§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £64,728, 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, 1915, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board, Ireland, 344 including sundry Grants-in-Aid."—[Note.—£45,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. CLANCY
On this Vote I propose to raise a question, which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a great many others, including all my colleagues, is one of the most serious, vital, and urgent that can be brought before Parliament in relation to Ireland. The way in which this question arises on this Vote is well known to the Chief Secretary, and probably to other Members of the Committee. It arises out of the recent inquiry into the housing conditions in Ireland, and especially in Dublin, directed by the Chief Secretary, and the Report which that body has made. Before I go further, I must say that the contrast between the action of this Departmental Committee and that of a Royal Commission is rather striking, and is to the credit of the Departmental Committee. It is scarcely much more than three months ago since they began their inquiry, and they have already completed their work, whereas if the work had been given into the hands of a Royal Commission the work would scarcely have been commenced by this time. The work done is important. A good deal of valuable information has been gathered, and a good many suggestions have been made in the Report which will be very useful to us in the later stages of the discussion of this question.
It is true that there is nothing that is very new in the Report of the Departmental Committee or in the evidence which they have taken. When the party to which I belong were tackling this question in 1908, we had to prepare a case for Parliament, as we were asking for State assistance towards housing in Ireland. In the course of our inquiries we discovered a most amazing and, indeed, a most appalling state of affairs. If I may be pardoned for quoting from a speech of my own, I might mention that I said in 1908, on the Second Reading of our Housing Bill of that year, that no fewer than 21,747 families out of nearly 60,000 families, or 36 per cent., were living in Dublin alone in one-room tenements. On further investigation we found that the one-room tenements in Dublin having five or more occupants were 8.69 per cent. of all the tenements, whereas the percentages for the leading towns in Great Britain were as follows: Manchester, 04; Liverpool, 22; London, 57; Edinburgh, 1.80; and Glasgow, 4.28. It will be seen from those figures that at that time the one-room 345 tenements in Dublin in which families of five or more persons lived were actually twice as numerous as in Glasgow, the next highest in the United Kingdom. We are not, therefore, surprised that the present state of things, as revealed by the Report of the Departmental Committee, should be found to exist, notwithstanding the fact that no small amount of work towards removing this scandal and blot on our civilisation has been done since the passing of the Act of 1908.
There are still 20,108 families living in one-room tenements in Dublin—that is to say, of all the tenements in Dublin, 78 per cent. are lettings of one-room tenements. The mere statement of that fact and of those figures is enough to prove that something serious has to be remedied, and that Parliament ought not to delay applying a remedy. If anyone reads the Report of the Departmental Committee, and especially the evidence tendered before it, he will come to the conclusion—he cannot help coming to the conclusion—that the state of those tenements is an infinitely aggravating circumstance and that human beings ought not to be allowed to live there if they can possibly be accommodated elsewhere. Amongst other things I might mention, tuberculosis is bred in these places to an extent which is quite remarkable, and a very curious circumstance which is mentioned by the Departmental Committee proves that fact. Whenever the domestic servants in Dublin—who, of course, are all drawn from the poorer classes, and a great many of whose parents and families live in those tenement houses, whether in town or country, get into better dwellings as servants to the wealthier people, there is no more consumption amongst them than there is amongst their employers, and in fact the statement in the Report is that their health is better. It seems to me, and I think it must seem to every reasonable man, that all the efforts made to put an end to the ravages of this white scourge, as it has been called, are scarcely any use at all if you have at the same time in the same city in which tuberculosis is raging, these tenement homes and other dwellings which absolutely breed consumption.
In the greater part of my remarks I shall refer chiefly to Dublin, but a great deal of what I have to say as regards Dublin is true also as regards other cities and towns of Ireland, and that is so stated in the Report of the Departmental Committee. But Dublin stands out in a particularly bad 346 light in regard to this matter. It has by far the largest number of one-room tenements in the whole of the United Kingdom, the next highest being Finsbury, and the third Glasgow. The allegation is that the Corporation of Dublin is in some way to blame for this state of things, and I listened with some amazement to two speeches made here about a fortnight ago in which not only charges were made against the Corporation of Dublin but against individuals of corruption;: whereas any impartial reader of this Report or of the evidence, reading it honestly and drawing an honest conclusion from it, cannot but be aware that there is not a particle of foundation for the charges against the corporation—charges suggested rather than expressed. Amongst the charges is one that the sanitary laws of Dublin are not strictly enforced. ["Hear, hear."] I hear cheers at that suggestion from a Gentleman who to my knowledge has never assisted Dublin or any part of Ireland to obtain better housing conditions. It is almost suggested that all the tenement houses, which are so much complained of, are practically owned by members of the Dublin Corporation. I think the figures disprove that allegation. The tenement houses of Dublin number over 5,500 altogether, of which only 73 are owned by 11 or 12 members of the corporation, and not all of these are bad. The Report suggests that the corporation is to blame. I desire to say, as the result of my own personal experience in the working out of the Act of 1908, under which several housing schemes have been promoted, as far as I can personally speak, the officials of the Local Government Board who have taken part in these inquiries have acted both with intelligence and with sympathy, and therefore it is with some regret that I find myself obliged to criticise this Report in some respects. Here is a suggestion on page 6:—It is sufficient for us at this stage to say that, in our opinion, the third class tenement houses and the third class small houses, which have been stated by the sanitary staff to be unfit for human habitation, should, as a first step, be absolutely cleared away.Allegations on page 12:—The fact that evidence was given at the inquiry showing that there are 1,518 tenement houses inhabited by 22,781 persons, and 1,289 small houses inhabited by 4,851 persons, and 20 lodging houses over which the corporation have licensing powers, and which are licensed to accommodate 434 persons, giving a total of only 28,000 persons living in houses stated by the corporation officers to be not fit for human habitation, would not, we think, require a very stringent application of the closing powers of the corporation.[Hear, hear.] Another cheer from the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A Griffith- 347 Boscawen)—a place where I believe there are no slums. The first answer to be made to that suggestion, which is to the effect that the corporation should close all these houses, is this: The question may be asked in return, what have the medical inspectors of the Local Government Board been doing if it was the duty of the corporation to have cleared away these tenement houses? The truth is, that the inspectors of the Local Government Board whose duty it is to see to the performance of this duty by the corporation, have not neglected their duty, have always been in close touch with the corporation, and have refrained from asking the corporation to enforce their powers simply because they knew that the result of doing it would be to throw tens of thousands of people out on the streets. Some of them are men of common sense and recognise both the limits of possibility and the demands of humanity. One would imagine from this suggestion that the corporation have closed no tenement houses. The reverse is the fact. The dissentient Memorandum by Mr. MacCabe is to be found at page 30 of the Report. He says:—I do not accept any statement which expresses or implies that the sanitary administration of the Dublin Corporation is, or has been defective, or that it is in any way responsible for the present housing conditions in Dublin. What the Corporation (during the short time it has had powers to act) has done is to reduce by thousands the number of tenement houses, compel the introduction of the water-carriage system of sewage, and reduce enormously the zymotic death-rate. What the corporation' has left undone is in my opinion; beyond its power to effect in practice. The tenement system is, as ray colleagues say, bad in itself, and, in my opinion, no sanitary regulation could do more than prevent the evil becoming absolutely intolerable.The Departmental Committee themselves, in fact, give this explanation, for they say in a paragraph at page 7 of the Report:—We recognise, however, that at present it is necessary to proceed with caution, in order that no undue hardship may be inflicted on the inhabitants of these dwellings by eviction before other dwellings have been provided.I want to know whether even the hon. Member for Dudley would advocate the wholesale demolition of the 20,000 tenement houses in Dublin now?
§ Mr. CLANCY
Yet he blames the corporation for not doing it. They also make another suggestion which really I cannot understand at all. It is notorious that the whole population of Dublin has increased largely within the last ten or twenty years, and that it has been recruited from the labouring classes in the country. The 348 suggestion in this Report is one with which I entirely disagree, namely, that if the sanitary laws' had been more strictly en-forced those rural labourers would have' been prevented from coming into the city. I really do not see how they could have been prevented. If work was to be had within the city by an agricultural labourer, how could any sanitary regulation be made to prevent him from entering the city? What sanitary regulation will prevent him remaining in the city while work is to be had and his family has to be supported? I do not understand how it is to be done. It is said that the corporation ought to have compelled those owners to put their property into repair, or, in the alternative, ought to have put the property into repair themselves and recovered the cost from the owners. If anyone reads the evidence—the uncontradicted evidence—of the officers of the corporation who gave their testimony on this subject he will find that they are of a contrary opinion, and that the remedy would be absolutely useless, for the simple reason that most of those tenement houses are owned by poor people whose livelihood depends upon the rents they derive from the tenements. They believe that it would be absolutely impossible for the corporation to recover from those people the cost of demolition or the cost of repairing these houses.
It is charged against the corporation of Dublin that somehow or other they ought to have tackled successfully this tenement-house problem, because in 1891 the population was only 245,000 and the inhabited houses only 25,764, whereas in 1911 the population was 265,649 and the inhabited houses 28,406—that is to say, in 1911 the population was greater by over 20,600 than in 1891 and the inhabited houses were only 2,600 more. Certainly it is difficult to see how the fact that twenty years ago the population was lower makes the solution of the problem more easy now when the difficulty is increased by the increased population, while there is no appreciable increase in the number of inhabited houses. I cannot make it out. Among the other ridiculous charges brought against the corporation is the high price paid for land. Those who make that charge do not seem to know the facts. Anybody who knows about that subject knows that the price of land for houses under the Housing of the Working Classes Act is not determined by any corporation, but that there is a tribunal for the purpose—an arbitrator—who acts upon the evidence before 349 him. I may mention a particular case to illustrate the extortionate price exacted, and in doing so it is not to find fault with the arbitrator, whom I myself believe to be a very fair and painstaking officer. What is the case? The Corporation of Dublin wanted a certain site for houses; they got an agent to go round and try what he could do to buy it as if he was buying it for him-self. It was owned by a company whose name I do not like to mention. The representative of the company said, "If you give us £100 we will let you have it." I may add that there was an agreement made which was found not to be binding, and the case accordingly came before the arbitrator. He heard the case. He heard the evidence of experts, and on the evidence given in that investigation the award for the property, which the owners were willing to sell by agreement for £100, was £2,000. No wonder that there should be complaints of high prices being paid for land in Dublin and elsewhere. But what I do beg the Committee to see is that the corporation are not responsible for these high prices. There are various other charges brought against the corporation, but I will not enter into them all. They are charged with not having acted on this and that enactment; with not having done this and that; and recommendations are actually made that certain provisions should be enacted by Parliament which were contained in certain Bills brought forward by them in this House and rejected either by this House or by the House of Lords.
I pass by these charges against the corporation by saying this, that there is not a single charge brought against the corporation itself as a corporation which is substantiated by the slightest particle of evidence, and it is disgraceful that any Member of this House should take advantage of his position as a Member, and of his being immune from actions at law, to make charges of this kind in this House, and to make charges of corruption against individuals. If these charges are to be made against individuals, at least they ought to be made in the places in which these people live, so that they might have an opportunity of bringing the speaker to book. The most serious charge in the whole series brought against the corporation is that certain rebates of rates were made to four or five corporators. The law enables the corporation to make a rebate up to 33 per cent. on certain property 350 valued under £8 on the certificate of the medical officer of health that it is kept in fair condition, and that certain other conditions of the law are complied with. In this particular case there were five persons, members of the corporation, who got between them under £50 out of nearly £4,000 given in rebates. In regard to only three of these five persons does the Report venture to make any charge whatever. And finally, in regard to this question of rebate, the medical officer of health (Sir Charles Cameron)—it sounds like a Scotch name, but I believe that he claims to be an Irishman as well as a Scotsman; he is a Protestant, and he is a Unionist; he is a man of great experience, and a man of some courage, and I think an honest man—has deliberately told the Committee that he takes the whole responsibility of the question of these rebates on his own shoulders. In face of this, it is not right for anyone to get up in this House and charge the corporation with corruption in this matter, and do that also before the evidence was given upon which I now make my statement.
I pass from these charges and come to what the corporation has done to house the people—for in this respect, also, one would think that nothing had been done. I wish to make this statement, and I challenge contradiction upon it. I have often heard in this country that necessity exists for a law compelling the local authorities to put in force these Housing Acts and other such Acts for the benefit of the people. There is no necessity to enact such a law for Ireland. There is not, at any rate outside a certain portion of Ulster, and there never was, any necessity to invoke the power of the Local Government Board to compel the local authorities to put the Labourers (Ireland) Acts into force. The difficulty was to restrain them. And many a scheme in the past, promoted by local authorities, has been nipped in the bud by the Local Government Board on one ground or another. And, might I mention also, that, so eager were some of the local authorities to house the labourers, that the limit of a shilling in the pound on the rates, to which they might have gone under the law previous to the Act of 1906, was, at their own request and at the request of the Irish Nationalist Members, raised to 1s. 3d., and even that figure has now been reached in the case of several of the counties. I think that the same thing is true, broadly speaking, of the urban local authorities 351 now. I think that they have all shown a willingness to avail themselves of all the powers at their disposal. There is no doubt whatever about that, because that is admitted in the Report of this Departmental Committee. At page 14, paragraph 34, they say:—The finance of their operations is dealt with later"—that is the corporation, this much-abused body—and it is with pleasure that we state that they appear from the very beginning to have taken advantage of the powers given to them in this regard, and it must not be forgotten that the Acts before 1890 placed a rating limitation on their borrowing and rating powers for this purpose.They give particulars as to the work they have actually done in this matter—The corporation have provided 1,385 dwellings and lodging-house accommodation for in all about 7,600 people, or in other words they have housed 2.5 per cent. of the population, and it was claimed on their behalf that they have done more for the housing of the working classes than any other city in the United Kingdom. Other schemes, namely, Lisburn and Lurgan Streets, Trinity Ward; Beresford and Church Streets and Ormond Market, under which it is proposed to provide accommodation for 2,025 persons are passed and intended to be shortly put into operation. The corporation have also under consideration schemes for providing further accommodation for 6,480 persons. Up to last year, the business of the corporation under the Housing Acts was carried out by a committee of the corporation called the improvements committee, but early last year a special housing committee was formed and we think that the evidence clearly indicates that this step on the part of the corporation was a correct one, as much greater activity has since prevailed.I repeat, in the words of this Report, that the Corporation of Dublin has from the very beginning displayed the utmost willingness to take advantage of all the powers under the Housing of Working Classes Acts, and I say that the same thing is true of all the urban authorities in Ireland. They have, after all, both in Dublin and elsewhere, touched but the fringe of this great problem. What is the reason? I think it must be admitted that the reason is to be found in the poverty of the towns, in the high rates of the towns, and in the unwillingness of Parliament to give any assistance in the matter to these towns; and anybody who takes all these circumstances into account, must admit that the towns in Ireland, and especially in the city of Dublin, have gone as far as they possibly could with any regard whatever to the rate-paying powers of the community. This is clearly proved, I think, by the figures relating to the working of the Housing Acts before 1908, and to what has been done under the Act of 1908 up to the end of the last financial year. I find that in the forty years before 1908, since 1866, 352 when the first of these Housing Acts was passed, only 4,650 families and a thousand persons besides, had been provided for, and that at a cost of £830,000. What has taken place since the Act of 1908 gave them cheaper money and aided them with a little grant? The Bill of 1908 was cut down. It was deprived of its principal financial provisions by this House, Nevertheless the Act has produced the following results. I give the latest figures which have been kindly supplied to me by the Local Government Board, for they have not been yet published. From 1890 to 1908, in eighteen years, there were loans to the extent of £853,354 sanctioned for housing purposes in Ireland. In the six years that have elapsed since the passing of the Act of 1908, loans to the extent of £763,273 have been sanctioned. I think it will be admitted that those figures show that the Act of 1908, although insufficient for the purpose—no one knows that better than myself—has at least had a most stimulating effect upon all the municipalities in Ireland where housing accommodation for the working classes is required.
There was a novelty introduced into the Act of 1908 in the shape of the Irish Housing Fund. I am not aware that any similar fund has been established for England or Scotland, and I should like to mention to the Committee the result of the working of that fund. The fund was altogether only about £160,000. We had every penny from the Suitors' Fund. Not a single penny was subscribed by this country to that fund; it was all obtained from the Suitors' funds in Dublin. I am bound to acknowledge on the present occasion that we owe that fund practically to one man, in addition to the Chief Secretary who helped in the matter—the late Lord Chancellor Walker, who liberated the Suitors' Fund in Chancery to that extent. At present that produces an annual income of £6,500 a year. For the first three years it paid 100 per cent. of the housing charge, and in that three years the local authorities had all the rents in addition as profit. In the fourth year it paid 86 per cent. of the annual housing charge; and in the fifth year ending the 31st March last, it paid 36 per cent. of the housing charge. It is a small transaction, but I think it is a very creditable one. The burden of it all is that this is a big question, a question not for a municipality but for the State. Were it not that I do not like to take up the time of the House, I might quote a passage, a very strong passage from the Report of the Depart- 353 mental Committee, in which they take up a very decided stand, and discuss the question whether or not, from an economic, strictly economic point of view, private enterprise ought to be left to do this work, or whether the State should come to the rescue. They have come to the conclusion, and expressed it, that up to a short time since private enterprise might have been expected to do it, but that it can now no longer be expected to do so.
I remember very well that in 1008, when we were endeavouring to get some provisions inserted in the Bill of that year, in order to encourage private enterprise, the things we proposed were summarily dismissed by the House of Lords as an effort at national knavery or something of that kind; yet those things which we proposed in 1908 are some of the very things now recommended by this Government Department. The Committee wound up with the conclusion that there is nothing for it but State aid, especially as the State has recently admitted it in the case of England itself. Let me say that in addition to the rest of Ireland, something is due from this Parliament, to Dublin especially. Dublin was a flourishing city at the time of the Union. The very houses that are now tenement houses, and which are a disgrace to and a blot upon the escutcheon of the city, a source of disease, and to some extent of crime, were the houses of the aristocracy and the gentry of Ireland. You passed the Act of Union, and the gentry and the aristocracy, like the unpatriotic people they have been, followed in the wake of the Parliament to London. You deprived Dublin, at one stroke, of the source of its prosperity; and your fiscal policy, in various stages of it and in various forms, has helped to bring ruin to that city. I ask the Chief Secretary, or rather I do not appeal to him because he is sympathetic, but I ask British Members on both sides, to say whether or not under these circumstances Dublin is not entitled to special consideration in this matter? All I can say is that, in my opinion, there is nothing for it except State assistance on a generous scale, and I hope the coming Housing Bill of the Government will afford them an opportunity—if there are no other opportunities—to redeem the promise made by the Chief Secretary to deputations in Dublin last November, that such State assistance would be forthcoming.
I do not like using this opportunity, which should be regarded as a non-party occasion, for party purposes, but I cannot 354 help alluding to one circumstance, and I hope the Committee will not think I have violated the canon which I laid down for myself when I do so: Two British Members, Unionist Members, who spoke here about a fortnight or three weeks ago, brought politics into this question, dragged them in by the neck and heels. They did it before the evidence was forthcoming. They contrasted, forsooth, the state of things in Dublin with the state of things in Belfast. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There you have it again. But what is the case? I do not like bringing in this matter, but it would be unjust to Dublin if I did not do so. Belfast is a modern city in comparison with Dublin—a completely modern city. It was a village almost about sixty or seventy years ago, and in about twenty or thirty years—the history of the matter is this—Belfast was over-built, and over jerry-built. Every working man had his house as the result of private enterprise, and Belfast was not burdened with the disadvantages of Dublin. It had not an Orange Corporation that had plundered the city for 150 years. They plundered the city of Dublin so much that, on the passing of the Reform Act of 1840, Mr. O'Connell, the first Liberal or Nationalist Lord Mayor, had to redeem the very insignia of the mayoralty from the pawn office, where they had been deposited by the loyal Orange Corporation that immediately preceded the reformed corporation.
Belfast had not to carry out what the loyal Orange Corporation of Dublin had left undone. It had not to carry out a great water scheme, the best now, I believe, in the whole three Kingdoms. It had not to carry out a main drainage scheme, already one of the most perfect in the three Kingdoms. It had not to carry out a reconstruction of the streets, which cost an exceedingly large sum of money. It had not to do all these things, and because it had not, forsooth, it was able to do, it is supposed, that which Dublin wickedly, and neglectful of the interests of the workingman, had left undone. But is it all well even with Belfast? I do not suppose the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) knew about it; but until 1910, despite protests from many inhabitants in Belfast, they never took a step to enforce the Housing of the Working Classes Act until 1910. But then public opinion began to be aroused, and, notwithstanding the beautiful condition of Belfast and the splendid state of the housing of the work- 355 ing classes there, they had to ask last year for a sum of £160,000 to wipe out the slums of Belfast. And last year they benefited, I may add to the extent of £1,200 from the Housing Fund, which I should have thought it was above their dignity and self respect to touch. We are not afraid of any comparison that may be made between Dublin and Belfast. I did not rise to make a political speech, but I thought it right to defend Dublin, and I felt I could not defend Dublin without disputing this contrast between Dublin and Belfast, which has been brought to the notice of this House, and brought too before the evidence was produced on which it was supposed to be founded. I hope it is not necessary to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to make a definite pronouncement to-day, that something will be done at an early date to remove this blot upon Dublin and upon Ireland.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
The hon. Member who has just sat down appears to be very annoyed because a few weeks ago my Noble Friend and myself called attention to this question on the Adjournment Motion. He has made sundry remarks about me and my lack of interest in the Irish housing question. I would only remark, in reply, that I, personally, have voted for every one of the Irish Labourers Acts brought forward in this House. I want to reply to him personally, because I think that he has always taken a great interest in the housing question, and I simply ask him to believe that some of us on this side have done the same. But when the hon. Member attempts to defend the Corporation of Dublin at the present moment in regard to housing, I think he is taking on a rather bigger job than he can carry through. All the circumstances are fully revealed in the Report and in the evidence which was given. The hon. Member admitted that there is nothing in the Report that he did not know before, and, if they did know before, what a sweeping condemnation it is of the corporation which permitted this state of affairs and of the Local Government Board in not having taken steps to compel the corporation to do their duty before! The hon. Member referred to the Report, which is, I suppose, based on the evidence, and I will quote one or two passages from that evidence. Mr. Richard Pilkington, who was a member of the Dublin Citizens' Association for many years, and who knew a great deal 356 about the management of house property in Dublin, said the tenement property in Dublin was the worst that could be found in any civilised country. Miss Harrison, in her evidence, stated that according to the last Census there were 118,000 people badly housed in Dublin, against 104,000 under the previous Census.
That does not speak much for the work which the hon. Member says the Dublin Corporation have been doing, because in the meantime there are 14,000 more people badly housed than there were ten years earlier. Miss Harrison produced a report which showed that there were 12,000 people living four in one room; 11,000, five in one room; 8,000, six in one room; 5,000, seven in one room; 3,000, eight in one room; 1,000 living nine in one room; 450 living ten in one room; 176 living eleven in one room; and 60 living twelve in one room. That is not a very creditable state of affairs for the Dublin Corporation or the Irish Local Government Board. I will take-another witness, as the hon. Member likes evidence. Alderman Sir Joseph Downes said that he knew a tenement house not far from the General Post Office in which 88 people lived, and that there was also a house in Henrietta Street where 87 people lived. The Rev. P. J. Monohan, a priest working in the district, stated that No. 10. Francis Street was a house which demanded attention. He pointed out that there were really two houses, No. 10 front and No. 10 back, and in that combination of two houses there were 107 human beings. He proceeded to show that the sanitary arrangements were totally inadequate. That is the state of affairs revealed by the evidence, and by the Report, and the hon. Member gets up and says that the Dublin Corporation have-done their duty! Does he really say that, having regard to the statements made in the Report? On page 12 of the Report there is the following:—The plea of the corporation in regard to the in-sufficiency of their powers would have considerably more force were it supported by evidence of a rigid administration of existing powers.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
The next paragraph is as follows:—The facts, however, would go to show that Sir Charles Cameron (the principal medical officer) has taken upon himself a dispensing power in regard to the closet accommodation.The Report goes on to state:—The condition of the tenement houses at our inspection would, we think, apart from the evidence of many 357 witnesses at the inquiry, justify us in coming to the conclusion that the owners were not stringently compelled"—that is, by the corporation—to keep them in a clean and sanitary condition.They go on to point out that in other ways the corporation have not done their duty. They point out that the corporation did not make use of their closing powers and did not keep a register of tenement houses, although they were compelled to do so by their own private Act. They dispensed with the sanitary accommodation said to be necessary by their by-law, and they did not compel owners to keep their tenements in a clean and proper condition. On the next page the Report goes on to state that the conditions were due to some extent to the failure of the corporation to enforce the sanitary laws, and that want of inspection, which is the fault of the corporation, has caused excessive rents for houses not fit for human habitation. They continue:Further, it would seem to us that the want of a firm administration has created a number of owners with but little sense of their responsibilities as landlords, and that it has helped much in the demoralisation of a number of the working classes.They proceed to remark, and this, I think, is the most important thing of all, when the hon. Member has complained that private enterprise has been killed, which is perfectly true:—The provision of decent houses by private enterprise has been handicapped by the unfair competition of insanitary dwellings.How on earth can the hon. Member contend, after all those paragraphs on pages 12 and 13 of the Report, that the corporation have done their duty? Turning from their duties as regards the inspecting and closing of houses, and making owners carry out proper regulations, the hon. Member tells us what they have done in the way of building houses. I quite admit that they have done something in the way of building, but if he will look at the Report he will find that what they have done does not get commendation of the gentlemen who held this inquiry. On the very next page of the Report there is the following:So far as we have been able to form an opinion on the work accomplished or in contemplation, we think that the schemes are incomplete and too scattered.They say, further, that the maintenance charge is abnormally high. Here is a very curious thing, and how does the hon. Member account for it? The average charge for maintenance per tenant in Dublin in the houses erected by the Dublin Corporation is £2 14s. 3d., while it is only £1 15s. 4d. in Liverpool. That is a thing worth looking into. Let me turn again to 358 the evidence, of which the hon. Member is so fond. Mr. O'Brien, vice-president of the Dublin Trades Council, said that the corporation possessed powers to build on the outskirts of the city. Of course that is much the best way to do it, but, he said, they preferred to buy out slum property at £1,000 per acre, in order to enrich slum owners. I do not think, even if we look at the amount of building they have done, and putting aside the utter inadequacy of their inspection, and of their closing orders, that we can come to the conclusion that they have done it well. On the contrary, they appear to have made every mistake that a corporation could make. I pass to more serious things. We have evidence that the reason why these things, and this appalling state of affairs has prevailed, has been the political character of the corporation. We have got that set out very clearly in the evidence of Mr. Pilkington, from whom I have already quoted. He said the state of affairs in Dublin was due to the absolutely uneconomic way in which Dublin was managed. He did not mean to attack the corporation, and he added:—I think they are the very best corporation we could get, taking into consideration the political way in which the corporation are elected.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
That is the evidence. Let me give a little more evidence. The Rev. Wm. Farrell, a Roman Catholic curate, said:—The slum vote keeps the city in the slavery and servitude of slumdom. It is an old fact that contests in the city for municipal honours are decided chiefly by slum votes, and this on account of the abstention of the more respectable and educated voters.… For, by means of these votes, they can ride into the Corporation on the crest of whatever ism, be it Hibernianism, Sinn, Feinnism, Larkinism, etc. that appeals to the passions of the unthinking at the moment.I say, due to the fact that the corporation has been elected by slum voters has played up to slum owners, and because many members of the corporation are owners of slum property, this state of affairs has been allowed to go on.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Yes, I think there is. If the hon. Member will look at page 13, he will find that altogether fourteen members of the corporation own slum property. The names of three of them I will mention, because they are mentioned in the Report. The hon. Member was very angry with me because he said I 359 mentioned names on a previous occasion. What I did was to quote from the Report, and I do so again. On page 13 it is stated that three gentlemen, Alderman O'Reilly, Alderman Corrigan, and Councillor Crozier, are the owners of dwellings unfit for human habitation. That is not all. They received rebates in the rates of the city in respect of this property. It is all very well to say that Sir Charles Cameron did, as I believe he did most gallantly, take the blame upon himself, but he is the officer of the corporation, and they cannot escape responsibility by making him the scapegoat. The fact is that three members of the corporation, in respect of property not fit for human habitation, accepted a rebate on the rates in contradiction to the very conditions that were laid down for the rebate. The case of one of them, I think Alderman Corrigan mentioned on page 13 of the Report, is exceptionally bad. The Report states:—In two instances, affecting twelve dwellings, belonging to Alderman Corrigan, the property was certified by the sanitary sub-officer as not fit for a rebate, but was subsequently passed as fit on the authority of Sir Charles Cameron.The Report goes on to state that the reason they were not fit for a rebate was because the drains were not trapped. Alderman Corrigan did nothing to the drains, but he accepted the rebate. I believe that is a state of affairs positively scandalous, and I do not see how the hon. Member or any other hon. Member can get up and defend it. The hon. Member also was very angry with me because he said I instituted for political purposes a contrast with Belfast. The contrast with Belfast is made in the Report, and it is a very remarkable one. There is a complete difference of recent history in the two cities. After all, the present conditions of housing are chiefly due to recent history, and in Belfast you have had for a great many years a corporation of Unionists, and in Dublin you have had an almost exclusively Nationalist body. Let me take the comparison, and it is a very remarkable one, because it shows that whereas housing in Dublin is the worst of all the big cities in the United Kingdom, housing in Belfast is about the best. I will refer to two tables given in the Report, and first of all to the number of tenements of one room per thousand total tenements in the principal cities of the United Kingdom. In Dublin there are 339 single tenements per thousand, which is a very high figure, and 360 in Glasgow 200, London 134, Edinburgh 94, Liverpool 54, Manchester 18, Birmingham 10, and in Belfast only 6. Everybody who knows anything about housing knows that the single-room tenement is the greatest abomination and source of crime—
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I am going to do so, but the hon. Member is in such a hurry. In the case of Belfast the figure is lowest, while the other cities are in different order. We will take the next paragraph, and the number of persons per thousand of population living in tenements of one room in the different cities. In Dublin you have 229 persons per thousand people living in single-room tenements; in Glasgow, 132; in London, fifty-nine; in Edinburgh, fifty-six; in Liverpool, twenty-three; in Manchester, seven; in Birmingham, four; and in Belfast, three. No man looking at those figures can come to any other conclusion than that the housing affairs of Belfast have been very well managed, while those of Dublin have been indescribably badly managed. I will supplement these figures by others taken from the last Census Return. According to that Return, the population of Dublin was 304,000 and that of Belfast 386,000. Take the number of people living three or more in one room—that is a pretty good test of the housing condition. If you get three people living in one room it is obviously a case of over-crowding, and if there are more than three it is bad overcrowding. In Belfast only 530 out of the whole population live three or more in one room. In Dublin the number under similar conditions is 55,654. It is all very well to explain that Belfast is a comparatively new city and Dublin is an old city, but you cannot explain that extraordinary contrast merely by that statement. You can only explain it by saying, in the words of the Report, that the corporation have not been properly using the powers they possess, but have allowed this state of affairs to go on getting worse and worse until the scandal was so bad that the Chief Secretary was compelled to appoint a Commission to inquire into it and expose it to the whole world.
We may well ask what is to be done. I quite agree that you cannot close all these houses right away without making provision for rehousing the people. The 361 Report recommends, if I remember aright, that 14,000 families should be displaced, and 14,000 new self-contained cottages erected to receive them. But if you did that right away without State aid, you would impose an enormous burden upon the rates. The economic rent would be roughly 5s. 5½d., allowing for the repayment of capital, the payment of interest on the money borrowed, and so forth. The most that these poor people could be expected to pay would be 3s. 7d., and the result would be a loss of 1s. 10½d. a week to the ratepayer. I quite agree that that cannot be done. The Report, therefore, confirming practically the view that housing reformers on this side of the House have taken, in contradistinction to the view taken by hon. Members opposite—
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
That is the figure taken from the Report. The Report says that having regard to the wages they receive they could not be expected to pay more than 3s. 7d. a week. What is the proposition? That these people are to be immediately turned out and new dwellings erected for them. Unless you are going by a wonderful stroke of the pen to raise their wages at once by at least 2s. a week, they could not pay the economic rent of the new houses to be erected for them.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
If the hon. Member, who I know is very powerful, could manage by a single speech or by a stroke of the pen to raise wages by 5s. or 6s. a week all over Dublin, I have no doubt that he would solve the housing question there, and he might be able to solve it in other places also. Still, we have to take facts as we find them. I am dealing with the Report, which says that these people could not pay on the average more than 3s. 7d. a week, and the economic rent would be 5s. 5½d. What does the Report recommend? Just as we on this side have asked for State aid in this country for the purpose of rehousing people when turned out of the slums at a rent that they can afford to pay, so the Report asks for a similar condition of things to prevail in Ireland. I can only hope that when Unionist housing Bills are brought forward in this House they will 362 have the general support of the Irish Nationalists. Undoubtedly the Government will have to proceed step by step in the matter, but I think we have a right to ask what the Local Government Board are going to do. Are they going to give a Grant-in-Aid? Are they going to compel the corporation to use its powers? Are they going to impose any penalties on those members of the corporation who have been accepting a rebate? Are they going to make them repay the rebate, which they ought never to have had? We certainly want to know what is the position of the Government in the matter. In the meantime I think we are amply justified in drawing attention to this condition of affairs, which I think is one of the most disgraceful ever brought forward in the House of Commons or revealed to the country. I do not think we can accept the explanation given by the hon. Member in his attempt to whitewash the Corporation of Dublin. In order to call attention to this matter, I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
§ Mr. BRADY
As far as the closing remarks of the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) are concerned, I think I am in complete agreement with them. It is a pity, as he is so very anxious to befriend Ireland in the matter of housing, that in the Bill with which he was associated last year and in the Bill this year, which was practically his Bill, Ireland was not included.
§ Mr. BRADY
As far as I am aware, the hon. Member did not take any steps to ascertain whether the Irish Members were willing to be included or not. Speaking as the Member for one of the Divisions of Dublin, I do not regret that this Vote has given us an opportunity of discussing the Dublin Housing Report. I am profoundly gratified that the opportunity has arisen, because, like my colleague, the hon. Member for North Dublin (Mr. Clancy), I do not want to run away from anything in that Report. There is no reason why we should be ashamed of any finding in the Report so far as it affects the Corporation of Dublin. I listened very attentively to the speech of the hon. Member, and there is a great deal of common ground between us on this question. Nobody can claim that the housing conditions, as they obtain to-day in Dublin, are as they should be. 363 Anyone who has read the Report must be absolutely driven to the conclusion that they leave a great deal to be desired. Nobody is better qualified to deal with the question of Dublin housing than my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Clancy), who has made this question, particularly in regard to the city of Dublin, almost the study of his political life, and his name, in Ireland at any rate, will be imperishably associated with the beneficent Act popularly known as the Clancy Act, which has done so much to better the housing conditions of the working classes in the city of Dublin and throughout Ireland. It would, however, be folly to deny that the housing conditions under which a large proportion of the workers of Dublin live are wretched beyond expression. I make a present of that admission to the hon. and gallant Member. I have no intention of wearying the Committee with the figures contained in the Report. I simply make one quotation from them for the purpose of showing that this common ground in regard to the housing evil exists amongst all sections of the House. The Report finds that there are 25,822 families, consisting of 87,305 persons, living in wretched tenements in the city of Dublin. Of that number 20,108 families occupy one-room tenements. Taking the population of Dublin at 304,802, we find one-fourth of the dwellers occupying tenement houses in which, according to the Report, the conditions of life are both physically and morally bad. There is urgent necessity for reform, which, the Report goes on to state, must have as its object the complete breaking up of the tenement system as it exists.
This evil is not a matter of to-day or yesterday. To hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman, or the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil), who spoke on this subject a few days ago, one would think that the housing question in Dublin was the special creation of the Nationalist corporation. I say that it is nothing of the kind, and I hope to prove that before I sit down. The Noble Lord—I hope he will forgive me for saying it—when this question was raised a short time ago, used very bitter words against the Nationalist corporation. He did not hesitate to attribute to them a deplorable state of things, and proceeded to found upon it the inevitable argument against Home Rule. Because there are slums in Dublin you are not to have Home 364 Rule! That is what it came to. I hope I am not using extravagant language when I say that this is nothing less than an audacious attempt to import political prejudice into the consideration of an evil in the settlement of which politics should not enter at all. If ever there was a subject to engage the attention of this Committee into which politics should not enter, it is the subject now under consideration. I have suggested that the housing question in Dublin is not a matter of to-day or yesterday. Commission after Commission has reported and urged a settlement of this problem. I gladly admit that more than one of those Commissions were set up by Conservative Governments, but as usual—and perhaps this is not peculiar to Conservative Governments—the Reports of those Commissions were promptly pigeon-holed and nothing whatever was done. In 1879, 1880, and 1900 Commissions were held from which representations were made to deal with this slum problem in Dublin. In season and out of season the Corporation of Dublin has pressed this question to the front, and has done everything in its power to grapple with the problem. That is a pretty bold statement to make, but I will give figures to prove it. In the last thirty years—and I may tell the Committee that I am now quoting official figures supplied to me by the City Treasurer of Dublin—the Corporations of Dublin have spent £361,700 in building artisans" dwellings to a total number of about 1,800. That is work actually accomplished. At the present time they have schemes in varying degrees of progress—again I am quoting official figures—involving an expenditure of £469,250 to provide, when the schemes are completed, 2,000 dwellings for the working classes in Dublin. As my hon. Friend has pointed out the Corporation of Dublin would have done far more than they have done if their financial resources had permitted. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) pointed out—and here is another point of common agreement between us—if the Corporation of Dublin were to carry out such a scheme of housing to-day as would adequately house all those who are inadequately housed the ratepayers of Dublin would be swamped.
As I listened, Mr. Whitley, to the attack on the Corporation this afternoon, an attack which I do not hesitate to call both unfair and unjust, I could not help thinking of the treatment they received at the 365 hands of the party whose spokesman has attacked them here this afternoon. At the time—I think this is precisely revelant to the point we are discussing, namely, the efforts of the corporation to deal with the housing question—the Corporation of Dublin came to this House and sought powers to enable them to deal with this problem as alone it could be dealt with, what happened? The corporation promoted a Bill for the purpose of increasing their rating capacity. That Bill passed all its stages in this House by large majorities. The Bill went to "another place"—as it is euphoniously called—and again it passed its Second Beading without a Division. I refer to the 1899 Bill. After a long and expensive hearing before the Committee in "another place," the Bill—I will not say was entirely thrown out—was eviscerated by the casting vote of the Chairman of the Committee, the Duke of Northumberland. Then we are told that the Nationalist corporation has not done everything it ought, or could, to remedy the evil! When the Bill, to which I am alluding, came down to this House, with the Lords Amendments, the hon. and learned Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin—I am sorry for the reason that keeps the hon. and learned Gentleman away to-day—and his then Leader, the late Colonel Saunderson, in the Debates used these words:—We do not like the Corporation of the City of Dubliu because it is Nationalist. We do not like the idea of our affairs being dealt with by this Nationalist body.What was this Nationalist body doing? They came over here for the purpose of getting powers to enable them to deal with the slum problem in Dublin, and that was the way they were treated by the Conservative party! I would like to dwell upon that experience for the moment, if I may, and quote from a speech made by my hon. and learned Friend in that very Debate, which took place on the consideration of the Lords Amendment. Referring to the opponents of the Bill, the hon. and learned Gentleman said:—These people know well that a great part if not most of the misery, and drunkenness, and demoralisation that exist in the City of Dublin, as in all great cities, more or less, is produced by the terrible condition of the houses in which the majority of the poor people live.Here, as I have said, was a courageous attempt on the part of the corporation to deal with this evil. I say without fear of contradiction, not even the contradiction of my hon. and gallant Friend—if I may call him so—the Member for Dudley, it 366 was deliberately frustrated for political motives by the Conservative party. Let me say a word or two about the statements in the Report criticising the corporation for not enforcing sanitary laws. Let me assure the Committee that I have no desire to gloss over the things that are in the Report. Some of them, to use a well-known phrase, are dead against us. I say that a little examination, not only of the Report, but of the evidence upon which the Report is founded, will go far to substantiate the case which I am trying to make before the Committee—that in all the circumstances it really is not the fault of the corporation. An impartial study of the evidence will satisfy any reasonable person that the corporation are not to blame. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has laid great emphasis on the question of the rebates of those members of the corporation who happen to own tenement property.
I have the authority of the Lord Mayor of Dublin for stating that none of the details of these cases ever came before any committee of the corporation. The recommendations come once a year before the finance committee—that is the financial recommendations involved in these rebates—and are certified by Sir Charles Cameron, the principal medical officer, and they are, as a matter of course, adopted by the committee. It was sworn in evidence during the inquiry that in any case where the corporation did not fully utilise its own by-laws it was the outcome of the deliberate advice tendered by Sir Charles Cameron. He swears this himself in his evidence, which is to be found in the volume of evidence on which the Report is founded. He takes in the frankest and fullest manner the responsibility. As a matter of fact I am informed that in some cases the subordinate sanitary officers reported that in these particular cases the rebates were not earned; that these tenement owners were not entitled to the rebate, whether members of the corporation or otherwise. Sir Charles Cameron made a personal examination of the houses, and in his evidence he swears that he was satisfied as to the giving of the rebate. I do not gather that the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests that there was any back-door influence, or any influence of any kind, to induce the corporation's principal medical officer to report as he did—much more the corporation! In any case, there would be no foundation for any such idea. I would remind hon. Gentlemen 367 above the Gangway that when they are trying to make a great Nationalist scandal of this matter—because really the impression made on my mind as I listened to the hon. and gallant Gentleman was that he thought that he had discovered a great Nationalist scandal—that they are not in any way damnifying the corporation as a corporation: they are really aspersing the character of one of the most efficient medical officers in the Kingdom.
Those of us who have the privilege of the personal acquaintance of Sir Charles Cameron know that he is one of the most capable medical officers in the Kingdom. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will be gratified to know that he hails from beyond the Tweed. In politics he is and always has been a Unionist. His religion is different from the majority of Irishmen. I emphasise these differences of opinion for the moment, and I do not think I should be misunderstood when I say that here is an officer who for upwards of fifty years has enjoyed the unquestioned confidence of the Nationalist Corporation of Dublin that a few years ago conferred upon him the highest honour in their power, the freedom of the city for which he has done so much. Sir Charles Cameron, as has been pointed out, takes upon himself, as the Report states, the fullest responsibility for any departure from the strict letter of the by-laws. I recognise that the hon. and gallant Gentleman takes a very deep and genuine interest in the question of housing, not alone in this House, but elsewhere, and on the London County Council before he came here. I am sure he will agree with me that however anxious a man may be to carry out sanitary reforms that it is almost impossible in every case strictly to carry out the requirements of the law. If, for instance, there was an absolutely strict enforcement of the law in Dublin it would produce a worse evil than that which already exists. If all the houses in Dublin unfit for habitation were closed to-morrow more than one-fourth of the population would be in the streets. That is a very humiliating admission to have to make, but it is none the less true! Is the corporation to be accused of maladministration because it does not close every house which is at this moment capable of being closed for human habitation?
Here again let me quote: 12,000 houses have been closed by legal proceedings on the part of the corporation because they 368 were not fit for human habitation. Last year over 7,000 sanitary notices were served in Dublin and over 13,000 summonses obtained in Court against defaulting landlords. The point I am endeavouring to make, Mr. Maclean, is that, however anxious a local authority may be to exercise to the full their sanitary powers under the various Public Health Acts, it is not practical politics until other provision is made in the matter of dwellings for these people who are to be disturbed. Let me give the Committee an illustration of that point, drawn from experience on this side of the Channel. I was looking quite recently into the circumstances of a certain town in England. I will quote from the report of the medical officer of health for the district. He says:—The housing question is attended with peculiar difficulties. A very large proportion of the town consists of small cottages originally bad in construction and design. Many of them grouped in narrow streets and courts without any sort of orderly method or arrangement. Much of the brickwork is very old and saturated with damp and filth. The dwellings are frequently defective in lighting and ventilation. The adjoining yard surface is often unpaved and ill-drained. Roofs are often defective in these old properties.The Report goes on:—There is a class numerically large who earn very low wages and who are quite unable to pay a rent of 5s. weekly. Their limit is 2s. to 3s. (id. Many people of this class are living in houses which are neithersanitary nor pleasant.Finally, the Report concludes:—It is certainly a standing reproach of this town that within a few yards of our main streets there is so much badly-constructed old property and insanitary buildings which are objectionable in appearance, unhealthy as dwelling-places, and depressing because of the way in which they perpetuate the evils of slum existence.If any hon. Member of the Committee would like to know the name of that town it is the town of Dudley. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] But I do not want to emphasise that point unduly. I am using it as an argument.
§ Mr. BRADY
The date is the 31st December, 1911. It is the latest Report I was able to obtain. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will tell us if anything 369 has been done since. I am giving my personal experience. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Member has ever paid a visit to Dublin. I was lucky enough to find myself in Dudley on one occasion, in connection with political matters, and I did not certainly find it the most salubrious town in England.
§ Mr. BRADY
I cannot tell off-hand. The conditions in Dudley and in Dublin are of course very different. I know that two constructions may be put upon that; but the Committee understands the sense in which I use it. I only use the comparison to show that what is true in Dublin is true also in Dudley and in many other towns. We are all anxious to deal with this problem of housing, but it cannot be dealt with in a year or two or ten years, at any rate by the local authorities. Before I sit down I want to indicate very briefly what, in my judgment, is the root and cause of the terrible conditions existing in Dublin to-day, and which I have no desire to minimise. I place in the foreground the gradual influx into Dublin of labourers and people generally from the country, who take up their abodes in the large tenement houses which my hon. and learned Friend has described, and which were built originally for wealthy citizens. The Report itself recognises this, and the Commissioners say:—We are aware of the tendency of the rural imputation to come into the citizens area.Here again we are on common ground. Hon. Members in this House are only too familiar with that, but unfortunately the difficulty in Dublin is that there are not industries to enable those migrants to live when they come up from the country. The Commissioners deplore the fact that firmer administration was not exercised by the corporation which would result in rural labourers not coming into the city. I was much struck with that, and it is beyond my comprehension to understand what powers the Dublin Corporation have to prevent rural migration into the city. As a matter of fact, the Irish Local Government Board are largely to blame for a considerable portion of this migration, because I find, and here I am speaking on the authority of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, that the Irish Local Government Board for years refused to allow the corporation to employ only local labour upon its contract jobs, and thereby opened the door for increased migration. Dublin 370 naturally experiences what every other city in this country has suffered from—namely, excessive migration from the country to the town—but, unfortunately,. Dublin has fallen, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, from the high place in the industrial world which it occupied before the Union, when her prosperity was such as to warrant the late Mr. Lecky in describing her as the second city of the Empire. Would hon. Members be surprised to hear that even in 1810, ten years after the Union, there were still 2,500 looms at work in the city for the-manufacture of silk and poplin, and fifty-five cotton factories, engaging 14,500 persons, at an average weekly wage of 40s.? Hon. Members above the Gangway may say that a native Parliament had nothing to do with this commercial prosperity. I do not want to introduce a political atmosphere, I do not think I could introduce it, because, if I may perpetrate a "bull," it has been introduced already. Would hon. Members be surprised to hear that two years before the Act of Union the bankers of the city of Dublin placed it upon record thatSince the renunciation of the power of Great Britain, in the year 1782, to legislate for Ireland, the commerce and prosperity of this kingdom have eminently increased"—and they resolved—that we attribute these blessings under Providence to-the wisdom of the Irish Parliament.Bankers, as a rule, are not sentimentalists. If I quoted a resolution of the Corporation of Dublin, the retort would be that is a Nationalist body, but here you have the bankers of Dublin giving it as their solemn belief that the prosperity of Dublin was brought about by a native Parliament. The Guild of Merchants of Dublin in 1799 resolved:—That the commerce of Ireland has increased and her manufacture improved beyond example since the independence of this Kingdom was restored by the exertions of her countrymen in 1782.The absence of industry is the second cause of the conditions of things existing in Dublin to-day. We believe, and we have the experience of the past to fully justify our belief, that with the return of a native Parliament this cause will certainly disappear, and industries will once more spring up in Dublin and other parts of Ireland. Meantime this problem, polities or no politics, of housing is an urgent one and brooks no delay. In my view, and I am fortified in that view by the Report which we have been considering, the problem can only be dealt with adequately 371 on Imperial lines. Surely what has been done, and so successfully, for the Irish labourers ought to be done with equal success for the dwellers in our cities! It would be impossible to place the entire burden on the shoulders of the ratepaying community in Dublin, and it would be a good investment for the State, because it is only in the health and material well-being of the citizens, from the lowest to the highest, that true national prosperity can be secured.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
There are one or two observations that I would like to make in reference to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. He made an attack or criticism, let me say, upon the borough of Dudley. It may be well-founded, but the point is, that no one would, of course, say that any town of considerable magnitude is devoid of slums altogether. There are slums in every town—in towns much smaller than Dudley and in towns much bigger. I have never heard it said that Dudley is not a well administered town, and that the local authority has not done its best, but the point about Dublin is that it is infinitely the worst of all the great cities in the United Kingdom. It is not that it has got a few slums, but it seems to have got very little else. That is the conclusion one is forced to from reading this Report. Let me remind the Committee of the chief housing evils under which Dublin suffers. First, there is a large system of tenement houses, which I understand to mean houses of a good class that were turned into working-class houses. Everyone knows that is an extremely bad thing wherever it takes place. There are districts in London where it took place, and the houses generally are unsatisfactory when converted, but that is not the only thing in Dublin. The sanitation is a scandal, according to this Report. There is a record in the Appendex, page 350, which I think shows a most scandalous state of things. The Report is taken from the tables furnished by Mr. Travers, and shows the number of houses in which the sanitary accommodation is one water-closet to twenty or more persons. There are 1,161 houses of that kind, and in some cases the accommodation is only one water-closet to forty persons. That is a very scandalous state of things. There is scattered through the Report reference to general decay and to the age of the houses and their unsatisfactory 372 structural conditions. There is—I will not venture to quote the references—indescribable filth in the yards and the closets and even in the passages of many of the houses.
It is really incredible, I should have thought at this period of our history, that such a state of things should exist. And observe this: We are constantly told in the Report that the only water supply is one single water-tap in the yard. Such a state of things would not be found to exist in the small villages and country towns—indeed, I do not know any country towns in this country where such a state of things does exist—and that the capital of Ireland should be in such a condition as that does seem to me to be a very scandalous state of affairs. We are told by the Commissioners that this state of things has produced very serious results, as may be easily expected. It is pointed out that the character of the inhabitants have suffered, that there is a great deal of immorality, and that this condition of affairs is not confined to the tenement houses, but that the smaller houses of the "third class," as they are called in this Report, are almost as bad, and some of them even worse. The Commissioners say:—Some of these structures scarcely deserve the name of house, and could be more aptly described as shelters. A number of them are erected in narrow areas, almost surrounded by high buildings or walls, with alleys or passages, which in some cases are scarcely more than nine or ten feet wide, as a means of approach.These are not old houses, but new houses. The tenement houses are no doubt a relic of the changed conditions of the population in Dublin, but these have been created under the sanitary administration of the local authorities. There is one other broad head of the housing evil, and that is overcrowding. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dudley dealt with that, and I am not going to go through it again; but surely this broad fact is extremely illuminating, namely, that one-fourth of the population of Dublin lives in one-room tenements! The hon. Member who spoke last admitted that, and if you take only the working class, because the working class is about two-thirds of the population, there would be much more than one-fourth of the working class living in one-roomed tenements. You find 12,000 families, according to the Report, comprising 73,000 persons, living under conditions of six to a room. I think that is a most astonishing state of things to find existing in any city in the United Kingdom at the present time. Now it is said that for all this the corporation is not responsible, and hon. 373 Members, with a local patriotism worthy of a better cause, have tried to convince the Committee that the corporation of Dublin is absolutely impeccable, and that they have carried out their duties in a thoroughly good way. What are the facts? The Corporation of Dublin have got considerable sanitary powers, like other corporations. Their principal powers are under the Public Health Act of 1878, and they possess powers with reference to the very question of closets. They have powers to make by-laws as to how many people should be allowed to live in a house with one closet, and they have made a by-law and said the number should be twelve, but they do not enforce it, and in 1,161 cases they have not enforced it. We are asked by hon. Members here to say that this is all due to the discretion, wrongly or rightly, exercised by Sir Charles Cameron, and that the corporation is not responsible. But Sir Charles Cameron can only carry out the orders of the corporation, and he has to do what he can. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is responsible!"] He may be personally responsible, but he can only carry out his duty according to the amount of money and support he receives from the corporation.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I know he is irremovable, but that is not the point. I am not saying that he does not discharge his duty as well as he can, but ultimately the responsibility must rest upon the corporation because they furnish the funds, and it is their business to find the necessary money to enable him to carry out his duties. If he were to come to the corporation and tell them that in 1,161 cases they were infringing the by-laws, then he would have to carry out the directions of the corporation. At any rate, it is the duty of the corporation to see that its by-laws are enforced.
§ Mr. CLANCY
Upon the question of finance, may I point out that the law, before the Act of 1902 was passed, enabled the corporation to raise money for this very purpose, but the Unionist Government, which I suppose the Noble Lord supported then, actually stereotyped the Grant for these purposes in the Act of 1902 and thereby prevented the corporation from raising the money.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I am dealing with the failure of the corporation to 374 carry out these by-laws. Of course the corporation can raise the money to do this because they have the whole of the rates behind them. I am quite sure that if this Committee once sanctions the view that when a corporation fails to do its duty it can shelter itself behind its medical officer, that is an end to all good administration. In point of fact the corporation have not enforced the by-laws. With respect to closets and overcrowding, they have done much worse. I am not going into the full details, but I say that they have deliberately encouraged the maintenance of houses which are unfit for human habitation by granting to the owners of those houses who happen to be members of the corporation, and I dare say many others, rebates on the rates on the ground that they are providing houses suitable for the occupation of the working classes. That is about the worst thing that has ever been brought to the notice of this House with reference to corporations. It is not necessary to say that they are corrupt. [An HON MEMBER: "Do you say they are corrupt?"] On the facts, as disclosed in this Report, I am ready to say that any impartial person would say that there was something in the nature of corruption. All that it is necessary to say for the purpose of discussion is there has been a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the corporation, and that fact cannot be got over. Observe what that dereliction of duty is. It is not only that this rebate was made, but it was claimed. Here we have members of the corporation charged with the sanitary administration of the city, knowing the condition of their houses, claiming this rebate and sending in a formal claim which, after some hesitation, is granted. I say that is a very serious charge to make, but it does not rest there. It is not only the three members of the corporation who have been alluded to, but there are as many as nineteen other members of the corporation interested in this slum property. If anyone will look on page 344 of the evidence they will see there set out returns showing the names of the members of the Corporation of Dublin who own or are interested in tenement houses or second-class houses in the City of Dublin. Second-class houses are those which are just fit for human habitation and no more. They are described in the Report as—houses which are so decayed or so badly constructed as to be of an order fast approaching the border-line of being unfit for human habitation.375 Those are the houses in which seventeen members of the corporation, or nearly one-fourth of the total members, are interested. Under those circumstances what hope have you of efficient sanitary administration when the council is situated in that way? We are told by the hon. Member who has just sat down that a Bill in 1899 failed to pass the Committee of the House of Lords dealing with this problem. I am not familiar with that Bill, and I do not know why the Committee refused to pass it, but I am familiar with the practice before Committees upstairs, because I have passed a considerable part of my life in practising before them, and I am certain that the suggestion that they could have thrown out that Bill for political purposes is absolutely untrue, and it only shows the total inability of hon. Members to grasp the fundamental principles of our Constitution in thinking that such a thing is remotely possible in the case of any Committee that has ever been constituted for dealing with private Bills. I am quite sure it is utterly untrue that any action of that Committee was taken for political purposes. I think it is extremely likely that the Bill was indefensible on its merits, and that it was rejected on that ground.
The hon. Member asks, "What do you suggest we should do—you cannot re-house all these people now?" I quite agree. The point is that it is the failure of the corporation—and it is so found by this Committee—to carry out its duty in the past that has produced a result of such a character that you cannot now cover it except by some very heroic measures. The hon. Member says the corporation knew nothing about all this, and the details were never brought to their notice. Surely my hon. Friend knows that the condition of housing in Dublin has been a matter of common talk for many years! There have been two or three Commissions, and constant references have been made to the question in the Dublin Press as to the responsibility of members of the corporation for the state of things existing there. For the hon. Member to say that the whole thing has taken the Corporation of Dublin by surprise is a poor form of defence. If the hon. Member will look at the Report he will see that in paragraph 14 they find that in 1880 the condition of affairs in Dublin, although very bad, was not so bad as it now is, and, worse than this, there were only twelve persons to a tenement 376 house in that year—according to one computation it was sixteen—but now, according to another computation, it is twenty-two. So that the situation has grown worse. This is not a question as to whether the corporation has succeeded to a very difficult inheritance. There is no doubt that they have failed to meet the difficulty, and, not only this, they have actually allowed the condition of things, which was originally very bad, to get worse during the last thirty years. We are told that they have done a great deal with reference to house building, and that I quite concede. The Committee-find that there has been a considerable amount of house building, but not a very large amount, considering the population and the amount of money which the scheme has cost. The Committee give figures which seem to point to the legitimate conclusion that the house building has been carried on in a very extravagant way. [An HON. MEMBER: "Arbitration."] It depends on what kind of land you select. If you choose to buy for your rehousing scheme land of an extremely expensive character, which may be convenient for other purposes, you cannot complain if you have to pay a high price for such land. I find that the cost of building cottages is higher in the hands of the corporation than in the hands of those who have also been engaged in house building for the working classes in the city of Dublin. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is so everywhere."] It may be so everywhere. I know it is very much higher, and the cost of maintenance in Dublin is very nearly twice what it is in Liverpool. I can see no reason why maintenance should be higher in Dublin than in Liverpool.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I will tell the hon. Member exactly what I do suggest. I have not the honour of the acquaintance of members of the Corporation of Dublin, and I have no means of forming an opinion as to whether there is corruption or not, but I say there is something very unsatisfactory about the administration of a local sanitary body which is found to be very lavish when it comes to rehousing—the structural alterations of houses and the purchase of land—and is yet very slack in the enforcement of sanitary regulations which will bring no grist to anybody's mill.
§ Mr. CLANCY
The Noble Lord stated that the cost of building was higher in Dublin than in England. I ask him to have the courage to say whether that is corruption or not.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I did not say that. I said, of course, it might have been a great deal higher. I said the cost of building by the corporation is higher than the cost of building by private individuals.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I cannot; and that is why I am not in favour of State enterprise in this matter and the expenditure of money by municipalities in the way advocated by hon. Members. What I do say is this: I do not know whether it is corruption or inefficiency, but it is maladministration if you find great lavishness, as you do, in rehousing, in the purchase of land, in the cost of maintenance, and, coincident with that great lavishness and inefficiency, great slackness and inefficiency in enforcing the ordinary sanitary regulations which should be carried out without being of any advantage to any of those on whose political favour all elected bodies depend. That is a very serious matter to consider, and, when we are asked to give the corporation credit for their activity in rehousing, I think we may say with great emphasis, as I certainly do say, that it would have been far better if years ago they had begun to enforce, efficiently and rigidly, their sanitary powers so as to have prevented the present state of things having grown up, than to spend very large sums of money now in rehousing schemes which may have other advantages besides sanitary advantages. This is a Motion to reduce the Vote of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman may perhaps say that the Local Government Board is not responsible for all this, and that it is only responsible in the sense that it ought to have prevented the local authority having committed these mistakes. I think we may say that it is unfortunate that there should have been no inquiry into this matter until the riots took place in Dublin. It is a very serious state of things that it seems impossible to induce this Government to take anything seriously until some serious disturbance of 378 the peace is threatened or is likely to take place. The only other point that arises on this Report is a curious reference to the Land Taxes, which, I see, are credited with having interfered with the building operations of one of the largest artisan dwelling companies in Dublin. Does the hon. Member doubt it?
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
No, it does not need proving. We know it is the fact all over the country. It has been proved very elaborately and completely on more than one occasion in this House, and I do not think the hon. Member will deny that the Land Taxes have interfered with building operations in this country. I am reminded also that the Secret Land Inquiry set up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer reports that is the case with regard to urban houses. But it is not necessary to quote any authority. Everybody knows it is so. I have been very much attacked, not at all unjustly or unfairly, by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway because in some observations I made a few weeks ago in this House I drew a comparison between the conditions of Dublin administration and the condition of Belfast administration. That, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, was not our invention. It was done by the Report of this Committee, and we were merely calling attention to that fact.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
Certainly we picked it out. I have said it on many platforms, and I wish to say it in this House, and to be contradicted if I am wrong. If there is anything to be said, nothing has yet been said to displace that comparison by hon. Members from Ireland, except that the condition of affairs in Dublin is very different from the condition of affairs in Belfast. There is the history and so on. But that has nothing to do with overcrowding. It may, indeed, have produced tenement houses, but those tenement houses are a difficulty with which the Dublin Corporation has to deal, and there is no reason why the tenement houses in Dublin should be any more crowded than the cottages in Belfast. The truth is that there is no doubt—nobody doubts it; I have never heard anybody doubt it—that the administration of 379 Belfast is far better than the administration of Dublin. I do not believe anyone seriously, quite apart from party politics, would doubt it, and this particular Report does furnish a very strong and brilliant object lesson of the disadvantage of Nationalist rule as compared with Unionist rule in Ireland.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The discussion on this Vote is a somewhat unusual one, as the Noble Lord will recognise. Of course, it is in order as we have this Departmental Report to deal with, but I would ask the Noble Lord not to go outside the confines of that Report.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I was about to return to this actual Report in confirmation of what I have to say. I was about to read a paragraph of the Report to show the result of the administration in Dublin upon the health and prosperity of the citizens in Dublin. The Committee said:—Before concluding this aspect of the question we must state that in our opinion the low social conditions among the poor classes in Dublin are in some measure due to the failure to enforce stringently the sanitary laws, though we do not suggest that this feature is peculiar to Dublin. While we say this, we are aware that there are other contributory causes arising from the past history of the country and the tendency of the rural population to come into the cities and urban areas. A firm administration would, however, in our opinion have deterred the rural labourer from coming into the city, und the absence of such administration must, therefore, be held to have produced a converse result, and to have had the indirect effect of keeping wages at a low level.We suggest also that the non-enforcement of the sanitary laws has permitted dwellings which are not fit for habitation to be inhabited by the poorer classes at rents, which, though in some cases low in themselves, are altogether excessive for the class of accommodation provided.Further, it would seem to us that the want of a firm administration has created a number of owners with but little sense of their responsibilities as landlords, and that it has helped much in the demoralisation of a number of the working classes, and increased the number of inefficient workers in the city.We suggest also that the provision of sanitary dwellings by private enterprise has been to some extent handicapped by unfair competition with insanitary dwellings, which could be let at rents that would not pay for the provision of decent houses.I venture to say that those findings of the Committee are absolutely independent of the question whether there are tenement houses in Dublin or not, and I say that they point to inefficient, if not to corrupt, administration by the Corporation of Dublin, and that those who are reluctant to come under Nationalist rule may find in them a very strong argument in support of their opposition to the Home Rule Bill.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
The speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin has given us an indication of the purpose of the Motion which has been made to reduce the Vote of the Department, because the termination of his speech was strictly political and had not much bearing on the question under review. I quite agree with him on some of the matters which he did raise appertaining to the housing problem. I quite agree with him in his statement with regard to the medical officer of health. The medical officer of health, although he is an independent man—that is to say, he is not subject to be discharged by the council for various reasons—still is not in a position to carry out his own recommendations unless the council see that they are carried out and spend the money. Therefore it is the duty of the council, without regard to the composition of the council, to see that any regulations suggested by the medical officer of health are carried into effect. The hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) makes the same error with regard to Dublin as he does with regard to housing in our English cities. He does not touch the root of the evil in Dublin in the same way that he does not touch the root of the evil of the housing problem in our English towns. What is the condition in Dublin? I have read this Report and I have visited the slums in Dublin on more than one occasion. When I visited them, I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong in the city, because they are in a very deplorable state and should not be allowed to continue. I came to the conclusion that, in the first place, there are too many public-houses in the poor parts of the city of Dublin.
The next point, which neither the Noble Lord nor the hon. Member for Dudley mentioned, but which is a factor in this great question of housing, is the condition of the poor people in Dublin. You will find on page 8 of the Report that there are 5,000 heads of families earning only 15s. per week, and that there are 9,000 who earn over 15s. and below 20s. per week. That is really one of the difficulties in the city of Dublin as it is in our English towns. Where you have these low wages paid, and perhaps a false utilisation of the money that is earned, you have these conditions existing that you find in the city of Dublin. I contend that you find them, though not perhaps to the same extent, in some of our English towns. I stated in a recent discussion on the Housing Bill introduced by 381 the hon. Member for Dudley, and I say it again now, that so long as magistrates permit the over supply of public-houses in the poorer parts of the town, you will never touch this housing problem as it ought to be touched by this House. We are, therefore, in my opinion, discussing matters beside the question. Let me come to the real position, so far as I can see it in Dublin, and I am not going to stand here to blame the Dublin Corporation. I believe they have been lax in the carrying out of the existing law with regard to sanitation, but with regard to housing, there is a good deal to be said in their favour. On the question of rebates, I was surprised to hear the Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) and the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) raise that point, because in every English town property owners are allowed to compound upon their property.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Yes, by Statute, for houses under £8, but it has nothing to do with the sanitation of the house. It is for the purpose of conveniently collecting the rates. We know that in the English towns it is done both with the poor rate and the district rate, and the overseers of the poor never ask whether the property is or is not in a sanitary condition. What they do ask for is the rates. It is a matter for the urban sanitary authority to see that the property is in a sanitary condition.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
If the hon. Member will look at the Report, page 13, paragraph 29, he will see that the corporation have laid down certain conditions which must be observed before rebate can be given, and the Report points out that one of these conditions was that the houses should be suitable for habitation by the working classes. These conditions were not observed, and it was not suggested they had been, and yet the rebate was given.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I do not know what the local conditions are in Dublin, but I know that in the English towns rebates are given to owners of property whether they are members of the corporation or not. The real crux of the question in Dublin, and you have the same difficulty in many cases in England is that the present members of the corporation have come into the possession of an old town. When the 382 houses were built there were no proper by-laws and there was no regard to sanitation. There was no outlook in that respect. It may surprise the Committee to learn that in a Committee upstairs, so far as English towns are concerned, last week, we for the first time, even in this country, sanctioned two towns making by-laws, with the consent of the Local Government Board, which should provide for a minimum size of bedroom. Any builder or corporation can at present make any size room, so long as the height is nine feet. That indicates, so far as our country is concerned, that our ideas of building houses have been very defective. Dublin is in this position, that it has spent £354,000 on rehousing. There is a loss in regard to that each year of no less than £10,000. I do not think the Noble Lord, nor the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley, dealt fairly with the corporation. I want to ask them this: That £10,000 is equal to a 2½d. rate. Now, with the knowledge that the rates are 11s. in the £, how can you expect the Dublin Corporation to undertake great and gigantic schemes of rehousing under the existing law? That is the real crux of the whole business. The Dublin Corporation, like every other corporation when it promotes great and expensive schemes, does so subject to the sanction of the ratepayers, and when they come to spend large sums of money on very old property which has been in existence hundreds of years the ratepayers are not very keen to give their sanction.
I represent a town which is very old, with a corporate existence going back to the thirteenth century. We have a large number of slum areas and slum property with very narrow passages. I sat for two years on a committee with the full intention, with other members of the corporation, of removing that slum area after the passing of the Act of 1910, but we came to the conclusion that, if we carried out the existing law and paid full compensation for the property, it would practically ruin the town, because it would ruin the ratepayers. The result is that nothing has been done to remove this class of property, where you have yards only three feet in width. What I want to appeal to the Government to do is this—and I appeal not only to the Irish Department but to the English Department—to realise that if they want to deal with this question, not in the sense of the Member for Dudley but in the sense of dealing with it fully, 383 you must bring in a radical Bill dealing with the whole question of the Act of 1890, and providing for the payment of compensation according to the actual value of the property, and that alone, without any other or extra compensation. Let me refer the Committee to two cases which are cited in the Dublin Report. On page 15, paragraph 36, you will find these two cases where the corporation has been compelled to pay, under the arbitration principle, no less than £10,000 per acre for land to build houses upon. The average works out at over £4,000 per acre. How can a corporation, with rates at 11s. in the £, pay for land in that way? Let me remind the Noble Lord that in 1898, when I believe he was a Member of the House, the Dublin Corporation came before this House with a Municipal Bill, and there was a political fight.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
What I said was that I was quite sure that a private Bill was not a political question.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
The Dublin Corporation applied for leave to extend their boundaries which would be granted to any other corporation, and there was a political fight.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I will not go into that, but the fact remains that the corporation have to pay this high price for property whilst their rates are very high. Docs any hon. Member think that the corporation would pay £10,000 an acre for land if they could get it any cheaper? They paid this money under the arbitration. I say it is impossible for any corporation to build houses and promote a scheme of this nature with the price of land like that. There is another case for the Noble Lord. I am afraid he has not read the Report. If he has, he ought to be fair to the Dublin Corporation. This is a case in paragraph 36, where the corporation required a certain piece of property and the owner agreed to sell it for £100, and he entered into an agreement with a private person for that sum, but when he found out that the corporation required this property he then said that the agreement was not binding upon him, with the result that it went to arbitration, and what he offered To sell for £100 to the private individual, he got £2,000 for from the corporation. The 384 Noble Lord and the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley ought to quote those things.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Yet he said the Dublin Corporation was to blame. In the English towns you have the same conditions.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
May I point out that the Report goes on to say that Mr. Rice, the official of the Dublin Corporation, said that, on the evidence before him, the arbitrator was correct.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
That is so, but the fact remains that he offered to sell it for £100 to a private individual, and he got £2,000 awarded to him from the corporation.
§ Mr. SAMUEL
Under the existing law, corporations in England and Ireland are subject to the same Act of 1890. Take Liverpool. In 1864 it had 22,000 insanitary houses. They spent on rehousing £1,135,000. Their deputy-surveyor stated at a meeting at Newcastle-on-Tyne last year that at the present time they had 30,000 insanitary houses, a population of 100,000 living in slums, and 30,000 in cellars. These housing schemes are costing Liverpool not less than £37,000 per year. I ask the Noble Lord how can he expect any corporation to undertake rehousing and to abolish this slum property when they have to pay this big compensation. I disagree with the hon. Member for the St. Stephen's Green Division (Mr. Brady), and the Noble Lord, and the hon. Member for Dudley on the matter which is really the difference between the two sides of the House. I have taken very great interest in the housing problem, both upstairs and in this House. They ask that Parliament should provide Grants-in-Aid and give large sums of money, in other words, that we should have State aid. I am opposed to that. It would be a crime—I say it advisedly—for this Parliament, or any Parliament, to vote large sums of money to pay high compensation for this class of property. That will never cure the evil.
385 Up to the present time, taking Ireland and the United Kingdom under the existing law, it has cost the corporations of this country £77 15s. per head to remove people from our slums. It is computed that we have 5,000,000 people living in slum property to-day. If the law is not changed, and if we go on in future under the Act of 1890 paying high compensation, and if it is worked out at the same rate, it will cost the municipalities throughout the United Kingdom no less than £389,000,000 to remove people from the existing slum property. The municipalities cannot stand it. I should like to see the whole of our slum property removed. I believe in sanitation for every town, without regard to who are the members of the council or otherwise, but it would be a criminal blunder on the part of this House to agree to vote large sums of money to Dublin or any other town under the existing law and to perpetuate the system of giving large sums for this class of property. I am voicing the opinion of every member of our English municipalities which have discussed this question when I say the only thing that we can do is to bring in a new Bill, dealing with this matter right from its foundation, by which fair compensation will be given for this class of property. By that means the municipalities will be able to deal with this question for themselves.
§ Mr. PATRICK MEEHAN
I do not intend to deal with the question of Dublin housing. I merely rise to call the attention of the Committee and the Chief Secretary to the necessity of providing additional money for the purposes of the Labourers (Ireland) Act. A great deal has been done to provide proper housing accommodation for the agricultural labourers in Ireland, but a great deal yet remains to be done. The district councils in Ireland are preparing schemes and have formulated schemes and lodged them with the Local Government Board, but these schemes are being held up owing to the fact that no money is available. The £1,000,000 that was provided in 1911 is practically absorbed, and the housing of labourers in Ireland is at present at a standstill owing to the lack of money. At present fifty schemes have been lodged with the Local Government Board in respect of which no local inquiries have been held. When the Board is pressed to hold these inquiries the reply is that there is no money available, that it is no use holding the inquiries, and that they would only 386 hold inquiries in very urgent cases, I do not know what they mean by "very urgent cases," but I assume that they mean the case of a scheme for a district in which the housing conditions are particularly bad. In my own Constituency, in the case of the district of Slievmargy, a scheme has been lodged comprising fifty-five houses. Under that scheme twenty-six applicants reside in houses which were condemned as insanitary and unfit for human habitation, some of them so far back as two years ago. When the Local Government Board were pressed to hold an inquiry into this particular scheme, they said that Slievmargy was low down on the list and that there were other schemes which were of far greater urgency. The Committee can judge what the condition of the applicants must be in the case of the other schemes when I say that under the scheme of Slievmargy you have 50 per cent. of the applicants living in wretched hovels which have been condemned as insanitary and unfit for human habitation. I have seen some of them myself, and must say that the people in them are living under conditions that are a reproach to our civilisation and a striking condemnation of the system of government under which such a condition of affairs is possible.
In the Report of the Local Government Board for the year ending 31st March, 1913, the Local Government Board themselves admit that there is an insufficiency of funds. It appears from the Report of 31st March, 1913 that there were then 13,800 cottages in Ireland that still remained to be financed, and that there was available at that date £644,767. That sum would be sufficient to finance about 3,800 houses, and would leave about 10,000 cottages, for which there is not one penny available. The amount of money which would be required to finance these 10,000 houses would be £1,700,000. In the Land Bill which has just been introduced Clause 10 says that the limit of the amount of advances that may be made by the Land Commission under Section 16 of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1906, shall be £6,250,000, instead of £5,250,000, and that that Section as amended by Section 4 of the Labourers (Ireland) Act, 1911, shall have effect accordingly. That means that £1,000,000 additional is to be provided by that Bill for the purposes of the Labourers (Ireland) Act. That Bill has been introduced, and it is a matter of opinion whether or not it will pass this Session 387 unless some agreement is arrived at with the Opposition. Unless there is an agreement we may assume that the Bill cannot pass. The case of the agricultural labourers in Ireland ought to be met apart from that Bill. If I may throw out a suggestion, it is that a single Clause Bill should be introduced providing £1,000,000, or whatever sum would be necessary, to complete the housing of the agricultural labourers in Ireland, and I would suggest that that should be done this Session.
Another point that I wish to bring forward is that there are 5,375 cottages included in schemes in respect of which no local inquiry has been held. These schemes have been lodged with the Local Government Board and are lying in the office. For the life of me I cannot see why they should not proceed with the inquiries, because the result would be to put the Local Government Board in the position of knowing the exact number of cottages that will be passed, and give both them and us a fair indication of what money would be required. If those inquiries were held, these schemes would be whittled down, some of the applications would be thrown out, and, if they had been held last year or were proceeded with now, we should know, before any Bill is introduced, the exact amount of money that would be required for the purposes of the Act. I therefore press upon the right hon. Gentleman that the Local Government Board should hold these inquiries, because, after they have been held and after the arbitrators' inquiries have been held, when the money is available they can proceed with the schemes and have the houses advertised and built without any further delay. This is a very pressing question at the present time in Ireland, especially in the towns. The cottages that have been built have been mainly built in the country districts, but in the smaller towns, as we on these benches know, there are lanes and alleys in which the people live under very bad conditions. I am glad to say that the district councils in Ireland are taking up the question of the housing of the people in these places, and are formulating schemes by which they do not give the inhabitants of the cottages large pieces of land, but under which they adopt the principle of building houses rather than of giving big plots of land near towns. I hope it will be found possible this Session to introduce such a single Clause Bill as I have indicated.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The hon. Member who has just sat down, and who has made a very admirable speech, has referred to a different subject, which I have no doubt later on in the evening other Members from Ireland will reiterate, and with which I shall have an opportunity of dealing, therefore I shall confine the observations I am now about to make to the question which, until he rose, occupied the attention of the Committee. I hope I shall not be accused of cowardice or of adopting anything but the correct official attitude if I say that I am really not here, and ought not to be expected to be here as a defender of the Dublin Corporation. I am not a member of the Dublin Corporation, and am in no way whatever responsible for its acts. I am speaking now as President of the Local Government Board for Ireland, and representing that Board here, my responsibility for a great corporation such as that of Dublin is very small. The authority which I possess is of a kind which is called affirmative. I cannot initiate anything; I really cannot act with any degree of authority at all except on a complaint, and the complaints which have been made from time to time as regards the Dublin Corporation have not been great or numerous, and the powers I have therefore been able to exercise are very small. I am very glad this Departmental Report of the Local Government Board has excited the attention and has been read by so many persons in all parts of the country. I am rather interested to find that almost every word in it is treated by hon. Members opposite as if it were inspired. That is a great compliment to my inspectors, whom I have already complimented upon the skill which they have displayed.
After all, it must be remembered that even an inspector of the Local Government Board under a Radical administration may occasionally say more than the evidence justifies, and his report must not be treated as if it was the last word said on every subject. Apart from that, I think it is a most admirable Report, and I am very glad it should have received the attention it has had. It is a very painful Report indeed, and to any of us who have any acquaintance with Dublin at all—and I have not inconsiderable acquaintance with it, having wandered over every part of it, like a disembodied spirit, and having visited many of the tenement houses, and the second and third class houses, and seen them—it is a 389 grave and serious document, in no way exaggerated, and it has collected the facts in a very short space of time, a much shorter time than the Royal Commission could have collected them. It has put the state of life of the poorer portion of the inhabitants of that great city in a manner which I do not think anyone can read without feeling grieved, and to some extent, ashamed. Therefore, I am very glad the Report has made its appearance.
But with regard to the Corporation of Dublin, I am very glad indeed my hon. Friend (Mr. Jonathan Samuel) spoke in the way he did, because I think the corporation has been very harshly treated by hon. Members opposite, not, I dare say, from any political motives—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, I am entitled to express a Christian hope. I should rather attribute it to ignorance of the conditions which prevailed in Dublin. The Dublin Corporation was not a body which attracted me to start with, but the knowledge which I have gained of the successful work that it has done, and the great business achievements which it has accomplished, I confess somewhat to my surprise, but which nevertheless it has accomplished, shows that it is not a body which deserves to be spoken of as if it were unable to control the destinies of a great city. It started during the last decade with an enormous amount of work. It had to make and carry out main drainage—an essential task—before you began to do anything at all, and the same with its electric light, and also in the way in which it paved its streets, to say nothing of its own schemes for housing the poor, in which it is acknowledged to have done more than any other municipality in any other city in the United Kingdom. A body which can carry out work of that sort when put to it, and can do it well, and can do it at all events free from any obvious extravagance, is not a body to be spoken of in the way in which the Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) seemed only too disposed to do. The municipality has be-hind it great achievements, and has done much for the benefit of the community, but Dublin is an extraordinarily poor place.
I do not think anyone can become personally acquainted, in the way I have done—on foot, wandering about from one place to another—without being struck with its poverty. Wages are lamentably low. They have been recorded in this Report, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Jonathan Samuel) has referred to the thousands of persons receiving from 15s. to 20s. per week, and the 390 large number of persons receiving between 20s. and 25s. They come to Dublin attracted to it by its metropolitan character and by other charms which it may possess. They come in search of work which is not there. What you want in Dublin is more work for the workmen who are already there. It is a very poor place indeed. It has not been able, like Birmingham, Glasgow, and Liverpool and other gigantic cities, to absorb within its assessable area outstanding districts. It has not been able to get in Rathmines and Pembroke, although Rathmines and Pembroke both contribute sums to the corporation expenses. Still, they lie outside the general city, and therefore you have a poor city, an ancient city, a famous city, full of these tenement houses, once occupied by Members of Parliament and otherwise, and now let out in this miserable fashion to a poverty-stricken population. In addition to this you have the very poor class of accommodation referred to in this Report as second and third-class buildings. You have the rates already close upon 11s. in the £, collected from poor people—not the easiest class of persons from whom to collect rates—and you have this corporation of eighty persons, composed of people living in the city and engaged in some of its industries. You have cast upon their shoulders one of the most difficult tasks which could be cast upon the shoulders of anyone. It has been constantly inquired into—there was an inquiry into the equalisation of rates, and Pembroke and Rathmines and Dublin were all three contrasted, and it was a very searching inquiry indeed, and, very much to my surprise, not knowing very much about these things, except after they have been inquired into, Dublin came out best of the three and was proved, in regard to the many questions which were put to it, to be more economically managed than even Pembroke or Rathmines.
I am not responsible for the Corporation of Dublin in any shape or way, but accusations were brought against it, as if it were really unfit to be responsible for any portion of the work of a great municipality, and it is really only fair to remember these things. Remember what they have done, and the extraordinary difficulties and the things they have to do. However, that does not alter the fact that this Report as people who knew Dublin before knew very well would be the case, proved a lamentable state of things, and it has also shown that the Dublin Corporation have 391 not exercised to the full, or to the extent to which they ought to have exercised them, the legislative powers they already possess. The Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) was rather angry with me about a month ago, at eleven o'clock at night, when I said there were other corporations besides Dublin that did not exercise their powers. I am quite certain that is so. One of the great complaints that we may make against municipal authorities is that they are constantly pressing for new powers when they do not exercise the powers they have already got, but I am perfectly satisfied—my hon. Friend (Mr. Jonathan Samuel) gave us an example himself—that they very often do not exercise the powers which they have got simply because they cannot afford to, and for other reasons. Here is the Report, and those who read it may draw their own conclusions from it. The Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) referred to seventeen persons in the corporation who were the owners of property. There were really only five who owned more than one house, and of the balance of twelve each was the owner only of one single tenement. I do not say that that is right or wrong, but to describe them as being seventeen owners of tenement property-would rather lead one to infer that they owned a considerable portion at all events of the tenement houses in Dublin. They owned a most insignificant fraction of these houses, and there were not more than two or three who owned more than one or two at the most.
I will not go into the question of the rebates. There it stands. To my mind, it is a monstrous thing that people should get rebates for property if it really was unfit for human habitation. The fact that a medical officer could go to these places, and after having examined them himself sanction the rebates, leaves upon my mind some little doubt as to whether they really can have been quite so bad as is represented. I quite agree that the corporation are responsible for their officers, but at the same time you must have an expert. Really going into shabby tenements of this sort and looking about them does not entitle you to express a competent opinion about it unless you have some expert knowledge, and I do not know that the corporation is to be blamed because its medical officer certifies in a particular manner. But I confess the whole rebate story has not a pleasant sound or a 392 pleasant look to my mind, and I am very-glad that it has been investigated and that these facts should have been brought out. I hope they will sink into peoples minds and sink into the minds of the inhabitants of Dublin themselves, and that they may see what they can do, and what everyone can do. If you do not like the corporation turn them out and put other people in. That is what is understood by democratic government. I think the Committee would make a great mistake, on this perfectly frank and candid Report, which I am only too glad to think should have proceeded from officers of the Department over which I preside, to draw the conclusion from the Report that the Corporation of Dublin are to any appreciable degree composed of persons so lost in the greed of their possession of this miserable property they hold as to be unfit to carry out the great work reposed in them. We must take men and we must take corporations as we find them. I spent my life in criticism of the Corporation of Liverpool. I believe, on the whole, the Corporation of Liverpool, though it made colossal blunders in its own housing schemes, on the whole did its duty and spent other people's money on the same footing as we are all willing to do. I really hope that we shall not allow our feelings about this corporation to interfere with our duty.
Then the hon. Member (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen), at the couclusion of his speech, agreed with the conclusion of the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Clancy). I knew it would come. What are you going to-do? You must do something. Here is your own Report. The corporation cannot do it. The rates are 11s. in the £. You must at once get up in your place and announce for Dublin, and, of course, for all other places, though I agree Dublin is the worst, for reasons which are very easily explained, and the most pressing case, a large Grant of public money and begin at once clearing away your slums, choosing your new sites, and erecting houses at uneconomic rents. All that is a thing which requires a great deal of consideration. Socialism may be a good thing or it may be a bad thing, but there is nothing worse than to try to combine Manchester principles with little patches of philanthropic Socialism. A large class of people living in an uneconomic way on 15s. or 16s. a week! And you will thereupon say that the public must supply the money to build nice, clean, charming residences, 393 where they and their wives and their children can lead useful lives, and the rent may be provided for out of the pockets of other people. That is a rotten state of things. It is one we cannot possibly accept as the merest substitute for the conditions which should exist.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
With regard to labourers' cottages, that is perfectly true. We have done it with regard to labourers' cottages because it was a necessary appendage of the great scheme of land purchase in Ireland. It followed that if you supplied the small farmer with financial accommodation to enable him to buy out the landlord at a pretty full price, you could not leave the agricultural labourer without some overflow from so bountiful a policy, and I am very glad to think that the work has been done, is being done, and will still, I hope, continue to be done in Ireland in that way. But if you ask me to apply these principles to great cities, and say that you propose for all time to build up houses to put people in at rents which involve a leavy loss from the very beginning, and that you will meet the cost out of the taxes—all this money that you take comes out of the pockets of people who are very poor; the people who are rich may be dismissed from consideration, for they are so few in number—and if you ask me to establish a system of houses where people are to get accommodation at rents which will keep down wages, because one of the necessities of life is supplied by the taxpayers, then I say that is a state of things which, at all events, requires more consideration than I could be expected to give it at this moment when speaking on a Vote in Supply. But that something has got to be done, I most certainly agree. A great deal could be done in the way of providing accommodation by extending the period of the loan and lowering the rate of interest, and a good deal could be done also, I think—though this, of course, requires consideration too—during the early years of undertakings of this sort by exempting houses from rates, which fall with prodigious and accumulated force in consequence of the outlay which has to be undertaken in building the houses themselves. A great deal of local enterprise is stopped by the heavy rates which fall upon undertakings of this sort before they begin to make any return at all.
394 I agree that everything should be done that can be done, and if more can be done than is done at present to assist Dublin in consequence of its exceptional conditions and the sorrow of its inhabitants, certainly the Chief Secretary for Ireland will not be indifferent to any proposal of that sort which is likely to be made. But I am sure that no Chancellor of the Exchequer, to whatever side of politics he belongs, will be satisfied, or will be willing to make a grant to Ireland and refuse it to other places. Therefore, what was stated with so much force by my hon. Friend behind me in the way of high price, and in the way of compensation, is not the only point that has to be considered, but it is also the fact that it is a very dangerous proposition to start with, that you are going to keep down wages by keeping down rents by means of payments which have to come out of the pockets of other people. Therefore, I cannot do more than say that this Report does not contemplate an instantaneous remedy of that great wrong.
It may be that this corporation has acted selfishly, but, at all events, they did not create the situation. If they had acted strictly and rigorously up to their duties, it is a question whether they would have succeeded in being returned a second time. I do not know how that would have been, but they might have done more than they have done. But that blame attaches also to other corporations as well as that of Dublin. When all that is said and done, the task of finding proper accommodation for all these people is a very difficult one. You may say, "Build homes outside," but you will find it a very difficult thing to persuade people to go. I remember on one occasion meeting a good and dear old lady who was living in a rather filthy tenement, and when I visited the place she seemed to suspect from my manner that I was engaged in some sort of philanthropic enterprise. She was almost shaking her fist at me, and said, "No suburb for me." That is what I call the metropolitan spirit. She objected very much to being removed from the activity and society of an overcrowded tenement and being planted out in some dismal road at considerable distance from the life and gaiety of a great city. That is a deep-rooted feeling, and it adds very much to the difficulty which all municipal bodies have to deal with when they are considering where they are to build their homes.
395 It happens that within the existing area of Dublin there is a large amount of open space—an unusual amount—which is suitable for cottages and homes for poor people if they could be induced to go away from the charms of a metropolitan life. I therefore think that Dublin in that respect is rather better off than some of the other towns to which my attention has been called. But to make a town plan for Dublin successfully and wisely is a task which must of necessity take some little time. On one thing I am perfectly clear, and that is that this Report cannot be allowed to rest, as so many other Reports have done, in the pigeon-holes of offices. Therefore, notwithstanding the ascerbity of some of the observations made to-day, I am very glad indeed that this Debate should have been held, and that this horrible state of things, in no sense of the word exaggerated, should have been discussed. In fact, there is a moderation of tone in the Report which only adds to its value, and there can be no mistake that the state of things which now exists is horrible and intolerable. Therefore I hope and trust it will sink into all our hearts, and that the criticism to which the Corporation of Dublin may be properly and fairly exposed will not do them anything but good, and that we may look forward in the near future to such a rebuilding and reconstitution of these old tenement houses as must greatly advantage the health, happiness, and morals of the people of Dublin. The tenement houses themselves are, I think, quite capable of economic improvement if there was a good deal of expenditure upon them. They are fine houses. They might be fitted up very excellently—no doubt at considerable expenditure—to fit them for well-to-do artisans and clerks. There is no need to regard them as anything but still valuable property, but they must be emptied out of their present inhabitants. The other houses referred to in the Report—some of them new and recently built houses—have become just as unfit, and perhaps in some respects even more repulsive, as the tenement houses themselves. All these things will, I hope, sink into the hearts of the people and lead to a remedy.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I am sure that hon. Members from Ireland have felt a good deal gratified and flattered by the attention which the Noble Lord the Member for the Hitchin Division (Lord Robert 396 Cecil) and the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) have given to the capital of our country. I must, however, make two observations on that point. I do not see any of the Conservative Members from the North of Ireland at the moment. I presume they are more usefully employed, and it was left to English Members to carry on the Conservative campaign on this question. The second observation I must make is this. The Noble Lord and the hon. and gallant Gentleman approached this question with the air of new Christopher Columbuses. You would imagine that the slum property in Dublin had remained undiscovered and unknown until the auspicious hour when the House was about to adjourn and when these two gallant, fearless and philanthropic explorers appeared on the horizon, and for the first time brought to the attention of the House of Commons, and the world, the state of slumdom in Dublin. This House had not the advantage of the presence of the Noble Lord in the last century. I believe if the Noble Lord had been present here he would have known that the question which appeared novel to him, and for the discovery of which he apparently claims the merits of an original discoverer, had been brought to the attention of this House over and over again by hon. Gentlemen on these benches, and had been brought to the attention of the House with definite plans for meeting the evil. For instance, not once, but several times before the Parliamentary birth of the Noble Lord, we on these benches brought forward proposals to deal with the question of the slums in' Ireland in a definite and practical way, namely, to bring within the bounds of Dublin, with all its poverty, those outlying suburbs which are mainly inhabited by the richer taxpayers and ratepayers of the city.
We have been endeavouring to do that year after year, and Session after Session and until we have accomplished that we will never be able to approach adequately the problem of the slums of Dublin. The suburban inhabitants are Dublin citizens in everything except name and in respect of the immunity they now enjoy. How are we treated? Our Bills passed the House of Commons, they were strangled in another place, and they were strangled by the party of which the Noble Lord is an eminent member. And this is the Gentleman who now comes at the eleventh and three-quarter hour and claims that the Dublin Corporation and the Nationalist party have neglected the slums of Dublin, 397 though his own party rejected Session after Session the measures which would have given us a chance of dealing with the question! Why has Dublin been selected now? The Noble Lord was perfectly frank about it. It is all a political attack—a political attack founded upon statements which, if not entirely unfounded, are a mixture of truth and falsehood, which is always the hardest thing to fight. How have we treated similar demands by great cities of this country? Why the extension of the boundaries of Bradford and Birmingham—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Glasgow!"]—were voted for by every single Member of the Irish party; and if the middle of Birmingham and the slums of Birmingham to-day have the advantage of bringing in the rich ratepayer in the outlying districts, it is due to the votes of these Irish Members, who were able to extend the limits of an English city but were unable to extend the limits of the capital of Ireland. My hon. and learned Friend behind me calls attention to the case of Belfast. I understand that Belfast had a very wise town clerk, who at a very early period of its existence did manage to extend the boundaries of Belfast to such an extent as to bring into the ratepaying factors of Belfast men who live a considerable distance from the centre of the city. Belfast could get an extension of its boundaries, but this capital, which is now held up to the whole world as the worst case of slumdom, still remains, and remains so by the action of the Tory party, unable to extend its boundaries and to bring in these rich suburban residents to pay their share toward the amelioration of that evil, which is due largely to the Tory party, and which is now used as a weapon against the Nationalist party.
A great many extraordinary statements have been made. It is true that there are a great many slums in Dublin. Who denies it? We were the first to call attention to it, long before the indictment of the new Christopher Columbuses came before this House. We have always insisted that the case of the slums in Dublin was a bad case and an urgent case, and does anybody suppose that, if there was a Parliament sitting within the walls of the old House on College Green in Dubin, that problem would have remained a century without solution? I do not suppose that the Noble Lord is very intimately acquainted with 398 Irish history. If he were, he would know that this condition of Dublin to-day is the child of a very remote historical ancestry. I spent three years of my life in Dublin, and I have been there many times since. The Noble Lord's sympathetic heart, which has had such a rude shock within the last few weeks about the wrongs of Dublin, does not beat with half the shame and horror of an Irishman's heart when he sees the conditions in that city. Every Irishman who has ever been in Dublin has gone away from it with pity and almost with despair owing to the conditions in that city which he sees there. Under this blessed dispensation of the Union the houses which were the mansions of the peerage and of the commoners in Ireland in the eighteenth century are now turned into the most wretched slums. We see streets which were the homes of the professional and wealthy classes of Dublin in the eighteenth century now snuffing away like an unhealthy limb, becoming depraved and corrupted year after year into these miserable tenements. What is the cause? The cause is that Ireland lost her native gentry and her native and independent life.
I do not wish to take up much of the time of the House, because there are other subjects to come on, but I could quote a passage to which my attention was called by Mr. Lecky himself, in reply to a letter of mine, describing the state of Dublin in the eighteenth century, at the time of the Irish Parliament, and you would understand by reading the description of Dublin, even at that period, when wealth was certainly not common in Ireland, and by contrasting it with its present condition, what the blessed fruition is of that form of government in Ireland of which the Noble Lord is one of the most ardent exponents. Then there is a second reason of the condition of Dublin, and it is this: It has been pointed out already in this Debate that the people of Dublin did not get control of their city until 1840. Up to that time we had the benefit of that system of government in Dublin which still, to a certain extent, exists in Belfast, where the whole control of the city is in the hands of the Orange party. Do not talk about your miserable one or two cases of slum owners in Dublin to-day. Think of the corporation which for generations in past centuries lived upon the plunder of the citizens of Dublin. Why, when the people of Dublin, in the year 1840, came for the first time into the government of 399 their city they found the city bankrupt. As my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, the bankruptcy had even got to the point that the Regalia, or whatever they are called, of the Lord Mayor of the city were in a pawnshop, under the beneficent rule of that Orange party of which the Noble Lord is such a champion. That is the heritage which we got in 1840. What has been done since then? I am not going to speak in language of extravagant eulogy of what the corporation has done. I am not going, either, to defend the corporation in everything which it has done. I cannot defend it against some of the statements made in this Report. But I do say that the Corporation of Dublin has done, since 1840, an enormous amount of good work for the people of Dublin.
It has provided the best water supply of any city in the Kingdom; it has established one of the best systems of main drainage; and since 1908 it has spent £350,000 on housing accommodation. Does the Noble Lord or the hon. and gallant Gentleman think that you can abolish slumdom in Dublin or any other city in a few hours, a few days, or a few years? I was much struck by the observation made in reference to Liverpool by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Jonathan Samuel), who can speak on this subject with great authority from his large experience of municipal life. There is not in the United Kingdom a city that has done more for the improvement of the housing of the poor than the city of Liverpool has done under the authority and influence and skill of an hon. colleague of mine, the Member for the Kirkdale Division (Colonel Kyffin-Taylor), and a leader of the Irish Nationalists in Liverpool (Mr. Austin Harford). They have had to do a great deal of work in the constituency which I represent, which was the first asylum of my people when they were flying from the horrors of the famine of 1847. Anybody who goes through the Scotland Division and other parts of Liverpool and sees the transformation that these members of this building committee of Liverpool have effected will be dumfounded with admiration at the generosity of the city and the public spirit of the citizens in doing this work. Yet, as my hon. Friend reminded the House, according to themselves there are 100,000 people still living in slums in Liverpool in spite of all that work, and if Liverpool, after all this vast expenditure 400 of money and this great public spirit, and all these improvements has still to confess that it has 100,000 people whom it has not yet been able to relieve, with what decency or what honesty, can any hon. Member come to Dublin and reproach it because it has not in the course of thirty or forty years abolished what a great city like Liverpool has so far been unable to abolish within its own area?
Now with regard to the Corporation of Dublin. I really thought, not having looked at the facts, when the case was brought up before the House by these new friends of Dublin and of Ireland, that the Dublin Corporation would be proved to be a gang by the side of whose crimes Tammany would pale its ineffectual fires even if the worst charges against Tammany were proved. What are the facts? These Gentlemen say that there were seventeen slum owners in the corporation. Well, I will at once make this admission, that one slum owner in a corporation is one too many for me. But let us take the case against Dublin, and even when political purposes are in view let us take the case fairly and truly. Of these seventeen slum owners, only five are owners of more than one tenement. Five are too many, but if there are only five, you ought to say five. You ought not to say seventeen, giving the idea that all slumdom was in the hands of the seventeen members of the corporation, and that the corporation consisted only of slum owners. A great deal has been said about these five slum owners, who got rebates. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary that it does not sound very nice. Again, let us be honest and truthful, and not partisan, in the discussion even of this fact. Why did these gentlemen get the rebates? In the first place, there were only three as to which there was any question. In the next place, I believe that the rebates, altogether, only amounted to the magnificent sum of £49. They got the rebates because Sir Charles Cameron, one of the most respected and effective medical officers in the whole world, a Protestant and a Unionist, almost as pure and undefiled in his political faith as the Noble Lord himself, on his own responsibility and his own authority, urged the corporation to give these rebates. What is his account of the transaction?—Before the granting of rebates, all these places were in a very insanitary condition. They were immensely improved then after the rebates, in consequence of granting these rebates. I took a liberal view, and I always will take a liberal view even though it may not be strictly in accordance with the by-laws. I want to 401 give the reason. I have two objects in view. The first is the improvement of the places. They never could have been improved so much except for the rebates of rates. The second is that these places would be let at low rates to these people, who rind it very difficult to pay this 2s. or 2s, 6d. per week. I may be wrong, but that was the view I took, and I would like to say this: On no single occasion, with regard to the rebate of rates, has any member of the corporation ever called on me personally or sent any message to me, with one solitary exception.What, then, becomes of this monstrous charge of corruption which the Noble Lord and the hon. and gallant Gentleman have made with that impartiality and love for Dublin which they have displayed in this Debate? In no case except one had one of these peccant members and slum owners made any appeal to the medical officer of health. This is a matter entirely within the control of Sir Charles Cameron. If you want to criticise the rebate, then criticise Sir Charles Cameron, if he can be fairly criticised. But it is a monstrous exaggeration of even the party passion of the Noble Lord to make charges of gross corruption against the Dublin Corporation when founded on a small matter like this.
The Noble Lord could not avoid referring to Belfast by way of pointing a moral and adorning a tale. He wound up his speech by a candid avowal of the real purpose of this attack on the Corporation of Dublin. It is extraordinary the rapidity, the promptitude, the eagerness, with which the Noble Lord takes up a case when he thinks it will injure his political opponents. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. John Ward) had been raising the question of Rosyth for years, and at the eleventh hour and three-quarters in jumps the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) to tear the laurels of Rosyth from the brow of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stoke, and all for love of the poor. I am surprised and rather delighted at one of the complaints of the Noble Lord, and that was the high price paid for land. Here is a Saul come amongst us in favour of dealing with the claims of the landlords. We welcome his alliance and the kindly and paternal interest he takes in the case of Dublin. As the Chief Secretary pointed out, the problem of Dublin is the problem of poverty and not the problem of the corporation or of one or two men who have been guilty of certainly wrong acts. It is the poverty of Dublin. And the poverty of Dublin lasts to this day, and in some respects is aggravated to this day, 113 years after its Parliament was destroyed, and you asked us to rely on the generosity and mercy and impartial judgment of hon. Members like the Noble Lord!
402 The Noble Lord could not help speaking about Belfast by way of comment. I am going to make allusion to Belfast for quite a different reason from that of the Noble Lord. I read a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast, and I found there a statement that the Bishop of Down and Connor, the Right Reverend Dr. D'Arcy, was making an appeal for £100,000 to build schools for 15,000 Protestant children who were without schools in Belfast, and, at the same time, the Moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, a great protagonist in the fight against Home Rule, said that if they heard of a city with a population of 80,000 or 90,000, being without any schools at all, they would be shocked, but if they took a part of Belfast without school accommodation, it amounted to something like that. In this great and powerful and prosperous city, two of its Protestant leaders called attention to the fact that thousands of its children were without schools in which to obtain even elementary knowledge. I was in this House some years ago, and I heard Mr. Kettle, who I regret is no longer a Member of this House, describe the life of the children in a school of Belfast, and he shocked me, and I think he shocked the whole House by reading the Report of the Inspector of Schools, which stated that the air accommodation of that school was less than it was in the Black Hole of Cawnpore. I do not say that because I want to make any charge against Belfast. I say that Belfast, in many respects, is ahead of Dublin in her housing accommodation. I can give historical reasons for the contrast; but I say that there is only one guarantee for good administration in any land, and that is that the men who administer the country shall be responsible, and shall be appointed or dismissed by the representatives. When Dublin and Belfast are in that position then, and then only, will you be able to deal with the slums of Dublin and the unschooled children of Belfast and make the country a better and a happier country.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
I propose to ask the Committee to consider for a few minutes another subject altogether, although it comes under the scope of this Vote, and the only reference I have to make to the Corporation of Dublin is a friendly one. I will ask the Committee to consider the administration of the distress fund under the Unemployed Workmen's Act, and, in doing so, I think I shall 403 convince the Committee that a mistake, a very grave mistake, has been made in its administration. The reference I have to make to the Corporation of Dublin in connection with the matter is that the corporation on three occasions passed a resolution asking that an inquiry should be held into the administration of this fund by the Local Government Board, before the Local Government Board took the trouble to move in the matter at all. That very simple fact does not quite bear out the accusations that have been made by hon. Members opposite regarding the honesty and probity of the Dublin Corporation. The complaint I am going to make is one that must be primarily founded against the Local Government Board itself. The Local Government Board has never in a friendly way accepted the Unemployed Workmen's Act, and report after report shows that it has been hesitating in its action under the Act; it has not made proper requests for money to enable the Act to be put into operation, and from time to time it has deliberately blocked the operations of the distress committees. There was a meeting held in the early days of the administration of the Act at the Mansion House of Dublin, with the Lord Mayor in the chair. It was held for the purpose of protesting against the action of the Local Government Board. One of the speakers, Mr. James Brady, a solicitor, referring to the action of the Local Government Board at that meeting, said:—For its action, the Local Government Board deserves the greatest censure on the part of the citizens of Dublin as a whole, and grave censure also from the Distress Committees throughout the country. So far as his experience of the Board was concerned in Ireland, he felt hound to say that the members of it were incompetent and incapable of doing anything except in their own interests.That was Mr. Brady's judgment of the Local Government Board. Having that judgment in mind, I am bound to confess, as I listened to the preceding Debate, that I felt that the Local Government Board, even in respect of the housing of Dublin, appeared to be just as culpable as the Dublin Corporation itself. Let me give a specific case in point in connection with the question I am raising. In 1905, when the first Grants were made to Dublin from the Unemployment Fund, the sum of £5,800 was given to the Local Government Board of Ireland. That was done in December of that year, and according to information which I have had given to me, the Local Government Board 404 apparently kept that secret until just shortly before Easter, 1906, when, according to the statement made by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, it was pointed out to him the money was in the possession of the Local Government Board. Then the Local Government Board disgorged the money on a special appeal to them in 1906. but the money was not handed over until September of that year, in spite of the tremendous amount of distress which existed in Dublin all the time. But that is not all. It got £5,800 for the relief of exceptional distress in Ireland. It spent £5,300 in relieving agricultural rating in the West of Ireland, and £500 went to relieve exceptional distress in the city of Dublin. That is one point in respect of which I complain of the action of the Local Government Board in the administration of the Unemployed Workmen's Act. Let me take the Distress Committees. When the Central (Unemployed) Body-was started in London first of all, the English Local Government Board put me upon it as one of its representatives. I remember very well the very great difficulty we had in those early days of devising a scheme upon which to put the unemployed.
But there was one principle which we laid down right from the beginning—a principle obvious to everybody who sits down and considers the problem—that from this distress fund, from these moneys, private properties ought not to be improved unless the owners of those private properties were prepared to give a substantial sum of money in return for the improvement. I do not believe that anyone will question the justice of that proposition. If the private property which is going to be improved is held by people whose names are not disclosed, and if those who suggest to the Distress Committee that certain private properties should be improved, although they do not say who had made the suggestion to them, then I think it is clearer than ever that those properties ought not to be touched by the body administering the fund. Let me tell the Committee what has happened in Dublin. In the first season, from December, 1906, to May, 1907—only a part of the year—the Distress Committee in round figures paid out £1,500 in wages for unemployed workmen. Every penny spent in that season was spent on the improvement of private property, and that included not merely free labour, but free material, which is very much worse 405 than supplying free labour. I remember how difficult it was to refuse some of those proposals. It might be that the committee, finding itself in a corner, would say to the private owner, "If you give us the raw material, if you supply us with the stones and other material to make the road in front of your property, or if you pay a portion of its cost and we get those materials, we will make you a present of the labour and construct your road." I can conceive a committee doing that. I think it would be wrong if they did, but certainly, in the initiation of a big scheme of putting unemployed men to work, more especially under very great pressure on account of the necessity of putting them immediately to work, I would be inclined to look on that with a blind eye, and I would regard it as an excuse. But in the case to which I am referring that was not being done. The material was, given free, the labour was given free, and the work in that first season was altogether on private property.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
It was mostly on roads and for cleaning, but if my right hon. Friend will look at the Reports he will discover on analysis that the word cleaning in Dublin does not mean cleaning simply, but means making roads, as well as cleaning them. In the second season 1907–8 the amount spent in wages was £2,478, and of that £497 was spent on work that might be called public work. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where?"] It was by the corporation on work concerning the corporation in Dublin. A sum of £2,000 was spent on private property. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where?"] In various parts. If hon. Members want to know they will find it in the evidence given before the sworn inquiry which was held in September, 1912. I am going to give illustrations from subsequent seasons. I am not going through the whole of the accounts since 1906, but I am going to give some illustrations in pretty good and accurate detail from subsequent seasons. In 1907–8 this point of cleaning comes up. Cleansing is a head under which money has been spent. In 1907–8 the Distress Committee put unemployed men to work upon property that had not been taken over by the corporation, because the owners of the property had not made the roads, and had not done what was necessary in order that the corporation might take over the property. If they had done what was necessary, it 406 would have cost them a very substantial sum of money in order to have done their duty as owners of the property. In 1907–8, and it is true to say for the subsequent five seasons, and, indeed, it lasted during six seasons, those unmade roads for which the owners were responsible before they could be taken over, were made by the Distress Committee, and in the majority of cases the recoupment paid by the owners was absolutely insignificant. I am going to give some of the cases.
In 1908–9 a sum of £5,826 was spent by the Distress Committee on wages, and £154 of that only was spent on corporation work, and £349 on work belonging to the-Board of Works, or £500 in round figures, while the remaining sum of £5,300 was spent on private property, without any recoupment having been asked for from the owners. On looking through the accounts for 1908–9 I find that the auditor has put frequent notes on the margin that he is not responsible for the accuracy of the accounts. Let me now give some examples. There was an improvement made in Mount Pleasant Avenue, Clontarf, for which £129 8s, 10d. was spent on labour by the Distress Committee, and £2 on materials by the Distress Committee, and not by the owners. Next season on the same improvement £322 was spent on labour, and £2 18s. on materials, and there was no recoupment asked for by the Distress Committee from the owner of this property. Not only that, but when this case came before the sworn inquiry in September, 1912, the Distress Committee could not tell who the owner of the place was, and when those who were defending the Distress Committee were pressed for the name, the pressing was not upheld, and now so far as the public is concerned they do not know, and we do not know, whose property was improved in this way. The second case for that season was that of the Grand Canal Company, and the sum of £1,833 was spent on this property, and no recoupment was asked for whatever. The Grand Canal Company did not finish with the Distress Committee that season, but went on, as the Committee will see. In the season 1909–10 a sum of £5,315 was spent in wages, and of that there was £72 for corporation work, and £161 in connection with the Zoological Society's Gardens, which is a semi-public thing, and £81 in connection with some scheme of the Vacant Land Cultivation Society, which I also put down as a public object. With those exceptions, the rest of the money in that season, or 407 practically £5,000, was spent upon private property.
A curious thing in connection with this season of 1909–10 was that on a careful analysis of the wages it is found that nearly one-fourth of the sum which is shown in the accounts of the Distress Committee to have been paid for wages was paid for cartage of material in connection with this large expenditure on the canal. That is a payment which really does not come within the scope of the Unemployed Workmen's Act at all. Not only that, but a still more careful analysis shows that included in the wages must be the price of the material, as otherwise the whole scheme of work is a palpable absurdity. So that in that sum of £5,315, which, if spent on wages, was properly spent, but there are undoubted payments which were not spent for wages for people registered as unemployed, but spent on the cartage of material, for which no recoupment has been asked.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
The Distress Committee is a joint body composed of representatives of the corporation and one or two other public bodies.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I should think they are pretty well mixed by the work they have been doing, and, besides, I am not raising this either as a Nationalist or Unionist question. I have a good deal of experience of distress committees on this side, and I am bound to say that the cases I have come across of these have been performed by Unionist members of those committees, and slum-owners at that. At any rate, they do not belong to the Labour party. In 1910–11 £3,720 was spent in wages; of that £7 10s. was spent upon corporation work and the rest on private property. The Grand Canal Company was a beneficiary to the extent of £766 9s. 6d.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Possibly there was, but I am perfectly certain the hon. Member will not say that this was not improving the property of the Grand Canal Company. Even if it was a public right of way, then it is transferred to the corporation, but the Grand Canal Company holds the control for all ordinary and practical purposes of the work that was done. The quay improvement is a canal improvement. I am not going through all the accounts, and I do not want to discuss the whole thing right through, but if my hon. Friend wishes me to assume that this was a public affair, then I vary my language, but I do not believe he is going to defend this action—
§ Mr. S. GWYNN
I would like to know whether the hon. Member suggests that the expenditure was for purposes which did not benefit the public. There may be expenditure on private property which is for the benefit of the public. Everybody who knows the facts about the Canal, knows that these roads are used as public roads in Dublin just as much as any ordinary road.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I quite agree they may, but the case I gave of Mount Pleasant Avenue also benefits the public, and it benefits the public that unmade roads should be made as quickly as possible and handed over to the corporation, but the owner has got to do that. It is part of the obligation of the owner, and in the ordinary way this canal company ought to have made these roads, and I am informed the making of them is part of its obligation. Supposing it is not, then the corporation ought to have been asked for recoupment. If this was a public improvement, the same rule should have been adopted in Dublin as was adopted by us in London, and which has been adopted by every distress committee in the country, so that you cannot get out of it in that way. This is an improvement of the canal company's property undoubtedly, and the canal company—with the corporation if you like, for I do not want to take any unfair advantage of them—ought to have been asked for recoupment on account of the improvement of the facilities that the canal company is going to use and make a profit out of. In 1911–12 the same sort of thing happened. A sum of £3,237 was spent in wages, and all that was 409 spent on private property, with the exception of another bit of work done for the Zoological Society and the Women's National Health Society. The Grand Canal Company's property was improved to the extent of £521, or at least that sum was spent in wages. If you take the first seasons through which this Grand Company's work appears in the accounts of the Distress Committee, there is a total of £5,547 spent in wages and £117 spent on materials. That is a form of payment which no one, and I venture to put it quite absolute, who has had the least experience of the administration of the Unemployed Workmen Act will say is legal, and made without recoupment, and without any bargaining as regards recoupment—nobody who has ever sat on a distress committee, as I have done on the Central (Unemployed) Body, which is the largest, for a single moment could defend such action as this running over a long series of years.
Now let me give some more details. Take the question of the supply of material. I will confine myself to this one year. It is typical of the rest; the same thing runs through the other years. The Distress Committee spent £234 in the purchase of material. That is not an accurate figure. The amount was much larger than that, as anyone who knows anything about Distress Committee work will see if they work out the figure in relation to the wages. Never mind; I will take that figure. Of that £234, only £123 was recovered, so that in material alone the Distress Committee made a present of £111. Hon. Members must remember that this money is given for the unemployed. Every Distress Committee knows perfectly well that if the Treasury gives it a £5,000 Grant, its duty is to spend not £5,000, but perhaps £10,000, by getting recoupment after recoupment, and spending the money again and again in order to swell to the maximum the amount of work which the original £5,000 enables it to put at the disposal of the unemployed. That is always our problem. When we got our Grant from the Local Government Board we never assumed that that was going to be our income. We spent that and got something back; we spent that and got another percentage back; we spent that and got another percentage back; until, by the efflux of these losses, we had spent the whole of our money. The annual expenditure was not the Grant given us by the Local Government Board, but that 410 Grant plus a very substantial percentage. Let me give examples from 1911–12, and I will read in relation to them an extract from the sworn evidence which this Committee ought very seriously to consider. One of the improvements was the Rutledge Terrace improvement. It began in 1910–11. The owners subscribed £20 for material. The Distress Committee spent £33 on material and £86 on wages. That is one very significant improvement. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was the improvement?"] Roads and paving, I understand.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I have not the names in the Rutledge Terrace case. I cannot say whether they are known. But I have the names in two other cases as the right hon. Gentleman will see in a moment. The second case is that of Susan Terrace. The owners subscribed £17 4s. 5d. for material; the Distress Committee spent £27 16s. 7d. on material, and £230 in wages. These figures are a little mixed, because, on account of the way in which the Distress Committee has produced some of its accounts, two or three schemes are mixed up together, so that it is impossible to get at what the exact expenditure has been on each case. In that respect Susan Terrace is mixed up with the third case, which is that of Donore Road, where there was £30 subscribed for material and the Distress Committee spent £60 in buying material, and £212 in wages. The corporation engineer's valuation of the improvements to Donore Road is £319 10s.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Yes. I said at the beginning that my accusation was against the Local Government Board. It is not the corporation that is responsible for this. The Local Government Board and its inspectors are mainly responsible. I think the Distress Committee ought to have done its work very much better. The Distress Committee ought to be severely censured for the way in which it has done its work; but the Local Government Board was in charge, and through its auditors and inspectors ought to have stopped this 411 practice at any rate in the third season. It might have allowed the Distress Committee to potter about for two seasons, and then said, "You know where you are now; you have got your footing; you must stop this reprehensible practice, and get to work on a proper footing, as every Distress Committee in other parts of the country has to do." As a result of this procedure there was a great deal of talk in Dublin. I had letter after letter from friends there—secretaries of trade unions and unemployed people—complaining about it, and finally from certain friends who were not trade unionists but members of the Dublin Corporation and of the Distress Committee. The matter became the subject of universal conversation in Dublin amongst everybody interested in social reform. The Dublin Corporation immediately took the matter up. Three times it passed a resolution asking the Local Government Board to inquire into the matter, and at the third time of asking the Local Government Board instituted an inquiry. In September, 1912, the inquiry opened, and it was conducted by an inspector of the Local Government Board. A curious thing about the inquiry is that the inspector who conducted it was the gentleman who, if the Local Government Board was responsible at all, was responsible for the first four years' expenditure of this money. He had not been responsible for the other two years, but for the first four years he was responsible, and the lady who has done so much to bring out the whole matter, Miss Harrison, commenting upon his position at the inquiry, said:—I understand better than most how difficult is the position of the inspector"—That is the gentleman conducting the inquiry.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Mr. MacCabe. I believe there are several of them. Miss Harrison said:—I understand better than most how difficult is the position of the inspector, and I venture to say it was a cruel position to put you in, Sir, to hold the balance between the Distress Committee, of which you have been inspector from the first. In that capacity yon had to report, and the committee could not have had their Grants unless you had reported that they were doing satisfactory work. And now the Local Government Board make you the judge of my charges against the committee.This gentleman has been reporting in favour of the committee's work for four 412 years, and at the end of six years he is asked to be the judge of the charges made against the work of the committee!
§ Mr. MACDONALD
Yes, the sole judge, without anybody to keep him in countenance and to sign his Report. That is the sort of inquiry that was held. The evidence is not published. I put a question a week or two ago to the Chief Secretary, asking him to publish it. It is the most interesting evidence that I have read for a long time. I have verbatim excerpts from a large part of it here, from which I will read one or two extracts. The evidence is absolutely conclusive on this matter. There is not the least doubt about it. The charges were substantiated, except when they were a little bit coloured, and even the colouring in every case was shown to have a substantial foundation of truth. In the main the case was made out in such a way that it is most amusing and amazing to read the Report of the inspector and the comments of the Local Government Board upon it. Let us see what was done. It was proved that this Distress Committee paid for putting property into the condition in which it was necessary to be put by the owners before the corporation took it over; no recoupment. It was proved that it improved property like that of the Canal Company: no recoupment. It was proved that, as my right hon. Friend said very innocently, it was cleaning property. Let us see what that means. This is an extract from the evidence given at what is commonly known in Ireland as the sworn inquiry. Miss Harrison is speaking:—I come to Donore Road. The two owners are. I believe, Mr. Good—Mr. Peter Good—and the chairman of the City of Dublin Distress Committee, Councillor Crozier. Mr. Good apparently paid £16 0s. 9d. as his share of the materials, and—I hope I will be corrected if I am wrong—I think Councillor Crozier paid £14, altogether £30 for Donore Road; the work there is valued at £319 10s.And much of that comes under the head of cleaning. Miss Harrison goes on:—I don't want to say more than that. There are twenty-two houses belonging to Councillor Crozier, I believe. Councillor Crozier, do you want to say how many houses are yours?Councillor Crozier: None of them are mine.Mr. McGrath: Have you sold them since then?Councillor Crozier: No, they were not mine then.Then Mr. McGrath read a letter asking that certain things should be done.Mr. McGrath: Was that the start of this entire matter, and was it this letter which led to the transactions at Donore Road?Mr. Crozier: Yes.413Mr. McGrath: Was it in consequence of that letter that the Distress Committee undertook the work?Mr. Crozier: Certainly it was.Mr. McGrath: And did the owners pay for all material?Mr. Crozier: Yes, for sure.Miss Harrison: Is it a tact that you own none of this property?Mr. Crozier: Well no, I never owned a brick.Miss Harrison: Why then did yon pay this subscription if you did not own any of the houses?Mr. Crozier: I am the agent of those who do own it.I will leave out a little aside. They have got into a bit of trouble. When they emerged from the scrimmage, the evidence goes on:—Miss Harrison: I want to know how it is that you paid a subscription for Donore Road and not for other places?Mr. Crozier: What do you mean by other places?Miss Harrison: Not for Rutledge Terrace.Mr. Crozier: Why should I pay other people's subscriptions?Miss Harrison: Why do you pay subscription for property that was not your own?Mr. Crozier: Because I was agent for the property.Miss Harrison: Then it was not your own money?Mr. Crozier: It was the money directed to be paid to get this work done.Miss Harrison: That is the same thing.Mr. Crozier: Certainly.Miss Harrison: How much did you pay?Mr. Crozier: Whatever the bill was that I was furnished with.Miss Harrison: You paid about £14. You promised to pay that money to get the work done.Mr. Crozier: There was work done at Rutledge Terrace for the owners of Rutledge Terrace, and then Donore Road was left undone, and when they were making that road I suggested that it would be well to give employment by converting the footpaths in Donore Road.Miss Harrison: Why did you ask them to do the footpaths in Donore Road, when it was not your property?Mr. Crozier: Because I am the agent of those who are the owners.Miss Harrison: If you are the agent, yon must know who the owners are?Mr. Crozier: One side belongs to one son belonging to me, and the other side belongs to the other son, and I am the agent for both.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I do not know. I am not raising this question from the party standpoint. I am raising this question because I sincerely believe it is disgraceful to whoever is concerned in it. I do not care whether they are Unionists or Nationalists. I am perfectly certain that these facts being brought out will stop this sort of thing in Dublin, and anyone, whatever his political creed, whether he be Nationalist or Unionist, or Protestant, or Catholic, ought to be grateful to me, or whoever endeavours to bring the facts to light. Councillor Crozier, later on, made an explanation. I will not trouble the Committee with that explanation, but I will just mention this much: he said, with reference to who initiated this improvement at Donore Road, that he did 414 not sign it. Miss Harrison remarked on that:—What I have got to point out is that the report of the works sub-committee, recommending that the work should be done on his own property, was signed by Councillor Crozier, the chairman of that committee; and work was also recommended to be done by the members of the works sub-committee on property belonging to Councillor Crozier's sons. I will not press the matter for it is an exceedingly painful matter to me and one to be regretted"—and so on. That is my case. There are various other instances, but I will leave the matter there. That is the clearest case that was brought out, but there will not be the least doubt in the mind of whoever reads the evidence, as I have done pretty carefully, that a deliberate attempt was made to keep the owners of the property that had been improved in the background. Again and again the inspector in charge of this inquiry pressed the authorities to produce the names. As to what Councillor Crozier is; Unionist or Protestant, or Nationalist or Catholic, I do not know. I did not ask, and I do not intend to ask. Councillor Crozier was discovered and was stopped. I am very glad to have been able to put the Committee in full possession of the facts in regard to this matter. It has been proved—and I have gone carefully over the Report—that the women's workroom accounts were kept in such a way as to make it impossible to get the details. Miss Harrison used the words "a scandal and a disgrace." I think that is perhaps a wee bit exaggerated. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the accounts of the women's workroom, as cross-examination showed of those who were responsible for them, are very disgraceful indeed. The second thing that was proved was that there was no index of registered applicants, although a Statutory Order was issued to compel the Committee to keep such an index. The third thing proved was that there was no proper visitation of applicants. Again, it was proved that work done ought not to have been done by this Committee at all. Then it was proved that corporation stores were provided free of charge. It was proved that the Works Sub-Committee acted without the knowledge of the Distress Committee in putting work in hand. It was proved that the minutes were improperly kept, and that full records were not in existence. It was proved that a recoupment was offered by the Women's Health Association, and was not claimed by the Distress Committee when it had been offered. It was proved that Members of the Distress Committee had not attended for six months, and nobody took 415 the least trouble to inquire why or to get an explanation. It was proved that words like "cleansing" were practically falsified names. It was proved that the funds were used for the ward purposes.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
That means that it was proved that in certain wards more work was done than in other wards, and that the influence of certain members are in favour of their own wards being specially attended to from the distress fund. In the evidence that was clearly brought out in one cross-examination—I am afraid I cannot remember the councillor's name. Finally, it was proved that work that might have been done quite easily was not done at all. After all this, in the annual report of the Local Government Board, which was circulated to hon. Members a month or so ago, we find that "after careful consideration" of the evidence in that inquiry, the Board—were satisfied that the grave charges made against a member and against some of the employés of the committee, were wholly unsustainable. In regard to details of administration, defects were shown to exist"—I suppose the Donore Road difficulty is one—but these were of minor importance, and could have been remedied without resort to the costly expedient of public inquiry.That is the position of the Local Government Board. Certainly the Local Government Board could have written that before they held the public inquiry. It is a perfect farce to ask the Local Government Board of Ireland to adjudicate upon a matter like this. It is very characteristic of them to send down an inspector who was deeply dyed in the accusations that were made, because he was the official who agreed to the work of the Distress Committee during the last four years. To appoint him to hold this judicial inquiry is a stroke of business very characteristic of the Irish Local Government Board. There is one point I wanted to make quite clear, that although this sworn inquiry was made in 1912 the position has not yet changed. Although the Local Government Board asked the Distress Committee of Dublin to do something in order to get recoupment, and although the Distress Committee professed to be beginning to do something in order to get recoupment, the experience was so much in keeping with what I have been reading from the sworn inquiry that really I will put the Committee 416 in possession of it. In December, 1912, two schemes were put before the committee—one had reference to Kelly's Row: draining, metalling, road-making, and so on—and the other had reference to St. Anne's Place, and was somewhat of the same character. The Kelly's Row scheme was to come out of the recoupment scheme, and two members of the Distress Committee made themselves responsible for getting the recoupment. The St. Anne's Place was a private property scheme. The name of the owner was withheld from the Distress Committee when the scheme came before the committee. All that was said about the private property scheme was that the material would be guaranteed. The work was immediately put in hand—that is in December, 1912. The Kelly's Row scheme had to be investigated in January of 1913 again. It was revisited by deputation. Estimates were asked for from the responsible engineer, so that the two members of the committee might go to the owners and get their proposals. It took over three months to produce the estimates for the improvement, which were not handed over to the Distress Committee until April, 1913. Meantime the St. Anne's Place scheme had been finished. The road had been made, the steam engine had rolled it down, and for this the miserable sum of £7 10s. was paid by the owners that were undiscoverable; and it was taken over by the corporation as a fully made road, and put to the charge of the ratepayers of Dublin.
§ Mr. MACDONALD
I could not say. The names are undiscovered, but this is since the public inquiry, and that is why I am publicly dealing with this case. My latest information, which came only a day or two ago, was that the names of the owners of this place were not discoverable. In respect of Kelly's Row, the estimate turned out to be £168. The Distress Committee on 15th April earmarked £100 for wages, so as to enable this improvement to be carried on. Ten days later, after the work was begun, the Distress Committee was informed that there was no 417 money to enable it to go on. Mr. O'Neill advanced £85 from his own private pocket to allow it to go on. When that sum was exhausted the engineer estimated that another £40 was required to finish it. The £40 was found, and when that was exhausted the engineer estimated that there would be another ten days' work required over and above which had been done. That ten days' work remained unfinished for the next six months. Only the other day was this scheme completed. I venture to say that with these facts before us that the Irish Local Government Board should receive a most severe and unqualified censure from this House for allowing such things to go on. The Dublin Distress Committee should also be censured. The superior authority is not the corporation. Let us be clear about that! Even the Distress Committee is a subordinate authority in this respect. The Irish Local Government Board, with its inspectors, with its auditors, ought certainly to have put an end to this thing long ago, and have seen that the money that was voted by this House for the purpose of alleviating temporary distress in Dublin was spent for the alleviation of that temporary distress, and not for the improvement of the property of private owners, who are so ashamed of the transaction that they will not allow their names to be mentioned in an open place.
I think the speech to which we have just listened is a most serious indictment of the Irish Local Government Board, though I do not think we shall find the hon. Member for Leicester voting for this reduction of £100. I do not, however, propose to follow the hon. Member in his arguments, but to revert once more to the question of housing in Dublin. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool made a very great point of the lack of schools in Belfast, and stated that thousands of children in Belfast are apparently going without education. The facts that I have before me are that in Belfast 3.6 per cent. of the population are illiterates, while in Dublin the percentage is 5.3 per cent., so that I am afraid that point, made with such force and so loudly cheered by my hon. Friends below the Gangway, falls rather flat. Another point which the hon. Member made was in connection with the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin with respect to the housing at Rosyth. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division seemed to think that the Noble Lord had taken the 418 opportunity of bounding in at the last moment and seizing the laurels from the brow of the hon. Member for Stoke. It will be in the recollection of the Committee that the Noble Lord raised this question and very promptly got a discussion on it. I need only point out that the Resolution was seconded by the bon. Member for Stoke, who disappeared and did not even vote in the Lobby in support of his own Motion.
It being a Quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed without Question put.