HC Deb 02 July 1897 vol 50 cc980-95

1. Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £137,137, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1898, for the erection, repairs, and maintenance of public buildings in Ireland, and for the maintenance of certain parks and public works, and for drainage works on the river Shannon.


objected to the lavish sums being spent on the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin when it was notorious that the Viceroy resided less and less in the country. Then the Chief Secretary's Lodge had cost in a year for repairs £1,025. Now it was proposed to spend £650 more to extend the conservatories. If the Chief Secretary was fond of flowers let him build a conservatory for himself. There were five or six conservatories as it was. Yet he had never seen the Chief Secretary with a flower in his buttonhole. [Laughter.] But the conservatories were run on strictly commercial lines. The flowers were sent to Covent Garden or sold in the fruiterers' shops in Dublin, and he believed they were the gardener's perquisites. The hon. Member also objected to the sum proposed to be spent on new heating apparatus at Queen's College, Galway. Galway College was notoriously a failure, and he objected to a further expenditure on useless educational institutions. Why, he asked, should not the professors, whose offices were sinecures, contribute this sum for the heating apparatus which was desired. At present there were 105 students in the institution, and their culture cost the enormous sum of £6,505 10s. 4d. a year. Another point was this, that a considerable sum, some £1,200, was to be devoted to the alteration of the ground floor of the postal and telegraph buildings in Dublin. These alterations had already been begun, and at present they were a perfect disgrace and scandal. It was intended to make a new telegraph office for handing telegrams between say 11 o'clock at night and 8 o'clock in the morning. The huge construction for which this sum was to be charged seemed to be at present the most badly ventilated and heated place he knew of. He did not know how the telegraph clerks could stay there, as the building was the acme of discomfort both in summer and winter, and was expensive and wasteful and injurious to those who had to frequent it. He objected to the sum of £150 for the boundary wall and railing of the Queen's College, Belfast. The last time he was there it had a good boundary and a good railing, and he could only imagine that during the last few years they had simply, for the fun of the thing, thrown down the railing. But they objected to the expenditure because they objected to the education given at this college. He hoped to have an answer from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland in regard to the gardens of the Chief Secretary's Lodge. There was another matter which he desired to mention. There was one building in Ireland which, if it were removed to Florence would even adorn that city, he referred to the Custom House of Dublin. There was in this building an Italian portico of very excellent design, which was actually being filled up, the interstices between the pillars were being filled up, and he believed they were asking for a sum of £1,400 or £1,500 for this. He would not move any reduction, but he hoped the Chief Secretary would be told of the points which he had referred to.


said he wished to direct the attention of the authorities to the desirability of establishing a coastguard station at Castle Gregory, in Tralee Bay, County Kerry. There was no telegraph office near the place, and they had to send across the country to try and get coastguard apparatus when it was needed for the saving of life. The post office in College Green, Dublin, was extremely badly situated and badly furnished, and the telegraph clerks had to work there under conditions of great discomfort. If it was not possible to improve time present premises, new buildings of suitable character ought to be obtained in College Green. In reference to the alterations in the Custom House, Dublin, he wished to know what had been done with time collection of very valuable historical paintings in that building. He suggested that the pictures should be removed to some place, such as the National Gallery, where they could be properly looked after and be seen and appreciated by the public.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

said that this Vote, which would be charged against Ireland in an Imperial balance sheet, was made up of a number of charges with which Ireland, as a separate fiscal entity, had no concern whatever. For instance, there was a charge of £9,937 for the improvement of coastguard stations. He submitted that that was an Imperial charge, and that it had no business whatever in an Irish Vote. Its proper hue was in the Navy Estimates. Again, the Dublin Custom House, so far as it was used for Imperial revenue, should be charged to Imperial revenue. The Royal Hospital, Dublin, was like the Chelsea Hospital, a home for worn-out veterans, and was, therefore, an Army charge. The -Royal Hibernian Military School was intended for the training of young lads to feed the Army, and was, therefore, an Imperial charge. Again, why should the charge for the Quit Pent Mike be included in an Irish Vote? Quit rent went entirely in case of the Crown. The Vote also contained an enormous charge for postal and telegraph services, which he submitted should be included in the Post Office Vote. Altogether there were about £20,000 of Charges, which were strictly Imperial in their nature, and could not be considered in any sense Irish. He could not find in time Vote for time English Board of Works anything analogous to the charges in the Vote for the Irish Board of Works. The total of the English Vote was only £55,200, while time Irish Vote amounted to £270,137, which showed that things were charged to the Irish Board of Works which were not charged to time English Board of Works. He would also suggest that there should be some rearrangement of the Votes by which all the Votes should be put into one class. Irish Members had at present to get five or six volumes and lug them into the House in order to he prepared for a Vote when it was put from the Chair. He noticed a very large charge, amounting to £12,000, for the Belfast Parcel Office. He did not grudge Belfast the money, it was only what its progress entitled that city to, but he wanted to know why other places in Ireland were ignored. Then there was £10,000 for the Killibegs pier. When Irish Members urged the building of piers in various parts of Ireland they were told that the money for piers was all expended, but here was an instance of a fresh pier having been constructed. It was very remarkable that the whole of the half-million voted for Irish railways was spent in a particular quarter of the North, and here was the Board of Works giving £10,000 to be expended in the same district. He wondered whether that had any relation to the fact that the new President of the Board of Works had been the manager of a northern railway. He did not say that this money should not be spent, indeed, he thought every penny of it was required, but he said that other parts of Ireland should receive the same attention. He would also like to know whether the roads through the grounds of the Royal Hospital were still closed to the public. These roads were a great convenience to members of the Bar driving to Kilmainham Court House. They were closed when Lord Wolseley was Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, and he did not know whether the same rule was continued by Lord Roberts, the present Commander-in-Chief. While it was proposed to reduce the number of Judges in Ireland by three, a now court was to be built. There were courts enough already, but it would be a great convenience if the old library could be given to the Bar as a dressing room. As to the River Shannon, Works, he approved of them, but he should like to see them rendered profitable to somebody. They could be made to yield handsome revenue with a little extension. At present, though more than £100,000 had been spent, no one derived a shilling from them. The Government sent surveyors to the falls of the Nile, to the Zambesi falls, and to Uganda, to see how the water power could be utilised; and yet the water power of the Shannon was allowed to run to waste.


called attention to the incomplete state of the buildings of Queen's College, Belfast, and to the inconvenience caused thereby. He said that the original design was for a long line of buildings; but that design had not been completed, and that there was a gap between the two extremities. The scientific side of the College suffered severely for want of more accommodation. It was useless to expect that the completion should be carried out by private enterprise in Belfast, because the College was in no way controlled by the people of the City. It was unfair to leave the College crippled because the original design of the Government had not been completed.


said that he had a Motion on the Paper to reduce the Vote for Queen's College, Belfast. For some years the College had been obtaining large sums for the completion of the scientific buildings. It had been richly endowed by the State, though it was maintained for only a small section of the community, even in Ulster; and it would be most unjust to grant large sums to such an institution, while all assistance was denied to the Colleges which represented the vast majority of the people of Ireland. If the hon. Member wanted more money for the College, let him urge the Government to do justice in the matter of Catholic University Education. There was a scientific college in Dublin, which had been maintained and equipped by the private exertions of the Irish Catholics, and only the other day an appeal for a further £1,000 was issued. They were always hearing that Belfast was the wealthiest and most intelligent part of Ireland; and yet it could not provide for the smallest requirement of its Queen's College. He wished to obtain some information with regard to the grant of £40,000 for the building of National Schools in Ireland. In a question which he had put to the Secretary of the Treasury he had asked for the total amount of the applications now before the Commissioners of National Education or the Board of Works, but the right hon. Gentleman stated that he had no information on the point. It was very important that they should ascertain how many applications had been made for the building of these schools, because he was informed that the managers who wished to erect new schools were subjected to very great delay in obtaining the necessary grants for the purpose. But the right hon. Gentleman had stated that £40,000 had now been fixed upon as the annual sum to be voted for National Schools in Ireland, and without reference to the demands——


No; that was an arrangement specially made by which £40,000 was paid last year, £40,000 will he paid this year, and £30,000 next year.


asked was it because the National Commissioners, in their anxiety to meet the demand for schools, had anticipated, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, the amount of the Vote that they were to get £10,000 less next year, and that a Vote for a fixed sum was decided upon?


said the Commissioners of National Education had agreed to make a certain number of grants, and they wanted £10,000 additional in 1895–6 to carry out that arrangement.


asked was it the policy of the Government to obstruct and delay the furnishing of these remote districts in Ireland with schools? He had never heard a more extraordinary proposition than that, because the Commissioners had entered into certain arrangements some years ago with regard to the building of schools, and were anxious to redeem that engagement, an artificial limit should be put on the amount to be expended for this purpose, that it should be fixed at £40,000, no matter what the demand of the various districts might be —[" hear, hear !"]—and that they were to be fined £10,000 the year after next. He wanted to know on what grounds the Government could justify this policy of obstructing and starving the construction of new schools throughout Ireland? He should have thought that with the record which the Government had behind it in Ireland of hostility to education, that they would be ready to do everything possible to encourage the construction of schools in Ireland. [" Hear, hear ! "] From a Return of the Commissioners of National Education, he found that the amount voluntarily subscribed from local sources in Ireland in 1895 for building and for repairs and other improvements was £69,331, and that did not include the Christian Brothers and other schools not connected with the National Board, while the Government grants only amounted to £45,000. In face of the fact that the Government grant amounted to £45,099, he wanted to know why the Government should now draw a hard and fast limit at £40,000? He had intended to draw attention on that Vote to the Board of Works contract, but as that difficulty had been satisfactorily arranged and Dublin firms would be able to secure the contract, he would not say anything then on the subject. With regard to the Vote of £953 for police huts, he found that sum was £100 larger this year than last year. They maintained that 19–20ths of this money was lavished, that this policy tended to stir up disorder and crime, and that not only was there a waste of the money, but a criminal disuse of it. [" Hear, hear !"] The consequence of their reckless encouragement during the last 15 years was to promote discord and strife being worked in a vicious circle. Therefore he thought that unless he got a satisfactory explanation from the Chief Secretary it would be necessary to move a reduction of the Vote in that respect.


said that whereas the English Votes were under a certain Minister, the Irish Votes were turned over to the gentleman who represented the Treasury. The Board of Works was a kind of an outpost of the Treasury, and he ventured to say that it was an outpost which required more supervision than was supposed. It was very extravagant, and it was badly administered. It was concerned in the handling of the large amount of £270,000 a year. It was the same Vote every year, and so long as it should not increase, it seemed not to matter to the Treasury how the money was spent. Items were continually charged which ought not to be there, year after year. There was a curious illustration of this system of not keeping money that might be saved in hand with regard to the wall of Dundrum Lunatic Asylum. The cost would be only £10,500, and the Board of Works proposed to take nine years in building it. Certain important works were neglected, while the Board was allowed to spend the money on favourite works. He hoped the Secretary to the Treasury would look into this matter, which he was as well qualified to deal with as was his predecessor. The Department was an utterly irresponsible one, and it had put up piers which were a laughing stock. Money was squandered in every direction by this body.


said the hon. Member for Mayo was under some misapprehension when he supposed that they limited the Commissioners as to the number of schools. If he would look through the lists he would see there was a great increase since 1870. Since then, with the exception of '87–8, this was the largest grant that had ever been made. It was held by the Commissioners themselves that instead of having this Vote varying from year to year, they should know what was the amount of money that was to be granted to them. That limit had been very much below what was granted in these three years. The grants in 1891-2, 3 and 4 were £30,000, £30,000, and £28,000; therefore this grant of £40,000 showed a considerable increase. The hon. Member went on to discuss the question of the constabulary huts. These had been reduced from 103 to 87, and those that were kept up were absolutely necessary for the personal protection of persons who were unpopular. Many of the retained huts were used for the constabulary, when the police barracks wanted repairing, and he would rather see the men in houses or barracks than in these huts. The small increase of £80 to £100 in the Vote was due to the removal of the disused huts. As to the references to the expense of the Viceregal Lodge, the alterations were principally of a sanitary nature. Some buildings had been moved and new houses erected elsewhere. The road referred to had been devoted to the general convenience. The hon. Member went on to say something in connection with the Chief Secretary's Lodge. No doubt a few years ago what struck him as a strange arrangement was entered into by which the gardens were practically farmed out, but that arrangement had now ceased, and they were under the Board of Works. With regard to the charge for the glass houses, up to two years ago there was a large amount of glass there in a dilapidated condition. That had now been pulled down, and smaller houses, much less expensive to keep up, built in their place. With regard to the points raised by the hon. Member in connection with the Queen's Colleges, this was not a Vote on which the policy of those colleges could be discussed, and he could only deal with small details. The charge in connection with the Galway College was for the Examination Hall. Hitherto there had been no fireplace in that hall, and this charge was for heating it. He would, however, look into the amount, and see whether it was too large. Then the hon. Member said something as to the erection of the buildings for the Belfast Post Office. All he could say was that if the hon. Member or any other Member would at any time inform him of any suspicion they might entertain that anything was being badly done in connection with any Government contract, he would always inquire into it. He did not think it was fair to denounce the system generally without some special ground for attacking it. Government contracts were now being a great deal more rigorously looked into. The hon. Member also complained of the alterations being made at the Custom House in Dublin. So far as his information went, it was that certain arches were simply being glazed in for the purpose of giving greater accommodation, but if the hon. Member could show that they were being bricked in he would inquire into the matter, and see what was really being done. He thought he ought to say on behalf of the permanent officials of the Board of Works that some of the language used by the hon. Member was hardly fair. Whether the hon. Member agreed with the system of the permanent Civil Service or not, he would admit that both in England and Ireland the country was, on the whole, very faithfully served. With regard to the Post Office in Dublin, great alterations were being made during this year, but the hon. Member's chief complaint was that they were taking place in rooms which were dark and approached by narrow and dangerous passages. He understood that the hon. Member himself had suffered from the darkness of these passages, and that fact would afford him additional inducement to look into the matter. Then a question was raised as to certain works of art in the Custom House. If there were valuable works of art there, special care should he taken of them, and it would probably be possible to get the advice of the Director of the National Gallery as to their value. The hon. Member for Longford raised an important question as to the variety of subjects put upon this Vote, many of which were not for purely Irish purposes. The Vote did not profess to draw a. distinction between Irish and Imperial purposes. That question had come into greater prominence since the Vote was originally framed, and he did not think it would be advisable to rearrange the Votes so as to group all the Irish Votes together.


Why is this Vote in a different class to the English Board of Works Vote?


admitted there were a certain number of subjects in this Vote which found no parallel in the English Office of Works Vote, and the hon. Member mentioned in particular the Coastguard. He had often thought himself that that was hardly an item which ought to appear on this Vote, but, after all, the question of how far that ought to be charged against Ireland was one that would have to be inquired into by the Commission about to inquire into the financial relations of the two countries. At the same time, he agreed to a great extent that it did not tend to economy to have the Votes connected with any one Department not confined to the nominal Votes for that Department, but scattered over other Departments. He would see how far it was possible to alter that. As to the new Post Office at Dundalk, he would be glad to give a reply when the Post Office Vote came on. He would be out of order in discussing the matter on this Vote, because it was a question of site. As to the pier at Killybegs, it was one of the first built on a somewhat new principle. It was built of wood instead of stone, and he hoped it would be more successful than several piers he had himself seen in Ireland. This pier had, he believed, been built well within the estimate.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say why this particular district was selected for a pier?


Is it not the fact that the people of the district have been petitioning for the pier for years?


Has not the pier been promised for some years?


said that no doubt considerable pressure had been put on the Government to build the pier. It would be managed by the Board of Commissioners, one named by the railway company, on e or two by the Congested Districts Board, one by the Government, and one by the locality. It would be a Board of four or five. Attention had been drawn to an item of £600 for a new Law Court in Dublin. This sum, he was glad to say, would not he spent in that way. It would be "hung up" and eventually spent in Dublin on something more useful. He had communicated with the Lord Chancellor of Ireland on the subject, and the noble and learned Lord agreed with him that as a reduction was being made in the number of Judges the money need not be spent on a new Law Court. The increase in the ordinary charge was due to the fact that extra repairs and painting had to be done this year. The contention that the Government ought to set aside more money for the extension of the college buildings in Belfast he met by pointing out that £8,000 had already been expended in that way, and that it was necessary to hold the scales evenly, and to be fair to the Queen's colleges in other cities. The hon. Member for East Donegal had spoken about the control of the Treasury over the expenditure of the Board of Works in Dublin, and he implied that the Treasury had not sufficient control. All he could say was that he had himself gone over every item in these Estimates. The hon. Member had evidently in his mind certain items which he thought ought not to he continued from year to year. He should be glad if the hon. Member would communicate with him privately on the subject and point out what items ought in the hon. Member's opinion to be discontinued. He agreed with the hon. Member who said that works like the wall near Dundrum Asylum ought not to be spread over too long a time, but ought to be finished as soon as possible. It had been found out in connection with the Navy that it was a most extravagant system to allow work to be spread over a great number of years, and the practice was equally extravagant in civil matters. He also agreed with the hon. Member that when a saving on one subhead was proposed to be appropriated to another the operation ought to be scrutinised most carefully by the watchful eye of the Treasury. The suggestion that the water power of the Shannon should be turned to good use was a very practical one. Water power was one of the chief resources of Ireland, and the Board of Works ought to utilise it as far as they could. He would have the matter inquired into.

MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)

wished to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of doing something more for Queen's College, Belfast. The report of the President of the College showed that additional buildings were urgently required. He took that opportunity to record the kindness of Sir John Hibbert when he was at the Treasury. Sir John Hibbert then devoted much attention to the needs of the college at Belfast, and met the representations of the President in a cordial manner. He hoped that the present Secretary to the Treasury would reconsider his intention not to provide further funds for the structural improvement of Queen's College, Belfast.

MR. DALY (Monaghan, S.)

drew attention to the items for the Divisional Commissioners' Office, and argued that it ought to disappear from the Estimates. In the North of Ireland one Divisional Commissioner was responsible for large expenses in connection with extra police. He had hoped that the Divisional Commissioners' Office would have been abolished before this. He, therefore, observed with great disappointment that the office not only continued to exist, but that the item relating to it had increased by £25. Crime it was well known was largely decreasing in Ireland, and the function of the Divisional Commissioners' Office was to prevent crime. Why should the expenses of the office increase at a time when crime was decreasing? He had to complain of the maintenance of a police hut in a part of South Monaghan where there was neither crime nor disorder. There had not been any criminal cases at assizes or quarter sessions for a long period of time, and the Attorney General for Ireland had in consequence actually brought in a Bill to relieve jurors from the annoyance of being summoned to attend court when there were no duties for them to perform. Was it not disgraceful in these circumstances that this hut, which was a stigma on the locality, should still be maintained. The hut, he believed, was maintained at the suggestion of the Earl of Dartrey and his agent, who was working in the interests of a number of Irish landlords. As to the decreased item for teachers' residences, he read a Resolution passed at a Teachers' Congress in Galway, asking that the Vote should be increased and not reduced. But instead of giving effect to this recommendation the Vote had been reduced by £109. This was the way in which almost every Government managed Irish affairs.

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

referred to the item of £10,000, and said that the South coast of Ireland was greatly in need of harbour accommodation. The Government had been well advised in making this expenditure, and he should like to see it extended elsewhere. The harbour accommodation was so bad in many parts that it was absolutely impossible for the fishermen to keep proper boats and go to sea. The grounds were being fished by the boats from Cornwall and the Isle of Man. He should like to know whether there was any money available for this most useful work.


said that the question of policy could not be raised on this Vote. These piers had to be recommended to the Irish Office, then they came before the Treasury, and afterwards the Irish Board of Works had to build them. There was no fund specially available for this purpose; and the case of Killybegs was a very exceptional one. There was no police hut being used in Monaghan. The hut to which reference had been made had taken the place of the police barracks, and was used for the ordinary purposes of the police. As to the teachers' residences, this Vote had reference only to the repair of the residences which had been built. There had been no change of policy and no stinting of expenditure in any way. The question of Divisional Commissioners did not arise on this Vote.


Then why is it on the Vote?

MR. DILLON moved the reduction of the Vote by £150 in respect of the grant to Queen's College, Belfast. He felt bound to resist any proposal to grant money to these colleges until justice was done to the Roman Catholic colleges. This Vote contained items of £100 for a boundary wall and railing at Queen's College, Belfast, £40 for the Examination Hall, £591 for the Cork College, £1,715 for the Belfast College, and.£599 for Galway College. If the Government had in reply to his Question said specifically that they would introduce a Measure this Session, or make it the first business next Session, to remove this monstrous grievance of the Roman Catholics in Ireland with regard to their colleges, he would withdraw his opposition. As, however, the Government had declined to do this, as they were continuing the system of admitting, the grievance while declining to state that justice would be done; he asked for a definite pledge as to the time when they would address themselves to the remedying of this grievance, and until that was forthcoming he would oppose every Vote for the Queen's Colleges in Ireland.


supported the reduction of the Vote. He acknowledged the friendly and conciliatory way in which the right hon. Gentleman had met him and his hon. Friends; but they must oppose every farthing proposed to be expended on institutions which obtained advantages refused to other sections of the community. When the First Lord of the Treasury was Chief Secretary he wrote a letter dated December 2, 1889, in which he stated that he had not the face to apply to Parliament for any grant to the Queen's Colleges of Belfast, however estimable the object for which the grant might be, as long as educational advantages were denied to the great mass of the Irish people. He might mention simply as a matter of interest, that the sum for which the Presbyterians of Belfast were clamouring in 1889, was granted eventually.


reminded the hon. Member that a Vote dealing with Queen's College, Belfast, would come before the Committee presently, and that, he thought, would be the proper time to raise the question he was discussing.


said he had fully expressed his views in reference to Queen's College, and he should not dream of occupying the time of the Committee by repeating his arguments. So long as a Catholic University was denied, to Ireland, he and his friends would oppose every proposal to increase the expenditure on Queen's College, Belfast, even by a single farthing.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

said he should be obliged to go into the same Lobby with his hon. Friend who had moved the reduction of the Vote, though, as an old student of Queen's College, he could not be supposed to enter the lobby with quite the same feelings as his hon. Friend. What he wished to strongly impress on the Government was this:—The Queen's Colleges were founded partly with a worthy idea, partly with an unworthy. The idea of Peel and other Statesmen who were responsible for founding this scheme of education in Ireland was that, by bringing together men of different creeds, they would somewhat assuage the religious bitterness that divided people of different communions in that country. He could fully respect that view and object. On the other hand, a large number of persons undoubtedly aided in establishing this system in order to use it as a weapon against the Catholic religion.


The hon. Member is now clearly arguing the question that arises on Vote 14, Clause 4, which will raise the question of the general position of Queen's College. The only question before the Committee now is the grant for boundary wall and railings.


I understood the question had been discussed by previous speakers; but I am quite willing to postpone what I have to say.

Question put, "That Item B be reduced by £100 in respect of the Charge for the Boundary Wall and Railing in the Queen's College, Belfast.

The Committee divided:——Ayes, 70; Noes, 224.—(Division List, No. 264.)

Original Question put, and agreed to.

2. £19,928, to complete the sum for Railways, Ireland.


asked if it would be in order on this Vote to raise any question as to the fares charged and the treatment of the public on light railways.


thought not, as the fares must have been settled by the various Acts of Parliament passed when the lines were first constructed.


said that was not so. The fares, as he understood, were settled by the companies who worked the lines. There were some questions which he should like to raise of considerable importance as to the treatment of the people on lines which were worked by agreement with the main Irish lines. He hoped there would be a subsequent opportunity of raising the question.


asked when a statement would be made on behalf of the Government with regard to the expenditure of half a million last year for the Irish railways.


replied that the statement could be made on the Board of Works Vote, which would be brought on next Firday.

Vote agreed to.

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