§ On the Vote of £88,376, to complete the sum for Local Government Board, Ireland,
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.),
called attention to the salaries and expenses of the inspectors under the Board. When these gentlemen were directed to make inquiries about certain grievances laid before the House by Nationalist Members, they reported that no such grievances existed ["Order, order!"] There was so much noise that he could not hear the sound of his own voice [Laughter.] Then when it was proved that the grievances existed, the inspectors tried to minimise it, and finally they had to admit that the statements made were correct. When last year it was urged that relief works should be started, owing to the failure of the potato crop, the failure was at first flatly denied and afterwards admitted. The fact was the reports received by the Nationalist Members from Lough Swilly to Cape Clear, proved to be painfully accurate. The old stereotyped answer, however, was always given, and when the inspectors were asked to call on the parish priest or the rector, they declined. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman 1149 would not place unreserved reliance on the reports of officials, but would pay some attention to the statements put forward by public representative bodies in Ireland. With reference to the Labourers' Act, they did not operate to any extent in Ulster where the Boards of Guardians were dominated by the landlords, and he appealed to the Local Government Board to exercise the compulsory powers which they possessed in order to provide decent cottages for the poorest peasantry in the world. There was another point. The Local Government Board recently appointed vice-guardians in Killarney Union. The system of appointing vice-guardians was one to which they were opposed as being subversive of the principle of local self-government; and it was favoured by the landlord class, who were opposed to self-government in any shape or form in Ireland. In the case of Killarney, he maintained that the action of the vice-guardians was ultra vires in connection with the administration of the Labourers' Acts. A labourer in the union had been made a tenant of a cottage, and fell into arrears with his rent. The Guardians gave him notice to quit, and he then tendered the rent. They accepted it, but proceeded with the eviction because of a dispute between the labourer and his landlord with reference to a gate. He contended that while the vice-guardians were entitled to evict the man for nonpayment of rent, or in consequence of the dilapidation of the cottage, they were not entitled to evict him because of the dispute about the gate.
§ MR. P. J. POWER. (Waterford, E.)
said, it was a matter of regret that they must acknowledge that nearly all the members of the Local Government Board, and nearly all the officials, were entirely out of sympathy with the Irish people, who had not the least confidence in them. There were one or two admitted grievances which could very easily be remedied. Again and again attention had been drawn to the question of the deportation of paupers. At every meeting of the Waterford Board of Guardians they received communications from Unions in Great Britain that people of Irish birth, who had become chargeable on the rates, would be sent back to their own country. 1150 He maintained that the community that had had the benefit of a man's work when he was self-supporting should provide for him when he was overtaken by illness or poverty in his old age. The most contradictory part of the present arrangement was that Englishmen, Scotchmen or Welshmen, who become chargeable on the rates in Ireland, could not be deported. He did not desire that they should be, and, as a rule, they were very much better looked after in Irish unions than were Irish paupers in England. The Irish were accused of intolerance. Well, in Waterford Union out of between 800 and 1,000 paupers something like 15 only were Protestants. Yet they had a ward for themselves, and officers of their own religious persuasion, and a respectable salary was paid to a clergyman of the Church of England to minister to their spiritual wants. If such an arrangement was necessary for Protestants in Ireland, he maintained that it was far more necessary for Catholics in. England, and yet, so far as his experience went, it did not prevail. He hoped that in the near future the right hon. Gentleman who was the head of the Local Government Board, would draw attention to the question. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would approach it with sympathy, and his only fear was that in the office which he had been called upon to fill the right hon. Gentleman would find himself in an impossible position. He wished to say a word with regard to the Labourers' Dwellings Act. A question was addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the other day on the subject, and he was very glad to hear him say that he would give his attention to the matter, with a view to ascertaining whether it would be possible to introduce some Bill to facilitate the working of that Act. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be possible to reduce the rate of interest at which the money was advanced under the Act? Every body who had seen them must have been appalled at the wretched habitations in which Irish labourers lived. In Leinster and Munster, guardians had made an honest endeavour to rectify this state of things, and it was very gratifying to see the old cottages 1151 disappearing and decent habitations being erected. If the right hon. Gentleman would visit the West of Ireland, he would see that in many cases the ratepayers were most impoverished and unable to bear further taxation, and he would come to the conclusion that if the Act was to be worked it was absolutely necessary to reduce the rate of interest. One of the most sympathetic speeches the right hon. Gentleman's brother ever delivered was after a visit to some of these congested districts. There were two other matters he wished to allude to. One of the provisions of the Poor Law in Ireland was that anyone who entered the poorhouses must wear the dress of the particular union. He would not go into that question particularly now, but he would direct attention to this point, that in most parts of Ireland the hospitals where those who could afford to pay a little could go, were comparatively indifferent. He thought it was a matter worthy of the attention of the Local Government Board, whether some relaxation of the rules which governed the matter might not be introduced, and whether in some cases paying wards could not be established, so that it might not be necessary for people who did wish to do so, to wear the uniform of the union. It was quite possible that something might be done which would to some extent relieve the rates, and at the same time provide hospital accommodation for people who could not get proper treatment in their homes. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consult the Local Government Board on the subject. Another matter was that half the salaries of officials appointed under the Public Health Act were paid out of the Imperial Fund. Of late, a certain class of officials, inspectors of dairies and cowsheds, and so forth, were appointed by the local authorities, who also paid their salaries. In the interests of public health, the Local Government Board thought it advisable to take these appointments out of the hands of the local authorities, but they had not adopted towards these officials the system they adopted towards others of their officials, namely, that of paying half their salaries. Their salaries were still paid by the local authorities. The matter 1152 concerned every union in Ireland, and had given rise to a considerable amount of correspondence. He knew the Treasury had already refused to pay half these salaries, but a particular decision of the Treasury need not bind all Governments, and he thought the matter was worthy of reconsideration. Allusion had been made to the work of the inspectors employed by the Local Government Board, and he could corroborate a great deal of what had been said. It was, however, only due to the inspectors who had been sent to his part of the country, in connection with improvement schemes under the Labourers' Act, to say that they had done their duty with ability and impartiality; and while he condemned the general administration of the Board, and the inspectors who had been sent to report on the state of the country, who had, as a rule, denied every statement made from the Irish Benches, though they had in the end been obliged to admit their truth, he thought it was only just to say that these particular inspectors had conducted their inquiries with impartiality and to the satisfaction of the ratepayers. He put these points confidently before the right hon. Gentleman, not in any Party spirit, but as one having an intimate knowledge of local administration, and he hoped he would inquire into them.
§ MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)
complained that in its attitude towards Boards of Guardians the Local Government Board was unsympathetic and unprogressive. The Guardians elected by the ratepayers had no real power in respect of the expenditure of the rates. Their position was farcical, for they could not build even a pig-house without obtaining the sanction of the Local Government Board. They could not spend a single shilling without permission; if they attempted to do so they were at once rapped over the knuckles and ran the risk of being superseded. If the British Government wished to encourage the erection of labourers' cottages they ought to lend the money required for the work to Boards of Guardians at 2½ per cent. The visits paid to unions by the sub-inspectors of the Board were often much too short, and these officials were apt 1153 to obtain their information from interested parties instead of from independent sources, yet whatever they reported to the Department was accepted as Gospel truth. He objected to the exportation to Ireland of Irish paupers who had spent the best part of their lives in England and Scotland. When the substance had been, taken out of men and they were of no further use in. this country they were sent over to Ireland to be a burden upon the rates. In this connection it would be remembered that the Irish people could not send away from their country the English and Scotch paupers who were found there. The Local Government Board had issued an order directing that boys under 14, and girls under 16 must not be sent out to service. He was not himself in favour of sending very young children out to service, as that might interfere with their education, but he hoped this order would not be applied too rigidly, for it was often desirable that children reared in workhouses and other public institutions should be sent to live with small farmers by whom they could be taught habits of industry. He hoped earnestly that the Chief Secretary would cause the Local Government Board to relax its stringency and to act more in sympathy with the people. It was not astonishing that the people of Ireland were so anxious to have Home Rule, seeing that the laws were made in this country and were administered by officials who were foreign to the population in religion and sentiment. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to do his best to redress the grievances for which the Local Government Board was responsible.
§ MR. J. GILHOOLY (Cork County, W.)
The inspecting officials of the Local Government Board were generally men who were not fitted for their position. Many of them were retired officers who had no sympathy with the people and knew nothing about the working of the Poor Law. Their salaries were really money thrown away, because they rendered little or no service of value in return. When they visited a Union they often travelled down from Dublin by one train and returned by the next and then they thought themselves qualified to write an elaborate report 1154 respecting the condition of the place. In connection with the building of labourers' cottages, his experience was that the sympathies of the inspectors were with the landlords and not with the poorer classes. During the period of distress an inspector whom he knew acknowledged to him that the distress in the Union which he represented was considerable, and yet this same gentleman, when questions were asked in that House on the subject, actually told the authorities more than once that there was no distress in the Union. That was an example of things which inspectors did. It was a pity that the clerks of Unions, who were experienced and practical men, were seldom or never appointed as sub-inspectors by the Local Government Board. In that office excessive fees were charged in connection with the erection of labourers' cottages, the result being that a cottage that could be built for £50 or £60 cost in the end £150 or more. There was no reason why building plots should not be acquired without the intervention of an inspector, who under the present system was always sent down from Dublin. Local valuers might be permitted with advantage to inspect the land and report thereupon, so that the work would be done for much less than was now charged.
§ MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
advocated the amalgamation of Unions in Ireland. There were too many workhouses, and some effort ought to be made to reduce the number in proportion to the reduction that had taken place in the number of population. Farmers who found it very difficult to make both ends meet thought it very hard that high poor-rates should be continually coming in. But in any scheme of amalgamation certain conditions ought to be observed. There should in the first place be an area which would serve as a unit for taxation purposes, union purposes and the general purposes of local rates. At present in Ireland there were parishes overlapping electorial divisions, baronies overlapping unions and unions overlapping counties. The second condition to be observed was that the general convenience of the districts concerned should be consulted in effecting amalgamation, either 1155 the railways or the roads that converge to the spot chosen for the establishment of the workhouse of a locality. While favouring amalgamation generally he was opposed to amalgamation in the case of the Ballymahon Union, because he did not think that in this case they could observe the conditions which he had explained ought to be complied with. The Local Government Board inspector had reported that if the amalgamation of the Union were effected the people of Ballymahon would suffer a serious loss, and his view was supported by that of the Roman Catholic Bishop. The most Rev. Dr. Hoare, the prelate in question, said:—My opinion is against my amalgamation at present. There should be a general overhauling by the Imperial Parliament, who established these workhouses, or better still, by a Home Rule Parliament, who would best understand the wants of our people. If in destroying the existing state of things, you put more burdens on the ratepayers, you would be cursed with the same evils as afflicted those who introduced light railways.He thought that in a case of this kind, where not only the Local Government Board Inspector was unfavourable to such a scheme being carried out, but where the Roman Catholic Bishop of the district was also opposed to it, as well as the large bulk of local feeling, any accidental majority of the Board of Guardians should not be allowed to carry out a project that would afterwards interfere with any general scheme of amalgamation that must be effected in the whole of Ireland, if the workhouses were to be brought down to the level that would be amply sufficient for the requirements of the people. There was an item in the Vote for the Law Adviser to the Local Government Board. He did not know the name of this gentleman, but he thought the Local Government Board should endeavour in some of the decisions they made to be guided by advice that would be sustained by the Courts of Law. In the Union in which he paid rates a serious complication ensued a year or two ago owing to the advice given by the Law Adviser to the Local Government Board. Again, owing to complaints made by a number of unions in the North of Ireland as to the excessive expenses of carrying out the Franchise Act, the Local Government Board in the month of August 1156 issued a new order fixing a reduced scale of payment for the services of the Union officials. The work had been done in the the month of July, and when the clerk and collectors put in their accounts for services rendered a month before the order was issued, the Guardians were puzzled as to whether they should pay under the old or under the new and reduced scale. Home guardians paid under the new scale, but were sued for the difference by the officials and were decreed against. In the other cases, where payment had been made under the old scale, the auditors of the Local Government Board, acting on the advice of the Law Adviser, surcharged the guardians, who were made to pay the difference between the new and the old scale out of their own pocket. Thus, where the guardians paid under the new scale they were brought into court by the officials who obtained decrees against them, and where they paid under the old scale they were surcharged by the auditors. If they were to continue the position of Law Adviser to the Local Government Board, the gentleman who occupied that position, before he issued arbitrary opinions or advice, should at least consult an eminent lawyer like the present Attorney General for Ireland. The Vote contained an increase of £200 for vaccine lymph. He knew that, owing to the small-pox scare in Dublin, there was a general state of alarm throughout parts of Ireland, and the Local Government Board issued some instructions as to the necessity of vaccination and re-vaccination, but it was never expected that this re-vaccination would be carried out in the wholesale fashion it was in districts where a case of small-pox had not been known for years. He noticed from a Belfast newspaper that the guardians of one of the Northern Unions complained of the way in which the doctors carried on a crusade of wholesale re-vaccination, one of these gentlemen going so far that whenever he met a man in the road, he stepped off his car and forthwith performed the operation of re-vaccination. This had resulted in heavy bills being incurred by many unions. In one case it amounted to something like £400, which entailed an additional tax of 3d. or 3d. per pound on the farmers, who were ill able to bear any further burdens. The question of night 1157 nursing in union hospitals in Ireland was one which required immediate attention. It was still in the primitive condition of 40 or 50 years ago, and persons had been allowed to die without having nurses to attend to them or the means of obtaining medical assistance. He observed from a letter written by Dr. Jacob, the editor of the Medical Press, that in 43 out of 79 workhouses, of which they had information, containing 2,694 inmates, there were no trained nurses, and in 61 the wards were in charge of paupers at night. Even in workhouses where a trained nurse was employed she was expected to be both day and night nurse, besides discharging other increasing duties. This was a serious state of things, and he hoped in the interests of humanity that the right hon. Gentleman would see that proper provision was made for nursing the sick at night in union hospitals. Another question of great importance was that of pauper lunatics in workhouses in Ireland. He was aware that, because of the overcrowding in the asylums, there had been a move to confine a number of pauper lunatics in the workhouses instead of sending them to the asylums. This had been attended with a great deal of hardship to these poor afflicted beings. In Longford Workhouse at present a very ugly state of things prevailed. At the very last meeting of the guardians a report was presented from the medical officer in which he drew a most painful picture of the wretched accommodation provided for the lunatics, In this Report Dr. Cochrane said:—There are a number of lunatics in the house. There is no proper accommodation for them, no trained attendants, without which they cannot be humanely cared for or treated. The cells provided for their immurement are veritable black holes, 1½ feet square. 13 feet high, no windows or ventilators, except a sort of a hole high up in the wall; no furniture, bar a plank bed, surmounted by a wisp of straw. The unfortunate lunatic in his bed is hid away in his dungeon at eight o'clock every night, a strong door is bolted on him, and there is no more about him till eight o'clock next morning, when he is let out by the pauper inmates, who are the only available attendants.The Inspector of the Local Government Board was present at the meeting at which this report was presented, and the Local Government Board had called upon the guardians to carry out the recommendations made by the medical officer 1158 to remedy the defects he complained of, but without effect. He hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman visited Ireland he would give some consideration to these practical points, attention to which would probably effect some good in the management of the unions.
§ MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)
, in a maiden speech, contended that the Local Government Board was essentially congested, that the amount of work put into its hands was much more than it could perform, and accordingly a great number of duties which rationally belong to it were neglected. One of the principal duties of the Local Government Board should be the administration of Poor Law Relief, whether as regarded the maintenance of the poor pauper class or the treatment of the sick poor, and he thought one of the reasons why they had to complain of the fact that the usual duties of the Local Government Board were neglected, was because other matters, of which the members of that Board, he feared, knew very little, had to be attended to. The constitution of the Local Government Board in Ireland made the office rest, practically, in the hands of three gentlemen, together with the Chief Secretary. They had to consider the Housing of the Working Classes, the working of the Labourers' Act, the Franchise Act, and a number of other things which made it absolutely possible for three men, no matter how able or intelligent, properly to discharge their duties. It was a remarkable fact that with the population of the country decreasing and the wealth of the people seriously impaired by bad seasons and other causes, that the amount of the poor-rates lodged every year seemed rather to increase than to decrease. He found that there was an increase of £56,327 in the amount of public rates lodged in 1893 over and above the amount of the previous year. He wanted an explanation of what was done with the large difference between the amount expended in relief and the amount collected. During 1893, the sum of £1,278,834 was lodged as for poor-rates collected throughout the whole country, and of that sum only £716,240 was accounted for in respect of relief of the poor. The work of the Board should be confined exclusively to relief of the poor. 1159 Travelling a short month ago in Mayo, he saw posted on the police barracks a list of voters for the barony of Erris for 1896. There were something like 2,028 names on the list, and of those, fully 1,500 were officially objected to. Therefore, if in the course of next year it became necessary to hold an Election in the Northern Division of Mayo, 1,500 voters who took part in the Election of 1895 would be struck off the list because an official objection could not be got over. It was imperative with the revising barrister to strike off the list names objected to by the officials in charge of the Department. He happened to know that in this particular case a grave injustice had been done to those 1,500 voters. The Clerk of the Union averred that it was the fault of the people themselves for not paying their rates, but he was informed by the priests and people who ought to know, that had the proper steps been taken before July 1st, the rates would have been paid and the people not placed in such an awkward position. The administration of the Franchise Acts ought not to be entrusted to a hand of men who were ignorant and negligent of their duties. Again, it was impossible for the Local Government Board, as at present constituted, efficiently to administer the Labourers' Acts, and in proof he cited an inquiry conducted in the Union of Longford, in connection with an application for the erection of 120 cottages, where the Local Government Board allowed something like 3½ years to elapse before the inspector came down to examine into the applications. Of the 120 applications, 86 were rejected, and only 34 were approved. Meanwhile, the unfortunate labourers were in a pitiable condition, their houses being in a most insanitary condition. The fact was the Local Government Board ought not to be allowed to administer an Act of which they had little knowledge, and he feared little desire at headquarters to carry out. He wished to support the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for South Leitrim, in regard to the amalgamation of the Ballymahon Union and the treatment of pauper lunatics in Longford Workhouse. He trusted the question of amalgamation would engage the serious attention of the Chief Secretary, and that he would deal with it in a 1160 broad and liberal spirit. They had a great number of workhouses in Ireland. There were a great number of people, no doubt, who required relief from time to time, but this fact deserved consideration, that the vast majority of the poor people who claimed relief at the hands of guardians were strongly inclined to avail themselves of the outdoor rather than the indoor provisions of the Poor Law Acts. They considered that it demeaned and degraded them to have to go into the house, wear the garb of the union, and conform to a number of regulations which were repugnant to them. For the question, of amalgamation he might cite the case of the County of Longford. That was a small county, and yet there were in it three unions. Those unions overlapped other counties, and other baronies and other parishes. He trusted that if the subject of amalgamation received consideration at the hands of the Chief Secretary the right hon. Gentleman would, before he allowed the Local Government Board to destroy the Ballymahon Union, have regard to the whole question of poor-law relief in Longford. On those grounds he was inclined to express the hope that the Resolution, passed by what he must describe as a snatch majority of that Board, might not affect the minds of the Local Government Board in what they considered their duty. No doubt the condition of things as regarded lunatics in workhouses was very lamentable. He was persuaded that when the Governors of Longford refused to carry out the suggestions of the doctor they had not given the full consideration to the question which its urgency demanded. Recently, efforts were made in the Union to remove from the bad conditions under which they lived, some of the unfortunate lunatics and transfer them to the district asylum at Mullingar. The Governors of the asylum promptly packed the lunatics back to Longford. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether it was judicious that a workhouse for the relief of the poor should also be made a lunatic asylum, and whether pressure could not be brought to bear on the Directors of the Mullingar Asylum to take the lunatics altogether. Returning for a moment to the question of the constitution of the Local Government Board, he thought that, notwith 1161 standing the superior abilities of the three gentlemen forming the Board, it was unequitable and unjust to expect them to discharge a number of cumbrous duties and expect them to discharge those duties to the satisfaction of the country at large. In conclusion, he trusted some steps might be taken to improve the conditions under which poor-law relief was given in Ireland.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
complimented the hon. Member who had just sat down upon the ability as well as upon the knowledge of the subject he had displayed in his first speech in the House. If there was, as the hon. Gentleman said, anything unsatisfactory in the administration of the Local Government Board, it arose, he thought, more from the causes which the hon. Member indicated—namely, the great amount and the great variety of the labour which was cast upon the Board, rather than any incompetence on the part of that body. The Local Government Board, like any other Department in Ireland which had difficult and delicate duties to discharge, must expect to be a mark for severe criticism, and the only natural defender of the Department was the chief Secretary himself. If his predecessor had been in the House he, no doubt, would have been able to reply more effectually than he could do to some of the strictures which had been passed upon the Board; but, although he was new to his office, he wished it to be distinctly understood he in no way associated himself with anything that had been said against the members of the Board so far as regarded their competency or their devotion to their duties. ["Hear, hear!''] The hon. Member for East Cork complained that the Local Government Board was very unready to acknowledge any state of distress when attention was called in the first instance to it, that they moved tardily, and only under the greatest pressure. A public body must necessarily proceed with great caution, and the passage in the Report of the Local Government Board to which the hon. Gentleman referred showed that the distress of last year was not neglected, but that the Board did its best from the first to ascertain the facts. He could not, therefore, admit that in that matter 1162 the Board were really slower than they should have been to acknowledge the condition of affairs. The hon. Member next referred to the operation of the Labourers Acts. There, was no doubt that the working of those Acts was cumbrous and slow in a lamentable degree, and, as he had already stated this afternoon, he should make it his business to inquire whether it would not be desirable to introduce some amending legislation to facilitate the acquisition of cottages under the Acts. ["Hear, hear!"| It might be of some interest to the Committee if he stated how far the Acts had been carried into effect, He thought hon. Members would admit that, although the operations under the Act had been slow, a considerable amount of good had already been done. Up to the 31st of March, 1894, the total number of cottages authorised under the Acts was 12,937, and during the year ending March 31st last the number had been increased by 1,126. In addition, 513 were in the course of being sanctioned. What he thought was remarkable was the curious difference between the different parts of Ireland in respect to the operation of the Acts. He found that claims had recently been submitted to the Local Government Board for 2,132 new cottages. Out of these only 101 were from Ulster, only 26 from Con-naught, whereas from Munster there were 1,086, and from Leinster 919. ["Hear, hear!"] From these statistics he was afraid there could be no doubt that Boards of Guardians in Ulster were slower to adopt the provisions of the Labourers Act than the Boards of Guardians of the other provinces—[Nationalist cheers]; and he believed the Local Government Board had found it necessary in Ulster alone to exercise their compulsory powers. [Nationalist cheers]. The hon. Member seems to think that the supercession of Boards of Guardians and the appointment of Vice-Guardians was a common practice on the part of the Local Government Board. He could assure the hon. Member that that was not the case. The Local Government Board only adopted that course of action in cases of extreme urgency; and he should say that if the Board erred at all it erred in the direction of not putting its compulsory powers in force rather than in the direction of 1163 putting them in force. The hon. Member for East Waterford complained that the poor of Ireland were liable to be sent over from England or Scotland to Ireland, while the English and Scotch poor in Ireland were not deported to their native places. That was the fact. His predecessor in office had stated, in reply to a question, that he had prepared the heads of a Bill dealing with the deportation of paupers from Great Britain to Ireland. He could promise that he would not lose sight of the subject. He would inquire into the reasons why this curious difference prevailed—a difference, he admitted, he saw no adequate reasons for—[Nationalist cheers]—and if necessary he would endeavour, by means of legislation, to remedy any grievance of the kind that existed. [Renewed cheers.] The next point of the hon. Member for East Waterford was that Roman Catholics were not provided with separate wards in workhouses in England, although Protestants had separate wards in workhouses in Roman Catholic portions of Ireland. The explanation he had received as to this difference between the two countries was that in Ireland the danger of proselytizing was recognised by both sides.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
That is what I gather from the information I have been supplied with. In England this is not a burning question, while in Ireland, so far as I am aware, it has been a burning question.
§ MR. POWER (interposing)
said, his point had nothing whatever to do with the question of proselytism. What he ventured to say was that in Ireland guardians were more tolerant and more Christian in their treatment of non-Catholics committed to their care than guardians in England were in their treatment of Catholics. It was consoling, no doubt, to Protestants in Irish unions to have the ministrations of their own clergymen when dying and to be surrounded by people of the same faith. But in many English unions where priests attended dying Catholics they 1164 were surrounded by people of different religious views, whose remarks, to say the least, were most unpleasant and unseasonable.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said, he was not blaming the practice in Ireland at all. He quite recognised that Ireland in this respect did what was not done in England; but he presumed the only reason why the practice was not adopted in England was because no complaints had been received in England on the subject. ["Hear, hear!"] He had also been asked by the hon. Member for East Waterford whether he could induce the Treasury to reduce the rate of interest on loans under the Labourers' Act. He should think that every Chief Secretary in turn had always urged the Treasury to reduce the amount of interest on loans in Ireland to the lowest possible point; and he could assure the hon. Gentleman that he would not be behind his predecessors in that respect. ["Hear, hear!"] But whether he was successful or not would, he was afraid, depend on the Treasury as much as on him. [Laughter] The hon. Member referred to the extreme poverty of the unions in the West of Ireland, and urged him to go there and see for himself the state of things in that part of the country. He not only should go, but he would go at an early period, to the poorer districts in Ireland, and should see for himself the condition of affairs. ["Hear, hear!"] He was only too painfully aware that the taxable capacity of many of those unionists had already reached its limit. He thought it was the poverty of those unions; it was the want of reserves at the command of the guardians that in many cases gave rise to the state of things which other hon. Members had complained of—namely, the want of proper attention to the sick. The treatment of the sick in workhouses left very much to be desired; and he could assure the hon. Member that the Local Government were at the present time doing their utmost to induce guardians to improve the condition of things in their hospitals, and more especially the system of night nursing. But, as he had said, it was not unwillingness but want of resource that prevented the guardians in poor unions from doing better things for the sick in their hospitals. The hon. Member for South Monaghan complained that the guardians 1165 had no power to spend money without the permission of the Local Government Board. That permission applied to England as well as to Ireland; and it was obvious that there must be some control of the gross abuse that would ensue. The hon. Member also touched on the question of boarding out pauper children from the workhouses. He believed that at the present there was nothing to prevent children being boarded out, and in England, at all events, the system of boarding out children had come into greater favour of late years. He personally agreed with the hon. Member that the boarding-out system was desirable; and his influence would be directed towards increasing the adoption of that system as far as possible.
§ MR. DALY (interposing)
said, his point was that there seemed to be an objection on the part of the Local Government Board to adopting the system. At a recent meeting of the Board of Guardians of which he was a member, a circular was received from the Local Government Board almost telling the guardians not to board out the children.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said, that so far as he was aware there was no legal difficulty in the way of adopting the system; but what the actual policy of the Local Government Board was he did not at present know. It was one of the points to which he would direct his attention. The hon. Member for South Leitrim called attention to the question of the amalgamation of unions and the classification of paupers, in respect to which his hon. Friend the Member for South Derry asked him the other day whether he would appoint a Commission to inquire into the subject. He was not in favour of Commissions when the information could be procured in other ways. But he recognised that this was a very important subject; and if he were unable to obtain in regard to it information which would enable him to come to a conclusion, he certainly should not be adverse to inquiry by Commission. It was true that the guardians of the Ballymahon Union passed a resolution in favour of amalgamation, under the presumption that there would be a saving, whereas the Report of the Inspector showed that in all probability there would be an actual loss. 1166 As to the necessity for a law officer to the Local Government Board, that Department had a great many difficult legal questions to deal with, and could not very well dispense with the services of a legal adviser. An hon. Member had referred to a case in which the opinion of the Board's law officer had differed from the decision ultimately given by the Courts. That was a misfortune which might happen to the best legal adviser; and on the grounds stated by the hon. Member he could not agree that the legal adviser to the Board ought to be a more competent person. The mere fact that legal opinions differed on questions notoriously difficult to decide was no proof of incompetency. As to the question of pauper lunatics being sent to asylums instead of to workhouses, there was a great deal to be said in favour of that plan. But he feared that at present there was not sufficient accommodation in the existing asylums to receive all the pauper lunatics; and here again the question of expense had to be considered. Although, in the case of pauper lunatics in the asylums, the Exchequer paid half the expense of maintenance, the expense for the guardians was still greater than that of maintaining the lunatics in the workhouse.
§ MR. JAMES O'CONNOR (Wicklow, W.)
called the Chief Secretary's attention to the practice of deporting paupers from England to their places of birth in Ireland. For the last 40 years, scarcely a year had passed without this question being brought forward by the Irish Members, and yet to-day the situation was exactly as it was half a century ago. Much cruelty to these poor old people, who had wasted their lives for manufacturers and mine owners in England, was wrought by transferring them from the workhouses in England and casting them helpless and penniless on the shores of Ireland. He hoped the Chief Secretary would give the subject his earnest attention. He was ready to give the right hon. Gentleman credit for perfect sincerity in desiring to remove the causes of the complaints which had been made by Irish Members; and he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the working of the Labourers' Acts was cumbrous and slow He might have added that the expense of working the Acts was out of all 1167 proportion to the value of the cottages erected. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman's amending Act would deal with this question of expense. He wished to call attention to the way in which the Guardians of Rathdown Union had frustrated every attempt on the part of the labourers in that Union to obtain cottages. For some years back representations had been made to the guardians; schemes for labourers' cottages had been submitted; inspections by sanitary officers had been held; and still there had not been a solitary cottage built in the Union, though it was one of the most important and wealthy in Ireland, covering a part of two counties, and including a large number of labourers, many of whom now lived in houses not fit for human habitation. For a long time the Guardians had had in their hands £500, given to them expressly for the purpose of building labourers' cottages, and yet the majority of the Board would never assent to the application of this money. The doctor of the Union had reported that several cottages were required on account of the unsanitary condition of the dwellings of the working classes; meeting after meeting had been held on the subject, and yet the majority had always some objection or obstacle to throw in the way. At last, the Local Government Board sent a letter to the Union, threatening that, if cottages were not built, they would be obliged to exercise their rights under the Acts, and order them to be built. Then the guardians, at the head of whom was Lord Powers-court, proceeded to evade the Act. They consented to build two cottages, but would only allow one-sixtieth part of an acre to each plot. The Local Government Board wrote again, and pointed out that the Act required a half-acre plot to each cottage. When the right hon. Gentleman went to Dublin he would be close to this Union, and he hoped that he would urge the Local Government Board not to be satisfied with merely threatening, but to really put their powers in force.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN (Cork, E.)
said, he wished emphatically to endorse the statement which had just been made by his hon. Friend, as to the great hardship resulting from the expensive and dilatory system of procedure in connection with 1168 the Labourers' Cottages Act. He understood, from an answer to a question last Session, that Mr. Morley had actually drafted a reforming Bill on this question; and he was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was also going to bring in such a Bill. As one instance of the evils of the present system, he would mention the Midleton Union in County Cork, where there had been a scheme of cottages on the stocks for two years, postponed in the hope and expectation that some measure of this kind would be passed. During all this time, 200 or 300 labourers' families had been compelled to live in cabins which were, many of them, unfit for human habitation. If the right hon. Gentleman would really grapple with this question, he would deserve well of a very large and industrious class.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
referred to the remarks of the Chief Secretary as to the danger of proselytising in Irish workhouses, and said that no doubt the remark had been made by inadvertence. [The CHIEF SECRETARY interposed a remark which was inaudible in the gallery.] He understood the right hon. Gentleman's argument to be, that whereas Roman Catholics in English workhouses were in no danger of their faith being undermined by proselytising, in Ireland it was considered that some arrangement was necessary whereby Protestants in Irish workhouses should have apartments to themselves and chaplains provided for them, no corresponding privileges being accorded to Roman Catholics in England. When the right hon. Gentleman knew a little more of Ireland he was sure that he would not repeat that suggestion. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman made it without any idea of giving offence; but he would inform the right hon. Gentleman that Roman Catholics had been the victims of proselytising attacks, never the authors of them.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
was understood to explain that he had understood the apprehension of proselytising existed on both sides, and in consequence of that feeling those special provisions in workhouses were adopted in Ireland, although it was not necessary to adopt them in England.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that a more charitable explanation of the treatment 1169 of Protestants in Irish workhouses was the desire of the Roman Catholics to see that persons of all denominations were properly provided for. [Cheers.] That was the real explanation of the matter, and he did not grudge the Irish Protestants the privilege that they enjoyed in Irish workhouses. Not only did the workhouse authorities in Ireland permit the visits of Protestant chaplains, but they paid for those visits. On the other hand, he believed there was scarcely a priest in England paid for to administer to the needs of their Roman Catholic flock in the workhouses. In dealing with the administration of the Labourers' Acts by the Local Government Board, he hoped the subject would be considered with the view of early legislation upon it, because it was urgently needed. Mr. Morley had intended to immediately introduce legislation to deal with this important question. He admitted that, in the working of the Labourers' Acts, a great deal had been done for the Irish labourer, especially in Munster and Leinster. Even where most had been done, however, it was unquestionable that the Boards of Guardians had felt themselves enormously hampered by the machinery provided for them by the existing Acts. The law costs necessarily involved, when any labourers' scheme was to be set up, was an element largely in force to prevent the Guardians putting the Act in force, or undertaking a new scheme. He was aware of some of the difficulties which were inseparable from the nature of those Acts. He thought that the mistake of the existing Acts was in applying to the purposes of the Labourers' Acts a code which was intended for a wholly different purpose, namely, the Lands Clauses Acts. Those Acts were admirable enactments for their purpose and were a credit to the Parliamentary system of the country, but they were never intended to deal with cases where small plots of land had to be taken. The mistake was in supposing that the elaborate machinery of those Acts was at all applicable or necessary when they had to take half an acre or an acre of land, costing from £5 to £10, in addition to being encumbered with enormous law costs. A very similar case had to be considered a few years ago, when the Housing of the Working Classes Act was being passed 1170 in this country, for taking small plots. If the right hon. Gentleman looked into that Act he would surely see that it embodied modifications which simplified its working. In the working of the Lands Clauses Acts there was an inquiry by a valuer. When the arbitrator made his award there was an elaborate system of publication, and then there was a second sitting, when the whole subject was gone over a second time. One thing done by that Act was to abolish the necessity of the second sitting by the arbitrator on account of the small portion of land taken and the interests involved. He suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should apply, for the purposes of the Labourers' Acts, those schedules of the Housing of the Working Classes Act which facilitated the taking of land compulsorily in England. Another question came under his notice, that whereas a private individual could enter into an agreement with a stamp duty of sixpence, the Board of Guardians must put their seal to the agreement, thereby imposing on them a stamp duty of 10s. This was a considerable tax, because it sometimes nearly reached 1 per cent, of the whole cost of the cottage. When the Poor Law Acts were originally passed, in view of the fact that they were intended for the relief of distress, there was an enactment that legal documents, under those Acts, should be free of stamp duty. Would the right hon. Gentleman apply that clause to general contracts under the Labourers' Acts, in order to effect some saving and to confer some benefit on the Irish labourers. As to the Inspectors, he said that they were sometimes placed in a cruel position. The evil genius of the Labourers' Acts had not been the Local Government Board, but the Privy Council; and Inspectors who had reported in favour of labourers' cottages had been subjected to most unjust aspersions and attack when the case came before the Privy Council. The Local Government Board Inspectors had done their duty well and fairly towards the Irish labourers. The complaint he had to make of the Local Government Board was that, with 12 years' experience of the Labourers Acts, they had never attempted to improve them so as to make them work more smoothly. In this respect their 1171 conduct was in contrast with that of English Departments and officials, who were always passing Bills to improve the working of English Acts. Irish Members had brought in Bills, but they came on after midnight, and were always blocked. These Acts would never work efficiently until there was a change in the franchise on which Boards of Guardians were elected. These Acts were passed for the benefit of labourers, but they were not represented on the Boards of Guardians. Things would be very different if the labourers had votes. In England, the late Government passed an Act to revolutionise the Poor Law Franchise, and he hoped the present Government would do something of this kind for Ireland. Fancy a single individual having 36 votes, while there were also ex-officio members of the same class, and labourers were unrepresented. The Housing of the Working Classes Act 1890 was to be carried out by Towns Commissioners, but it omitted to constitute them corporate bodies for the purpose of holding land. Jealousy of local government prevented the conversion of the Commissioners into corporations; therefore, everything had to be done in the name of individuals; and when land had to be taken on lease, individual members had to be held responsible for the rent. This was an intolerable grievance, and it involved legal expense when a Commissioner, who was a trustee, died or retired. The same difficulties were experienced on the acquiring of tolls and markets. In 1871, an Act was passed to constitute Towns Commissioners corporate bodies for holding lands, but in 1878, it was mysteriously repealed. The Housing of the Working Classes Act expressly authorised the Commissioners to acquire land for the purposes of the Act, and yet, when they had acquired it, they could not, according to the contention of the Irish Local Government Board, use it for the purpose for which it had been acquired without the special consent of the Treasury. This was nothing short of an absurdity. In one instance a building season had been lost owing to the Local Government Board placing this perverse construction on this section of the Act.
§ MR. POWER
said, that some years ago, inspectors under the Contagious Diseases (Aninals) Act were appointed by local 1172 authorities, but now the Local Government Board said it was necessary they should have the appointment and control of these inspectors, and yet they paid only one-half the salaries. If they were to have appointment and full control, it followed that they should pay the salaries. One of his greatest objects was to do something for the benefit of the labourers of Ireland, and to enlist on their behalf the sympathies of hon. Members opposite would be to him a privilege and honour. With regard to pauper lunatics, as a Poor Law Guardian in the Cork Union he had seen something of asylums for this unfortunate class, and in Ireland they were a scandal. The medical officers of those asylums, who were at their work early and late, were most inadequately paid.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said that for 40 years there had been hæmorrhage from Ireland which had been swept away a larger population than now remained. Emigration from Ireland had in the last 40 years exceeded 4,500,000, with this result, that the vigorous reproductive class had gone, and there were left behind the weak, afflicted, and impotent, and at this moment Ireland had to bear, in the shape of a poor population, twice the burden any other European nation had to bear. The consideration, therefore, of the condition of the poor and the afflicted class in Ireland was for Irishmen so much more serious than a similar question was for Englishmen in their own country. The new Chief Secretary was going to Ireland with little experience of the country, but with the intention, he himself was satisfied, of doing the best he could in his office for the people whose fortunes were to a large extent committed to his care. He trusted and hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would endeavour to imagine he was an Irishman, and be ready to do what he could as an Irishman for his fellow-countrymen. He would find plenty of work to do, and in no department more than in the department which this Vote was concerned with. But he would find with regard to that department what was true of all others. It was distinguished from the English department by the fact that it was perfectly independent of and impervious to Irish public opinion. The fresh air of public opinion kept bright and effective all 1173 English departments, Ireland was administered by a number of departments each and every one of which was independent of Irish public opinion, beyond the reach of criticism or attack, except in so far as a small minority in the House coining from Ireland might be able by frequent repetition to get some small amelioration in the condition of things. In regard to this department, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to take in his hands when he went to Dublin the rules and regulations of the Poor Law Department in this country. Let him take the regulations with regard to the treatment of paupers in English unions and compare it with what he found in Irish workhouses. Let him compare the dietary scales in English and Irish workhouses. Let him then, consult any medical authority he chose upon what was necessary to keep a human being in normal health, and he would find in no English prisons or workhouses was such a dietary scale known as prevailed in Irish workhouses. According to all medical testimony the whole dietary scale in Irish workhouses was far inferior to that in English workhouses. For many years his efforts to induce different Irish Secretaries to deal with this question had failed, but he was bound to say that he had great hope that the present Chief Secretary would remedy the evil if he found that it really existed. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that when the right hon. Gentleman promised to look into this question he would do so, and he believed that if the right hon. Gentleman would consult with the proper authorities he would take the necessary steps to ameliorate the condition of the unfortunate occupants of the Irish workhouses. ["Hear, hear!"] What could be thought of a scale of dietary which included a mixture composed of two ounces of salt fat with one gallon of boiling water? The dietary scale for the children in these workhouses had also been pronounced as altogether inadequate for their proper sustentation. He wished to refer in the next place to the classification of the inmates of the Irish workhouses, than which nothing could be more important from a moral point of view. Great advances had been made in England during the present generation in regard to this matter, and yet the condition of Ireland in reference 1174 to it had remained unchanged. In one Irish workhouse, for instance, the only playground for the children was in a large apartment which was generally used for the accommodation of lunatic women. Humanity revolted from such facts as those, but the practice had been going on from year to year, to the knowledge of the Local Government Board, who had taken no steps to put an end to it. There were numerous other questions arising out of the same subject with which he would not attempt to detain either the Committee or the right hon. Gentleman, on that occasion, but from his own personal knowledge he could unhesitatingly say that there was scarcely any department in the whole of the administration of the United Kingdom which more required overhauling than did that which was now under discussion. He had to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for the promise which he had given him in reference to certain other matters which he had brought under his notice, but he desired to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there was nobody in the Local Government Board Department who was personally interested in seeing that the provisions of the statute were carried into effect. As he had already pointed out, the Department was administered in a manner that was totally independent of public opinion by those who had no personal interest in that administration being successful. In the absence of public opinion, financial interest might prove advantageous, and he therefore suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that he should give some official a small pecuniary interest in seeing that the provisions of the Act regulating these matters were properly carried into effect. If no such pecuniary interest were given, the officials would regard all extra work as a nuisance and a bore, because no one liked to take extra trouble unless he was paid for doing so. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that he would carefully consider the various matters that had been brought to his notice. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that if his knowledge of those subjects was not very large his sympathy with regard to them was all that could be desired. ["Hear, hear!"] He trusted that the many defects which it 1175 was generally admitted existed in connection with the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland might be gradually removed, but he desired again to remind the House that the continued existence of those defects was not due to a want of pressure upon the Guardians by the Local Government Board, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that no effort on his part should be spared to make that pressure as effective as possible. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £20,537 to complete the sum for the Public Works Offices, Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said that in England the Public Works Department was represented by a Cabinet Minister, but that was not the case with regard to the Irish Public Works Department. The result was that the playgrounds of the people were devoted to the purposes of the constabulary or the troops. It was absurd that neither a right of way through the public parks could be given to market gardeners, nor the Four Courts in Dublin be renovated by a coat of paint, without the matter having to be referred to London. When he had agitated in favour of swings being put up for the amusement of children, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had gravely informed him that the Board of Works could not put them up because they had no power to make bye-laws for their protection. It was quite true that some, of these Commissioners were very estimable gentlemen; but they were a portion of the system of administration. He asked the Secretary to the Treasury to tell the Committee that when General Sankey went, the whole Department should be put under the Irish Secretary's Office. They would then have some Department with which they could deal. It was suggested that, because this was one of the great spending departments, it ought therefore to remain under the Treasury. But that was just why he objected to its so remaining; for the Secretary to the Treasury was bound to look at all these matters from a Treasury point of view. Take the Glebe Loans Act. 1176 What interest did the Treasury charge under that Act? Five per cent.! That was English generosity. They made three per cent, out of a lot of poor people, and then said: "Look how generous we are." If the Irish Secretary had the shaping of these measures, he would probably look at what was fair, and not merely at what could be made out of it for the Treasury. The salary of a schoolmaster in Ireland to-day was less than that of a policeman. The schoolmaster had to pay for his dwelling, while the Government erected huts for the police. Was not this absurd? They heard a good deal about the incomes of the clergy; but he supposed that the income of the average Irish curate in the West of Ireland did not come to more than about £2 a week, and it was not out of these men that the Treasury of this country wished to coin, that usurious amount of interest. While, possibly, the Treasury ought to be allowed to keep a check on the Chief Secretary's Department in regard to these matters, he pressed in some spirit of openness for the reforms he had indicated.
§ MR. FLYNN rose to call attention to Ballycotton Pier, which had cost over £23,000, and towards the cost of which the locality contributed largely. Taking courage in both hands, he would at once say that it was considered to be one of the best works of the Board of Works round the South and West of Ireland; but there were certain defects which had gone on increasing year after year, and the position was that the County Cork Grand Jury, acting upon the advice of their Surveyor, refused to take over the pier. The Board of Works insisted that they should; and it was in these circumstances that the pier was gradually getting worse in condition. They had frequently brought this matter before the House; but, unfortunately, their constituents called upon them to draw attention to the matter. The floor of the pier was getting worse and worse, and was now almost useless for the simple fishermen and small traders. A few years ago Mr. W. Barry, the celebrated engineer, reported on it, and, if his views had been adopted, the Grand Jury would have been bound to take it over, and it would be now in good condition. Only a portion of Mr. Barry's 1177 recommendations were, however, carried out, and the Grand Jury still held out, contending that the pier had not been put in such a proper condition as to justify them in taking it over. On the other hand, the Board of Works contended that the pier was put into a proper condition, and that the Grand Jury must take it over. In his view, the matter was very clear. The Grand Jury were, to a certain extent, justified in their attitude, because they were fortified by their present surveyor. On the other hand, it would, he asserted, be a great misfortune if this work of public utility should be allowed to become derelict and destroyed—if the Secretary to the Treasury would see that the Board of Works should make one final inspection of the pier; should state what was required to be done, and whether it was in their Department; and, that the pier should then be put in proper condition and be handed over to the Grand Jury, and should insist that the Grand Jury did their work in future. Of course, this case was only another illustration of what his hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Louth had just referred to, namely, that the Secretary to the Treasury, who administered these matters, only looked at them from the Treasury point of view, and who, moreover, had so many things to look after that it was almost impossible for him to see to all these local matters.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN
said, this pier was in his own constituency. The Grand Jury of County Cork had, in his opinion, very properly refused to take over the charge of this pier until it was put in proper repair. Mr. Grey, one of the engineers of the Irish Board of Works, considered that these repairs could be carried out for about £600. He thought the present was a good opportunity to get out of the impasse which now existed. During the time that the pier had been nobody's child it had been falling rapidly into decay. It had been at his request that Mr. Grey was sent to inspect this pier during the last Easter Recess. He himself accompanied Mr. Grey on that inspection. He certainly thought the report of Mr. Kirkby, the County surveyor, in condemning the construction of this pier, was much more in accordance with the real state of affairs than the report of Mr. Grey, who apparently 1178 approved of everything connected with it. It was only fair to Mr. Kirkby to say that his original report received the sanction of Mr. Wolfe Barry, the eminent engineer. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had now a very easy and economical way of meeting the views of the Grand Jury, by placing the pier in a proper state of repair, at a comparatively trifling sum, and so avoiding all further cause of friction between the Grand Jury and the Board of Works, and saving the Treasury the very large expenditure which would be incurred if the matter was much longer delayed.
§ MR. POWER
called attention to the case of Dunmore pier. The old pier was erected partly by means of local contributions, but the Board of Works insisted on building it according to the plans of their own engineer. The consequence was it had been swept away, and a large sum of money had been wasted. The Naval Reserve had a station there at present, but there was no provision enabling them to launch their boat, and as they had a considerable amount of gun practice at floating targets this often led to much inconvenience. The local rates already bore a heavy burden, and could not give much assistance to a fresh pier, and, therefore, he hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would see the absolute necessity that existed for doing something towards constructing a new pier, and assist them to remove this scandal.
§ MR. TULLY
called attention to a matter connected with loans from the Board of Works, which he had also pressed upon the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman. Tenants whose valuation was £10 or under in former years were able to get loans from the Board of Works, but this custom had now been stopped. The reason the Board of Works gave was that some of these works undertaken by this means encumbered the lands of the tenants with loans. His own experience, however, was that loans which were given had the effect of enabling the tenants to improve the condition of their holdings, and were paid back afterwards. He thought the tenants ought to be encouraged in this way. When they were refused these loans they probably did not carry out the improvements. When 1179 the right hon. Gentleman went to Ireland he hoped he would see fit to revert to the old rule. In the West of Ireland, if this encouragement were given, the improvements would be of a substantial character approved of by the Board of Works inspectors. He had had letters from Board of Works inspectors asking him to press this matter on the House. He also wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that the drainage works on the Eslin river in South Leitrim, which were controlled he believed by the Board of Works, and which had been suspended some years ago, should be now carried out. There was a great deal of distress in the locality. Some time ago a man died under circumstances which gave rise to the suspicion that he died from starvation, though this was not proved.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (MR. HANBURY,) Preston
said, he could not make any definite statement now in regard to these loans, but he should see how far the views of the hon. Member could be met. As to Bally-cotton pier, it, with the harbour, cost about £20,000. It was constructed by the Board of Works. There was power to put the pier in proper order and charge the Grand Jury of the locality with the cost. However that might be, it was alleged that the pier was badly constructed. An independent engineer was called in—a man of great authority—and he said that, although there was no absolute settlement, still it ought to be watched. It was also reported that in the construction of the pier some amount of earth had been used instead of rubble, which ought to have been put in. The consequence was, the Grand Jury never charged tolls, and the pier had been neglected and now stood in need of repairs. The sum of £600 was required, and it was with regard to that sum that the difficulty had arisen. He was bound to say that the action of the Grand Jury was not quite consistent with regard to that sum.
§ MR. HANBURY
Yes, and I think that was rejected by the Grand Jury. The pier was in a condition which required that £600 should be spent upon it, and he confessed, after reading the evidence, that he was inclined to suspect that the 1180 faults in the pier might be due to original defects in the construction. If so, the conclusion was that this £600 should be spent. He should go over to Ireland and a thorough inquiry should be made, and if it was clear, that the fault lay in the original construction he should advise the Treasury to pay the £600. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member for Louth made the suggestion that the whole duties of the Office of Works should be transferred to the Treasury and handed over to the Irish Secretary. It was something gained to find that the hon. Member had confidence in the Irish Office. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is not because I have more confidence in the Irish Office, but because I have less confidence in the Treasury.
§ MR. HANBURY
did not think the change would be a favourable one. After all, if they transferred the duties to the Irish Office the Treasury would be the real controlling power. He thererefore thought the change would not be more than a nominal one.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, the hon. Member had not said a word about the appointment of relatives. Let them not appoint the secretary of some English official. Irishmen could govern the Colonies, India, and occasionally act as Ambassador, in Paris, and then there was their only general. He thought the claims of Irishmen ought to be considered.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
said, that when Conservatives and Nationalists joined in condemning a public work in Ireland as a fraud, it certainly must be very bad. The right hon. Gentleman was going to visit Ireland and enjoy the salubrious air of Ballycotton, but his predecessor the Member for South Leeds paid a similar visit, with no result. If they wanted anything absolutely and superlatively ridiculous off the stage let them go to the Irish Board of Works. He had been round the coast of Ireland, and had seen the wrecks and remnants of the work of that Department. It was simply because they were Irish that they were despised. They were hated by the English people; and when their hate took this unintelligible form how could they expect the Irish to love them? The hon. Member 1181 having referred to various harbours on the coast of Ireland, mentioned the case of Kenmare, and was proceeding to speak of Kenmare oysters when—
said, I must ask the hon. Member to confine himself more closely to the Vote now under discussion.
§ DR. TANNER
said, he would pass on to the case of Ballybunnion. He had himself seen 80 salmon landed there in one haul.
I must again request the hon. Member to confine himself more strictly to the items of the Vote under discussion, namely, that for the office of Public Works.
§ DR. TANNER
said, he was merely illustrating his argument as to the importance of Ballybunnion Harbour. But he would pass to Clew Bay, and he asserted that only two of the six harbours on the south side were capable of admitting a fishing smack at high water.
There is no money in this Vote for those harbours to which the hon. Member has referred, and therefore he is not entitled to discuss them.
§ DR. TANNER
said he was very sorry if he was out of order. If he had known it he would not have gone on. He would simply ask the right hon. Gentleman to kindly bear in mind all he had tried to put before him. He was very sorry if he had transgressed in any way, but he was simply trying to do his duty to the best of his ability. He was perfectly certain the Committee would excuse him—his only wish was to do something for the benefit of the county he represented.
§ CAPTAIN DONELAN
desired to express his acknowledgments to the Secretary to the Treasury for the very fair manner in which he had met the questions of his colleagues and himself on this matter, and he was extremely pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman express his intention to pay a visit to this pier himself. It would require no technical knowledge to satisfy him that the fault was due to misconstruction. The whole trouble was due to the fact that this pier, like so many others in Ireland constructed by the same official of the Board of Works, was built without any view to proper construction whatever.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Wicklow, W.)
wished to direct the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to the dilapidated condition of Wicklow harbour. He said, the right hon. Gentleman was aware that the Government had found it necessary to send their own engineer to inspect the harbour and breakwater, and he had reported that the breakwater was in an absolutely rotten condition. He wished to ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he would call the attention of the Board of Works in Dublin to the report made on this harbour by the Government engineer. The condition of the harbour was very bad, and the breakwater could not stand more than a very short time. It would fall into the harbour and render it absolutely useless. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to make an excursion to Wicklow. If he did he ventured to say he would not be pleased with the condition of the harbour. The right hon. Gentleman said that the rates in this part of Wicklow were only 3s. 6d. in the pound; he understood that was not the case, and that they were at the present time 5s. in the pound. To raise £35,000 on the rates was quite impossible.
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN after the usual interval,
§ MR. MICHAEL AUSTIN (Limerick, W.),
brought under notice of the Chief Secretary the dissatisfaction which prevailed among the tradesmen of Ireland as regarded the employment of incompetent workmen on public works. Handy-men were too often employed by contractors at very low wages, with the double result that the work was scamped and injury was done to tradesmen who had served long years of apprenticeship. The masons had written from time to time to the Department about this, and had only got evasive replies. The carpenters in various towns had strongly complained on the same point, and he urged that the Resolution of the House of Commons of February, 1891, with regard to paying trade union prices should be put in force in connection with every contract entered into by public departments in Ireland. He thought, in the interests of the Department itself, the employment of 1183 competent workmen was of the utmost importance, as defects which were often overlooked by the engineers would come under the cognisance of properly qualified workmen, who would remedy them. He trusted that in the contracts entered into in Ireland the right hon. Gentleman would see that the Resolution of that House was carried out as it was done in the case of contracts in England.
§ MR. FLYNN
supported the appeal of the hon. Member for West Limerick, observing that the spending departments in Ireland, and notably the Board of Trade and the Board of Works, had not given that adherence to the Resolution of the House of Commons of 1891 which had been given in England. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would do all in his power to see that in future the public departments in Ireland faithfully carried out the Resolution.
§ MR. FARRELL
directed the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the faulty construction of a pier built at Mulranny, on the west coast of Mayo. Although a considerable sum of money had been spent on the structure, no boat could approach it except at high tide. Quite recently the Government had expended a large sum on a railway passing by this village, and, furthermore, the Midland and Great Western Railway Company were about to spend £1,500 in the erection of a tourist hotel at this point. Mulranny stood on an eminence overlooking Clew Bay, one of the finest prospects in the whole of Ireland, and it was a place admirably adapted for the development of tourist traffic. He trusted, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, in his forthcoming visit to Ireland, would inspect this pier, and recognise the absolute necessity of putting it into such a condition as to make it serve the purpose for which it was designed.
§ MR. JAMES DALY
complained that in his constituency a man was allowed to build a house, and then, when he had actually got it roofed and finished, after spending £150 upon it, he received a letter from the Board of Works directing him to pull it down. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to inquire into the case.
§ MR. HANBURY
desired the hon. Member for Monaghan to supply him with further details of the case to which 1184 he referred, and preferred the same request to the hon. Member for West Cavan as to the Mulranny Pier. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for West Limerick, his impression was that the resolution relating to wages was equally valid in Ireland as in England, and if the right hon. Gentleman could point out cases in which it was alleged it was not fairly carried out, he would be quite willing to see how far the complaint was genuine. The main point raised in the discussion was as to the Wicklow Harbour, and he was afraid he should not be able to give the same kind of answer here as he had given with regard to another pier earlier in the evening. Wicklow Pier was, no doubt, in a bad condition. In 1893 the breakwater was reported to be in a state of collapse, and since 1893 negotiations had taken place between the Board of Works and the local authorities as to who was really to find the money to put the breakwater into a proper condition. Already a considerable sum of money had been spent on the harbour. So far back as 1864, £12,000 was borrowed from the town commissioners, and that money was practically gone. In 1870 a further sum of £6,000 was borrowed from the Public Works Loan Commissioners, upon which no interest had been paid, whilst there had been no repayment of capital, and the loan, therefore, when it was transferred to the Board of Works in 1881, had reached the sum of £9,000. In 1881 the Board of Works lent a sum of £40,000, repayable in 50 years at 4¼ per cent., to be a first charge on the Harbour revenues, and to be guaranteed by the baronies. After the money had been spent the breakwater was still in a state of collapse. The Government were told that it would cost roughly, about £35,000 to put it in a proper state. That estimate had been gone into to see what expenses could be avoided, and the sum now estimated was £30,000, or a little less. The whole question was as to who should find the £30,000. His predecessor made what he regarded as a very fair offer, and one beyond which he would not go. This offer was to wipe out the £9,000 loan and reduce the interest on the £40,000 to 4 per cent, if the guaranteeing baronies and the town, of Wicklow would guarantee the new loan for 1185 £30,000, or the amount that was required, for forty years at 4 per cent. The baronies refused to do that, what they asked for being a free grant from the Treasury. That would be a very unusual step to take. After all, what was the position of the local authorities in this matter? The average rates of the five baronies concerned and the town of Wicklow were 3s. 6d., and these, he was told, were very low rates. At the outside it would only mean 2½d. in the £ extra for a loan of £35,000, and 2d. in the £ for a loan of £28,000, and he understood that the latter sum was that which would really be required for the work. The view which his predecessor took, and which he now took, was that if the local authorities were not prepared to find the extra 2d. in the £ they could not attach very much importance to the question.
§ MR. JAMES O'CONNOR
asked the right hon. Gentleman if he did not think that at the present price of money, 4 per cent, was too high a rate to charge?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the answer to the question depended upon what the guarantee was worth, and upon the price at which they could get money in the open market.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
said he wished to direct the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury to the Treasury Minute which made inoperative a provision in the Land Act of 1881. Under that Act, the Board of Public Works in Ireland were empowered to grant loans to tenant-farmers in Ireland for the improvement of their holdings. That provision worked satisfactorily to the Treasury and beneficially to the tenant-farmers for a great many years, but now the officials of the Treasury feared there might be loss to the Treasury because the land was not made liable for the loan. In other words, when a farm became derelict there was no power to make the landlord pay. A Treasury Minute was issued, and now a tenant-farmer, the value of whose holding was £10, could only borrow £30, and a tenant, the value of whose holding was £7, could not obtain a loan at all. It seemed to him a monstrous thing that a Treasury Minute could override an Act of Parliament, and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman whether the Minute could not be withdrawn.
did not see how the hon. Gentleman connected the question with the Board of Works Office.
said, he gathered from the observations of the hon. Member that if anybody was at fault it was the Treasury, and, therefore, the hon. Gentleman's criticisms applied to the Treasury, and not to the Board of Works.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
pointed out that the Treasury controlled the Board of Works, and the Board of Works were empowered to issue the loans. He would not, however, pursue the matter. He had simply to ask that the Treasury Minute should be withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
submitted that his hon. Friend's remarks were in order, as the loans were made on the recommendation of the Board of Works.
said, that that, of course, was a new point, and if it was a fact it altered the complexion of the case.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
said, he questioned the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor on the point, and Sir John Hibbert said he was anxious a short Act should be passed that would obviate the necessity of refusing the loans.
§ MR. HANBURY
could not quite understand from the speech of the hon. Gentleman whether it was legislation or the Treasury which was at fault. The hon. Gentleman said Sir John Hibbert was anxious to remove the evil, if it was an evil, by legislation, but a little time before he said a Treasury Minute was overriding an Act of Parliament.
§ MR. GILHOOLY
said, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor stated that a remedy could only be afforded by legislation—by making the land liable for the loan if the tenant had been evicted.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, it was impossible for him to give a satisfactory answer unless he was in possession of all the facts. He, therefore, suggested that the hon. Gentleman should communicate with him privately.
§ Vote agreed to.