracks out of the perpetual condition of bricks and mortar. We are anxious to have these things done, because when in process of time we take over everything as a going concern, we shall not want to have to finish the work. Then, with respect to the Suck drainage, we have had an altogether insufficient explanation. We 968 have had no recent reports, and we have no means of knowing how this work is going on. The Government seem to think that if they vote money for Ireland and keep on paying it out it is all right, and does not matter on what it is spent. That is not what we want. We say that the works which have been approved should be pushed on as far as possible, and that the money, when voted for them, should be spent on them. With respect to the chemical laboratories, I should like to say that application has been made over and over again for a new laboratory for the Queen's College at Cork, because the present one is quite inadequate. But we know that we shall have great difficulty in securing the expenditure of this sum of money, which is so easily obtained by our Northern friends. Then there is this matter of patching up the Dundrum Lunatic Asylum, which the Government have been engaged on since 1884. Now the house is nearly as bad as the staff, and both are a disgrace to Christianity. But this year you are asking for £3,400, whereas last year you only asked for £1,000; and I should like to know what is being done. I think we ought to congratulate the present Chief Secretary (Mr. Jackson) on the fact that there is a decrease in the charge for his lodge and gardens in Dublin, more especially as he has occupied them this year, whereas the late Chief Secretary did not occupy them. When they were untenanted they cost more money. I should also like to point out, as I have pointed out for several years past, that a very large sum of money is being wasted on the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham, and I think one of the most expensive luxuries we can have is the patching up of old buildings. There are other discrepancies with respect to which some explanation should be given.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
I do not think the discrepancies between this year and last are more than can be explained by the varying conditions of public works.
§ DR. TANNER
But it is nearly the same in every Vote. At the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, there is a discrepancy of about £400.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
The sanitary works at Dundrum are explained in the Estimates, and that is the increase in the Vote. It is expected that the works will be completed during the present year.
§ SIR JOHN GORST
The Congested Districts Board must have lavatories, and these are for the office in Dublin.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. £47,371, to complete the sum for Railways, Ireland.
§ (9.52.) COLONEL NOLAN
I understand that the contract for the Galway and Clifden Railway expires on the 31st December, but I do not know whether it will be completed by then. But I admit that the work has been pushed forward at a reasonable pace, and that a fair amount of employment has been given locally. What I want to know is whether the line can be opened for a portion of the district, say to Oughterard, which would be a great convenience? Then there is another railway, the Collooney and Claremorris, which affects my constituents, inasmuch as it will give them access to the North of Ireland. I see that a very much less sum is to be spent here than was spent last year, and I should like to know the reason of the hitch.
§ (9.55.) MR. JACKSON
With respect to the Galway and Clifden line, as the hon. Member says, fair progress has been made, but there are two reasons why you should not get on too fast. In the first place, it is very desirable that as much of the work as possible should be done by local labour; and, in the second place, it is very undesirable that you should employ a large body of men for a short time and turn them off all of a sudden. 970 It is desirable rather that you should proceed a little more slowly with the work. With respect to opening the railway as far as Oughterard, I may say that depends altogether upon a bridge just outside Galway. This is very heavy work, but if it is accomplished, I see no reason why the railway should not be opened for a portion of the distance. When I was over there some time ago good progress had been made at Oughterard, and I hope it will not be long before trains, are run as far as that place. With respect to the other railway, there has been some unavoidable delay. A difference arose between the Treasury and the Company as to the construction and maintenance of the line. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is no doubt aware that the line is in two sections, and that the Claremorris portion is guaranteed by Mayo and the Collooney portion by Sligo. That introduced complications, but the difficulties have now been overcome. I hope before long the work will be resumed and that there will be no further delay.
§ DR. TANNER
I want some information about the Schull and Skibbereen Tramway. This has been a bad practical joke in Ireland, for the passengers are occasionally called upon to get out and push the carriages up an incline up which the engine cannot draw them. I want to know what is being done with regard to this tramway. I see that the sum guaranteed is £57,000, and that upon which the claim is based is £2,850. In regard to the Cork and Muskerry line, the claim is £2,050, though the former line is only fourteen and a quarter miles, and the latter is eighteen and a half miles. The present Chief Secretary has taken some interest in these lines, and I hope that will have some effect in overcoming the troubles which have beset them. Then there is the question of the Westport and Mulrany line. As I have before pointed out, the line runs along a quay, with deep water on one side and a tramway on the other side, and this is also the main coach-road. This is a very inconvenient state of things. I have taken some 971 interest in the Achill extension, which I am glad has been adopted, and I see that the estimated expenditure for 1892–3 is £20,000. I should say, therefore, that the line is approaching completion, and I want to know how it is getting on? On the Killorglin and Valencia line the expenditure up to 30th November, 1891, was £45,085, and the estimated expenditure for 1892–3 is £15,000. I want to know the condition of that line also.
§ (10.5.) MR. JACKSON
With regard to the last line to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I believe it is making good progress. The contract was made with the Great Southern and Western Company; and although there may have been a little delay at first, they are now making good progress, and the work is proceeding satisfactorily. The Treasury is, of course, responsible for the guarantee for the Schull and Skibbereen line, under the Statute. The guarantee was given under the contract, and the Treasury has to bear its proportion. It has been a very unsuccessful line, and practically earns nothing. One reason for that, I believe, was that the line terminated at the top of a hill. My predecessor, in the course of the relief works, sanctioned an expenditure of £2,000 for the purpose of continuing the line so as to bring it to the water's edge. That, I believe, was beneficial to the district and to the original undertaking as well. I believe the Company is going to obtain an Order in Council to enable it to take the new portion of the line that has been made.
§ MR. JACKSON
Notice has been given for taking it over. The position in which it stands at present is that the Company are taking steps to take the new piece added at the Schull end of the line.
§ MR. JACKSON
I do not know if the taking over has been completed, 972 but notice has been given, and it remains to be seen if the Grand Jury can work it more satisfactorily and cheaply than was done by the old Company. It has been an unfortunate affair from the very beginning, and whether the extension to which I have referred will change that remains to be seen. It cannot do any harm, and I believe it will be a practical benefit.
§ (10.10.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I see there is an expenditure of £12,000 for lines not brought under the Act. Is that expenditure legal?
§ MR. JACKSON
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to explain? One of the lines not brought under the Act is the Collooney and Claremorris line, and the other is the Achill extension. Both these lines were undertaken without Parliamentary powers, and practically without authority. They were practically undertaken as relief works, and since that time steps have been taken to protect the promoters by obtaining an Order in Council, which will bring them under the Statute. The need of employment was so urgent in the district that they were undertaken without waiting for Parliamentary powers, as it was thought well to spend the money on that which would be a permanent benefit to the district.
§ DR. TANNER
The right hon. Gentleman quite forgot the Achill extension, and I also referred to the Courtmacsherry extension, and I should like to know if the ballasting at Timoleague Junction is satisfactory? Many of these light railways had insecure embankments, and the Board of Trade Inspector condemned them again and again, and consequently a great deal of money has been lost.
§ MR. JACKSON
The Westport and Mulrany is, I believe, making good progress. The work is very heavy, but everything is being done as well as it can be done.
§ MR. JACKSON
I understand very good progress is being made, and completion may be expected about the same time as that of the other line.
§ DR. TANNER
I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman getting up and saying that he knows nothing about this line. I ask for information on what is of considerable local importance. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know more about it, he need only go back to the answers he has given to me on the subject during the last month. Those answers were not satisfactory, but the right hon. Gentleman hoped to be able to give more satisfactory replies on the Estimates. I am very sorry for the right hon. Gentleman's ignorance of the matter, but I hope an answer of some kind will be given.
§ Vote agreed to.