HC Deb 22 March 1904 vol 132 cc455-83

said that for the second time this session the fortunes of the ballot were kind to him. He was made the recipient of numerous congratulations on his good luck, but the subject allotted to him by his colleagues was of such a complex and intricate character that he fancied the congratulations of the older hands must have been marked by a tone of gentle sarcasm, for he found that it was involved in an almost inextricable mass of absolutely incomprehensible Acts of Parliament. He had never before had an extravagantly high opinion of the gentlemen of the long robe, as they were called, but he confessed that if he ever came across a lawyer who could make head or tail of the almost innumerable Irish Drainage Acts, he should be compelled to regard him with respectful awe and admiration. These Acts surpassed all understanding, legal or otherwise, and he pitied the lawyer who had to answer any question concerning them. The amount of money squandered on this matter by English Departments in Ire-and—generally in open defiance of the advice of the people most concerned—was simply astounding; and he could not help thinking that more good would have been done if the Government had thrown a cheque for a hundred guineas at the head of some unoffending lawyer and asked him to bury himself for a month in these musty and contradictory Acts of Parliament, and evolve from the chaos one Act consolidating all of them, deleting the obsolete clauses and making uniform regulations for future action. Or, if they did not want to be reckless in their expenditure, they might give the Attorney-General a Parliamentary holiday for a month and let him try his hand at the work, and, painful though the wrench would be of parting for even a short time from the genial and learned Gentleman, they on the Irish Benches would, under the circumstances, do their best to sustain the bereavement with equanimity.

The subject with which he had to deal was, he admitted, of a technical character, and, except to those most concerned, uninteresting, but it was none the less important. The position was briefly this—thousands upon thousands of acres of the best land in Ireland were every year covered by a waste of waters. That involved from year to year an enormous financial loss; and although the magnitude of the evil had been impressed on successive Governments for nearly half a century, practically nothing had been done to abate it. Money had no doubt been spent, but it had been spent in such an erratic manner and on such ill-conceived schemes that the grievance was greater to-day than ever it was. The trouble arose from the neglect to efficiently drain the valleys of the rivers, or dredge or deepen the river beds; and if a proper scheme were put into effect the result would be not only to save the enormous quantity of property which was annually destroyed, but also to reclaim some of the finest land in the country, which was now lying waste. The only agent they at present had for absorbing the surplus water was the sun, which happily was not within the Government's sphere of influence; but what the sun took by evaporation it unfortunately returned in the form of rain, and its influence, like that of the Government, was, therefore, not entirely beneficent. It was certain that the solution of this problem would have an important effect on the climatic conditions of the country, besides increasing the area of cultivation and saving huge sums of money to the farmers interested, and it was a problem which modern engineering could easily solve.

The difficulty was so far-reaching and affected so many districts that he contended it would be absurd to attempt to deal with it in isolated cases. The question should be taken in hand not in part, but as a whole, and until that was done it was hopeless to expect that any material relief would be effected. The drainage was at present under the supervision of the Board of Works, of which it was safe to say that no Department of Dublin Castle was more utterly incompetent or more hopelessly out of touch with the wishes of the people who interests it was supposed to watch. The local management was in some cases in the hands of some mysterious entities called drainage boards, but where the authority of these bodies began and where it ended nobody in Ireland precisely knew. How they were ejected, or when, or by whom, or under what qualifications, was a veritable Chinese puzzle to everybody except the landlords, and the whole affair was a most instructive illustration of the imbecile character of this country's government of Irish affairs. Like the Board of so-called National Education and the Dublin Port and Docks Board, these mysterious drainage boards were responsible to nobody, they published no accounts, and all the people knew about them was that they had to pay the bill for all the vagaries of these bodies.

Consider the case of the Bann, of which so much had been heard, and on at least this branch of the question he thought he could bespeak the support of all the Ulster Unionists. He hoped to have, at least, the support of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Member for North Armagh, because he noticed in October last year that he said at a public meeting that the feeling in Lurgan was so strong about this drainage business that if the flooding was not stopped before the general election, his constituents would probably throw him into Lough Neagh. He also noted—for he was a diligent student of his speeches—that he said he was henceforth going to fight with his gloves off, and that lie meant business.

He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be as heroic and warlike to-night as he was on a Portadown platform, and that he would not put on his gloves again merely because the Chief Secretary, in a brilliant flash of humour, had invited the pooll farmers along the river banks to subscribe £50,000 towards the cost of the work. The Chief Secretary might as well have been a whole-hogger, when he was at it, and have asked them for £5,000,000, for he would be just as likely to get it. The £1,000 mentioned in the Development Grant was only a mockery, an election bribe. The Chief Secretary called it a "token-offering," but he preferred to regard it as a peace-offering to the electors of North Armagh, to persuade them not to throw their Member into Lough Neagh—at least, until after the next general election. Already those constituents were in revolt against the drainage tax, and were threatening to become passive resisters, and unless something serious was done they would be bidding open defiance to law and order, and causing pain and anguish in the heart of their representative. The grant from the Development Fund was nothing less than a farce, for the condition attached was an impossible one; but, quite irrespective of that fact, the question of the drainage of Irish rivers should be dealt with as a whole, and not in fragments. The story of the Bann drainage was an amazing record of mismanagement and muddle. The Board of Works started on the present scheme in 1846. They promised to complete it in three years, but it actually took them twelve years to execute it; and the cost, which this intelligent Board estimated at £109,000, amounted to £150,000. The district paid back in capital and interest £166,000, and all they had for it was a colossal monument of official stupidity and incapacity. The Royal Commission of 1887 ascribed the trouble to an engineering miscalculation, aggravated by defective construction; and since then the people had had to contemplate from year to year the submerging of large tracts of land under cultivation, the carrying away of the crops, the souring of the lands, and the destruction of the peat fuel, on which they depended for their winter firing. The people were thus reduced to poverty, and their health undermined. One of the local dispensary medical officers had put it on record that he had frequently seen whole families driven from their homes to take shelter on higher ground, who returned as soon as the waters subsided, and it could be easily imagined what the state of their health must be when they had to walk on wet and muddy floors, sleep in damp rooms, and breathe air impregnated with the effluvia from decaying and decomposing vegetable matter. The flooded area extended over portions of five counties, and the residents in the flooded lands were to this day taxed for the abortive drainage scheme. Simultaneously with the construction of the drainage works a system of inland navigation was established on the Lower Bann, at a cost of £104,000. The people were taxed for this as well, and it also had proved a complete failure. The people were not responsible for these blunders; and it was mocking the sufferers to ask them, after having wrung from them more than the whole cost of those blunders, to contribute to the cost of correcting them.

Another case was that of the Owenmore, the flooding of which affects three rural districts in county Sligo. That particular case had been engaging the attention of the Board of Works since 1847, and it was to-day in the same position that it occupied fifty-seven years ago. He would not attempt to recount all the inquiries, plans, and estimates that had been showered in liberal profusion upon this unhappy district; but he should probably be within the mark if he said that if half of their cost had been devoted to a practical effort to remedy the evil it might have been settled in 1848. The amount required was estimated in 1896 at £6,000, and the Government then promised to help; but that Government went out, and from then till now the Treasury could not afford such a colossal sum. The Treasury could find millions to squander on mad hunts after every new Mad Mullah that bobbed up in Somaliland, and they were not a bit disconcerted if they got no return but the capture of the Mullah's mother-in-law. The Treasury was satisfied, and if she was like the other mothers-in-law that we read of, the Mullah is probably equally satisfied; but the spending of £6,000 in the draining of the Owenmore was not to be thought of. Yet in this district about 5,000 acres of meadow, pasture, and tillage were every year laid waste, and over 600 families were injuriously affected by the flooding of their property—property for which they had to pay in judicial rents over ten shillings an acre.

The Suck was an important river, running through the counties of Galway and Roscommon. Drainage works were started there some years ago by the Board of Works; with a local drainage board, composed entirely of the landlords of the district. Very large sums were wasted by engineers under the two bodies, but the occupiers were not consulted, and were in no way responsible. The muddle became a scandal when, after some years, the funds at the disposal of the drainage board were exhausted, and they came to Parliament for further borrowing powers. It then became a question of continuing the extravagance, in the hope of preventing what was already spent from being entirely wasted, but the representatives of the counties concerned in this House opposed the proposals unless some popular representation was given on the local board and they succeeded in procuring a joint representation of owners and occupiers. This reform, however, came too late to be of real service, but from the date of the introduction of the popular element, corruption, extravagance, and jobbery ceased. So heavy and impossible had meantime become the burden that the Government felt constrained to give a free grant; but in the end this went to the relief of the responsibilities of the landlords. The ratepayers in the catchment area in Galway and Roscommon were now paying 2d. in the £ in the first place, and 1d. in the £ in the second; and, in addition, the occupiers in what is called the improvement area had had an assessment put upon them. These occupiers were to pay only for the actual improvement, and it was against the award of the arbitrator that they protested. It actually exceeded in many cases the rent of the holding, and in at least one case it amounted to £2 an acre, being much in excess of the rent of any land in the district. It might be added that, owing to the nature of the soil, there were along this river—as in the case also of the Barrow—instances in which the alleged drainage works had actually done great injury to the land—he referred to Callow Meadow, which was of a rich marly substance, but which was dried up, and rendered entirely unproductive, but even on this a high charge had been put. Surely the people of this district were entitled to ask for at least an extension of the time of repayment and a reduction of the annuity? But this had been denied them, and they now found that failure awaited them, and that they would have to give up their farms unless some measure of relief was afforded to them.

Let the House consider for a moment the case of the Barrow, which was the natural drain of the largest and highest table-land in Ireland. This river was navigable for boats of a carrying power of fifty tons, from the Grand Canal Junction at Athy to the tidal lock at St. Mullin's, a distance of over thirty miles. The Irish Parliament erected about twenty lock-and weirs, and then constituted the Bars row Navigation Company, to whom they transferred the custody and control of the river. This company were bound by charter to keep the works in repair, and to keep four feet six inches of water in the bed of the river. For sixty years two dredgers were kept working to effect this object, but since 1860 the practice had been discontinued. The river was therefore being steadily choked up, with the result that for part of the year the carrying power of the boats was reduced by half, and with the further result that in the upper reaches of the river the lands adjoining were much injured from flooding and from want of drainage. Great damage was also being done to the towns of Athy, Monasterevan, Portarlington, and Mountmellick, whilst the general health of the whole district was being most seriously affected.

He would point out that the present position, both on the Barrow and along the other rivers, was most injurious to the interests of the landlords, as well as of the tenants, and only a couple of days ago he had a letter from a local landlord, Mr. Gore Ryder, in which he wrote that, owing to the annually increasing devastation caused by the Barrow, one of his meadows, which within living memory brought £90 a year, and which within the last ten years realised £43, afforded last year only £16. In his own interests and in the interests of his tenants—most of whom had grown accustomed to from one foot to three feet of water on their lands and in their houses—he looked upon the present state of the Barrow as absolutely scandalous. From an economic point of view, the expenditure of some £250,000 would in his opinion, afford to the riparian landowners and tenants on the Barrow results equally valuable to those which the great Nile dam had done for the Egyptians, which cost over £2,000,000. The Blackwater, in Waterford, was also subject to great danger. Embankments had to be maintained, and when the slightest breach was made in one of these large tracts of land were flooded. The landlords and tenants in most cases had agreements with reference to the maintenance and repair of these embankments; and he had been informed by the hon. Member for West Waterford that in connection with recent negotiations for the sale of some estates adjoining the Blackwater, it had proved to be an almost insuperable difficulty in the way of coming to terms that the tenant would, after purchase, be responsible for that part of the embankment adjoining his holding—a responsibility which he would not lightly undertake, and would want to have shared with other tenants whose farms would be liable to be flooded, even when situate a quarter of a mile away from the scene of the breach of the embankment. In such cases, therefore, the tenants desiring to purchase their holdings had to make a bargain not only with the landlord but also with their fellow tenants—a bargain based on considerations of risk of loss which it was impossible to apportion. This condition of affairs applied, of course, to tenants along the banks of all the rivers from which complaints had come. In no country that he knew of was such difficulty experienced in obtaining public money for such necessary works. Every nation except Great Britain recognised the importance of the subject, and spent lavish sums on it. Hungary, for example, had spent on the regulation of its rivers during the past quarter of a century no less than £22,000,000; Belgium, in the same time, £16,000,000; and France over £30,000,000. Germany had devoted £15,000,000, in nine years, to the same purpose; Holland over £15,000,000, and so en in every European country. These works were executed at national cost, and the rivers were nearly all free from tolls, with the double result that complaints of flooding were almost unknown, and a tremendous impetus had been given to the development of commerce and industry. Why was Ireland alone handicapped in the march of nations?

He might say much about the neglect of the canals of Ireland, some of which were commenced generations ago, and had never been finished, and others of which were now lying useless and derelict; but if he were to do so he might help to complicate the passive question of transit with the active one of flooding. It might, however, be said with certainty that if a Frenchman, or a German, or a Belgian, or even a Sandwich Islander, examined the Irish canal question, he would be absolutely amazed at the stupidity of a system of Government under which such disgraceful results were possible.

It was one of the blessings of foreign rule in Ireland that we never got a Chief Secretary who had the slightest practical knowledge, or even impractical knowledge, of questions so closely bound up with the prosperity of the people. They heard a lot now-a-days about dumping, but they had been accustomed to the operation for generations, for had not administrator's who know nothing about Ireland and cared less been dumped down amongst them in profusion? These benevolent Britishers came over, knowing absolutely nothing about the needs of the people, but in three months they claimed to know more about what the country wanted than the country knew itself. They strutted for a brief time on the Irish political stage, taking no interest in the work except in so far as it could serve them as a stepping stone to higher things. Occasionally the benevolent gentleman who was dumped down was intelligent, but no sooner had he applied himself to the problems of Irish Government than his studies were cut short by a general election, or a reconstruction of the Cabinet, or some other incident in English politics, and then another Englishman was sent over, and the same process was again gone through. He had only read of two Englishmen who had ever shown the faintest conception of the vast importance of this question. One was Lord Randolph Churchill, who made it one of the planks of the Tory platform for Ireland, who tackled the problem with sympathy and courage, and who—had the opportunity remained to him—would probably have educated his Party on this subject as he educated them on others. The other reformer was the present Prime Minister, who introduced several Bills dealing with it, but who was promoted to another sphere before his efforts had had time to fructify.

He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a few questions which might help to clear the air. First, did the Government intend to take any serious step to cope with the evil all over Ireland—to drain where drainage was necessary and to relieve taxation where it had become oppressive? Secondly, could nothing be done to sweep away the effete and incompetent Board of Works, or, at least, to reform its constitution? He was afraid the sweeping out of the Augean stables of this antiquated institution would be a task even more herculean than that of reforming the War Office, but it would be worth trying. Third, would steps be taken to secure on the local drainage boards the representation of local elective bodies? And fourth, would the Government frankly accept the view of every civilised country, and treat the whole question of drainage as an Imperial and not, either in part, or in whole, as a local responsibility? The whole subject was one of vast importance to the health, comfort, and welfare of thousands of families, and to the prosperity of the whole country, and he hoped they might have some indication that the Government was fully alive to that fact. He begged to move—"That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government to at once institute a scheme for the effective drainage, dredging, and improvement of the inland waterways of Ireland; and that in view of the great loss sustained, owing to floods from year to year, by farmers whose holdings are situated near the rivers, and the excessive taxation arising from ill-conceived schemes, this House strongly censures the, Government for its persistent neglect to take steps to abate the evil."

MR. KILBRIDE (Kildare, S.)

desired to associate himself entirely with the hon. Member for South Down in the Questions he had put to the Government—Was it intended to treat this question of the drainage of the rivers of Ireland as a whole: would it be dealt with as a national and not a local question? Were the muddles of the past to be repeated? Was each locality to be left to shift for itself with utterly inadequate assistance from the Government? He would like to say a few words as to the drainage of the Barrow. The people of his and adjoining constituencies had never been granted a shilling of public money to secure the abatement of the great nuisance of flooding. The Barrow probably drained a larger area than any other river in Ireland. Its drainage area covered 480,000 acres and 46,000 were flooded at intervals. They had that fact on the authority of a Commission which sat eighteen years ago. Since then the condition of affairs, bad as it then was, had considerably worsened; year by year the bed of the river was silting up and the area of country subject to flooding was extending. The drainage of the Barrow was a somewhat historic question, as the right hon. Gentleman well knew. The Irish Parliament more than once had it under consideration, and steps were taken to make a portion of the river more navigable, but a scheme for the improvement of the upper reaches hung fire. In the early days of the Union Irishmen were promised that the Imperial Parliament would do everything for Ireland that a home Parliament could do, but in this respect anticipations had not been realised, and the House of Commons had done absolutely nothing to relieve the scandalous state of affairs which existed in that part of Ireland. In 1884 and 1889 the present Leader of the House introduced Bills for the drainage of the Barrow, and it was proposed to give a large grant of public money and a free grant towards the drainage of the Barrow. But later they were told that the financial pressure on the Treasury was such that it was not possible to make the grant, and that even if it were made the locality benefited would have to make itself responsible for the interest on the money advanced. Under that scheme there were two areas of taxation—the improvement area and the catchment area—and to his mind it was perfect nonsense to expect either landlords or tenants, ten or twelve miles from the scene of the flooding, although within the catchment area, to tax themselves for the benefit of those who were directly advantaged.

The work of drainage ought to be undertaken, if only for sanitary reasons, for the flooding gave rise to much malarial fever. The flooding, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman, was largely due to the artificial obstructions which had been erected on the river. For instance, a weir had been constructed half a mile above Croomaboo Bridge, with the result that the natural sluggishness of the river had been increased. The removal of that weir would do much to facilitate the dredging and scouring the bed of the river. Of course, the mill-owner would suffer, but no one would desire that any injury should be inflicted on him, and he should accordingly be compensated. The extent of the flooding was serious, and he had himself known it possible to row across seven miles of cultivated land. Such a state of affairs would not be allowed to continue in any other country in the world. Nothing whatever had been done, either by private enterprise or by public money, and the condition of the Barrow district was worse than it was 100 years ago. Few Irish landlords had the necessary funds, and those who had, preferred to invest their money in other directions than the improvement of their property, while, naturally, no occupier would incur the expenditure with the knowledge that neither he nor his successors would retain the advantage of the improvement. He hoped that on this occasion the Chief Secretary would give something more than sympathy, and that the matter would receive the practical consideration of the Government. He begged to second the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of the Government to at once institute a scheme for the effective drainage, dredging, and improvement of the inland waterways of Ireland; and that in view of the great loss sustained, owing to floods from year to year, by owners and occupiers of property near the rivers, and the excessive taxation arising from ill-conceived schemes, this House strongly censures the Government for its persistent neglect to take steps to abate the evil."—(Mr. MacVeagh.)


said he agreed with a good deal of what had been said by the two previous speakers. For his part he should be very much pleased if the position and condition of the British Exchequer permitted the Chief Secretary to bring forward a wide and generous scheme for improving the drainage and navigation all over Ireland. But he was not blind to the monetary condition of the British Exchequer, and, of course, it would be an Utopian idea to conceive that the Government would propose at the present juncture of affairs a great scheme for improving the navigation and drainage of Ireland, which would probably cost from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000. He had had hopes that even with the means at the disposal of the Government they would have had something done. He took considerable interest in the question of the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland. Rightly or wrongly he conceived that Ireland was not fairly treated on the subject, and when the Equivalent Grant was given to Ireland he thought the House had gone, not altogether as far as he wished, but at any rate a considerable distance. The Equivalent Grant and the Development Grant meant the same thing. This money was not given as a gift or as a sort of charity. It was Ireland's right absolutely, and as they paid for it in taxes they had a just claim upon the Exchequer of this country to deal with them in the same way as it dealt with England. He thought the Equivalent Grant—and he spoke, he thought, for hon. Members opposite—would have become to Irish Members on both sides a sort of happy hunting ground from which they could get, from time to time, the game that would give a feast to all classes in Ireland that required it. But he had made a discovery. That happy hunting ground had been made a poaching ground. The Chief Secretary was, no doubt, entirely in sympathy with the Irish people and would, if he could, act generously towards them, but there was a shadow behind him that obscured and defeated the right hon. Gentlemen's emotions of sympathy and generosity. They ought to have had the Chancellor of the Exchequer at that debate. That right hon. Gentleman was run dry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had established a claim on this Grant, because £75,000 of this £185,000 was devoted to securing the Treasury against loss in carrying out the Land Purchase Act. Not only, apparently, did the Treasury demand their pound of flesh but they wanted a large margin besides, so that under no possibly conceivable circumstances could the Treasury suffer any loss. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was new to his office, and, although a man of conspicuous ability, must depend more or less upon his subordinates. So far as he could make out these extra securities demanded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in dealing with this Equivalent Grant, were probably suggested by some permanent officials. He had always found the Chief Secretary most sympathetic, but they could not live on sympathy. If he were hungry he would rather have a mutton chop than all the sympathy in the world. What they wanted was not only sympathy but money. The Chief Secretary said the other night it would be a very good thing if he and future Irish Secretaries could confer in public on this question of the Equivalent or Development Grant with Irish Members in the British House of Commons. He thought that was very wise. Sometimes Irishmen should bury the hatchet. On the present occasion the Irish Members were going to act together and fight the battle of the Bann. It ought to be a perfect Irish Assembly, because they had a statesman at the head of Irish affairs who knew more about them than the ordinary British statesman. But whether they agreed with the Chief Secretary, or whether they argued with him it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer they were fighting, and he was not present.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

A good Home Rule argument.


did not agree that it was a Home Rule argument. If Ireland had Home Rule, there would be no Development Grant, the Bann would not be drained, and he had grave doubts as to the condition of the Irish Exchequer. For eighteen years he had been pressing this subject, but had never succeeded in netting from any British Government anything but sympathy. Sympathy would not drain the Bann, and he thought the time had come when they should tell the Government that their patience was exhausted. No doubt the case of the Barrow deserved attention, but he believed there was no area in Ireland which had such a claim on the assistance of the Government as that of the Bann and Lough Neagh. His constituents had a special claim on the Government, because they had paid £166,000 for a scheme of drainage that had not been carried out, and their fields near the Bann and Lough Neagh, instead of being flooded to the depth of 1ft. 6in., were now flooded, during seven months of the year, to the depth of 2ft. 6in. That was a method of draining which might exist in Ireland, but it would not be tolerated in any other country in the world.

Hon. Members from England generally left a debate of this kind to the Irish Members. It was the same during a Scotch debate, when matters were left to the Scotch Members simply because English and Irish Members did not understand Scottish affairs. In this case Irish Members appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to see if he could not do something more than he had promised. They had a right to something more. The Chief Secretary had promised £50,000 to these farmers if they would provide another £50,000, but he might as well have put the amount at £1,000,000. His right hon. friend had said that he hoped that the drainage might be carried out under more auspicious circumstances when the money market was not so tight, and when probably better terms would be offered. He thought, if the Chief Secretary had asked the farmers to provide one-third, something might be done in the matter, but after spending £166,000 for nothing and having been drained only in a matter of money, was it not natural that these men who had suffered so many years should now be in a state of the utmost exasperation. He wished his right hon. friend had seen the necessity of sending for the Chancellor of the Exchquer, who ought to take the responsibility in this matter. The responsibility for withholding from Ireland the assistance which justice demanded was a responsibility which he should be very sorry to have upon his shoulders. Upon this occasion Irishmen were united on the ground that this was a claim made upon the Government which every right-thinking man could clearly see was a demand based upon absolute and simple justice.

MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)

said this was not the first but the fourth time, this session that the scene had been presented to the House of an absolutely united Ireland upon an Irish question. They saw now the kind of questions pressing for settlement that would come before an Irish Parliament, and which all parties in Ireland would insist upon having settled, and which for years and years they had been asking this House of Commons to arrange. Here they were considering this question with practically only the Irish Members present and the representatives of the Government, but when this debate came to a close it would not be decided by the Irish Members but by the predominant Party, which would send its representatives into the lobby to vote upon matters upon which they had not heard a single argument and who would vote in perfect ignorance upon this question. He was concerned principally in regard to the River Suck which had been referred to by his hon. friend. The General Drainage Act was passed in 1863, and under that Act a Provisional Order was passed in 1878 constituting the district around the River Suck a drainage district. Under that Order powers were given to a drainage board, which consisted entirely of the landlords of the district, and six years were claimed for and given to this board in which to carry out the drainage. At the end of six years it was found that very little of the work had been done, and another period of three years was given to this board. Further periods were given, altogether for five successive times, and in 1895 the work was finished. Then this board came up for a private Act to seek for an extension of time and power to borrow, and at the end of that period it was found that £172,000 had been spent upon the drainage of the district. Many of those living in his constituency had told him that their land had been in no way improved by this expenditure, but, on the contrary, it had been deteriorated. He invited the right hon. Gentleman to send some impartial person down to this district in order to investigate the matter. The question reached such a pass at one time that there was a danger of the tenants being absolutely ruined if they went on with the works, and in consequence of this the Government were induced to give a grant of £50,000. This grant did not in the slightest degree relieve any of the tenants in the district, and whatever relief it did afford went to the landlords. When the money was all spent an arbitrator or valuer was appointed by the Board of Works to inspect the lands in the improved area. The ratepayers agreed to pay 1d. in the £ in the County of Roscommon and 2d. in the county of Galway, and they had made that contribution ever since 1895. The complaint he made was that the charge upon individual holders of land was grossly unjust and excessive, and arose entirely from the fact that the valuer did not properly value the improvements in the district. Anyone acquainted with the land in the west of Ireland knew that those charges were excessive. Case after case had been produced, showing that the improvements which were supposed to have been carried out by the drainage had cost £10, £12, and £16 an acre. He knew one small farmer who bought out his land before the drainage scheme, who was paying £2 an acre on account of the drainage, which included the amount put upon him as owner and occupier. The general amount seemed to be 10s. and 12s. an acre for the land in the River Suck district.

He knew that the Chief Secretary had been near the River Suck, and although he might not be an expert upon land he knew that land in that district, which was rented at 10s. or 12s. an acre, was often supposed to be rack-rented. Here there was a tax on it for drainage and supposed improvements of 10s. or 12s. an acre, and the people in the district would not be able much longer to stand it although they had honestly tried to carry out arrangements which had been made on their behalf but without their authority. Not long ago a deputation of the ratepayers waited on Sir Antony MacDonald and put forward a very modest request. They simply asked that the interest on the instalment should be reduced, and the amount of the sinking fund and the period for repayment should be extended upon the basis of the terms upon which money would be advanced under the Land Act. That was a very modest claim, and under the Land Act money was advanced at 2¾ per cent. interest and ½ per cent. upon the sinking fund. What was the interest charged to the unfortunate owners of land in this district? They were charged as interest as high as interest and Sinking Fund under the Land Act, namely, 3¼ per cent. The present state of the money market did not affect this matter, which was a mere affair of bookkeeping. This money had already been borrowed on favourable rates, and therefore the Treasury could not lose anything by complying with the request of these ratepayers. Instead of asking for a reduction in the annuity and an extension of the period for repayment, they should have asked for a total or partial remission of the tax altogether. Not only were Irish Members agreed upon this point, but the landlords and the tenants were equally agreed in making this request to the Government. It had been sneeringly remarked occasionally in this House that Irish Members could not agree upon anything, but he would remind hon. Members that they had come to an agreement in regard to such a question as this and town tenants. All he asked for was that the Government should keep their promise and do, in this House, everything that an Irish Parliament would be able to do for Ireland. He urged the right hon. Gentleman to give this matter early consideration. It was a matter which was pressing strongly in the district. Farmer after farmer had told him that they would not be able to live in the district, and would have to clear out because they could not continue paying the rent and this tax, and he believed this state of things was absolutely true. All along the improvement area of the two counties of Roscommon and Galway this state of things was preventing the operation of the Land Purchase Act, because neither landlords nor tenants could afford to sell or buy whilst this tax was being imposed upon them. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would do his utmost to concede some relief to the people who were crying out against what they believed to be a great and pressing injustice which was preventing them from acquiring the land they cultivated.


said he did not claim to have an intimate knowledge of the various drainage areas which had been spoken of by hon. Members opposite, but he did claim to possess an intimate knowledge of the drainage of the Bann and Lough Neagh, and he intended to confine his remarks entirely to Lough Neagh and the drainage of the Bann. He contended that the question of drainage was more pressing in connection with the Bann and Lough Neagh than in any of the cases which had been cited by Nationalist Members. In spite of all they had heard from the other side of the House he held that the area comprised in the drainage system of the Bann was very much larger than any other drainage system in Ireland. ["No, no!"] At any rate it was one of the largest, and it was an area in which there was infinitely more damage done by floods, annually, and more human suffering caused, annually in this way, than in any other flooded area in Ireland. This question of the Bann drainage was a very old one. Apparently redress was not obtained then, and the people now were in the unfortunate position of being worse off in this respect than those of 150 years ago. He did not object to any of the claims put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They were all part and parcel of the same scheme for the arterial drainage of Ireland. The question of the Bann was seriously taken in hand in 1847 by the Government, and works were started which, it was hoped, would afford a remedy, but for some reason or another the system failed. Various reasons had been given for the failure. The work entailed a cost of 30 or 40 per cent. more than the original estimate. Instead of coating £90,000, it cost over £150,000, and the works, instead of being carried out in three years, as was expected, extended over twelve years. Finally, the persons affected by this drainage scheme had to pay £166,000. If that work had been properly carried out originally, he did not suppose the people would particularly object to pay this extra sum, but for some reason—he did not undertake to say where the fault lay—the works had not been successful, and at present the state of affairs was infinitely worse than it ever was before.

This was a matter in which the constituency he represented was greatly in- terested. At the time of his election, a year ago, he traversed that stretch of country and saw for himself the extraordinary amount of damage that was done, and, after all, the damage was a small matter compared with the absolute human misery caused by the floods. He had visited house after house where the marks on the walls plainly indicated that the water had been nine inches above the floors, and he had seen men and women whose hands were twisted with rheumatism, and who were bedridden owing to the floods. Having seen these things, he was sure that the House would not wonder that he felt strongly on the subject. He contended that this was a state of things which should not exist in any civilised land. The constituencies which directly suffered from it had a very good case, and he would have no hesitation in voting against the Government to-night unless the Chief Secretary gave a satisfactory assurance on the subject. He was afraid the action of the people of the North had been too pacific. The Unionist Members who represented constituencies in the North of Ireland, which were chiefly affected, had been bringing this matter before the Government for the past eighteen years, and at the end of that time they were no further forward. This state of affairs could not continue, and something must be done. They had loyally supported the Government, and he thought it was time that some return was made to them. The Government seemed to have taken up the position that the Party to which he belonged were compelled by circumstances to be loyal to them. He did not ask for anything unreasonable or for any payment for their loyalty. He only asked for ordinary fairness when he asked that the Government should take some steps to remedy the state of things to which he had called attention.

MR. O'DOWD (Sligo, S.)

said he wished to advocate the claims of the river Owenmore in county Sligo. It was not a navigable river. They had been agitating for many years in regard to the drainage of this river, but they seemed to be as far off from success to-day as when they commenced. In 1847 a claim was made by all classes in the county for the drainage of the river, and it was considered by the Government of the day, but afterwards shelved. Other claims had been put forward since then and still nothing had been done. The position of affairs in regard to the river was this. There was periodical flooding, and one day's rain was sufficient to cause floods that destroyed thousands of pounds worth of property. This was an annual occurrence, and last year, owing to the exceptionally wet season, the damage done was something horrible. It exceeded anything in living memory. Judicial rents of 10s. to 15s. an acre had been fixed for land, which was liable to be submerged, and it sometimes happened that thousands of acres were rendered as useless by the floods as if they were at the bottom of the sea. It might be said that Sligo was divided into four rural districts, and that three of these were affected by the flooding of the river. Although many demands had been made on the Treasury for help during the past sixty years, there had never been a single penny of Government money spent on the necessary work. He urged that some consideration should be given to the claim now put forward. In 1847 it was estimated by the county surveyor that £8,000 would be sufficient to carry out a drainage scheme, which would serve 8,000 acres. The work could not be done for that sum now, because labour was both scarcer and dearer, but it was safe to say that £10,000 would be sufficient for the purpose. He knew farmers who last year, lost their crops of hay and oats by the floods, and who, in consequence had to sell their cattle to pay the rents which fell due in November. The rents were exacted by all the landlords with one honourable exception, and that was Sir Josslyn Gore Booth. That gentleman was a Unionist, and he was glad to mention him as one who recognised his duty to his tenantry in the position of affairs then existing. He agreed to forego a year's rent. The hon. Member understood that an inspection of the river had been made on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, and he hoped the Chief Secretary would state the nature of the report received on the subject. The drainage of the river would do infinitely more for the people of the locality than the Land Act would do in twenty years.

MR. ROCHE (Galway, E.)

said this was a matter of the utmost importance to his constituents; in fact the existence of many of them depended on it. £172,802 9s. 8d. had been expended in the effort to drain the Suck Valley. Of that sum £50,000 was a free grant, £13,000 was secured upon the county cess of the baronies and townlands in the contributory area, as provided by the Act of 1889, and the residue, viz., £109,802 9s. 8d. was advanced by the Commission from time to time byway of loan to be repaid. When the work was first instituted, the Government appointed a board consisting mainly of landlords and agents, but until the people and tenants were represented on that board large sums of money were wasted. One illustration of the waste was that dredges were built at the cost of £1,000 to assist in draining the river valley, but they were never used, and after a time were sold for old iron. He would quote a few cases of tenants in the immediate neighbourhood of the river. Patrick J. Green wrote from Ballina-sloe— I hold from the hon. Lord Clonbrock a farm of 487 statute acres. My rent is £345, valuation £226, river Suck charges £79 7s. and ordinary taxes £36. By adding the Suck charges and taxes to the rent it makes £460 7s. per year, or 100 per cent. over the valuation. Unfortunately nearly all ray land adjoins the river Suck, and last year it was ruinous to all the people living in the vicinity. I sold in July last all my callow meadows, and they came to £172. The following week the weather got had, floods set in, and remained on and off for six weeks, with the result that all the hay was nearly swept away by the Hoods, or rotted on the land. I had to offer a reduction of from 15 to 50 per cent. and even snore in some cases (although I would not get one penny reduction myself from the landlord) to try and induce the people who bought the hay to clear off the lots, as otherwise the meadows would be unsaleable next year. And up to the present I have not received one penny, and it is questionable if I will be able to collect £50. I am contractor to the Ballinasloe Asylum for milk, and at the time of the floods I had to sell my two-year-old cattle to make place for my cows, at any price, and they left me a profit of only 12s. 6d. each for six months' feeding. They had to go because the land for the cows was under water and I had no place for them. All this flooding is caused by the incomplete state of the Suck drainage, which has ruined a great portion of the land and left it valueless as regards the hay crop. The Board of Works states that the improvement is equal to the charge on the lands affected, and in that case the tenant, when getting a fair rent fixed, should be allowed for it under the heading of 'Improvements,' but the Land Commission says it is not equal to the charge, and between the two, the poor tenant comes to the ground. For instance, my second-term rent was fixed in December last, and although I should be allowed £80 under the heading of 'Improvements,' according to the award book, for Suck drainage, I was only allowed £43 by the Land Commission. This is a question that should be gone into, for if the Land Commission is right, the Board of Works has £36 per year for the past nine years belonging to me. Another case was that of Mistress Andrew Manning, whose holding was sixteen acres, three roods and ten perches. She had to pay £177 8s. total charge which entailed an annuity of £719s. That very day he had received from his constituency a letter containing a list of tenants and the amount of Suck drainage charges they had to pay. He would quote a few. Bernard Beraghty had two acres; rent £1; Suck charge £3 2s. John Kelly had one acre; rent 10s.; Suck charge £1 10s. John Crowe had one acre and a quarter; rent 12s.; Suck charge £1 12s. Bridget Kenny had twelve acres; rent £11 1s.; Suck charge £12 5s. Michael Loughan had seven acres; rent £6 5s.; Suck charge £9 10s. 6d. Sir Anthony McDonnell recently, replying to a letter in regard to a deputation of charge-payers under the Suck Drainage Scheme, said that— The only scheme of relief which the Government could, with any chance of success, urge upon the Treasury would he a prolongation of the term for repayment, with a corresponding diminution in the rate of the annual charge. To effect even this limited relief, legislation would be necessary, and it is improbable that such legislation could be restricted to the case of the Suck. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would give serious consideration to the case he had presented, and if the tenants could not be relieved from the tax altogether, it should be spread over a larger number of years. I have been informed that Mr. Martin, who was employed as the Government valuer, at the time of the award, swore at the Land Court in Athlone only the other day, when the tenants sought relief in the Land Court, that in many cases the drainage had been an injury instead of an improvement.


said that a great many requests had been made in the course of the evening, some of them of a practical character, involving a large expenditure of public money. He had also been requested to refrain, in his reply, from using soft words, and he should try to be very stern and plain! He was not going to hide himself behind the Chancellor of the Exchequer; he simply, as a member of His Majesty's Government, said, that these schemes would cost a great deal of money, and of money they had none. The practical part was to consider what tax the Government should put on to provide the very large sums of money necessary. All these schemes at one time or another had been pressed on the attention of the Government. The district, he was told by the right hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, had spent £165,000 on the Bann, but the right hon. Gentleman never alluded to the fact that the general public had contributed £109,000to the same drainage work; and now they heard that the navigation was useless, and that nobody was satisfied. Therefore they must have a careful inquiry before throwing away any more money. At that moment an examination was being made into the case of the Bann, so that therefore he need not say anything more about it. [An HON. MEMBER: When did the inquiry begin?] About a month ago. Most of the speeches differed very widely from the terms in which the Resolution was couched. The Resolution was an abstract Motion. It had to be so, because if it had been in a concrete form it would not have been in order. It would have involved an expenditure of £20,000,000, and that could only have been brought in by a Resolution in Committee of Supply. The second part of the Resolution was a vote of censure on the Government, because the House had not seen its way to sanction the expenditure of such a very large sum. The Resolution was a species of ukase addressed to the Government, but he would have thought that, after the declaration of the Leader of the Party opposite, this order should have been issued rather to their successors than to themselves. If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Party opposite had been present, he confessed he would have been more curious to hear his views about the projected expenditure of £20,000,000 in Ireland than anxious to express his own views. The proposal was an invitation to spend a great deal of money. Well, they had not got it. Or it was an invitation to alter the terms on which money had been lent for the objects under consideration. Could anyone seriously suggest that at a time when no municipality could float a loan they should alarm everybody interested in local finance by announcing an intention to alter the terms on which this money had been lent in Ireland? It was also suggested that they should enter upon administrative reforms, but these could not be acceptably proposed to the House unless accompanied by financial reforms. Hon. Members who knew nothing about the Irish drainage question might think from the debate that nothing had been done by the Government, whereas nearly £2,400,000 of the amount spent for that purpose had been from public money given and never repaid. The policy of the Government since 1863 had been, in Ireland as in England, a policy of assisting private initiative. If it were possible, the development of the waterways of Ireland would be an excellent work to undertake, but it was not possible. Would any Member, when the Budget was brought forward, propose a great tax for such a purpose? Since 1889 there had been in operation a policy of grants to Ireland for reproductive works, for railways, for local government, for technical instruction, for objects which the representatives of Ireland preferred to arterial drainage schemes; not once had the voice of Ireland said drainage schemes would be preferred. Though now the voice of United Ireland made this proposal, he would not be surprised if another proposal were made next year.

MR. DELANY (Queen's County Ossory),

said he desired to congratulate his country on having an united Ireland in this House. It was a foretaste of what the Irish Parliament would be. The Chief Secretary a few days previously admitted that taxation in Ireland had increased, and yet the Irish Members were now met with the reply that there was no money available for drainage purposes in Ireland. Would that be the

case if Ireland had the management of its own affairs? The Irish Members had succeeded in bringing a most damaging indictment against the Government. They had an united Ireland, making a reasonable demand, supported by arguments which the right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to answer. Was not the preservation of the lives and the health of people in Ireland worth the expenditure of public money? The demand of the Irish Members had not been satisfactorily met, though he had no doubt that united Ireland would be voted down by a majority of Englishmen.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 114;; Noes, 130. (Division List No. 69.)

Abraham, William (Cork. N.E.) Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H Nussey, Thomas Willans
Ainsworth, John Stirling Henderson, Arthur (Durham) O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid.)
Allen, Charles P. Holland, Sir William Henry O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Ambrose, Robert Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.
Asher, Alexander Horniman, Frederick John O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Jameson, Major J. Eustace O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Joicey, Sir James O'Dowd, John
Bell, Richard Jones, William (Carnarvonshire O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.)
Black, Alexander William Jordan, Jeremiah O'Malley, William
Boland, John Joyce, Michael O'Mara, James
Brigg, John Kearley, Hudson E. O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Burke, E. Haviland- Kilbride, Denis Parrott, William
Caldwell, James Labouchere, Henry Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Lambert, George Power, Patrick Joseph
Condon, Thomas Joseph Langley, Batty Priestley, Arthur
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S. Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W,) Reckitt, Harold James
Cullinan, J. Layland-Barratt, Francis Reddy, M.
Delany, William Leamy, Edmund Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.) Levy, Maurice Redmond, William (Clare)
Dobbie, Joseph Lloyd-George, David Rickett, J. Compton
Doogan, P. C. Lonsdale John Brownlee Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Duffy, William J. Lough, Thomas Roche, John
Duncan, J. Hastings Lundon, W. Roe, Sir Thomas
Ellis, John Edward (Notts.) MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Russell, T. W.
Farrell, James Patrick MacVeagh, Jeremiah Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)
Fenwick, Charles M'Crae, George Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J.
Field, William M'Fadden, Edward Shackleton, David James
Flynn, James Christopher M'Hugh, Patrick A. Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Fuller, J. M. F. M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Gilhooly, James Mooney, John J. Sheehy, David
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herb. John Moore, William Shipman, Dr. John G.
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Sloan, Thomas Henry
Hammond, John Murphy, John Soares, Ernest J.
Harmsworth, R. Leicester Nannetti, Joseph P. Sullivan, Donal
Hayden, John Patrick Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.) Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyr)
Helme, Norval Watson Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Toulmin, George
Wason, Jn. Cathcart (Orkney) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax) TELLERS FOR THE AYES, Sir Thomas Esmonde and Captain Donelan.
White, George (Norfolk) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
White, Luke (York, E. R.) Wood, James
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. Peel, Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn) Percy, Earl
Anson, Sir William Reynell Graham, Henry Robert Pilkington, Colonel Richard
Arkwright, John Stanhope Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Arrol, Sir William Greene, Henry D.(Shrewsbury) Plummer, Walter R.
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs. Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H. Grenfell, William Henry Pretyman, Ernest George
Bain, Colonel James Robert Gretton, John Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Balcarres, Lord Groves, James Grimble Randles, John S.
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry Rankin, Sir James
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds Hare, Thomas Leigh Reid, James (Greenock)
Balfour, Kenneth, R. (Christch Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Hay, Hon. Claude George Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Bignold, Arthur Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Bond, Edward Hogg, Lindsay Rothschild, Hn. Lionel Walter
Brassey, Albert Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside Rutherford, John (Lancashire)
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hoult, Joseph Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire Hunt, Rowland Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A (Worc Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H. Sharpe, William Edward T.
Chapman, Edward Keswick, William Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Clive, Captain Percy A. Law, Andrew Benar (Glasgow) Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Coates, Edward Feetham Lawson, J. Grant (Yorks., N. R. Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham) Smith, H C (North'mb. Tyneside
Coghill, Doulgas Harry Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Spear, John Ward
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.
Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A R. Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Bristol, S.) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Davenport, William Bromley- Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham) Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Dickson, Charles Scott Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth Tuke, Sir John Batty
Digby, John K. D. Wingfield- Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred Valentia, Viscount
Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C. M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire) Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Majendie, James A. H. Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William. H
Doughty, George Manners, Lord Cecil Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E (Taunton
Doulgas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Maxwell, W.J.H (Dumfriessh.) Whiteley, H.(Ashton und. Lyne
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Milvain, Thomas Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants.) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Morrell, George Herbert
Forster, Henry William Mount, William Arthur TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland - Hood and Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes.
Foster, P.S. (Warwick, S.W.) Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)
Fyler, John Arthur Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Galloway, William Johnson Nicholson, William Graham