HC Deb 22 April 1909 vol 3 cc1681-761

proposed, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "in the opinion of this House, the question of the arterial drainage of Ireland is one of great magnitude and supreme urgency; the floodings by the great rivers and their tributaries are causing annual widespread destruction of property, grave and permanent injury to public health, outbreaks of virulent diseases, and are a standing menace to the lives of the people; that several Royal Commissions have proved the existence of the evils and their disastrous consequences, and that it is impossible for local effort to cope with the evils or mitigate them; and that, as it is the duty of any Government to protect the lives and property of the people, this House demands that the Government should introduce and pass into law a measure embodying a comprehensive arterial drainage scheme for Ireland."

In moving the Motion that stands in my name, I desire to say that it is one of the Motions on which Members from all parts of Ireland, no matter whether they come from Ulster or elsewhere, are in complete agreement. The question of arterial drainage is a very large and comprehensive one, and unless it is taken up and handled by the Government it cannot otherwise be dealt with as it is outside the scope of local control. Looking at the Drainage Acts of 1842 and 1853, it is quite clear from their interpretation that it is absolutely necessary that there should be some legislation upon the subject, and that a Bill should be introduced by the Government to deal with this very important question. It is also necessary owing to the Act of 1863, which was an Act which provided that private boards shall be formed by the local landlords to deal with this matter, that now as the land of Ireland is passing from the landlords to the tenants there should be some further legislation upon the subject. Various Motions have been made from time to time to deal with this subject, and Commissions have been appointed, including the Viceregal Commission of 1905, presided over by Sir Alexander Binnie. Very little was done after the unanimous recommendation of this Commission. I do not think we ever got any more forward than the Reports of these Commissions. Attention was called time and again by various Members of the Nationalist party for the past 25 years to this subject. It would be well in connection with legislation on this subject that some such body as the Department of Agriculture should be placed in actual control of this business, and that local county councils or other bodies should have authority to strike a rate for local drainage and for works in connection with it. The different rivers of Ireland are much in need of drainage, and it is absolutely impossible to do anything for the tributaries unless the sources are first dealt with. In many cases it often happens after a heavy rainfall, the water coming down from the mountainous districts is more than the rivers are able to take away, and the water comes back again and inundates the low lands. The sources of these rivers should be dealt with before the tributaries if any effective work is to be done. It is absolutely useless for the farmer to try and drain his land if nothing is done to deal with the river which takes off that water. Floods very often occur from the heaps of sand, or rocks, or other impediments in the beds of rivers. If these were removed, it would do a great deal to improve matters. Great losses have occurred to the farmers in different districts owing to periodical floodings. In my own district I find that the River Shannon and its tributaries do a vast amount of injury to the farmers. I have seen thousands of acres of land in the harvest time of the year flooded, and the hay and other crops have been absolutely ruined. In this way thousands of pounds damage is being done annually to the farmers of Ireland. I asked the President of the Board of Trade last year a question with a view of having a portion of the Tarmonbarry weir lowered, and the reply I received was that it would interfere with the navigation of the Shannon. Navigation on the Shannon is very small and insignificant in comparison with the amount of damage which is done from year to year owing to the flooding of the Shannon and its tributaries. If this weir were sunk it would be very easy to deal with the question of the drainage. There are other districts in Ireland equally as bad in this respect as the districts affected by the Shannon and its tributaries, but they will no doubt be referred to by other hon. Members for Ireland who know the circumstances very well. In addition to the amount of injury which has been done from time to time in connection with flooding, and the consequent injuring of crops, various diseases have sprung up in Ireland such as tuberculosis and rheumatism, owing to the dampness of the country, and if the country was thoroughly drained we have been assured that those diseases would entirely disappear. I think we ought to express our deep debt of gratitude to the Countess of Aberdeen for the efforts she has made to eradicate tuberculosis, and I hope success will crown her efforts.

Hon. Members are aware what occurred last January in county Galway when there was not only loss of life, but also a great destruction of property by bog slidings. They occur in county Kerry, county Galway, and other parts of Ireland, but if there was a system of arterial drainage carried out it would be the means of preventing bog-sliding, and it would relieve the people of those districts of anxiety with regard to their lives, and they would feel more secure that they would not suffer loss through the destruction of their property. In different Continental countries like Holland and Germany we find that large sums of money are spent by the Government from time to time in dealing with questions of arterial drainage. In those countries it is in the interests of good government that drainage should be carried out thoroughly. If Ireland were governed by Irishmen instead of by England a sufficient sum of money would be got together for this purpose as well as for other purposes. Unfortunately we are not allowed to make our own laws or to be governed by Irishmen. In my opinion the sum of £10,000,000 would be sufficient for a scheme of arterial drainage. This is a very small sum in comparison with the amounts devoted to other purposes. We do not ask for this money as a free grant, but simply as a return of some of our own money. When the Liberal Government were in power in 1894 a Royal Commission was appointed to deal with financial relations, and during the investigations of that Commission it was shown that Ireland was overtaxed by £3,000,000. If we get a refund of that sum for three or four years it would be sufficient to deal with this question of arterial drainage, and it would leave the country much more prosperous. So long as Ireland is governed by England I think it is the duty of the Government to look after the welfare and prosperity of the people, and see that Irish interests are promoted as far as possible. If the country was drained it would have the effect of raising the temperature, and this would be of great benefit to the farmers of the country, who would obtain better crops and be able to produce more cereals, and that would be a great benefit to Ireland as well as to England, because this country would then be able to get a good deal of wheat from Ireland instead of from other countries. This is a question which cannot be dealt with without Imperial grants, and I hope that the Government will see their way to deal with this subject, which is so necessary to promote the prosperity and health of the people. I beg to move.

Mr. P. A. MEEHAN (Queen's County)

I rise to second the Motion moved by my hon. Friend. Little, if anything, can be said on this most important subject which has not been said before in the many debates which have taken place for the last 50 years, and which, up to the present hour, have borne only "Dead-Sea fruit." The question of arterial drainage in Ireland is one of enormous magnitude and vital importance. It affects not alone the property, but the health and the lives of the people. The climate of the whole of Ireland is injuriously affected by flooding from the Shannon, Barrow, Bann, and other rivers and their tributaries. I do not think I can do better than read to the House a very short extract from the evidence given before the Spenser Castletown Commission by Dr. McCabe, Medical Inspector for the Local Government Board. He says:— The climate would be improved and temperature raised by effectual drainage. The catchment area of the Barrow was 3,400 square miles, 600 square miles was subject to flooding. The present conditions favour the development of constitutional diseases, pulmonary phthisis (consumption), bronchial and cartarrhal affections, lowered conditions of the vital powers, acute and chronic rheumatic diseases, with, to the labouring poor, all disabling consequences, chronic rheumatism in cattle and liver-rot in sheep. I think that this extract from the report of an eminent authority is sufficient to show the House the danger not alone to the public health of the people in the district, but that there is a possible injury to the public health of all Ireland. The state of things which Dr. McCabe described existed 23 years ago and the people have had to suffer all that up to the present hour. The consciences of this Government and consecutive Governments have never been stirred in the direction of relieving the people from the misery, the sickness and premature death which ensue from the conditions of the Bann and other rivers in Ireland. I wish the House thoroughly to understand the question. What are the present conditions in the flooded areas of the Barrow, the river with which I am particularly concerned, although our sympathies are not confined to particular boundaries? Our demand is for all Ireland. We feel the suffering of our fellow countrymen in the neighbourhood of the Bann as much as we feel the sufferings of those in the vicinity of the Barrow. For our countrymen, be their politics whatever they may be, we demand a remedy for all. What is the condition of the Barrow at the present moment? While we are debating this question, I have just received a description of the condition which prevails in the valley of the Barrow. In the district of Mountmellick, on the 4th of April, a correspondent tells me, "about half the town were up all night hurrying to and fro carrying pigs and fowl and driving cattle to safe quarters out of their houses. On Sunday, the 5th inst., it was pitiable to hear the wail of the people bemoaning their losses, as they pointed to their gardens, just after being sown, covered with water. These gardens will have to be resown. The capacity of the Barrow is so limited that although it is now 12 days since the flood, there are still hundreds of acres of water to be seen." Here is another passage: "The relief committee of our town dispensed in relief towards the sufferers from the repeated floods a sum of £170. Over £100 of this was spent in relief work, banking, and removing timber from the bed of the river, and there was a hope that the flooding in our district would be mitigated, but it proved of no avail in the last flood. In the surrounding districts acres of corn have to be resown, the water lying on the land so long." Again, at a meeting held at Portarlington on 21st April, 1909, it was stated that No crops can be sown since the late rains, and seeds put into the ground before the late rains must be ploughed up again. The pasturage has been destroyed by the floods, all the fodder is consumed, and the cattle are starving. I will not quote more from letters; but I think I have shown sufficiently that a deplorable condition of things prevails in the Valley of the Barrow at the present moment. Is there no remedy for this state of things? We are not talking of a country a thousand miles away, but of a state of things in Ireland, and this state of things does not occur during an interval of years but it is of annual occurrence. Some years are worse than other years. We are describing a state of things which prevails every year, and we demand the remedy for that state of things. Agriculture is the principal industry of Ireland, and anything which injuriously affects this industry injuriously affects the whole population. Not only is there an annual destruction of crops in particular localities, but the evil extends all over the country. In view of the heavy burdens and obligations which have been cast upon the people to provide crops, it is the duty of the Government to find a remedy for the evils which exist. My hon. Friend who moved the Motion referred to the fact that other countries have been alive to the necessity which exists for effecting arterial drainage. This has been the case in Belgium. Germany, Holland, and Hungary. These countries have spent many millions to provide thorough and sufficient arterial drainage, but in Ireland arterial drainage has been utterly neglected. It is true that spasmodic efforts have been made from time to time, but those efforts have proved utterly futile. Petitions and memorials, resolutions from public bodies and from every section of the country, have been framed to such an extent that if they existed in a concrete form they would bridge the Atlantic Ocean. The evidence before the Royal Commissions which were appointed on the subject would fill many volumes, but the Reports are never opened by those whose business it is to investigate the wants of Ireland. The Barrow and the Bann and the Shannon are worse today than they were 50 years ago. There have been several Commissions, and I assert that these Reports contain the most damning condemnation of successive Governments by reason of their failing to provide a remedy for evils which are admitted to exist. They convict those who are responsible for the Government of Ireland of callous indifference to human suffering and the destruction of the health and property of the people. With the exception of the Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London in 1888 no legislative effort has been made to deal with this question, although it affects the people of the North as well as it does the Nationalists. The Members from Ireland unite on this subject on a common platform, and they demand a remedy. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland to remember that we do not stand here appealing for a dole or a charity from the Imperial Exchequer. It is our exchequer as well as yours. We demand our rights. You insist upon governing Ireland. We demand that you should meet your obligations, and all Ireland makes a demand for a remedy. We demand our own money, at least some portion of it, in order to preserve the health and promote the prosperity of the people.

A committee of financial experts proved some years ago that Ireland is overtaxed to the extent of something like £3,000,000 a year. I do not know the amount that will be necessary for a complete scheme of arterial drainage. The sum of £10,000,000 was mentioned by my hon. Friend, but that rather exceeds the amount which I think will be absolutely necessary for the work. But whatever sums are necessary, it is the duty of those charged with the government of Ireland to provide them. We ask the Government to pass this Session money from the taxation of Ireland. It may be one year's taxation, and pending the introduction of a measure we ask the Government to advance sufficient money to remedy the evils which admittedly exist.

I will deal briefly with the condition of things which affects the constituency which I have the honour to represent. It is admitted by general consent that the state of things caused by the condition of the Barrow is the most extensive and destructive in Ireland. Thousands of pounds have been collected by the people in the Valley of the Barrow for the purpose of providing engineering reports, constructing embankments and other things, but the embankments have been swept away just as a straw is swept on a windy day. It has been proved by several Commissions that the drainage of the Barrow is a work of Imperial concern. The existing drainage Acts have been applied in some districts on the tributary rivers, but are abortive whilst the main outfall remains closed. One tributary stream is as flooded to-day as it was 50 years ago. Embankments put up by the occupiers are swept away. Public bridges and roads are damaged, and sometimes rendered impassable for many days. The county councils cannot spend a shilling in preventing floods—they can only build a bridge or remake a road when either, or both, are destroyed. It is a very serious matter; but it throws a light upon a good deal of the failure of the legislative measures of this House, and on the attempt of one country to legislate or govern successfully another country. The county council of Queen's County were unable to spend a shilling on any work in the bed of the river which would protect a bridge; but on several occasions they have had to rebuild bridges and have had 500 yards or 600 yards of the roadway swept away, costing the ratepayers hundreds of pounds, which might have been spared had they had the authority to spend money for preventing floods. I have shown that the people are alive to the necessity for self-effort, and that they are anxious if opportunity were given them to remove the evils, but so long as the Government of the country neglects its first essential duty to protect the lives and property of the people—so far as they neglect to remove the obstructions—so long will all the efforts of the people be futile to protect their property. The River Barrow from its source to Athy, county Kildare, is 47 miles, and from. Athy to the tidal waters of St. Mullins, county Carlow, is a little over 43 miles. The flooded area is mainly within the 47 miles from the source to Athy, and the area of flooded and injured lands as given in the Spencer-Castletown Report in January, 1886, is as follows:—

County Kildare 16,619 acres
Queen's County 15,717 acres
Kings's County 13,147 acres
The area has increased in 23 years. Mr. Manning, the inspector under the Board of Works, reported the area then as 50,000 acres—increased value £17,000 per annum. The flooded area has much increased. What was good feeding and fattening land 15 years ago worth many shillings per acre is not worth 1s. per acre to-day, and the evil will extend. The people of themselves cannot provide a remedy. In March, 1885, the Viceregal Commission to which I have referred was appointed, and I would just trouble the House with one or two extracts from the Report of the Commission, which was under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander Binnie. The Airport Commission reported in 1887. In 1888 and 1889 the Chief Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, brought in a Bill for the drainage of the Barrow, the estimated cost being £360,000 —£215,000 of a free grant from Parliament, the balance, £145,000, to be charged on the area benefited by the drainage works. There were many objections, the principal being that the scheme was one of embankment, with slight excavation. Embankment was considered dangerous, as if its water level was raised it would flood lands heretofore free from injury. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking on the occasion, said:— The Barrow remains the chief example of the incident to the want of arterial drainage in Ireland. I commend that statement, made by the right hon. Gentleman 23 years ago, to the right hon. Gentleman who is now responsible for the government of Ireland. The Bill fell through. On 1st September, 1905, the Arterial Drainage Commission, under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander Binnie, was appointed, and reported in 1907 that the evidence given before the Castletown Commission proved that the domestic water supply of the whole district was injured, and in the important towns of Mountmellick, Portarlington, Monasterevan, and Athy, with an aggregate population of close on 10,000 persons, the domestic water supply was polluted and proper sewerage for the towns impossible, with the result of grave and permanent injury to public health and constant outbreaks of virulent diseases, the sick and dying having to be attended by the medical officers and ministers of religion with from six to twelve inches of water on the floors, and this not one year in ten, but every year, some years in a lesser degree than others.

The following short extracts are from the Report of the Arterial Drainage Commission of 1907:— For fifty years the state of the Barrow has been the subject of acute complaint, but although many proposals for remedy have been put forward, and one legislative attempt made, which, unfortunately, proved abortive, nothing save the making of surveys, maps, plans and estimates has yet been done either by the State or by a combination of owners towards the curing or even the mitigation of the evils complained of, whilst we have abundant testimony that the flooding, and the consequent injury, are growing greater year by year. The case of this river basin differs from others in Ireland, once similarly circumstanced, in that no expenditure by the State has ever taken place, although the task of clearing the main outfall is manifestly far beyond the reach of private enterprise. We, therefore, feel that the case of the Barrow calls for exceptional and early treatment, and the existence of the surveys, maps, plans, etc., already referred to removes any difficulty that might otherwise exist in taking such action. As regards this river, we feel bound from our personal inspection and the evidence we received, to emphatically endorse the observations of the Allport Commission, viz.: 'The upper portion of the catchment area of the river Barrow, extending down to Athy, contains an area of 408,000 acres, of which 46,000 are flooded or injured by floods. The basin of the Upper Barrow suffers more from floods than any other part of Ireland As shown in the figures given above the proportion which the lands flooded and injured bears to the whole catchment area is exceptionally high, the length of time during which large tracts are covered with water is often considerable, and there are several low-lying towns within the limits of the river basin, which suffer both directly and indirectly from inundations. Altogether the condition of the district may be described as deplorable' I earnestly commend these extracts to the right hon. Gentleman, and I ask him in the name of those suffering people who so long have been without hope of a remedy and unable to help themselves, and I ask him in the name of justice to relieve these people and to give them some cause to hope that he at all events will attempt to remedy this crying evil. I will just refer very briefly now to the evils arising from the flooding under two heads: (1) As it affects the health of the occupiers and the public health, not alone of the flooded and catchment area, but of the whole country; and (2) the injury to public works, bridges, roads, etc., and the annual injury to and destruction of property; and I will deal more particularly with the partial remedy which the drainage committee of the county council have placed before the right hon. Gentleman. Speaking on 10th November, 1900, at a meeting of the county council's drainage committee, the Rev. Father Kavanagh, P.P., Monasterevan, said:— The result of the flood in Monasterevan was an epidemic which affected 60 families. Take it that each family on an average consists of five or six people, and you observe the number of the people who are affected by disease through the flood at Monasterevan. The Rev. Canon Smethwick, rector, bore similar testimony. He knew the district 25 years, and endorsed all that had been said as to the prejudicial effect of the floods on the town and district. The Rev. Father O'Leary, P.P., Portarlington, said:— The clergy and doctors have to attend the sick and dying with sometimes eight to ten inches of water in the honse. The suffering of the people and the injury to their health is indescribable. The loss of property caused by the Barrow floods would buy out the flooded area again and again. The amount of suffering, sickness and misery is incalculable. The Rev. Canon Cole, rector, Portarlington, said:— The condition of the town and district is deplorable: the poor especially were subject to the evil effects of the flooding. A large number of houses flooded, the inmates having to be carried out in carts and boats, some too ill to be moved have to remain. The people were by this state of things driven out of the town and out of the country. I have already quoted Dr. McCabe, and I will now just quote one or two medical officers as to the flooded area of the Barrow. Dr. Neal, medical officer, Mountmellick Union and Dispensary, says:— The public health of the district seriously injured, houses rendered unfit for human habitation. The town cannot be drained. Malarious vapours, impure water supply causing typhoid fever. Dr. Hanton, Portarlington:— The flooding of the town and district is getting worse every year. It causes fevers, rheumatism, scarlatina, asthma, inflammation of the lungs. I have kept a register for 43 years, diseases are increasing. Dr. Tabuteau, medical officer, Portarlington Dispensary district:— The district has been under my charge for 15 years, it is damaged and injured to a wonderful extent by the continual flooding of the Barrow. As regards the health of the town, I have seen 40 houses and more flooded continuously by the Barrow to the extent of three to five inches of water, I have attended persons lying sick, with water four inches deep around the bed, and I, myself, standing on a chair. Damp bad vapours exhale from the earthen floors, the floods drive the sewage back into the wells from which the domestic water supply is got. There are considerable outbreaks of typhoid of a most virulent type, and epidemics of scarlatina. The floods are increasing, so is the damage to the public health of the district. Dr. Derby, medical officer, Monasterevan Dispensary district, states:— There can be no proper sewerage for the town, the water in the river is even in summer higher than the sewers. I have observed the public health is injured, illness has increased, especially lung diseases; in portions of my district I have counted 158 houses flooded. Dr. Joseph Kilbride, medical officer, Athy Union and Dispensary districts, and this is the last quotation I will trouble the House with, says:— My district extends seven miles up the river in the direction of Monasterevan, and five miles down in the direction of Carlow. Part of my district is extremely unhealthy. The diseases prevalent are chronic rheumatism of a virulent character, diphtheria, and typhoid fever; lung disease is very prevalent. These diseases are owing in a great measure to the condition of the land on account of the flooding of the Barrow. A large portion of the district is permanently under water. Even in summer, except a very dry summer, the cabins never become dry. The sewerage of the town cannot he carried out effectively owing to the fact that the high water drives back the sewage matter and the soil and pumps become impregnated in a great measure by that means. That was the lamentable condition of the district in the area of the Barrow 23 years ago, and I do not exaggerate the case when I say that it has increased by 20 or 30 per cent. since those words were spoken by the medical officers.

I do not propose to go into any lengthy detail with reference to the loss of property which the people have sustained. It is an annual loss, and the total of it is enormous. Injury to the corn crop and the root crop takes place, and disease among cattle is prevalent all over the district. I will just quote one or two cases as showing the loss which the people have to suffer. The question arises, if this state of things continues, how are the people to discharge their obligations, how are they to pay their rent, their annuities, and the demands for local taxation if this destruction of their property is allowed to continue, and if their holdings are allowed to be seriously affected by flooding. That is a question which I hope the Chief Secretary will give very great attention to, because if we find by and by that the people in the flooded area of the Barrow lose hope that the Government are going to provide a remedy, and they recognise the fact that up to the present the Government have failed to recognise their obligations and discharge their duty, it will be small blame to the people in the flooded area of the Barrow if they say they will follow the example of the Government and that they will repudiate their obligations, and neither pay rent nor taxes until the Government fulfil their duty. I will take the cases of these tenants in two town lands, where the drainage committee have got the people to keep a record of their losses since 1901 up to 1905. I take the case of one tenant in that district, and during the five years he has lost cattle of the value of £94, a hay crop of the value of £157, corn of the value of £80, root crops to the value of £55, and, altogether, his total loss during five years amounts to £439 on a farm of 70 acres. Another tenant has lost, and this return is only made for a period of three years, £127 10s., and the whole loss of ten tenants in two small town lands, whose returns I have been furnished with, in these five years, amounted to £2,008. In the whole district the loss is £10,000 to £15,000 per annum. I say that it is a matter for very serious consideration by those who are responsible for the government of Ireland, whether they will allow this state of things to continue. The remedy which a drainage committee of the county councils proposed has been put before the right hon. Gentleman. In October, 1900, the county councils of Kildare, King's County, Queen's County, and Carlow appointed delegates and held a conference, with the object of promoting the drainage of the Barrow. A joint committee was appointed by this conference, and this committee consists of the representatives of the four county councils mentioned, of the district councils, of the town commissions, the Catholic and Protestant clergymen, and the medical officers of health within the flooded area. It is a committee which is deserving of public respect and esteem.

This committee continues in existence, and have made certain proposals embodying a request that pending a thorough arterial drainage scheme for Ireland, a grant of £50,000 should be immediately given and expended on certain works in the Barrow area under this joint committee. Mr. Bryce was then the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he approved of this. He was in hearty sympathy with it, but unfortunately he failed to produce the money. He endeavoured to get the money both from the Agricultural Board and from other sources, but I am sorry to say he failed. I believe I am correct in saying that the present Chief Secretary has a genuine and unbounded sympathy with us, in endeavouring to find a remedy for this state of things, but the right hon. Gentleman has urged the impossibility of getting the money, and recently he, acting I presume on the information of the Irish Board of Works, expressed a doubt as to the efficacy of the plan submitted by the County Councils Committee. I may say, Mr. Speaker, that I am not surprised, and I do not think any of my colleagues with any knowledge of the Irish Board of Works are surprised, to find that that body, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, "do not think much of our scheme." I never knew, in my experience of 30 years of all parts of Ireland—I never knew this Board to approve of any project initiated by a popularly elected body, and of any scheme which would dispense with red tape and circumlocution. The Board of Works have left all over Ireland monuments of blundering, bungling, and incapacity. The late Member for Cavan, Mr. Joseph Biggar, in a Debate in this House on 2nd July, 1888, gave a Litany of the misdeeds of this Board, which could be amplified a hundredfold by everybody in Ireland who has any knowledge of public boards in Ireland. The County Councils Committee, appointed in the manner I have described, asked the Board of Works to let them have access to the plans, maps, and specifications in their custody, and which were provided out of public money. The drainage committee representing the four counties named asked for this information, and, although they were representing the people of those counties, the Board of Works gave them a point-blank refusal of any such information. The secretary of the drainage committee, arising out of a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman when he received a deputation in connection with the Barrow drainage, acting on the instructions of his committee, wrote to the Board of Works offering to supply them with any information they might require in regard to the scheme put forward by the County Councils Committee, and, on 1st March last, an official of the Board of Works writes as follows:— I am directed by the Commissioners of Public Works to refer to your letter of the 18th ultimo, quoting from the reply of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to the question by Mr. John O'Connor, M.P., on the subject of the scheme of Messrs. Glover and White for the drainage of the river Barrow. They are the county surveyors for Kildare and King's county, and are associated with the drainage committee, and are familiar with their plan. The letter proceeds:— I am to state that any information that the Barrow Drainage Committee might give at the present time would only be of use as a preliminary to an investigation by this Board and a land valuer into the engineering and economic merits of the scheme. Therefore, it comes about that until the Barrow Drainage Committee convince the Board of Works that this is an economic work, and satisfies them on the merits of our scheme, the voices of the representatives of the people are valueless, and nothing can be done until this high and mighty Board in Dublin are satisfied of the efficacy of this scheme. I say that that letter shows the spirit in which this Irish department regards local effort on behalf of the representative Boards of the country to remedy the lamentable state of things now prevailing. The work which the Joint Committee proposed to accomplish in the Barrow was mainly the removal of silt from the bed of the river, opening up the natural course of the water. Perhaps I may say that the natural bed of the Barrow, for many miles at a stretch both in King's county and Kildare, has become completely filled with silt that accumulates at one time or another. These accumulations have remained there; and the plan proposed by the County Councils Committee was the removal of these accumulations of silt, which would open up the waterway and relieve the flooded districts. Large islands are forming in this river, and the largest and most injurious one at Monasterevan is about 8,000 square yards. This causes the largest floods and greatest injury. Sir Alexander Binnie when he was holding his investigation had an opportunity of visiting the river and of forming an opinion as to the value of the work proposed by the Committee, and Sir Alexander Binnie, referring to the work proposed to be done by the County Councils Committee, said the work proposed Was of a permanent and beneficial character, and one of the first works to be done under any scheme of drainage. And the following extract from the Commission's Report proves the utility and beneficial character of the plan:— Smaller sums than those hitherto estimated might, as in the case of the River Barrow, be expended with advantage, provided that they were devoted to the purpose of specific works, forming part of a general and comprehensive scheme of improvement. We say that the £50,000 for the removal of the accumulations of silt is a work of a permanent and beneficial character. It is a work aproved by competent engineering authorities, and commended by the chairman of the 1897 Royal Commission, and the report of the county engineers of Queen's County, King's County, and Kildare, who prepared this plan, is as follows—I hope I am not trespassing on the time of the House, because the necessity for a remedy is so acutely felt, and their grievance is so urgent that we must avail of every possible opportunity and consume; whatever time we may think necessary to try to bring about a reform. The engineers say that if the waterway of the Barrow for 39 miles were restored to its original state, acute flooding would disappear. This means the removal of shoals and islands already formed, or in process of formation, the rectification of the banks, which in many places almost meet, and the removal of trees and shrubs. It would also mean the removal of two small weirs and a bridge, and the underpinning of another bridge. The cost of all the preceding work would be about £34,000 including contingencies. By this expenditure alone we believe a large extent of land would be greatly relieved from flooding.

The engineers gave in detail the estimate for the expenditure of £50,000. We do not for a moment say that this expenditure is going to be a sufficient solution of the whole question, but it will remove the acute danger of flooding from the towns mentioned, and it will remove the necessity of using water which is polluted by the floods and sewage matter being driven back on to the towns, and while it will not, I admit, add much to the value of the land for some years, at all events, the work we propose is a permanent work and a portion of a general drainage scheme, and as such we ask the right hon. Gentleman to obtain for us the means of doing this work and relieving the people from the dangers and difficulties under which they at present exist.

The right hon. Gentleman has passed through the House a Tuberculosis Bill a short time ago containing penal clauses compelling people to notify the disease and to isolate cases. The Government, by its neglect, create and maintain the disease breeding ground in the flooded area of the borough, and it is a mockery to the people to put them under penal restrictions under this Bill and to deny them a remedy by removing the chief cause of the disease from which they suffer. How is a poor labouring man living in a two or three-room cottage to isolate a member of his family who may be stricken by tuberculosis? It is not possible to do it. The Government retain that breeding ground of diseases, and then they punish people because they become sick. The right hon. Gentleman has solved a problem of greater difficulty than this which has been waiting for solution for over a century, and has emancipated the mind of the Catholic youth of Ireland and given it an opportunity of University education of which they can conscientiously avail, and we ask the right hon. Gentleman to emancipate these people on the flooded rivers in Ireland from the continual distress, misery, and suffering to which they have been too long subject. What message are my colleagues and myself to take home to our people? Are my colleague the hon. Member for Ossory and myself to follow the example of our predecessors, who in despair of a remedy went to Ireland and raised a tithe agitation until the conscience of the Government of that day was touched? It was only when blood stained the soil of Ireland that they provided a remedy. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give us some measure of hope to carry to our people, and that this Debate will not end, as many another Debate has, without some hope of a remedy for our grievance, and that we may tell our people that some period at last will be put to the misery and suffering which they have too long and too patiently borne.


The question of arterial drainage in Ireland is not one which we can naturally expect to arouse keen excitement in the mind of the average Englishman. I am sure, for instance, if this afternoon's discussion had been one upon Irish affairs which might result in a pitched battle between hon. Members from Ulster and my colleagues on these benches we should have had a very much larger attendance on both sides. Much is made of Irish discord, but very little account is taken in this country of Irish accord, and when Irishmen come of different creeds and different parties substantially, as I believe we are, united on the question of Irish drainage we can expect nothing but the ghost of the House we should get if we were coming down here with every probability of having what is called a good Irish row. At the same time I think the urgency of the legislation called for by the Resolution has been admitted by several Royal Commission Reports and the last one issued is only one of a series.

I think not the least of Irish grievances is that while we may be prepared to admit that the mass of the English people are more or less totally ignorant of Ireland and its circumstances, Parliament at any rate cannot plead any such ignorance in defence of its neglect and delay in dealing with Irish grievances. In fact, I think sometimes the whole trouble between England and Ireland is enormously aggravated by the fact that Irishmen cannot be ignorant that the leading Englishmen of all English parties are, and for many long years past have been, perfectly acquainted with the state of affairs in Ireland, and that they have failed to act according to their knowledge. For instance, after the Act of Union we had 70 years of wretchedness and Royal Commissions in Ireland before Parliament made its first halting, feeble, and unsuccessful attempt to step in for the protection of the tenants against the cruel wrongs inflicted upon them and denounced and proved by the Reports of Royal Commission after Royal Commission from the days of Wellington down to those of Gladstone; and yet Parliament took no notice. What tempts me to support the Resolution is this. The question that the Resolution asks is: "Are you going to allow the question of arterial drainage to be followed on the same old put-off-the-evil-day-till-to-morrow lines with which Parliament dealt to its cost and its trouble with the Irish Land question? This latest Report of a Commission, appointed, I believe, under the late Government, agrees with its several predecessors absolutely in one thing; it says the matter of Irish arterial drainage is a matter of public urgency. It says that the mischief has steadily increased, is steadily increasing, and will continue to increase, and it recommends a bold, general, and comprehensive scheme of arterial drainage, while not discoun- tenancing, but, on the contrary, rather recommending special schemes for such afflicted districts as the Barrow—districts the details of which have been so ably described to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's County. The truth is that in these problems in Ireland we have always to remember one thing, and that is that the neglect of an evil never remains stationary. The neglect of an evil is like the neglect of a wound. It spreads, and the longer it festers and the more it spreads the bigger the doctor's bill you have to pay in the long run. Just as I firmly believe that if in the case of the Irish land question Parliament had boldly and bravely grappled with it on the Report of the Devon Land Commission in 1843, Ireland would have been spared untold misery, and British Governments would have been spared untold trouble, so I believe if you allow this Irish arterial main drainage question to linger on with more Commissions and inquiries, and Blue Books, and more pigeon-holes to put the Blue Books into, you will be compelled to deal with the question in the long run and at far greater cost than would be incurred if it were satisfactorily settled at the present time. I sometimes think that the average Englishman, no matter how good a fellow he may be, is too apt to talk of the clamour of Irish politicians and of the difficulty that exists in meeting Irish demands, while he entirely forgets that in the past four-fifths of the difficulties could have been dispensed with when dealing with Irish questions if they had only been dealt with in a good spirit and in good time.

I shall not dwell upon the condition of the Barrow district beyond a few minutes, because I am sure my hon. Friends will re-echo my sentiments when I say that we do not wish Orange and Protestant farmers in Ulster to be swamped out of their farms and houses any more than that Catholic farmers should be swamped out of theirs. The Barrow district is suggested by this Report as being an exceptional case which might deserve exceptional and primary treatment. It says, for instance, that the Barrow drainage question has been an acute one for half a century. It points out that its condition, both agriculturally and with regard to the state of the general public health, is steadily getting worse. It points out that there are 46,000 acres of land in that one flooded district alone—by far the largest proportion of it quite cultivable land—more or less ruined for the purpose of agriculture every year by floods. The Report says that "nothing beyond the making of survey maps, plans, and estimates has yet been done either by the State or by combination of owners for securing even the mitigation of the evil complained of, and we have abundant testimony that flooding and the consequent injury are growing greater year by year." There is one matter upon which certainly I can congratulate the authors who drafted the Report. It is on the fact that they have inserted in it statements which echo the evidence that came before them from many witnesses, and that is that in any scheme of arterial drainage for Ireland the Irish county councils should be invited to take an active and thoroughly representative and influential part. They point that out on page 11 of the Report, and I need not trouble the House to read it. Certainly the Irish county councils may be said to have surpassed all public expectation, even by their best friends, in the way they have discharged their duties. It cannot be forgotten that whereas in this country what is called local government was a thing of slow and steady growth which it took generation after generation and century after century to build up, the Irish, without any previous practical training in the country districts in the management of public affairs, have had thrown upon them, not first of all county councils and then district councils, but county councils and district councils simultaneously. I think the first Report issued by the Local Government Board on the first year's working of the county councils in Ireland is as glowing a tribute to the ability and capacity of the Irish people for the management of public affairs as even the most enthusiastic of Nationalist could well draft with his own pen.

Then there is the great question of money. There is the important point to which this Report calls attention—namely, the great disappointment caused under the old Drainage Act by the fact that the actual expenditure heavily exceeded the estimate. That was due to the circumstance that they carried out these drainage works on the estimate of having to meet such abnormal floods as only happened once in 20 years or a quarter of a century. The Report suggests, I think very reasonably, that a much lower and perfectly safe estimate might be made for what is called the ordinary flooding which happens from year to year in many of these swamped districts. I remember having been in several deputations on this subject. I was on one to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland. I was on another to the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary, and in each case the lament was that it was a matter of money and of the attitude of the Treasury. I am not sure whether there is any representative of the Treasury present to-day.


Not one.


I think it is a slight to the House that when we are discussing a question in which the Treasury is greatly concerned the Treasury is not represented. In each of the cases I have referred to the Treasury was represented as being the difficulty. I have always thought that the relationship between the British Government and the British Treasury closely resembles the relationship that existed between the two members of the famous firm of solicitors, Spenlow and Jorkins. I remember the principle on which Spenlow and Jorkins ran their business and built up their success. If you went to their offices you could never get at the two of them at the same time. If you wanted to borrow money from the firm, Spenlow would say that he was willing to meet the request only that terrible fellow Jorkins was not there, and he would not do anything without him. On the other hand, if a writ was out against anyone, and you asked Jorkins to give time to pay, he was full of the deepest sympathy, and was willing to give you any amount of time, only Spenlow was too hard a man. Now it is just the same thing when we come to the Treasury. Treasury Spenlow will ladle out money if only Government Jorkins will allow him, and when you go to Jorkins he says the terrible Treasury Spenlow will not allow him to obey the dictates of his conscience. But there are two important questions which these British Treasury officials might be induced to consider seriously if they were brought before them in the right manner. I do not expect the British Treasury officials to have the least sympathy for the number of Irish men, women, and girls who die of consumption and fevers which are the direct result of having to live in those swamped districts. But an argument on a purely business basis might be addressed to the Treasury. In the present circumstances, under the Land Purchase Act of 1903, if a tenant fails to pay his purchase annuity it can be recovered, but if this evil goes on and increases, it is plain that whole districts will be unable to pay the annuities, and even Treasury officials cannot get money out of bankrupt districts, any more than you can get blood out of a stone. I say this is an economic question, namely, the reclamation of vast areas of good land at present practically useless, and the saving of other big areas of good land from being rendered equally useless. I say this is not a demand for relief works or charity. It is a demand for the expenditure of good insurance money by the Treasury, if looked at from no other point of view. It is on that ground that I am very strongly in favour of the Resolution so ably proposed to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for South Leitrim. I do not know whether it will go to a Division, but at least I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to consider the question not merely from the humanitarian point of view—though I know no one could reproach him with any lack of intention to consider the question of humanity—but to consider it with the view to bringing it before this terrible junta, the Treasury, which stands between him and those who have any dealings with Ireland, and to treat it as a big economic question in which the British Treasury itself may come to be interested in a very disagreeable way if it does not make some concession towards enabling the Irish Government to meet an undoubted grievance which has been reported upon again and again by distinguished bodies of men. The Reports issued by the Commissions appointed by different Governments, and consisting of men of different creeds and parties, have proved the necessity for this work being done. I think this is a question which deserves the most earnest and prompt attention on the part of this House.


With the exception of a few sentences in the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution in which they said they thought Home Rule ought to be the remedy of arterial drainage, I am in agreement with practically everything that has been said by the hon. Members below the Gangway. It is with increasing indignation that we raise these now annual discussions on this subject to bring before the House what, so far as my own part of Ireland is concerned, I consider to be the most disreputable inactivity of successive Governments. I say this for the present Government that they are not in this matter one bit worse than their predecessors. One of the hon.

Gentlemen sitting on the opposite bench is an expert in this matter—the President of the Department of Agriculture. He served on the Select Committee, and you may take it he knew all about it, and if we cannot get some consideration and some satisfaction out of the two hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite—I frankly admit I do not expect much—I am afraid you will have to give it up as a bad job. I propose later on to say a few words with regard to the general question of arterial drainage for the whole of Ireland, but for the moment I propose to deal with that portion of it with which I am more directly concerned, namely, the arterial drainage so far as the Bann and Lough Neagh are concerned; and I am afraid I shall have to trouble the House with a very short history of that question, and of the action of successive Governments with reference to it.

I am sorry to say it is one of bungling on the part of successive Governments and one of insincerity. We maintain they never meant anything they said. They never kept any of their promises. We go further and say that successive Governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, have shown the most absolutely callous indifference to the sufferings of the people who happen to live in these affected areas. The arterial drainage with which I am more intimately connected—that of Lough Neagh and of the Bann—is rather peculiar, and differs from that of the Barrow. It is not a question of whether the suffering is the greater in the case of the Barrow or the Bann. I think there is no doubt that the suffering in the case of the Barrow is very great, and there is no doubt it is very great in the case of the Bann. Lough Neagh, as everybody knows, who knows the map of Ireland, is a very large sheet of water, in fact, the largest in the three kingdoms, and the peculiarity of its drainage is that the drainage of one-third or perhaps even one-half of Ulster comes into Lough Neagh by means of 10 or 12 considerable rivers before it goes into the sea. The outlet from Lough Neagh into the sea for this huge amount of drainage is through one river, the Bann—what is known as the Lower Bann—which goes out of the northern end of Lough Neagh. That portion of the river Bann is only 30 miles long and falls only 40 feet through the 30 miles. Therefore the House will understand that, like most of the great arterial rivers of Ireland, it is comparatively sluggish, and the difficulty is to get the enormous body of water which accumulates in Lough Neagh after a series of floods down to the sea as quickly as it accumulates in the Lough, without allowing the level of the Lough to rise. And the shores of Lough Neagh and the Bann as happens in the case of a good many of the lakes and rivers of Ireland, are very low, so low that even an inch of a rise above the summer level means that a certain area of land is flooded according to the extent of the rise. That is the problem with which we have to deal in the Lough Neagh basin in this matter.

On this question of arterial drainage hon. Members below the Gangway say they have been agitating the case of the Barrow for 50 years. We have been agitating the case of the Bann for a hundred and fifty years, but I am sorry to say that we have had as little success as they have had. The House will realise the size of this question when I tell them that seven counties, that is the counties of Antrim, Down, Londonderry, Armagh, Tyrone and Monaghan, and even, I believe, as far west as Fermanagh, supply some of the water which flows into Lough Neagh, and many of them send practically the whole of their rainfall into the Lough. Therefore, I am correct in saying that probably half or more than half of Ulster sends its rainfall into the Bann and has to be dealt with by this one river with its small fall of 40 feet. The problem to be dealt with is how to get rid of the enormous volume of water that comes down all these rivers to Lough Neagh after rainfall. Hon. Members from parts of the United Kingdom other than Ireland must know that the rainfall is pretty heavy in Ireland. I do not know whether it is heavier in the north or the south, but taken as a whole the rainfall in Ireland is very much greater than what you have to deal with in either England or Scotland except in one or two particular places. This agitation is a very natural agitation to have this horrible state of affairs remedied. I will take an opportunity of saying a word or two later on as to what the condition of affairs is, though I might shortly say it is practically the same as has been so ably described by the hon. Member below the Gangway with regard to the Barrow. This agitation culminated after very many years in an inquiry being ordered by the Government.

In the year 1843 a certain Mr. McMahon was delegated by the Government of that day to inspect the river and report upon it, and finally to draw up a scheme showing how much it would cost to carry out the necessary drainage work. He made his Report, which was issued in 1845. The chief point in his Report was that to relieve this flooding and to drain this area would cost £109,000, and that the Work would take three years. The people suffering from these floods and a great many people who were not suffering from them were quite willing—so great was the suffering of their neighbours—to pay a share in relieving this unfortunate state of affairs, and they consented to bear the tax to pay off this large sum of £109,000. An Act of Parliament was duly passed by which this was to be done in 44 half-yearly payments. If the works that were authorised by this Act of Parliament had been properly carried out we would have no Bann question to-day. If it had been properly done, and if the plans in the first place had been completed, we would have nothing now to complain of. Not only that, but if the plans had been properly carried out the probabilities are—in fact, it is almost certain—that to-day there would be no question of this flooding in these districts. The works, such as they were, were commenced in the year 1846; but in consequence of the peculiar ways of the Board of Works—the ways we all know from time immemorial being very peculiar—the work, instead of taking three years, as the unfortunate people were led to understand would be the case, took 12 years, and instead of costing £109,000, as was estimated, the work cost £150,000.

The Treasury will probably answer that they gave a free grant of £40,000. I understand that they did so, but if they did I ask the House to remember that the work cost £150,000 instead of £109,000, and, as a matter of fact, the unfortunate people who were being ruined by this flooding in the 22 years through which they paid these half-yearly instalments paid the sum of £166,000, the original sum and interest; and to this day one of the most difficult arithmetical problems known in the North of Ireland is to know how the Board of Works, or the Treasury, or whoever it was, made up that sum of £166,000. Nobody has ever yet been able to solve that problem, and I have among these voluminous papers dealing with this question an entire volume devoted to the sole purpose of trying to elucidate that mystery. I have read it through—here is the document—and I assure the House after reading it through one is no nearer a solution of the problem. Therefore, if the Treasury make any point of this grant of £40,000, it should be remembered that we paid more than that extra £40,000 in the interest arrived at in a way in which nobody yet has been able to tell.

One explanation of why it took twelve years instead of three to do the work, and why it cost £150,000 instead of £109,000, is that in the first place the Board of Works practically went on lines peculiar to themselves. Instead of pursuing the ordinary course of asking for tenders for the execution of this work, they thought fit to take the whole of this enormous operation, for which they had no experience, into their own hands, and they started to do this business with their own men, paying them from week to week, with their own timekeeper, overseers, managers, and all that sort of thing. It stands to reason that a Board of that sort was not able to carry out an operation of this kind either so cheaply or in such a short space of time as a contractor whose business it is, and who is used to doing that kind of work. That party accounts for the extra cost and the extra time. But, in the next place, quite early in the twelve years the unfortunate famine came upon Ireland, and these works were used as a means of giving employment to a large number of people. Of course, no one proposes to find fault with that in the slightest degree. It was quite natural that all public works should be utilised at that time for giving employment. But they had no legitimate right to compel the unfortunate people who were being flooded by these surplus waters to stand the cost of that philanthropic work, which helped to relieve starvation at that time. Those two courses—using them to a large extent as relief works and not giving the work out to contractors—increased both the time and the amount of money that had to be spent on the works. These two things were bad in themselves, but subsequent investigations have shown that the plans, which the people had been led to understand were carried out, were during the course of the work actually changed and curtailed, and that where it was pretended to carry the plans out they had not been finished properly. I know from my own knowledge that in many places on the river Barrow at the present time there are still what may be termed "banks"—I do not know the technical term—in the middle of the river, used to divert a portion of the stream, for the purpose of blasting rocks or something of that sort, which gravely impede the flow of water through some of the most impor- tant parts of the river. In other places there are several feet of rock, which, according to the plans, were to have been quarried or blasted away, but have never been touched. In fact, to make a long story short, I am led to understand that in many respects the actual plans were not carried out. I admit that since then a certain amount of silting may have taken place, which may be responsible to a certain extent for the fact that the drainage is not what it ought to be at the present time; but, at any rate, I have shown that the people who were to be benefited by these works have not had their money's worth, that they have been made to pay 30 per cent. more than they originally contracted for, and have not got what the Government promised. In this matter the Government was solely responsible, because all this was done by the Board of Works. It was their engineer who was employed, and it was on the faith of their undertaking that the people agreed to pay this enormous sum. It is a very doleful story altogether, but I have to add one still more doleful touch. For the first ten years things went fairly well; the works seemed to alleviate the distress and to meet the requirements of the case to a certain extent. But after that things were as bad as ever, and now I am not far out when I say that the flooding, inconvenience, and sickness are as bad as before the works were carried out. The agitation naturally resulting led, in the eighties, to further investigations, and the very first thing the engineer then discovered was that the data on which Mr. MacMahon, the original engineer, had calculated the whole scheme was entirely wrong. He had calculated that a discharging capacity out of Lough Neagh at the upper end of the Lower Bann of some 400,000 cubic feet per minute would be necessary, whereas subsequent investigations showed that a discharging capacity of between 700,000 and 800,000 cubic feet per minute was required. The original engineer had miscalculated to the extent of nearly 50 per cent.

I think we have every legitimate right to complain of the action of the Government so far as I have gone in the story, and on the facts which I have put before the House we have a perfect right to ask that the Government should come forward and put right that which they then did wrongly. They contracted—it was practically a matter of contract—with the people who were suffering from the floodings that they would put things right, and the people on their part contracted that they would find the sum I have mentioned to repay what was practically a loan from the Government to carry out these works. They have not only repaid the money, but they have been paying ever since, and are paying at the present time heavy drainage charges for the purpose of keeping the drainage works in good order. I think I have shown very conclusively that the drainage works, whatever else they are, are not in good order; they are not doing what was intended; and therefore my contention on these annual occasions has been that on these facts alone we are entitled to redress at the hands of the Government. They owe us that money as truly as if I were to say to a Member of this House, "If you give me £10 I will perform certain services." and then, having been given the £10, I did not perform the service, the hon. Member would be entitled to get his £10 back.

Now I come to the later history of the matter, and it is a very discreditable one so far as the various Governments are concerned. It is a record of insincerity, of putting us off from year to year by granting inquiries by Board of Works engineers, whose natural disinclination to touch this matter has invariably led to the production of Reports inimical to our point of view, whereas when investigations have been made by outside engineers the Reports have always been favourable to our point of view. The first of these Reports was made after considerable agitation, which the right hon. Gentleman opposite will remember very well, for the question formed a large part of the subject-matter of his as well as of my speeches during my election campaign in 1903, a part of the area most affected being in my Constituency. Here I cannot hold the present Government to blame, because the late Government were in office. An inquiry was promised, and Mr. Dick, the Board of Works engineer, was sent down to make a report, but he being the Board of Works' engineer, his report was not particularly favourable. But I had better go back to the Report of the Allport Commission to show that the Government themselves were in full possession of all the facts. That Report, published in 1887, stated:— There can be no doubt that the amount of flooding at present experienced on the Lower Bann causes serious inconvenience and loss of money to occupiers of land adjoining the river and lough. And they conclude by saying:— Viewing the facts we arrive at the conclusion that the design of river improvements undertaken by the Board of Works in 1847 was to a certain extent imperfect. I can understand that the writer of that Report did not care to be too severe on the Board of Works. He says "to a certain extent"; the probabilities are that an unbiassed person like myself would have said that they were absolutely imperfect, and had failed entirely to do what was expected of them. At any rate, I am quite content to rely upon these words:— The design of river improvements undertaken by the Board of Works in 1847 was to a certain extent imperfect, and it is clear to us that the work to which we have alluded ought to be undertaken. That is to say, practically the works recommended in the various reports, which have all been on the same lines; they have been said to be complementary to the original works proposed by Mr. MacMahon. In 1899 a Bill for carrying out the recommendations of the Report to which I have just referred was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and referred to a Select Committee. The preamble of the Bill was duly passed, but for some reason or other the measure never became law. The proposals of that Bill were to spend £65,000, which was all the Committee were informed the necessary works would require to make them fully operative, and that sum was proposed to be allocated in the following manner, namely, £8,000 charged on the land affected by flooding, £37,000 county cess on baronies and town lands in the area, and £20,000 free gift. I do not think the proposal to give £20,000 as a free gift was at all generous, and, under the circumstances, I am rather glad that the Bill never became law, because I hope that the fact may even yet be impressed upon the Government that they are under a real obligation to pay the full amount necessary to put these works in proper working order. After the failure of that Bill, the sufferers continued their agitation. Between 1900 and 1903 the agitation was pursued more actively than ever, and in 1904 the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland sent down Mr. Dick, who reported that it would cost £150,000 to carry out the improvements. That report gave the greatest possible dissatisfaction to everybody concerned, and a well-known local engineer, a Mr. Barton, and others familiar with the whole question, were promptly able to show that Mr. Dick's report was entirely unreliable. It was a most per- functory document, and appears to have been drawn up by Mr. Dick in his spare moments, and apparently without having gone down to the scene of operations at all, but simply by taking figures from the various reports which preceded it. He began his report by saying that on 13th October he received his instructions, and that "after considerable interruption by other pressing matters," he begged to submit his report, which covered two pages, and made out the cost as £150,000. The greatest dissatisfaction was caused by the report, and, as I have said, it was shortly shown that the report was entirely unreliable. That I need hardly tell the House was not calculated to allay the agitation or discontent of the people suffering from the floodings. Things went on for a short time, and then Sir Alexander Binnie, in 1905, was asked to make a report. He, acting on contrary lines to those of Mr. Dick, went down to the principal point concerned on Lough Neagh, took a house, tackled the question in a thoroughly businesslike manner, and made a very full report, in which he estimated that the cost would be £75,000, which I may say is approximately the figure which all those interested in the matter have always said would put things right. That is practically how the matter stands at present. The Government or the Board of Works, immediately after a favourable report, send down yet another man, and after this favourable report was made by an outside authority, who had no interest in the matter whatever, the Government or the Board of Works sent down a man for the purpose of discrediting the report of Sir Alexander Binnie. The whole object of sending him down seems to be disclosed by the figures at the end of his report, where he says that the necessary annual increase of the value of the land to be benefited would be only £750. That is always the course taken by the Government all through this affair, just as a favourable report is made they send somebody down to discredit that report, and if they could not discredit it they let it go. They waited until the agitation became so strong, then another engineer had to go down and make another report. Then they disposed of that, or tried to discredit it, by sending a Board of Works' engineer to make one of their patent reports, trying always to neutralise the effect of the other. That is the state we are in to-day, and after all those years the flooding in that area is as bad to-day as it was 50 years ago. We have spent all this money with nothing for it, and not only that, but the people are paying heavy charges, those unfortunate people living by the river and the Lough. Those drainage charges are over and above what they have already paid for the works. The drainage works are no use. That is the state of affairs on the Bann, and, as has been shown, the state of affairs on the Barrow, and in both cases it is a disgrace. I think this Government and other Governments would have been far better employed in dealing with this great question than in dealing with the hundred and one other questions in which I am sorry to say they have wasted money in Ireland. They wasted money on those things which, if they had spent it on arterial drainage, would have repaid 10 or 20 fold to the British Treasury.

With reference to the general question, I do not think anybody realises in England, and I certainly did not realise until I read the Report of the Arterial Drainage Commission, what a big question this is and how important it is. The ordinary Englishman, and probably very few Irishmen, realise the fact that Ireland is almost like Holland; that is the nearest approximation I can get in the fact that the greater part of the land of the country lies but a very few feet above the level of the nearest river or sea, so that at the slightest rise in the level of the lakes or rivers causes an infinitely greater amount of flooding and damage than in a country like England, which lies so much higher than Ireland. If you bear that fact in mind you will realise how important the question of arterial drainage is for the country. I guarantee if the lands lying along the great rivers of Ireland and round the lakes were compared with similar land in England it would be found the difference in the respective heights of the two sets of land is very great indeed. Therefore, we say that although arterial drainage is necessary in particular cases in England it is not a national requirement. In Ireland it is one of the most important national requirements which up to the present time have been left untouched.

As I said at the beginning, I do not think we can hope for much, although I have no doubt we will get any amount of sympathy. That is what we have always got, but sympathy is not of very much use for those unfortunate people who have to suffer such an amount of discomfort in health and happiness from year to year. I would really like to urge on the right hon. Gentleman if he cannot get up and give us some real satisfaction, and tell us that the Government intend to do something. I would very much rather that instead of giving us sympathy he would tell us, "I am very sorry we have no money available, but possibly in ten or twenty years we may have." We are sick to death of being told we have the heartiest sympathy not only of the Government but of everybody who knows anything about the question. That is no use to us whatever. I fully realise the claims of the Barrow, but each of us in a matter of this kind has to fight his own corner, and I say, seeing that we have paid so much money, that we have a special claim on the consideration of the Government. The people undoubtedly did pay a vast sum of money, and I do not see how by any argument the Government can get out of that claim. Whether we are to get it or not is quite another matter. The hon. Member who seconds the Resolution gave us a number of extracts from letters for the benefit of English Members who did not realise the deplorable condition in which those districts are. Those extracts may equally apply to the districts which I represent. I have seen tracts of land of 2,000 acres under water, and occasionally where a house happened to be on a slight eminence it escaped, but in the majority of cases the houses were submerged two or three or four feet of water. The thousand or two thousand acres cases was in a pretty thickly populated part of the country. I do not propose to read more than one extract of a report of a local dispensary doctor. It is taken from a pamphlet drawn up by a gentleman named Mr. Shillington in the year 1902.


Mr. Shillington, of Portadown.


Here is what the dispensary doctor says. The hon. Member quoted a statement of the doctor pointing out that in an experience of 24 years he had attended many serious cases of sickness and registered deaths of many persons suffering from pulmonary diseases, and that he attributed the cause of many of those deaths to the floods. The amount of sickness varied in direct proportion to the extent and duration of floods during the winter. He further says he has frequently seen whole families driven from their houses to higher ground and returning when the waters subside. Their health must be affected by the damp, especially with earthen floors. That is simply one letter, and on the same lines as those read out by the hon. Member below the Gangway. I can thoroughly endorse them myself. It is true the flood I have witnessed, that of the 2,000 acres, does not occur more than once in five or six years, but every year there are floods of lesser dimensions which do a vast amount of harm to property and health. It is quite an ordinary occurrence, and I daresay it could be seen this very day. There are instances of last year's hay rotting in the fields, and it is more than a two to one chance of floods getting at the crops. I am quite sure when the speeches of the hon. Members below the Gangway have been completed that the case will be proved, or, in fact, that it is already proved, as it has been proved time and time again since I have been a Member of this House of Commons every year. If having a good case goes for anything, then I say the Government cannot resist any longer the claims of those people affected by bad drainage or by want of arterial drainage in Ireland.

Money spent in this way would be infinitely better spent than money spent in a great many ways in Ireland. I need not go into the details, as in a case like this where I find myself in such agreement with hon. Members below the Gangway I do not wish to throw any apple of discord into our discussions by pointing out the directions in which money might have been better spent in this way than in other respects. There is plenty of money in the British Treasury, and there is no case in which money could be better spent than in making a start at any rate on this work. I do not ask the Government to give any very great sum of money, but I do ask them to make a beginning with some of the very sensible recommendations of the arterial drainage report. Let them do that, and let them at the same time think of the position of those people along the Bann and of the money robbed from my unfortunate constituents and people who reside along the Bann. Although I think we have an absolutely just case I have great fears we shall not see very much of that money out of this Government. I leave aside the question of the Bann for the moment, although naturally it was a question in which I am most interested, and I do say that this question of arterial drainage is of such importance as that it ought to be grappled with by the Government at the very first opportunity. If this Government, guilty of many misdeeds in Ireland, will only take this matter into consideration I can assure them they will leave behind them one monument of usefulness which will be gratefully remembered by anyone who suffered in any way by want of proper arterial drainage in Ireland.


As a Member of the Congested Districts Commission I may be allowed to say a word as to the proposal put forward by hon. Members above and below the Gangway on the opposite side. There was before the Commission plenty of evidence as to the need of general arterial drainage in Ireland, and in parts of the West of Ireland there were cases where it was seen that the expenditure would be highly reproductive, as the hon. Member said, as an economical question. In several cases it was shown where the work had actually been done by the Congested Districts Board, as, for example, on the Dillon estate, what an immense benefit could be had from the expenditure of money in such a way when wisely directed. A large amount of land which has previously been unproductive would be avail able for reclamation, and I have little doubt if we had, in conjunction with a system of afforestation, a comprehensive scheme of arterial drainage, the result would be that the whole state of Ireland would be rapidly improved—the climate would be improved, the productiveness of the soil would be improved, and the Treasury, as has been well said by a Gentleman below the Gangway, would itself be benefited by the creation of additional security in the form of purchase annuities which are due to it. I therefore trust that the promises which have been made by successive Chief Secretaries, with full sympathy on their part for the needs of Ireland, but which have been frustrated solely by the refusal of the Treasury to grant the necessary funds, may at last be brought to fruition, and that a vigorous effort will be made by the present Chief Secretary to carry into effect that which so many of his predecessors have failed to accomplish.


I wish to say a few words with regard to the lands which have already been drained, or which are proposed to be drained. In the Constituency which I represent, where some of these large schemes of drainage have been put in force, the result has been that the people have found, instead of deriving benefit from what has been done, they hare merely been subjected to very greatly increased charges without actually receiving any corresponding benefit therefrom. We have heard something about local drainage boards. There seems to be some misapprehension as to their powers. They have no power, and they can do absolutely nothing. They have sometimes a lot of uncompleted and crude work thrown upon them by the Board of Works, but there is no provision for them, and they are expected to arrange, at the cost of the already heavily burdened people, who have to pay a fixed rate to the Board of Works for local drainage, to raise from the rates sufficient, or barely sufficient, to keep open the main river. The situation is this: the main river is kept open, but all the surrounding land and tributary drains and streams, as a rule, are not dealt with at all. There is no power to compel the occupier to keep the watercourse open. The drainage board has no power, and, consequently, where a small farmer, or perhaps an evicted tenant, neglects to maintain the drains crossing his farm, there is absolutely no way, so far as I can see, of remedying the evil.

To show the feeling which exists in various localities, I may mention that there are a number of cases pending by way of appeal to the King's Bench to recover the rates paid for the maintenance of drainage, on the ground that the work was never completed by the Board of Works, and that absolutely no benefit is derived locally from it. Let me give a few instances with which I am personally familiar. In one case I know of a plot of land for which a heavy rate is being paid, but a large portion of which, for seven or eight months of the year, is under water, so that the farmer has absolutely to keep a boat to go from one portion of the farm to another. That is no exaggeration of the facts. In another case the public road is for several months under water to the depth of 3ft. or 4ft., and there is absolutely no way of removing the water. The result is that the people are beginning to look with suspicion and distrust on any new scheme of drainage, because they feel that a burden will be placed upon them, while in all probability they will derive no benefit from it, but will continue to be subject to very great suffering. As regards the Shannon, I quite accept the right hon. Gentleman's reply that my information was wrong, and that the gates had been open, but I am sure he may be satisfied that my statement was correct that the condition of things is really worse than it was before the gates were put in, and yet the people have to pay for them. For my part, I do not believe that there is the slightest use of introducing any new system of arterial drainage unless the administration is placed wholly in the hands of the local authorities, the county councils. I believe it is absolutely necessary to give them power to themselves drain in the event of the occupier refusing to do it, and to drain at his cost. I believe it is absolutely necessary to drain the waterways of the country under the local authority. There is another matter which I hope will reeeive the attention of the Government. There is an enormous amount of waste land, not only in Ireland but also in England and Scotland, which can be touched by no drainage scheme. There is an enormous number of able-bodied paupers who are maintained by charity, and there are thousands of unemployed who are doing useless work at the expense of this State. It has always seemed to me that one problem would solve the other, and I sincerely hope that when the reform of the poor law is under consideration that some such scheme will be borne an mind. I hope also that the powers of the local authorities will be increased—for my part I should like to see the Board of Works done away with altogether—and I hope that local authorities will be empowered to compel able-bodied paupers to do such work as will prove beneficial to the community. That would not be to ask money from the Treasury, it is a question of adding thousands and thousands of acres of land and adding millions of pounds to the additional wealth of the country. We believe that if we had the opportunity in Ireland we could do that for ourselves, and we also believe that it would be a popular scheme. As we have not got the chance to do it, we ask you to do it, and to do it not only for Ireland, but for England. We believe that if you carry out our suggestions you will have an ample return for every penny you spend.


I am glad of the opportunity of saying a few words, because my Constituency does not happen to be affected by this question. It has sometimes been concluded from that fact that my Constituents are rather out of sympathy with the scheme which has been brought forward for the relief of the present distress. Nothing could be further from the truth than that our attitude is in any degree hostile to the different schemes that have been brought forward from time to time. It is true, and I think it is only reasonable, that where we are concerned with the safety of the extensive navigation works carried out at the entrance of the River Bann some years ago, at the cost of the ratepayers, and not by Government grant, and for which many of my Constituents are still paying, those works should in no way be weakened or their utility injured by the proposals in regard to drainage. With that reservation I gladly concur in the speeches made this afternoon as to the great importance of this question to Ireland. We feel that these districts which are liable to be flooded have a strong claim upon the Government, and that successive Governments have altogether failed to appreciate the gravity of the position in the districts affected. Reference was made by my colleague to the report of Sir Alexander Binnie, a report which I hope the Chief Secretary has carefully studied. It gives evidence of a full recognition of the different problems involved, and all the recommendations in regard to the present state of affairs seemed to give a reasonable prospect of solution. I know that most of those who are affected by these problems on the Bann did hope that when that report came before the House the Government would promptly proceed to act upon it. The total cost of carrying out the works on the Bann, as recommended by Sir Alexander Binnie, was £76,000. But instead of proceeding to act upon that report, we know what has happened. Within a few months of the reports being laid upon the Table another engineer, Mr. Bell, was appointed to go down. In other words, we had the report of an eminent authority, like Sir Alexander Binnie, recommending an expenditure of £76,000, and a year later the other engineer, Mr. Bell, comparatively unknown, presented a report to Parliament suggesting that the whole annual benefit from the expenditure of £76,000 was £750 per annum. I can only say, as one acquainted with occupiers on the banks of the Bann, that I have not met one who for a moment suggests that Mr. Bell's report is really worth the paper it is printed upon. I am not now referring to him, I hope, in any objectionable way. but the feeling is absolutely unanimous that Mr. Bell has failed to grasp the position, and has jumped at conclusions that an engineer of greater authority would have been very slow to have attached his name to. I am not going to suggest any unworthy motives to the Government, but we do recognise that the nett effect of the presentation of the second report has been to put an extinguisher, if I may use the term, upon the report of Sir Alexander Binnie. All the same, as one winter succeeds another, floods are taking place, and there seems to be no present sign of the Government doing anything substantial to alleviate the misery which exists in the country. We have sometimes had reference made as to obstacles to the improvement of the drainage of the Bann by the present navigation works. I am not one of those who suggest that it would be either wise or prudent that these expensive navigation works should be destroyed in order to improve and alleviate the present situation. On the contrary, although it is admittedly true that the traffic on the river is not what we should like it to be, many of those intimately associated with the river recognise that these navigation works are an insurance against any attempt to raise the rates on the part of the authorities covering the district. I for one would be sorry indeed to see the adoption of any proposal to destroy the navigation works, and thus do away with that safeguard which we think at present they give us. I do feel that in this matter the Government has not treated any part of Ireland fairly. Reference has already been made by almost every speaker this afternoon to the number of times that this question has been before Parliament. I think it is a great tribute to the patience of those who have so long suffered that they have been so modest in the demands that they have made to this House. If the last Government had been willing to give the different county councils concerned with the River Bann—I think five county councils—£50,000, I think I am correct in saying that those county councils would not have absolutely refused to give a contribution themselves, and have this grievance finally removed. We find no such action on the part of the Government. The only action which they have taken is to send Mr. Bell down to prove that the total improvements likely to result from carrying out these works would be an annual benefit to the whole district concerned, covering five counties, of £750 per annum. I can only say that the farmers interested are greatly disappointed. While we welcome the opportunity of again bringing this problem before the House, I must admit that I am not as hopeful as I should like to be. The proposer of the Motion reminded the Chief Secretary and the whole House that the whole of the Irish Members are of one mind in this matter. He proceeded to say, I think fairly, that when all the Irish Members are united on behalf of any worthy object that their position should be considered infinitely stronger than upon any subject upon which they are divided. I think that attitude was strengthened by the remarks of the Prime Minister yesterday in introducing the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. He said:— If the Irish Members of all colours and complexion sitting upon those benches opposite—suppose the whole of the Irish Members—hon. Gentlemen whom I see above the Gangway on the other side, together with those sitting below the Gangway, were to come to this House united as one body, in their demand in regard to a matter of purely Irish concern, can anyone conceive this House or any Parliament in this country refusing their demand. We are absolutely united in this matter. We say that with regard to this matter of arterial drainage that we have been trifled with by successive Governments. While we do not carry our requests to the extent of the £10,000,000 which has been mentioned this afternoon, we do say that the case is so urgent, both on sanitary grounds and on various other grounds, that we shall be grievously disappointed if the Government do not intimate, on behalf of the Treasury, that it is their intention to give a substantial grant during the next year.

May I conclude by referring to a minor aspect of this matter. Although it is a minor aspect, it shows that the Government is not alive to the position. I have the honour to speak in the presence of the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture, who knows this problem almost as well as I do myself. He knows that about seven or eight miles above Coleraine we find this trouble in its most acute form; so serious, indeed, that the farmers there have banded themselves into an organisation with the hope of remedying it. They have been in correspondence with the Chief Secretary. I must crave the indulgence of the House while I read a letter recently addressed to the Chief Secretary by their secretary. In that letter a suggestion is offered, which I venture to submit, as a temporary alleviation of the trouble, is worthy of immediate consideration. The letter is as follows:—

"Landagivey, Aghadowey, Co. Derry,

"February, 1909.

"Re Bann Drainage.

"To the Right Hon. Augustine Birrell, Chief Secretary for Ireland. Hon Sir,—Acting on the intimation conveyed to us in your letter of August 1st, 1908, re Bann Drainage, we applied to the Drainage Trustees of the Lower Bann to open the sluices in the lock gate at the Cutts, Coleraine, and to place a sluice on the mill race now barricaded up. They directed us to apply to the Navigation Board, as it is that body who have entire control of the sluices. We sent a deputation to wait upon the Navigation Board at their last meeting, which was held on February 5th.

I may say, in passing, that I regret I was absent from that meeting myself, or I should have supported the application. They are in entire sympathy with us, and are quite willing to open the sluices if the Board of Works direct them to do so, and told us that they would open them immediately on getting the order from the Board of Works. The resolution of the Navigation Board is enclosed herewith. In regard to the sluicing of the mill race, the Navigation Board are of opinion that it constitutes a new work, although we hold it is part of the original plan which was never completed. It could be done at a trifling cost from the maintenance rate, and this is the opinion of Major Torrens (a member of the Board), who informed us that in his evidence before the Commission on Arterial Drainage he strongly recommended the sluicing of the mill race which is now barricaded up, and he is still convinced that it would go a long way towards preventing the constantly recurring flooding of the lower reaches of the Bann". In conclusion, Sir, seeing how we have been sent from Pilate to Herod, we respectively ask you to command the Board of Works to give instructions for the opening of the sluices, and the sluicing of the mill race referred to above, as these works can be done at a small cost, and it would bring relief to a large number of farmers who have borne a grievous burden for upwards of half a century.

"Signed (on behalf of the Agivey Bann

Drainage Association),

"JAS. MCKEEMAR, Secretary."

To that letter no reply has been so far addressed to the secretary. The resolution of the Navigation Board is:— That this Board cannot accede to the request of the Agivey Bann Drainage Association as to opening the sluices in the lock gates at the Cutts, Coleraine, without having the sanction of the Board of Works, and being relieved from the responsibility in respect of any which may result therefrom to the navigation works. May I add that these are the minor suggestions. I believe that they would not in the slightest degree injure the navigation works, and that if the right hon. Gentleman can arrange with the Board of Works to give these suggestions an experimental trial, very great good would result to the districts concerned. I only want to make our attitude clear. The Navigation Trustees and the Coloraine Harbour Board would gladly welcome any reasonable step that would remove that undoubted grievance from which many farmers are suffering in the immediate district.


I rise to support the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Leitrim. Every fair-minded hon. Member of this Assembly, who has listened to the speeches delivered in this Debate, should have no hesitation whatever in drawing the inevitable and right conclusion that the question of arterial drainage in Ireland is one of the gravest importance. It is a question of national importance. The conclusion that hon. Members will arrive at is this, that so far as this matter of arterial drainage is concerned, the Government of this country in regard to it have been negligent in the past. The question has been raised and debated in this House over and over again a number of years by hon. Members representing all parties in Ireland. It has been brought up here year after year, and it has been shown that there is no difference of opinion whatever between us. On this question we can unite, and we are united. Still, I am sorry to say that up to the present, at any rate, this great question remains unsettled and unsolved. It has been generally admitted that the settlement of the question would affect beneficially many thousands of people in all parts of the country, and this is one reason why the people of Ireland regard this question as of such importance, and that year after year through their electoral representatives in this House they insist on its being enforced on the attention of Parliament. The question affects Unionists and Nationalists alike. It is a question the solution of which would mean bringing health and prosperity to many communities suffering from the flooding of these rivers. It is a question which would add thousands and thousands of acres of land which would, and could, be profitably and beneficially used by the people living in the vicinity of these rivers. Is it any wonder that this question should be regarded as one of great importance by the people? This question is a vital one, and in the opinion of most people second only to that of the land. It is sincerely to be hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary will now hearken to the voice of a United Ireland, and that he will aid in formulating some scheme by which this real grievance can be redressed. It is a grievance which all classes in Ireland and in all parts of Ireland suffer from alike, and suffer very severely indeed. The general question of the drainage of the Irish rivers in all its aspects has been so ably and exhaustively dealt with by other speakers that I do not intend to say much upon that question. I may be permitted, however, to express the hope that the Government may initiate some scheme of drainage which will be the means of averting the periodic famine in a great many districts all over the country which results from flooding. The drainage of the Bann and other great rivers of Ireland has been mentioned. We have heard a lot of the Bann and of the Barrow, and of the other great navigable waterways of the country. With everything that has been said with regard to these great waterways I am in entire agreement, but I think my hon. Friends will sympathise with the view I take when I put before the House another aspect, which has not been touched upon very much up to the present. That is the question of the numerous unnavigable rivers of the country, with their tributaries in the West of Ireland and elsewhere. These rivers are periodically flooded, and, year after year, from my own personal knowledge, these floods cause frightful damage in my own county, the county of Sligo. May I put one case forward, that is the case of the Owenmore River in Sligo. This river takes its rise in a congested district, and it flows through three separate congested districts in the county of Sligo. It is a river of considerable size and importance, one of the most important, I believe, in the West of Ireland, and it is called by the people the Big River. It takes a zigzag course all through the county of Sligo from south to north, and, owing to its crooked course and choked condition, it has been liable for the last 100 years to periodic floods, which have done frightful damage year after year. It usually rises in July and August, when the crops are almost ready for gathering, with the result that the amount of damage done can be better imagined than described. I have personal knowledge of the damage done, and am fully acquainted with it, and it really baffles description. The extent of the damage cannot be calculated, and that is one of the reasons why I would impress the claims of the people of Sligo in regard to the matter of having this river drained, and speedily drained, more than any other. Let me explain to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House the efforts that have been made locally to have this river drained. The first effort made to have the Owenmore River drained was, so far as I can ascertain, in 1847, the year of the Black Famine in Ireland, when half the population of the country were swept away. The estimate for its drainage at that time was made by the county surveyor of Sligo, and he estimated that 8,000 acres of land could be reclaimed for an outlay of £7,000, and the county surveyor of Sligo was considered a very capable man. Of course, I have no doubt whatsoever the cost of labour at that time was on a lower scale than that which labour could be obtained at the present time, owing to the fact that it was the year of the great famine. But there is one thing which cannot be denied, and the engineers who had subsequently visited the place had pointed out the fact that by the straightening of this river at certain points, by lowering the various obstructions in its course, a comparatively small amount of money spent upon this river—and it is the only river in the county of Sligo at the present time that deserves consideration, and sympathetic consideration, from the fact that its claims have always been neglected in the past—would remove all the difficulty. In 1870 another effort was made in the same direction with the consent of the landlords. Again in 1876 a great representative meeting of all classes was held, and a deputation was appointed representing all creeds and classes with the Conservative Lord Lieutenant of the county at its head, the late Colonel Cooper. The matter was put before the Conservative Government of the day with the usual results. Promises were made, but then the question was shelved I should mention that in 1895, when the Liberal Government was in office, and when the present Lord Morley was Chief Secretary for Ireland, another representation was made to the Government of that day to have something done. The Government of that day gave a promise that the matter would be looked into, but before that promise could be fulfilled they left office, and were succeeded by a Conservative Government, and their beneficent intentions were not carried out by their successors. Before I depart from the merits of this scheme may I say my hon. Friend and Leader, the Member for Waterford, in every debate on drainage that has taken place in this House for the last nine years, so impressed has he been with the claims of the Owenmore that he has been always good enough to mention, and on behalf of the people of Sligo I take this opportunity of thanking him for having done so. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover, when Chief Secretary for Ireland, in response to the representations made to him, caused an inspection to be made of the river, and he subsequently stated, in reply to a question of mine, that the drainage of the river was under the consideration of the Department of Agriculture. There is one thing that cannot be denied, and I would like to put it strongly before the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. The people of Sligo have never got a grant for drainage of the Owenmore or the drainage of any other river, and therefore I think the modest claim I now put forward ought to receive favourable consideration. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, if he knew the state of affairs as I know them, he would realise the nature and extent of the damage done. Year after year the finest stacks of hay are swept away after they have been gathered, and at a time when the people most require them to meet their demands in various ways, to pay their purchase annuities, to pay their county rates, to satisfy other legitimate demands, and it is a great hardship that these goods are swept away never to be seen again. What is my demand and what is the demand of the people of the county of Sligo? It is for a small grant in aid. That is all we require, and no matter how small it is it will be thankfully received. The people affected by the overflowing of this river are prepared to do their share so far as taxation goes, and I hope the Chief Secretary will consider their case. I hope that our claim will be considered apart from any great scheme that may be put forward. I think a clause might be inserted with advantage in the new Land Bill, giving powers, so far as the nine counties in the West of Ireland are concerned, to deal with this question of arterial drainage through the Congested Districts Board. I hope that in any system that may be adopted by the Government that those people in the west will receive favourable consideration, and I trust that when the Chief Secretary casts his eye across the Shannon it will rest upon the claims of the Owenmore.

Mr. JOHN O'CONNOR (Kildare, N.)

I think this a very important Home Rule Debate. I would ask hon. Members to contrast the empty benches opposite, which are usually occupied by those who represent that portion of the kingdom called Great Britain with the picture presented by this side of the House, which is a picture of unanimity between all parties, creeds, and classes who represent Ireland, who have found agreement upon a subject which affects the material interests of Ireland. It is also a Home Rule Debate, because it demonstrates, by the speeches that have been made and by the quotations which have been read from the Reports of Royal Commissions, the utter incapacity and unwillingness of Great Britain to legislate satisfactorily for Ireland. I should like to know, and perhaps the Chief Secretary will indicate to me by a shake of his head, whether on this occasion he is going to follow the example of previous Chief Secretaries, and propose that another Royal Commission be appointed.

Mr. BIRRELL dissented.


The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I have heard discussions on this subject on various occasions during the past 24 years, and they have nearly always resulted in the appointment of a Royal Commission or some Committee to find out that which was already well known. In my evidence before the last Commission I took the trouble to state the number of pages of evidence already taken. Lord Monck's Report contained 144 pages, Lord Castletown's 134, Lord Allport's 290, and Mr. Plunket's 65, to which has now been added 403 pages in Sir Alexander Binnie's Report, making altogether over 1,000 pages of evidence on this question. It is refreshing to know that this vast volume of knowledge is not to be added to by any proposal made by the Chief Secretary.

What has it all resulted in? That has been pointed out by Sir Alexander Binnie in his very able Report. This has been alluded to by my hon. Friend who seconded this Motion in a very able speech. It has resulted only in the production of certain plans, specifications, and estimates of the cost of the drainage of these various areas, but absolutely nothing has been done to carry out the recommendations of those Reports. I wish to enforce an observation made by the hon. Baronet who represents one of the constituencies in Westmeath when at the conclusion of his speech he made a very valuable suggestion, although it was one which is not absolutely new. It was a suggestion made by the Royal Commission which sat in the year 1834 and reported in 1836. That Commission was presided over by the late Archbishop Whateley, who was sent from this country to preside over the educational requirements of Ireland. He presided over that Commission for three years, and they made a Report and put forward certain recommendations. They said that with regard to the poor law in England it originated in the ignorance, the improvidence, and vice of those who are in need, but it pointed out an entirely different situation in Ireland where the people were able-bodied and healthy, and willing and anxious to work for any wages—even for twopence per day, but they were unable to obtain such employment. I hope I shall be pardoned for alluding to a Report which may not appear to be relevant to drainage, but the recommendations of the Commission to which I allude were, in the first place, the reclamation of waste lands, and secondly the enforcement of the drainage and fencing of land. If the recommendation of that Royal Commission which sat in Ireland for three years, and took a large amount of evidence, had been acted upon, and if all the millions of money which have been spent to impoverish and pauperise the people of Ireland had been spent upon the reclamation of land in Ireland and upon the drainage and fencing of land instead of upon building large workhouses and driving the people into them against their will, we should not have been here to-day telling the sad and doleful tales that have been told by hon. Gentlemen from all parts of Ireland of the condition of the country as it is at the present time. The recommendations of that Commission were set aside. Lord John Russell sent over Mr. Nicholls, who spent six weeks in Ireland, and who had had some knowledge of the administration of the poor law in England. He travelled about Ireland for six weeks, and then he made a report upon the condition of the poor to Lord John Russell and his Government. The recommendations made after that six weeks' travel in Ireland by Mr. Nicholls were accepted, and the recommendations made in the Report of the Commission presided over by Archbishop Whateley were set aside. Therefore, the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Westmeath is one that ought to be taken to heart by those responsible for the government of Ireland. That ought to be borne in mind by the Chief Secretary if he intends to add one more laurel to the wreath that will surround his brow when he retires from the government of Ireland. At that time no less than 40,000 migratory labourers left Ireland every year to seek employment in this country. At the present time no less than 25,000 migratory labourers from Ireland come over to England and Scotland for a few months every year to earn money to pay the rent for the land they retain in Ireland. Therefore there is an abundance of cheap labour to be had in Ireland if only the recommendations of these various Commissions are acted upon. The result of carrying out those recommendations will be that not only will unemployment be relieved, but arterial drainage would be cheaply brought about. We have had the story told of the River Bann and the River Barrow, and I am not going to go over all that again. The House is acquainted with the result of these various, floodings, which are detrimental to the health of the people. It has, however, not been mentioned here, although it was before the Royal Commission, that during the existence of these floods the roads were rendered impassable, and thereby the trade of the country was dislocated. That means that there is a great loss to the people. I desire to put one more view before the House. It is with regard to the obligation that devolves upon the Government to carry out this work in such a manner that it will be effective and effectual. If there was one conviction stronger than another which animated the various Royal Commissions it was that the State, and the State alone, should carry out arterial drainage in Ireland. I have pointed out on former occasions that other nations have appreciated this great question, and attempted to remedy the evil which it causes. In all countries in Europe it has been regarded as a national question. In France, after the war with Germany, the first thing which the Government of France turned its attention to in 1871 was the waterways. In the Rhone district they spent £15,000 per mile, on the River Seine they spent £17,600 per mile, and between 1871 and 1900 the French Government on its waterways spent £28,000,000 on its arterial drainage. Look at what Germany has done. They have a telegraphic and a telephonic system whereby the guardian of the upper reaches of their rivers advise the people in the lower reaches whether the waters are likely to flood their lands or not. The rivers are. watched with zealous care, and millions of pounds are spent every decade in order to prevent the rivers overflowing the land. Every penny of this money is spent by the State. We do not ask for that. In Holland no less a sum than one equal to the amount of the entire national debt of Great Britain has been spent. By the year 1853 Holland had spent £600,000,000 of money on its waterways, and it has been spending money ever since. Belgium, in like manner, has spent £25,000.000 of money on its waterways. In these countries, where there is a limit of land and where it has to be conserved, it is a national duty to see that there is arterial drainage. We are not asking for all that. In all the demands from Ireland it has always been stated that the farmers and landlords are willing to bear their fair share of the cost. They have never demurred to any portion of the cost being placed on them. We have never asked for what other countries have readily granted.

There have to-night been many quotations given to the House, and I shall not weary the House with more than one. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I inflict it upon the House, because I wish to show that while Commissions in the past have sanctioned this idea of State aid, the most recent Commission has also done so. Sir Alexander Binnie, in the course of taking evidence, gave expression to this view during the examination of the Member for South Kildare. The hon. Member and myself have the catchment area in our Constituencies, and thousands of acres of the best land are flooded three times a year. My colleague enforced this fact upon the Commission, and Sir Alexander Binnie stated "that the whole of the cost cannot be done by local effort. There is a duty on the State as well as a duty on the part of the people, and it is perfectly clear that some grant in aid should be made." That was the dictum of the chairman of that Commission. I now come to the suggestion of my hon. Friend, whose constituents are affected by the present state of things. We know and accept the difficulty of the Chief Secretary with regard to a certain other body. Last year, in answer to a question put by myself, he stated his difficulty in the matter. We know that difficulty exists. Those who were concerned with these floods on the Barrow endeavoured to get some help from the Chief Secretary without waiting for a great comprehensive scheme. My hon. Friend has alluded to some £50,000. What is the genesis of that £50,000? We cast our minds about for some solution for this difficulty, and pending a larger scheme we thought it might be possible to get something done to relieve the people from the disastrous effects consequent on the floods to which they were subjected. As the House is well aware from the very exhaustive and able speech of the Member for South Antrim some attempts were made to keep the Bann waters within bound. The sum of money spent was £150,000. and workmen were at work for 12 years. Nothing was done, however, for the Barrow, and there would be no jealousy on the part of those who represent the North of Ireland if we could get something done pending a larger scheme. We found that there existed a sum of money in the hands of the authorities of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, and that it amounted nearly to £400,000. I know the answer. The hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench shakes his head. I can point him to the Report where this fact is stated. The money is saved for future purposes. I am quite aware that the £400,000 is represented in reports as being non-existent. We know very well that it is by a clerical legerdemain that £380,000 has disappeared from view. But that does not blind us. We know that the money is there. A liberal interpretation of the Act which created the Department over which the hon. Gentleman presides would enable the Department to set aside £50,000 in order to carry out the experiment. We made a representation to that effect to a Commission which was then sitting. That representation was signed by all the Members who represented constituencies through which the Barrow flowed, and we pointed out that in our opinion there was an immediate necessity for applying a remedy to this state of things. We desire to suggest that whereas the Government were not prepared to introduce a comprehensive scheme a small sum should be granted out of the money in the hands of the Department. We recommended that the sum to be granted should be £50,000, and should be so spent as to form part of an extensive scheme. That was a practical proposal The money is there. It cannot possibly have been used. Reports are in the Department which show that the money is there with accrued interest. The hon. Gentleman will not say that he has spent that £400,000. The actual amount is really £380,000, and he cannot say that it has melted into air. The money is there and the power to use it is there also. We submitted the proposal of £50,000 to Sir Alexander Binnie. He states, in the body of his Report, that if £50,000 were to be expended in a specific manner, and would form part of a general scheme, it would abate the evil. He absolutely accepted our suggestion. He has embodied it in his Report. That is not all. We asked the engineers of two counties through which the Barrow flows to consider the matter and to make a report, and they have made the report already referred to, which absolutely bears out Sir Alexander Binnie's report that £50,000 wisely expended on the upper reaches of this river will abate, to a great extent, the evil. We have never departed from that practical suggestion, and I sincerely hope it will be considered by the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman is going to stand up and say the heart of the Treasury is still hard, and that he is not going to bring forward any series of schemes, or a great comprehensive scheme like that brought forward by Mr. Balfour, if he is not prepared to bring forward such a comprehensive scheme as that, I hope he will say that he will at least sanction the suggestion which we have made, namely, to ear-mark that £50,000 of public money, which, I submit, can be used to carry out the suggestion made by us and supported by Sir Alexander Binnie. I do, from a full consideration of this matter, assert that the evil will be to some extent abated and the groundwork laid, in order that a great and more extensive scheme may be entered upon in future.—


I am sure hon. Members of the House who have had the advantage of listening to this Debate will admit that they have listened to most interesting speeches, and although the question is undoubtedly an old one, and has been before my predecessors in this House for a very long time, I think I shall be able to show that its urgency is even greater than ever. It is a question which has by no means become stale. Although I must ask the attention of the House while I deal with a little history, I do not propose to go back any length of time. But I was rather struck by reading the preamble of an Act of Parliament, namely, More O'Ferrall's Act., passed in 1831, at a time when Acts of Parliament had preambles, a habit which has been lost, though I, for my part, regret it, for they generally conveyed to the ordinary reader more than was to be gained by a perusal of the Act itself. The preamble of this Act reads:— Whereas it has been ascertained as well by the report of certain commissioners as otherwise that there are throughout Ireland contiguous to the banks of rivers and streams and lakes many large tracts covered with water for pot less than half the year, some periodically Hooded and others subject to frequent damage and inundation by reason of the defect of embankments and interruptions in the channels of such rivers and streams: and whereas the said tracts of land comprise generally the finest alluvial soil, and although in their present condition of little Value would if protected against inundation become productive and fertile in an eminent degree: and whereas the reclamation and protection of such lands would be advantageous to the proprietors thereof and would conduce to the health of such dis- tricts, and afford beneficial employment to the distressed labouring poor, but by reason of the various modifications of interests and estates in such lands and the legal incapacity of persons having such, interests and. the defect of co-operation in them, the same cannot be accompanied without the authority of Parliament. That preamble represents very accurately the state of things which has been represented to me in the course of the Debate this afternoon. But it would he a mistake to suppose that nothing has been done between 1831 and the present time, because this question of drainage—arterial and other drainage—in Ireland has been made; the subject-matter of at least 20 or 25 Acts of Parliament, and those Acts present the usual characteristics of modern Acts of Parliament—namely, that they are, for the most part, wholly unintelligible, and can only be made to be intelligible by references backwards and forwards in a manner calculated to destroy such intelligence as the Chief Secretary for Ireland is likely to possess. Nevertheless, these Acts of Parliament are worth considering. They may be divided into two divisions. There were the Acts of Parliament from 1843 to 1863, and those from 1803 down to the present time, and the difference between these two codes or schemes relating to drainage in Ireland was practically this: that under the first code the initiative and the preparation for carrying into execution these works lay with the Board of Works—lay with the persons who were entrusted with the duty of carrying out the proposal:— Under the provisions of these earlier works the Board of Works on receipt of an application and the deposit to cover preliminary expenses from any persons interested in lands liable to be flooded might cause a survey and inspection to be made, and might, if they thought fit, prepare maps, plans and section of the works which they proposed, and (having obtained the assent of the proprietors of two-thirds in extent of the lands to be improved), might publish a declaration describing the nature and estimated effect of the proposed works and the proposed incidence of the charges. From this declaration there was an appeal to the County Court Judge. The preliminary steps including any appeal having been taken, the Board of Works might execute the works, and on their completion make an award specifying the proportion in which the cost of construction and maintenance should be borne by the improved lands. Well, you see how the Board of Works had charge of these important drainage works. These Acts had contemplated that private funds should bear the main cost of the work, but that expectation was never realised, and nine-tenths of the money for the drainage scheme under this first code was obtained from the Treasury by way of grant or loan, and how much of the loan had to be remitted I will tell the House in a moment. Now, under this first drainage scheme a good deal of progress was made, although I quite agree that the Board of Works could be very harshly criticised for the manner in which they carried them out. But you must always bear in mind in regard to all these hydraulic drainage schemes that experience has shown where these works were done by the Board of Works or as under the subsequent Acts of Parliament, where the initiative lay with owners you always find the same mistake made in every one of these schemes. Such is the sanguinity of the Irish disposition and of persons concerned in beneficial work of this kind, they always underestimate the cost and over-estimate the value of the work. That has been the practice from the beginning of these arterial drainage operations in Ireland down to this moment. At all events, under these preliminary Acts 142 various schemes were proceeded with, and the Committee in 1852 reported that they were doing well but for the intervention of the famine. The famine undoubtedly upset the whole scheme of these works, because different measures were adopted to meet an emergency and to supply work for people in Ireland. They dispensed with the necessity for obtaining the help of two-thirds of the proprietors, and generally went ahead in a somewhat reckless and perhaps ill-considered though humane manner. And in the operations of these Acts, amended under the pressure of the famine, some 120 drainage districts were appointed in all parts of Ireland, and they have done a good deal of good work under the initiative of the Board of Works. The Board of Works, always at a loss to understand why they were unpopular, have suggested to me that one reason may be due to the fact that all of their estimates were grossly underneath what they ought to be for the preparation of the works. Whether they were entitled to think that depends on the view you take of the powers of the hydraulic engineers who estimate what the cost will be. It would be rash to assume that engineers to-day are to be relied on very much more than the engineers employed by the Board of Works in those days. In these cases the works sometimes cost 50 per cent. more than the estimate, and no doubt that created great unpopularity, and the only thing is I think hon. Members will be rash if they assume that engineers of to-day are very much wiser than the engineers of a generation or two ago. The matter hardly admits of precise and careful calculation. At all events, the result is that after 1862 a new scheme was devised. and the proprietors took the place of the Board of Works, and they them- selves undertook to carry out the work and employ their own engineers. But, unfortunately, the proprietors and their advisers were no better or successful in estimating the precise cost of these works than the Board of Works in earlier days, and the fact of the matter is there has been spent in Ireland under the operation of these various Acts of Parliament in various drainage schemes all over Ireland something like three millions of money, and that three millions of money is now sunk in these various undertakings. Now, of that money £2,396,612 was the total expenditure under earlier Acts of Parliament, and only one million of that has been charged against the proprietors; the balance of 1½ millions consisted either of free grants or loans which have been remitted by the Treasury. Therefore it has been borne in mind that of this £3,000,000 worth of work that has been done in Ireland to promote drainage, the greater part of it has been borne by the Imperial Exchequer, and, therefore, it is the Imperial Exchequer that has an active interest which it ought not to lose sight of, in seeing that these works, which have cost this large sum of money, are properly maintained, which at the present moment is not the case. That is a part of the case which I shall call special attention to in a moment.

I will not go into the details of the manner in which the drainage boards are elected, but the House will understand perfectly well two great facts which have come to light since the dates I am speaking of. One is, that we have now got in Ireland, thanks to a Conservative Government, a system of local government which fully deserves the praise which has been bestowed upon it by the Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway, and which I have no doubt will be re-echoed by Gentlemen sitting above the Gangway. It is certainly a remarkable thing that the Irish people should have been able, without any previous experience, or very little experience, to have undertaken at the same time the work of district councils and county councils, and it is a matter of congratulation that they are able to carry on these councils, under that which is recognised in Ireland as a competent local system of government. It is a most successful enterprise and a most courageous one for the Conservative party to have undertaken at the time, and perhaps it is a presage of what the Conservative party will do in the future when it is again in power. But at all events you have now got this system of government, and after that you have the Land Purchase Measures, under which a great part of the land of Ireland is now in the occupation of those who were formerly tenant occupiers, and these facts have upset and rendered obsolete, old-fashioned and extinct all those elaborate provisions under the old Acts of Parliament from 1840 up to the present time. They are no longer applicable. That will be seen in a moment, but the whole of those earlier Acts of Parliament were passed upon the assumption that the proprietors directly interested in the prevention of these lands from being flooded and in procuring arterial drainage were comparatively few in number, and were, in the first place, well able to play the part of a Board, and carry out these works and see them maintained, and also to distribute the cost in such a manner as to make it easy to collect. That is no longer the case, and in one case which is referred to the Report, where two or three years ago there were only 200 or 300 landlords there are now 2,000, and with land purchase proceeding at the rate it is there will be soon 3,000, and the whole scheme of election and representation of these drainage boards is obsolete and impossible, while in some instances the collection of the dues which in some cases amount to but a few pence, also becomes impossible. We are face to face with this: That there has been an expenditure of public money amounting to £3,000,000 under a large scheme, and measures for the maintenance of that scheme depend upon Boards which are antiquated, and the exercise of whose duty of securing the means for maintaining it is past praying for, and it is impossible for them to do so. The Viceregal Commission appointed, therefore, thought that at the earliest possible time. Parliament should deal with this question, and should by some process hand over the great task of maintaining these works to local authorities or to committees of local authorities, or county councils, because these drainage schemes very often affect four or five counties, and you can only properly carry them out by a system of joint committees. The present danger is very great. In the old days the landlords on a large scale were able to look after these works, and when rivers got blocked up or silted with easily removable obstacles they at once set to work themselves, and at some expense cleaned out the bed of the river and removed these obstructions, thereby preventing a great deal of the flooding which now takes place, but now there is nobody, owing to the smallness of the proprietors and the difficulty of getting them to co-operate together, to do that work. But a great, deal of flooding is occasioned by things which could be easily dealt with, and would have been dealt with, by the large proprietors in the earlier days. Therefore we see a great deal of damage done by neglect of drainage schemes which ought to be properly maintained.

I quite agree with what was said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Westmeath that the longer the delay is the more expensive they become, and that what you want is somebody on the spot to act promptly and speedily and repay themselves by striking a rate in the ordinary way. The first thing that is apparent is that unless we do so, incredible damage will be done to property in Ireland in which the Imperial Exchequer is largely concerned through the expenditure of something like £100,000,000 to £200,000,000. It is our obvious duty at the earliest possible moment to avail ourselves of the suggestions of this Commission, and to carry out some legislative precedure which would transfer to these local authorities the task of maintaining arterial drainage works. Therefore, with regard to that part of the case, I have only to say that the Government feel that they cannot allow the report of the Viceregal Commission to lie unacted upon a day longer than is absolutely necessary, and that they will consider, and are considering, proposals that will give statutory enactment to at all events the majority of the recommendations of that body. That carries us some way, but not, of course, the whole way that is desired. If you are to deal with arterial drainage in Ireland, on anything like a heroic scale, not only does it involve large sums of money, but it also involves the necessity of a proper survey, and the question being treated to some extent as a whole, because I am confident that you cannot rely upon local information upon this subject altogether. The local interests are so great for the carrying out of some particular scheme at some particular place, and people are not always ready to recognise the obligations which owners of one portion of a river owe to owners of another portion of a river, but each is so anxious to carry out some work which benefits himself immediately, that sometimes he is indifferent to the consequences to the land of persons living some way off, though on the. banks of the same stream. I think all are agreed that some central authority would be necessary in order to settle schemes involving such large sums of money. You have also to bear this in mind, that you cannot, when you come to the outfall of the river, where works have to be carried on of a very costly character, hope to recover any portion of the cost of that work from the owners in other reaches of the stream. Therefore, you have to deal with the cost which can be made reproductive, and which, therefore, can be properly charged upon the persons who are benefited by it, and the greater part of the cost at the outfall of the water, where the works must be carried on by some central authority at the expense of the State.

I find myself, therefore, in this position, that so far as the maintenance of the existing works are concerned, I feel that they are in great peril. I feel that every day that goes by makes that worse and adds to the danger to the land adjoining them, and also increases the cost of carrying out proper repairs and keeping them at a proper pitch of working order. There is no use, I think, in relying upon the machinery of the present drainage board. Some people anticipate opposition from the drainage board. I do not think that need now be anticipated. The difficulty arises in this way. You cannot expect those landlords who have not sold, but who are expecting to sell, to take any great or absorbing interest in these drainage works, nor can you expect them, nor is it reasonable that they should do so, to incur expenditure and charge this very land which they expect to sell with annual charges of this sort, and, consequently, there is a regrettable tendency, that is a very natural one, in Ireland, to do nothing in the way of carrying on these existing drainage works and repairing them, because the landlords hope to sell their lands and transfer to the shoulders of the purchasers or to the State, the obligation of maintaining these proper drainage schemes. Therefore, as I have said, the situation is one of periil. It is one which cannot remain on the present footing, and legislation, in my opinion, is urgently necessary in order to enable this work to be done.

I entirely sympathise with the hon. Member in regard to these matters, and I also sympathised with him when he said he did not want my sympathy. What is the good of sympathy? he said. I quite agree with that, On the other hand he wants cash. I am not at this moment denying that there is a case for cash, but I must ask him to bear in mind that there are some other countries besides Ireland, and if he consults his English friends he will find that vast sums of money have been lost by English landlords under drainage schemes, and the spectacle of land under water, I am afraid, is not confined to his own country, but it is a sight with which those living in the flat countries, in the fens in England, are also familiar. We know the damage done by flooding, and how desirable it would be to get large grants from the State for arterial drainage, and therefore we must be a little careful in this matter. One hon. Member said that whether it cost 10 millions or 50 millions was to him a matter of little moment. There was plenty of money in the British Treasury, all put there by Ireland, and therefore schemes must be carried out in a lavish way. That would be a theory which it would be absurd for me to support. The amount of money in the British Treasury is very small. The difficulty of getting it out is very great, and although I shall always continue to get as much as I can for the country of my temporary adoption I think it is really unreasonable for hon. Members to get up and speak as if it could be had only for the asking, because, after all, there are obligations on people themselves to aid themselves, and it is undoubtedly also the fact that one or two schemes—notably one of the Leader of the Opposition—fell to the ground, because, although he was prepared to make a free grant of £215,000, the cost of the works very much exceeded that, and the difficulty of getting the balance was so great that this tender of £215,000, an offer which was made by the, right hon. Gentleman when he was Chief Secretary, actually fell through. There is, therefore, a difficulty in a matter of that sort. Then they come to the individual cases, and, of course, we know what those individual cases are. They are the Barrow and the Bann. Every Chief Secretary knows about the Barrow and the Bann. The case of the Barrow is a very grievous case so far as the health and welfare and the value of the crops of the people are concerned. I have never read more distressing evidence than that which I have had to read in the various Reports of Commissions on the state of things in the Barrow. On the other hand, the Bann has some claim from the fact that they have spent already £109,000 I think.


£166,000, when you take into consideration the interest.


I dare say, but I was thinking of the capital sum. There was a free grant of £40,000, and the total capital expenditure on the whole thing was something like £150,000. At all events, they have paid money, and some, I am afraid, are continuing to pay it even yet, and therefore they have, as against the Barrow, which has not yet had to contribute on its own account, a good claim. But they both have, no doubt, excellent claims so far as any claims are good for the purpose of State assistance, and I can only hope that any money which is forthcoming will be better spent than has been the case in the past, and that schemes may not result in so much disappointment and lack of satisfaction to the persons most concerned, because certainly no one can read the appendices to this last Viceregal report, which show the expenditure of these three millions, without seeing that a great deal of it has been most wastefully spent, and that the results are by no means adequate to what was hoped by those who made the advances. The great bulk of that three millions, although by the machinery of the law it was contemplated to be paid by the Irish people themselves, has been paid out of the Imperial Exchequer.


The free gift to the Bann at that time was £109,000.


I thought that was the contemplated expenditure on the whole scheme.


£110,000 was to be paid by the people.


Suppose £110,000 by the people and £40,000 as a free grant, the people who advanced the £110,000 got the benefits, such as they were, of the works which were executed in exchange for it. Now the immediate case of the Barrow is that they want an advance of £50,000 for the purpose of cleaning the bed of the river of the silt that has accumulated during the last few years. That scheme is at the present moment before the Treasury. I received a deputation in Dublin, and another waited upon me in London, where they had the advantage of seeing a representative of the Treasury, and the only doubts were as to whether the £50,000 would not be wholly thrown away. It is impossible to approach this question without remembering that enormous sums of money have been thrown away in the past, and without asking whether there is any reason to believe that this sum of £50,000 could be treated as a permanent sum; which would remain as a useful result, and lead up to larger sums being expended in wider schemes, because it is admitted that this £50,000 is a mere bagatelle compared with what eventually will have to be spent if you are to deal satisfactorily with this very expensive river. On the other hand, few Members below or above the Gangway ought to complain of the Treasury—once bit twice shy—being a little sceptical as to whether so small a sum as £50,000 expended in this particular way would be a. wise expenditure of public money. You come to us and tell us this sum of £50,000 will do a particular piece of work, which you are satisfied will remain to the permanent good of the river, and will not be thrown away. I am not expressing any opinion on that subject, in fact so far as I have an opinion I come to the conclusion, as I believe also did my immediate predecessor, Mr. Bryce, that the scheme is a good scheme, and it was one which, though not unexposed to risk, was still worthy of being acted upon, having regard to the admitted dreadful consequences of allowing lands so close to the people, as many of these lands are, to be flooded in the way they constantly are. The evidence on that point was quite overwhelming. The scheme is still before the Treasury, and so far as I have any power of enforcing what is my view I shall continue to enforce it. I have had some success with the Treasury, though not as much as I should like, and I may have success in this mattter, but I cannot honestly make any promise or pledge to do anything more than to continue to enforce that view, and to obtain from them, which I have not yet done on the second occasion, a reply to the request which I have made.


What is the opinion of the Board of Works with regard to that scheme?


I do not know that I can usefully go into that matter. The Board of Works is, I think, rather indisposed to believe that the money would be perfectly safely and wisely spent, and you have to bear in mind that, inasmuch as it is an advance under the Imperial Exchequer, the Treasury are entitled to have their advisers, and their advisers, for good or for ill, are the Board of Works, and I cannot be expected to tell the Treasury that they shall pay no attention to the engineers of the Board of Works. That is an element in the case, and an element in the case it must remain. But, at the same time, the Treasury are quite accessible to argument on the subject, and I am sure if they could be satisfied that this sum would really bring about the results which it is anticipated it would do by those who support it, I have very little doubt that the money would be forthcoming. But the difficulty is one which I am still contending with. There is a real difficulty, and one which I am not justified for a moment in treating as if it were not still a serious difficulty in my way.

In reference to what fell from the hon. Gentleman opposite with regard to the river with which he is closely associated, the Board of Works authorise me to say that they never dreamt of interfering or forbidding the opening of the sluices in the way that he desired. All they felt was that they could not do it without the consent of the Navigation Board, and if, as I understand, the Navigation Board are desirous that this should be done, he may take it from me that no objection whatever will be made by the Board of Works to what he wishes being carried out. I think that also applies to the introduction of a sluice into the mill-race, but I will communicate personally with the hon. Gentleman on the subject. The Board of Works assure me that their only difficulty was that they felt they ought not to take upon themselves anything which might be injurious to the interest of the Navigation Board. They go on to say they do not think any very great benefit will result from the opening of the gates, but the hon. Gentleman is perfectly satisfied to run the risk of that. To that small extent, therefore, the Board of Works may be dismissed from his mind.

I was interested to hear from the hon. Member for Kildare that the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture has lurking in his pocket the sum of £400,000. If that were so it would indeed be a pity if this £50,000 we are in search of could not be obtained from that source. My right hon. Friend denies the existence of that sum of money, and' the House will, perhaps, permit him to give his reasons for denying it. The Government are firmly convinced of the necessity, at the earliest possible moment, of introducing legislation of the character that I have described. I cannot promise to do it this Session. It would be absurd for me to contend that there is Parliamentary time at our disposal for that purpose, but I hope at the earliest possible opportunity the legislation which is in course of preparation will be introduced to the notice of the House. With regard to obtaining grants of money for particular schemes, it is very difficult to get money, and there are many schemes in Ireland competing one with another. I could not but notice that there was some reticence on that subject by one speaker opposite, who rather intimated that if Gentlemen below the Gangway would only cease making their demands in certain directions the money might be forthcoming. I do not enter into that at all. No one can deny that Ireland is a poor country, and presents a great many claims upon the attention of the Treasury. Education alone might very well absorb large grants of money, and I do not think anyone who has seen the result which has followed from labourers' cottages will for a moment say that one farthing of that has been otherwise than wisely and nobly spent. Fisheries, afforestation—all these schemes are good in themselves. The only thing is, unfortunately, there is not enough land in Ireland to go round, and there is not money enough even in the wealthy British Treasury to meet all the demands which might be usefully made to secure the welfare of Ireland. I shall not be neglectful of my duty.


The Chief Secretary has made about as satisfactory a speech as we expected from him. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman above the Gangway on the gigantic triumph which he has achieved on this memorable night in the history of this particular river in getting this sluice opened.


I have just received a note to say that even with regard to the sluice the Chief Secretary has made a mistake.


I was rather premature in my congratulations, but I note, as perhaps even more satisfactory in the speech of the Chief Secretary, that the question of the grant of £50,000 for the River Barrow is still under the consideration of the Treasury. I have to say quite candidly that I rise to take part in this Debate with a feeling of almost sickening despair. Let me say a word first about the audience to which the Debate has been addressed. We have had in the last half hour, largely due to the fact that so attractive a speaker as the Chief Secretary was on his legs, a slight English incursion, but up to the last half hour England was represented by numbers varying from two to six Members. We had speeches in this particular Debate to what was practically an Irish House of Commons. Only Irish Members were here, united and agreed, I am glad to say for once. We have had an Irish House of Commons with power to talk, but no power to act. I would have been partially consoled even for that fact if I thought this Debate was going to serve as a propaganda, and a means of instructing a large number of the Members of the House of Commons who, with all due respect to them, are very ignorant of some of the questions which affect Ireland. I would have liked the whole of the Liberal and Conservative party to have been present if only to hear the speech of the hon. Member for South Antrim. May I congratulate him on the excellence of his tone and the cogency of his argument. In that speech he began by declaring that he was opposed to Home Rule. I never heard a more convincing indictment of the present system, and a more convincing argument in favour of Home Rule. I say in passing that I rather regret the absence of two English Members whom I should have liked to hear his comments. One is the hon. Member for Colchester, and the other a member of his firm. They are both partners of the firm of Pearson and Son.

I should have liked them to hear the comments which were made with regard to the unreliability of the estimates of hydraulic engineers. These gentlemen would have been able to state that sitting in their offices in London they were able to arrange the estimates and details for three or four tunnels not under the comparatively smooth waters of the Barrow and the Bann, but under the almost tempestuous and broad waters that surround the city city of New York. I am sure they were able to do so without underestimating the cost or diminishing their profits on the transaction. They would have been able to show at least that the work of hydraulic engineers, if conducted by skilful men, and not by a futile, insolent, and ineffective public Department in Ireland, has been brought to something like an exact science. What is the evil which has been brought before the House to-day? As was said in the preamble of the Act of, I think, 1831, a large tract of the best soil in Ireland is yearly under water. The crops and other property are destroyed, and, what is worse, the health of the people is destroyed.

Many quotations have been made to-night, but I confess that the one that produced the most effect on my mind was that made by the hon. Member for South Antrim. The hon. Member quoted from the report of a meeting held in Belfast, which was attended by many sound Unionists, including our late lamented friend, Colonel Saunderson. The report says that one of the dispensary medical officers practising in part of the flooded area, who had had twenty-four years' experience of. it, stated that he had attended; many serious cases of illness and registered the deaths of many persons who had suffered from pulmonary disease, and he attributed the cause of their illness to these floods. Mark this passage: "In fact the amount of sickness and death in this district in each year varies in proportion to the extent and duration of the floods during the previous year." The whole world has been shocked at the story of what has come to be called the white plague in Ireland, namely, the number of deaths from tuberculosis. What is the explanation? All kinds of explanation have been given—insanitary dwellings and ignorance among the people. Here we have it stated that at least one of the causes of the disease is to be found in the periodic flooding of the districts. It is something rather sickening, and almost approaching hypocrisy, to be holding exhibitions, giving lectures, and making appeals about tuberculosis—though, far be it from me to question the motives of the people who conduct those things—it is something approaching hypocrisy to talk of these wretched superficial features of this terrible scourge in Ireland, while every year over nearly 100,000 acres you have every house inundated by floods which leave the seeds of infection. The Chief Secretary is as kind, benevolent, and humane a man as ever occupied his great office, and when he comes to the House of Commons what is his answer? I cannot do anything. Large sums of money are required to deal with the scheme as a whole. I have not even the money in small sums which are required to deal with the scheme in part; I cannot give you a penny." That is the impotent answer the Chief Secretary is compelled to give, speaking on behalf of the richest country in the world, and dealing with a country which the British Government insists on governing. It is absurd in dealing with this matter to talk about floods in England, and to say that there is no public money for them.

That does not meet the case. England can take care of herself. If she neglects this matter, that is her affair. She has a big majority in Parliament, and they could ask for money. What we in Ireland want is a proportion of the £10,000,000 which we contribute. Of that sum we want £200,000 a year for the purpose of Saving the property of the farmers, and what is to our mind the more serious, vital, and appealing question, the saving of the lives of the human beings who every year are, as the result of these floods, infected with disease. I am glad that this Debate has brought out what is an almost forgotten or ignored feature of the Irish question. You hear a great deal about the Irish land question. You have hon. Members calling attention to the disturbances in portions of Ireland, and you have had a great controversy upon the Church, but one thing which is almost entirely ignored by the great mass of the English people is that the administration of Ireland is one of the most futile, ineffective, tragical, and disastrous in the whole history of the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the most costly."] And the most costly, of course. I do protest my opinion that 25 per cent. of the deaths in Ireland are avoidable, and that they are caused by bad hygiene, floods, bad food, and the want of the vitalising influence of a public department supported by and responsible to Irishmen. I think the right hon. Gentleman was not quite just to the people of these districts in what he said about them. They have never refused to contribute their quota to the expense and settlement of this matter. As was said by the hon. Member for South Antrim in regard to the River Bann, the people have given £164,000 towards the solution of the problem, with the result that things are as bad now as if every single sovereign of that money had been thrown into the waters of Lough Neagh instead of going into the coffers of contractors. They are not allowed to do this Work properly, because the British Government is not able to aid them. Parliament cannot do it, and the Chief Secretary cannot do it, but then you might fall back on administration. Good administration sometimes takes the place of central government. But what is the administration in Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman affects a simple and childlike surprise to hear that the Board of Works is unpopular. I will tell you why they are so Unpopular. There is in the county of Wicklow, at Graystones, a sea wall built by the Board of Works which is already falling away. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is away."] It has disappeared. In Bray there is the simulacrum and ghost of a harbour where now you can drive a coach and four, so dry is it. In Arklow there is a harbour into which no ship can get.


It is all right now.


I am glad to hear it.


What I mean to say is that out of a special grant of £54,000 a sum has been expended on the repair of Arklow Harbour. Everyone admits now that the harbour has been improved.


I am very glad to hear it. If you go to the town of Wicklow, in the same county—this makes four places in that one county—you find a harbour which is only now at last beginning to be of some use since an additional sum of £14,000 has been expended on it. Why is the Board of Works unpopular? I have given cases of its gross incompetence. But there was another kind of Board of Works presented by my hon. Friend the Member for East Queen's County. The county council of Queen's County presented what we regard as a most legitimate and most respectful request to the Board of Works for the maps and plans which they had with regard to the River Barrow. Does anybody think that if any great public body in England presented a request of that kind to any Government office in England the request would not be immediately complied with as a matter of course? What is a public Department in England? What it ought to be in any country—a servant of the public, paid by the public for doing the work of the public, and accessible to all the public—if it be properly conducted—ready, willing, and anxious to give all the information to the public which the public may think will enlighten them or help them in any work which they have in hand. Is not that the true and only really popular conception of a public Department? What is it that we find under the Board of Works in Ireland An insolent and arrogant refusal of information, as if the people of Ireland existed for the payment of the salaries of these petty Czars, who are naturally distrusted and hated by the people for the manner in which they behave. There you have this extraordinary set of circumstances that the people cannot do anything to remedy these grievances, though they are willing to pay their share of it. The Chief Secretary and the House of Commons cannot do anything, though I am sure the Chief Secretary is most anxious to do it, and at the head, or, rather, the tail, of the whole grim procession comes in the unrepresentative alien hostile narrow and incompetent public department, mismanaging everything and flouting the most simple request for information that is addressed to it. That is how Ireland is governed.

Why do I dwell on that point? I do not know any more misleading dictum ever uttered by any public man, though no dictum was ever uttered with greater friendliness or honesty, than that of the late Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman. He said, in a passage which is now historic, that good government is no substitute for self-government. That is quite true, but what a pathetically false representation of the real alternative in Irish life and Irish government it presents? Good government is no substitute for self-government. If that were in question, though our national demand would still be made and we would still insist on it, every man of us, if that were only the reality of the Irish demand, the Irish case would be very different from what it is. But that is not the case. The government of Ireland is not only not self-government, is not only not good government, but is the worst government that exists in Europe. When I heard my friends describe how year after year and decade after decade I might almost say century after century—because the case of the Bann, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for South Antrim, goes back 150 years—this damage has been going on unchecked, and when I heard of towns falling into decay owing to the flooding of land year after year and generation after generation, and when I heard of crops rotting in the ground because of these floods, I began to think I was hearing about Turkey, and I almost began even to wish that instead of having to govern us a benevolent middle-aged Englishman like my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary—that is what he calls himself, though I would call him an eternal middle-aged boy, but I accept his description—I began almost to wish that instead of being governed by a benevolent middle-aged Englishman in Ireland we had the advantage of being governed by a vigorous, sensible young Turk.


I wish to refer to a statement of the hon. and learned Mem- ber for South Kildare. He stated that the Department had something like £400,000 of a surplus and that it would be within its power to contribute say £50,000 for the drainage of the Barrow or any other drainage purposes. I do not dispute the power that the Department would have under the Act of 1899, but what I wish to say is this, that in the early years of the Department a very large surplus was amassed. I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman was far wrong when he said it was £400,000. I think, speaking from memory, that that is substantially accurate. That surplus arose in this way. When the Act of 1899 was passed, the money to be contributed became payable to us at once. The result was that large sums were paid into the Department before the schemes of the Department were ready to be put into operation and these monies became what was known in the Department as the reserve fund. Since then the work has very largely extended. As hon. Gentlemen know, in the Act itself we were charged to pay, for different purposes, very large amounts. I may mention that during the past five years we have given £50,000 for the work of the Congested Districts Boards, and we have had to contribute to a great variety of other purposes that had to be paid for. But I speak now for a period of which I have personal knowledge, and I should say again, speaking roughly, from recollection of the last figure that I saw when the Board met that the surplus at the present moment is perhaps a little over £160,000. That is the reserve fund. My fear is that if a Department like the Department of Agriculture stores up a reserve fund, it would be raided. That was my fear, and I resolved to spend the money. The money has been earmarked by the Agricultural Board until only £20,000 is left. £50,000 was set aside for agricultural schemes and agricultural education. £50,000 was set aside for the purposes of a loan fund, to grant loans which it is necessary to grant to farmers and others. Other sums have been allocated and earmarked for other work, and I know for a fact that at the present moment there is no more than £20,000, which may be called a reserve fund. So far as the actual income of the Department is concerned, we are working up to the last shilling coming in, and the reserve fund has been reduced to the amount I have stated, but I quite agree that at one period there was a very large reserve.


May I make a personal explanation by leave of the House? What I had in my mind were two Reports of the Department. One, for 1905–6, says:— The nominal or face value of the securities held on 31st March, 1906, including £20,000 Consols transferred from the Board of Works to the Department in April, 11104, was £379,431…. Deducting the liabilities of £122,540 from the total sum of £395,230 there remained a sum of £272,690. The second Report, for 1906–7 (the Report for 1907–8 is not yet out), states:— The nominal or face value of the securities held on 31st March, 1907, including £20,000 Consols transferred from the Board of Works to the Department in April, 1904, was £379,431; and their cash value was £353,290…. Deducting the liabilities from the sum of £353,290, there remained a sum of £229,081… I do not think it is too much to ask for £50,000 out of that.


On the general question of this Motion, I do not think the Irish people will derive much satisfaction from the reply of the Chief Secretary, because he has told us that this year, at all events, in the present condition of public business, it would be impossible for him to introduce legislation dealing with the large and comprehensive question of arterial drainage in Ireland. That is no new story. Whenever grievances are brought forward in this House, we are usually met by right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench with the statement that the condition of public business is such that Parliament has no time to deal with Irish grievances. That is one of the main arguments put forward over; and over again by Irish Nationalist Members in support of their demand for Home Rule—the impossibility of this House, owing to the condition of public business and the cares of the Empire, being able to deal with admitted Irish grievances. We all admit that there is in this House no more earnest, more thoroughgoing, or more consistent Home-Ruler than the Chief Secretary; he has always been that, and if it were possible for him to be a stronger Home-Ruler his experience in his present office would have made him one.

I rose more particularly to say that I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say, not very definitely, I admit, but at all events that he had given hope to the people who live in the neighbourhood of the Barrow that the result of the two deputations which he was good enough to receive was not wholly futile. In the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that no public money had been spent in the Fen country in England. But there was no demand for public money there, because the landlords in the Fen country recognise to some extent their responsibility as owners and what is expected from them. But in the whole of the region of the Barrow, the Chief Secretary is of course thoroughly well aware that none of the landlords ever expend £1 for the purpose of improving its condition. If there was any part of Ireland of which the very look of the place, especially during the recent flood (which was one of the most serious for many years), would condemn Irish landlords and prove that they had neglected their duty as owners of land, it is the neglected country from Carlow to Mountmellick. The Chief Secretary spoke about three millions of money having been advanced for the purpose of arterial drainage, of which £2,000,000 had had to be remitted, so that interest was being paid on only £1,000,000. Might I remind him of the fact that not a single penny of public money has ever been expended on the drainage of the River Barrow. The right hon. Gentleman admits that the Barrow is an exceptional case, and that it is far and away the worse case in Ireland, but he appeared to be doubtful as to what the effect of the expenditure of £50,000 would be. I was glad to hear him say that he was sympathetically considering representations that have been made to him, and that if he could satisfy his mind or if his experts could satisfy him that this expenditure of £50,000 would be of permanent value he thinks the claim is extremely strong, and that the £50,000 ought to be advanced to be expended by the county councils. If the Chief Secretary will during his leisure, perhaps after the House rises, come down and go up the river from Athy to Mountmellick, he will see for himself, without having any report from experts, that this £50,000 would be of permanent value. He shakes his head.


I should not be able to judge.


I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to make the House believe that he is not a man of common sense. If he went up the river he could see for himself, without any expert knowledge being necessary, that the artificial obstructions in the river interfere with the natural flow, and prevent the river from doing its natural work in the scouring of the bed. That induces silting, which is the cause of the creation of those islands in the river. It requires no expert knowledge whatever; it only requires a man of ordinary eyesight and some common-sense—both of which the Chief Secretary possesses—to see for himself that the expenditure of £50,000 would be of permanent value. It is the artificial obstructions in the portion of the river in my Constituency that are the whole cause of a great deal of the flooding. I certainly trust that the Chief Secretary will lose no time in communicating with the county councils of Queen's County and Kildare, who jointly are prepared, under proper supervision and competent engineering advice and experts, to have this work carried out. The Chief Secretary may have been told that it was a question of the removal of fallen trees or something of that kind. It is very much more. Every tree that falls creates an obstruction; but if all the artificial obstructions were removed the river would be put in a condition to do its own natural work. The current would be increased, and the river would have its natural flow. The Chief Secretary can understand what the effect of an artificial weir is in a river where for miles the fall is only six inches to a foot per mile. The inhabitants of the towns of Athy, Monasterevan, Portarlington, and Mountmellick, will anxiously read the statement made to-night by the Chief Secretary. The Chief Secretary has seen from the medical reports that the health of the inhabitants has been seriously affected for a very long time. He would see that not alone is consumption and tuberculosis a fearful scourge in that part of the country, but he would also see that differing from other parts of Ireland malarial and low fevers are prevalent along the whole of the country that is flooded by the River Barrow. In the interests of the general health of the people, even apart from the destruction of property and the destruction of crops, for those four or five towns no money could be possibly better expended. Surely one of the first duties of any Government is to safeguard the lives of the inhabitants of the country which they govern. I, therefore, again press on the Chief Secretary the necessity of losing no time in getting into communication with the chairmen and secretaries and other representative men of the two county councils of Kildare and Queen's County, who are prepared to co-operate in this matter, and to see that the money is spent for the relief and permanent good of the district.


I think there was one gleam of satisfaction from the Chief Secretary's speech, and that was his statement that there will be no more Royal Commissions on this matter. The case that has been made out to-day is an un-answerable case, and the only answer to it is the old one—that there is no money to be got out of the British Treasury for purposes of this kind in Ireland. It was my duty to go on deputations to several Chief Secretaries. I went before Lord Morley in Dublin Castle, I went before Mr. Bryce, and I had the pleasure of going before the present Chief Secretary twice. The one answer that we met was that there was no money. Where are our taxes going? The hon. Member for the Scotland Division reminded the house—our taxation is unjust and rising every day, and that at this minute it is almost ten millions of money for Imperial taxation. "Dreadnoughts" are being built with our taxes, and it was remarked in this House not long ago, they may be scrapped in a few years when aerial navigation has developed. Those huge monsters may therefore be scrapped. With regard to this £50,000 which we are demanding. I think the Chief Secretary must not have read this extract from the report of the Commission as to the question whether this money would be thrown away. That is the Board of Works difficulty with regard to sanctioning this loan, or advising the Treasury that this money might be wholly or partly thrown away. The hon. Member quoted the opinion of Sir Alexander Binnie that money might advantageously be expended on the River Barrow in small sums.

When we went before the Chief Secretary in Dublin on previous occasions he asked us to give something tangible, some expert evidence that he could present to the Treasury when making this demand upon them. We accordingly sent out the two county surveyors of Kildare and Queen's County—two very eminent engineers, men of long experience and long standing. They made a Report which exactly supports the opinion I have read, which the Chief Secretary, I think, has been given, and detailing how this money was to be spent upon the river, and how the work would be permanent work in any future scheme which might be brought forward. The Chief Secretary told us that the Board of Works did not think much about it. I daresay they did not. It was not one of their own engineers, and they did not get the opportunity, as some hon. Member said, of spending red tape on this matter. With regard to the general scheme of arterial drainage for Ireland, there is no doubt it would have not only economically, but climatically, a wonderful effect on the country. If there is one thing more remarkable than another it is the fact that for the past 30 years the climate has become more moist and more disappointing, and the temperature has considerably fallen, particularly in the summer time. That is all to be attributed to the defective state of arterial drainage, and in the second place to the destruction of the forests. The hills have been denuded of their natural forests, and the consequence is the floods rush down, the rivers are neglected, and cannot carry them away. The Chief Secretary spoke of the amount of money that was spent in Ireland—something about £3,000,000—since the Act of 1842 was passed. He said the greater portion of that was unremunerative. The principal reason of that is that the money was spent under drainage boards, and those boards could not deal with the great principal outlets of the river. It is a national question, and they have not the money to do it. There is no use in dealing with the arteries unless the great outlets are relieved.

The Chief Secretary promised to consider the question of altering the law as, I understand, with regard to these drainage boards, in consequence of the altered situation brought about by the Land Purchase Acts, and of forming a Drainage Department. We wish to have in any new Department that is formed representation, we wish to have the general council of the county councils represented, and to have nothing whatever to do with the Board of Works. I support everything stated by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool with regard to their incompetence. I had an instance in my own division, where they carried out some drainage works on the Nore, and they put up a sluice, but on the wrong side, so that instead of allowing the water to go they sent it back. There is another instance of the Board of Works' incompetence. Everyone was startled with the jewel robbery in Dublin Castle. 'The Board of Works built a strong room for the safe, and when they had it built they could not get the safe in. That was one of the reasons why the robbery was carried out so easily. The demand was put forward by the hon. Member for Westmeath that there should be a representative body to carry out this system of drainage in the country. Above all things the Board of Works should have nothing to do with it. It is the duty of the Government to see that the lives and property of the people are protected, and it is really a mockery to attempt to remedy diseases such as tuberculosis and others which are propagated is the country by these hotbeds of infection. I myself have seen instances in which people have had to return to a cottage which had been saturated with water in the floods, and where they were expected with a very meagre supply of fuel, to bring up their family. I say it is impossible that the people can exist under such circumstances, and, having regard to the case made out, the Chief Secretary, I hope, will be successful in his demand on the Treasury for at least a small sum of £50,000.


I had in tended drawing the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the deplorable condition of things that very frequently exists in the county of Galway in connection with flooding from the river Clare. But after the statement he has made on behalf of the Government I am afraid there is not the slightest use in my doing so. I can only say, therefore, that if ever the right hon. Gentleman succeeds in breaking into the Treasury and securing a sum of money to deal with this question of arterial drainage in Ireland, I shall certainly press upon his attention the claim3 of the people of the county of Galway in respect of the flooding of the river Clare. In common with the Members who sit on this Bench, I listened with great disappointment to the speech we have heard to-night from the right hon. Gentleman. I suppose he is tired of hearing complaints from these Benches about statements he has from time to time to make with regard to Ireland, especially where financial questions arise. The right hon. Gentleman perfectly well understands that our complaints are in no way personal to himself. He does his best. We have always given him credit for doing his best, and we hope shall always do so in future, but that cannot prevent or preclude us from making very serious complaints with regard to the attitude of the Chief Secretary, or save the Government from our criticism. I think in this case the helpless position in which the right hon. Gentle man has acknowledged himself to be this evening affords very grave and serious grounds indeed for complaint against the Government. The speech of the right hon.

Gentleman was in very sharp and strange contrast with the speech delivered in this House only yesterday by the Prime Minister. In introducing the Bill dealing with Welsh Disestablishment the Prime Minister adduced the argument that every Member returned to the present Parliament from Wales was in favour of disestablishment; and then he turned to these Benches and to the Tory Benches above the Gangway, and he said: "Does any single Member of this House believe for a moment that if the Irish Members, the Tory Members for Ulster and the Members for the Nationalist constituencies were united upon any single question, the House of Commons would be able to resist for 24 hours their demand?"


On a purely Irish subject.


This is a purely Irish subject, and the interruption of the Noble Lord is scarcely relevant, because our contention is that we contribute in Imperial taxation close upon ten millions of money a year, and all we ask is that some of that money ought to be devoted to Irish purposes such as that which we have brought before the attention of the House to-day. The remarks of the Prime Minister to my mind ought to have been modified to this extent, that it appears his remarks about Irish demands being granted where they are united, only apply when it costs nothing. That is the moral of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which we have heard tonight. It is one with which we on our part cannot be satisfied. The Chief Secretary in the course of his observations boasted of the fact that three millions of money have been spent on arterial drainage in Ireland. He went back over a long period, but I think he will find if he goes closely into the matter that the fact of three millions of money having been spent in Ireland upon arterial drainage is, if anything, a grave condemnation of the Board of Works, and the Government of Ireland, for at the time of the famine in the 'forties money was spent on arterial drainage in Ireland, but as soon as the pressure of the famine was over all useful works that had been started were abandoned, and the result was that you got no satisfactory result at all from the amount of money that had been expended. My hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division dealt with the question as to why the Board of Works in Ireland is so unpopular. The reason is briefly this, that it is completely and absolutely out of touch with popular feeling, that it is antiquated and incompetent in its methods, and bigoted and reactionary in its constitution. The Chief Secretary said our whole case might be summed up in this, that we want cash, and he has none. It is not necessary for me to ask: Is the British Treasury bankrupt? I think we have reason to complain that throughout this long Debate there has not been on the Treasury Bench except for one or two moments, a representative of the Treasury who is concerned or who ought to be concerned in this important matter. Where are the representatives of the Treasury? There was a dispute upon a question of fact between my hon. Friend the Member for Kildare and the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture, and I submit that a representative of the Treasury ought to have been here to help to clear up the facts regarding the matter in question. I think we at least have a right to expect that a financial representative of this bankrupt Empire—for that really is what it means so Tar as Ireland is concerned when we ask for money nowadays—should be here to give us some explanation of why the legitimate demands of our country cannot be met. When we are told that there is no money forthcoming, and that the Chief Secretary is not able to secure another penny for this purpose out of the British Treasury, our answer to that statement and to that attitude is that you have made yourselves responsible for the government of Ireland, and that it is your duty to see that your responsibilities are carried out. If you cannot govern Ireland well under the present system—and the Chief Secretary will not for one moment maintain that you can—I say that the least you ought to do is to keep the country literally, if not financially, above water. The Chief Secretary has not shown that he can hold out to us any hope, any considerable hope, in this matter. In view of that fact, I think this House will realise, and I hope this country will realise, that the sooner the responsibility for the government of Ireland and for the redressing of the grievances under which Ireland suffers at the present time, especially in this matter of arterial drainage, is transferred to 'the shoulders of the people of Ireland the better it will be for all concerned.


Whatever else may be said about the Debate this even- ing, it cannot be said that it is open to the reproach made by the mathematician against Milton's "Paradise Lost" that it proves nothing. It proves several things beyond the possibility of doubt. The first of these is that for more than 100 years the Imperial Government has shamefully neglected its duty to Ireland in connection with this matter of arterial drainage. Secondly, that the authority which the Imperial Government has set up in Ireland to represent it in these matters is shamefully incompetent, and has bungled everything that it has attempted, not only in connection with arterial drainage but everything else that was submitted to its care. Thirdly, it has been proved beyond the possibility of doubt that there is a necessity for a great and comprehensive scheme for preventing the great evil to which Ireland is subjected at the present time of having tens of thousands of acres of its best land covered with water for months at a time. Worst of all, it has been proved that there is no hope of any remedy being applied to this colossal evil, which not only destroys the property of the people of Ireland, but which endangers their health and their lives to an alarming extent; which carries off by consumption thousands of the population from year to year, and which sends thousands of the young people of Ireland to foreign countries with the seeds of consumption in their system. It is a matter of surprise to the people belonging to other nationalities in the United States of America and elsewhere that young and apparently strong and vigorous people coming from Ireland after a short time fall victims to the fell disease of consumption. It has been shown here to-night, it has been proved by medical testimony, that this disease of consumption, which so injuriously affects the population of Ireland, is largely owing to the flooding of the country and the neglect of arterial drainage. Again, I have heard it stated in this House in years gone by about this very Bann district which has been referred to, that in addition to consumption the people there suffer terribly from rheumatism, so that at an advanced age you meet with men and women who are twisted almost out of resemblance to human beings by rheumatism. I consider it is a terrible thing, in view of this state of affairs, to find that the representative 6f the Imperial Government in Ireland who is responsible can hold out no hope. I do not for a moment attribute it to any want of sympathy on his part, or any want of conviction on his part that a remedy ought to be applied. But he is helpless in the present state of affairs. I am sure that he, as well as the Members from Ireland, is desire us that as early as possible one great remedy should be that of giving the charge of matters of this kind to the people of Ireland at home.

I should like to say one word with regard to the means by which the flooding of lands in Ireland might be prevented. It is true that the removal of obstacles in the rivers may do a great deal, but I hold, with one of my hon. Friends who spoke this evening in the Debate, that the evil ought to be attacked at its root. It is not, as has been pointed out before, the waters that fall upon the plains in Ireland that cause the damage. It is the water that falls upon the mountains and the hillsides, and which rushes down—as does the water from the roof of a house—into the plains that causes these inundations. Before we can have a satisfactory state of affairs in connection with this matter in Ireland we must have the mountains and the hills planted. It is recommended by engineers who have gone thoroughly into this question in the past that there is another thing which might be done in connection with the inundations in the plains. That is, in the hilly countries barrages might be constructed to dam up the water during the heavy rains. It has: been pointed out that land in the mountain districts, which would be required for reservoirs to intercept the water, and keep it from rushing down into the plains, is worth about 6d. per acre, whereas the land that is destroyed in the plains is worth £6. Until the matter is dealt with in a comprehensive way, including both the planting of the hills and the mountains and the construction of those barrages, the floods will not be satisfactorily dealt with.


Hon. Members may note owing to the conditions of Irish government, that while the right hon. Gentleman sympathises with the people in their affliction, we find, on the other hand, he is responsible for another Department of State in Ireland which at the present time is aggravating the very evil in connection with which he is so sympathetic, and which he dealt with in such sympathetic language to the House this evening. It is perhaps due to the state of Irish government, and it epitomises the whole state of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman represents many Departments, and while he deplores and sympathises with the state of the people as the representative of one particular Department, on the other hand, he is the head of another Department which is primarily responsible for keeping up the very evils he deplores. That is due entirely to the mistakes which he, as well as many of his predecessors, have fallen into. They have allowed themselves to be guided by the permanent officials, and they have neglected and ignored the advice given to them by Irish Members in the past. That is the present position; it is an extraordinary state of things. The land of Ireland is passing from the landlords to the tenants. The landlords of Ireland were hitherto responsible for arterial drainage. Since they received their purchase money they cease to have any further responsibility, and the State becomes the landlord of the annuitants. But the State is not responsible for arterial drainage and the State takes no trouble to inquire into the condition of arterial drainage in any particular county or upon any particular property before they advance the purchase money to the landlords. We on these benches have again and again Appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to insist upon inspection before sanctioning sales between landlord and tenants and before advancing the money to the landlords. These appeals have been rejected, and the right hon. Gentleman proposes to perpetuate that in his Land Bill, and instead of taking the view of the representatives of the people he prefers to take the views of the permanent officials of the Government.

I should like just to give one specific instance of what I said. I know an estate which was to be sold to the tenants at prices within the zones. In the ordinary course the money would have been advanced to the purchase of that estate without inspection, but a few of the tenants, of whom I was one, held out, and but for that fact the money would have been advanced to the landlord, who would be rid of all responsibility. He would be no longer responsible after he had received his cash for arterial drainage, and the responsibility would have lain with the multitude of small tenants on the estate. How are they to be brought together, and how could they be expected to attend to the business of arterial drainage? If the drainage was not kept in proper con- dition, the land would have been swamped and in that way the right hon. Gentleman and his Government would have been responsible for the evil of which we complain, and would have enlarged and magnified the amount of land under the water. The tenants on this estate applied to the Estates Commissioners to order an inspection. The Estates Commissioners promised to comply, and an inspector was sent down, but he came without giving: any notice, and was not seen by the tenants. They again appealed to the Estates Commissioners not to advance the money until the arterial drainage of property was properly provided for, either by deducting from the landlord purchase money, a sufficient sum, or by combining the tenantry together in some way, so that trustees might be appointed for the proper maintenance of the drainage of the district. Another inspector was sent down. He came by appointment and named two days on which he would attend, but on neither day did he meet the tenants. We were told subsequently that he came in his motor-car to the top of the hill, looked down on the land, and that was all that was heard of him since. I wish to bring home to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that if arterial drainage is indispensable and necessary, it is essential that the rivers of Ireland should be maintained in a proper condition, and if the right hon. Gentleman is wise he will accept the advice of the Irish Members, and he will insist that land is inspected at all events as to the matter of arterial drainage before the purchase-money is advanced to landlords. If the money is advanced, and the drainage facilities are neglected, and if in four, five, or ten years the land becomes flooded, and small-holders cannot be brought together to promote a proper scheme, then it is the Government which has advanced money to the landlord without taking proper precautions in this important matter that will be responsible. The right hon. Gentleman proposed at some future date to introduce legislation to deal with this subject, but that is the bane of Irish government. The evil is always allowed to do its work before any attempt is made to remedy it. The right hon. Gentleman may not be in the position of Chief Secretary five or six years hence, and his successor may not be of the same mind as he. Therefore, we say inspect the land before you advance the money, and if you find that an annual outlay is required for arterial drainage on an estate, retain sufficient money to carry out the enterprise properly, and if you do not do that, do not blame the Irish people if they should fail to pay their annuities.


I want to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the very interesting evidence given by the chief inspector of the Congested Districts Board at one of the sittings of the recent Royal Commission on Congestion. The chief inspector, Mr. Doran, is a gentleman of whom every impartial man has formed the highest opinion. The Royal Commission on Congestion inquired not only into the question of congestion, but also took evidence in connection with arterial drainage. At the sitting of the Commission in Listowel, county Kerry, Mr. Doran gave very important evidence in connection with the arterial drainage of Cashen Mouth. In asking the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to deal with that I will call his attention to Vol. 3, page 10, preface to Mr. Doran's evidence, which practically covers the whole ground that I would have otherwise to traverse. He will see from that that there is an area of 11,000 acres of land wholly or partially submerged for the greater portion of the year. I am afraid in dealing with this particular phase I differ somewhat from most of my colleagues in the remedy which I would suggest. I join with them in their condemnation of the Board of Works and the Drainage Board. In the last 25 years it was estimated that the expenditure on the Cashen would not have been more than £5,000, but the actual expenditure was £10,000, and the condition of the river mouth is no better than it was before the work was

commenced. Indeed, my deliberate opinion is that the condition is worse. The claim we make is not that the river ought to be drained or that obstructions ought to be removed. Our claim is one with which I am glad to see Mr. Doran from his evidence is in entire agreement. That claim is that the volume of tidal water coming in should be kept out, so as to decrease the amount of fresh water in the upper reaches of the river. Some of my hon. Friends make the claim that the beds or sinks of rivers should be lowered. That is all very well, and I have no doubt will have an excellent effect in some upper reaches, but my experience of the River Feale is that the flooding is caused by the tidal waters coming up and stopping or forcing back the fresh water of the river. The report to which I have alluded estimates that 11,000 acres of wholly or partly submerged land can easily be reclaimed at the expenditure of about £10,000. His scheme is not the dredging of the river, but the building of a large tidal wall by which the tide can be kept back and prevented from meeting the fresh water running down the river. This can be done at a small annual expense, and the great danger to both life and health will be obviated. The waste land which will be reclaimed can be made a valuable asset, and might be divided amongst the poor people. I trust the right hon. Gentleman in considering the giving of a grant will not lose sight of the necessity of dealing with these smaller schemes which are of vital importance in themselves.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 97; Noes, 80.

Division No. 70.] AYES. [9.20 p.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r) Myer, Horatio
Barker, Sir John Haworth, Arthur A. Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)
Beauchamp, E. Helme, Norval Watson Nicholls, George
Bellairs, Carlyon Hills, J. W. Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Hobart, Sir Robert Nuttall, Harry
Brian, John Horniman, Emslie John Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Burt, Rt Hen. Thomas Idris, T. H. W. Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Chance, Frederick William Isaacs, Rufus Daniel Pirie, Duncan V.
Channing, Sir Francis Aliston Johnson, John (Gateshead) Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)
Cheetham, John Frederick Jones, Leif (Appleby) Radford, G. H.
Clough, William Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Layland-Barrett, Sir Francis Rees, J. D.
Crossley, William J. Lewis, John Herbert Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Duckworth, Sir James Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)
Evans, Sir Samuel T. Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Rogers, F. E. Newman
Everett, R. Lacey M'Callum, John M. Rose, Charles Day
Fenwick, Charles Maddison, Frederick Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Findlay, Alexander Mallet, Charles E. Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.
Fuller, John Michael F. Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston) Salter, Arthur Clavell
Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John Massie, J. Sears, J. E.
Griffith, Ellis J. Middlebrook, William Seaverns, J. H.
Shipman, Dr. John G. Tomkinson, James Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Simon, John Allsebrook Trevelyan, Charles Philips Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)
Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie Verney, F. W. Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)
Spicer, Sir Albert Vivian, Henry Winfrey, R.
Steadman, W. C. Walters, John Tudor Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart
Strachey, Sir Edward Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury) Watt, Henry A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and the Master of Elibank
Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire) White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.) White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton) Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Abraham, W. (Cork, N.E.) Hardle, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Hayden, John Patrick O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)
Ambrose, Robert Hazleton, Richard O'Malley, William
Balcarres, Lord Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Parker, James (Halifax)
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Hodge, John Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Barry. E. (Cork, S.) Hodge, Sir Robert Hermon Philips, John (Longford, S.)
Bignold, Sir Arthur Hogan, Michael Power, Patrick Joseph
Boland, John Hudson, Walter Reddy, M.
Bryce, J. Annan Jowett, F. W. Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Carlile, E. Hildred Joyce, Michael Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampton, W.)
Cave, George Kennedy, Vincent Paul Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Clynes, J. R. Kilbride, Denis Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Seddon, J.
Curran, Peter Francis Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Shackleton, David James
Delany. William M'Kean, John Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Meagher, Michael Snowden, P.
Doughty, Sir George Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Stanier, Beville
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.) Summerbell, T.
Fell, Arthur Mooney, J. J. Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Ftrench, Peter Nannetti, Joseph P. Thorne, William (West Ham)
Flavin, Michael Joseph Nolan, Joseph White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Forster, Henry William Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Wilkie, Alexander
Gill, A. H. O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Ginnell, L. O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)
Glover, Thomas O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Patrick O'Brien and Mr. Haviland Burke.
Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Guinness, W. E. (Bury St. Edmunds) O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius O'Dowd, John
Halpin, J.

Question again proposed: "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."