§ MR. HAYDEN (Roscommon, S.)
rose to call attention to the distress in the West of Ireland; and to move, "That this House is of opinion that the Government has failed in its duty in not anticipating the distress which is so prevalent in the West of Ireland, ample warning of which was given by the condition of the crops during the past two years; that the methods adopted to cope with the distress were proved by previous experience to be ineffective, demoralising, and wasteful, and that the enforcement of Clause 13 of the Local Government Act inflicts a great in justice on the poorest counties in Ireland; and that it considers it one of the first duties of any Government to make suitable provision for meeting such visitations; and that it declares that the present distress is of a preventable character, and due entirely to the unnatural conditions prevailing in the West of Ireland by which the agricultural population is banished from the good lands and compelled to live on holdings incapable of providing a decent 1463 maintenance for a family; and that it calls upon the Government at once to take all necessary action, whether of an administrative or a legislative character, permanently to remove the causes which have led to the present and previous periods of distress and famine in that part of Ireland. "The hon. Member said his Amendment dealt with the state of chronic poverty to be found in Connaught and similarly situated districts, and their contention was that no such distress ought to exist; that it was unnatural, and artificial and the result of a social system which had been encouraged by the Government of this country, and was a direct result of its maladministration. To Irishmen, and particularly to those who came from the Province of Connaught, it was most humiliating to have to bring before Parliament the woes and sorrows of their people, and to have to speak of them before those who in the main knew absolutely nothing and, he feared, cared almost as little about the people. Whilst unquestionably the name of Connaught had been identified in that House, and, indeed, throughout the world, with distress, poverty, and famine, it was not because the district was poor, but it was because the people were separated from the land which by right belonged to them, and because they were driven from it by cruel laws passed by this country and by a garrison which was kept in Ireland for its subjugation.
He would first say a few words as to the present distress which, after all, was merely a little aggravation of what was chronic in the district. Two years ago there was an abnormal rainfall in the western part of Ireland, and such was its effect on the crops in the district that everybody acquainted with the facts were well aware that serious consequences to the poor must follow. The potato was the staple article of diet; it was the food on which most of the people lived, and it was almost the only article of food that had escaped the clutches of the tax-gatherer. Well, to such an extent did the rainfall affect the potato crop that many of the boards of guardians in the West of Ireland called the attention of the Irish Local Government Board to the matter and asked that power should be given to the local authorities to distribute seed potatoes in the following spring. 1464 On examining The Parliamentary Debates for last year it would be found that the very first Question put in the House of Commons that session was one asked by the hon. Member for North Roscommon, and addressed to the Government requesting it to take this very matter into consideration. But at that time it was an Englishman who was ruling Ireland—and he professed to know more about Ireland and more about Connaught than the inhabitants themselves, or than those who in Parliament represented the people who were suffering. Consequently they were told that the failure of the potato crop was a little figment of their imagination. It was not then suggested by boards of guardians that there was such a failure as would result in distress, but it was stated that there was such a failure as would bring about a scarcity and poverty of seed in the following spring. That prediction was justified by results, and, early in the autumn of last year, resolutions were passed by boards of guardians and other public bodies in the West of Ireland calling attention to the fact. Representations were also made to the Chief Secretary and to the Local Government Board to the effect that there was a prospect of a period of very serious distress which might almost amount to a famine in that district. Yet nothing whatever was done, and no action was taken until notice was given of a meeting of the Irish Parliamentary Party, to be held in Dublin in December last, to take the matter into consideration. On the very eve of that meeting, and not until then, a circular was issued by the Local Government Board stating that power would be conferred upon local authorities and boards of guardians to provide seed potatoes for the people in the spring. To the mind of the Irish Members and of the people of the district that was not the proper way to meet the difficulty. In the first place the money for the seed potatoes had, afterwards, to be refunded by these very poor people, and not only had it to be refunded, but interest had to be paid upon it. That was contrary to all precedent set on previous similar occasions.
Some slight steps had since been taken by the Government, under pressure from local public bodies, to provide for the 1465 temporary distress, but they were scarcely worth speaking of. One of the proposals was to put Clause 13 of the Local Government Act into operation. This was the first occasion on which it had been proposed to put it in force. The effect of the clause was to extend the powers of outdoor relief, and to extend the area of charge from the union in which the relief was paid to the entire county. It ought to be borne in mind that these districts, at the very best of times and in the most prosperous years, were poverty-stricken, and that the people found it hard even then to pay the local rates. There was plenty of evidence of that in the Blue-books, and one of the things of which the poorer parts of Ireland most strongly complained was that the rates constituted a heavy and crushing burden. Yet, in order to meet an alarming state of distress, the rates were to be added to; the people were to be called upon to repay the money which might be lent for the purchase of seed potatoes so as to prevent the inhabitants perishing from starvation, and, in addition, the Treasury were to receive full interest on the advances. Another proposal of the Government was to set up under the direction of local boards certain relief works, on which no more than one member of a family was allowed to be employed, and the maximum amount of wage which he was to be permitted to earn was one shilling for a working day of eight hours. Those were the entire proposals of the Government for meeting the distress. They were paltry in the extreme, and only had to be described in order to prove how absurd they were. After all, hon. Members on his side of the House did not feel that this distress was anything more than temporary. But they held that unless proper steps were taken such distress would recur every few years, for it was merely a step from the chronic poverty of the best of times to the misery and starvation of these extraordinary periods of trouble.
What was the real cause of this distress? It was not the rainfall that drove the people almost to the verge of famine, it was not the failure of the potato crop, for Connaught was a province richly endowed by nature. But it was the fact that the people 1466 had been banished from the land; it was the fact that the agricultural industry was carried on under such conditions that it was impossible for it to prosper. He would give one or two illustrations. In his own constituency there was one district, the western portion of the Castlereagh Union, the laud valuation of which was £25, 000. Upon that no fewer than 5, 000 families were seated while adjoining it was another district, with a similar valuation, which had only 500 families upon it. Every one of the 5, 000 families was engaged in the agricultural industry, while in the case of the 500 families at least one-third were herds and cottiers employed by the rich graziers. In the poorer portion of Connaught land was valued at 3s. 6d. per acre, and there were settled upon it twenty-four families per mile, whilst on the better lands, which were valued at 17s. per acre, there were only eight families to the mile. The same tale could be told of other counties in the province—60 per cent. of the agricultural population had to live upon holdings with a valuation of under £5, while 900 families had holdings valued at over £50 and comprising an area of 160, 000 acres. These figures alone would show the importance of this subject—the importance of getting the people back to the land from which they had been banished by English law, and that alone was the remedy for the distress, poverty, and famine, which had been artificially created not merely by the law, but by bad administration of it. He would urge upon the members of the present Irish Government, the chief of whom he understood was over in Ireland studying for the first time the social condition of the country of which in a few days he would be as absolute a ruler as the Czar of all the Russias—he would appeal, he said, to the Irish Government to deal sariously and sympathetically with this matter. They were not asking for doles to be given out to the poor people; they were not asking for charity. All they were asking was that the land which was now almost all left to waste, the best of the land of the province, should be given back to the people and that they should have some little chance of securing a return for their industry upon their own land.
1467 He did not propose that night to speak on the land question generally, or to go into it as it affected the western province. But it was impossible to deal with this matter of distress in the West of Ireland without referring to the causes of it as suggested in the Amendment. The existence of evil conditions had been admitted by successive Governments, and some years ago, in order to bring about an improved state of affairs, the Congested Districts Board was set up. He did not wish to find fault with the work of that Board so far as it had gone; on the contrary, the fault they had to find with it was not that its work had been bad but that there had not been enough of it. No doubt in the beginning it was reasonable enough that the Board should proceed cautiously and experimentally. But admittedly the period of experiment had long passed, and what they now asked was that the operations of the Board should go on on a larger scale and that it should not be content with merely buying small untenanted farms here and there and splitting them up, but that it should buy up large estates in the province and resettle the people upon them by taking the occupiers off their bog holdings and bringing them back to the land which could be usefully cultivated, and which would be far more beneficial to the country than having it merely occupied by cattle and sheep.
Now, the object of his Motion that night was principally to suggest a real remedy for the chronic poverty that existed, and to urge upon the Government to see that the Congested Districts Board worked more quickly than it now did. They complained that when exceptional periods of distress occurred merely old methods were adopted to meet them. They complained further that something was not done by the Congested Districts Board to purchase more land and to utilise it for the purpose of abolishing existing conditions, instead of throwing the burden upon boards of guardians who were not really a suitable authority to carry out this work. In former years when boards of guardians were called upon to do this work they were the only public bodies in existence, but now, under the Congested Districts Board, they had parish committees, while under the Agricultural Department there were 1468 county committees, and surely administrative work of this kind should be undertaken by one or other or both of those bodies. They also complained that the Agricultural Department, which was started first and foremost for the purpose of improving the agricultural industry had, although it had now been five or six years in existence, done absolutely nothing to improve or to experiment upon the potato, which was the chief article of diet of the people. While they had been carrying out all kinds of experiments and schemes with regard to cattle, horses, poultry, and pigs, they had not done one single thing to place before the people an improved seed potato. Thus they had failed in the very first duty for which they were constituted. He was there that night to indict the Agricultural Department for I having failed in what was their bounden duty towards the people, and he would urge upon it that if it wished to justify its existence in the future it must devote some of its attention to this article of diet which was of so much importance to all classes of the people. That was a matter of vital necessity, and he again appealed to the Government to deal seriously, sympathetically, and quickly I with this problem, not only in its temporary but in its permanent aspect, to do its best, in a broader and more generous spirit than it had adopted up to the present, to relieve the temporary distress, and, above all, to take care that, in the future, by its administration of the Land Act of two years ago, and especially by its administration of that portion of the Act which dealt with congested districts, there should be no recurrence of these periods of distress. After all, this was a matter which rested entirely with the Government; these periods of distress were not the result of bad weather, they were not the visitation of Providence, but they were the direct result of British maladministration of the country, and it was in order to prevent them that the Irish Members asked that the Land Act and the Congested Districts Boards should, in future, be administered in a wider and more generous spirit.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said the chances of the ballot which enabled his hon. friend to move this 1469 Resolution were welcomed by him and all his colleagues of the Irish Party, not only because they knew from past experience that his hon. friend would be able to place his case ably and forcibly before the House, but because they recognised no more suitable man to move the Motion which he had now the pleasure of seconding. His hon. friend was not only a Connaught man, intimately conversant with the affairs of Connaught, but was Member for the county over a large portion of which the present distress existed, and he was therefore able to speak with authority on the matter. He had risen to second the Motion because he was anxious to emphasise this one point—that this was not merely a Connaught question. It was not merely a western or a north-western question. The distress of which his hon. friend complained affected other parts of the country. The problem with which his hon. friend had been dealing in his speech, and to which his Motion referred, was one which affected the whole country. This was the real Irish question. This was the problem which had made the Irish land wars in the past. It was this problem which had been the cause of all the strife and turmoil, the misery, crime, and bloodshed which had marked the history of the land question in Ireland, and until this problem was settled it was vain to hope that the Irish land question could be disposed of. When his hon. friend was speaking, bearing in mind the real nature of his case, knowing that the problem he was dealing with was the peace and content of Ireland, he looked round the House and counted, on both sides of the House, exactly five British Members who had considered this question serious enough for them to come and be present at the discussion. Ah, Mr. Speaker, it was the old story. When the Irish land question blazed into semi-revolt, crime, and bloodshed, then the benches of the House were crowded with Members of various Parties who came ready to denounce the violence of Irish agitators and the Irish people. But when, in a time of peace, the representatives of the Irish people came there to place in a serious and moderate spirit before the House of Commons the appalling facts of the situation, and to ask the Government of the country to take some steps 1470 to prevent starvation and famine in certain portions of Ireland, then they had an example of the knowledge of Irish affairs and of the sympathy with Ireland in the emptiness of those benches! Aye, the emptiness of the Liberal benches was as disgraceful as the emptiness of the Government benches. He maintained that this was the real Irish land question, and that until this problem was solved it was vain to hope for a settlement of the Irish land question or a general appeasement in Ireland. Until the unnatural and inhuman conditions of life amongst the peasantry of Ireland were changed, there would not be and ought not to be an end to the Irish land war.
If the Irish Land Act of 1903 failed in Connaught, it failed in Ireland. No number of sales of land to comparatively prosperous tenants in other parts of Ireland could by any possibility settle the Irish land question as long as the real seat of the disease remained untouched. Now, in 1903 when the House of Commons was seriously considering the Irish land question, no one disputed that fact. The Land Act of 1903 would never have passed, would never have been allowed by Members on these benches to be passed, except for the promises and hopes held out on the question of the restoration of the evicted tenants and the settlement of Connaught. They now knew that so far as the restoration of the evicted tenants was concerned—whether from defects in the Act, or maladministration of the Commissioners, or the action of the Executive in tying the hands of the Commissioners—the Act had failed. He was there to-night to say that so far as the western problem of chronic poverty was concerned, the Act had failed in even a more lamentable manner. The true inducements on which the Act was accepted, and on which alone the bonus of £12, 000, 000 was agreed to by the Irish Members had, for the time being, disappeared, and in all seriousness he said that unless steps were speedily taken by the Irish Government to remedy this condition of things they would look in vain for a settlement of the land question through the working of the Land Act of 1903. Unless a remedy was found 1471 there would not be, and there ought not to be, peace.
What was the particular complaint brought before the House by his hon. friend? Acute distress, amounting in some cases to famine, in many cases to a state of things which would lead to famine, had arisen in various parts along the western seaboard of Ireland. Now, the central fact of the situation was that that distress was not exceptional. Anyone acquainted with the West, and the North-West and the far South of Ireland knew that dire poverty was chronic in those districts and that famine was periodic. Since 1821 there had been in those districts twelve famines large and small. Millions of people had perished, through starvation and fever, millions had emigrated as a consequence of these famines, and yet, after all the experiences of a century, they had still the horrible certainty that these periods of distress and famine would recur. What was the meaning of this? Some people in this country imagined that the reason was to be found in the fact that Connaught was a desert, a barren region unfit for the habitation of man. Nothing was further from the truth. Connaught was a rich province. There was in Connaught plenty of rich land sufficient to maintain more than the present population in decency and comfort. But the rich lands of Connaught looked as if some terrible visitation of nature had swept over them, and cleared them of all population. He had driven through these lands for miles and miles and miles—over rich undulating plains, showing in many parts the ancient marks of the plough-furrows, with the ruins of little villages, and of what were once happy homesteads, and so far as the eye could reach there was no single human habitation except now and again the cottage of a herd. But all round these rich grass lands of Connaught there were fringes of bog, and mountain morass and barren sea shore; and, here, on these wretched patches of land which never did and never could produce an economic rent, which were entirely unfitted for human habitation, were to be found—in full view of the rich lands from which they and their fathers had been driven in the past—a population huddled together in misery and in squalor. Three-fifths of 1472 the population of Ireland was settled on one-fourth of the land of Ireland, and that one-fourth was the poorest of the soil of the island.
How did these people live? Well, they gained a precarious livelihood by doing a little fishing and by migratory labour. These poor Irish hodmen, with which English farmers and employers were familiar, came over here to earn a few pounds and go back to their native country to pay rent for land which never did, and never could, produce an economic rent, while they trusted to the little potato patch, very often made up of soil carried on their backs for a long distance, and strewn over rock and bog, to produce their food. Why, there was in Connaught, side by side, the bane and the antidote. So long as these conditions existed, distress and poverty would be chronic, and famine would be periodic, because nothing stood between these people and famine except the potato crop, and when that happened to fail, as this last year it had, and the earnings on English fields and in English towns had fallen off, was it any wonder that all along the western seaboard there were large numbers of people suffering from acute famine? To his mind no more awful condemnation of any government was to be found in history than the fact that these conditions had been known for the last century; that the result of these conditions had been evidenced since 1821 by twelve distinct famines; and yet from that day to this no great constructive measure of statesmanship had ever been passed to remedy them, unless they spoke of the Land Act of 1903, which had proved absolutely inoperative in these districts.
To talk of these poor people purchasing land was an absolute mockery. He remembered an eloquent and sympathetic speech made by the late Chief Secretary in which that right hon. Gentleman said that for these poor people to purchase their holdings would be to stereotype agricultural slums, and that his ambition was to build up an agricultural situation in these districts on enlarged holdings which would enable the people to pay an economic rent, or, at any rate, to live in decency and comfort. The remedy was not denied by anybody. The non-economic holdings in the West of Ireland 1473 must disappear, and a redistribution be made of the land to the people. All this was recognised when they were discussing the Land Act of 1903; but they who represented those poor people were overborne by the House and the Government when they declared that the provisions of that Act were not sufficient to deal with the conditions of the western problem. They were told by the Chief Secretary that the Act of 1903 would supply a remedy, and not only was the opinion of the Irish representatives overborne, but that of the Catholic Bishops in Connaught, who, by solemn resolution, advocated more extensive powers being conferred on the Congested Districts Board, similar to those exercised by the Crofters Commission in Scotland. That advice had been entirely disregarded by the Government and the House of Commons, and he and his colleagues were there that day to tell the House, a year and a half after the Act had been passed, that it was entirely inoperative all through the western portions of Ireland. If the Laud Act were working in those districts there would be no necessity for having recourse to the horrible, wretched, wasteful, and demoralising Poor Law system of outdoor relief and relief works, because there would be ample employment provided for the people in the drainage and enlargement of holdings under the schemes of settlement provided in the Act. But practically nothing had been done. Within the last few days it was said that the De Freyne Estate had been purchased by the Congested Districts Board, but apparently either that piece of good news was not capable of confirmation, or they were left entirely in the dark as to what had taken place on that estate.
He hoped the House would bear with him a few moments while he read a declaration made on this subject on March 5th by Lord Dudley, the Irish Viceroy, in order to show that the malady was understood by the Irish Government, and that the remedy was also understood. It was surely a lamentable state of things that, when the remedy was recognised, the Government still fell back in order to meet the distress on the wasteful and demoralising system of outdoor relief 1474 to keep the poor people alive. Lord Dudley said—There are some parts of Ireland which, I regret to say, are at the present time very far from being in a satisfactory condition. I allude to those parts of the country lying principally along the western seaboard, where the potato crop has largely failed, and where, in consequence, the population has been reduced to a state of very acute suffering and distress. Such a state of things, however, is unfortunately no new feature in the life of Western Ireland. Again and again occurrences of a similar kind have been experienced in the past, the only variation being the extent of the areas affected and the degree of the distress obtaining. But that fact only increases our anxiety at the present time. For, although we may feel assued that in the present instance, as in the past, relief in some form or another will be found for these unfortunate people, yet with every recurrence of experiences of this kind the truth is brought home more forcibly to our minds that the conditions of life in certain areas of this country are radically wrong, and that unless some great change takes place the population of these areas will be always liable to hunger and want. Now what are those conditions? I think they are, shortly speaking, these. You have in many districts of the West and North-West in this country a great number of people living on farms of very small extent and composed principally of bad land. In good years, aided by certain subsidiary sources of income, like fishing and weaving and the proceeds of migratory labour, it is just possible for the western peasant to maintain himself and his family, and to pay fixed charges on the land. But the struggle is always a very severe one, and the result is that the standard of living is always necessarily very low, indeed, more so than with any similar body of householders in Western Europe. It is impossible for these people to do any more than live a hand-to-mouth existence. They cannot practically create any reserve in cash or in kind; and consequently, when a bad year comes, they have no reserve whatever to fall back upon, and they are driven at once into a position of helplessness and dependence. Well, it is obvious that that is a state of things that cannot be allowed to go on.Lord Dudley went on, and would the House listen to those words—No Government worthy of the name can shirk its responsibility in this matter, nor avoid taking action to remedy the conditions under which so many of the Irish people live. And I would remind you that temporary measures are by no means sufficient. They may stave off the difficulty for a short time, and may prevent the people actually starving, but spasmodic alleviation deals with the result and not with the cause. The root evil remains unchecked by it, and something more, something much more drastic than money grants or relief works, is required if the condition of the western peasant is to be permanently benefited. What that should be is, of course, a question on which the people of this country hold very divergent views. There are some who think that the problem is 1475 insoluble, and I have been told by men of some experience that in their view wholesale emigration is the only cure for the poverty and congestion of the West.Really he might adopt this speech as his own, and deliver it in his own name in the House of Commons. He hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite, who represented a few seats in Ireland, and who differed so widely from him and his colleagues on Irish questions, would not make that speech the subject of an attack on the Viceroy, and demand his recall, because he had shown statemanship, ability, and a real desire to relieve the poverty-stricken people in the West of Ireland.
Lord Dudley went on to say—Those who advocate such a plan have certainly never recognised the first duties of statesmanship—nor can they, I think, have ever recognised what really constitutes a country's wealth. There are others who hold the view that by the development of the fishing and cottage industries a solution of this difficult question is to be found and permanent prosperity secured. But valuable as these things are as auxiliaries, I do not believe personally that they can ever be made the central means of subsistence for any more than a mere handful of the population. The great majority of these people, in my opinion, must always live upon the land, and by the land. …… Any remedy, therefore, which in to be permanent and effective must have, in my opinion, agriculture as its basis, and this involves inevitably a redistribution of the existing holdings. In other words, you must seek to cure the Chronic poverty of the West by enlarging the holdings in the congested districts to an extent and size which will return a profit in good years over and above the ordinary necessities of existence, and you must obtain the space necessary for that operation by migrating numbers of families from the existing holdings in those districts to lands which are at present untenanted.If that speech, proceeding from the Viceroy of Ireland, were an expression of the views of the Irish Government, or perhaps he ought to say the Government as a whole, for they had two Governments in Ireland, the western problem would be very easily and quickly settled. But while they had these sympathetic speeches they had also the stern fact that nothing had been done under the Land Act of 1903 to apply a permanent remedy to the evil in the West of Ireland, and that the only remedy suggested for the present distress by the Government was the old wretched recourse to Poor Law relief and Poor Law relief works, the cost of which, by a strange irony, was thrown upon the very 1476 same people for whose benefit they were started. There was one phrase in the Viceroy's speech with which he disagreed. Lord Dudley went on to say he did not think the delay in the working of the Land Act in Connaught was due to the action of the landlords; in his opinion, the Irish landlords were really willing to sell the grass lands. He was greatly amused to read an article in the landlord organ in Dublin, the Daily Express, next day in which the Viceroy was denounced in a most vigorous manner for the speech he had made.
The first alarm of the threatened distress was raised by some English and American newspapers, and after a thorough investigation into the truth of the allegations the Irish Party held a meeting in Dublin in December and laid before the Government their proposals for a remedy both immediate and permanent. They called on the Government to apply the provisions of the Land Act to the West of Ireland, so far as that was possible without further legislation, and pending further legislation—because they all recognised further legislation would be necessary in order to break up the grass-lands of Connaught—they recorded their conviction that the proper remedy for the immediate needs of the people was not charity, but the starting of works of permanent utility to the district. They recommended that the Estates Commissioners should have power to pick out estates in the West of Ireland and give them priority in sales, and also that they should be allowed to go on buying those congested estates in the West no matter how much money was engaged for purchase in other parts of Ireland. The third suggestion was that money should be placed at the disposal of the Congested Districts Board for remunerative works. Until these recommendations were taken up by the Irish Party, the Government did not stir a hand. But as soon as the Irish Party called attention to the matter a proposal was made by the Government, not to adopt any of these recommendations, but to have recourse once more to the system of charitable doles and of relief works. But the Irish people did not ask for charitable doles; they asked that they should be given useful and remunerative work. They believed that this system 1477 of Poor Law relief was wasteful, extravagant, and intensely demoralising; and as to the relief works, the Irish Times had aptly reminded them of the roads leading nowhere, and the piers that gave no protection which had been constructed in the past. The whole affair had been muddled and mismanaged. Instead of entrusting the work of immediate relief to the Congested Districts Board, which was able to deal with it, the Government had entrusted it to four different boards—the Congested Districts Board, the Local Government Board, the Agricultural Board, and the Board of Works. The result had been, as always in the past, general confusion, the over-lapping of duties, waste, extravagance, and inefficiency. No greater proof could be adduced of the breakdown of Irish Government. To-day, for the twelfth time since 1821, famine had reappeared in Ireland; and the Government had nothing to offer except the old hateful, demoralising system of out door relief, to be paid back in better times by the very people who received it. This state of things was cruel and infamous, and showed that British rule in Ireland was not only unconstitutional, but was abhorrent to humanity.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House is of opinion that the Government has failed in its duty in not anticipating the distress which is so prevalent in the West of Ireland, ample warning of which was given by the condition of the crops during the past two years; that the methods adopted to cope with the distress were proved by previous experience to be ineffective, demoralising, and wasteful, and that the enforcement of Clause 13 of the Local Government Act inflicts a great injustice on the poorest counties in Ireland; and that it considers it one one of the first duties of any Government to make suitable provision for meeting such visitations; and that it declares that the present distress is of a preventable character and due entirely to the unnatural conditions prevailing in the West of Ireland by which the agricultural population is banished from the good lands and compelled to live on holdings incapable of providing a decent maintenance for a family; and that it calls upon 1478 the Government at once to take all necessary action, whether of an administrative or a legislative character, permanently to remove the causes which have led to the present and previous periods of distress and famine in that part of Ireland. "—(Mr. Hayden.)
§ *MR. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
said his hon. friend in introducing his Motion remarked that it was humiliating for Irish Members to be referring so constantly to Irish distress, but he ventured to say that the humiliation should be altogether on the other side—on the side of those who were responsible for the management and control of Irish government and administration. For undoubtedly the distress to which they drew attention was the direct result of the British government of Ireland. His hon. and learned friend who seconded the Motion had dwelt so ably and exhaustively with this aspect of the question that he should not dwell upon it to any extent. It was true that they on those benches and their people at home, and indeed throughout the world, had a deep sense of humiliation whenever they raised this question of Irish poverty and distress; but they also felt the strongest resentment and indignation when they remembered that all this poverty and distress was directly due to British misgovernment. The state of affairs in the West of Ireland to-day sketched out by his hon. friends was the greatest condemnation of the Act of Union and a vindication and justification for their efforts to obtain the management of their own affairs in an Irish Parliament. "Distress in the West!" Why, it was the regular thing! There was always distress there, and distress would ever be there so long as England ruled Ireland in opposition to the will and aspirations of the Irish people, and, at all events, so long as the conditions that caused distress remained. It was to appeal to the House once more to hearken to the cry of these poor people and to urge upon hon. Members the necessity and the wisdom of taking the earliest opportunity to grapple with this western problem that they had brought this Motion forward to-night.
1479 The conditions under which, the people on the Western sea-board of Ireland lived were a disgrace to humanity, a disgrace to our Christian civilisation, a disgrace and a condemnation of British rule. What were these conditions? He could speak for the people of Connemara with absolute knowledge, for he had known every spot of it from his boyhood. There were some 50, 000 or 60, 000 human beings in his constituency, and these poor people had a constant struggle from childhood to the grave—with absolute want and privation. But this House heard their cry, and heard that imperfectly, only when the potato crop had failed, as it did last year. He was well aware of the kindly and indeed sympathetic feeling that animated many Englishmen with what they were pleased to call the "Sister-Country," and he was convinced that if the British people thoroughly understood the actual condition of these western people they would support any Government that would thoroughly tackle the problem and mid a solution for it. But the English people were ignorant of the causes of Irish discontent, and Party politics in this House and this country did not tend towards a radical cure of Irish ills. They and their cause were made the shuttlecock of British political Parties and nothing was ever done by way of remedial legislation until they had a seething agitation in Ireland, or until it suited the exigencies of Party warfare to do something—something always ineffective—for Ireland. He should like to know how many of their rulers—how many Unionist statesmen, or Liberal statesmen for the matter of that, visited Ireland and studied the conditions of the people for whom they undertook to legislate? Except the Chief Secretary and the Attorney-General, what man on that front bench had gone over to see for himself how the people lived? Ireland might be 5, 000 miles away as far as any of these Gentlemen on either side of the House cared. Although his hon. friend had proved the existence of distress and dealt with its cause and cure he would like, with the indulgence of the House, to read an extract or two from an article which appeared last month in the Daily Mail from the pen of the hon. 1480 Member for Southwark, who, in company, I believe, with the Lord-Lieutenant, paid a visit to Connemara some few months ago. The hon. Gentleman, who sat on the Unionist side of the House described the character of the people and their wretched dwellings. He wrote—Imagine uncountable rocks and stones, stones and rocks without colour and without pity. Imagine immeasurable acres of bog, the red bog where the snipe congregate, as for public worship, at the full of the moon. And imagine somewhere away and beyond these things, above kindly or angry meres, and beyond the sound of running waters, the most tender and gentle blue mountains you ever saw.This is Connemara, very seeming-sad and very poor among the nations. She often veils her face, she often weeps. But sometimes she smiles; and that light of her smile is as the light in the eyes of the dark Rosaleen.And as with the mother earth, so with her children. In the unceasing melancholy and almost agony of their outward life, you shall still find the magic and the mystery and the smile of the soul. You shall find tired beings, starving bodies, and minds illiterate, legend-lore.Come with me into the first cabin of the first village. "There is no window. There may or may not be a chimney. There is no floor but hollowed mud. There may or may not be a heap which forlornly calls itself a bed. What you would call tables or chairs are improbable. But your fellow-creatures and your fellow-subjects, within twenty-four hours of your London house—these at least will not fail you, two or four or eight or ten or twelve or more of them, excluding the livestock. One or two or three, it is true, may be sick of mind or body, but there they are, your ten or twelve, in a foulness of squalor indescribable, and answerable, not to their fault, but yours, and branding upon your soul a horror and a terror and a shame for yourself and your country which you shall never till you die forget.And this is neither exaggeration nor exception. In many districts of the West you will find hundreds of one-room cabins with from one to more than twelve inhabitants. You will find their dwellers courteous and welcoming, children not of this world, almost happy.But I pray to God that you will be as utterly ashamed of yourself as I was when find them you do. And the sorrow and pathos of it is that the fault is not theirs. Emigration is the uttermost extravagance that any nation can commit, and we have emigrated half Ireland in fifty years. That is, we have bred and given away to others the very stuff that makes both wealth and wars.But I am not writing politically. It were the veriest impertinence for a tourist, however sympathetic, to seek to solve the so-long insoluble. Remedies uncountable are marketed on platforms and in council chambers. Shall the great and profitable grass lands of Ireland 1481 be broken into small holdings to house a people who have never had the chance to till?The House will forgive me for quoting at such length, but I was anxious that the views of a Unionist Member, who has recently been in the West of Ireland, should be expressed in this debate. His graphic description of the conditions of life in Connemara is not exaggerated, and the House will perceive that he throws the blame for this state of affairs on the right shoulders, namely, upon the English people and upon this House.
One word in conclusion. He would like to refer to the method adopted by the Government to deal with this distress in the West, which was admitted on all hands. Indeed, he really believed it would be better for these poor people had they not been relieved than that they should be relieved by the methods at present adopted. In reply to a Question of his on the Paper he was supplied by the Attorney-General with a table showing the number of persons relieved in the Clifden and Oughterard Unions in his constituency. What was the position in Clifden? 157 persons at 1s. a day making £7 17s. per day, while four supervisors, four paymasters, and ten gangers or timekeepers received £15 per week—an altogether disproportionate amount. In Clifden 394 men were employed on works at 1s. a day or £19 14s., while five supervisors, two paymasters, and sixteen gangers received £19 per week. Fancy 1s. a day, 6s. a week, to a poor family of eight or ten persons, as described by his hon. friend the Member for South-wark, while the supervisors and day masters were paid £'2 and £3 per week for their work of selecting the deserving cases. The whole thing was a fraud and a sham, and he was convinced that the net result of this generous and magnanimous attempt on the part of the Irish Government was that the people would be demoralised, and their last condition would be worse than their first. What was the modus operandi? The supervisor, paid £2 or £3 a week and travelling expenses, visited the hovels of these people—counted how many hens they had, how many beasts they possessed, how many potatoes they had left from last year's crop, and so on, and if they found any hens, cattle, pigs, or potatoes, they were excluded from the privilege of 1482 earning 6s. a week on these works intended for their relief. The thing was a farce, and the only persons who benefited from this "relief" were the supervisors, paymasters, and gangers, who were not in distress at all. This process of differentiation between the deserving and the, undeserving cases was utterly unreliable, and was calculated to do great unjustice to many of the most deserving. The fact that a man had some cattle and sheep was no evidence whatever that he was not starving or on the verge, of starvation, because he (Mr. O'Malley) was aware from actual knowledge that in almost every case in Counemara, the cattle and sheep and even the eggs to be laid were mortgaged to the shopkeeper who gave credit and thus enabled the poor people to pull through in those exceptionally trying times; and therefore he submitted that this counting of cattle, pigs, or hens was misleading and fallacious in the extreme.
The hon. and learned Member for Waterford had laid great stress, and properly so, on the failure of the Land Act of 1903 to deal with the western problem. He (Mr. O'Malley) was one of those who had such hopes of the beneficent effects likely to accrue from that Act that in public meetings in his constituency, after the passing of that Act, he urged, as strongly as he could, the advisability of the young girls and young men remaining at home rather than emigrating to America or other countries, He hoped that the Estates Commissioners would take steps to purchase the properties in Connemara and create economic holdings by the enlargement of the present wretched uneconomic holdings. But his hopes and the hopes of his constituency were not destined to be realised, and to-night, eighteen months after the passing of that Act, they were discussing the distress, and the young people were still flying the land. In conclusion, he appealed to the Government and to the Unionist Party, who claimed to be able to remove Irish grievances, seriously to consider this question, to make a speedy and generous effort to settle once for all this western problem, and thus to change a poverty-stricken, discontented, and much wronged peasantry into a happy, prosperous, and contented people.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON, Londonderry, N.)
said the Resolution dealt with the West of Ireland, but the speeches which had been delivered had ranged far afield. The congestion of the West of Ireland was no new question. Everybody admitted it. But everybody who tried to find a practical means of solving the problem must almost be appalled by the difficulty of carrying out any scheme in practice. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to forget that the first person who attempted practically to remedy the congestion was the present Prime Minister. With all their connection with the Liberal Party from 1832 downwards, and with all their control of the Liberal Party in modern times, it was not until 1891 that a practical means was provided for the relief of the misery which he admitted existed, and that means was provided without the aid and despite the opposition of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He did not intend to go back and discuss the historical causes or reasons for the existing condition of affairs. To a great degree that would be a waste of time. It was a practical matter which invited and necessitated practical treatment. Things being what they were, it was not within the power of man to devise a sudden remedy. That proposition could be proved by reference to the Report of the Congested Districts Board, which was not a Government Department, which had abundant funds at its disposal and ample credit, and he would call attention to what that Board said as to the advances it had made and the enormous difficulty of dealing with the problem. He could not at all accept the view of the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford as to the possibility of their having been able to bring about since the passing of the Land Act a state of things which would have rendered the recurrence of famine impossible, nor could he agree that if a famine did occur the Government should be relieved of the responsibility of providing temporary relief as well as a permanent remedy.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said he understood the hon. and learned Member to say that temporary measures were desirable. But no matter at what rate the Congested Districts Board or the Government proceeded in the matters of migration and the redistribution of land, it would be necessary to provide for the relief of temporary distress whenever it might occur.
But to come to the actual condition of affairs. He traversed the assertion that the Government had neither anticipated the distress nor taken means to ascertain its character and the remedies by which to meet it. Up to 1891 the periodical famines were met solely by doles, grants, or loans, which did not permanently affect the condition of the people, but were, in themselves, demoralising and, to a great extent, useless. In 1891, for the first time, the Prime Minister devised means which, whether adequate or not, were designed to do a great deal for the permanent improvement of the people. The Congested Districts Board was created to deal with congested districts, and the distress was now confined to congested districts, or counties containing congested districts. During that period £1, 200, 000 had been spent by the Congested Districts Board in the congested districts, principally in Mayo, Galway, Kerry, and Donegal. In addition to that there was the great scheme of railway construction which his right hon. friend instituted, under which railways were made in Connemara, Donegal, and other parts of Ireland, thus opening up the country and providing means of bringing the produce to market. In addition to that, attempts were made to improve the breed of cattle and pigs, to assist the fisheries, and to establish home industries. In Clifden alone the spring fishing last year realised £6, 000. The happy result of all these efforts to give the people employment and make them self-supporting was that in 1891 twenty-three unions were affected by famine, in 1895 fourteen 1485 unions, in 1889 only eleven unions, and this year only six unions. Surely that was a vast and encouraging progress in twelve years. Moreover, the Congested Districts Board, between 1893 and 1903, had purchased altogether for the enlargement of holdings 193, 212 acres of land. During the past twelve months they had purchased 45, 611 acres and were in treaty for the purchase of fifteen other properties, containing about 35, 000 acres. If those purchases were carried out it would mean that 80, 000 acres would have been purchased in the two years since the passing of the Land Act.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said that on page 13 of the Report of the Congested Districts Board would be found a table giving particulars of the farms and the migration which had been effected. Then, too, 17, 871 acres of untenanted land had been purchased in the year, which compared even more favourably with the results of the previous eleven years, during which only 40, 000 were bought. He submitted, therefore, that it could not with any fairness be said that, so far as the Congested Districts Board was concerned, the Land Act had been a failure. At all events, under the two heads, nearly 250, 000 acres of land had been acquired for apportioning out amongst the people, and that must have tended to improve the condition and increase the comfort of the classes affected.
AN HON. MEMBER
asked how much of the 45, 000 acres purchased last year had been apportioned amongst the people.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said he had simply quoted from the Report. The land was for distribution, whether they had yet succeeded in distributing it or not. On page 15 there was a full statement showing that 647 holdings had been enlarged and 166 new holdings created.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said the Report dealt also with a matter which hon. Gentlemen opposite had not fairly considered, in connection with the consolidation of holdings and migration. The Board pointed out that it was enormously difficult to induce a man to give up any of his land in order to enlarge the holding of his neighbour, and that it was equally difficult to get a man to migrate to another district and to go among strangers, who very often received him with anything but welcome. That Report was open to other hon. Members as well as himself if it was thought he had not put the proper construction upon it.
Complaint had also been made that the Local Government Board had not taken adequate measures to relieve the distress. The Local Government Board, as the authority which had to put into force the Act for the relief of distress, could not be expected to bring about a state of things in which persons in distress would be as well off as they were before the distress occurred. To do so would destroy all self-reliance and would debauch and debase the whole population. The practice of the Board was to obtain half-yearly accounts of the agricultural outlook of the country, and of the state of the crops in each district. In June it appeared from the ordinary normal report that the crops along the western seaboard were somewhat in arrears, and two inspectors were immediately appointed. Each district was examined, and special reports were forwarded in October. The Local Government Board at once proceeded to deal with the condition of things revealed in those reports, and the Treasury made a loan, estimated at the time at £60, 000, to provide seeds. Hither to the interest of 3½ per cent. on such loans had been paid out of the Church surplus; but that surplus had recently been transferred to the Board of Agriculture The interest would not amount to more than £5, 000, because the loan would only last for a couple of years; but the Board made a grant out of its own funds of 1487 £10, 000, so that the seed fund this year would be richer by £5, 000 than it would have been had the old method been followed. As to the relief of distress in the six districts affected, Section 13 of the Act of 1898 provided that where a board of guardians satisfied the county council that exceptional distress existed in a district and the council applied to the Local Government Board that body might, if it thought fit, authorise the guardians, subject to prescribed conditions, to administer relief. Under that Act seven unions communicated with the Local Government Board. They were not left to bear the burden themselves. On the contrary, in six of the seven districts the Government would bear a large proportion of the rate—in five cases amounting to 75 per cent. Consequently, only 25 per cent, of the amount necessary to relieve distress would fall on the county and union combined, that was, 12½ per cent. upon the county, and 12½ per cent. upon the union. Therefore, the Government were taking upon themselves three-fourths of the relief, leaving only one-fourth to be borne by the county at large and the district. It might be asked why the Government should not bear the whole expense. The answer was that when relief was given entirely out of Government funds everybody sought to exaggerate the distress and obtain as large a sum as possible. It had also been said that it would be more rational if money were given to these men to improve their own holdings; but in dealing with public money that could not be done. It was necessary to undertake work which would be for the general benefit of the community. To pay a man one shilling per day to improve his own holding was making him a present at the expense of his neighbours, and they could not pursue a plan of that kind with money provided on the principle of the Poor Law. There was a general idea in the country, and it had found expression in this House, that it was the duty of the Local Government Board to give one shilling per day to every man who was willing to come and work.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said that he was informed that that was the idea prevalent in the country, but the Government were obliged to apply some test.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said they were obliged to make inquiries to find out whether a man really was in poor circumstances. The amount he had mentioned was by no means too heavy a burden to be thrown on the rates, which in the different districts only amounted to from 2s. 7d. to 3s. 6d. in the pound. He thought it was only fair and right to endeavour to defend a Government Department who were doing their very best in these most difficult circumstances to meet this passing and exceptional distress.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said it was three or four years since it happened before. He agreed that in regard to the help given to industries such as fishing and improvement of stock much good had been done in the congested districts. Undoubtedly it had been recognised from the very first that the permanent remedy was to endeavour to put agriculturists in farms large enough to maintain them out of their own industry; but he did not think the enormous difficulties in the way were fully appreciated. For instance, in the case of Belmullet, there was no land near which was suitable for the purpose of migration. [A NATIONALIST Member: There are thousands of acres there.] That was not the information which had been conveyed to him. He was informed that near Belmullet there was not sufficient land suitable for the migration of these poor people. But assuming that there was, the difficulty was that, in the first place, if they succeeded in getting land they must be prepared to transport the families, set them up, and give them a considerable grant to build a house and farmstead, and he understood that the Congested Districts Board found they could not put a man into a holding at a less cost than £400 odd. He was sure everybody would admit that 1489 the Board were doing their utmost to cope with the problem. This was not a problem which could be solved very quickly, and it must be approached with great patience and energy. It required time, and it was absurd to expect that this evil could be cured in a few years.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said it was said that the solution was to be found in giving the Board compulsory powers. That remedy had been discussed over and over again. It was proposed during the passage of the Land Act of 1903, but he could not remember that any great effort was made to secure it, and no Amendments in this direction were insisted upon or pressed.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
pointed out that Amendments to secure compulsory powers were not pressed because the Chief Secretary declared that they would not be necessary under the Bill.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said that the Attorney-General's memory on that point must be extremely short. Upon the First Reading, the Second Reading, and the Third Reading of the Land Bill he himself declared that the Bill would be a failure without a clause providing for compulsory powers. They proposed Amendments to that effect, and they only withdrew them because the Chief Secretary assured them that in his belief they would be unnecessary, and if the late Chief Secretary had been present, he presumed that he would now take up the position that apparently they were necessary at the present time.
§ MR. ATKINSON
said he called pressed being divided upon. The late Chief 1490 Secretary did say that he thought they would be unnecessary, and no doubt he thought so still. The fair inference from what had gone on during the last few years was that such Amendments would be unnecessary. Considering the short time the Land Act had been in operation and the large quantity of land that had been acquired in that short period, it was unreasonable to conclude that compulsory powers were necessary to carry out a policy which everybody desired to carry out and everybody recognised to be a sound and real remedy. He denied that the Government were to be blamed for not coming forward with legislation to confer compulsory powers to do what could be done by the provisions of a Land Act already in force.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said they had been raising this question of the consested districts for the last quarter of a century, during which period he had had the honour of a seat in that House, and although he admitted many of the things which the Attorney-General had said, he still believed that, even according to the Attorney-General's own sanguine anticipations, half a century would have to elapse before, at his own rate of progress, the problem now being discussed was adequately dealt with. The Nationalist Members and the Attorney-General for Ireland were at issue as to the facts concerning the availability of land. The Attorney-General said that there was no land available in Belmullet, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman was an Irishman well acquainted with the condition of his country. But his hon. friend the Member for Mayo declared that there were thousands of acres of land available at Belmullet, and that he himself had walked over the land. Here they were at issue upon a direct and momentous question of fact. Who was to judge between the Attorney-General and the Irish Members? Why, the English Members, about twenty of whom had entered the House within the last hour, and about five of whom had honoured them with their presence during the whole debate. It was upon the ignorance of English Members that this question would have to be decided. English Members who were ignorant of the facts, and most of 1491 whom had been absent during the debate, would have to decide between them. This was a state of things which filled Irishmen with disgust and despair. When the Attorney-General for Ireland claimed for the Prime Minister the credit for being the first to deal with the congested districts problem, it was characteristic of the whole method in which Irish politicians were treated. The Irish representatives conducted an agitation for years, and in some cases they were condemned to penal servitude or long terms of imprisonment. When the terms of penal servitude had expired the gentlemen who had suffered were removed from the plank bed to these benches, and then an English politician got up and proposed a measure which he passed into an Act of Parliament. They had a Land Act called the Ashbourne Act, but it ought to be called the Parnell Act. Now they had an Act called the Balfour Act, forgetful of the many Irishmen who had suffered in order to make it easy for an English representative to pass that Act.
The Irish Members complained of the slowness with which the problem in the West was being carried forward. The hon. Member for Waterford had pointed out that when the Land Bill of 1903 was going through there were two main conditions on which they based their support of it. The first was the restoration of the evicted tenants, and they knew how that had been dealt with. The second was the settlement of the problem of the West, and so far as that was concerned the Land Act had been a flagrant and a shameful failure. The Attorney-General had stated that there were actually 647 new holdings. He acquitted the Attorney-General of any desire to deceive the House, but the right hon. Gentleman gave the House the impression that these new holdings had been created since the passing of the 1903 Act—in the course of the twelve months which had elapsed since that Act came into operation. Their complaint was that the Government were not applying to the distress and congestion the proper remedy—the remedy on the promise of which they got their Land Act, namely, the enlargement of holdings. So long as this remedy was not applied, distress in Ireland would recur with 1492 almost the same regularity as in time past. Of the 647 holdings to which the Attorney-General had referred, 416 were on the Dillon Estate which was purchased by the Congested Districts Board six years ago. There was no exceptional distress on the Dillon Estate now. Neither the union in which it was situated, nor the British Treasury, was called on to give a penny in order to relieve distress there. That was because the estate had been sold to the tenants, and because holdings had been enlarged there. This beneficient result had occurred on an estate where, up to six years ago, there was almost typical example of distress and poverty in Ireland. The representatives of Ireland wanted other estates in Ireland treated in the same way as the Dillon Estate. The Attorney-General had stated that a great deal had been done during the past twelve months in the way of enlarging holdings. Here was a question of fact on which Gentlemen who were absent from the House would vote when the division bell rang, although they were absolutely ignorant of the condition of Ireland. The Motion before the House declared—That the methods adopted to cope with the distress were proved by previous experience to be ineffective, demoralising, and wasteful.Was there a single man acquainted with the realities of Irish life who did not believe that to be true? The Irish Times had only stated what every Irishman knew when it said that Ireland was covered with monuments of British folly in connection with attempts to deal with the problem of distress. Of course, if they deprived Irishmen of the full responsibility they ought to have in the expenditure of their own money they would have wasteful and demoralising results. The present system of government in Ireland was as bad for England as it was for Ireland. It threw a burden on England which ought to be borne by Ireland and which Ireland was willing to bear. Was it not plain and palpable to any man who approached this question with anything like an open mind that these Irish problems could only be dealt with by Irish intelligence and by Irishmen themselves?
THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. JAMES CAMPBELL, Dublin
said that after the characteristic speech of the hon. Member for the Liverpool Division it was well to recall the House to the actual terms of the Motion they were discussing. It begun with the following statement—That this House is of opinion that the Government has failed in its duty in not anticipating the distress which is so prevalent in the West of Ireland, ample warning of which was given by the condition of the crops during the past two years; that the methods adopted to cope with the distress were proved by previous experience to be ineffective, demoralising, and wasteful, and that the enforcement of Clause 13 of the Local Government Act inflicts a great injustice on the poorest counties in Ireland.What were the facts in regard to this alleged prevalent distress? Out of all the unions in the West of Ireland only fifteen had suggested that there was anything unusual in the condition of the people owing to distress existing; and, of these fifteen, in only seven cases had the county councils, in response to representations from the guardians of the different unions, asked the Local Government Board to put into operation the provisions of Section 13 of the Local Government Act of 1898. He would like hon. Members to clearly understand what was the position in regard to this matter before the passing of the Act of 1898. Prior to the passing of that Act there had been what they all knew with pain and regret, recurrent periods of distress in the congested districts on the west coast of Ireland, and successive Governments had tried to meet it in a temporary way by what might be called charitable doles. These had turned out to be ineffective. They gave temporary relief, but led to wasteful administration, and they also led to a great temptation to exaggerate any recurrence of distress. In the first place funds were provided freely by the Government, and as the local authorities paid no interest on the money they had a direct interest in having these funds for relief periods as large as possible.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
said that interest was charged in his constituency at the rate of 5 per cent. per month, which amounted to 60 per cent. per annum. The money received from the Treasury was paid back.
MR. JAMES CAMPBELL
said he was not speaking of loans. He was talking of relief by free grants from the Treasury. These were undoubtedly open to two objections. In the first place the administration was wasteful, and in the second place they were a direct incentive and a direct temptation to the inhabitants of those districts to raise the cry of famine in subsequent years. Experience showed that some remedy was required which would operate by way of a check in promoting, so far as possible, wise administration in the locality, and also, so far as possible, preventing the recurrence of this demand every few years. In 1898, antecedent to the passing of the Local Government Act of that year, the Government of the day restricted the free grant to 75 per cent. of the total amount required. That was to say, of the total amount required 75 per cent. was given as a free grant, and the balance had to be provided for by loan at interest, and that experiment was of such, a character that in the Act of 1898 Section 13 was inserted with the approval of all Parties in the House. The object was that in future years in cases of exceptional distress the guardians in the district where the distress existed were to make a representation to the county Council, which was then at liberty to put in action the special powers of this section on the terms that one-half of the burden was to be defrayed by the county council out of the county rates, and the other half defrayed by the district where the distress existed. Prior to December last year, the Local Government Board, through its inspectors, were led to anticipate that there would possibly be a failure, partial or total, of the potato crop in the congested districts, and remedies were adopted for the purpose of meeting the distress. If the Government had rested content with the provisions of the Act of 1898 it would have been left to the county council, and the district in which the distress existed, to provide out of their own resources the entire amount necessary to deal with this distress. Supposing that in the county of Mayo £10, 000 was required to meet the anticipated distress, one-half of that would have to be provided by the county at large, and the other half by the union in which the distress actually existed. But so far from relying on the provisions of Section 1495 13, the Government went out of their way in December last to inform county councils that notwithstanding that provision they would in every county in which there was exceptional distress pay up to 75 per cent. of the total expenditure, leaving only 25 per cent. to be divided between the county at large and the particular district. But they did not stop there. The Government also said in December last, "We are going to introduce a Bill to enable loans to be raised to procure seed in those districts which, owing to the failure of the potato crop, may in 1905 have a difficulty in providing seed for themselves; and we will allow you to anticipate, in view of the passing of a Bill which we are going to introduce this session, by borrowing to the extent of £60, 000 at 3½ per cent. interest, such interest to be provided by a free grant of £10, 000, from the Agricultural Department, which is a sum
§ more than twice sufficient to repay it. "He therefore submitted that the terms of the Motion were not justified in so far as they described this as "prevalent distress" in the West of Ireland, it being only distress partially caused when the early spring crops of potatoes were damaged by severe weather. Apart from that question he submitted with great confidence that the Government, had taken large and generous steps to remedy the evil; that it was not guilty of the indictment contained in the strong terms of the Motion, terms which contrasted with the very temperate and moderate language used by the hon. Member who introduced it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 144; Noes, 192. (Division List No. 50. )1499
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.||Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Emmott, Alfred||M'Crae, George|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Eve, Harry Trelawney||M'Hugh, Patrick A.|
|Allen, Charles P.||Fenwick, Charles||M'Kean, John|
|Ambrose, Robert||Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, N E||Mitchell, Edw. (Fermanagh, N|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst.||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Mooney, John J.|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Flynn, James Christopher||Murphy, John|
|Bell, Richard||Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Black, Alexander William||Fuller, J. M. F.||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N. )|
|Blake, Edward||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Boland, John||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Brigg, John||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary, Mid|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N. )|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. )|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Helme, Norval Watson||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N. )|
|Burns, John||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Caldwell, James||Higham, John Sharpe||O'Dowd, John|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S. )||Holland, Sir William Henry||O'Kelly, Conor, Mayo, N. )|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Horniman, Frederick John||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Johnson, John||O'Malley, William|
|Cawley, Frederick||Jones Leif (Appleby)||O'Mara, James|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Jordan, Jeremiah||Parrott, William|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Joyce, Michael||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Kennedy, Vincent, P. (Cavan, W.||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kilbride Denis||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Crean, Eugene||Kitson, Sir James||Priestley, Arthur|
|Cremer, William Randal||Labouchere, Henry||Reddy, M.|
|Crooks, William||Lamont, Norman||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Cullinan, J.||Langley, Batty||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W. )||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Delany, William||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)|
|Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galway||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Roche, John|
|Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N. )||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Doogan, P. C.||Levy, Maurice||Rose, Charles Day|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lough, Thomas||Runciman, Walter|
|Duffy, William J.||Lundon, W.||Russell, T. W.|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Lyell, Charles Henry||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Edwards, Frank||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Shackleton, David James||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E. )||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Sheehan, Daniel Daniel||Tomkinson, James||Wills, Arthur Walters (N Dorset)|
|Sheehy, David||Toulmin, George||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid. )|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Trevclyan, Charles Philips||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Huddersf'd|
|Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||Ure, Alexander||Young, Samuel|
|Slack, John Bamford||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Soares, Ernest J.||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Stanhope, Hon. Philip James||White, George (Norfolk)||Thomas Esmoude and Mr.|
|Stevenson, Francis S.||White, Luke (York, E. R. )||Patrick O'Brien.|
|Sullivan, Donal||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Egerton. Hon. A. de Tatton||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Fardell, Sir T. George||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Fellowes, Hon. Ailuyn Edward||Maconochie, A. W.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Finch. Rt. Hon. George H.||M'Arthur, Charles Liverpool|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Finlay, Sir R. B. (Inv'rn'ssB'ghs)||M'Calmont, Colonel James|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O.||Fisher, William Hayes||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Arrol, Sir William||Fison, Frederick William||Manners, Lord Cecil|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Marks, Harry Hananel|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Flower, Sir Ernest||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Forster, Henry William||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H. E. (Wigt'n|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Foster, Philip S. (Warwick. S. W.||Maxwell, W J. H. (Dumfriesshire|
|Balcarres, Lord||Galloway, William Johnson||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J (Manc'r. )||Gardner, Ernest||Montagu, Hon. J Scott (Hants. )|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds)||Garfit, William||Morgan, David J (Walthamstow|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Green, Walford D. (Wednesbury)||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs. )||Mount, William Arthur|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Grenfell, William Henry||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Bill, Charles||Gretton, John||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Bingham, Lord||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hall, Edward Masrhall||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Bond, Edward||Hambro, Charles Eric||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Hamilton, Marq. Of (L'nd'ndery||Percy, Earl|
|Bowles, Lt. -Col. H. F. (Middlesex||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Pierpoint. Robert|
|Brassey, Albert||Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)||Pilkington, Colonel Richard|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Heath, Sir James (Stalfords. N W||Plummer, Sir Walter R.|
|Butcher, John George||Helder, Augustus||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ. )||Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W. )||Pretyman, Frnest George|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hoare, Sir Samuel||Pryce-Jones, Lt. -Col. Edward|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Hope, J F. (Sheffield, Brightside)||Purvis, Robert|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A. (Worc.||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Randles, John S.|
|Chapman, Edward||Hoult, Joseph||Rankin, Sir James|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Howard, John (Kent, F'Versham||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne|
|Coates, Edward Feetham||Hunt, Rowland||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hn. Col. W.||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Colomb, Rt. Hon. Sir John C. R.||Kerr, John||Ridley, S. Forde|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Keswick, William||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Kimber, Sir Henry||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Knowles, Sir Lees||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile||Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Lawson, Hn. H L. W. (Mile End)||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks. N. R||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Lee, Arthur H (Hants., Fareham||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chatham||Legge, Col. Hon. Henage||Sandys, Lieut. -Col. Thos. Myles|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lockwood, Lieut. Col. A. R.||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph C.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Dorington, Rt. Hn. Sir John E.||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Smith, H. C. (North'mb, Tyneside|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Spear, John Ward|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Willam Hart||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)||Walker, Col. William Hall||Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Stroyan, John||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Warde, Colonel C. E.||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Welby, Lt. -Col. A. C. E (Taunton|
|Talbot, Rt. Hon. J G (Oxf'd Univ.||Whitmore, Charles Algernon||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Thornton, Percy M.||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Viscount Valentia.|
|Tuff, Charles||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R. )|
|Tuke, Sir John Batty||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|