HC Deb 30 July 1912 vol 41 cc2001-4

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[Mr. Gulland.]

12.0 M.


Lord Erne is the Grand Master of the Orange Order in Ireland. This Bill proposes to relieve him of the payment of over £1,000. As a rule the Bill is passed to enable the Government to wipe out a very small sum in the shape of bad debts, but this Bill to my mind contains many unusual proposals, and I ask that next year there should be a note opposite the name of each man giving a little reason why he has been absolved from the payment. It is very striking to see three Gentlemen, one of whom is Lord Erne, relieved of these sums. I suppose it is under the drainage of Lough Erne Mr. Hawkes is relieved of £249 and the Earl of Erne of £1,215. It is a large sum, but I am quite sure the Earl of Erne is able to pay it. What happens is that the Government advance money for the drainage of land, and then a valuer is appointed who states the amount he considers the owner gained by drainage. That was done under a system which was certainly benevolent, and I have scarcely ever known a complaint made of the way in which the money was allotted and the tax levied. It may be in this case that there was some flood or something or another, and if so I should be the last person in the world to object to Lord Erne getting the relief that I should vote for anyone else, but unless there is some good reason I do not think Lord Erne or anyone else should be relieved. I should also like to know bow it is that these noble lords and gentlemen are always able to bring to the attention of the Government the fact that they are in want of this relief. Is there any correspondence? Does Lord Erne go to the Board of Works and say "I should be very much obliged if you would let me off £313? If so I should be happy to call on them myself and make a similar application.


There are about thirty people mentioned in this Act to be relieved from the payment of various sums, and it would be interesting to hear the history of each of these sums. But the bulk of us would be inclined to take it for granted that the matter had been very carefully looked into and that the exact pounds, shillings and pence had been arrived at. For instance, I find that one man who owed £160 is to be relieved of £159 7s. 8d., and for some inscrutable reason has still to pay 12s. 4d. If a public department over in Ireland can investigate matters with that nicety it shows that the matter has been most carefully attended to, and that the exact amount of justice to which this question is entitled has been ascertained within a penny.

I do not think that any observation in regard to any man out of these thirty-seven people is particularly called for. I do not think it matters a rap whether Leonard Clooneen, Maurice Hickey, Philip Cahill, Patrick O'Kane, John Kearney, Michael Lynch, and Thomas McNamara, and so on, are Orangemen or Catholics. It does not matter what their religion is. The real point is whether, after investigation of the position with regard to each of these people, and after giving the greatest possible attention to the matters, the Public Departments have ascertained the exact sums these individuals ought to pay. Ought we not to assume that the amount in each case is correct? I think we ought, and I congratulate the Public Departments concerned on being able, after investigation, to state whether an individual should pay a penny, fivepence, or 12s. 4d. out of £160. I do not think that the remarks of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. T. M. Healy) were at all called for.


Perhaps I can explain this matter in a very few words. The section of the Clause and the Schedule follow the course usually followed in a Public Works Loans Bill. It means the writing off from Public Works Loans of certain sums which the Commissioners do not see their way immediately to recover. That does not, as was suggested by the hon. and learned Member opposite, relieve the persons concerned from the debt which they owe, and any sum which may at any future time be recovered will be paid into the Exchequer. The hon. and learned Gentleman was perfectly right in calling attention to particular examples, and asking further information. It has always been the custom between the Second Reading and the Committee stages of such a Bill as this to circulate full information as to every single case. That will be done, and the information will be in the hands of the hon. Gentleman to-morrow morning. If there are special cases in respect to which he wishes to raise any points, we will be very happy to give explanations.


I am very sorry the Financial Secretary replied before I had an opportunity of making a few observations on the Bill. So far the discussion has referred to Clause 1, but it appears to me that the important part of the Bill is the clause under which the National Debt Commissioners are authorised to issue £6,000,000 to the Public Works Loans Commissioners. That is by far the most serious thing, and I think we have a right to ask on what terms the Public Works Loans Commissioners lend the money. What is the rate of interest and to whom will the money be lent? We know that they are lending at present to the Co-partnership Housing Council. I wish to know whether money is also lent to any other private building enterprise, and, if so, to what corporations or bodies the money is lent and at what rate of interest. It is a matter of the greatest importance to building enterprises throughout the country. The second point is this. Under this Bill we are authorising the National Debt Commissioners to advance £6,000,000 out of their funds, which means that there are £6,000,000 less to be spent on the purchase of Consols and the extinction of debt, though that is the purpose to which the money could be applied with the greatest advantage just now with Consols at a price between 74 and 75. I want to know whether in doing this we shall not further aggravate the financial position of the country as a whole? I shall be glad to have an answer from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.


The normal rate of loans lent out at less than thirty years is 3½ per cent. Exceeding thirty years, it is 3¾ per cent. There is a long list, which I could not possibly read to the House, of the various Acts under which loans can be granted, and the purposes for which they can be granted, such as allotments, burial grounds, education and so on. I shall be very glad to send it to the hon. Gentleman.


Are there any corporations


None, except those laid down by Act of Parliament.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for to-morrow (Wednesday).—[Mr. Gulland.]