§ £116,557, Supplementary, Repayment to the Local Loans Fund,—
§ MR. LOUGH
observed that he did not see why this should be a Supplementary Estimate at all. It seemed to him an attempt to make good some repayments of local loans. He desired to ask a question or two with reference to this Vote. The first sum amounted to £65,000, written off, as he understood, in respect of loans for the redemption of waste lands in Ireland. What was the meaning of this, and why should it come into the Supplemental Estimates? Why should not an arrangement be made when they were dealing with the General Estimates? The next item related to a loan to the Waterford and Wexford Railway amounting to £30,000 or £31,000. There was a reference in the Irish Local Government Board's report to the fact that some railway upon which the Government had lent £30,000 or £40,000 had been sold for something like £4,000 or £5,000. Was this sum in respect of the loss made upon that town? Was it to get rid of this loss which was made by the sale of the railway? There appeared to have been only two annuities paid on the total loan to the Waterford and Wexford Railway, and now the whole of it was written off. He desired to know if this was a loss on the sum lent many years ago to Irish railway companies and whether there were any such loans outstanding?
§ MR. HANBURY
replied that the subject of the Waterford and Limerick Railway Company's loan was governed entirely by the Act of Parliament of 1893, and the only way in which it arose in this Vote was because Parliament had to make good any deficiency in the assets of the Local Loan Fund in those cases where debts had been written off the Fund's assets by Parliament. In three cases out of six appearing on the Vote they were dealing with loans which had been wiped off by Acts 1422 passed during the year 1895, and therefore it was necessary to take it in the Supplementary Estimates because the assets of the Local Loans Fund had to be made good. These sums had been dealt with already by Acts of Parliament and as the amounts had been wiped off by Acts of Parliament they were bound by those Acts to repay the money by subsequent Votes. The reason a Supplementary Vote was needed was that under the Act they were empowered either to repay the Local Loan Fund by a lump sum, or a series of annual payments in the shape of annuities. It had been thought that, instead of allowing annuities to run on, spread over a larger number of years, it would be better to pay off the sum during the current year.
MR. J. McLEOD (Sutherland)
inquired what was the total sum expended under the head of Loans to Fishermen, provided for in the Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act, 1886; how much had been repaid, how much had been cancelled, and how much was still outstanding?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the Vote was gone into when the Bill on which the Supplementary Estimate was based was passed a few months ago, but if the hon. Member wanted the information, and put a Question on the matter, he would endeavour to supply it.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
said, this was a good object-lesson on the pernicious character of legislation by dole for local purposes. He and others had often protested against it, and if ever the Secretary to the Treasury wanted assistance to prevent the continuance of this mischievous legislation, he would receive it from himself and others sitting near him.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
pointed out that of the total sum only £478 applied to the Highlands of Scotland, the rest of the money going to Ireland, whore £100,000 had been doled out. In many respects the Highlands of Scotland were in a more distressed condition than the congested districts in Ireland. He did not object to the latter getting money when they needed it, but the Scotch Members considered that the Highlands of Scotland, which needed it quite as much, should be treated with the same liberality.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
joined in the protest of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean in protesting against legislation by doles. The original Estimate under the head of relief of distress in Ireland was only £18,000, and since then a sum of £116,000 in addition was required. He submitted that these doles, issued from the Imperial Treasury, did no good whatever, but only harm. They were wasted and "jobbed away" and demoralised those who got them. He was sorry to find that one of the first things his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury had done had been to multiply the amount of original dole by ten. He expected his hon. Friend would keep the Government straight. If he went on in this way he should have to consider his hon. Friend's salary. [Laughter.] Why should £18,000 be considered insufficient and his hon. Friend now come for this stupendous increase of £116,000? No doubt his hon. Friend was casting his eye on the death-duties. "There is such a lot of money going," he said. "We must do something with it. What can we do? There is waste land in Ireland, and the Waterford railway. Let us give £60,000 to the one and £30,000 to the other." Hence this Supplementary Estimate. He would not move a reduction or vote against it, but some protest was needed against the policy of Imperial doles for local purposes.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, his hon. Friend had quite mistaken the object of the Vote. It had nothing to do with further loans whatever. What had happened was that under certain Acts of Parliament certain debts had been wiped off as far as the Local Loans Fund was concerned. If they could recover them, well and good, but they were bound by statute to devote money to cover the deficiency created in the assets of the Local Loans Fund. No new loans for England, Scotland, or Ireland were proposed. They simply proposed to fill up the deficiency in the Local Loans Fund created by certain Acts of Parliament. His hon. Friend talked of the large increase in the Vote this year as if there was a large addition to the doles. It was nothing of the kind. The larger portion of the increase arose from the fact that instead of going on repaying the Local Loans Fund as they might have 1424 done by an annuity spread over a series of years, they were paying the whole sum out of the revenue of last year. No extra money whatever had been spent.
§ MR. JAMES O'CONNOR (Wicklow, W.)
reminded hon. Members that the Irish people would require no doles from the English Parliament if they were not overtaxed to the extent of two millions a year in their contribution to Imperial Funds. That they were overtaxed to that extent was clear from the Report of the Financial Relations Committee. He would point out to the Committee that, of all the money spent on the Army and Navy, scarcely one per cent. was spent in Ireland. The sum spent on the Army and Navy in Ireland was scarcely worth mentioning. He objected to the granting of doles to the Irish people. If they were not overtaxed they would be able to contribute to their own expenses, and not require doles from that House.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ £5,859, Supplementary, Relief of Distress, Ireland.
§ MR. LOUGH
suggested that what had been said about Ireland on the last Vote would have been better said on this. On the showing of their Financial Relations Committee, Ireland was heavily overtaxed, and he asked the Government whether they would continue to give out these doles of £80,000, £250,000, or £500,000 for light railways which would go bankrupt, or adopt the honest policy of adjusting the taxation of the Irish people to suit their means of paying. If they took the last 10 or 20 years they would find that whereas the population of Ireland had decreased by three-quarters of a million, the taxes had been increased by two millions. He should be glad to hear from a responsible Member of the Government that they were going to make the burden of taxation such as Ireland could bear.
§ MR. DOUGLAS COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)
said, he protested against the policy of dealing out doles to Ireland, which he thought was adopted because that country had 103 votes. He hoped that that policy would not be pursued any longer.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, that it was not proposed to make any further grant to Ireland at the present time. The net sum of £80,000 had been voted for the relief of Irish distress, and of that sum £5,859 remained unappropriated. In order to fulfil the purposes for which provision had aready been made by Parliament, it was proposed to revote the unexpended balance of £5,859, and to pay it over as a grant in aid of the funds of the Congested Districts Board, who would undertake to expend the money in completing certain relief works which would remain unfinished at the end of the year.
§ Vote agreed to.