HC Deb 07 July 1910 vol 18 cc1796-825

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £62,447, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1911., for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board in Ireland." [NOTE.—£40,000 has been voted on account.]


I regret that in drawing attention to the question of providing cottages and allotments for labourers in Ireland on this Vote we have not before us the Returns for which we have moved and which I think the Chief Secretary promised would be in our hands before this discussion commenced. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman, of course, for failure to produce them, but it is at the same time unfortunate that we have not got them, because I think an intelligent conclusion can best be drawn from an accurate statement of facts. We know, however, the main facts which cause the construction of these dwellings to be an absolute necessity at this moment, and I think the Chief Secretary, above all, will not be surprised that we raise this question at this moment and before any later date in the Session. In the first place, it is unnecessary to tell him, or indeed anyone connected with the Government of Ireland from the inside of the Department, of the urgency of the whole question of improving the conditions of living of the agricultural labourers of Ireland. The matter has become the subject of so many inquiries and of so many discussions in this House that I do not think it necessary to dwell at any length upon that question of urgency. I think the very fact that there have been so many Labourers Acts passed, and that one Government after another have been concerned in passing these Acts, is a conclusive proof that some serious condition of things had to be removed, and that it was the duty of Parliament to remedy it at the earliest possible moment. The point I wish to make at present with regard to this matter, however, is that although a good deal has been done, as I shall show, in the way of providing housing accommodation and plots for agricultural labourers, the condition of a very considerable number of them is still—I do not think I exaggerate in using the word—awful, from the point of humanity and civilisation. Mr. Bryce, when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland, was quite frank in making admissions on that head. He said, amongst other things, in May, 1906:— The condition of the dwellings of these poor labourers was deplorably bad. He did not think it would be possible to overstate the wretchedness and the misery in which the labouring population of Ireland lived, and the necessity of ending the evils they suffered from. He went on to refer to the fact that the conditions of living led to tuberculosis, and even to insanity, and I am afraid there is too much ground for believing that it has led to an increase of insanity. In fact, What is mainly remarkable is that the people who live in these dwellings appear so healthy, and undoubtedly do lead such moral lives. I imagine it is the amount of fresh country air that enables them to keep an appearance of healthiness, and I am perfectly sure in my own mind that it is their religious faith alone which, amidst such surroundings, keeps them in a state of morality not found in any similar class in any country in the world. All this which Mr. Bryce mentioned is a true statement, as I have said, of a very considerable number of houses, if they can be called houses, in which these poor people live. Therefore, the Chief Secretary, who, I am sure, has general sympathy with the labouring classes, and especially, I should think, with those of Ireland, will not be surprised that Irish representatives, especially those who have been more active in the matter of reform, are determined to raise this question at the present moment in the House of Commons.

There is a second reason for mentioning the matter now. A crisis is arising in the administration of the Labourers Acts. The provision made in 1906 for remedying the state of things I have referred to may now be said to be exhausted, and if it is not renewed the progress of one of the most beneficial of all social reforms must come to a dead stop. The Act of 1906, the last Act which was passed in reference to this subject, was passed to meet a similar crisis. In 1883, the first attempt was made to provide decent houses and plots of land by legislation for the working agricultural population. From that time up to 1906, that is in twenty-three years, only 20,000 cottages and allotments have been provided. That was a totally inadequate output, but the causes of it were perfectly evident, and were quite sufficient to account for even a smaller output. Mr. Bryce explained them, and we all know what they were. They were, first of all, costly and tardy procedure, which, in many cases, as many of us know by our professional experience, caused a house to take four or five years in construction, and caused oftentimes a greater sum to be paid in costs than sufficed to buy the land. That was the fault of the Acts then in force. Then there was a deliberate disinclination in some parts of Ulster to put the Act into force at all, and that became very evident when, in 1906 financial arrangements were made by which part of the Exchequer contribution then given was for the future to be diverted in aid of other parts of Ireland, which had the public spirit to put the Acts into force.

But neither of these was the chief cause of the failure of the Act of 1883, and of all the subsequent Acts up to 1906 to make any considerable impression upon the evil which existed. The real block in the way was finance. The burden thrown upon the ratepayers under the old system of financing these schemes was too serious for the ratepayers to put it into operation. In 1906 it was quite clear that the Chief Secretary of that day had made up his mind, and had also induced the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the present Prime Minister, to take the same view, namely, that if these financial conditions were not changed and different financial terms offered they might as well never have passed any Labourers Acts at all so far as the future was concerned. The Act of 1906 was the result of all this. I do not hesitate to say, and I think I express the opinion of all my colleagues, that the Act of 1906 was a very liberal measure and constituted a very considerable step in advance in this work of social reform. It has not worked, no doubt, in every respect as we hoped and expected. It is very rarely that any British Act of Parliament ever works out, even when it is well conceived, so as to meet the necessities of the case in Ireland, and we have abandoned the hope, if we ever had the hope, that any Act, no matter how framed, will ever be properly administered by your representatives in our country. At the same time I should be false to my own convictions and I should be speaking against what I know to be the truth if I did not say that, so far as I personally know, this Act has been worked in a more or less sympathetic spirit by the officers of the Local Government Board, and I am perfectly convinced that it has done a very great deal indeed of the work which it was expected to do.

4.0 P. M.

It proposed to shorten and to cheapen "the procedure. In my opinion it has done both, and I think the very fact that more has been done in less than four years to provide cottages and plots for labourers than had been done in twenty-three years before it passed is a conclusive proof that it has both shortened and cheapened procedure. It offered, in the second place, better financial terms. I may mention a couple of figures to show the differences between the old state of things and the new. I do not know whether these terms have been actually worked out in practice as it was expected they would, but the estimate is what I am going to give; and what I particularly desired to see the return for was to see whether the estimate was borne out by the actual result. At all events the estimate was that whereas the old charge for a cottage and plot, that is for repaying interest and principal, was £5 12s. 6d., the new charge was £l 6s. 8d. That was a very considerable advance, as is manifest from the state of things that had previously prevailed. Still the condition of these labourers was such, they were so poor and the wages were so low in a great many places, and in a great many other places where the wages were comparatively high the employment was so inconstant and so non-continuous, that it still left, in order that these people might be provided with houses at rents which they could pay, a margin of cost to be borne by the rates, and with all the charges which have been put on the rates, and with all the ratepayers voluntarily burdening themselves in the greater part of Ireland, it was quite impossible to make them go on and continue to bear this burden. Accordingly a Grant—nearly half of which came out of strictly Irish funds—of £50,000 a year was given in aid of those schemes and in relief of the rates. There was a Grant of £22,000 a year which was purely Irish; it was not voted by this House. There was also a Grant of £28,000 a year which came out of the Exchequer, and which, of course, is also Irish money. The fact that more has been done in the four years since 1906 than in the whole of the previous twenty-three years is in itself proof of the success of the Act of 1906. At the same time, it has become necessary to bring up this question afresh. This progress is going to come to a standstill unless something further is done. I admit that there is plenty of building going on. Land is being acquired and all the money available is being expended, but, as a matter of fact, all the money has been hypothecated, and the work now going on is that of carrying out schemes sanctioned up to the beginning of the year. I am not quite sure that any new scheme has been initiated during the last six months at least. I have not the figures on that point, and that is one of the matters which I desire to inquire into.

The reason why this progress is going to be brought to a stop is, of course, perfectly evident. The Act of 1906 provided for advances of £4,500.000 on certain financial terms, and I think I am right in saying that the Grant-in-Aid was calculated on and proportioned to that amount. Twenty per cent, was given as Grant from the Exchequer and 16 per cent, from those Irish funds to which I have alluded. You have exhausted the £4,250.000, and, of course, you have exhausted the £4,500.000, and if the Grant-in-Aid was proportioned to that amount, you have exhausted it too. The meaning of that is that we are back into a state of things similar to that which existed in 1883 in so far as future schemes are concerned. I have no intention of denying—on the contrary, I rejoice in the fact—that since 1883 we have probably erected in Ireland over 50,000 cottages, and I consider that one of the most gratifying sights that can be seen in Ireland. It seems to me to be undoing in some degree the clearances and devastations by the landlords in the last half century. It is one of the things which console one for the many unpleasing and mortifying incidents in the social and political history of Ireland. But as a matter of fact we are now worse off than in 1883, with a good deal more to do in the way of providing cots and cottages for labourers for one particular reason. That is, because while the £4,250,000 which was provided under the Act of 1906 has been exhausted or hypothecated, at the same time the old power of borrowing under the old terms has also ceased. At the present moment if any scheme had to be provided, it could not be financed at all. No money could be borrowed from public funds or any source, and consequently we are in a worse position now so far as future schemes are concerned than in 1883. To my mind it is inconceivable that this work should be allowed by any Government to stop. What we are here to urge upon the Government is to continue the provision made by the Act of 1906. The Government admitted in 1906 that the provision then made would not be sufficient. In fact, it was taken for granted that the money would not be sufficient, but it was also taken for granted that the £4,250,000 would suffice for several years without placing any appreciable burden on the ratepayers to carry on the work of rebuilding the homes of the poor in Ireland. I have no doubt the Chief Secretary will agree with his predecessor that £4,250,000 was not sufficient to complete the work, and if he admits that, I hope he will have the courage to declare that some additional provision must be made to prevent the work being stopped.

In my opinion it would be fruitless and it would be most unwise to offer us now less favourable terms than in 1906. I might read from "Hansard" the speeches made by Mr. Bryce, who was Chief Secretary at that time, in which he gave several reasons for making the arrangement which he then proposed and which he offered in advance of any criticism that might be made from England on this subject. I would refer anyone who doubts that this is an exceptional case to the speech made by Mr. Bryce when he introduced the Bill, and also to his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill in May, 1906. If the Government offers less favourable terms now, the result I am afraid will be that, no matter what you may say, no matter what your wishes may be, the process of providing cots and buildings will be stopped. The ratepayers will be afraid to embark in these schemes. I would submit to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be a most unfortunate state of things if there were even for one month a stoppage in the performance of this most necessary work. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman is personally acquainted with the condition of some of the houses in which the people live where new houses have not been provided. The houses of the agricultural population in Ireland have no parallel in England at all. I read occasionally in the English papers of agricultural slums. I have gone about some of these places myself, but I have never seen anything in England like the wretched habitations in which the poor labourers of Ireland live. I would say, in the name of humanity and justice to this class, you ought to continue the provision made in 1906, which has already done so much good.


After the very able and lucid statement made by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Clancy) I think I shall be very much more at home if I deal with the question of labourers' cottages in the locality in which I live. In this connection one must be forcibly struck with certain work which has been going on in Ireland within the past few years. I mean the work in relation to the prevention of disease, and especially tuberculosis, which we in Ireland have known as decline or consumption. One of the best means of combating this disease is by housing the people in good sanitary dwellings. In those parts of the country where the Labourers Acts have been put in force, and where a good number of cottages have been erected, there has been a great diminution in this class of disease. Under the old Labourers Act the district councils, especially in Munster, and I believe also in Leinster, pledged the rates up to the very extreme farthing they could go, and put on a rate of a shilling in the £ in order to carry out their endeavours to house the people under better conditions. I cannot say what was done in Connaught, where the Labourers Acts do not assume the same proportions as in the South or East of Ireland, and I do not know enough of the North of Ireland to speak of it. The Act of 1906 came as a great measure of relief, and it was a great incentive to those councils to go on with the work when they were placed in such a position. To their credit be it said, they have carried on the work. The procedure was simplified by that Act. Money was made cheaper to them, and the conditions were altogether different from what they had been in the past.

I do not know whether the Chief Secretary for Ireland ever went into any of the hovels in which labourers live in Ireland. He may have; but if I had the power myself I would make the Secretary to the Treasury, when he takes his holidays, live in one of those hovels in Ireland—and he would then be a far better judge of the conditions under which those people live than he is now—because the great difficulty we have in Ireland in dealing with any question relating to the wants and necessities of our people is this eternal question of the British Treasury, and if there is any portion of the British Government that we hate most in Ireland it is this British Treasury. I know a great deal of the way in which the poor people have been housed. I went into a labourer's hovel—I was going to say cottage—in which a poor old woman and her two daughters lived, within six miles of the City of Limerick, in which I live. Would the House be surprised to know that it was on all fours that I had to get in, because I could not walk in through the door upright? You could not see worse in a Kaffir's kraal, and certainly an Indian wigwam would be a paradise to it- I have seen both. I think the men who set themselves to see, and devote portions of their lives to seeing, that the people, are better housed deserve great credit for the work they are doing. Are we asking now anything that is not our own? I always held that anything which a British Government could do to ameliorate the condition of the Irish people at home would only be paying back a very small instalment of the millions and millions that they have robbed from our country. I drew the attention of former Chief Secretaries, and I have drawn the attention of the present Chief Secretary, to the condition of some of those hovels, and he knows very well that medical officer after medical officer has condemned them as being unfit for human habitation. And if I have any little complaint to make with regard to some underhand work that goes on at a certain district council, yet in the main those district councils have done their work splendidly, and none better than the district council with which I had a little variance, though I would strive to make them keep on the right lines all the time.

Those hovels of which I have spoken, and which every colleague of mine on the benches knows so well, are an eyesore to the community, a disgrace to civilisation, and a standing menace to the health of the people. The sooner the British Government realise the fact that they must advance enough money on the lines of the Act of 1906 in order to complete this good work, the sooner they will have the thanks and the gratitude of the Irish agricultural labourer. They will be doing good work, and they will be losing nothing by it. I heard the Chief Secretary state in this House, as I heard former Chief Secretaries state on many occasions, that every loan granted to Ireland is paid up regularly and well. I think that that is one of the greatest tributes that can be paid to the honesty of our people. I was reading in the "Irish Times" yesterday a statement made by a judge in Ireland, the going judge of assizes in the City of Limerick, on Tuesday. He paid a great tribute to the condition of the city, and stated there was no other city, he believed, of its size in the world that could show such a state of crimelessness and peace, yet I know there are many poor people in that city and its environs living in houses that are unfit for human habitation, and how in such circumstances they can be good, Christian, moral people passes my comprehension. This is the state of affairs which we want to remedy, and which must be remedied, and the Government and the Chief Secretary that carry out this good work will deserve the eternal thanks of the Irish people.


I desire to associate myself with my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Clancy) who opened this discussion, and also my hon. Friend (Mr. Joyce) who has just spoken. They have put forward their views on the question of the housing of the labourers with such force and such clearness that I have little to add to what they have said on that point. It is true, as my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Limerick said, that the circumstances in Connaught with regard to the working of the Labourers Act are somewhat different from those in the south of Ireland from which my hon. Friend comes. We have, in Ireland, two sets of agricultural labourers. We have the agricultural labourer pure and simple, and we have the extremely small farmer who also does agricultural labour work. It is the latter class that we have chiefly in Connaught. In Connaught the agricultural labourer is more or less of a cottar. He cannot be called an agricultural labourer in the strict Sense of the term. Neither can he be called a farmer. He occupies, perhaps, two or three or four acres of land. He cannot be called an agricultural labourer, because he has an interest in his holding, no matter how small it is, and he is a member of a congested community—that is, that the men who principally do agricultural labouring work in Connaught reside in congested districts. But, notwithstanding these limitations, I can say that the Labourers Act of 1906 has been worked with the greatest benefit in the province of Connaught, and any encouragement that could or would be given for the carrying out of that work to a successful termination should be given by a sympathetic Government. I have not risen only with the object of following up this point, because it has been dealt with already. I have rather risen to criticise the action of the Local Government Board, as I believe I am entited to do on this Vote, and as one who holds that the Local Government Board, as at present constituted, is not calculated, in these progressive times, to supervise efficiently or well the system of local government created by the Local Government Act of 1898.

I maintain that the Local Government Board, under the new conditions created by the Act of 1898, is completely out of date and out of place. Previous to the passing of the Act of 1898 the fiscal and county affairs of the counties and boroughs in Ireland were managed, or, rather, mismanaged by the grand juries. Let me say in passing I regard the Act of 1898 as a great Act. No matter from what party it came, it gave us emancipation, and in my own county, where the Nationalists form 90 per cent, of the population, it transferred the Government of that county from the hands of the minority to the hands of the majority. When the grand juries governed the counties, the Local Government Board, as then, and as at present constituted, used its efforts in dealing with these non-representative bodies in the direction of economy. It did so because of the extravagance of those bodies who represented the minority, comprised the territorial magnates of the country, and were for ever manufacturing jobs for their friends; and it was necessary in the interests of the ratepayers that some check should be put upon the extravagance and expenditure of the grand juries in that direction. But that whole order of things has changed, and with it has changed the politics of the Local Government Board, because, while their efforts with regard to the grand juries were in the direction of economy, their efforts with regard to the new bodies created by the Act of 1898 are entirely in the opposite direction. I can speak with some authority on that point, because I have been unanimously elected for the last eleven years as chairman of my own county council, and I have been connected with public bodies in my own country before the Local Government Act came into operation at all. I have no fault to find with any member of the Local Government Board. Several members of the Local Government Board whom I know are gentlemen of high standing, men like Sir Henry Robinson, Mr. Micks, and others; but I maintain that the Local Government Board as at present constituted is not fit to supervise the democratically constituted public bodies created by the Act of 1898. We are living in a progressive age, and we should advance with the age. We have a progressive Government in office. It was found necessary in passing the Land Act of last year to put popular representatives on the Congested Districts Board. I say that with the complicated questions of local government with which we now have to deal it is absolutely necessary that the Local Government Board should be revised and reformed holus bolus and some element of popular representation put upon it which would command the confidence of every class in the country. I have two or three points in reference to the Local Government Board's action and to its relations with public bodies. When the Act of 1898 was being passed through this House, cynical critics, both here and elsewhere, predicted that it would be goodbye to efficient local government in Ireland and to careful and economical administration. That prophecy has been falsified. Indeed, if there is any complaint it is in quite the opposite direction. Take the question of official salaries fixed by the county councils and district councils. Those bodies performed their duty with due regard to economy; but now the contrary obtains, because of the fact that the Local Government Board fix the salaries themselves. I make the complaint that they compel us to pay higher salaries than we think necessary, and I regard the Local Government Board as a sort of Irish House of Lords, who interfere with the freedom of elective bodies in the matter of official salaries. As illustrating the criminal chaos which exists, I give two cases which are typical of hundreds within my experience. The Tobercurry Board of Guardians, when they had occasion to enter into a contract for medicines, chemicals, and other goods, gave it to a chemist in Sligo. For years it has been the unvarying practice of that board of guardians to give the contract to him. It was only right they should do so, for the special reason that Sligo is easily approached from Tobercurry; it is a half-hour's run by railway, and in a case of emergency a surgical appliance or any particular medicine can be procured by sending a sixpenny telegram. It was these considerations which determined the board of guardians during fourteen or fifteen years to give the contract to this particular tradesman. In April last tenders were invited, and there was a tender from the Sligo chemist and another from Dublin. The Sligo tender was a shade higher than that from Dublin—I do not think there was half a farthing's difference in the £. The Sligo tender was accepted by the guardians on the ground that the contractor had given satisfaction for fourteen or fifteen years, and also on the ground that his place was near and easily approached in an emergency.

The Local Government Board stepped in and overruled the whole thing, and gave the contract to the Dublin firm over the head of the local firm. It may be said that this chemist was a Nationalist. He was not. Though the guardians are a Nationalist body to a man, they gave the contract to the Sligo tradesman, who is a Unionist of Unionists, and it is considered a grievance in that part of the country that a reliable man, no matter what his political or religious views, should be deprived of a contract which had been unanimously given to him in the public interest and convenience. His tender was refused, while the tender of a stranger 200 miles away was accepted. Why should the Local Government Board exercise such authority? Have not the elected representatives of the people who live in the district, who understand the wishes of the people, and who are familiar with their requirements, all the knowledge necessary to fit them for a proper and economical discharge of their administrative duties? The other case discloses criminal carelessness in the administration of the Old Age Pensions Act by officials— I will not say by the Local Government Board, though the Department must be held responsible. Mary Casey, who lives in the county of Sligo, applied for a pension in 1909 and obtained it. The committee, consisting of representative men of the district, unanimously granted her the pension, having satisfied themselves that she was of the statutory age. The local pension officer—I suppose one of those who were imported from Somerset House as emergency men last year—appealed against the grant of the pension to Mary Casey, and the appeal was heard by the Local Government Board, who, of course, decided against her. This case, as I have said, is typical of many over the country. Mary Casey was deprived of her pension for twenty weeks, which means that she lost £5. At her own expense, or that of some neighbour, inquiry was made at the Census Office, which I should imagine the officials of the Local Government Board could also search. What was discovered? It was found that Mary Casey was three years old in 1841. My demand is that Mary Casey should get this £5, of which she was deprived through no fault of her own but through the bungling of the officials of the Local Government Board. I only hope that the Progressive Government which is now in office will devise some means of introducing a popular representative element into the Local Government Board.


I think it only right to take the earliest opportunity of supporting the hon. Member for North Dublin and his colleagues in asking for further help in working the Labourers Act. It would be impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of allowing this matter to run over without further help from the Treasury to another Session. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for North Dublin, various powers of the Act of 1906 were used to the fullest advantage, and they have to a large extent met the needs of many district councils. But other district councils, who have not moved so rapidly, have now schemes advanced to a certain extent, but find them absolutely blocked by the exhaustion of the funds provided under the Act of 1906. I respectfully submit that is a state of affairs which cannot be permitted to continue after you have raised hopes in the breasts of many labourers throughout the country that they will shortly occupy decent and habitable houses. If the Treasury adheres—and we are inclined to think it does mean to adhere— to its refusal to give further advances, then we will have the position that in certain parts of the country the labourers' question may be said to be solved, while in other parts the hovels which have been described to us this afternoon will still remain as obnoxious blots on the landscape. I trust we shall have some encouraging reply from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or from the Chief Secretary on his behalf. I also desire to associate myself with what has been said below the Gangway as to the hopelessness of the Treasury thinking they will meet this demand by a proposal to grant additional loans at a higher rate of interest. You cannot expect the local council to go on with their schemes if the rate of interest to be charged by the Treasury is to be greater than it was for the £4,500,000 supplied under the Act of 1906. There is only one other matter to which I wish to refer, namely, the appointment of arbitrators under the Act of 1906. Under the former Act the Government, I think very wisely, provided that those arbitrators should be selected by the popularly elected local council, and the awards given by the arbitrators so appointed were, I think, universally satisfactory. But under this Act the Local Government Board appoint the arbitrators, and, while I do not make any personal criticism, I would point out that almost without exception the awards made by the arbitrators so appointed have been contested in Ulster both by buyers and sellers. I rather think the explanation is that these arbitrators have been chosen in districts of the country where the ruling price of land is a good deal lower than it is in some parts of Ulster. The Chief Secretary, I am sure, must have knowledge of the fact, as he has received many resolutions of protest from different rural district councils against certain arbitrators continuing to act all over the province. As I said, where the arbitrators were appointed by the popularly elected bodies, the awards have been satisfactory both to buyers and sellers. I only mention the matter in order that the Chief Secretary may see tort that in the future some further choice is made that will be more satisfactory t those bodies who have been eminently reasonable in their demands. The hon. Member for Sligo made reference to the old grand jury system in Ireland. I am not concerned with that, but I should like to say that, whatever be the explanation, we sometimes hear of the old grand jury system being referred to with satisfaction now the elected body do the best they can for the people. They have to bear the brunt of constantly increasing rates, and therefore decreasing popularity, but with that exception we find over the greater part of the land—there are some notable exceptions—under the Local Government Act of 1898 a very large measure of progress has been made. I only referred to that to show that in the main object for which this reduction has been moved we are heartily at one with the Nationalist Members.


Of course, the whole question of the Local Government Board is raised by this Vote, and therefore my hon. Friend the Member for Sligo was quite within his rights in dealing generally with the Vote, but, if I may be allowed to give a word of advice to the hon. Member, I would say that the practical thing for us to do in the discussion of this Vote is to confine ourselves to the most urgent point that arises, and that is the point about the Labourers Act. And if by confining ourselves to that one point we arrive at some practical conclusion, it will be far more useful for Ireland than if we had had a general discussion roaming over the whole question of the conduct of the Local Government Board. I am gratified to see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in his place, because, of course, this is a question which affects him almost more than it affects the Chief Secretary. At any rate it affects him as much. The history of this question is familiar to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He knows, as my hon. Friend for North Dublin has pointed out, that because of the costly and cumbersome work of the earlier Labourers Acts, only 20,000 cottages were erected after over twenty years' experience, and that the working of these Acts has practically come to a standstill. He knows also the urgency of the case. No one knows better than he does how badly the people are housed, and how necessary it is to do something to alleviate their condition. He knows also what happened in 1906, and let me say, in passing, that I am glad to be able on this occasion to bear testimony to the conduct of the present Prime Minister, when, in 1906, he, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, consented to the Bill. Nothing could be more sympathetic than his attitude, and I think that on the whole it was one of the best and most beneficent Bills that Ireland has ever obtained. The Treasury lent us for the purpose of this Act, on the security of the rates, £4,500,000 at 2¾ per cent., and they have borne the loss. They had to face the loss on the flotation of that amount. Not only that, but they came to the aid of the rates of Ireland by contributing from the Treasury 20 per cent, towards the payment of the instalments in connection with these loans. The local Irish funds were brought into requisition, and they provided 16 per cent., so that in all 36 per cent, was provided under that Bill towards the payment of the instalments on the loan which was given to us at 2¾ per cent. The result was that the cost to the ratepayers of building these cottages was diminished so enormously that the necessary work went on full speed ahead, and we had, in the course of four years, more cottages erected in Ireland than in over twenty years before. That is a most beneficent work. Anyone at all acquainted with Ireland, and who has visited the country, must admit that a more beneficent work was never undertaken for the material, moral and physical elevation and improvement of the people. That has suddenly come to an end. The Member for North Dublin said he did not know whether there were any schemes that had actually been stopped by the exhaustion of the money. As a matter of fact, the Chief Secretary, or the Secretary to the Treasury, told us the other day that in the case of forty-two councils the schemes they had on hand were hung up, and I understand that the Local Government Board actually issued a circular to all the local bodies warning them not to go on with schemes because the money was exhausted. In that way the work has come to an absolute dead-stop. Of course, no Government and no party could be a party to allowing that work suddenly to come to an end. They must take steps to enable it to proceed until the whole problem is solved. The greater portion of the problem is solved, but they cannot afford to stop this work until the problem on which they have entered has been entirely settled. I have risen largely for the purpose of emphasising what has been already said. It is not the slightest use for the Chancellor of the Exchequer—who, I am sure, is quite as sympathetic in this matteras his predecessor was, and just as anxious that the work should go on—to provide money on worse terms, because if he does the work will stop. The ratepayers of Ireland have undertaken great sacrifices for this work. But if they are put to additional sacrifices now the work will undoubtedly come to an end. The Government will have to be as good as they were in 1906. I do not see any argument they can use why they should recede from the position they took up in 1906. If that was a fair and just provision then, it is a fair and just provision now, so long as they cannot deny that the problem is still unsettled. I trust the Chief Secretary will be able to tell us that additional money will be provided at once, as it may be required, on the old rate of interest; and that the Treasury will be as good as it was in 1906 in providing free Grants towards the reduction of the instalments. That is the demand we make, and I hope public opinion in Ireland will not be disappointed, but that a statement will be made on behalf of the Irish Government and of the Treasury that to-day they will be as good as they were in 1906, and take what is the only possible step to finish this necessary work.


I am not at all surprised that the hon. Member for North Dublin, who has introduced the Debate on this Vote, should have begun his speech and ended his speech by calling the attention of the Government and of this Committee to the question of labourers' cottages in Ireland, because undoubtedly something like a crisis has arisen in the history of that work. In this matter I need not go back upon ancient history, because when I came to take the office which I now hold I found the Labourers Act of 1906 still in its beneficent operation, and that Act has been already fully described by the hon. Member for North Dublin in language of fitting appreciation. He has spoken of it as a great and liberal measure and one which has wrought already great improvement upon the face of Ireland. I am glad indeed, standing here, to recognise how good a work my distinguished predecessor was able to do, because I do not think anybody who has acquaintance with Ireland—which it is not very difficult for the Chief Secretary to obtain owing to the excellence of motor cars—can travel through the South or through the Midlands of Ireland without recognising the enormous change that has during the last few years come over the face of the country by the erection of these cottages. They are not all of them architecturally beautiful. Some of them, I am sorry to admit, are hideous, but the greater part of them may be described as in themselves an addition to the landscape; and what is particularly gratifying is the care that is taken of them by their inmates, who really take a pride in their slate-roofed cottages, which, with their flowers, lend a pleasing and peaceful charm to the landscape.

Attention has been called to the operation of the previous Acts. I will give the House the figures. The Labourers Act between 1883 and 1908—a long period of years—resulted in the building of 21,900 of these cottages. They were built upon certain terms at current rates of interest, and undoubtedly they imposed, I will not say an excessive, having regard to the work done, but a very heavy addition on the ratepayers. In 1906 Mr. Bryce came along with his proposals, and he placed £4,250,000 on what are called Land Purchase Terms, namely, 2¾ per cent, interest and 3¼ per cent, annuity—the difference being accounted for by the Sinking Fund—at the disposal of the rural district councils. That resulted in these figures. Under this Act up to the present time 23,000 cottages have been undertaken—that is to say, more cottages since 1906 than were built in the years between 1883 and 1903. It is money that makes the mare go, and this great increase in the building of cottages indicates very clearly the improvement in the financial terms. Therefore we always can assume not only in Ireland, but in any other country, that if you only make the terms easy enough you will secure the result that you have in view. I fully recognise—I feel it as strongly as anyone can—that Mr. Bryce's Act, with which I am glad his name should be associated, was a necessary consequence of the financial terms in Mr. Wyndham's Act. Mr. Wyndham's Act produced precisely the same effect in the acceleration of land purchase as Mr. Bryce's Act has done in the building of cottages. The terms were so good, remarkably good, that landlords and tenants alike proceeded to sell and to buy at a pace which made it almost impossible for the Land Commission to deal with the enormous number of estates that came through their hands. Everybody will agree that if good terms were offered to the landlords and to the sitting tenant, it would be little short of a scandal if the poor labourer in Ireland did not have an opportunity at the same time of benefiting in this great agrarian revolution, and did not get some chance of getting quit of the stinking mud-heap in which for long years he had to live. The hon. Member for Limerick asked me if I had seen any of these so-called cottages— hovels, mud-heaps. Well, I have, and I share to the full in the description that he gave of them. The only pleasing feature about them was the remarkable contrast between the barbarity of the dwellings and the civility and good manners of the people inside.

5.0 P.M.

When you had crawled in on your hands and knees and found yourself under what, in politeness, may be called a roof, sharing, it may be, the company of a cow, a calf, or other four-footed animal, with all that, you found yourself enjoying the hospitality of a person or persons as well qualified to show you hospitality, to give you a kindly greeting, as any people over the whole Dominions of His Majesty the King. But, however, there was the thing; there were these cottages, so-called, and without entering too closely into a criticism of the financial arrangements, considering it as a mere matter of finance, I am perfectly certain that no money, no credit—for, after all, it is more a question of credit than of money—was ever better spent, out of Imperial resources or out of Irish money, than for this rebuilding of the cottages of the labourers in Ireland. Four million and a quarter pounds was placed at the disposal of the rural district councils under the supervision, to some extent, of the Local Government Board, and the district councils were invited and urged, and, indeed, it was their duty, to proceed to provide accommodation for the labourers within the areas of their respective authorities. For the most part they have acted with celerity. In some parts they have acted with the reverse of celerity; in some places they have been very slow. To one place, and one place only, it was found necessary to take the extreme proceedings of the law against a local authority that did not in any way move in the matter. But in other parts of the country, and in the North, they have moved very slowly indeed, and it is quite true, as the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Hugh Barrie) remarked, that the consequence of the different rates of speed has been that in some parts of Ireland sufficient accommodation has already been provided for the labourers, whilst in other parts, owing to this slowness, that accommodation has not properly been provided. It would be a severe punishment for this sluggishness of action if they were advised that they had lost the great and remarkable advantages of the Act of 1906, and were condemned to find cottages at a higher rate. I should not mind that so much, but they would not find the cottages at all. Therefore the situation, be it right or be it wrong, comes very much to this, that having supplied the people with these extremely advantageous terms—terms which, in my opinion, can only be justified by the terms of the general scheme of land purchase throughout Ireland—it would be impossible to hope, at all events in the near future, that anything would be done to continue this good work. The provision of the Act of 1906 has been pretty well described. The £4,250,000 was advanced as required on land purchase terms, but it did not stop there, because assistance was offered, both out of exclusively Irish funds and out of Imperial funds, by way of reduction of the annuity—16 per cent, in reduction of the annuity payable over a period, roughly speaking, of sixty-eight years. The whole of that 16 per cent, was contributed to out of the Petty Sessions' Fund, and by a saving effected on judges' salaries. The remaining 20 per cent, was put, first of all, upon the Irish Development Grant, and, subsequently, upon the Votes. The result was that the actual ratepayer, that overburdened animal, has had collected from him, in respect of each cottage, a sum not amounting to more than 18s. 9d. per annum. You have to bear in mind that that is an additional charge to cast upon the owners—namely, the district councils—but after all the annuities have been paid they will become the owners of all these cottages at an annual charge of something like £2 a year for each cottage, to pay for insurance, repairs, and the cost of collecting the rents, so that you always have to add that £2 per cottage on whatever system is adopted for the raising of the cost of the purchase of the site and the actual erection of the building. Those terms we now have to reconsider because the £4,250,000 is gone. Hon. Members opposite are perfectly right in the statements they have made. We, the Local Government Board, have been conscious for some time past that we were getting nearly to the end of the annuity provided by the Act of 1906, and that unless it was fed again from some other or the same source we should come some day bolt up to the actual ending of this cause of building, and we have from time to time given warning of an informal character to local bodies that they must bear in mind that the £4,250,000 was very nearly exhausted. As a matter of fact, I find from information we now have, that when we have got to the end of the £4,250,000 there will still be forty-two rural districts with claims made, or in course of making, comprising 3,582 cottages. To those schemes we should have to reply, "We are very sorry the Act is spent, the money is gone, and we cannot proceed any further." They would then be worse off than before, because the Act of 1906 repealed certain provisions which did enable local authorities, to obtain loans for these purposes on rather better than the ordinary market terms. To cut the matter short, the Government, having to consider these questions, I have had to consult the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have an ancient right to abuse the Treasury, and very often they appeal with great confidence to the Chief Secretary for the time being to Join with them in that abuse. But I am bound to say that in this matter, as in matters connected with the Land Act of 1909 and the provision made for the Congested Districts Board, I feel I should be unworthy of sitting in the same Cabinet with my right hon. Friend if I did not recognise that he has always met me to the very best of his ability. Of course, all financial arrangements of this kind are open to criticism on a purely financial basis, and people may ask, "Why do you do this and why do you do that? Why cannot the people in Ireland provide the money that is necessary by loans at the ordinary rates of interest to do this particular kind of work?" I am not going to go into that, because, in my judgment, this provision for labourers' cottages flows naturally and equitably from the provision that has already been made to settle the land question of Ireland and to secure the sitting tenant, on very favourable terms, all the proud privi- leges of land ownership, and also to supply the landlords with a bonus which enables them to meet tenants in a manner they would otherwise, perhaps, not have been able to do. Therefore I think the Act of 1906 was well justified, and anybody who took any part in the passing of that Act need not trouble his financial conscience very much about it, because the result has been of such a character, having regard to the past history of Ireland and to the whole question of the land laws, land tenure, and the position of poor people in that country—the results have been ample to justify the expenditure. Well, I think we have to go a bit further in this matter, and we have to enable those schemes which are already made, or in course of making, to be carried out, as also other schemes of a similar nature which will undoubtedly be presented. We must supply them as best we can with the funds necessary for the purpose. Therefore the Government is prepared—legislation will be required for the purpose— to provide another million on precisely the same terms with regard to the rate of interest, 2¾ per cent., and the annuity, 3¼ per cent., as before. Then we come to the other question, also a very important one, the reduction in the annuity—the contribution towards the reduction in the annuity so as to reduce the burden upon the ratepayer. The ratepayer and the taxpayer are two over-burdened persons in the eyes of many, and some people think one is more ever-burdened than the other. My own belief is that the ratepayer is quite as over-burdened, in my judgment rather more over-burdened, than the taxpayer, therefore I quite agree that anything which materially increases the already heavy burden upon the Irish ratepayer will have the very result we do not want. As we are supplying money upon liberal terms we want to get through the business as quickly as possible, and to provide other terms would be to frustrate the main object we have in view. The Treasury propose to continue to pay, in respect of the new transactions, the 20 per cent, which they paid before out of the Votes. There remains 16 per cent, which in Mr. Bryce's Act was secured by Irish funds. Well, I propose to look about and find Irish funds which will be sufficient to act as a means of supplying this money. The House must not at this moment ask me what those funds are because I have not quite decided as to what shall he my choice, which I admit is not very wide, but I believe they can be forthcoming and nobody need be under any apprehension that anybody will be robbed in the conception. Under the Housing Act of the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy) we laid hands not sacriligous hands, upon certain suitors —the Dormant Suitors' Funds. But those imaginary or possible persons had no cause for alarm because the Act provided that if they ever did assume corporeal form, and were capable of going into the court in pursuit of their claim, they would find the Treasury the finally responsible persons to make good any of those demands. So in regard to this 16 per cent. I hope to find Irish funds which will therefore make this new proposal, this extra £1,000,000, on all fours with the £4,250,000 which we provided for before. There are one or two things I should like to say about the administration of these funds. There is one point very much on my mind. Any Bill I introduce must obviously be of a non-controversial character, and I hope there will not be any opposition to the proposal I make, and that is this: A number of those mud-huts unfit for human habitation, though I have to admit that human beings have lived in them—those huts, when they have been condemned, and when the people have taken steps and made certain sacrifices to replace them with others, ought to be pulled down. As things are, they are not pulled down. The actual inmates leave them and go, and are happy to go, to nice, clean houses in the neighbourhood. Those old mud huts are left, sometimes a beast is put into them, or they are used as stables, and cows or other animals are put into them, or else there is always some tramp or some person to occupy them. In this world there is always some person who is willing to take up what you have cast aside. I am told, and I know it to be a fact, that a great number of those old mud huts are still inhabited. That is not the intention of this House, or of the Government, or of anybody. Therefore. I hope to be able to insert in the Bill which will be necessary for this purpose, some provision for the demolition of those houses. Do not let us have any sentiment about those houses; I hope the time may soon come when there will be no such places whatever for human habitation.

There is another point I wish to mention. I do not want to encourage the notion in people's minds that they are going on building these cottages for ever The reason I do that is this: that you may over-build, and you have got to remember that these things ultimately are a charge upon the district council, because the district councils become owners, and that they have got to keep the cottages in repair, and to have proper tenants. If they could not find those tenants to pay what is undoubtedly a small rent, they would then find themselves really in the possession of a damnosa hereditas. These cottages are for really genuine agricultural labourers, and for nobody else. We do not want other people living for a shilling per week in houses that cost £170. We want to see to it that those cottages are used really for the habitation and comfort of the persons for whom they were intended. I am sure that if this be carried out, and if that is done, that this additional million of money will be of immense advantage to the Irish people. Although I am not here to preach finality, and anybody who preaches finality on this bench becomes the laughing stock of everybody. Yet at the same time I will tell the people generally that the advance of these large sums of money at the rate at which they have to be advanced is very difficult, and sometimes, some people think, a disastrous thing to British credit. However, it cannot be regarded that what I am doing is anything more than a genuine and honest effort to carry out the objects Mr. Bryce had in view, and which he stated with perfect clearness in the speeches referred to just now by the hon. Member for North Dublin. To stop now would be both wrong and unjust. I am very glad my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has come in to my assistance, and to the assistance of the whole of Ireland, on this matter, for all parties are alike interested. I hope the North of Ireland will now wake up a little in this matter and join with the South and the West, and erect these cottages. I know there are difficulties in the North; the price of land is very high, and the farmers in the North have not, hon. Members will admit, been amongst the keenest and most eager to give this Act full operation.


The price of land is no higher than in the South.


Then I do not know the reason of the apparent sluggishness, but I do not wish to go into that at all. This money is for the whole of Ireland, irrespective of nationality, creed, or anything else. I honestly say, though my conscience sometimes pricks me on Irish finances, I think in this we have a great and good object, and that the money will be wisely spent, and that it will redound enormously to the happiness of the Ireland of the future.


I hope the Committee will forgive me for intervening for a second time, but I think it right to rise at once after the speech of the Chief Secretary, in order, in the name of my colleagues, to make acknowledgment of the spirit in which he has met us. As to the concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman, as to finality, on those words all I say is that, in my opinion, this million pounds will not settle the problem. It will go, no doubt, a considerable distance further than we have gone now, and I have to acknowledge in the fullest possible way that the Government, in giving us this money on the same terms, that is, 2¾ per cent., as in the Act of 1906, and, in addition, giving us the same 20 per cent, free grant from the Treasury towards the payment of instalments, has acted in a handsome manner and quite in accordance with the spirit in which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Prime Minister, acted when the Bill of Mr. Bryce was passed. I am sure that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman will give very great satisfaction not only to the labourers in Ireland, but to the whole people who are interested in this question. In order to carry out the promise of the right hon. Gentleman, as he has said, he will require legislation, and it will be necessary for him to introduce a Bill. That Bill will only be of the simplest possible character, and I feel absolutely certain that there is not a single man in this House who will oppose it. It is sure to get the support of hon. Members from Ulster. Under those circumstances it ought to go through practically without a word. The whole problem was discussed at full length in 1906, and therefore the Bill ought to go through at once. I would therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to introduce his Bill at once and pans it into law before the House rises at the end of the month, so that we may not have a number of months of delay and uncertainty in Ireland. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the speech he has made.


It has not often been my, I do not know whether to call it pleasure or not to be able conscientiously to congratulate the Chief Secretary on having done his obvious duty. I ac- knowledge that he has risen to the occasion so far as he can, and has momentarily, at any rate, saved the situation. He stated at the end of his speech that he does not preach finality. I am glad he took that precaution, because if he thinks that the labourers' question can be left in the condition in which it is at the present time, any more than the land question can be left in the condition in which it is at present, he is greatly mistaken. His predecessor, Mr. Bryce, passed the Act of 1906, which I agree in several respects was a most admirable Act. That Act gave money on such advantageous terms that it was bound to be availed of by everybody in the direction of getting labourers' cottages. The Chief Secretary surely does not mean, having given that money on those favourable terms, and the result having been that the Act has been worked with great success, that therefore the matter of supplying the money for whatever labourers' cottages are still necessary, must cease. The very fact of providing the money on those favourable terms makes it all the more necessary to carry through the operation to a conclusion. I do not say that every person who feels himself entitled to a labourers' cottage should necessarily be provided with one, but I do say that where a labourer's cottage is genuinely needed that that cottage must sooner or later be provided. Therefore, the very fact of having started the provision of those labourer's cottages on the terms of the Act of 1906 renders it absolutely neressary that the operation must be continued until the labourers' question is finally and completely settled.

While I readily offer my congratulations to the Chief Secretary for having provided this extra million on practically the same terms as the original £4,250,000, I just wish to give one word or warning to him and to his successors, because this is a question on which, no matter which side of the House is in power, they both require to be reminded that the question is not settled, and that this million of money will not settle it. Hon. Members below the Gangway know very well that when this £1,000.000 is expended, and it soon will be, we will have to renew our application for further help in this matter. The Chief Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer more than the Chief Secretary, ought not to go away from the House this evening with the idea that they will not in due course be called on for more money to carry out this Act. With regard to the provision which the Chief Secretary proposes-to put in his new Bill for pulling down, the old houses, at first sight, at any rate, I am inclined to agree that that is a necessary thing to do, but I do not think we will give any pledges on that for the moment. I will not say there will be no-opposition, or that no criticism will be offered to that proposal, because it may be that district councils and individuals who are more conversant than we are with these matters, may have some suggestions to make on the subject. Generally speaking, the Chief Secretary need have no fear of any opposition coming from any part of the House, more especially from the part where I sit, but I presume if any such suggestion, such as I have indicated, should come from the district councils or other persons that the Chief Secretary will be quite willing when the time arrives to consider them. I think I can say on behalf of my colleagues that the Bill which the Chief Secretary proposes to introduce will receive nothing but the heartiest support from the Members on these benches, and I would like to join in the appeal of the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford (Mr. John Redmond) that the Bill should be introduced at the earliest possible date.


I quite agree with everything that hon. Members have said as to the desirability of extending the facilities for obtaining money for Ireland; but, although my sympathies are with them, I am afraid when the Bill comes forward I shall feel it my duty to oppose it. As a Member representing an English agricultural constituency, I feel that the English sitting tenant and the English labourer has not a reasonable chance of advancement and of happiness under present circumstances. It is a growing evil that the man on the land has not the same chance as the artisan in the cities of this country or as the peasant or small landowner in Ireland. Although my sympathies are entirely with the Irish party, and although I hope they will get what they are asking for, still a larger question is that the whole of the peasantry and the whole of the sitting tenants should be put on a higher level, to give them a better chance in life, with the Irish Nationalists— and one is almost tempted to become a Nationalist. They are insisting and demanding, and very properly getting-—


We will support you.


I think from what my lion, and learned Friend says it will be perhaps my duty not to oppose the Bill. When the time comes I trust the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the support of the Chief Secretary, whose sympathies are so great for the Irish, will extend his benevolence and great ability to get for the English labourer and the English sitting farmer what the right hon. Gentleman proposes to, is anxious to, and will get for the Irish. As my hon. Friends of the Irish party promise their support—and it is the most valuable support that anybody can have in this House—I may say, Mr. Emmott, that instead of opposing the Bill, as I intended to do at the outset, I will support it.


I would like to ask the Chief Secretary one question, and that is, will he make his new Bill retrospective?


I will consider that point. I should certainly like to make it retrospective.


I desire to say only a few words because I am happy to see that the occasion has arisen that makes it simply a pleasant duty. When I came here this afternoon it was with the idea of joining in a fight to help my Leader and my colleagues on behalf of the labourers in Ireland. I am glad to say that all occasion for battle has disappeared principally owing to the happy thought of the Chief Secretary. When we entered there was an atmosphere of battle, now we find such a serene and radiant air that the Members of the Unionist party themselves have joined in the rejoicing. I was pleased indeed to hear the concluding remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, because I think nothing could be more true than that the interests of the democracy of England may be quite coincident with those of the democracy of Ireland. It is time to dissipate entirely the idea that there is any antagonism between the progress of Ireland and the interests of England. I desire to say a few words in respect of matters of detail. One thing is that I hope the Chief Secretary will not conclude that the agricultural labourer is necessarily one who cannot reside in one of the small towns in Ireland. I am continually receiving letters from my Constituents on this question. Few questions are of more importance than that of the labourers' cottages. One that I received only two or three days ago informs me that in the town of Miltown Malbay there are at least fifty agricultural labourers whose work is very precarious and unfortunately intermittent. In the coming season they will have about six or seven weeks' work, and during the long winter they will be deprived of work altogether. Their hope was that the system of what is called in Ireland direct labour on the roads would be continued and extended. They saw that that would provide certainly for a fair amount of work for these labouring classes. But these men live in towns, and by their occupation have found it more convenient to live in town, being nearer to their precarious work; so that I hope labourers of that class will not be excluded from the beneficent operation of this Act, and that their case will be taken into account quite as much as the case of those who live in the country. In fact, I go so far as to hope that the construction of model cottages of the kind may be the beginning of a movement to sweep away the slums of these small towns altogether.

One of the most gratifying features to me when I visited Ireland was to observe these cottages growing up in various parts. And that was pleasing not merely because they were a benefit to the labourers who lived in them, and more healthy and more sanitary, but that each one was, as it were, a type to all the others who possessed cottages in the neighbourhood, a legitimate object of ambition, and a model to stir their best exertions, so that every man who saw one of these model cottages desired that he himself should have a dwelling of a somewhat similar character. I was also glad to notice that the Chief Secretary brought to mind the fact that the benefit does not really end in the material advantage of living in a cottage of this kind, but that the householders themselves, in the pride of their dwellings, begin to beautify their surroundings, to cultivate gardens, to grow garden flowers, and so forth; and this is really a new note in the landscape. And not merely that; it has given the people themselves and those they come in contact with new ideas of sanitation and new notions of what is possible in small things in the comfort of dwelling-houses. One other small matter, and that is that in some districts, according to letters which I have received, it is said the houses are not being built entirely according to specification. I am sure that if it be the case it can only be due to some accidental oversight. Therefore I will refrain from indicating to what rural districts those who have written to me complaining refer. I shall merely draw attention to the importance of adhering in the future to the good model of the houses that have been built.

Question put, and agreed to.