HC Deb 15 March 1894 vol 22 cc321-3

On behalf of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether, as President of the Local Government Board in Ireland, his attention has been called to the Report of Mr. Ellis, the Auditor of the Board, in regard to the accounts of the Fermoy Union, in which it is stated that he could not speak too strongly of the abuses that exist in connection with outdoor relief; that in LS81–2 the expenditure under this head was £311, whilst in the year 1892–3 it was £1,646, or about one-sixth of the entire resources of the Union; and that neither the Guardians nor the relieving officers fairly understood the legal restrictions on the administration of this form of relief, and in many cases were deliberately careless; whether the action of the Guardians in the Fermoy Union is typical of what prevails over much of the South and West of Ireland; whether, owing to this and other forms of maladministration, many of the Poor Law Unions throughout Ireland are in a state of financial embarrassment; and if he proposes to take any steps to secure the due administration of the Poor Law?


Before that question is answered I wish to know, Sir—I am not aware if questions are submitted to you in the absence of Mr. Speaker—whether it is in Order in a question of this nature to introduce such statements as are contained in the second and third paragraphs, and is it not usual for the Clerks at the Table to insist on the questions being confined to matters of fact?


These paragraphs appear by inadvertence, and I directed them to be struck out when my attention was called to them. I may add that during the last few days there has been very great pressure on the Clerks.


In his recent Report on the audit of the Fermoy Union accounts the Auditor did, I am told, refer to the administration of outdoor relief in the Union in the terms quoted in the question. The action of the Fermoy Guardians is not, as asserted by the hon. Gentleman, "typical of what prevails" over much of the South and West of Ireland. The Local Government Board are aware of a few Unions which are at present more or less financially embarrassed; but this arises not so much from extravagance in the giving of outdoor relief as from the action of the Guardians in failing to strike adequate rates and to punctually collect the same when struck. The Fermoy Guardians have instructed their relieving officers to prepare; and lay before them at their next meeting a Return of all cases of outdoor relief, with full particulars and observations in respect of each case, with a view to a thorough revision taking place.

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

Is it not the fact that the accounts for all Irish Poor Law Unions are subjected to minute scrutiny at the hands of the Government Auditors every year, and have any Reports been made by these officials that such abuses as are indicated in the question exist, or that the Guardians are ignorant of their duties?


What my hon. Friend implies in his question is quite true. The accounts are annually audited by an Auditor appointed by the Local Government Board; and as to the implication in the last paragraph of the question of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, I am able to say that the statement that the Poor Law is not fairly and duly administered is entirely inconsistent with the facts.


Has the right hon. Gentleman any reason to believe that all the Poor Law Unions in England are free from financial embarrassment?


I cannot answer that.


How many other Poor Law Unions in Ireland are in this state?


I cannot say how many, but my Report is that it is very few.