That clause 41 stand part of the Bill.
Page 22, line 4, leave out sub-section (a)."—(Mr. Vesey Knox.)
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
I venture to raise this question and press it on the attention of the Government. I believe it is one to which considerable importance is attached by all sections in Ireland. In drawing the line of exclusions under this section, the Government have drawn it too hard and fast, and considerable injustice may be caused in the poorer districts in Ireland, which are chiefly concerned. I do not say that the whole of Sub-section (a) is unreasonable. Some of these special charges may fairly be omitted, but I desire to dwell 9 specially on the charges under the Tramways and Public Companies Act, and the Relief of Distress Act. Under the Tramways Act of 1883, Parliament allowed railway guarantees to be imposed on some of the poorest districts in Ireland in the most reckless fashion. When the question came before Parliament whether the rich city of Manchester should be allowed to take on itself the liability of the Manchester Ship Canal, extending to about 1s. in the rates, it was considered most carefully, and all its pros and cons were gone into with great care. But Parliament has allowed poor districts in Ireland, possessing no representative local authority to become subject to charges amounting in some districts to five times the maximum charge which Manchester has had to undergo in connection with the Manchester Ship Canal. It may be said that the people of the districts in each case clamoured for a railway, and asked that it should be made. In most cases, probably, that is true. But they had no representative authorities. Although they might have signed petitions, they had no means of going into the question in such a way as to feel a sense of the responsibility they were incurring. They did not know what they were doing; they acted without expert advice, and I do not think it can be said that they ought to be considered morally bound as against the Imperial Parliament by these charges, or bound to the same extent as Parliament, which allowed the Act to pass under which they were imposed. In some cases these charges are enormous. In Kerry, owing to an accident on one of the lines, as well as the cost of making it, that charge is a serious burden. On the Leitrim and Cavan Railway, into which at one time I inquired very carefully, there has been no accident, and nothing special to make the charge go up beyond the normal. In Leitrim it is 1s. 9d., and in Cavan 9d. in the £. The arrangement was made in such a form that the company gets practically no advantage from the big railways to which it acts as a valuable feeder. The Board of Works allowed the arrangements to be carried out in such an extraordinary way that the Leitrim and Cavan Railway gets no ad- 10 vantage from either the Great Northern or the Midland, to both of which—especially to the Great Northern—it acts as a valuable feeder. This railway is a heavy charge on Leitrim and Cavan, and it furnishes a good example of how the proposals of the Government under this Bill will work out. In the case of Leitrim there will be paid out of the sum specially allocated half the cess over sixpence. Leitrim will accordingly get some substantial relief, but Cavan will practically get no relief. As a matter of fact, although the charge is larger in Leitrim than in Cavan, Leitrim gets more for it. In the case of Leitrim the effect of the railway has been to facilitate the carriage of agricultural produce, and to affect the price, of stock; but Cavan, being already fairly well served, got practically no advantage. The result is that Cavan will remain subject to this heavy charge with no prospect whatever of relief. Now the injustice is increased by the fact that the rate of interest guaranteed in the case of these, railways is 5 per cent., secured on the rates, which, having regard to the security, is really an absurd guarantee. If Parliament had, in 1883, instead of passing the Act it did, passed a Local Government Act for Ireland, empowering the Irish local authorities to issue stock, there is no doubt whatever that they would be able to raise money, even as the market then was, at something like 3½ per cent. Of course, they could raise it on very much better terms now; but owing to the absurd and inconvenient way Parliament arranged the matter, the money could only be raised at 5 per cent., and I therefore say that those charges are due to the financial stupidity of Parliament in framing the Act of 1883. But this is not all. Since the passing of the Act of 1883 Parliament has recognised how fatal was its mistake, and a most notable new departure in light railways was carried out by the First Lord of the Treasury, who practically abolished all these heavy guarantees for the cost of construction except some small guarantees, and guarantees to secure the working of the railways in some cases. The First Lord of the Treasury and the honourable Member for Leeds, who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, went on the wiser 11 principle of trying to get these light rail-ways worked by the big railways, and thereby preventing any heavy liability falling on the localities. The legislation by which these charges were imposed was merely foolish, but Parliament has recognised that, and I think the time has coma in connection with this Act for Parliament to step in and relieve the localities to a large extent of the burdens thrown upon them. There are many ways in which this can be done. The Government has chosen only to relieve the liability in cases where it is over 6d. in the £. That would work very unfairly. Compare Clare with Kerry. In the case of Kerry the railway guarantee was put on a small area, and it may be taken generally that the people who pay the guarantee do get some more or less direct benefit from the railway. In Clare the guarantee was spread over almost the entire county, and it falls, no doubt, not as severely on any one person, but it also falls on a number of people who practically never can use the railway at all. That is an illustration of the justice of the Chief Secretary's proposal. Kerry will get some relief, Clare will get none at all.
§ MR. KNOX
The relief will be very small. There are very few districts in which the guarantee is much over 6d. in the £, and if any relief is given at all it must be very small. That illustrates the injustice and unsuitability of the Chief Secretary's proposal. In some of the districts in the west of Ireland the construction of railways was practically as necessary as the maintenance of reads, and I cannot see why the agricultural grant should apply to the cost of main roads and not apply to light railways. As a matter of fact, the railways relieved the road expenditure in many cases, and they were regarded as substitutes for roads to a large extent by the local authorities when they allowed them to be guaranteed. I have figures here which I need not read, with reference to the Clogher Valley railway, which illustrates how this is. The result is that the construction of the railway has actually decreased the amount of the agricultural grant. This is a matter which has 12 aroused deep feeling in the parts of Ireland affected. It is the worst of the abuses of Irish local taxation at the present time. But Parliament is responsible, and I think the time has come when Parliament ought to step in and relieve the people, at least, to the extent of one-half, from the evil effects of a singularly badly designed Act of Parliament.
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
I appeal to the Chief Secretary to consider whether it is not possible, in some way or other, to meet this demand, if not in the exact terms of the Amendment. The demand appears to me to be unanimously supported by all the representatives from Ireland, no matter on what side of the House they sit, or what opinion they may hold on other parts of the Bill. These guarantees are very oppressive in poor districts, and I do not think the amount involved would be such as to alarm, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Any objection to it must, I am sure, come from the Treasury, and not from the Department presided over by the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork Co., N.)
I have a very strong argument in support of this Amendment. It is perfectly well understood by those acquainted with local government in Ireland that the construction of the light railways, guaranteed under the Act, has very materially reduced the maintenance charges on main roads on the districts through which they run. A leaflet, furnished by a conference of chairmen and deputy chairmen of light railways, shows that in one instance the contract for a road before the opening of a railway in the district was 4s. 9d., per perch; afterwards it was taken at 1s. 6d. a perch. In my own constituency there is a case similar to that referred to by the honourable and learned Member which illustrates the hardship of excluding these guarantees. I refer to the Kanturk and Newmarket railway, constructed on a guarantee given by the grand jury, for which the cesspayers are paying 10d. in the £. And there is general dissatisfaction because on the fringe of the area selected there is a large class who pay nothing at all, although they are to have their county cess reduced. Then, 13 again, the analogy between the construction of light railways and main roads is perfect. They come before the presentment sessions, afterwards before the grand jury, who levy charges on the cesspayers without consultation, just as in the case of main roads. It will work out in this way, that certain cesspayers in certain districts will be relieved of half their rates and will have no guarantee to pay, while other cesspayers will be very dissatisfied at having to pay 10d. or 1s. in the £ for secula seculorum. There is no doubt that in the vast majority of cases the promoters came before the presentment sessions and gave the cesspayers to understand that the guarantee was more or less nominal, that the scheme would pay, and that they would not be called upon to contribute anything, and so on, but it has not turned out that way. Very few light railways pay expenses, even those which deal with largo traffic, such as the Cork and Blarney line. The honourable and learned Member gave some illustrations from his constituency. I give one from mine—the Kanturk and Newmarket line. If there is any fault in connection with it I must take some share of the responsibility, for I myself worked very hard for the promoters 12 years ago in getting the Bill passed through its various stages, and I did so because everybody in the district was led to believe that the traffic would be so great, and the expenses so reasonable, that, the guarantee would be merely nominal, or something very small, whereas, alter 10 years' working, the cesspayers in the parishes between Kanturk and Newmarket have to pay 10d. in the £, and others 5d. or 6d., in accordance with the manner in which the charges are levied. That is a very great grievance, because as I understand there is no likelihood of the cesspayers being relieved for a very long time to come. They must continue to pay this additional charge, whereas other cesspayers in the neighbourhood will have their rates very much reduced. Honourable Members who hove large experience of grand juries will bear me out when I state that the maintenance charges on main roads have been very considerably reduced, because, owing to less traffic, they have been taken at very much lower prices than before 14 these railways were constructed. It is an obvious, grievance on cesspayers, and I do hope the Government, will see their way to make this concession. Otherwise a serious grievance will be perpetuated on a large number of cesspayers, and very great dissatisfaction will be occasioned.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
In connection with light railways, and other charges which the Government are asked to support, in the first place, it must be remembered that in this grant we are following, so far as conveniently can be done, the precedent of the English grant, and in the English Act there is nothing corresponding to this charge at all. In the second place, these railways must be regarded as having been started and carried on, more or less, in the nature of commercial undertakings, and in that respect they are different from roads. It is perfectly true that the promoters sought assistance, from the baronies, but assistance is also given by the Treasury. Sir, the honourable and learned Member for Londonderry appears to think that because these lines have not turned out as successful as was expected at the time Parliament should bear the cost of the mistakes of the grand jury, but I am unable to take that view. I cannot see that anybody can complain, because what was believed by the grand jury would turn out to be a successful undertaking did not turn out successful; and I cannot understand why on that ground Parliament should take over upon its own shoulders the burdens which have been incurred by the grand jury. But, Sir, in estimating the value of these light railways to the localities, we must regard these charges, in a certain sense, as improvement charges, and the honourable and learned Member for Londonderry and those who followed him can, I think, hardly have taken into consideration the benefit such railways are to the individual agriculturist and the facilities they offer him to reach the markets. Then, Sir, it is only fair to remember that a considerable number of these charges are of a temporary character. But even if these railways do not confer a benefit on the locality fully equivalent to the charges I still hold that they must be regarded, in some sense, as improvement charges. What 15 we are now asked to do is to give a grant in perpetuity in respect of railways, the charges for which in many places will cease after a certain number of years have passed. And, lastly, let me remind the Committee that we have already included this case. I admit that in some cases the burden is so heavy that it is eminently desirable that some relief should be afforded. I think, however, that we have very fairly hit the proper limit in fixing upon sixpence as the rate beyond which Government assistance shall be given. I will just give one or two cases. In the case of the county of Kerry, the excess over the sixpenny rate amounts to £12,206, so that the Government pay half. In Cork the excess amounts to £4,767, and we pay half that. The amount of excess in Leitrim. over sixpence is £2,762; in Tyrone, about £1,205. Waterford is also a ease in which the charge is heavy, and if nothing is done in connection, with the railway scheme to relieve that line the charge in 1899 will amount to £5,600. I think it will be seen that where there is a real hardship—that is to say, where the benefit to the locality is probably very greatly inferior to the charge—our plan will give adequate relief.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The total figures over sixpence are £28,750, and the Government contribute half of it—that is, £14,375.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The figures for Waterford in excess over the sixpenny rate amount to £5,600, and the Government pay half—that is, £2,800.
§ * MR. M. HEALY (Cork)
The right honourable Gentleman says my Friend the honourable Member for Londonderry has put this hard case in Ireland as being one in which the Government is asked to redress the mistakes of grand juries. Now, Mr. Lowther, I will not put it in that way. I will say that we are asking this House to redress the mistakes of the Parliament of 1883. I take leave to say that the Tramways Act was as ill-considered a piece of legisla- 16 tion as ever emerged from the portals of this House. I quite admit that the object which the Government of that day had in view was an excellent object, and was undoubtedly intended to do good in Ireland. And there is this to be said for it, that if it was not a good Act in itself, it did subsequent good, because in the railway legislation of the Conservative Government of 1886 those mistakes were avoided. The railway legislation of 1888–89, with which the name of the First Lord of the Treasury is associated, proceeded on proper lines, and did an enormous amount of good. The railway legislation of 1883 had almost every possible vice which it could have. Now, Mr. Lowther, what was the result of the legislation of 1883? The Government of that day said—We think it desirable that the construction of light railways should be assisted in Ireland, especially in those districts which, from their poverty, are unable to assist themselves.And accordingly, Sir, Parliament did what seemed to be a most generous thing, for it proposed that out of the funds of the Imperial Parliament we should Vote a subsidy, not exceeding two per cent, on the capital spent on these railways; and a most generous proposal that seemed to be, and I have no doubt that it was, as I have said, exceedingly well intended. But, Sir, owing to the method which the Government devised for giving that two per cent., instead of being a blessing to the districts for which it was intended, it has largely proved a curse. Now, Mr. Lowther, the Irish Members of that day said to the Government, "You are going to guarantee that two per cent, out of the Imperial funds. If you guarantee that two per cent. direct to the investor you will get your money practically at three per cent." Sometimes there are periods when it would be impossible to get the money even at 3½ per cent., and there were periods when it might have been possible to get it at two per cent. But, instead of giving the money directly to the investor, the Government left the investor to get his guarantee from the baronies. They said: "We will come to the relief of the baronies so far as their guarantee is over three per cent." Now, what was the effect which the baronies 17 had in most cases? Why, they had to offer a guarantee of five per cent., in order to get the investors to put their money in these concerns. The result is that the bulk of the light railways have had to be constructed on five per cent, guarantees. Well, of course, Mr. Lowther, the effect of that was to make the grants which the Imperial Parliament gave almost worthless for the purpose of assisting the localities. If the Imperial Parliament had said, "We will guarantee three per cent, and we will collect one and a half per cent, at the baronies," and if they had said, "we will guarantee two per cent, direct to the investor," the money would have been had at one-hall the rate of interest. Now, all these railways had to be constructed on five per cent, guarantees, and these are now paying three per cent., which, I say, was wantonly imposed upon them by the Government of that day, when they might have saved this money from the fund of the Imperial Parliament by simply saying, "We will give the guarantee direct to the investor." Well, now, Sir, what other mistake did the Imperial Government of that day make, in the face of the protest of the Irish Members! Why, they left the construction—they left the decision as to where these lines should be constructed, and as to where the guarantee should be given in Ireland, in the hands of the grand jury. I do not suggest that the grand jury did not do their duty under the Act. I have had a great deal of experience before the grand jury in Cork, and I think it did its work admirably under the Tramways Act. But, Sir, they made mistakes, and as the result of those mistakes there are some districts in the county of Cork in which the localities are at the present day paying from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 10d. in the £, in consequence of a guarantee imposed upon these localities against the wishes of the people of the locality. I quite conceive that the grant jury acted for the best, but if the grand jury, when they were arranging these guarantees, had known that half of the rate would be deducted from their own rate, they would have been a great deal more cautious than they were; and nothing can be more unsatisfactory than a grand jury dealing with a guarantee 18 made under the Tramways Act, as contrasted with their action when you go before them asking for a guarantee for a private Bill, when the rate is made divisible between the landlord and the tenant. It is almost impossible to get any guarantee from the grand jury for the purpose of a Parliamentary Bill, whereas in a large number of these Tramway Act cases they give guarantees, notwithstanding a very considerable opposition from the locality concerned. My honourable Friend has said that in most of these cases the localities were clamouring for the railways. That is not so, as far as my experience goes. A section of the locality was almost always in favour of them, or probably they would never have been made. In two cases I know of the tramways were fought fiercely by a very large section of the cesspayers of the district. Of course, there was no machinery for ascertaining whether a majority or a minority of the cesspayers were in favour of it, but one thing is certain, and that is that there was a very fierce opposition, and the grand jury, in the face of that opposition, would take no responsibility, so far as their own pockets were concerned, in giving these guarantees. May I be permitted to put to the Chief Secretary one consideration as regards the mode of relief which he proposes to give them, which, I think, ought to satisfy him that that method is certainly not efficient? He has taken the basis at 6d. in the £, and he has said that wherever the rate exceeds 6d. we will pay half, but wherever the rate is under 6d. we will make no contribution. That, Mr. Lowther, has this merit: that, no doubt, 6d. in the £ ought to be the extreme limit which any light railway ought to cost a locality. I think, Sir, that in an Irish rural area a rate in excess of 6d. in the £, for the purpose of a tramway guarantee is too large a charge, and is in Ireland in excess of any advantages which may be supposed to flow from it. But all these tramway rates are differential rates. All the railway rates—and, in fact, all the rates imposed by the Railway Acts, are differential rates. That is so. When the liability of the locality is being assessed, either the grand jury, in the case of the tramways, or the 19 arbitrators, in the case of the Railways Act, inquire into the matter, and they consider to what extent the various localities are to be taxed, and how they will be benefited by the lines, and they graduate the rate on which the locality is charged in proportion to the benefits which that locality is supposed to derive from the lines. Now let me point out what will follow from the right honourable Gentleman's proposal. Suppose a tramway or railway is made, and suppose there are two areas of taxation. The area in the immediate locality of the lines, of course, is most benefited, and is consequently most highly taxed. But the locality remote from the line derives comparatively little benefit, and, consequently, is lightly taxed. But, Sir, in making the tax heavy in the one case and light in another, the grand jury in the one case and the arbitrators in the other have, in computing the amounts, to consider the relative advantages which those districts will derive, and the localities near the lines ought to bear this heavy tax, because of the advantages which they will derive from it. Now, the right honourable Gentleman, in giving relief under this clause in Ireland, ignores that method. He will, Sir, relieve the locality near the lines where the rate exceeds sixpence, although, by virtue of the Act of Parliament, that portion of the line is supposed to derive special advantages from it. And, whereas he relieves that portion of the guarantee area, he gives no relief to the portion of the area which is some distance away. That, Sir, is very unjust, because the tax-in that case is under 6d. in the £.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The honourable Member lays down, apparently as his example, that of proportional advantage, but that has nothing to do with the proposal of the Government. My point is this, that where taxation in respect of these particular charges is so heavy as to be a pressing burden, there, and there only, we ought to grant relief.
§ * MR. M. HEALY
I quite perceive, Mr. Lowther, that that is so, but that is exactly what I am making a matter of complaint. I say that the system of relief which the right honourable Gentleman gives is in conflict with the original method of imposing taxation as provided 20 by the Act of Parliament. The original Acts of Parliament have laid it down that the contribution of a locality shall be in proportion to the advantage derived, from the scheme. The right honourable Gentleman, in giving his relief, says we, should not take into consideration at all the relative advantages which the different districts derive from the scheme, and we will only consider the fact that, the taxation is in excess of 6d. in the £, though as a matter of fact the taxation is in excess of 6d. in the £, precisely because, under that scheme of the original cost, it was computed that beyond those areas taxation ought to be higher than the taxation in the more remote districts. Well, now, Mr. Lowther, what I want to say is this: the Imperial Parliament made for the benefit of Ireland a legislative experiment. That experiment was full of mistakes, which inflicted grievous evil upon Ireland, and upon the localities supposed to be benefited. Let me take another point in which the Act of 1883 differs from the Act of 1888. Now, what did the Act of 1888 do? It limited the right of whatever benefits the legislation of that year might apply to cases in, which the new railway was worked by an existing railway. That was a most beneficial proposal, Mr. Lowther, because it prevented people from being mulcted in large sums for the working expenses of the lines. In most of the tramways made under the Act of 1883 they were not worked or constructed by existing railway companies. They were constructed upon a different gauge, and worked by separate companies at a large expense, with the result that in a great many cases the localities have had to find not merely the deficiency in dividends, but in some cases also the deficiency in the working expenses. But Parliament—after the experiment of 1883—when they were passing the Light Railways Act two years ago, avoided all the mistakes that they were warned against by the Irish Members, which were committed in the Act of 1883. I do say, Mr. Lowther, in view of the fact that these localities are being "blistered." in a way which people in this country have no conception of, because for these light railways heavy-guarantee taxes have been imposed on the ordinary taxes, and these are heavier than anything existing in England—in 21 view of this fact, Mr. Lowther, while there is something to be said for the principle that each district should contribute to some extent for this purpose, as being to some extent improvement charges—I think, Sir, that the right honourable Gentleman has made this mistake, at any rate, that the relief lie has given should have been given out of the agricultural grant, and not out of the licences which we are dealing with in a subsequent clause, where, Mr. Lowther, it will have this additional disadvantage, that every penny which is given under the relief of these railways may, in a few years' time, be money taken away from the support of lunatics, or from other local purposes which are provided for in this clause. I would press upon the right honourable Gentleman, if he is willing to undertake the whole burden of these charges so far as he has taken that burden in the case of county cess, that, at any rate, he should say that something more should be done for these localities than is being done in this clause, and that he should see that the relief which is to be given should be given out of the agricultural grant, find not out of the licences.
§ MR. TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
I support this Amendment because I have personal experience of the way these light railways are thrust upon us. In my county of Leitrim there was one constructed under the Act of 1883, and I know that that railway was forced on the people by the grand jury, and will briefly explain to the right honourable Gentleman how it came to pass, and was constructed in the manner in which it was in Leitrim. There was a very clever gentleman there—an engineer—who also happened to be at that time one of the leading landlords in Leitrim, and he was able, by his influence, to rig the grand jury, and by that means he got this railway passed. In addition to being engineer of the line he took care that in purchasing the land the landlords should get full value for their land, and he managed that the line should run through most of his own property, and he secured 30 years' purchase, and besides that, whether the land through which it passed was mountain, bog, or waste land, he secured for the 22 other members of the grand jury, to whom it belonged, 30 years' purchase. The result was that the line was over-capitalised, and from that day to this it has never paid but little more than its working expenses. In the last Parliament I introduced a Bill on the subject of the Government guarantee of this line, and after a great deal of pressure, I was successful in getting the Treasury to take up the Bill in an emasculated form, and it wag eventually passed into law. The effect of that Bill in releasing some claim that the Government had was, that the taxes were reduced from 1s. 2d. to about 10d., which, I think, was the last cess. I should like to ascertain from the right honourable Gentleman some information on a point which is of considerable interest in the constituency—that is, whether this sixpenny limit applies to the charge for the year, or to a half-yearly charge? These light railway charges are guaranteed by the county cess, which is collected half-yearly, and that is 9s. in the £ at present in Limerick, and I want to know whether it will be a yearly charge or a half-yearly charge?
§ * MR. JORDAN (Fermanagh, S.)
My constituents are very much interested in this question, because one of these light railways runs for several miles through my constituency in the county of Fermanagh, and I have been inundated with resolutions from public bodies, and with private letters, asking me to do what is possible—which is very little, I am afraid—to obtain some redress, and I am sure that both the right honourable Gentlemen opposite must have had communications of a similar nature and personal interviews as well. This railway means an additional guaranteed tax of 8d. or 9d. in the £; I mean additional to the ordinary rate. That is a very serious tax upon poor people in the immediate locality that these lines run through, because many 23 of them live several miles from the railway; poor people living in mountainous districts are charged 8d. or 9d. additional to the ordinary county cess, and they feel it to be a very great tax. I was in the country before I came here, and one poor widow showed me her receipt for the county cess, and it appeared to me to be a very serious thing that she should have to pay county cess for these light railways. That is how it operates in the locality through which it passes; and although it may be a matter of no consequence to the Treasury Bench that a tax of this sort should press heavily upon the poor widow, yet to her and to other people it is a very serious matter. This railway is as much a road for all practical purposes as any main road in the district, and it is proved to be a road, because since it was made traffic has lessened upon the main roads in the district, and the maintenance charges for the main roads in that district have lessened to a very considerable extent. Those who live outside these taxed areas will be relieved to a very great extent, while those who live within the taxed area will have to continue to pay this additional rate, and we consider that it is most unfair to refuse out of this grant to relieve those who are within the area. The Chief Secretary, in reply to the honourable Member for Derry, said that this demand had no precedent in England. When it suits the right honourable Gentleman he can depart from English precedent quite easily, and I do not see why that argument of English precedent should be used in order that we should not get relief from this oppressive tax. He said that in certain cases be could not grant our request because these railways were of the nature of a commercial undertaking. Well, if it was a commercial undertaking, why did he ask for a guarantee? Any ordinary commercial undertaking should stand on its own merits, without any agricultural or rural guarantee whatever. Then the right honourable Gentleman assigned as another reason why he should not accede to our demands that it brought some benefit to the individual cesspayer. What benefit does it bring to the individual cesspayer who lives within the area of his railway? 24 The benefit that it brings to the individual cesspayer so far as this line is concerned is 9d. in the £ additional taxation. If the right honourable Gentleman calls that a benefit I do not. I do not think it is a benefit at all. I admit that there is some benefit, and I have said so to people who have spoken to me on the subject. I have said that better means of ingress and egress are an advantage. But certainly, although that is an advantage, it is not an advantage sufficient to compensate for this excessive charge. The Chief Secretary says that he has hit upon the proper figure in fixing 6d. in the £. That is a matter of opinion. He may think he has hit upon the right figure, but we think he has not. The only advantage that we get out of his consideration is 1d. or 1½d. in the £, and, when people are so poor as these people are, that seems to be a very small amount of reduction; and I think, under all circumstances, that the reasons assigned by the Chief Secretary for his persistent antagonism to this Amendment are not at all weighty, and quite unworthy of his high abilities, and I feel sure that if this Amendment did not involve money, and if the right honourable Gentleman were not influenced by the Treasury, he would not use such flimsy arguments. I hope he has not said his last word in relation to this question. We feel that this tax is pressing very heavily upon the poor people, and that it will press heavier in the future. Only this morning I had a letter from that locality in which it stated that the oats were being swept from the ground by cold and rain and frost, and it is expected that there will not be more than half a crop this year. It is so, whether the Attorney General approves of it or not, and to us who live in the country it is a most serious consideration that we are to have bad crops for another year, because, in proportion as we have bad crops, these taxes weigh far heavier upon us. I repeat, that to us in rural districts this is a vital question, whatever it may be to high professional gentlemen who, excellent though they may be, do not feel the pinch of these things with their high salaries. But, though we cannot expect them to have our feelings in the matter, we do 25 expect them to listen to us who are mixed up with the country and the people who know all about it, and who feel for these poor people, as we have a right to feel, under all the circumstances. I do hope that the Chief Secretary will not persist in ignoring the wishes and convictions of the Members who represent the people—Members on both sides of the House. All Irish Members are agreed upon this question, and I do not think that the Chief Secretary ought to refuse us so reasonable a request.
§ * SIR T. ESMONDE (Kerry W.)
I am sorry that the Chief Secretary will not agree to accept the Amendment. I do not know whether he has said his last word, but I should like to suggest to him this: would it be possible to include in the scope of the agricultural grant charges for light railways which have been already made, and to exclude charges in respect of railways constructed in the future? I will go further, and not ask quite so much. I would not ask to have the interest which is paid on the capital sum of these railways included in the agricultural grant, but I would ask the Government whether they would make a contribution towards the working expenses under the Agricultural Act. Under all circumstances I think the Chief Secretary ought to consider the suggestion I have made to him. I do not at all myself approve of the system under which these light railways have been built, and I do not think the effect of my proposal will be to encourage the make of these railways in the future. We grand jurors have proposals constantly made to us for the building of light railways; we have deputations from residents in the different localities coming and asking us to agree to these guarantees being given. We have engineers in swarms, with wonderful plans, and they ask us to believe that the railways will be for the benefit of the country. In my own country we have never yet agreed to a light railway, and, so far as I am concerned, we never will. Inasmuch as my proposal, at all events, will not encourage the making of these light railways, I think it is one which the Government might reasonably consider.
§ MR. POWER
The right honourable Gentleman proposes to give relief to cer- 26 tain localities under certain conditions, but I very much doubt whether he will find funds available for that relief, because, remember, although for the first years you may have this fund, anyone conversant with local taxation in Ireland knows that the local taxes are steadily increasing, and I doubt very much whether there will be available funds from which to give the very small relief that the right honourable Gentleman proposes to give. The right honourable Gentleman professed that he was almost omnipotent, with the Treasury, and said that any claims he made on the Treasury would be adopted.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I never said that the Treasury would actually give me anything I asked. What I said was in connection with the distress of the west of Ireland, and only had relation to that distress.
§ MR. POWER
I will admit that the remark which the right honourable Gentleman did make was in connection with the distress, but we can easily gather that if he placed the case of the ratepayers before the Treasury they would look with a favourable eye on his application. My principal objection to this sixpenny limit is this—that I believe that in my own case, where these railways have been constructed, it will give absolutely no relief to those who are the most aggrieved. As my honourable Friend the Member for Cork very lucidly explained, when these railways were first constructed arbitrators were appointed to apportion the tax, and they naturally imposed a heavier tax in the localities which were especially benefited by these railways, and in the remote baronies they lessened these charges considerably. Now, in the county which I have represented in this House for a good many years, we pay the railway an average rate of 11½d. in the £. We have paid it for 22 years, and we are liable for 18 years more. In the barony in which I live myself it is 11½d., and in the adjoining barony it is 1s. 3d.; but in various other baronies, the inhabitants of which have never seen the railway, it is 6d. and 4½d., so that these people will derive little or no benefit from this railway—will derive no advantage whatever from the proposal of the right honourable Gentleman. As has 27 been clearly and accurately put before the Committee, these charges should b apportioned in the different baronies according to the advantage which the would derive in the opinion of an arbitrator. I think it is most reasonable that the condition of these people—advantages which they derive from the railways should be taken into consideration As I have said, the various baronies in my constituency that are taxed to the tune of 6d. will derive no advantage; and I am sure, from my knowledge of that locality, that the vast number of people in these baronies have never even seen the railway in question, and have derived absolutely no advantage from the tax which they have paid.
§ MR. DILLON
There are just two points in connection with this matter on which I should like to speak. These railways are being taken into account in raising the rents by the landlords although these railways are guaranteed, and the rates are paid by the occupier, and therefore, as far as I know, there is no provision to prevent the whole of the value from being carefully taken into account in raising the rent. That, therefore, is an additional reason why the unfortunate ratepayers, who are called upon to pay these heavy guarantees, should be taken into consideration. The benefit of the railway goes permanently to increase the rent of the landlords. The other point I want to draw attention to is this: the only real argument which has been used with, any force whatever against the Amendment was this, that this is only a temporary charge. There is very little weight in that argument. It is perfectly competent, as admitted by the right honourable Gentleman yesterday, for the Local Government Board, when they are making their certificate regarding the amount to be raised, to give effect to the fact that it is a temporary charge, and to vary the amount accordingly, so that an amount of relief might be given. Considering that the charges are not permanent, that would be practically open to the Local Government Board to do, and all the difference would be as between the system which he has adopted and the system which we claim, and that difference would be that one system would afford a 28 certainty of just relief to the ratepayers, and that the other system is uncertain, and, as was explained with much convincing lucidity by the honourable Member for Cork, it does not afford a just relief; and I think it would be impossible to put a case with greater force and clearness than was put by the honourable Member for Cork.
SIR R. PENROSE FITZGERALD (Cambridge)
I am very much inclined to agree with the honourable Members for Cork and Fermanagh with regard to light railways. I have sat upon some grand juries in the county of Cork where a great many of these light railways have been brought before us for a great number of years past, and if this Amendment dealt only with light railways I should be inclined to vote for it; but it goes a great deal further than light railways. I see that there is an Amendment standing in the name of the honourable Member for South Dublin which is only to leave out sub-section 1, the section which deals with railways. That Amendment will afford us an opportunity of recording our opinion about this question without involving us in an expression of opinion about the piers and harbours. Perhaps, therefore, it would be as well that this Amendment should be withdrawn, and the opinion of the House taken on the Amendment I have referred to.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
From my experience of the promotion of these light railways I can safely say that the approval of the various representative bodies, such as the poor law guardians, and so on, was one of the things most relied upon by the promoters when they came to make their application to the grand jury—that they should be able to show that the poor law boards of the poor law guardians in the district, as well as the presentment sessions, approved of that—and, certainly, my experience induces me to believe that he benefits that these light railways confer are very much under-estimated. I know myself that one of the most experienced agriculturists in the county of Cork, a man of considerable ability 29 and conspicuous honesty, swore that by the means of one of these light railways the price of three-year-old cattle at a fair was increased by as much as 7s. 6d. That was a guaranteed railway. Then there is another matter. When guaranteed light railways are made, the valuation of the railway is in many instances ten times as much as the valuation of the land through which it runs. For instance, there is the railway from Mallow to Killarney and on to Tralee, and the valuation of that line is more than ten times the valuation of the land through which it passes, and the country get back in the shape of the increased taxation a very large sum indeed—
§ MR. ATKINSON
Whether it pays working expenses or not. If, for instance, the land on which a railway is made only contributes £50 a year in county cess, and the railway is valued at ten times the valuation of that land, the railway pays back £500 a year in the shape of taxation. Now, as to this sixpenny rate, the only suggestion made is that it should not be a general relief, but that we should rather give relief where the burden exceeds the benefit. Honourable Members admit that there is a benefit; and this proposal would come to this: that we should enter into some abstruse calculation of some kind, and endeavour to discover when the benefit from the railway exceeds the burden of the rate, and when the burden of the rate exceeds the benefit of the railway, and then that we are to give relief only in the latter cases, and in no others. That would be an absolutely impossible task. The honourable Member for Waterford said that some of the people in the remoter baronies had never seen the railways, and are obliged to pay 6d. in the pound towards the guarantee, whilst others, taking full advantage out, only pay 6d, and he thinks we ought to adopt some system whereby the latter class should pay more and the former less. It would be quite, impossible to carry that into effect. The honourable Member for East Mayo said that the making of new lines was a benefit to the landlords; but the burdens must be taken into account to 30 decrease the rent, and the benefits must be taken into account to increase it, and, if the burden is greater than the benefit, the balance must go in reduction. The honourable Member for Cork complains at the form in which, the relief of these guarantees is given. What the Treasury has done is this: they say, we will come to the relief of the baronies, but, first of all there must be a deduction from the net earnings of the lines which must go in payment of the guarantee; then it is only the overplus that bears upon the ratepayers, and as regards that overplus we will contribute 2 per cent, towards it.
§ MR. ATKINSON
Quite so; and it is because of that that the Treasury only contribute 2 per cent, of the amount that would fall upon the baronies in any particular year; but the honourable Member was in error in supposing that there was any objection whatever to the guarantee taking that form.
§ MR. ATKINSON
It is not worth going into an argument about. It is absolutely impossible to give relief in any other form, or to enter into' this abstruse calculation as to when there is a benefit and when there is a burden, and only give assistance if the burden exceeds the benefit. I think the honourable Member for Fermanagh entirely misunderstood the meaning and cause of the faint smile in which I was indulging. I am not sure myself whether he does not disagree altogether with the honourable Member for Cork City as to the nature and effect of the guarantee. Probably it may be that he has only intervened in the Debate in answer to the importunities of that widow.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
In discussing this matter the Government have not taken into account the history of this legislation. In 1880 Mr. Forster, when he brought in his original Relief of Distress Bill first, in that' Measure shadowed forth the terms of this new legislation. His proposition was that the baronies should have the power to make these tramways, and he provided that the rate should be divided between the owner and the occupier, but so strong was the resistance of the Irish Members to throwing any rate on the occupier that the scheme was refused by the Irish Party, and Mr. Forster had to drop it. What is the history of the Act of 1883? Remarkable to say, it was brought in upon the 7th August. Is not that a remarkable date in which to bring in a great public Bill just as Parliament was about to adjourn? On the 14th August the Second Reading was moved, and on the back of that remarkable Bill was the name of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Why was it passed? Because it was part of the Kilmainhaim Treaty. There were clauses in the Bill, not merely dealing with tramways, but excellent clauses by which power was taken for migration, by which public bodies could get certain moneys for migration, which was a very valuable provision, but which broke down in actual operation. For the sake of getting the migration clauses through, Mr. Parnell compelled us, in spite of the resistance of Mr. Biggar and myself, to withdraw opposition to the Bill, and let it go through in the form in which it was proposed by the Government. It is remarkable, when dealing with the question we are now, to hear the opinions of the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. We proposed Amendments again and again for the protection of the poorer baronies, and this was the kind of answer we got; and nothing but the strong personal influence of Mr. Pavnell would have induced Mr. Biggar or myself to give way in the foolish manner we did. When I moved that the guarantee should not at least exceed 4 per cent., I said the Treasury took very good care not to be liable for more than 2 per cent., and it was only reason-, 32 able that the barony should not be called upon to pay more than 2 per cent., and here is the reply of the Secretary of State for the Colonies to my Amendment on the 17th August, 1883—Mr. Chamberlain said: 'In the richer baronies, where the credit was good, no doubt 4 per cent, would be a sufficient guarantee; but in the poorer baronies he very much doubted whether it would be sufficient. If the Amendment were adopted, he was very much afraid it would have the effect of throwing the whole expenditure upon the richer counties, and of excluding the poorer districts.'So that there we find the present Secretary of State for the Colonies opposing the Irish Members, and trying to get this Bill through in the interests which then prevailed, not considering how it affected the unfortunate ratepayer or the cesspayer, but considerations of a wholly different character. That is one of the most instructive Debates connected with the Irish question. The Irish Members took every point, and pointed out every distress which would be likely to occur. That Bill was forced upon us in connection with some Imperial guarantee. The right honourable Gentleman the Attorney General has said that all these guarantees have been fairly considered by the Privy Council, and he said that he never knew a guarantee brought forward where it was not stated that it would do great good to the locality. Yes; I have been with the right honourable Gentleman in Council both for and against these schemes. When we were for them we said they would do a great deal of good, and if we were against them we took an exactly opposite line. But when the right honourable Gentleman said that these schemes were all passed with general approval I can only say that that is not my experience, and what I contend for in this Bill is this: you are limiting it to 6d. It is rather a shabby thing, considering you have forced us to give 5 per cent, guarantees, when everybody knows that if the Treasury had come down to a 2 per cent, guarantee, and offered that with 1 per cent, for the baronies, we should have been able to devise very good schemes. Now, the right honourable Gentleman says that that 6d. will be an absolute 6d. I do 33 not take that view at all. In order to get that 6d. for the baronies you may have to starve the asylums, and the result will be that if the expenditure goes on at the present rate there will be no 6d. at all for the baronies. The fact is the Government are, in defence, salting the ratepayers with this proposal for asylums, having regard to the suggested passage of this Bill, and I have not the slightest doubt now that the Government think to themselves that they can throw off the asylum expenditure on to the ratepayers. There will be demands from the Board of Control for excessive contributions towards these lunatics, and before ten years have gone nearly every penny of this 6d. guarantee in aid of the light railways will have gone in support of the lunatic asylums. Do not give us the 6d. out of the licences, but give us 6d. in addition to the agricultural grant, and then we shall be sure that we shall have this 6d. absolutely. The right honourable Gentleman has referred to the Bantry line. It is perfectly true that lines like that have done enormous good, and J am far from denying it. But why? Because they were well-considered schemes, brought in under Lord Redesdale's clause, and had to pass both Houses under Lord Redesdale's Standing Order, and they had to get the approval of the baronies; and the approval of the baronies was not forthcoming unless there was a graduated system of taxation, and that is why these railways have done good, and that is why the baronies have assented to them. But in the new system of relief that you propose there is no such gradual taxation. Take a barony like Carbery. That is only rated at 1d. or 2d., whereas other baronies are rated at 6d., 7d., or 8d. Your relief is not calculated on that system of a sliding scale which the circumstances demand. You are proceeding as if all these railways were constructed under guarantees under the Act of 1880, whereas the converse is the case. If anyone wants to know what British statesmen really are, let them read this Debate in 1883. Let them see the demands of the Irish Members on the one hand, and compare them with the refusals of the English states men on the other. Let them see how the legislation has turned out, and then 34 this old Debate will furnish them with a short but convincing history of British blunders in Irish legislation.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ * MR. M. HEALY
We have permitted that Amendment to be negatived for the purpose, of taking a Division on Mr. Knox's Amendment lower down.
§ * MR. M. HEALY
moved to leave out the words—
On the return of the Chairman after the usual interval,
Attention was called to the absence of a quorum, but when the Chairman counted 40 Members were found to be present.
'Page 23, line 3, at end, add as a new sub-suction—
(4) The expenses incurred by a sanitary authority, whether before or after the passing of this Act, in the execution of the Labourers Acts, 1883 to 1896, shall not be special expenses, but shall be expenses incurred in relation to the business of the council of a rural district, and be levied as district charges accordingly."—(Mr. Gerald Balfour.)
§ * MR. M. HEALY
I have put down as an Amendment to the right honourable Gentleman's proposed Amendment, to add at the end of line 5—This provision shall apply notwithstanding that the expenses were, prior to the passing of this Act, charged on a contributory place or places, and, after the passing of this Act, no expenses to be incurred under the said Acts shall be charged otherwise than as district charges.I move that Amendment simply to show that the Government Amendment does not carry out what we understood was the intention of the Government. As I understand, Sir, as the Labourers Act stands at present, it is competent for the boards of guardians, who put, it in force, to make the expenses incurred under that Act a special expense, and, of course, if that were to be done in future, such expenses would be excluded from the 35 agricultural grant. Now, Sir, it has been shown that in a great number of cases, I do not say all, that boards of guardian have charged the expenses on the whole union, but it does not appear to me that even where they are charged on the whole union they would not be a special expense, having regard to the fact that the Labourers Act distinctly provides that they are to be special expenses However, that is not relevant to the present situation, because I apprehend that the Government Clause does make it clear that those charges, whether special or not, are not to be taken into consideration for the purpose of the agricultural grant. But what is not clear to me Mr. Lowther, is whether these expenses are made by the clause of the Government ordinary charges for the purpose of the grant; that is to say, whether the Government grant will cover any expenses under the Labourers Act, so that they do not remain for the purpose of being contributed by the district as a special expense. The right honourable Gentleman will see that the clause to which he has moved this Amendment is a clause simply providing for the method in which the Government grant is to be calculated. I think the right honourable Gentleman will admit, as a general proposition, that the purpose of this clause is not to provide primarily the means by which these expenses are to be dealt with by the guardians, but that it gives directions to the Local Government Board and the Treasury as to the principle on which they are to calculate the amount of the Agricultural grant And for that reason, Mr. Lowther, when I was going to deal with this matter before, I thought it would be more cognate to the subject if it had been dealt with under Section 30, which is conversant primarily, not with the amount of the grant, but with the manner in which the local authorities are to levy these charges. I still think that there should be in Section 30 an express enactment on that point, Section 30 being conversant with the method of the charge as distinct from the Government grant, while the section we are now on deals primarily with the question of the Government grant. However, Sir, that it only one reason which has induced me to put down my amendment. The 36 second reason for which I put it down is this: It is not clear to me that the Government Amendment will include expenses incurred in connection with the prior Act; and observe, Mr. Lowther, this is rather a serious matter. Here we have had in the past boards of guardians spending money under the Labourers Act in a particular area, and now we have the Government coming in to provide that in future the area of the charge shall be changed, and that in future they are to be union charges. I apprehend that if any court came to construe this proposition dealing with it, not in relation to the Government grant, but in relation simply to the question of chargeability, that they would contend that the Government meant to deal with the future and not with the past. They would construe this clause to mean that in future, where guardians are spending money on labourers' cottages, they should make the charge a union charge; whereas, as regards the past, where liabilities have been incurred, and the charge has been made upon particular districts, the Government do not intend to alter the area. I do not know whether the Government will accept my Amendment; if they do not it may be because they do not think it necessary, and no doubt the right honourable and learned Gentleman the Attorney General has carefully considered the matter. But I would ask the right honourable Gentleman, between this and the Report, to consider whether or not it would be necessary in addition to the sub-clause which the Government are moving to add to Section 30 a declaration that, both as regards past charges and as regards future charges, these Labourers Act expenses are to be charged on the whole union quite irrespective of the Government grant. That is the object of my Amendment, Mr. Lowther, and I will formally move it.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
As at present advised, the Government do not share the view of the honourable Gentleman; but, Sir, I know that he is familiar with these matters, and I will carefully look into the subject before the Report stage is reached.
Page 23, line 3, at end add—
And the provisions of this Act with reference to the deduction of any part of the poor rate from rent shall not apply in the case of any item of the poor rate raised for the purpose of defraying any charge under the Relief of Distress (Ireland) Act, 1880, and the Acts amending the same."—(Mr. M. Healy.)
§ * MR. M. HEALY
I have put this Amendment on the Paper, Sir, in order to get an answer from the Government as regards the meaning of an earlier part of the clause. It may have been observed that I put an Amendment on the Paper to omit a sub-head of a previous clause, but that was before I had carefully studied the Act of 1880, and when I did not understand why the Chief Secretary should wish to exclude certain charges; but I have since found that the loans for those charges have been paid by instalments, and, as they had only 15 years to run from 1882, they will probably all be discharged, and expire, if not, in the present year, at any rate very soon, so that it would not be thought reasonable that, in regard to Government contributions to the rates, we should take into consideration such charges as those. I think there is a great deal to be said for that view of the Government, and, therefore, I did not move my Amendment. The reason why I want to ask a question now is, not to ascertain whether those charges should be included or excluded, but to make it clear that the Government do not alter the incidence of those charges as between landlord and tenant. I gather from the curious wording of sub-clause 4 that it was not in the clause as originally drafted, because, as it now stands, it is not grammatical, and is in effect nonsense. If the right honourable Gentleman will look at this clause, which provides that the commissioner of valuation shall exclude any railway or harbour charges, it would read: "any railway or harbour 38 charge—that is to say, any charge in connection with any charge in connection with," and so on. Well, it is not a mere verbal question that I am raising. I want to know what is the definition of the words "railway and harbour charges." I do not think any of those charges were I really made for those purposes, and most, or many, of them were for roads or purposes of that kind, and the bulk of them cannot be correctly described as railway charges, to say nothing about harbour charges. If the right honourable Gentleman will look at sub-section 8 of clause 74 he will see that it is only as regards "railway, harbour, navigation, or public health" charges that the existing method of distribution between landlord and tenant, is preserved. If it were not for that enactment the existing method would be put an end to by the provisions of the section we are now on, and what I want to have made quite clear is that these charges, which are really not railway or harbour charges, will, under the definition of railway and harbour charges, have the benefit of the contribution. That is what I want to have made clear, and I think there should be some enactment making it quite clear that those charges which are not really railway or harbour charges are covered by the words of sub-section 8 of clause 74, which preserve the existing method of division between landlord and tenant.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
It seems to me that the honourable Member has indulged in a mere verbal criticism. I do not think there can be any doubt as to the definition of "railway and harbour charges," and the words "in connection with" were intended to apply to the subsequent sub-clauses. But, if there is found to be any doubt on further consideration, the matter shall be made clear on Report.
§ MR. DILLON
The experience we have gained of the Acts passed in the last few years should put the right honourable Gentleman on his guard. What he has said may be his intention, but I venture to say that when this Act comes to be administered it will 39 be found that never in the legislation of this or any other House of Parliament has a Bill so complicated as regards its financial clause passed into law as this Bill will prove to be. I am perfectly convinced that many a crux will be raised as regards this particular clause. If it were attempted to get at the legal effect of the exemptions made under this clause, or other clauses, of the Bill taken together, I venture to say that there are not three Members of this House besides the honourable Member for Cork who could give any definite opinion as to what the whole effect would be. As a matter of fact, so enormous is the complexity introduced by this Act in regard to the arrangements which have been made, or are proposed to be made, with regard to the readjustment of rent between landlords and tenants, the fixing of fair rents in future tenancies, and the exemption of charges with reference to which special accounts will have to be opened, that really it will be necessary for the Treasury to send down a friendly expert to every county council in Ireland, and to instruct them in regard to the preparation of their accounts. I have followed very carefully the lucid explanation of the honourable Member for Cork, and I see that it will be necessary to make it perfectly clear what are the railway and harbour charges which will be covered so far as this clause is concerned.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I have already undertaken to consider the matter before the Report, and to make it clear, as the honourable Member for Cork desires, should it be necessary to do so.
§ * MR. H. HEALY
I agree that we have no difference with the Government on this point in substance, and I accept the right honourable Gentleman's promise to consider the matter. I hope that, if necessary, he will put an Amendment on the Paper to carry out his intention, if necessary, and will not suppose that I am raising a merely technical question as to the effect of this clause. I accept the explanation of the right honourable Gentleman, and I will ask leave to withdraw my Amendment, with this further observation: I wish to tell the right 40 honourable Gentleman this. It appears to me that this and clause 41 might well be made one clause on Report. They repeat the same matter, and one sub-clause is a repetition of another, word for word.
That clause 41, as amended, be added to the Bill.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I have given notice of an Amendment to omit this clause, but after the discussion we have had I will not move it. But before it is finally passed. I would like to say, I find, as the result of communications with a great many parts of Ireland, that considerable dissatisfaction is felt with regard to the guarantees which will be still payable by a large number of cesspayers in connection with tramways and light railways.
§ MR. DILLON
I will only say one word more with regard to this clause. One of the grounds on which I object to it so strongly is that it will add enormously to the complexity of the proceedings. I will venture to say, from having listened myself very carefully to what occurred in fixing fair rents by the Land Commission, that this Bill will make- confusion many times worse in the minds of the sub-commissioners. Under this Act all kinds of mistakes will be made. When another investigation is made—and the action of the Government of late appears to point to a re-investigation of the working of the Land Acts every two or four years—it will be proved beyond nil doubt that illegalities of all kinds have been perpetrated owing to the complexity, which has been made worse and worse by successive Acts passed in connection with this matter. If this clause had been left out, the additional burden thrown on the Exchequer, considering the elasticity of the directions that are to be given to the Local Government Board in making their certificates, will be increased, not by a very large sum, because it only affects localities; but I wish to avoid that. The 41 Government have introduced, not only into the administration of this Act, but the administration of the Land Act, a vast additional complexity in a system which, Heaven knows, is quite complicated enough already.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he did Dot himself believe that the provision of the Bill would materially add to the complication of the considerations which the Land Commission had already taken into account.
§ Clause 41, as amended, agreed to.