HC Deb 12 May 1892 vol 4 cc807-15


Order for Committee read.


The Instruction of which the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has given notice is not in order, inasmuch as it involves a public charge.

MR. TIMOTHY HEALY (Longford, N.)

With all submission, Sir, permit to say that I distinctly, in the terms of my notice, guarded myself from anything involving a public charge, and on a true construction I think the Motion will be found not to do so. My Motion runs in this form— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions to enable the Dublin Corporation to establish the amount expended by them on the Wellington Barracks, and also enabling the Secretary of State to recoup the same to the ratepayers of Dublin. It will be observed that this does not involve a charge—it simply enables the Corporation to establish the amount expended, and enables the Secretary of State to make proposals to recoup the same. It does not say that he shall do so.


I am afraid the hon. and learned Member's explanation does not make the Instruction the more in order. The Secretary of State can only recoup the ratepayers of Dublin from the public funds.


May I ask you, Sir, if I would be in order in moving the Instruction down as far as the word "barracks," leaving out the last line and a half so that the Corporation may establish the amount they have expended? We have a fair claim in the Main Drainage Scheme as a kind of set off for this amount.


The hon. and learned Member may proceed so far.


I do not object to the Bill, and do not raise any objection to the Government acquiring the building for barracks; but my objection is to the Government appropriating the building, built and intended for a prison, to military purposes, without giving any compensation to the ratepayers of Dublin. I will make a suggestion. I do not want to violently press this Amendment. I move it to raise this point. Why are the barrack extensions necessary now? Because typhoid fever prevails in the city in the neighbourhood of the Liffey. You have in the case of the Royal Barracks, expended hundreds, probably thousands, of pounds, and why? Because of the unsanitary state of the barracks due to the pestilential condition of the Liffey. Very good. Now you have got a barracks free of all charge to the State, without the cost of a shilling to the State. Very good. There is now before the Government a proposition for the main drainage of the City of Dublin, and nobody will benefit more from the carrying out of that scheme than the troops in Dublin. In your Royal Barracks your soldiers die from the position of the building, near what is little better than an open sewer, and the stench of it goes up to the detriment of soldiers and civilians in the city. I do not think that it is an unfair thing that we, through the Corporation, should establish what is the value of these new barracks to Her Majesty's Government, and that the value should be contributed by the Government towards the drainage of the city. Next to the soldiers, who would benefit most from this improvement? Dublin Castle, every man in which must feel the effects of the condition of the Liffey. Who next? The Judges and Law Officers of the Government, for the Four Courts are on the banks of the river. This is in no sense a Party question. I venture to think that we on this occasion will have the support of the Conservative Members in making this reasonable claim. I must say it is not a handsome thing for the Government, simply by discontinuing the place as a prison, saying it is no longer necessary to appropriate it for military purposes, instead of devoting the site to public purposes as is done in England. When you abolished Millbank as a prison what did you do?


Order, order! The hon. and learned Member is now speaking to the Amendment as a whole. He is arguing in favour of compensation being given from the Imperial Exchequer, and such a proposal, as I have informed the hon. and learned Gentleman, would not be in order.


That very elastic fund, the Church Surplus, might be used, and that would involve no charge on the Exchequer; but so long as the Liffey is improved I do not care from what fund the expense of drainage comes. But I do not intend to go any further into the matter. I put the suggestion before the Government, and I say it is not a reasonable thing that the Government having got hold of this building for the purpose of a prison should divert it to a wholly different purpose, and that it is only reasonable that the Corporation, on behalf of the ratepayers, should have the opportunity of establishing the amount expended. I move the Instruction down to the word "barracks."

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to insert provisions to enable the Dublin Corporation to establish the amount expended by them on the Wellington Barracks."—(Mr. Timothy Healy.)


The hon. and learned Member, in his desire to do justice to the Corporation of Dublin, has not considered the circumstances under which the prison was originally handed over.


It was not handed over—it was seized.


The hon. and learned Gentleman was not, I think, in Parliament at the time, in 1877, when the Act was passed, I think I may truly say, with the object of relieving to a large extent Corporations and Grand Juries of a heavy charge for the maintenance of prisons, and the Richmond Prison came under the category. That relief was accepted at the time and the transfer to the Prisons Board was felt to be a great advantage to the ratepayers. For ten years the building was used as a local prison and administered by the Prisons Board. Under Section 31 the Prisons Board had power to abolish the Prison if they found it unnecessary to continue it, and to apply it to certain other purposes under which section the building was used as a barrack. As the hon. and learned Member knows, great difficulty was found in securing barrack accommodation in Dublin. The Royal Barracks, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has rightly observed, were in a bad, insanitary state, and it has been found necessary to reduce the accommodation there by one-third, and accommodation had to be immediately found for the soldiers removed. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, a very large sum has been spent, and is being spent, in building new barracks in Dublin; and we propose by this Bill to adapt Richmond Prison for further accommodation. I do not think that any purpose will be served by calculating the sum expended by the Corporation for wholly different purposes, and under circumstances provided for in the Act. I do not see how we can go behind the Act which provided for the transfer; the interest of the Corporation terminated with the transfer. I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will not think it necessary to press this Instruction. Questions in relation to the Bill have been fairly considered by the Committee upstairs, from whose deliberations the hon. and learned Gentleman was absent. No petitions were presented against the Bill, and it is absolutely necessary that new buildings should be erected. It is not possible for the hon. and learned Gentleman to move the latter part of his Instruction, and I cannot see how it is possible to introduce the Instruction he has now proposed into the Bill nor what purpose it will serve.

(12.15.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I do not find that the hon. Gentleman has made out any case against the Instruction in its limited terms, though undoubtedly in its original form it would propose a public charge. But as submitted in its amended form it is simply that the amount expended by the Corporation in the erection of the building now known as Wellington Barracks should be ascertained. The convenience of this course will be apparent, if at any future time the claim of the Corporation to be recouped for this expenditure should be recognised. The Act of 1877 is no bar to any such Instruction. No doubt by that Act Local Bodies were relieved of the burden of maintaining the prison as part of the general arrangement of items as between local rates and the Exchequer. The local rates were relieved, but the cost of maintenance was thrown upon the Imperial taxpayers, the persons who contributed to the local rates contributed to the Imperial taxation, the burden was renewed in another form. This question of the amount expended by the Government on the barrack is different from the amount expended as upon a prison. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, as a member of the Corporation, that the Corporation never assented to the idea that the passing of the Act of 1877 disposed of their equitable and undeniable claim to be recouped the amount expended on the prison. I am sorry the Government refuse to allow this opportunity to be availed of to ascertain the amount expended, for undoubtedly it will be the duty of those interested to press this question from time to time, and endeavour to secure an equitable settlement. If my hon. Friend presses his Motion now, I am sure every Irishman will support him.

(12.17.) MR. COMMINS (Roscommon, S.)

I think a little further debate will show that the Dublin Corporation have a good claim. As bearing upon the question, I may mention the transfer of Kirkdale Prison near Liverpool. In the same way this prison was taken over from the Justices as Richmond Prison was taken from the Corporation of Dublin; but then the Treasury gave the Grand Jury of Lancashire £14,000 for Kirkdale Prison. This illustrates the question whether the Treasury ought to pay the Corporation of Dublin. I think the Local Authority in Lancashire had no better claim. In any case I do not see why there should be an objection to ascertain the amount expended on the building.


I have allowed the discussion to proceed, seeing that the Instruction in terms indicated, the object as being to provide that the Dublin Corporation should show the amount expended upon the building. The last section of the Instruction given notice of I have ruled out of order, as involving a charge upon the Exchequer; but I now see, and it is evident from the speeches that have been delivered, that the same objection applies to the earlier part of the Instruction. With the interpretation put upon it, I am bound to say that the Instruction is not in order.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.


I beg to move that Progress be reported. I can assure the Government that so far as I am concerned they will have no chance of getting the Bill through as an unopposed measure unless we get some satisfaction for the citizens of Dublin for the robbery, for that is what it amounts to, of this building. I was anxious that the Bill should go through. I think it is reasonable that the troops in Dublin should have a better chance of life than they have in the Royal Barracks; but as my hon. Friend has reminded us, in other instances when a building has been taken by the State compensation has been given to the Local Authority. Why should we in Dublin be robbed more than the people in Lancashire?

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Timothy Healy.)

(12.21.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.

I may say that what has been done has been strictly in accordance with the Act. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman will deny that. I understand his desire is to obtain information as to the cost which has been incurred by the Corporation on the building as a prison. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will move for a Return giving the information, I am sure my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the War Office will carefully consider the Motion with a view to giving the information if it is possible to do so.


I do not like to oppose a Bill which is recognised as necessary for the health of the troops, but I should like to have something more definite than a mere suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman has thrown out the hope of a Return, but that is a small matter. Will the right hon. Gentleman go a step further and say that if he finds that Kirkdale is a precedent for giving compensation to a Local Authority, and this is a similar case, then the precedent shall be followed? The building might be used as a museum, it might be turned into a play-house, it might be used in many ways if not converted into barracks. I think we are quite entitled to ask that if precedent justifies it we should have the benefit in Dublin.


If any precedent can be shown under the Act referred to I shall be very glad to examine it.

(12.22.) MR. SEXTON

The right hon. Gentleman said that if a Return is moved for he will consider it, but I think we are entitled to hear in unmistakable terms that the Return will be granted. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there will be no trouble about getting the information, for the City and County of Dublin have unquestionable records, of the amount expended by the Corporation in the erection of the prison. This will enable him to say that the Return will be granted.

(12.22.) MR. BRODRICK

I have not the least objection to granting the Return. The difficulty is that what the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to get at is what has been the amount expended by the Dublin Corporation upon the prison, and it is not in our power to say if the Corporation can and will furnish that. We will endeavour to supply the Return.


There is an alternative in case of any failure in obtaining the information from one source, and that is that the Government should say what has been the gain to the Department—what is the value of the building for military purposes. On the undertaking that the Government will endeavour to supply the information, I have no objection to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Preamble agreed to.

Bill reported, without Amendment.


There seems to be no objection to the Bill, perhaps the House will now allow the third reading to be taken?

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


As the Irish Members allow the Bill to go through, I hope that we shall be treated in the same spirit when next we raise the question.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a third time, and passed.