HC Deb 26 January 1897 vol 45 cc565-77

proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words,— And that we humbly represent to Your Majesty the great regret of this House that no reference has been made in Your Majesty's Speech regarding a Bill to discontinue the deportation of paupers from England and Scot-land to Ireland. He said that so long ago as 1854 the attention of the House of Commons had been called to this grievance; but, though the injustice was admitted, to this day no Government had yet under taken to apply a remedy. Speaking in the House in 1854, Mr. Maguire said that the object which he had in view was to provide that a person should have relief in any Parish or Union in which he was resident; that he should have the right to it; and that there should be no fear that he would be removed to the, locality on which he might be chargeable. The Home Secretary of that day admitted that it was a question which the Government ought to inquire into; and he thought that the law should he altered. That was 50 years ago, and yet the same demand was still being made. On that occasion Lord Claud Hamilton, member for a division of Tyrone, joined in the demand made by Mr. Maguire. In the House of Lords, later, Lord Donoughmore made the same demand, and Lord Aberdeen admitted that the law ought to be altered, and expressed the hope that the Government would find time to attend to it. Complaint was frequently made that so much of the time of the House was occupied by Irish matters, but was this surprising when admitted grievances remained so long unredressed? He hoped that the present Government would end the anomaly of Irishmen, who had spent their whole working lives in Great Britain, being deported to Ireland as soon as they became chargeable on the rates. The taxes in Ireland were twice and thrice as heavy as those in England. Where agriculturists in England were paying in rates 2s. 6d. in the pound, the fellows in Donegal and Tyrone were paying 5s. and 4s. 6d. in the pound.


The hon. Gentleman is travelling away from the Amendment.


said that this question was larger than it looked. In the union of Carrickmacross there were no less than seven paupers who had been sent over from Great Britain after having worked the greater part of their lives in that country. There were 169 unions in Ireland, and, at the same rate for all, the cost of these deported paupers would be £15,000 to £20,000 a year. In 50 years, therefore, the amount involved was to be reckoned at a million. Again, though population dwindled in Ireland, the number of paupers increased. In 1866 the population was five and a-half millions, while the paupers numbered 65,000. In 1896 the population was only four and a-half millions, while the paupers numbered 98,000. If an Englishman in Ireland applied to the parish for relief, the Irish union had no power to deport him to his native country. Was this a fair arrangement as between the two countries? He hoped that such a big-hearted man as the present Chief Secretary would not allow this anomaly to continue any longer. He begged to move.

MR. J. P. FARRELL (Cavan, W.)

seconded the Amendment. He said that the case rested on equalisation of treatment as between Great Britain and Ireland. On Thursday next he should ask the Lord Advocate a question about an Irish pauper deported from Dumfriesshire to Cavan. The question was one of the greatest importance to the Irish ratepayer, and he thought there would be no difficulty in passing a short Bill to redress the grievance, seeing how unanimous was the feeling in the matter.

MR. JAMES DALY (Monaghan, S.)

said that the grievances complained of in the Amendment might seem a small matter to Englishmen and Scotchmen, but at he could assure the House that the people of Ireland had taken it much to heart. Surely it was an intolerable state of things under which it constantly happened that a youth left Ireland for England, Scotland, or Wales, and having resided there for 40 or 50 years by the fruits of his industry—helping to build up the great country of Great Britain—became infirm and destitute, and applied for relief at a workhouse, was sent lack to Ireland—on the order of two Justices of the Peace—to be a disgrace to his relatives and a burden on the rates to which he had never contributed a farthing. The very unfair law under which those things were done was passed in 1854 by a Liberal Government, despite the opposition of the Irishmen and the friends of Ireland then in the House. It had, therefore, been in operation—a disgrace to the Statute Book—for 45 years, and it was high time to abolish it. Previous to 1854 the law was precisely the same in regard to Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen and Irishmen; but the removal of paupers from a parish in England to a parish in Wales, or vice versa, had caused so much discontent that the Liberal Party, at the General Election before 1854, made the bringing in of a Bill to abolish the grievance one of the planks of their platform. Accordingly, in 1854, the then President of the Local Government Board in the Liberal Administration brought in a Bill abolishing the practice of the removal of paupers from one parish to another in Great Britain, but leaving Ireland outside its operation, though the inclusion of Ireland in the Act was urged by the President of the Local Government Board in the preceding Derby Administration and by Viscount Palmerston. The 45 years during which the Act had been in operation was long enough to leave Irishmen under such a law. He considered it an insult to Irishmen that they were not treated to the same laws as Englishmen, Scotchmen and Welshmen, and he hoped there would be no delay on the part of the Government in introducing the Bill or in adopting some other means for putting an end to the disgrace. He was sure the Amendment would receive the support of all sections of Irish Members. The ratepayer's of every part of Ireland suffered from this injustice, and resolutions condemning it had been passed by Unionist and Nationalist Boards of Guardians alike. In the Carickmacross Union—which was in his constituency—there were no fewer than seven deported paupers, whose cost came to a halfpenny in the £ upon the rating. If these men had done any service in Ireland he would not complain. But one of them had spent 50 years in Scotland, and another 40 years in Scotland, and it was only when they had become worn out and useless that they had been sent back to Ireland. The average cost of the keep of each of these men was £10 per annum; or, if they were in hospital—as probably they would be—from £12 to £14 per annum. He had put several questions to the late Lord Advocate of Scotland in regard to those men, and had got such little satisfaction that he had put down a Motion to reduce the salary of the right hon. Gentleman, but before the Vote was reached the right hon. Gentleman had disappeared to some more profitable quarters. [Laughter.] Up to the present he had not had an opportunity of putting a question to the present Lord Advocate, but if the Government did not put an end to the grievance he would have to come to close quarters with the right hon. Gentleman. [Laughter.] Such men as these, after spending the best part of their lives in Scotland, were at present costing the ratepayers a considerable sum. In regard to the case of one man, who was sent back to Ireland after spending 20 years in the south and west of Scotland, the Lord Advocate stated, in reply to a question, that the man was sent home by the local authorities in accordance with his own desire. He was afraid that that was not an accurate reply. He had taken the trouble to make further inquiries into the case, with the result that this man made a declaration before a magistrate to the effect that he was compelled either to leave the Glasgow workhouse to go to Ireland. He had to consent to go against his will, as he was totally unfitted for work. This man was feeble and old, with one foot in the grave, when he made that declaration, and under those circumstances it was very unlikely that he had made a false declaration. He brought forward this case in order to show the difficulty he and his hon. Friends had to meet when, in reply to their questions, they received replies made up by officials. The rates of this country were not raised by pauper Englishmen or Scotchmen being sent back here, and it was the unfortunate Irishmen who helped to make this country what it was. There was another case, even worse, of a man of about 65 years old, who made a declaration that after about 50 years spent in Scotland he and his family were separated, and he was made to go to Ireland against his will. He told the authorities that if they sent him to Ireland he would jump overboard; but, of course, the result was that he was sent with keepers, and he had had to purchase a burial-place in order that he might be laid to rest in the same place as his family. This unfortunate man was, in the most unnatural manner separated from his wife and children. These Acts were radically unjust, and were passed only to meet a pressing emergency which was temporary. They were renewed from time to time, and a general permanent Act was subsequently passed which gave to magistrates the power of removing natives of Ireland to their own country when they had become chargeable on the poor rates of England or Scotland. The prediction made 43 years ago by the Earl of Donoughmore had turned out to be true, and the ratepayers suffered an injustice from the present state of the law. This was not a political subject, and therefore he expected to have some support from all sides of the House; and if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, as well as the Lord Advocate for Scotland, took up the matter, it would be supported by every lover of fair play in that House. He hoped they would have a satisfactory reply from the right hon. Gentleman, and that this would be the last occasion on which any Member from Ireland would be able to complain of this great grievance. His own constituents in the Castleblaney, Carickmacross and Dundalk Unions had told him that nothing had been done in regard to this question; and yet question after question had been put upon the subject. For the last 43 years the population of Ireland had gone down, and although they might not be exactly starving in Ireland, they had not a lot of money. He believed Her Majesty's Government need have no fear that there would be any such thing as Irishmen coming to their shores for the purpose of entering the workhouses. He hoped the Chief Secretary would try and undo the mischief which had been done in the past towards Ireland.

MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)

thought that an absolutely unanswerable case had been made out in regard to this subject. He did not think that the way in which the question had been treated was very encouraging to Irish Members. It had been acknowledged that for the last 40 years there had been a grievance, and yet no step had ever been taken to remove that grievance. He happened to be the Chairman of one of the Boards of Guardians which, week after week, had these warrants before them from all parts of England, Scotland and Wales, sending to them men who had left Ireland and had contributed to the wealth of Great Britain. Every Board of Guardians in Ireland was unanimously of opinion that the present practice ought to be discontinued. He hoped the Chief Secretary would be able to hold out not merely hopes but the certainty that the grievance would be removed.


said he had on several occasions expressed the opinion that in this matter Ireland had a real grievance. ["Hear, hear!"] It was a grievance of a twofold character—the sentimental and practical. With regard to the first, Irish paupers could be deported from Scotland and England into Ireland, while English and Scotch paupers could not be removed from Ireland to Scotland or England. The grievance could, it was clear, be removed by assimilating the law in Ireland to the law in England and Scotland; but this, in his opinion, would not constitute a real settlement of the question. While a considerable number of Irish paupers were annually removed from England and Scotland, in practice it would be found that if the law in Ireland were assimilated to that of England and Scotland few Englishmen or Scotchmen who became paupers in Ireland could be deported to the country of their birth. Personally he would rather see the law in England and Scotland assimilated to that in Ireland. The practical grievance was that an Irishman might have spent 30 or 40 years working in England or Scotland, but when past work he was liable to be sent back to the union in which he was born in Ireland, to become a burden on the Irish ratepayer. That was a very practical grievance, but it would only be redressed by a change in the poor law of England and Scotland. On that ground it had been impossible for the Irish Government as such to introduce a Bill dealing with the question. The Law of Settlement in Scotland was much severer in its effect upon Ireland than the English law was. Therefore the House would not be surprised to find that the number of paupers who had been deported from Scotland to Ireland within recent years, as compared with the number who had been removed from England to Ireland, was considerably greater, notwithstanding that England had a larger area than Scotland. The figures were remarkable, in 1889 the number of paupers removed to Ireland from England was 173; from Scotland, 117; 1890, from England, 154; Scotland, 132; 1891, England, 123; Scotland, 230; 1892, from England, 153; Scotland, 224; 1893, from England, 153; Scotland, 259. The yearly average was—from England, 151; but from Scotland, 192. So the House would see that, if the grievance were to be removed in an effectual and statesmanlike manner, it must be by an alteration of the laws of Scotland and England. He had proposed a Conference on the subject between the Local Govern- ment Boards of the three portions of the Kingdom. But that proposal did not bear fruit, and ultimately he entered into negotiations with the Local Government Board for Scotland, thinking any concession he got from them would not be difficult to obtain from the Local Government Board in England. The Local Government Board for Scotland had met him in a conciliatory spirit, and he was authorised to say that they were now engaged in drafting a Bill which, even if it did not meet the case completely, or go as far as he could wish, he hoped it would meet the grievances of Ireland to a considerable extent. Under the circumstances, he suggested that the discussion might now come to a conclusion pending the introduction of the Bill, and that Irish Members might bring their powerful influence to bear on the Scotch Members on their own side of the House to help them to get the best terms which, under the circumstances, it might be possible to obtain. [Cheers.]


agreed that it would not be desirable for the poor law system in Ireland to be assimilated to that of England and Scotland. The English and Scotch systems were of very ancient date, but the Irish system was comparatively of modern creation, dating, as it did, from the first year of Her Majesty's reign. The Law of Settlement did not exist in Ireland, and the cause of the evil of which Ireland justly complained was the stringency of the Law of Settlement in England and Scotland. The greatest hardship had been occasioned by the operation of this law, by which an Irish labourer might not acquire a settlement in a Scotch parish or an English union. If he had not acquired a settlement in the particular union on which he had become chargeable he would be sent to the parish from which he came, provided he had acquired a settlement there. The Irish population in England and Scotland was more or less a fluctuating population, and the consequence was, an unfortunate Irishman might toil for 40 or 50 of the best years of his life in England or Scotland and not acquire a status to get poor law relief from either country. He was then deported back to Ireland; all his relatives and friends there had probably disappeared, and he dropped, as it were, from the sky, to be a charge and burden upon some already impoverished poor law union in Ireland. It was quite true that successive Governments had received complaints in reference to this matter, but notwithstanding these complaints there had been no change in the law. But he thought a means had now been suggested for remedying this evil, namely, by a change in the law of England and Scotland, which if applied to the case of Irish labourers would prevent a man from being sent back in his later days to a place which knew him no more, where he had no friends to help to sustain him, after he had given the best years of his life to the service of the Sister Island. He thought that the assurance of the Chief Secretary that the Scotch and English Local Government Boards were considering this question in conference with the Irish Local Government Board was satisfactory, and he trusted that a Measure might be produced in the course of the present Session which would meet the hardship without making any great change in the Law of Settlement in England and Scotland, and without the necessity of assimilating the law in Ireland with that in England and Scotland.

MR. J. J. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)

thought that after the statement of the Chief Secretary the mover of the Amendment ought not to press it to a division. The right hon. Gentleman's speech made it perfectly clear that the change which ought to be effected was a change in the law of England and Scotland. He would publicly appeal to Scotch and English Members present to assist the right hon. Gentleman in carrying out what he had stated to be his own wishes. He was rather astonished that some Scotch or English Member had not spoken in the Debate. Although the right hon. Gentleman might be anxious to terminate this Debate as soon as possible—and he did not see any reason to prolong it—he thought the right hon. Gentleman would himself be strengthened in his meritorious intentions if he had the voice of English and Scotch Members at his back. He had been thinking since the right hon. Gentleman sat down, that some hon. Member like himself might in the last resort take the initiative in this matter, and if he did not hear some satisfactory statement from at least one English and one Scotch Member, he should take upon himself to promote a memorial to the English and Scotch authorities which he hoped would he signed both by Englishmen and Scotchmen as well as Irishmen, asking that some change should be made. He ventured, however, to express the hope that before the Debate closed at least one English and one Scotch Member would take part in it and give the House some assurance that no niggardly spirit would be manifested in this matter.

SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)

said he would gratify the wishes of the hon. Member who had just sat down. Knowing something of this question, and having taken a great interest in it, and having had a large amount of experience in the administration of the Poor Law, he could not see his way to support the foreshadowing of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Although it might sometimes appear that there was considerable hardship entailed in deporting Irishmen before they obtained a settlement in Scotland, there was practically very little hardship at all. Where there was any hardship, the case had been generally left undisturbed. What they objected to in Scotland was that at certain seasons of the year, when there was a want of labour in Ireland, large numbers of Irish labourers came across. They did not want them to become their habitual paupers and to have to support them for the rest of their lives. Surely it was very reasonable to say that having a Law of Settlement in Scotland, that law should be observed. In large centres, in cities like Glasgow, where a large number of Irishmen were continually coming on to the rates, the only thing that kept down the rates was the fear those Irishmen had of being deported to Ireland, which induced them to make themselves scarce when the district officer went round. He therefore hoped that Her Majesty's Government either this or any other Session would not attempt to alter the present law upon this subject.

MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid.)

said that he must express his regret at hearing the observations of the hon. Gentleman opposite. As a Scotch representative he should certainly support any Measure that the Government might bring in that would remedy an acknowledged injustice. ["Hear, hear!"] If an Irishman resident in a Scotch town happened to move over the line that divided one parish from another within five years, if he became a pauper he lost his parish settlement and was liable to be deported to his parish of origin in Ireland.


said that that law applied equally to Scotchmen and Irishmen.


said that might be so, but it must be recollected that the Scotchman was in his native country whereas the Irishman was liable to be deported back to Ireland. If an Irishman had resided in Scotland for five years, in whatever parishes he might have lived he ought to acquire a Scotch domicile, that would prevent his deportation to Ireland. He thought that was a very reasonable proposition, and if the Government would bring in, a Bill to make such an alteration in the law he for one would heartily support it. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

said that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down appeared to think that five years' residence by an Irishman in Scotland ought to entitle him to a Scotch settlement. But what would the hon. Gentleman think when he told him that he knew of cases in which Irishmen had been deported to Ireland after 43 years' residence in Scotland? It was absurd for the hon. Baronet the Member for Kirkcudbright to say that this constituted no hardship upon the Irish people.


said that what he had said was that there were no cases of hardship that were not duly considered.


asked whether the fact that an Irishman had lived 40 or 50 years in Scotland was not a hardship? [Laughter.]

MR. P. C. DOOGAN (Tyrone, E.)

remarked that it was a great hardship upon the poorer districts in Ireland that those who had left them so many years ago should be sent back as paupers to be a burden upon the rates. In conclusion he mentioned that the adoption of the reciprocity principle would not be at all fair to Ireland, because it must be admitted that there were very few inducements to English and Scotch people to settle in Ireland, He and his Friends had every confidence after the speech of the Chief Secretary that there would soon be an end to the unfair and unjust deportation of paupers from Scotland and England to Ireland.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.