HC Deb 18 March 1908 vol 186 cc597-666


"That a sum, not exceeding £21,805,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1909, viz.:—

Board of Agriculture and Fisheries 65,000
Post Office 6,500,000
Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction 95,000
Royal Palaces 20,000
Osborne 5,000
Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens 52,000
Houses of Parliament Buildings 18,000
Salisbury Memorial 1,000
Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain 30,000
Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain 25,000
Diplomatic and Consular Buildings 40,000
Revenue Buildings 250,000
Public Buildings, Great Britain 230,000
Surveys of the United Kingdom 90,000
Harbours under the Board of Trade 20,000
Peterhead Harbour 10,000
Rates on Government Property 300,000
Public Works and Buildings Ireland 95,000
Railways, Ireland 30,000
United Kingdom and England:—
House of Lords Offices 10,000
House of Commons Offices 20,000
Treasury and Subordinate Departments 40,000
Home Office 75,000
Foreign Office 24,000
Colonial Office 25,000
Privy Council Office 5,000
Board of Trade 100,000
Mercantile Marine Services 25,000
Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade 3
Charity Commission 15,000
Civil Service Commission 17,000
Exchequer and Audit Department 25,000
Friendly Societies Registry 3,000
Local Government Board 85,000
Lunacy Commission 5,000
Mint (including Coinage) 5
National Debt Office 6,000
Public Record Office 10,000
Public Works Loan Commission 1,200
Registrar General's Office 15,000
Stationery and Printing 330,000
Woods, Forests, &c, Office of 8,000
Works and Public Buildings, Office of 36,000
Secret Service 40,000
Secretary for Scotland, Office of 25,000
Fishery Board 7,000
Lunacy Commission 2,500
Registrar General's Office 1,500
Local Government Board 5,000
Lord Lieutenant's Household 2,000
Chief Secretary's Offices and Subordinate Departments 10,000
Charitable Donations and Bequests Office 1,000
Local Government Board 30,000
Public Record Office 2,000
Public Works Office 16,000
Registrar General's Office 5,000
Valuation and Boundary Survey 7,000
United Kingdom and England—
Law Charges 30,000
Miscellaneous Legal Expenses 28,000
Supreme Court of Judicature 150,000
Land Registry 16,000
Public Trustee 1,000
County Courts 2
Police, England and Wales 15,000
Prisons, England and the Colonies 320,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britian 130,000
Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum 15,000
Law Charges and Courts of Law 30,000
Register House, Edinburgh 15,000
Crofters Commission 2,000
Prisons 35,000
Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions 25,000
Supreme Court of Judicature, and other Legal Departments 43,000
Land Commission 110,000
County Court Officers, &c. 40,000
Dublin Metropolitan Police 60,000
Royal Irish Constabulary 615,000
Prisons 50,000.
Reformatory and Industrial Schools 55,000
Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum 4,000
United Kingdom and England—
Board of Education 7,000,000
British Museum 60,000
National Gallery 17,000
National Portrait Gallery 3,000
Wallace Collection 3,000
Scientific Investigations, &c 28,000
Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales 75,000
Public Education 850,000
National Galleries 3,000
Public Education 760,000
Endowed Schools Commissioners 400
National Gallery 2,000
Queen's Colleges 2,500
Diplomatic and Consular Services 250,000
Colonial Services. 350,000
Telegraph Subsidies and Pacific Cable. 25,000
Cyprus (Grant in Aid) 49,000
Superannuation and Retired Allowances 300,000
Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances 1,150
Hospitals and Charities, Ireland 17,000
Savings Banks and Friendly Societies Deficiencies
Temporary Commissions 25,000
Miscellaneous Expenses 4,740
Repayments of the Local Loans Fund
Ireland Development Grant 100,000
Customs 350,000
Inland Revenus 830,000
Total for Civil Services and Revenue Departments £21,805,000"

Resolution read a Second time.

MR. DILLON () Mayo, E.

I wish to move a reduction of £100 on this Vote for the purpose of drawing the attention of the House to a very serious state of things that has arisen in Ireland, owing to the intervention of the Treasury, which has brought the operations of the Congested Districts Board to an absolute standstill. I wish at the outset to explain that what the Treasury has done is that they have not refused or withheld from the Congested Districts Board the money necessary to continue the purchase of estates, but they have refused to give any additional funds to the Congested Districts Board, which are necessary for preparing the estates for sale. As a consequence of that refusal the Treasury have taken steps, if I am rightly informed, to direct the Congested Districts Board, or to bring pressure upon the Board, absolutely to cease the purchase of estates. The condition of things which has been caused by tins action on the part of the Treasury is grave in the extreme Before I proceed to explain in detail the actual situation which has now arisen in Ireland in consequence of this action, I feel bound to explain the procedure of the Board and the way in which this action on the part of the Treasury has brought that procedure to an absolute standstill. The Congested Districts Board, as many Members who were in Parliament before the last election know, was set up by two clauses in the Land Act of 1891. Those two clauses set up a body with practically a roving commission to see what could be done for those unfortunate districts in the South and West of Ireland. The powers given by those two clauses were vague in the extreme and exceedingly limited. The commission conferred upon this body was to endeavour to ameliorate the condition of this population, which was recognised by Parliament as being disgraceful to the whole civilisation of the country. That Act has been made the subject of innumerable Amendments. I counted up the other day, and I think there have been no less than nine amending Acts. If this were the proper occasion to discuss the question in its larger issues and to deal with questions of legislation, I could unfold to the House a story of the history of the amending legislation of this Congested Districts Board, which would be a very striking illustration of the incapacity of this House to deal with Irish problems. But this is not the time to do that. We are now confined strictly to the question of administration. The Board at first applied itself to various experiments with a view to promoting various industries amongst those populations. It made various experiments and made a great many mistakes, and I am free to admit that it wasted a great deal of money on those experiments, but the Nationalist Party to which I belong said from the beginning that these experiments were, to say the least, of very little use, and that the true policy for the Board and the only policy which could bring a lasting and effective remedy for the terrible conditions which prevailed in the West of Ireland was the policy of enlarging the holdings of the people and improving the conditions of the tenure so that they might become a self-supporting population. These views which have been advocated both in this House and outside for many years were at last adopted by the Government of the day, and in 1899 the Board, by the purchase of the Dillon estate, commenced for the first time the policy of migration, enlargement of holdings, and the improvement of land—the only policy which, in my opinion, is calculated in any degree to improve the condition of these western populations. Therefore, I ask hon. Members to keep in mind when they hear the operations of the Board criticised, that this land policy of the Board has only been in operation from 1899. As regards the Congested Districts Board, I wish to say at the very outset that it has been bitterly criticised in many quarters. If I were disposed to-night to embark on a criticism of the Board I could make a very strong case against them. They have made many mistakes and have wasted money on experiments, and in ray opinion have very often paid a great deal too much for land. In many ways I could criticise them, but when all the criticism is said and done, the fact remains, which I do not think can be challenged, that this Board is the only public body we have had in Ireland which has applied itself to this great problem—one of the most urgent and burning we have to deal with in that country—the problem of the condition of these western populations. It has left behind it in the districts in which its limited opportunities—owing to the insufficiency of the Acts and insufficiency of its funds—have enabled it to operate permanent works of improvement. It is a matter of notoriety that in these, I regret to say extremely limited districts, where it has been able to operate with more or less of a free hand, as in the case of the Dillon estate and others in that neighbourhood, centres of disturbance and outrage and trouble of every kind have become peaceful centres of industry and progress. However open the Board may be to criticism, and I am the last man to deny that it can be truthfully and severely criticised, we in Ireland have had too little of genuine work done for those unfortunate and neglected people to look a gift horse too closely in the mouth and to refuse the ameliorative operations of this Board until we have something better to put in its place. The case I hope to make to-night for unloosing the strings of the Treasury to a very limited extent is unanswerable. There is one recent criticism made of the Board to which I feel bound to advert for a moment, because a recent hon. Member of this House—a man of extreme brilliancy—has within the last two months actually written a whole volume devoted solely to a denunciation of this Congested Districts Board. The volume is full of charges against the Board. It is written by Mr. O'Donnell, I only refer to that for a moment, fearing that any man might be prejudiced against the Board by charges made against it. I take one of the charges. It is a charge in connection with the Dillon estate. In this charge it is said that an offer of £11,000 was made for the demesne of the Dillon estate, with the sporting rights attached, and that that offer was refused in order that the land might be sold for £2,500 to a community of foreign nuns, and that therefore a loss of £8,000 was inflicted on the taxpayer in order to give a preference to the nuns. What are the facts? They are exceedingly simple. I mention this case in order to disarm prejudice against the Board. It is quite true that the Congested Districts Board was offered by a sporting tenant £11,000 for the demesne of the Dillon estate, together with the shooting rights over the estate and over two or three large plantations on the estate. The area of the demesne is 653 acres, including a great deal of agricultural land. The tenants on the estate resisted the reservation of the shooting rights and in that, I think, they were perfectly right. I had something to do with that agitation. It was hinted that the agitation was got up by the priests in the interest of these nuns. There is not a shadow of foundation in that. I advised the tenants not to consent to the reservation of the shooting rights. When the tenants refused to consent to that reservation the sporting tenant, of course, was no longer available. What happened? The Board then having this tumble-down mansion on their hands sold it to the Bishop of Elphin for this community of nuns with 150 acres of the demesne for the sum of £2,100, but they reserved the balance of the demesne, amounting to 450 acres, which they cut up and distributed among small tenants, thereby enlarging a great number of small holdings, and they realised out of the demesne £13,500 by the new arrangement, reserving to themselves the three large plantations which, under the other offer, would have been the sporting tenant's. Now the House has the facts of the case, showing how easy any false charge can be made against a body. I mention that to show how easy it is to trump up a charge which looks very bad and is calculated to prejudice opinion in this country against a board in Ireland, and to show how, when investigated, it may disappear altogether. It is easy to criticise this Board, but that is not what I have risen for to-night. What I want to say is that this Board is the only body in Ireland at present with any machinery for dealing with such estates as the Dillon estate and others of that character, and that until some other body, or other machinery is set up by the wisdom of Parliament, and until we receive and consider the Report of the Dudley Commission, I think it is an act of political insanity to block and to stop the operations of this Board. I do not desire for myself, or for any member of the Party to which I belong, to say one word to-night to prejudice our freedom of action when the Report of the Dudley Commission comes forward. We wish to leave ourselves absolutely free to advocate any course which may seem good to us as regards the future treatment of these congested districts, but pending that Report it is only sound statesmanship that the operations of the present Board, which was set up by Parliament for the treatment of the congested districts, and is the only body competent to deal with these estates, should not be suspended, especially in view of the dangerous consequences which may result, thereby raising fresh obstacles in the way of the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to deal with the question later on and also in view of the promises which were made five years ago as to the Congested Districts Board and the treatment of these districts. One word as regards those promises. My hon. friends who sit around me will remember the debates which took place in 1903. We remember the promises which were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover. I distinctly remember the promise made by him when the condition of the congested districts was pressed on his attention. In the two years which followed the debates of 1903, the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to carry out the promise. He said that it was the intention of the Government to give up nibbling at this question, and to embark on a policy by buying up a large number of estates. And the right hon. Gentleman said this remarkable thing: That he regarded these small holdings in the West of Ireland as uneconomic—to used the technical expression then employed—and that they ought not to be sold to the people until they had been made economic. That was a perfectly sound principle. What do we see in the wilds of Leitrim? Estates sold at an outrageous price, together with arrears, I say that the money of the State is most insecure under these conditions. The right hon. Member for Dover was perfectly right whether we look at it from the view of the future fate of these poor people, from the point of view of the future prosperity of the country, or from the point of view of those who represent the taxpayers of this country, who want security for the funds advanced for purchase of the estates. The right hon. Member for Dover said rightly that he was not going to lend this money in order to stereotype a condition of raggedness and rottenness. Therefore I am entitled to say that the speech delivered by the right hon. the Member for Dover on that occasion, and the whole course of the debates in 1903, raised in the minds of the Irish people and particularly those in the West of Ireland great hopes, and you cannot in this House raise great hopes amongst the people without contracting a deep moral obligation to see that they are not disappointed. If there is one thing more than another which this House ought to be ashamed of, it is that over and over again it has said to Ireland: "Be peaceable and everything will be done." But when Ireland is peaceable, nothing is done, and then follows from disappointment, outrage and violence. What is the procedure adopted by the Congested Districts Board ever since it commenced its policy of land settlement? The Board buys an estate and endeavours to put it in order and to improve its condition, partly by enlarging the holdings, partly by making roads, and partly by constructing a system of drainage. The holdings are made economic, at all events they are put into such a condition that people can make a living out of the land. Then the estate is charged with a small proportion of the expense of these improvements. That proportion up to the present time has been very small, spread over the whole estate. Here let me say what ought to be kept in mind by hon. Members, that in Ireland there is grazing land which might be used in bringing these holdings up to an economic standard at a minimum rent of £10. From my own observation I have been convinced that there are thousands of holdings which, without any addition that might be taken from the grazing land, can be made more economic than they are by encouraging the people to drain their land. I know a large numer of people whose holdings have been vastly improved and who are becoming prosperous simply because, where the landlords have been bought out and after the main drainage has been executed, they have reclaimed the land with great industry. They are encouraged to do so, because they have the assurance for the first time in their history, given by the scheme of land purchase, that all the value given to the reclaimed land by their labour and industry will be their own instead of being appropriated by the landlord. I remember the time when these poor people went out on their holdings and reclaimed the land from bog or morass only to find that the rent was raised upon them by 10s. an acre. Now you can see hundreds of them working at the reclamation of their land. By encouragements of that kind incalculable good may be done all over Ireland. I have the figures here of a few estates. One estate cost £39,000 and after certain things had been done to it which gave it an enhanced value, was sold to the tenants at £40,200, although that enhanced value was paid for more by the tenants than by the Board. The Board expended £3,550 on improvements and a portion of that money was paid by the tenants themselves. Sometimes it takes two or three years to carry out these operations,-because of their complexity and difficulty. Then the Board charges a rent to the tenant, but has only to pay interest to the Land Commission and the balance is all spent on improvements. I have seen myself the changes which have been made when the rents are spent on improvements instead of the money being sent away to an absentee landlord. Take the case of the Dillon Estate, which was bought by the Board and kept in hand for four years. They spent £65,000 on improvements, and then sold it to the tenants at a reduction of 40 per cent. after the lapse of four years—all without the cost of a single penny to the Government. Some people say that that is rather hard on the tenants, but the estate was purchased at fifteen years' purchase which could not be done now. While that is true what a difference it made on the Dillon Estate! The expenditure of £65,000 quite transformed the whole estate, on which for fifty or sixty years not £50 had been spent. Therefore the method adopted by the Congested Districts Board is to buy the estate, then execute these improvements and re-sell to the tenants, doing what they can by migration, by enlargement of the holdings and other means to put the tenants in a more economic condition and in a better position to make a living out of their land. One of the awful evils with which the country is threatened is that some of the tenants on these estates are being forced to buy direct from the landlord by the pressure of arrears. The most tragic feature of the situation is that those tenants who need most the intervention of the Congested Districts Board are the most defenceless and the most easily forced to buy their land direct from the landlord, without the intervention of the Congested Districts Board, and their condition of misery is increased. It is impossible for any Government body to undo the mischief that has been done in this way, because when proprietary rights are once set up in these small holdings it will be a matter of infinite complexity and great expense to put them right. As I have said, this is a matter of vital interest to the taxpayers of this country, because the operations of the Board are not only laying a foundation for a better condition of things to the people but for enhancing the security of the Treasury for all the money spent on land purchase in Ireland. I said just now that it is not by migration or enlarging holdings alone that this Board has done good work. I should like hon. Members to see for themselves the change that has been effected in certain parts of the country by drainage, by roads, and by other improvements which the Board has encouraged. I remember the right hon. Member for Dover saying that it appeared to him as if some ancient system of village land tenure had petrified in the west of Ireland and had left it undeveloped. No, that is not so. These are the people who were driven off the good lands of Ireland not so very long ago. Within the last hundred years some hundreds of them wandered from Armagh and Monaghan down into the wilds of Mayo and Galway. They were driven off their good lands and settled on the bogs and morasses of Mayo and Galway like wild animals. There you have the real secret of cattle-driving. It was then not so much cattle-driving as man and woman driving. That is the modern result of the evil law which was forced upon our country by this House and by successive Governments, and therefore there is a greater moral obligation on the House to deal with it now. In the first place, I know many villages where there are no means of access to the farms. These people have settled down neglected in the wilderness and waste places and erected miserable hovels. At first they paid no rent. The landlord never troubled to see to their movements or to regulate their settlements or to make roads or approaches to their farms, but he followed them for the rent when their farms became valuable. I can show you villages to-day near where I live, where the poverty of the people is enormously increased by the fact that they cannot get to the public roads except by donkeys. The mere work of road-making alone is immeasurably important on some of these estates. I have heard people sneer at road-making, but if you live in the county of Mayo you will not sneer at it. I was shown a beautiful road on the De Freyne estate, and the man who showed it to me said that before it was made he had frequently seen people on their donkeys which were sunk to their bellies. How could agriculture be carried on under such circumstances? I know of villages in which murders have been committed in consequence of these unfortunate villagers only being able to approach a road by passing over the land of their neighbours, and there is no more futile subject of dispute than such a condition of affairs as that. The making of a road in one of these villages is an act which immensely, nay, immeasurably increases the value of the holding. Take a case which came under my notice, in which there are about 200 acres of rich deep bog on the estate, but it was absolutely valueless, because the people could not get near it, the ground all round it being a swamp. There was no road and the only ways with which the people could get to it was by almost un-passable paths across fields and ditches. Now the Board have run a road up to the bog and the people are making more money out of it by turf cutting than they are out of their holdings, and as they cut the turf, they can reclaim the land. It is only when you live among these people that you understand the many ways in which by improvements the Board can greatly add to their means of maintaining life, even where grazing land is not available. I would say to the House that you must remember that this Board has to deal with a population the most neglected in the United Kingdom, a population who have had none of the ordinary work done for them that is done for the tenants in every other part of the United Kingdom. The landlords, or some of them in this country, and so far as I know, throughout Great Britain, do endeavour to help in some way to improve the tenancies in matters of public roads and in making the holdings habitable. That is not the case in Ireland, particularly in these poor districts, and this Board has to overtake the arrears of two centuries, so that I do not think the demands made upon it are excessive. I will read a short extract from one of the last Reports of the Board— In our reports for the years 1904–5 and 1905–6, we stated that further funds were required to enable us to continue the purchase and improvement of estates on a satisfactory scale and the appointment on 20th July, 1906, of a Royal Commission to inquire into the operations of the Act dealing with congestion, the working of our Board and other matters connected with the relief of congestion, too, indirectly had the effect of partially suspending this branch of our work, as the consideration by Government of our application for increased funds was thereby postponed. The purchases we have agreed upon in each of the three past financial years show the great decrease which has taken place for the reasons stated, the figures being: Estates purchased in 1904–5, £649,544; 1905–6, £346,706; 1906–7, £108,861. Now, mark you, for the year 1904–5, after the passing of the Act of 1903, there was an immense increase in the operations of the Board, but the moment the extra charge has been put on the Treasury they commence a system of intimidation or letter-writing to the Board, ordering them in effect to stop operations, with the result that whereas it was £649,000 in 1904–5 last year it came down to £108,000. The Report goes on to state, after saying that a further sum of money would be needed if they were to make reasonable progress— The delay in the recovery of the proceedings of re-sale of the older estates above referred to had the effect of considerably reducing the sum available in the past year for the improvement of estates, and only £76,000 could be expended, out of the £108,000 estimated for the year. The receipt of the proceeds of resale of these estates in the current year will, however, enable us to provide £100,000 for improvements, postponing to a future year the expenditure of about £40,000 required to complete the preparation of 115 estates for sale to the tenants, and we can at present make no provision for the improvement of twenty-two other estates more recently purchased. That, I think, is an extraordinary condition of things and what renders it still more extraordinary is that the necessity for further funds was brought up in two previous Reports. I take that for 1905–6— Having regard to the loss which must be incurred in effecting any radical improvement in the poor tenanted properties we purchase, our present funds, after providing for the loss on estates arranged to be purchased, would not in the future enable us to meet the loss that would be inevitable to the preparation for sale of more than £140,000 worth of property in each year. The limitation of the Board's operations to the annual purchase of estates of the value of not more than £140,000 will prolong indefinitely relief of congestion and will probably effectually frustrate it. The Board would find in such a limitation a most injurious restriction on their usefulness. This Report that I have just read was signed by Mr. James Bryce, the then Governor of Ireland. Sir Antony Macdonnell, and by Mr. Arthur James Balfour the present Leader of the Opposition. And the last Report which also called for extra funds was signed by Mr. Augustine Birrell, Sir Antony Macdonnell and Mr. Arthur James Balfour. I ask was there ever such a system of governing a country in the civilised world? A reponsible governor, year after year, sends a Report saying it is absolutely necessary to have more funds to carry on this work of relieving the congestion, but although the responsible governors of Ireland and a recent Prime Minister sign that Report, somebody at the Treasury says: "No, we know more about the government of Ireland than the Government itself," and the Treasury set aside these repeated recommendations. Not only that, not only do they say: "You shall not have the money," but they say: "You must stop your work on the estates with which you are already dealing." In the whole history of civilised government there is no such farce as that. We have been led to suppose that there is a Government and that it is responsible to this House, but here we have a document saying that these things are vital and then we learn from other sources that the Treasury intervenes and puts a veto on the action of the Government of Ireland itself, end says: "No, the Government will not find the money necessary for carrying on the work which must be done before the estates are sold." There is another feature of this matter, even, if possible, still more aggravating. I have said that the situation in the West of Ireland is very strained. So it is, but I think the good faith and honour of the Government is at stake in this matter, because at present there are seven estates, certainly a number of estates, which the landlords have consented to sell. The tenants are willing to buy, and the Congested Districts Board have agreed to buy, whereupon naturally the payment of rent has stopped, part of the bargain being that the arrears which were very heavy should be written off, and one year's rent added to the purchase money in lieu of them. The estates are here. They are the O'Donnel estate, the Knox estate, the Power (Cloonmore) estate, the Begley estate, the Blosse Lynch estate, the McDermott estate, all in County Mayo, and the Maberley estate in Roscommon. The Blosse Lynch estate is over 18,000 acres in extent, and is, as all these estates are, particularly suitable for the purposes of the Board. On the estates the landlords have agreed to sell, and the tenants to buy, an inspector of the Board has gone down on the demand of the landlords and tenants alike. But after sending down an inspector and agreeing to buy, the transaction is stopped. The sending down of an inspector was taken by the people as a pledge, but the Board sent down a circular saying: "We have no more funds, and we will not buy." The people were proceeded against by the landlords, not only for the rent for the current year, but for all the arrears. Is it any wonder that we hear that cattle-drives are being organised, and the whole place is in trouble? Besides these particular estates there are several others offered to the Board, but they have not agreed to buy, and in these cases if they are not bought there will be a distinct breach of faith on the part of the Government. With what face can the Government send police to carry out collections of rent or evict these people? I say the Government is in honour bound to buy these properties, and as I hold, to buy others. As regards these seven at all events and others in the County of Kerry, of which my hon. friend will speak, they are bound in honour to buy, as they have taken action which is accepted by the people as a pledge that they will buy. It is impossible for the Government to take this attitude in dealing with the people of Ireland, that the Government is not one whole in this matter. The Government cannot go to the people of Ireland and say: "I, the Irish Secretary, would like to buy these estates, but the Treasury will not allow me to buy." The Government is a united whole, and they are responsible, as a Government, for the whole of the government of Ireland, and if they say this, the Irish people may say: "What amount of pressure do you require to be brought upon the Treasury." I take a neighbourhood well known to the right hon. Gentleman—the Maberley estate in the south of Ireland. In that parish there are about 5,000 acres of grazing land untenanted and waste land, and there are several hundreds of small holders on the borders of the lands. On the Maberley estate, one farmer has 830 acres held from year to year on the English system. He is only four years in possession, and has many farms elsewhere. There are 400 families in the parish, 300 of whom have little holdings of under £10 valuation, and there is this ranch of 830 acres at their very door, offered to the Government, covered by the cattle of a grazer, and yet the Government will not buy, and we do not know when the Government will be allowed to buy. Is that a condition for things that can continue? What right have you to turn on these unfortunate people and blame them, after you have treated them in that way? You have allowed the express desires of the Government to be set aside by the Treasury. That is the situation, and I want to know what the Government propose to do. We are promised a Report from the Dudley Commission, and I gratefully acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman has undertaken in the King's Speech to introduce a Bill granting compulsory purchase to get these grazing lands. Would it not be a good beginning to take those that are offered to you? Might not this argument be used against the Government when they bring in their compulsory Bill—"Why did not you buy the land offered to you." Besides that, it is all very well to say we are going to have compulsory powers; but will the Lords pass it? We have had experience of that. We want to know what is going to be done now by action which is entirely within the competence of this House, and without having recourse to the House of Lords. Why not do it by administration pending legislation? Then you will be able to say that you are doing your best pending legislation. Therefore, what I would propose is that the Government should without delay bring in if necessary a supplementary estimate which would carry us on for three or four months—that is a very modest demand—until we see the Dudley Report and so know what the prospects are. Send over to the Congested Districts Board to buy these estates at once. Give the people an assurance that at least in the near future something will be done to relieve their condition. That would carry us over the present crisis at all events. Set free the hands of the Board and allow them to buy all the estates offered to them at a fair price. Then let the future take care of itself. I am told that the Board estimate that it would cost about £130,000 to buy all the estates now offered them and to do the necessary work. A portion of that £130,000 would be supplied by loan and a portion of it by the rents collected on the estates. But put it down at £100,000 necessary from the public grant. They have only £11,000 or £12,000 of the permanent revenue available. Unless some additional money is granted within six weeks or two months, the Board will be obliged to dismiss the whole of its labourers, numbering now 3,000 men. That will cause considerable poverty and distress. Let us at least decide to give the Board a free hand to purchase, and avoid a very serious consequence, which I am afraid will otherwise follow. That is my suggestion. One word on the question of parish grants. These are given to encourage people to make improvements in their holdings and especially in their dwellings. The system was started four years ago and is a very creditable one. I think it was started while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover was in power. It was started in a few districts, and has now spread over the country. These parish grants were given in this way. There are representative committees, iucluding clergymen of all denominations and public men of the parish. They consider applications for works of improvement in the way of building houses, putting down concrete floors in the houses in place of earthern floors, putting in larger windows, and adding rooms. I have never seen so great a transformation in the face of the country as these grants have brought about. I do not know of any system ever introduced into Ireland that produced more self-help than these parish grants. When the system was started most of the houses in the district I am speaking of had cattle and pigs in their houses. They have been cleared out. The houses have been greatly improved, and now one of the things the Irish Government is interesting itself in is a war against tuberculosis and consumption. What could be more beneficent than giving encouragement to these poor people? The earthern floors which were in a continual condition of dampness have, from the example set by the Board., in many districts been replaced by concrete floors and raised three inches above the surface of the earth, which has had the double effect of making the house dry and perfectly easily drained. These might appear to be rather silly points, but they are practical and have a great effect on the health of the people. One of the causes of tuberculosis and its spread in the West of Ireland is the shocking ventilation of the houses, and the insertion of larger windows by these parish committees would have a very substantial effect in lessening the disease. Yet the Board have issued a statement that they are obliged to withdraw their parish committee grants this year in consequence of the action of the Treasury. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in this matter. I assure him the withdrawal of these grants will create the greatest possible discontent and dissatisfaction in Ireland. I appeal to him in face of the statements made in these Reports signed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, by Mr. Bryce, and by the Leader of the Opposition, that it would be a cruel thing that for the sake of £11,000 the British Treasury should intervene and stop these improvements which have undoubtedly been a most fruitful source of improvement in Ireland. These people have been content to live for a long time under conditions which were simply horrible and their places have been made the show places of misery to every executive Minister who came to Ireland. Every Chief Secretary is taken down round Belmullet to see the miserable conditions of these people. It is, they think, extraordinary for this Government to stop the work of the Board, which is the only body now operating in the West of Ireland on these great questions of making holdings economic and of improving the housing accommodation of the people. I might point out to hon. Members what is the condition of some of those holdings, and how absurd it is to apply relief without some authority which can take the estate as a whole. I have in my hands the particulars of an estate which has been sold to the Congested Districts Board within the last few months. It is in my own constituency. One of the holdings consists of 5 acres, 3 roods and 5 perches, the total valuation of which is £1 12s. 9d.; it is in seventy-three different divisions, a few of which exceed the value of 2d. a year and some are of the value of 1d. a year. That holds good of two other cases, where, in spite of a fair rent fixed, there are seventy-three divisions valued at from 6d. to 1d. There is another case of 8 acres, the total value of which is £1 5s.; there are sixty divisions, of which twenty are valued at 6d. and several more at 1d. How can you deal with estates in that condition without having a board such as the Congested Districts Board? On these grounds I make a most earnest appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. His policy is to apply a radical remedy, applying it, as was understood and promised under the Act of 1903, not merely piecemeal, but on a generous scale in the congested districts of the West of Ireland. That was part of the policy of the Act of 1903. Specific improvements were made in regard to purchase and in the two years which followed the passing of the Act the purchases made by the Board led the people to believe that some attempt was going to be made to carry it out. What are the Irish people to think if on the accession of the Liberal Party to office this work is to be stopped and that they then come down to this House and ask us to pass—as I trust and hope we shall pass—a compulsory Bill, when at this moment they are in a position to provide twenty estates without compulsion, if only the Treasury did not block the way? I beg to move.


in seconding the Amendment, said they who lived in the West of Ireland knew that the condition of the people there had not been overdrawn; on the contrary, it was impossible to overstate the condition of misery in which some of the people of the western districts were living. The Congested Districts Board was established in 1891, primarily to deal with these districts and to do something to lessen the misery and to brighten the homes of those who lived in them. For a number of years, it was true, those operations were limited to the fishing industry and other matters, and it was not until 1899 that the Board devoted a considerable share of its attention to the purchase of estates for the relief of the congested districts. He found in the answer to a Question which he had put to the Chief Secretary that day, an account of the work done in the way of purchase and improvement of estates before and after the passage of the Act of 1903. The amount of land purchased before the passage of the Act was extremely small. In the whole of Ireland it was put at over half a million, and the improvements effected on the land thus purchased—improvements effected not from Government sources but with the rents paid by the tenants themselves—amounted to £181,000. This sum must have considerably improved the condition of the holdings comprised in the half million. But since 1903 it was true that some progress had been made. More estates had been purchased. They desired, however, that this question should be dealt with quickly and immediately. They felt that the progress was unhappily too slow, and they were anxious that there should be greater speed on the part of the Government in dealing with the subject. Since the passage of the Act of 1903 land had been purchased to the amount of about a million and a half, and he thought that over a quarter of a million had been expended in improvements. At the present moment there were large tracts of land which could be used for the purpose of relieving congestion. But he wished to deal not so much with congestion in the West as in the South-west of Ireland. The amount of land purchased in County Kerry before the Act of 1903 was only £3,893, and the amount spent on improvements was £161. After the passage of the Act £143,000 had been spent in the purchase of land, and under £20,000 had been spent on improving the land. Taking these figures before and after the passage of the Act, he would suggest to the Chief Secretary, when he explained the condition of things in Kerry, that these figures would be found entirely unsatisfactory, and he could not be surprised if in Kerry they were at present thoroughly dissatisfied with what the Congested District" Board or the Government or the Treasury had done for them. The congestion in Mayo had been described by the hon. Member for East Mayo, but the House might be satisfied that they could be engaged in no better work than that of doing something to ameliorate the condition of the people who had to live under circumstances such as his hon. friend had described. The conditions in Kerry might not be exactly as bad as in Mayo, but they were very nearly as bad. The estates in that county about which they were most anxious at the present time were the Ventry estates, of which he would take one part, situate near the town in which he lived. There were ninety-five holdings on this particular town land, with a population of 473. The valuation of those ninety-five holdings reached the grand total of £69. Ninety-five families, numbering nearly 500 people, had to live in houses of a total valuation of less than £70; in other words, the valuation per head of the population content to live in these districts was under 3s. One could imagine the condition of the houses in which the people lived; one could imagine the annual budget of these families, and wonder how it was that they were able to keep body and soul together in such poverty. But those he mentioned were a tithe of the class of holdings scattered over the Ventry estates. Practically half County Kerry was congested, and the average valuation in the congested districts must be under 30s. per head. What was the class of house in which these people had to live? The Census of 1901, he was sorry to say, disclosed a condition of things which was not equalled even in Mayo. Despite all they had done in Kerry under the Labourers Acts—and they had done a great deal, in some cases taxing themselves at 1s. in the £, the maximum which the law allowed—the fact remained that his native county was the worst housed part of Ireland. Undoubtedly it was true that one of the great sources of tuberculosis in Ireland was the existence of insanitary, small, and miserable dwellings. Kerry had a population of only 170,000, for in the last fifty years the emigration from that county had been over 250,000, the best brain and muscle of the population going abroad to increase the wealth and produce of other nations. Anything that was done to remedy that condition of things would be a benefit to the country as a whole. Something should be done to stop this national loss caused by the emigration of the young men and women from Ireland. It had been said that in Kerry they had very little untenanted land for the relief of congestion, and that, therefore, the Board had some excuse for not dealing with congestion in that county on the same large scale as in the west of Ireland. Congestion did exist and some effort should be made to relieve it. They could not relieve it as Mayo could, but there were other ways of relieving congestion besides the taking of the people in large batches and planting them on new virgin soil. They might not be so effective, but still they were very useful. In Denmark half the holdings were under 7 acres of land. Seven acres of the best land in Ireland would be considered an uneconomic holding. It would be asked how it was that in Denmark men were able to live, he would not say luxuriously, but still in decent homes, with fairly comfortable surroundings and with enough to live on, and were not able to do it in Ireland. There were many reasons for that. By means of better systems of agriculture which could be imported only by such a board as the Congested Districts Board coming in and taking a deep interest in the people and showing that they were anxious to improve them, land could be drained, fenced and improved, roads could be made, fisheries could be assisted and various other things could be done, which would have the effect of improving the conditions under which these small holders lived; and if they did not make them as well off as the tenant of Mayo, who could get twenty to twenty-five acres of land, they would certainly wonderfully improve their condition. He now came to the estate of which he wished more particularly to speak—the Ventry estate. It was a very large estate with a rental somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000 per annum. It was situated in the district that he had described with very small holdings, bad houses, and everything else of that class. Ever since the passage of the Act of 1903 he had done everything in his power to induce the landlord to sell that estate to the Congested Districts Board, and for years it was absolutely useless. He was refused point blank until finally on some consideration—he did not know what it was—the landlord said he would I sell. The tenants were delighted. They thought that at last the way was open for improving their condition and brightening their lot. Satisfactory agreements were entered into between landlord and tenant. The landlord said he was satisfied to leave the price to be fixed by the Board itself, and as to the question of arrears, which were very large, he should say averaging about five years and in many cases going up to fifteen, with the small tenants he actually accepted half a year and with the larger tenants he accepted a year in full discharge. Those were the terms which were sent up last August to the Congested Districts Board. In the following November they received this letter in reply— SIR—I am directed by the Congested Districts Board to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of Kith inst., and to state that at their last meeting they authorised the opening of negotiations with Lord Ventry for the purchase of his estate, but they are not yet in a position to say whether they will be able to come to terms. —terms, of course, being the price arranged between landlord and tenant— Some time must necessarily elapse before a decision is arrived at, as the case has only just been taken up. The tenants on the receipt of that letter came to the conclusion that he thought the House would come to, that there seemed at that time to be no barrier to the completion of the sale except possibly that the Board and the landlord might not agree as to the price. They heard nothing further as to whether the Board would buy until 15th January, six months after the bargain was finally completed between the landlord and the tenants, when they received a letter informing them that, owing to insufficiency of funds, they were unable to proceed with the purchase of the estate. The House could imagine the dismay with which this was received by the tenants! He had some responsibility in the matter and he claimed some credit for having been able to bring about the agreement, but when all that was completed and landlord and tenants were satisfied as to the price to be paid, it looked extremely strange that persons should step in and be the cause, as undoubtedly in this case they would be the cause, of trouble and confusion in the district, and that the sole persons to bring it about were the Government Department in Dublin Castle. This was a position of things to which he would ask the serious attention of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman had received a series of letters and resolutions on the subject and would admit that there existed in this district a very serious condition of things, and that it would be to his interest, and to the interest of all who were anxious for the peace of the country, to see that something was done to complete the negotiations that had been entered into. The landlord had done his part, and he had no blame whatever for the landlord or for his agent, who had met them satisfactorily. He was only sorry that the landlord would be compelled to adopt a course for the collection of his rents which would be very unsatisfactory to him and to the tenants. What was the position of the tenants? They were poor, wretched, miserable tenants of small holdings. They thought last August they had finally parted with landlordism as such and that a new era was opening for them, that their holdings would be improved, drained and fenced, that work would be given them which would keep some of them at home from the emigrant ship, and that their houses would be improved. Instead of that they got as a New Year's gift from a Liberal Government the statement that it was all up, that they were to go back to the old condition of things and to continue paying the old impossible rent. The tenants had said they would never again pay a penny to the landlord, and the landlord naturally was compelled to resort to extremes in order to collect his rent. What was the condition of things that would be created a fortnight hence, when the decrees were granted? The district was now peaceable and quiet and wanted to be quiet. The right hon. Gentleman could not find money for the purchase of the estate, but he would have to find money to drag in battalions of police in order to execute these decrees, and it would be hopeless and ruinous to both tenants and landlord. That was a condition of things which he certainly did not like to face and which he should like to see remedied. To show how the Board did its work, they got a letter on 15th January returning the maps and papers of the estate. Would it be believed that the agent himself had told him that three days before he had had a letter from the Board asking him to send up the maps and papers of another estate? Lest it might be said that this was the first opportunity the Board had had of purchasing land in Kerry, and that their refusal was solely due to the action of the Treasury, he would read an extract from the Report of the Commission recently held, in which the agent, Mr. McClure, stated that in 1904 he sent up an estate to the Congested Districts Board. He got an engineer to draw maps and everything else and sent them up. He waited for months and months and sent several letters to inquire whether the estate was suitable or not. He got the usual form of acknowledgment, and after about twelve months delay got a simple letter saying: "We cannot purchase this estate," and that was all he got. Mr. McClure appeared before the Commission and stated that owing to the way in which the Congested Districts Board had for years treated him, he would be very slow in future before he offered them an estate again. He was afraid now, after the way in which the Board had treated the Ventry estate, it would be extremely difficult for them in the future to get either landlord or agent to offer any estate to the Board. He would appeal to the Chief Secretary to consider the position in which they and other tenants similarly situated would be placed if the Treasury insisted on withholding the money necessary to carry out the work. Nobody suggested that the House or any party in the House should tie itself down as to what they would do when the Report of the Commission came up for consideration. Until it came before them and until the legislation framed on it was passed, and that might be a very long time, it was the bounden duty of the Chief Secretary, both in the interests of the people for whom the Board was originated and in the interests of the peace of the district concerned, to insist that the Treasury should not block the way, but that money should be granted for the purchase and improvement of estates.

Amendment proposed—

"To leave out '£21,805,000,'and insert' £21,804,900'"—(Mr. Dillon)—instead thereof.

Question proposed—

"That '£21,805,000' stand part of the said Resolution."

MR. JOHN REDMOND () Waterford

I will not trouble the House for more than a very few moments, because I think that the case which has been put by both my hon. friends has made the question sufficiently clear to the minds of hon. Members. There are one or two points I wish to emphasise. Of course, this discussion is limited to one-particular point. We do not know what the future of the Congested Districts Board will be, and no one will know until the Report of the Commission is published what their recommendations will be for the future. As far as we are concerned we have an open mind upon the whole question until we see those recommendations, and until we have had an opportunity of fully discussing them. We are not pre-judging any question which may arise as to the continuation of the Congested Districts Board and its powers and resources. We are only now concerned with this narrow point. Until some change is made and fresh legislation proposed we say that it is an absolutely idiotic policy for the Government not to allow the machine to go on working. I am sure that, in this matter, we shall have the sympathy of many hon. Members above the gangway, and I am sorry the late Prime Minister has gone, because he originally instituted the Congested Districts Board, and I am sure his sympathies would be with us. What we ask is that this machine which has been carrying on its beneficent work in Ireland should not be rudely brought to a stop pending any alteration in its constitution or powers. All we ask is that provision should be made to enable this Board and the Government to carry out their solemn engagements in the immediate future. My hon. friend who opened the debate spoke of eight estates, and the hon. Member who followed him spoke of an additional one. I do not think that that exhausts the list. The Congested Districts Board have entered into engagements with both landlords and tenants on a number of estates for purchase, and now by the action of the Treasury they are prevented from carrying out those engagements, and the immediate result will be disaster to the peace and tranquillity of those parts of the country. I am not one of those who pay much attention at all to the claim put forward by successive Chief Secretaries that the Treasury is entirely to blame. The Treasury has to obey the Cabinet, and, therefore, it is the Government as a whole that is to blame in the matter, and I cannot conceive that if the Chief Secretary went to the Cabinet, explained the circumstances, and insisted upon the Treasury providing the necessary money his demand would be refused. It is only a temporary proposal we are making, and a comparatively small amount of money would be required to tide over the interval between now and the consideration of the larger question in the Report. I would urge upon the Chief Secretary that, after all, it is in his power to have this thing settled. The right hon. Gentleman is in the position of insisting that he shall be given the means of preserving the peace and tranquillity of this district, and if he cares to take that attitude no Cabinet would be able to resist his demand. I have in my hand some correspondence from which I wish to read a few extracts, because it affords an instance of another estate which has not been mentioned at all, and shows the extraordinary injustice and confusion that has arisen in Ireland. This correspondence has been sent to me by the solicitors of the landlord concerned, so that I am giving the case from the landlord's point of view and not from the point of view of the tenant. It relates to the Digby estate in the County of Galway. I will give the name of the solicitors if required, but I may mention that they are an eminent Dublin firm. Here is the letter of theirs, dated 22nd February this year, written to the Secretary of the Congested Districts Board— Dear Sir.—On the 6th of January last, we wrote to you informing you that Mr. Digby would have to make arrangements for re-letting of the grazing lands and asking you whether your Board intended to have the estate inspected as promised or not. You acknowledged the receipt of our letter and said it would be considered by the Board. Under these circumstances we advised Mr. Digby to wait until we heard what the Board's decision was. We had a visit from him to-day, and he says that he will either have to let the lands lie derelict or lot them for eleven months grazing from the 1st prox, and we told him we would write to you and ask you to let us know by Tuesday morning whether he was to make the letting or not. He has gone down to-day to arrange about the letting and is returning on Wednesday morning. We do not think that your Board have treated Mr. Digby very fairly having regard to the following facts: Mr. Digby offered this estate to the Estates Commissioners, and the papers were before them when he received a letter from you some months ago asking if he was willing to sell the estate to the Congested Districts Board. We brought the matter before the Estates Commissioners and they stated they thought Mr. Digby had better deal with your Board as there would be less delay. On the 1st October we sent you the maps and papers and a copy of the letter of the Estates Commissioners, and we asked you if your Board were in a position to make an offer for the estate, as our client was naturally anxious not to lose his priority with the Estates Commissioners if your Board were unable to deal with the estate. On the 4th October, we received a letter from you sending us forms to be filled up which you asked us to return as soon as possible, and you added, the Board will then have the whole of the estate inspected. We spent several days in filling up these forms and we sent them to you filled up in every particular except the price asked, and a couple of days afterwards we called on you and filled in the price, and you then informed us that the papers had been sent to the Chief Inspector who would make an appointment at an early date for the inspection of the estate. Since then we have written you several letters which you said you would bring before your Board, but we have received no answer to these letters save formal acknowledgment. Mr. Digby informed his tenants early in October that he had offered the estate to your Board and that they were sending down to inspect it. Now if he proceeds to let the land for grazing his tenants will think that he has not told them the truth as they would naturally think it inconceivable that your Board having undertaken early in October to inspect the estate should have done nothing in reference to the matter up to the end of February. There will, therefore, probably be considerable ill-will in reference to the letting". On 24th February the Secretary to the Congested Districts Board wrote— With reference to previous correspondence and your letter of 22nd inst., I am directed by the Congested Districts Board to state that pending action of the Government on the Report of the Royal Commission on Congestion, and owing to want of funds for improvement purposes the Board are not at present in a position to proceed with the purchase of above estate. On 26th February the solicitors wrote— Mr. Digby has called on us and informed us that he read Mr. O'Brien's letter to the tenants and thus satisfied them of his good faith, and that in order to facilitate matters they fixed a price for the purchase of the tenanted land, viz., twenty years of the present rents of the holdings and for the untenanted land such price as your Board or the Estates Commissioners should fix. They also agreed to his letting the untenanted lands for grazing pending completion of the sale. So far as the landlord and the tenant were concerned they are both willing to carry out the arrangement entered into with the Congested Districts Board, but that Board wrote back to say that it was impossible for them owing to want of money for improvements to go on with the purchase, and they wind up by saying this remarkable thing on 27th February— The Board regret that owing to the want of funds for improvement works they have had to postpone the consideration of about ninety estates offered to them which they were most anxious to proceed with. My hon. friend the Member for East Mayo used an argument which I fancy will be heard of a good deal in the future. He asks with what face can the Government come here and ask for compulsory powers, on the ground that it is impossible to purchase without compulsory powers, when here you have the Congested Districts Board stating that there are ninety estates offered without compulsion which they are anxious to buy, and which they cannot buy, because the Treasury has stopped the funds. The position is absurd. I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman or the Government to provide money for the purchase of all these ninety estates. We are making a much more limited demand, namely, that at any rate the Congested Districts Board should be immediately put in a position to deal with those estates which have not only been offered to them, but which they have actually agreed to buy, in regard to which the landlord and tenant have agreed as to the price, where the farms have been inspected, and where everything has been arranged. We are only asking that in those cases the Government should see that the undertaking given is carried out. If the Government persist in allowing this breach of faith with the landlords on the one hand, and the tenants on the other, no one can have any wonder if the result is serious trouble upon those estates. These poor tenants have been looking forward so long to the ending of their relations with the landlord, they thought that at last they had almost achieved their object, and in many cases they had actually agreed to very high prices for the purpose of ending the existing relations between landlord and tenant. Those tenants are now to be told that by the action of the Treasury those agreements are to be broken, and they are to go back to the old condition of things. On the Ventry Estate the landlord has behaved very well, and no one can blame him if he tries to recover his rents. It would be hard to blame the landlord in circumstances like that, but will it not be equally difficult to blame the tenants if they resent this breaking up of agreements, enter into combinations, say that they will not tolerate it, and stand out and refuse to pay any rent at all? You will have on these eight or ten estates where agreements have been made and where they are now going to be openly violated, open war before you know where you are. Therefore I ask the Government and every hon. Member in this House, who is anxious to see legislation in the future on the lines of the Report which we hope to receive before Easter, whether it is not certain that if this state of things is precipitated it will render the chance of passing such legislation almost impossible. My hon. friend the Member for East Mayo pointed out that the money which has been stopped is required for the improvement of the estates, and not for their purchase. The Treasury, of course, have no power to forbid the Congested Districts Board from purchasing. All they can do is to refuse to provide them with money for improvements, and certainly, in my opinion, the Congested Districts Board are bound in honour and in duty, whether the Treasury acts in this unwise manner with reference to money for improvements or whether they do not, to go on and fulfil their undertakings and complete the purchase of those estates which they have agreed to purchase. That will not settle the matter, of course, but at any rate, so far as the Congested Districts Board are concerned, they are bound, I think, in honour to take that course. Among his many offices in Ireland the right hon. Gentleman is, I think, President of the Congested Districts Board.


Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover will correct me if I am wrong when I state I that am not technically president. I am an ex officio member of the Board and whenever I am present I preside.


I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had some doubt as to his real position, and that he has had to appeal to the experience of his predecessor, because I suppose that even yet the right hon. Gentleman has not quite grasped all the positions which he is supposed to occupy in Ireland. At any rate, he is a member of the Congested Districts Board, and whenever he is present, he presides, and therefore he may be taken as in a large degree responsible for that Board. I say that, first of all, its duty is to put this matter before the Treasury in such a way as will make it impossible for the Treasury to refuse the moderate demand that has been made. Apart from the Treasury altogether I say that the duty and obligation lies upon the Congested Districts Board, whether the Treasury does its duty or not, to go on and complete those purchases. Under these circumstances I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us a satisfactory answer. There is the greatest possible anxiety in Ireland and upon these benches, because we are all anxious that we should not be driven into turmoil, disorder, and trouble on those estates, and yet I see no means of avoiding it unless the Board fulfil their obligations and the Treasury give them the means of doing it.


I wish the House were better filled in order that the vastness of the task of relieving congestion in Ireland might be fully realised by hon. Members. It is right that the question should be in the most striking manner brought before the notice of the House. I have already expressed my own opinion upon the size of the transaction and its cost. I think we are all agreed upon its importance. At the same time it should, I think, be remembered that the Congested Districts Board no doubt has been entrusted with powers and duties which, if they discharged them to their full extent, would involve enormous income and expenditure. That income they have never had. It was small to start with, and it has been increased from time to time by different statutes, and at last under the Act of 1903, their statutory income reached the sum of £86,250. They have that statutory income, and, as the hon. Member for East Mayo pointed out, they have powers of borrowing from the Board of Works upon the enhanced value of their holdings, which materially increases their income, but these are the only sources from which they have ever been able to derive funds, not sufficient, or anything like sufficient, to deal with the whole problem of congestion or the relief of congestion. But they have dealt with it as well as they could. They have been in existence now for some fourteen or fifteen years and the result of their labours has been that they have purchased holdings or agreed to purchase holdings in those districts to the extent of 14,536 and it is calculated that there are 84,958 holdings within their territories. Consequently they have not been able really to deal with one-sixth of the problem during the years they have been in office. It is only fair to say that of late they have had this extended income of £86,250. That is all they have got. I am told that the Treasury has suddenly come down and stopped the money which the Congested Districts Board were entitled to assume they would get. That is not the case. The Treasury has never put the Congested Districts Board on the Votes. It has been left entirely to deal with this enormous problem—far too vast for any board with such a limited income to deal with—on the £86,250 and the power of borrowing from the Board of Works on the enhanced value of the holdings in consequence of their improvements. Therefore, whatever else may be said against the Treasury, it cannot, at all events, be said that they are stopping the work. This is an absolutely new demand which is made by the Congested Districts Board. I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite that the Board have at different times indicated in their Reports that they have not got a sufficient income to enable them at all satisfactorily to grapple with the vast problem which has been entrusted to them. The hon. Member for West Kerry has referred to the things they must do—the improvement of estates, fencing, draining, making roads and the like, as well as fishing and other duties which they are supposed to do. But even confining themselves to land, which I agree with the hon. Member opposite is the main thing, and the making of these holdings as far as possible economic, they cannot be said to have had any very particular success in that direction, because I am afraid that even on the Dillon estate, which is their great achievement, the holdings are not what are generally considered economic, though no doubt they are a vast improvement on what they were before the estate was purchased and improved by the Board. That is a great achievement, but it cannot be said to have accomplished the great object of making the holdings economic. They are still much too small to deserve that title. I am not underrating the importance and the gravity of the present situation, but it is not fair to create the impression that the Treasury have stopped the source of supply which hitherto has flowed into the coffers of this Congested Districts Board; that is not the case. The fact of the matter is that the Congested Districts Board have lost sight of the fact that every acre of land brought before us at our meetings has to be improved. I do not wonder, speaking as a member of the Board, that we have run short of money. Though my connection with it has been very short, I quite recognise that my own withers in this matter are not entirely unwrung. It might have been better if on one or two occasions when I have been present I had been more ruthless in pointing out how impossible it was for the Congested Districts Board with this income to go on purchasing to the extent they have done in the past, without seeing their way to improving the estates in anything like a reasonable time; but I quite feel that the atmosphere of Rutland Square, Dublin, is a little different from that of the Treasury. It is admitted that every acre of land they buy must some day be improved, and whether it can be improved, and this great work of relieving congestion carried on, really depends on the generosity, or the justice, of this House, whatever is the right name to apply to it, because it involves undoubtedly a very considerable increase unless this sort of thing is to drag on for sixty or seventy years, which is unthinkable. Unless it is to drag on that enormous amount of time, this House, at no very distant date, will have to make up its mind whether it is to continue this work of improving holdings, this work of teaching people how to carry on their holdings, discharging obligations of that kind of a most expensive character, or to leave it off'. This is a question which will shortly be raised before this House in the best way that it can be raised, namely, by a demand for a considerable increase—an enormous increase—of the funds to be appropriated either to this Congested Districts Board, or to a renovated Congested Districts Board, or to some other Board altogether. Therefore, I want the House to recognise that this Board has really for some time past come to the end of its resources. The reason why, at the end of last year, it was harder up than usual was that it was disappointed of a sum of £158,000 which it expected to receive from the resale of land. These sales became very difficult owing to the action of the people who had to sign the agreements. They were often away from England or Ireland, and, therefore, delays sometimes occurred. We were very short indeed at the end of the financial year, and we had to go to the Treasury to get a loan of £25,000 to enable us to make both ends meet, and we were rather more subject to their criticisms than usual. The Treasury, after all, has not the power to prevent us buying. We can buy these estates through the machinery of the Land Act, and we can pay the interest in the manner provided for by the Act; but I own that I had always felt that the question which pressed upon us was how far we were justified in going on purchasing estates when we knew perfectly well that we had already more than a million pounds worth of land upon our hands, and we really had not the means of doing the necessary improvements. These necessary improvements are calculated at different amounts, and they will be considerable. Consequently I thought, and still think, that it is undesirable for the Board to be indifferent to the amount of land which it purchases. I thought it would be obliged to limit its purchases, and as the hon. Member for East Mayo pointed out in a passage which he read, that has been the course adopted. In 1904–5 the amount for estates purchased was £649,000, in 1905–6 it dropped to £346,000, and in 1906–7 it dropped to £108,861. I therefore say that the Congested Districts Board have realised for some time past that they should not go on buying estates which have been offered to them. The hon. Gentleman says that ninety estates have been offered them.


These are the figures given by the Executive of the Board.


The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct in the figures. Probably ninety estates could be purchased now. The landlords are very anxious to sell, and the tenants are very eager that the Congested Districts Board should come in and purchase, but there is no use in telling us that we are a body that can do this by a stroke of the pen. Everybody besides the right hon. Member for Dover recognises that the quicker the land is sold the better it will be not only for the tenants but for the whole community; but it is no use in setting the Congested Districts Board, with its income of £86,200, and what it can borrow from the Board of Works, to do a gigantic work of this kind. The House of Commons must realise that this great work of relief which is being done by the Congested Districts Board is quite distinct from the ordinary purchase of estates by the Estates Commissioners. It is an excellent work, and difficulties have arisen in connection with the subject, particularly in connection with migration. There are two schools of thought in Ireland about the subject. Some people think that it is best, after all, to leave it to the Estates Commissioners, that the tenants show an anxiety far beyond their resources and beyond the economic value of their land, and that the habit of spoonfeeding should be left off. Well, I do not take that view myself. I think that so far as the West of Ireland 8 concerned, it is altogether a mistaken view, and, moreover, that it would be a most violent retrogression from the steps already taken. What the House must realise is that operations of this kind besides their great cost are sometimes of a disappointing character. I do not wish to cast any blame on the Congested Districts Board because they do not at once buy these ninety or 100 estate which are now in the market; nor do I even blame the Treasury because it does not come at once to the relief of the Congested Districts Board with a supplementary estimate of £50,000, or £60,000 to enable them to go on until such time as this House makes up its mind what it is going to do in this matter. There are some ninety estates which the Congested Districts Board have contemplated buying. As a lawyer I cannot altogether agree that any contract for purchase has been entered into, or even that the estates have been thoroughly inspected, but I quite agree that when negotiations are opened up everything leads to the conclusion that a price will be fixed, and that the matter will be carried through. There is then great rejoicing, everybody is glad, and the Congested Districts Board is raised to a momentary popularity. But we have not done more than that, though that is quite enough in Ireland to impose an obligation on the Board to do all that it can to proceed with the purchase of these estates. I quite followed what the hon. Member for Kerry said about the Ventry estate in County Kerry. I admit that it was eminently au estate which it was desirable to purchase and proceed with the improvements. The owner has shown the utmost conciliation, and has dealt very generously with the arrears of the tenants. The Congested Districts Board can proceed with the purchase of that estate as speedily as possible, but having purchased it they will not be able, for a considerable time at all events, to proceed very far with its improvement. I quite recognise that there is an obligation in regard to this estate which strikes me rather personally, for I think I was present at one of the meetings of the Congested Districts Board when the matter was discussed, and although I had some misgiving I was unable to resist the claim for the purchase of the estate. I did not then realise, I did not know, that we were going to be disappointed by not receiving anything like the large sum anticipated from the proceeds of the sale of land. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will understand that the Congested Districts Board have not abandoned the hope of being able to proceed with the purchase of those estates, although I am afraid the work of improving them will have to stand over for some considerable time. The Congested Districts Board have this great task before them, and for years past we have pressed upon the Treasury the importance of giving us a larger sum. I do not take the view which some people take, that Ministers occupy water-tight compartments, and I am not going to the Treasury to insist on their giving me the money which I think is absolutely essential for Ireland, and at the same time refuse to listen when the Treasury reminds me of the great obligations that are put upon them, and that they have not the amount of money they would like to have. I cannot resign oftener than once a week, or even threaten it. I have to make up my mind whether in the matter of higher education, of the salaries of teachers, of railway conditions, or of the Congested Districts Board, I am going really to insist manfully. [An HON. MEMBER on the Irish Benches: I insist upon them all] If I insisted upon them all, I would be in a position of despair. Quite seriously, upon this matter it is no use telling the Treasury that they must give the money irrespective of the condition of the Treasury. I quite agree that the Congested Districts Board will have to be supplied with a great deal more money than at present, and that the House will very soon have to make up its mind as to how that money is to be obtained. In the meantime we are all looking forward to the Report of Lord Dudley's Commission. I have some rough knowledge as to the lines on which that Report may proceed, but I know enough of it to say that it will raise questions of great gravity and the utmost importance, and I hope the House will make up its mind and resolutely set itself to the task of considering what provision it has to make for the relief of congestion in the West of Ireland. When we get that Report, we shall be in a position to consider the best way of dealing with the interests of the West of Ireland. In the meantime all I can say is that I should be very well pleased if the Treasury were to place a Supplementary Estimate upon the Table in order that we might be supplied with larger funds to enable us to proceed with the purchase of sixty or seventy estates. I cannot altogether wonder, however, that the Treasury have a difficulty in this matter, having regard to the circumstance that never before have they agreed to augment the statutory income of the Board. We must have a Supplementary Estimate, but also, I imagine, a Bill, and I can hold out no hope of any such Supplementary Estimate appearing on the Paper. Therefore, for some time to come the Congested Districts Board will have to economise, and the result of that economy seems to involve the cessation of the grants to the parish committees. I know that these parish committees do a very excellent work in encouraging cleanliness and sanitary arrangements. I do not believe that any of them are on the job, but that all the parish committees are doing a good and useful work in sanitation. Unfortunately, when you have to cut down expenses you must often begin by reducing something to which you are particularly attached. I cannot promise, or hold out any hope, that we shall be in funds which will enable us to continue the grant of £11,000 which these parish committees receive at present. I am very sorry for it, because I think it will be a cessation of undoubtedly good and useful work, but we have not the money. The Board has an income and a large sum which it hopes to recover, and which it certainly will recover, from the re-sale of land. Here we have 1,377,480 acres of land on our hands, which have not yet been re-sold, and we have spent £238,473 on improvements. We are ourselves, therefore, somewhat congested, having regard to the smallness of our means; and though I am as fully alive as anyone to the value of the work which the Congested Districts Board have done, and although we have not the means of carrying on all these works at present, I hope to use all my influence with the Board, and all my energy to see that they do not drop the negotiations for the purchase of these estates where the negotiations have already been opened. That is all I can say, except that I trust the time will very soon some when the Congested Districts Board or some other body will be entrusted with sufficient funds to enable them to carry on this great work quickly and usefully, so as to make some impression within the next ten or fifteen years.

MR. WALTER LONG () Dublin, S.

I do not desire to occupy the attention of the House more than a few moments, but I wish to add my testimony to the value of some of the work of the Congested Districts Board. I gather from what the Chief Secretary said, that when we have the Report of the Royal Commission in our hands we shall then have an opportunity, not only of discussing the action of the Congested Districts Board in regard to the development of estates and the improvement they are able to effect in connection with the economic holdings, but we shall also have what is even more important, the opportunity of discussing the whole position of the Board, and whether it may be possible and desirable after the experience of twenty years to make some readjustment of the duties, so as to leave the Board more free to do the work which it was intended to do in the development of these estates. I cannot say that I altogether follow the Chief Secretary when he says it is impossible for any Minister to dissociate himself from his colleagues and the rest of the Government. He says that someone made that statement casually on this side of the House. As a matter of fact, it was a statement made repeatedly by members of the Government who have denied responsibility for the action of their colleagues and indeed taken a line directly opposite to that of their colleagues. I am glad to know they have returned to the older and bettor ways, and I congratulate the Chief Secretary on his return to virtue. I regret that that return to better ways is accompanied by an amount of depression which I think has rarely been equalled on the Treasury Bench. Really, the right hon. Gentleman's views to-day about himself are so pessimistic that I am bound to offer him some good cheer and say that if this awful fate is to descend upon him of which he told us to-day, although we think he is in error, we cannot allow him to write his own epitaph in the language which he has used to-day, but we shall ask leave to write it ourselves. Subject to the views of party we hope that the right hon. Gentleman will long be spared to adorn the position which he now occupies and that he has no grounds for these melancholy forebodings. With regard to the actual work of the Congested Districts Board, I feel that it is impossible for any Chief Secretary to ignore its importance and value. In the second place, I think it would be a mistaken policy to try and prevent the Board carrying out purchases which are not only absolutely desirable, but are possibly offered on terms which may never occur again. I always found the Treasury most ready to listen to any suggestion put before them. The Treasury did say from time to time that the Congested Districts Board ought to regularise themselves and their procedure more than they had done, in the first place, by anticipating the work they were likely to do in greater completeness, and by taking the Treasury into their confidence rather more in advance than they do now. I had, of course, a very short experience of the Congested Districts Board. I was in office only a year, and present at only about half-a-dozen meetings of the Congested Districts Board, but it was apparent to me that the Board would be wise to enter into some arrangement with the Treasury whereby their commitments might be considered in advance and a more complete programme put before the Treasury. It is not for me to say whether or not the right hon. Gentleman ought to have succeeded in getting more money, but speaking on behalf of those on this side of the House I am free to say I do not believe any money could be better or more usefully spent in the real interests of Ireland than that which is spent by the Congested Districts Board. I have visited many of their estates and I have seen how completely the face of the land has been altered by making roads, draining and dealing with flooding, and a variety of things which have made profitable cultivation of the lands possible, and opened up a new future for the people who live on them. Therefore, I believe that every section of opinion in Ireland would say that, badly as money may be wanted for other industries or for application in other directions, this is the most urgent as well as one of the most beneficial ways in which money can be spent at the present time. Therefore I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will have the support and concurrence of those sitting on this side of the House in any efforts he makes for strengthening the hands of the Congested Districts Board. Before I sit down I should like to say that I think it would be most unfair and unjust, however important this work of the Congested Districts Board may be, that anything should be done to put back the transfer of land from owner to occupier in the ordinary course which was the primary object of all the Irish land legislation which has passed through this House. I cannot help thinking there is some overlapping between the Estate Commission and the Congested Districts Board, but I do not think you would be wise to hand over the duties connected with the development, charitable work as it is in its commencement, from the Congested Districts Board to the Estate Commissioners. I think it is necessary to have a body like the Congested Districts Board to do this work which, although it is part of the scheme of land purchase and land development, is in reality a totally different work from that of the Estate Commissioners. I believe if you are really going to make the congested part of Ireland anything approaching prosperous, if you are going to give the people an opportunity of developing themselves, making themselves more prosperous, you must have some body for sonic years to come which will direct that work and initiate a great deal of it. Of course the work of the Congested Districts Board is open to criticism—what is not open to criticism after twenty years work? But in the face of the extraordinary difficulty, and without any light to guide them, they have made but few mistakes, and in regard to this development of land they have very little to regret and a great deal to be proud of, and if it is possible for the Treasury to find a little more money, I do not think they could find it for a better purpose, or one on which public money could be better spent.

MR. ANNAN BRYCE () Inverness Burghs

trusted that the Secretary to the Treasury and the First Lord of the Treasury would listen to the appeal which had been made to them, because there was no doubt that if an opportunity of doing something for the Congested Districts Board was passed over now a great many evils would show themselves in an aggravated form. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had told them that the great danger was that chances might be lost in regard to the purchase of estates in Ireland, and thus a great opportunity of carrying out a comprehensive scheme might be allowed to pass. During the months which must elapse before any legislation could be carried, there would be a great many estates in the market, the purchase of which must ultimately be a matter of extreme importance to any person who had a comprehensive scheme in his mind. Therefore, it would be a great pity if the chance of purchasing these estates was lost by any niggardliness at the present moment. Another point was that the administration of the Board necessarily must be uneconomical when it was hampered for the want of the necessary funds to carry on its work. The administration as a matter of fact must be wasteful, for the Board would have in hand a large amount of land which it was incapable of treating properly by the full employment of its staff. He urged the Chief Secretary to make one more attempt to get from the Treasury a grant on a liberal scale, so that the work of the County District Board might be carried on.

MR. HAYDEN () Roscommon, S.

said the speeches to which they had listened on all sides of the House showed that the question which they had raised evoked no party controversy whatever. He heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin with considerable satisfaction, because he said what his hon. friends had been saying—that of all the questions in Ireland which demanded the attention of the Chief Secretary and the expenditure of public money there was none more pressing, urgent, and important than the settlement of the Western Province. Since his appointment the Chief Secretary had made several speeches of a sympathetic and courageous character in the House. Some of them had helped to make the right hon. Gentleman's way so far as it was possible an easy one, but the speech to which they had just listened was one which, though not lacking in sympathy showed a want of courage in dealing with a matter which had been described by all parties as most urgent and important. The speech would be received in the West of Ireland especially with grave disappointment. A question deeply affecting the lives of all the people in those districts—affecting their several conditions and affecting the preservation of the law and of the peace—had been brought before the House in a convincing manner. The case was admitted by all sides, and yet the Chief Secretary would do nothing more than hold up his hands in despair and say the Treasury could do nothing. It was hard to blame Irish Members of Parliament, and it was hard to blame poor peasants in the West of Ireland, if they lost patience over such a question, the importance and the urgency of which was admitted on all sides, not merely that night but for many years past. During the past winter, and indeed up to the opening of this session of Parliament, there was a considerable amount—though not so much as was made to appear in the British Press—of illegality committed in the western portion of Ireland in connection with the distribution of or the attempt to distribute the grazing land amongst the people. What was it that slackened that disorder, that illegality, or whatever it might be called? It was the promise made by the Chief Secretary in the first speech he made this session that during the present session of Parliament a Bill would be introduced and pressed forward by him for the settlement of the question. What chance had that Bill of passing? After the case made out to-day, there was not the smallest chance that the promise made by the Chief Secretary in the beginning of the session could be fulfilled, or if fulfilled by the passage of the Act, that it would be carried into effect by the Treasury. The effect of the speech they had heard that evening would be to bring despair to the hearts of the people and to make them feel that they must again take the law into their own hands. When that was done then the purse-strings of the Treasury would be opened, because pressure would come from the proper quarter. In the early part of this session they lad Supplementary Estimates for thousands of pounds in connection with prosecutions and extra policing in the West of Ireland. The ratepayers in those poor districts, where already the rates had reached an almost impossible point, had been threatened with the cost of extra police, and the taxpayers of the three countries were saddled with extra taxes for policing and the carrying on of prosecutions in various parts of Ireland, all arising out of this subject. When the Chief Secretary and his law officers went to the Treasury and asked them to give thousands of pounds in respect of extra police, and prosecutions for disorder arising out of the failure of the Government to put the law into force in favour of these people, then the Treasury willingly opened their purse-strings and ladled out thousands to punish people for violating the law. They asked the Chief Secretary or the Government as a whole to consider the means of preventing a violation of the law. They asked that a grave problem, the seriousness of which was admitted by Chief Secretary after Chief Secretary, and by all parties in the House, should receive consideration, having regard to the force of argument brought in favour of it and not as a result of illegal pressure, to which the people might be forced to resort. If the Chief Secretary could do nothing better than tell them that seven or eight estates in respect of which the Congested Districts Board had practically entered into a contract would be purchased, and that all other purchases would be suspended until the report of the Commission and the passage of an Act of Parliament following upon it—if that was all the Chief Secretary was able to tell them, he could assure him that the western problem would certainly engage his attention during the next few months in a manner which it had not done since he assumed his present office. That was not meant as a threat. It was a plain statement of fact which he was sure the Chief Secretary did not take as a threat. No one who had been brought into contact with the government of Ireland would take it as anything more than a plain statement of fact. Let Members from Ireland do what they would, trouble would and must arise in connection with this matter. The Chief Secretary had made a very remarkable statement that afternoon, and the same statement was made by the right hon. Member for South Dublin almost in the same words. That statement was that when sitting at a meeting of the Congested Districts Board in Dublin it was almost impossible when the question of purchase came up for consideration to resist the temptation to go on with the purchase. That statement might also explain the position which Nationalist Members occupied, and the words they spoke sometimes which some hon. Gentlemen taunted them with as being threats. They were brought into contact with this question, not by sitting in a Board room in Dublin, but in the bogs and fields and the poor cottages in the West of Ireland, where the people were looking forward with hope to Parliament. They knew that the one thing that kept the people within the law at all was the hope which Nationalist Members from time to time felt justified in holding out to them that Parliament would do something for them, They knew that ninety landlords had offered their estates to the Congested Districts Board, and they had been informed that nothing could be done because there was no money. Money could be found for almost everything except the pacification of the people of Ireland. Any amount could be found to prosecute them, but none could be found to bring peace and contentment to their homes. Millions could be found for wars in various portions of the world, and even for the suppression of the people of Ireland, but the statutory limit could not be exceeded when it was a question of arriving at a final settlement of the most urgent problem that could be faced by the government of Ireland or any other country. The Nationalist Party appealed to the Chief Secretary not finally to close the door with the promise that he would do his best to see that the contracts entered into by the Congested Districts Board with regard to these seven or eight estates should be carried out, but that he would go further. They asked him to go to the Treasury and insist that money should be advanced unstintedly if necessary, for the purpose of settling with as many of these estates as it was possible for the Congested Districts Board to get through. The work of improvement must be slower than the work of purchase, but if the right hon. Gentleman had met the people in the way the Nationalist Members had, he would find that the moment an estate passed from the landlord to the Congested Districts Board, the people were prepared to wait for a considerable time for the work of improvement to be carried out, because they knew that once an estate passed into the hands of the public authority it was dedicated to their use for ever, and that, the landlord having passed away from them, it would only be a few months or a year before they entered into their holding, with a chance of making a good living in the future. In his own county there was a considerable amount of untenanted land which had been purchased by the Congested Districts Board. Some of it had been in the hands of the Board for years. Before that land was purchased there was the gravest discontent and grave danger of disorder in connection with it. The people naturally desired that the moment the land was purchased it should be divided amongst them, but they had not quarrelled with the decision of the Congested Districts Board to keep it in its hands for some time until other land was added to it for the purposes of a scheme of a large character. Wherever land had been purchased by the Board, whether the tenanted land had passed into the ownership of the tenants, or had remained in the hands of the Congested Districts! Board, trouble of all sorts had ceased. They could promise—such remarks were not held out as a threat; they would be absolutely ignorant men if they held any such language—that all danger of disorder would disappear from any district where the Congested Districts Board could buy the laud, even if it were not divided and the work of improvement immediately carried out. Reference had been made to the Maberley estate. Part of the parish in which it was situated was scheduled as congested. Though that state of things there had existed ever since the Board came into existence, not one single thing had been done, not one penny had been spent by the Board in that parish, the condition of which urgently called for action. Very large rents had been offered to the Board. The grazier and the landlord were willing to sell, and the tenants were almost clamouring to purchase, yet the land was refused because the money could not be obtained. He scarcely thought it necessary to assure the right hon. Gentleman that in Ireland he could not devote himself to any work which was of such importance, or so urgent and necessary for the peace, prosperity, and settlement of the people, as that now brought under his notice. He would again urge upon him to go to the Treasury, or rather to the Cabinet, and impress upon that body that he could not be responsible for the peace, order, and tranquillity of the country unless he was able to treat it not merely in accordance with his own wishes but in accordance with what he had come to know were the character and wants of the congested districts. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not be content with the promise he had made, but would go very much further, and loosen the purse strings of the Treasury in regard to the ninety other estates which were offered. If he did that, he would make his own task easier as well as that of the Attorney-General for Ireland. At the same time the right hon. Gentleman would further his own work of passing through that House the amending Bill which he had promised later on. All these things together would help to bring peace to the people of the districts, and excite hope for the future. All he asked the right hon. Gentleman to say was that the good work of the parish committees would be carried on, and not stopped, or even suspended During the existence of the Royal Commission for almost two years witnesses were called from all parts of the country, and not one spoke against the work of the parish committees; on the contrary, everyone, landlord and tenant, grazier, Nationalist or Tory, spoke in the highest terms of the beneficial and economical character of the work carried out by those bodies. An awful responsibility would be incurred by whoever stopped the progress of the work. The danger to the health of the people alone should be sufficient warrant for spending far more money than the few thousands of pounds expended in connection with these parish committees. He appealed to the Government to keep this work in progress, so that the people might feel chat something was being done, without any undue pressure from themselves, and that they might look with some hope to the future.

*MR. GOOCH () Bath

said he had heard with very great satisfaction the promise of the Chief Secretary that in the Bill he proposed to introduce when the Commission had reported he intended to ask the House to make a substantial addition to the income of the Congested Districts Board. On the other hand, he was very disappointed to hear the Chief Secretary say that he did not think it would be possible for him to obtain an interim contribution for that Board. It seemed to him very improbable that the Bill would be able to get through until nearly Christmas, and it was by no means certain that it would get through at all. In any case any relief which the Board could look forward to under that Bill would probably not be available until a year had elapsed. Therefore, it seemed to him that the Chief Secretary ought if possible to make a renewed effort to get out of the administrative difficulties, and obtain the comparatively small sum of money necessary, not to start new work, but to prevent the lapse of the old. He would have thought from the experience of last year that the Appropriation Act would have given him the instrument by which he could carry out the obvious device of the House. He only intervened in the debate for a moment because he happened to be one of the very few Members on that side of the House who knew the West of Ireland well, who had seen the successful operations of the Board, and who knew its officials—very excellent officials they were. There was no work of any Department in Ireland which was better worth helping than that of the Congested Districts Board, and none which gave a better return for the money invested. If he might be permitted to say so, there was a certain unreality about such a debate unless Members of that House knew the particular part of the country now under discussion. Anyone who had ever been in the West of Ireland, and seen the condition in which the people lived, the degradation and almost starvation, and the tuberculosis which arose in consequence, had with him a vision from which he could not escape. The Congested Districts Board was the only authority in Ireland which had no enemy. It had a certain number of critics, but it was the one Board in the country which obtained the enthusiastic approval and confidence of all parties. They owed a debt of thanks to the Leader of the Opposition for having founded it. They had heard that afternoon that the land operations of the Board were of very great importance. Money put in the land farmed by the Congested Districts Board was much safer than the money put into an estate by the Estate Commissioners, and handed over without any improvement at all to the buyer, in other words, handed to a man who had no capital to improve the land. Money given to the Congested Districts Board to buy land, and the land having been bought and improved until such time as the whole character and atmosphere of that estate had been changed from a condition of despair to a condition of prosperity and hopefulness, was as good an investment of British money as any that could be found. He should especially regret the lapse of the work of the parish committees. It had been his good fortune to see their work not only on the Dillon estate, but in several other parts of the congested districts of the West of Ireland, and he was bound to say that he agreed that the money spent by these committees went further than most money spent by the Government. Instead of paying the whole expenses of necessary repairs, necessary housing reform, and increased accommodation, all they did was to give a comparatively small stimulus to local effort. When he was in those parts of Ireland he was immensely struck with the extraordinary results of a £5 note received from the village committee. First of all, money was given, and then a number of the people around lent their services free of charge to convert an insanitary hovel into a place where a family could live in comfort, with a shed attached where cattle could be turned in. He urged the Chief Secretary either by the Appropriation Act or by some other financial expedient to help the work of these committees, and to see that at any rate part of the expectation which had been raised as to the work of the Congested Districts Boards was not disappointed.

MR. BARBIE () Londonderry, N.

said they were all aware that a Commission had been sitting for almost two years, but they were not likely to have its Report before them in a manner which would allow them to deal effectively with it, at any rate during the current session, and for that reason, if it were possible for Unionists from Ireland still more to support that portion of the claim that had been made from the Notionalist benches they would desire to do so. They rejoiced to recall that this important Board was called into being by a Unionist Government, and while the Unionist Party were in power they did not hesitate to endow it with ample funds to perform the important work it was called upon to do. It was notable that it was only when a Radical Government had come into power that this policy of cheeseparing and whittling down its income had been adopted. It was necessary to recall to the House that this cheeseparing was quite in keeping with the whole manner in which the Government was at present administering the Land Act of 1903. Last year there was something over £13,500,000 worth of land for sale in Ireland. Another year had passed and the Government did not provide more than £5,000,000, with this result, that taking into account estates that had been purchased but not yet settled for by the Congested Districts Board and the Estates Commissioners, there was at present almost £30,000,000 worth of land waiting to be paid for by the Government. He was sorry to have to say that it was becoming increasingly plain that the policy of the present Government was only part of a larger policy to strangle and hang up voluntary land purchase in Ireland. There were 100,000 tenant farmers who had purchased their farms, some of them so far back as four years, and who were waiting very patiently indeed considering the circumstances in the hope that the Government would provide the means of placing them on the land as occupying owners. He was sorry that this state of affairs should exist. He was not going to attempt to emulate the violent language used by the last speaker below the gangway. An hon. Member who informed a Minister that if his demand was not complied with the people would take the law into their own hands used a distinct and unmistakable threat. Then the hon. Member went on to say again that if the problem was not dealt with it would assume an importance it had not assumed before the right hon. Gentleman took office. He hoped the Chief Secretary would not be intimidated by such language. He was happy to acknowledge that it was in startling contrast to the statements made by the three Nationalist Members who had previously addressed the House. He had every desire to associate himself with most of what had fallen from them in approval of the work of the Congested Districts Board, and he regretted that there was so much work for such a Board to do in Ireland. Unionist Members from Ireland did not happen to have included in any of their constituencies any congested districts, but that he hoped did not make them the less sympathetic with the needs of such districts, and they regretted that so much needed to be done for them. He respectfully urged that sufficient funds might be in some way or other found for continuing the necessary allowances to these parish committees. They were doing the most excellent work. He was happy to think that as regarded the great problem of tuberculosis a much healthier and more hopeful spirit prevailed in Ireland, and in so far as sanitary improvements and improving the dwellings of the people was concerned they would be only too pleased to associate themselves with the request that at least in this lesser degree the demand which had been made to the Chief Secretary might be conceded. He had only to add that they were not out of sympathy with the demand that had been made, but they were anxious, in whatever further grants were made in this connection, that the legitimate demands of the tenant purchasers who had made voluntary arrangements with their landlords should not have their claims further delayed, or be unreasonably dealt with as they undoubtedly at present were by the Government.

MR. HUGH LAW () Donegal, W.

said it would be evident to everybody who had followed the debate that it formed a most curious and ironical commentary upon the pretensions of that House to deal with Ireland in such a way as to do everything which Ireland could do, if she were free to do it, for herself. In. every quarter of the House there had been complete unanimity. It was true that the last speaker had thought it necessary to challenge them about one or two phrases, but they could hardly have expected he would make a speech without doing that. Their demand was put forward in a very moderate fashion. It was supported from the benches opposite, and by the right hon. Member for South Dublin; there had been no note of dissent, and the Chief Secretary had agreed that the work, which they were only asking should not be stopped, was not only useful and desirable, but absolutely necessary—work which must be done sooner or later and which ought to be done sooner rather than later, if the very object itself was not to be entirely defeated. And yet in spite of that they were told nothing could be done. They had made three demands. They had asked, in the first place, that the work of the parish committees should not be suspended; secondly, that negotiations actually set on foot, and almost completed, for the sale of particular estates should not be broken off; and thirdly, that the pledges to which that House stood committed to deal with the Western problem in a large spirit should be carried out. On all these three points all the Chief Secretary was in a position to say apparently was: "We will not stop the work. We will not go back upon what we have actually promised in the case of these six or seven estates." That certainly was a most curious commentary upon the government of Ireland by that House. With regard to the work of the parish committees about which there was absolute unanimity, could anybody suppose that if it were a matter of similar importance to Great Britain, work of that character could be stopped for a matter of some £11,000? Anything more calculated to make the people of Ireland bitter he could not imagine than such a spectacle as they had had that afternoon. The parish committee work had shown promise of being fruitful in a new direction. Quite recently the Gaelic League had made arrangements, he thought with a local doctor in Connemara, to visit the homes of the people to instruct them in the precautions to be taken against the spread of consumption, basing, as he understood, the whole of his treatment upon the system carried out by the parish committees. He did not know what the effect on a scheme of that kind would be of the withdrawal of these grants, but he was afraid it would be disastrous. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be encouraged by this debate to press the demands of Ireland and that he would not take it as hostile to himself. They all believed he was most anxious to do all he possibly could within the very limited powers he had to improve the condition of the country over whose government he presided. He hoped the result of the debate and of the unanimity that had been shown would be to en courage the right hon. Gentleman to bring further pressure to bear upon the Treasury to grant what was after all a very moderate demand, a demand simply for a small temporary grant to enable the good work of the Congested Districts Board to be carried on pending further legislation.

MR. CARLILE () Hertfordshire, St. Albans

said that no one who had visited the West of Ireland would be likely to rise in that debate with other than a truly sympathetic feeling towards the work of the Congested Districts Board. He remembered visiting most of the congested districts in the West of Ireland, and he confessed that he found there a picture which did not agree with that which had been placed before the House by hon. Members below the gangway, who always pitched their descriptions in such a very sorrowful and mournful tone that one would suppose they were in a most distressful condition. That was not the result of his observations in Ireland. Casting back one's mind to 1879 and 1880 and contrasting the condition then and now obtaining, nothing could be more marked than the vast improvement which was largely the result of the excellent work of this Board. In the years 1879 and 1880 in the depth of winter he went from one little holding to another to see for himself what the real condition of the people was, with a view to getting them assistance in this country. That he was pleased to say he was able to obtain to the extent of some hundreds of pounds. Comparing the then condition of things with the present state of affairs the cottages were vastly improved, outbuildings had been added, and altogether there was a condition of things which was extremely satisfactory and most gratifying to the visitors who took the trouble to inspect the district. It was very gratifying to find that in every quarter of the House there was a desire to forward this good work. He regretted that the hon. Member for South Roscommon should have sounded a jarring note. He was the first to do so and it was a great pity, having so good a case which needed no action of that kind, that the hon. Member should have inserted in his speech what they felt on those benches constituted a definite and distinct threat to the Chief Secretary. The hon. Member had stated that whereas at present the people were disposed to be orderly and law abiding the condition of things would be very different if the right hon. Gentleman did not get this money apparently by hook or by crook. That was a deliberate threat which he hoped would be absolutely ignored. The hon. Member had done a serious dis-service to his cause by the language he had used, although he felt sure that the general affect of the debate would be to express united sympathy with this work and a desire that it might go on. Reference had been made to the work of the parish committees. He had had plenty of opportunities of observing their work, and he had no hesitation in saying that that branch had been admirably, economically, and efficiently carried out. It must be satisfactory to hon. Members in every part of the House to know that the condition of things in that part of Ireland was improving. He trusted they would hear nothing about extortionate threats, because the work was too good to be assisted by such methods. They were all agreed that apparently the funds at the disposal of this Board were insufficient. Whatever those funds were more might be used for purposes of that kind. They always noticed that hon. Members below the Gangway came to the House more or loss in forma pauperis so far as money grants were concerned, and he was afraid they were getting rather hardened to that kind of thing. He hoped the work of the Congested Districts Board might go on with that careful attention to detail in all branches of its work. When the Royal Commission had finished its Report he hoped there might be further steps taken towards relieving what was undoubtedly a considerable amount of congestion and distress.


said he intervened in the discussion for one moment in order to ask one or two Question; of the Chief Secretary about which he had given him notice. He wished to know if one of the largest properties in the West, the Bloste property, was included in the fist of those fix or seven estates in connection with which negotiations for their purchase by the Congested Districts Be rd had to be abandoned. He would like to know when those negotiations were commenced and if there was any truth in the rumour that terms had been agreed to between the Board and the owner. If so, the right hon. Gentleman might have no objection to state the terms agreed upon.


said he had telegraphed for the information, but he was not able to answer the Questions fully. The estate referred to by the hon. Member had been offered for sale to the Congested Districts Board, but it had not yet been inspected on behalf of the Board, and no price had been fixed. Whether it was one of those estates which came within what he said amounted to £700 or £800 he did not know. He did not really think the matter had gone quite so far, but it was most eminently desirable that that estate should be purchased, and he would do his best to see that the transaction was carried out.


said he wished to ask the Chief Secretary, in carrying out some of the suggestions made to-day by his colleagues below the gangway, not to allow them to interfere in any way with a point which he knew was causing a considerable amount of discontent in certain parts of Ireland with regard to the allocation of money collected by the Chief Secretary's Department in order to pay the instalments on the land purchased under the last Act of 1903. A considerable amount of money was lying to the credit of the Chief Secretary's Department, which included the Congested Districts Board, which had been collected from the tenants on the various estates, and the money was not paid over to those to whom it should be paid until a long time afterwards. One of the great troubles existing at present in the way of getting land where it otherwise might be had arose in consequence of the way in which those who had already sold their land were being treated. He was sure it would astonish some hon. Members if they knew the way in which business was being carried out. After a large property was sold, perhaps on terms mutually agreeable to landlord and tenants, there intervened a sort of interregnum before the Government could produce sufficient money to pay, and during which the money was not paid over to the person who sold his land. Any scheme suggested for the alleviation of the congested districts must carry with it the particular question of the interest payable pending the settlement with the landlords. He understood that the interest which they received meanwhile was nothing like the rate they could get if their money was invested in a good security. Not only was this preventing sales under voluntary schemes, but it was also the fact that the money collected by the Government from the tenantry on the various estates was not paid over to the landlord until practically the whole of the estate rents had been collected. There was practically £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 hanging-over the heads of the Government, and when they collected the money for the sales which were partially completed they waited until they got the money from the whole of the tenants before they paid it over to the landlord. This was a sort of niggardly dealing with what ought to be done in a fair and generous manner, and it was undoubtedly stopping many tales. It was not only a question of want of funds which the Government was unable to supply, but also a question of the way in which the machinery of the Board was being worked at Dublin Castle. If the machinery was worked in a proper spirit, and if proper treatment was meted out to those who would sell to the tenantry and to the Congested Districts Board, the Chief Secretary would have much less trouble in obtaining land for any scheme he had in view. When there was added to the difficulty of securing sufficient funds—and he did not see any chance of those funds being increased in the immediate future—the fact that the organisation at the present time in the office which dealt with this particular point was not kept up to a high state of efficiency, and that proper treatment had not been meted out to those who had already sold their land, he did not wonder that others were prevented from selling to the Congested Districts Board. He hoped the Chief Secretary would take into consideration the case which he had submitted, so that those who had already sold might not be penalised by having to wait four or five years for their money. If the money was not being illegally withheld, it seemed to business men in Ireland that the treatment given to those who had sold their property was most unjust.


said he could not state that he was satisfied with the result of the debate. The House was absolutely unanimous, but they were told that nothing could be done. But it would be absurd for him to press his Amendment for a reduction of the Vote to a division, and, therefore, he asked leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MR. CLAUDE HAY () Shoreditch, Hoxton

said he desired to ask the Postmaster-General for some further information as to the way in which he was carrying out the recommendations of the Select Committee in regard to Post Office servants. When a discussion took place in the House some time ago the right hon. Gentleman went into a number of the points and promised to give further information about them. He himself and a good many others were very much disappointed at the delay in carrying out the recommendations of the Committee. He knew well that the right hon. Gentleman had a very laborious task in dealing with all the intricacies in connection with the various recommendations. Still a good many months had now elapsed since the Report had received the full study not only of the Postmaster-General, but of his advisers at the Post Office, and the delay was, he thought justly, causing a certain amount of irritation among some sections of the staff. He, therefore, hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give the House an assurance that the recommendations would be carried out at a very early date. Having said that, he must refer to his treatment of some of the classes in the Post Office to whom the recommendations applied. He would take the case of the engineers. Recently he addressed a question to the right hon. Gentleman with the view of ascertaining what progress had been made with respect to that body of officers. He regretted very much to find that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the words of the Select Committee as meaning that they did not intend that sub-engineers now serving in the Post Office should receive any benefit from the Committee's recommendations. He was perfectly satisfied in his own mind—and he spoke for all his colleagues on the Committee—that it was the intention that these officers should receive substantial benefit, and that it should not be confined, as he understood the right hon. Gentleman proposed to confine it, to new entrants. He did not propose to trouble the House by reading the paragraph in the Report, but it was perfectly clear in his judgment that it was the intention of the Committee that the sub-engineers should forthwith benefit, and that the benefit should not be reserved for new entrants.


I should like to know exactly from the hon. Member in what respect he thinks I am not carrying out the recommendations of the Committee. I have really not been able quite to seize the point.


said his Question to the right hon. Gentleman was— Whether, in view of the fact that in his recent circular applying the recommendations of the Hobhouse Committee, the present officers of the sub-engineers class are not specifically mentioned, it is his intention that the Committee's recommendation in respect to these officers, namely, that after three years sub-engineers service, provided they are pronounced suitable and capable, they be promoted to second-class engineer-ships, is to be applied to existing sub-engineers. Clause 490 of the Committee's Report stated that the sub-engineers should form a probationary class pure and simple, and that the candidates who passed the examination qualifying for second-class engineerships should afterwards follow certain lines of work and pay. From the reply which the Postmaster-General gave to the Question on 3rd March, he understood that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the words of the paragraph to mean that the benefit arrangement proposed in the paragraph should apply only to new entrants. He believed he spoke the view of all his colleagues on the Committee when he said that it was never their intention that it should apply only to new entrants. They certainly never intended that the sub-engineers should be practically the only class who instead of benefiting would be losers. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that representations had been made to him by that class setting forth their case, and even if for the sake of argument he admitted that his contention was not correct, he would suggest that they were a class of men whose case was deserving of special consideration. If, by any unfortunate wording of the Committee's Report, the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman was possible, he trusted that an assurance would be given to the House that their case would not be made any the worse on that account, but that these men would be put on all fours with the rest of the Post Office staff in respect of the recommendations. He would like to say a word also in regard to the position of overseers. This was a complicated question, and he did not intend to go into the details, but he had to express his profound disappointment at the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman had given to the recommendation of the Committee. That disappointment was very greatly shared by these very efficient and trustworthy officers. On 22nd November last, the London Postal Superintending Officers' Association addressed the Postmaster-General, asking him for an elucidation of the recommendation contained in paragraphs 410 and 414 of the Select Committee's Report. The Secretary's letter contained the following— Paragraph 414 recommends that the super vision of the London Postal Service should be arranged between superintendents, assistant superintendents, second class, and the extracts from the evidence contained in our memorandum were given to show that in our judgment the Select Committee intended this recommendation to carry with it the equalisation of the London and provincial supervising conditions.' The case was clearly put by a departmental officer of high position, namely, Mr. Bruce, the Controller, who when giving evidence for the department put in a return showing that the supervising force at a London office was greatly below that of the Manchester office. He believed that the right hon. Gentleman's application of the Report, so far, had not given satisfaction. He would respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should sympathetically consider the representations which had been made to him with the view of meeting the desires of the men on the lines recommended by the Committee. He believed that he was correct in saying that the right hon. Gentleman had not given entire satisfaction, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not meet the views which had been put forward with great care in the various documents submitted to him. He earnestly asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider the advisability of granting an interview to the men. So far they had not had any important information from the right hon. Gentleman as to the progress he was making in the treatment of the sub-postmasters, although he could not but think that that matter had engaged his close attention These thousands of postal servants should be put out of the misery caused by the uncertainty which now attached to their condition. He hoped that the recommendation of the Committee in regard to the sub-postmasters, which did not err on the side of generosity, would be carried out. All the evidence put before the Committee showed that the sub-postmasters and their clerks deserved the fullest consideration and the most generous treatment. In regard to the question of the sanitation and constructional arrangements of the various Post Offices throughout the country, to which he attached the highest possible importance, he asked how much money the right hon. Gentleman proposed to spend from this Vote on the works requisite to carry out the recommendations of the Committee in that regard. Many small works and repairs hitherto executed on these Post Office buildings by His Majesty's Board of Works had been transferred to the Postmaster-General's Department. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the House some information as to what progress he was making with that part of the Report which laid it down as a matter of the highest importance that the Board of Works should have nothing to do with the Postmaster-General, and that the Postmaster-General should be master in his own house. He was bound to say that on the last occasion when he had raised this question the Postmaster-General had not given him all the encouragement he should have liked. The right hon. Gentleman rather indicated that this was a matter which should be proceeded with cautiously and slowly before he could get rid of the delays caused by the Office of Works. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the question put to him in regard, to the chief medical officer of the Post Office. Was there in this Vote any amount taken for the increase of that officer's salary which they knew had been given to him? He was also anxious to ascertain whether that officer still held the appointment of medical officer to the Civil Service Stores and the Army and Navy Stores, or whether the right hon. Gentleman had acted on the view of the Committee that in their judgment it was highly improper that a chief officer of the Post Office should hold outside appointments which might make some inroad on his time. The evidence of the chief medical officer, on which the Committee made strong comments, showed that many of the evils in connection with the insanitation of Post Office buildings was due to the fact that the medical staff was insufficient for the work, and that Dr. Wilson had not time to make the necessary inspection. Lastly came the question as to the Treasury control of the Post Office Department. He thought that not only the Committee, but a great number of Members on both sides of the House were convinced that unless the Postmaster-General was master of his own accounts, unless he was able to run his own business, he would really never be able to serve the public efficiently. And what was more, he would never be able to handle the staff in a satisfactory manner. He was sure that the delays and expense caused by the meddlesomeness of the Treasury must make the life of the Postmaster-General and his officials almost unbearable. The Postmaster-General had to bargain and negotiate with and be more or less a serf of the Treasury. He remembered the last time the subject was discussed the occupants of the benches opposite were very sympathetic in their observations as to the relations which existed between the Treasury and the Post Office authorities and that they thought they should be reconsidered. From what the Committee had said in their Report and from what had fallen in debate from hon. Members in the House it had been shown that this was a matter not only within the range of practical politics but within the immediate vision of the right hon. Gentleman; and he hoped that this year they would see much greater freedom given by the Treasury to the Postmaster-General. If that were so, he was convinced that not only would the right hon. Gentleman find his labours less arduous, but there would be greater content amongst the staff, and he would be able to make further arrangements for the convenience of the public.


I will, in reply, take the matters referred to by the hon. Gentleman in the reverse order to that in which he stated them. As to the relations between the Treasury and the Post Office, that, of course, is a very delicate question, and I do not think it is one he will expect me to discuss on the present occasion. Everyone feels the grip of the fetters of the Treasury, and naturally the Postmaster-General would like to have greater freedom in dealing with various matters that arise. But, after all, the Treasury is the guardian of the public purse.


drew attention to the fact that forty Members were not present.

House counted; and forty Members being found present—


So far as I recollect, when this question was discussed, when sitring on that side of the House I have never spoken or voted upon it. The next point referred to by the hon. Gentleman was as to the relations between the Board of Works and the Post Office. It is desirable, no doubt, that the Post Office should be practically placed in possession of a sum for repairs, but that is still a matter of consideration by the Treasury, the Board of Works, and the Post Office, and nothing has been definitely settled. As to the sanitation part of the hon. Gentleman's question, we have given the matter the greatest possible attention, and have received every assistance from the Board of Works. We have also had periodical meetings between our officers and the officers of the Board of Works.


That Committee was appointed when this Select Committee was sitting.


The fact that the Committee's attention was drawn to the matter was very effective in having all the points considered. I do not think there is now any cause of complaint to be made in regard to sanitation. We are doing the best we can to improve the sanitation of all the Post Office buildings where improvement is required. With reference to the chief medical officer, his salary is on the Estimates. That gentleman wrote to me after the recommendation of the Committee was published, saying that he was about to Cease to be the paid officer of the two associations referred to by the hon. Member, and that he would then remain only the paid officer of the Post Office.


Do I understand that the £20,000 recommended in the Report has not been taken on these Estimates?


No, Sir; this matter is still under the consideration of the three Departments concerned. Then my hon. friend asks me with regard to another matter, the delay there has been in carrying out some of the recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee. I think he will recognise that it has been really a gigantic task of reorganisation which has been carried out by the Department and myself, and I can assure him that no delay has been incurred which could be avoided. Delay will not affect any existing officer, because he knows that if he has not yet been dealt with, any increase of salary or improvement of status will date back to 1st January, and that no advantage wall be lost to him by the delay. With the exception of a certain amount of classification I do not think, except in regard to the smaller (lasses, and in regard to sub-postmasters, that any questions are outstanding. Then there are two other points. One was as to the sub-engineers, but I confess that, even after listening to what the hon. Member said, I still think the recommendations of the Committee applied to future entrants only. But I will look into the matter again. My desire has been to carry out to the full the recommendations of the Committee. As regards the London postal overseers, I do not quite grasp his point, as they get a considerable increase. They get an important minimum increase of £10, and their promotion is also improved in addition to their pay, and I do not think they come out badly under the recommendations of the Committee. As to the deputation, I was quite willing to see them if there were any points to be discussed, but the points appeared from the correspondence to dwindle down to those in regard to which they wanted no further information. As to the actual scale, I took the recommendations of the Committee to the fullest possible extent. As to the sub-postmasters, the hon. Member will recollect that the Committee gave additional time for the consideration of their case; the matter is extremely complicated and will take time. But as a matter of fact, it does not much matter, because the new scale dates from the new revision, so they are not prejudiced by the delay. A short time ago I had the honour of meeting a deputation of the sub-postmasters; I had a very long and satisfactory interview with them, and I hope before very long to be able to settle the questions which affect them on satisfactory terms. I think at the interview we were able to thresh the matter out and arrive, on the whole, at a satisfactory conclusion to both sides. These are the points which the hon. Gentleman has raised; I have not the least objection to his having done so, and I promise him I will look into the subject of the sub-engineers and if he can throw any further light upon it I shall be glad. As to the porters, there are about 10,000 still in suspense, and the matter of classification is being proceeded with. As soon as possible, I shall issue another classification, but that depends upon the results of the Board of Trade examinations and it must take some time. I do not desire to delay in any way, but again I say no one is prejudiced, because any advantages will date back to 1st January and they will receive all the advantages due to their position.

*MR. GUINNESS () Bury St. Edmunds

said that before the House left the Post Office Estimates he wished again to call the attention of the Postmaster-General to the matter of political organisations in the Post Office which was debated on last Monday evening. After that debate even that section of the Press which supported the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of having some further light thrown upon the matter. The Daily News of Tuesday said that the matter could not be left in the present position and it ought to be referred to again and satisfactorily cleared up. The drift of the right hon. Gentleman's argument had been that the rules of the Post Office forbade the formation of any association of Post Office servants which was part of a larger organisation, and he vetoed the proposed Post Office Habitation of the Primrose League, because they shared officers and shared an organisation which extended to the whole country. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman thought at the time of this decision that he was adopting a logical attitude, but he was probably not then aware of the peculiar case of the Fawcett Association, which was brought up in the House after he had made his statement. The Postmaster-General had not dealt with the fact that the Fawcett Association had sent representatives to the Labour Conference, which surely proved that they were not an independent body existing only within the Post Office, but were part of a larger and comprehensive labour organisation which embraced the whole country. The right hon. Gentleman defended himself from any charge of partiality, and he was sure they on that side of the House did not think he had taken the course of which they complained, with the idea of favouring any particular political organisation. There were so many organisations within the Post Office, and it was apparently so impossible for the Postmaster-General to be informed of the details of all their constitutions, that he urged that a change in the system was necessary. He thought that if the right hon. Gentleman adopted the course of putting, an end to all existing organisations in the Post Office he would have the support of the House, because it would not fetter the individual liberty of Post Office servants to join any political organisation, existing independently of the Post Office. The other alternative was to allow equal rights to all organisations whatever they were, and to allow them all to form Post Office branches. He did not think anybody could possibly support the attitude of the Government in this matter, and he hoped that now the right hon. Gentleman had had time to think it over he would see that the present position was impossible, that the rules had not been carried out as he laid them down the other night, and that the position called for a change in one of the two directions he had mentioned.

SIR F. BANBURY () City of London

said he was sorry the Chief Secretary for Ireland had gone out of the House, because he would have liked to put one or two points to him in regard to a speech which was made from below the gangway, but he saw the Patronage Secretary there and no doubt he would be able to convey to the right hon. Gentleman the few remarks he wished to make upon those points. An hon. Member below the gangway had said that unless more money was given to the Congested Districts Board the people would know the reason why. There was some discussion as to whether that was a threat or not, but in view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman was rather given—he would not say to use threats, but to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas—he believed that was the correct phraseology—he must say that the speech of the hon. Gentleman filled him with alarm because he, as a British taxpayer, feared that further inroads would have to be made into his pockets, and he was one of the numerous band of poor people who were pledged to find £150,000,000 for Ireland, and he did not, however excellent the Congested Districts Board was, find himself very anxious to put his hand in his pocket to find more money for that country. An hon. Member had observed that it was like Oliver Twist, always in a state of asking for more, but, unlike Oliver Twist, it got what it asked for. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would convey to the Treasury a request from some Members of this House that they did not want to increase the grants to Ireland. They were voting £21,000,000, and there were present only two Members of the Government and one hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House, who was their supporter, and others who might be, but it was difficult to tell in these days. Either by the Rules of the House, or by tacit consent, at a quarter-past eight they were going to Vote this money in that condition of the House. With regard to the prevalence of glanders, the Board of Agriculture should take steps to stop the further spread of the disease. He complained of the discourtesy of the Government in having no one present to answer questions on the subject.