§ Resolution reported:—
§ "That it is expedient to authorise the increase by £100,000 of the amount that may be advanced and raised under The Railways (Ireland) Act, 1896, for enabling the Treasury to make advances for the purpose of Marine Works in Ireland, and the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of certain expenses connected with such works which the General Maintenance Fund is unable to meet, in pursuance of any Act of the present Session to facilitate the execution and maintenance of Marine Works in Ireland."
§ Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said it would perhaps be a convenient moment for him to state the objections he had to the scheme which was founded on the Resolution now before the House. The Bill, which was founded on this Resolution, was one which in scope and object was entirely confined to the congested districts in Ireland, and therein lay the main objection he had to its pur port. The congested districts of Ireland 759 had received from the House, with the full support of all parties, a very large measure of attention, and for the last eleven years very considerable grants of public money from Imperial sources had been devoted to those districts. For instance, the Congested Districts Board itself, which was established some twelve years ago for the special protection and advancement of the industries of that part of Ireland, had spent in that time, within those districts, in round figures, a million of money, while the annual expenditure of the Board on the development of estates, etc., was over £10,000, in addition to which Parliament had from time to time devoted further grants for other objects. The grant under the Act of 1889 for the promotion of light railways — which was almost entirely for congested districts — amounted to £600,000. In still more recent time there was a sum of £500,000 under the Act of 1896, and, although that was not entirely a free grant, it went very largely to the development of these districts. Neither he nor any of his colleagues who were associated with him in the view he took on this question had the slightest desire to grudge to those districts what had been done in the past; but they thought the attention of Chief Secretaries had been devoted almost exclusively to the development of these districts, to the exclusion of the necessities which existed in other portions of Ireland which equally required attention, both in the interests of the inhabitants and from the point of view of public advantage. While he was far from saying that there might not be other portions of Ireland outside the congested districts in which there were cases as pressing or as necessitous as the one which he desired on this occasion to bring forward, still there were none which had greater claims on the munificence of the Treasury. In the year which had just passed, on the Dillon Estate alone £20,000 had been spent on draining, fencing, road-making, and outbuildings, and he gathered from the Report of the Congested Districts Board that a further sum of £8,000 was required to complete their operations. He drew special attention to these two sums because they happened to constitute two of the three sums which, in the Bill of 1889, were devoted to the Bann drainage 760 scheme, and it seemed to him that if one comparatively small district of Ireland could lay its hands on that amount of money as a free grant, it was not unnatural that those who represented a district which had for years been a heavy sufferer from the Bann drainage scheme should claim the attention of the Chief Secretary and the Irish Government. The scheme was carried out at a total cost of £264,000, of which £155,000 fell upon the occupiers and owners of land in the district. The results of those works were unsatisfactory. He thought that those on behalf of whom he spoke had a peculiar grievance to complain of. The Estimate that was placed before them was largely exceeded by something like 47 per cent., but the works for which the consent of the occupiers and the landowners was obtained were not carried out.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
This is a Bill for marine works. The works the right hon. Gentleman is describing are not in the nature of marine works, and it is not competent for the hon. Member to deal with them, because this Vote proposes a certain sum should be voted for marine works, and he is not in order in recommending in detail some other scheme which, I understand, does not comtemplate marine works.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said that on the Second Reading of this Bill it was stated that he would have an opportunity of stating his case upon a later stage, and he wished to produce other reasons why he considered this grant of money was inexpedient. Upon that occasion he gave way on the distinct understanding that on some future stage he would have an opportunity of stating the grounds of his opposition to this proposal.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I was no party to I any such understanding or arrangement, I and I must simply look at the Bill and the arguments used by the hon. Member and decide whether they are in order.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said his point was that the proposal of the Government was one which was entirely centred in one particular portion of Ireland, which, 761 during the last twelve or fourteen years, had received much attention from those responsible for the administration of the country. The Government had had brought before their notice cases which existed not only in Ulster but in other parts of Ireland, which were as necessitous and as much in need of attention and relief and of free grants from the Treasury as any of the unpopulated parts of the congested districts. None of the proposals contained within the four corners of this Bill were of such a character that the interests of the districts affected would suffer if these proposals were postponed for a year. Those districts had been without this relief up to the present moment, and while he agreed that these proposals might be desirable in the interests of those districts, he did not think they would suffer in any degree by a short postponement. The cases he had in his mind in the North of Ireland affected areas where the inhabitants and occupiers had been suffering serious damage not only to their crops but to their health as well. He felt bound on behalf of those whom he represented to object to a grant of this character which ignored the very pressing grievances of other parts of Ireland, and which devoted the whole measure of this relief to one particular portion of the country which during the last twelve or fourteen years had had benefits showered upon it and had received innumerable tree grants from the British Treasury. As he was not permitted to go into further detail, he did not desire to take up the attention of the House any further, but having stated the broad general line of his case, he trusted his right hon. friend would be able to make some statement which would prevent any further hostile action in regard to this measure.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said that, in replying to his right hon. friend, he would endeavour to avoid any controversial matters. He took no exception to the course pursued by his right hon. friend in this matter, because he was only discharging his duty to his constituents by emphasising a demand which had been made upon him by those he represented. He could not pass over in 762 silence some of the general arguments used by his right hon. friend. He had stated quite truly that, roughly speaking, this Bill was confined to the congested districts, and he went on to say that considerable grants had in the past been made to these districts from imperial sources. He would point out, however, that the money allocated to the policy inaugurated by the present Prime Minister was almost exclusively what was called Irish money, and with the exception of a relatively small amount it was not money voted by this House. It was true that in the year 1896 a grant was made from the common Exchequer, but these Parliamentary grants when they were made to Ireland had almost always been in the nature of equipoises for some similar benefits on a larger scale allocated to English or Scotch concerns. When his right hon. friend said that the attention of the Government had been confined to the congested districts he should not lose sight of the fact that a sum of £700,000 had been voted by means of the agricultural grant for the whole of Ireland. That was one of those equipoises of which he had spoken. Moreover, the Parliamentary grants made to Ireland had almost always been in the nature of an equipoise. The congested districts, too, were excluded almost entirely from the beneficent action of the new Department of Agriculture. The sum now under consideration was not in any sense a dole; it was an attempt to remove certain sums from the current account of the Congested Districts Board to a capital account; and if the Bill were delayed the West of Ireland fishing industry would suffer. The Bann Drainage Scheme would receive the attention of the Government. The fishing industry of the West of Ireland was advancing, and it would be seriously affected if this-Bill was delayed. It was said that the rating problem was a severe one, but by leaving it a severe one they did not mitigate the problem. Therefore it was not only the congested districts but the whole of Ireland would benefit by these proposals. He did not think he would be justified in elaborating at greater length this question, but he appealed to his right hon. friend to take 763 it from him in regard to the scheme in which he was so much interested all that could be done would be done, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not persist in his endeavour to postpone one measure for Ireland because another measure had some claims upon the attention of the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.