HC Deb 22 February 1897 vol 46 cc860-2

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that a second clerk to a loan fund society is now in Sligo Gaol on a charge of embezzling £600 of the society's capital; if he can explain how a second clerk could obtain control over so large a sum without the collusion of other officers; and whether the Loan Fund Board will hold a searching inquiry into the matter?


I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1) whether he is aware that the second clerk of the Belcoo Loan Fund Society is at present confined in Sligo Gaol on a charge of embezzling £600 of the loan fund; (2) whether there is any explanatian of the circumstances under which a sum, amounting to one-fourth of the entire capital of the loan fund society, has disappeared without the knowledge of the first clerk, the committee, and the trustees; and (3) whether the Loan Fund Board have held, or propose to hold, an inquiry into the working of this society?


The fact is as stated in the first paragraph of the Question of the right hon. Member for East Donegal, and of the similar Question standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for South Donegal. The Loan Fund Board are not in possession of any evidence showing that there was collusion between the accused and any other official connected with the society; but I have no doubt the whole of the facts will be fully investigated on behalf of the Board at the trial of the accused, and pending such investigation it is undesirable to discuss the case further from this aspect. The Board inform me that they will continue their inquiry as to these frauds and into the circumstances leading to them.


On behalf of the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. MACNEILL), I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether the Report of the Commission appointed to inquire into the working of the loan fund system in Ireland has yet been laid before the Irish Government; and, if not, when it is likely to be ready; and whether, having regard to the abuses, malversation, and oppression connected with the system, which have been repeatedly admitted by the Chief Secretary in his replies to Questions addressed to him in the House of Commons, this Report will be laid upon the Table of the House?


The Report in question has been submitted to the Government. It is still under the consideration of the Loan Fund Board, who are in consultation with their legal adviser on the subject. A reasonable time must be allowed to enable the Board to come to a decision as to the course they propose to adopt in connection with the presentation of the Report. In the meantime I will ask the hon. Member not to press the Question put in the second paragraph.


On behalf of the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. M. MCCARTHY), I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that, owing to serious defalcations and frauds on the part of the late senior clerk of the Edgwarthstown Loan Fund Society, the Loan Fund Board in Dublin dissolved that society about a year ago; whether the books of the society were regularly inspected by the loan fund inspector, who failed to perceive irregularities in the accounts, and expressed no disapproval of the system of management; and whether, having regard to the fact that, owing to the dissolution of the society and the difficulty of collecting outstanding debts by a receiver who now desires to be relieved of his duties, the debenture holders are likely to be heavy losers, any relief or compensation will be given to them for the loss of securities through defalcations and frauds which the inspector of the Loan Fund Board, a body constituted by statute, and whose officers are Government officials, failed, from negligence or other cause, to detect for a long period of time?


I have referred this Question to the Loan Fund Board for a Report as to the facts, but not having yet received the Report, I regret to be obliged to ask the hon. Gentleman to postpone the Question till Tomorrow. As regards, however, the concluding words of the Question, I must point out that neither the officers of the Loan Fund Board nor of the local societies working in connection with that Board are, in any sense of the word, Civil Servants of the Crown, and that Government exercises no control whatever over the proceedings of the Board or of the local bodies.