§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Duke)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
The necessity for this Bill arises out of the unhappy events which occurred in Dublin during Easter week of this year. Many Members, no doubt, are aware that in the central districts and thoroughfares of Dublin and in other parts of the city there is ocular proof of the grievous calamity that was involved to the city of Dublin in the events of Easter week. As to the loss of life, the dislocation on a great scale of business in the city, the deprivation of large numbers of willing workmen of their ordinary means of livelihood, this Bill has nothing to say. The necessity which this Bill deals with is that of taking what has seemed to the Corporation of Dublin and the Local Government Board in Ireland, and, I hope I 2099 may say also, after the consultations which have taken place between those who are individually interested in the matter and persona representing the administration in Ireland, to a large number of those who are immediately concerned, the promptest means to provide for the expenditure which can hardly be provided out of the private resources of the owners for the reconstruction of the main parts of Dublin, the establishment of such control as may be necessary to secure that that reconstruction shall be upon a scale and in a manner consistent with the traditions which attach to the almost historic main thoroughfare in Dublin, and also to provide not only that there shall be public control, but that the means which individuals may not be able to provide out of their own resources may, subject to proper security, be available to them in proper cases with safeguards for the security of the Exchequer, so as to make the resources of the Exchequer to a proper amount available for that purpose.
When the calamity to which I referred was a little more recent, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Dublin, and, as he announced here, he informed the people who have suffered most grievous loss and the municipal authorities of the extent to which he would be able to advise the House to authorise Grants, ex gratia, in relief of those very heavy losses. As the House is aware, a Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir William Goulding, has been set up and has been sitting in Dublin, with a view to assisting His Majesty's Government in coming to correct conclusions as to what is the true magnitude of the losses and what is the proportion in which, according to the scale upon which the Treasury has decided, those losses can be, at any rate, partly met out of public funds. But the assistance which can be given out of the Treasury by these ex gratia Grants will leave a very large deficit to be met by the owners of property in these thoroughfares, of which one or two have been absolutely ruined, and others have been devastated to a very considerable extent.
When the magnitude of the calamity in Dublin and the probable position of very numerous owners of property were regarded, it was felt that from some quarter or other it was necessary as a matter of business in the interest of individuals, and very desirable in the public interest, 2100 if the rebuilding of Dublin was to proceed upon a proper plan and with promptitude, that some means should be devised by which, with due regard to the security of the Exchequer, money by way of loan might be rendered available to the people whose properties have been destroyed. I may pause for a moment to remind the House that on the very numerous occasions during the lifetime of the oldest Member of this House the Irish borrower of money from the Exchequer has been an honest borrower, and has practically invariably repaid the loan. There was one leading thoroughfare in the main business quarter and numerous other areas in Dublin where there has been very serious damage, and it was inevitable that the Corporation of Dublin, if they had regard to their obligations to the ratepayers and to the citizens, should take account of their position in relation to the situation in which Dublin was placed, and should propose some means by which anything in the nature of eccentricity in the reconstruction of premises in the damaged areas, and anything in the nature of a tendency to leave ruined premises lying in ruins, should be kept under control. It was necessary also that the corporation should be ready, if the municipal authority were to take control with regard to these matters to any considerable extent, to pledge the resources of the city, the property of the corporation, and the rates of the city as a security for these advances to citizens which they were to undertake, subject to the control of the Local Government Board in Ireland, to distribute. There were two matters, the matter of public aid and the matter of some kind of local control. The corporation took that view of their public duty which I think any man acquainted with municipal life would expect them to take. Taking that view, they put themselves into communication with the Local Government Board in Ireland, and the outcome of that communication was the drafting of the Bill of which I am moving the Second Reading.
There are certain main requisites if aid is to be distributed from public funds by the instrumentality of the Corporation of Dublin or otherwise. The first main requisite is prompt action. I spoke of what had happened materially and otherwise to Dublin as a calamity. That calamity will be aggravated if there is not prompt action to deal with the 2101 state of things which exists. It is not merely an eyesore when you pass through Sackville Street to-day; it goes much deeper than that. While I have had the advantage of being in Dublin during the last few days, there have been present delegates from the great Colonies, and every, citizen in these Islands would have given much that some of the sights they saw should not have been present before their eyes. But promptitude is a necessity, and, not merely from the point of view which I have mentioned, but from the point of view of repairing, at the earliest possible date, material damage, loss of business, loss of wages, dislocation of affairs in the city. In the drafting of this Bill a great deal was left to local action which would ordinarily have been submitted to Parliament. Here it is desirable above all things that promptitude should be secured. Besides prompt action, if there is to be the provision of public money to any considerable extent, there must be public control. What that public control ought to be has been a matter of considerable conflict between the Corporation of Dublin and the owners of property and estates. Later in my observations I shall be able to tell the House what has taken place upon that subject. To my great satisfaction I have found, in regard to the degree of public control, there was no insuperable difficulty in arriving at an arrangement between the public interests represented by the corporation and the private interests represented by the several owners. It is obvious that there must be public control extending to some reasonable extent both as to the erection of buildings and to the non-erection of buildings, both as to the replacing of business premises and other structures upon sites where there are to-day ruins, and the possibility of those sites being left in the ruins. It must extend to some other matters. On the question of advances of money out of public funds for which the Corporation of Dublin has been ready to become answerable, there must obviously be public control in this sense—that the Local Government Board and those who are answerable to Parliament for the proper dealing with public funds shall see that moneys are not dispensed in Dublin in regard to these matters, and compensation paid, except upon terms which will secure that the Exchequer is reasonably safeguarded.
2102 For the purpose of securing promptitude the Corporation of Dublin takes the view, and the Local Government Board in Ireland, which, I believe, has not been a very lenient critic of the doings of local authorities in Ireland, has not been so indifferent to the propriety of their conduct that it can be accused of any undue sympathy with local aspirations, agreed with the Corporation of Dublin, subject, of course, always to the consent of Parliament, that it was very desirable, if there were such questions as the planning of new streets, the expropriation of owners from portions of their premises in the public interest, and questions of the expropriation of owners who would not utilise their sites, if practicable in the circumstances of the case, and having regard to the existing emergency, to dispense with the ordinary steps of a Provisional Order and seek Parliamentary powers. That, of course, is a very bold proposal. It led to difficulties which I shall mention in a moment. With regard to public control, the Local Government Board assented to the proposal of the corporation that the appeal from the corporation in regard to the matter of public control should be an appeal to the Local Government Board. The Local Government Board, in the Bill as it was drafted, was put in a position to sanction a proposal or a decision of the corporation or to refuse sanction. In regard to a security for the Treasury there was no step in the transaction, from the application for the loan to the examination of the title and the decision as to the amount which might be advanced, in which the corporation was not ready to submit every one of its acts to the supervision and ultimate control of the Local Government Board.
§ Sir E. CARSON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"]—does the national control apply to the compensation paid out of public funds?
§ Mr. DUKE
I was coming to that matter, but I can deal with it at once. The payment of ex gratia compensation out of public funds rests with His Majesty's Government. What has happened has been that the Committee to which I referred has been appointed to inquire and report. It is the business of the Government, and I take it in the first instance the Irish Office, to examine the 2103 facts and reports, and to decide what is the method to be adopted, and upon what conditions the payment should be made. This Bill does not deal with the question of these ex gratia payments. This Bill takes up the case on the footing that there are ex gratia payments, and, assuming ex gratia payments, it proceeds to deal with the question of how the owner, who is left with perhaps 30, 40, 50, or 60 per cent, of his loss to provide, is to be helped in the public interest, and in particular in the interests of Dublin, so to provide. That is the stage at which this Bill takes up this matter. I referred to the question of control proposed in the Bill. It was made a Local Government Board control by the authors' of this Bill, not out of any wilful disregard to the rights of private owners, and not out of any conceited view that the Corporation of Dublin plus the Local Government Board might at all times be trusted to do everything in order. That course was resolved upon, so far as the draftsmen of this Bill were concerned, from the view that the emergency is a pressing emergency and that the necessity for prompt action is urgent.
The House may ask, What will be the nature of the control? For the purpose of that control the corporation were, as I have said, ready to pledge the public resources of the City of Dublin. The Local Government Board, I am glad to say, agreed with them that the securities which were there taken for safeguarding the rights and interests of private owners, as well as safeguarding public rights, were securities for which, in an emergency, it was not impossible to suppose Parliament would confer the necessary powers. In Dublin, as in other places, there are capable business men who take firm and determined views about their rights and interests. Where you have on one hand public interests and corporate interests, and on the other private rights, and a departure from the ordinary course of dealing with private rights, it is perhaps too much to anticipate that there will be an immediate reconciliation of the rights of private owners with the wishes and expectations of those who have charge of public interests. It would be idle to ignore the fact that a good deal of conflict has arisen between the Corporation of Dublin and certain owners in Dublin, persons directly and materially interested in the ruined areas, in regard to the de- 2104 parture in this Bill from the safeguards-of private interests which are usually found in a Bill dealing with the subject. That related especially to the taking of land and the imposition of schemes of building. It related also to setting up by-laws and the application of them: sanction in the case of an appeal to the Local Government Board where private rights are dealt with, and by that same sanction dispensing with the sanction which in the ordinary course is obtained by means of a Provisional Order. A conflict arose first in regard to the question of laying out new streets, and the reconstruction of streets which would necessitate the compulsory acquisiton of land. What was complained of was that there was no recourse to Parliament. So far as His Majesty's Government is concerned, it is ready to deal with that complaint by leaving the Order of the Local Government Board in regard to these matters, and especially in regard to questions of street planning and the laying out of new streets—the matters which arise in Section 1 of the Bill—as a Provisional Order, and leaving the parties, or any owner who thinks himself aggrieved, to come to Parliament and to raise the question. I trust that the spirit which has been shown in dealing with other difficulties in regard to this Bill, and which has enabled me to announce what I have announced in regard to Clause 1, will continue to be shown in regard to differences which may arise and that resort to Parliament will not be needed.
§ Mr. DUKE
No. The Order of the Local Government Board will go forward in the ordinary course as a Provisional Order. It will be a Provisional Order introduced in the Bill by the Local Government Board. All those steps by which a person objecting would be bound in the ordinary course would be still open, subject to this: that the view which I take, and the view which, I believe, His Majesty's Government is ready to act upon is, that there shall not be the delay which, in the ordinary course, would follow by adopting Provisional Order procedure, and which, in the present case, would probably mean a delay of eighteen months, but that, when the matter has been thrashed out by a local inquiry in Dublin, and the Local Government Board 2105 has made such an Order as it is prepared to do, after the matter has been fully and freely discussed, it shall, so far as the Government can afford facilities for the purpose of it being brought complete to this House, be so brought. The ordeal of inquiry in a Private Bill Committee, if there are objectors, and it is necessary to take that step, will still be open. The course proposed is proposed as a course that will save eighteen months. The corporation greatly desired, and the Local Government Board agreed, that, if possible, the expenditure of public money upon litigating questions such as arise when public interests and the rights of individuals conflict in questions that come before a Private Bill Committee, should be avoided. I have some confidence that the business men who are concerned, and the corporation who are interested as custodians of the public interest in Dublin, will take care, if it is humanly possible, that they come to an agreement in regard to the Order, and do not have to come here or anywhere else for the purpose of prolonging inquiries which must involve expense. That is an Amendment which can be made, and which, I take it, will be tendered to the House in regard to the proposals for town-planning.
The other questions which arise are questions as to the making of by-laws, questions as to the application of them, questions of compensation where private rights are infringed, and the remaining questions which spring out of the application of Section 4 of the Bill which enables the Corporation, if there is undue delay in the erection of premises upon one of these ruined sites, to take action with a view to making the premises and site available. For such a purpose as that to which I have referred, the Bill proposes that the appeal should be to the Local Government Board. It is common knowledge among those who have been interested in this matter, at a time when it was thought there might be a free grant of public money for the purpose for which it is here proposed there should be a loan there was the view taken that there should be an absolutely independent authority which should deal with all these contentious matters. In view of the fact that the Corporation of Dublin is to pledge the property of the ratepayers of Dublin as security for loans to be made on its application, it is hardly to be expected that the Dublin Corpora- 2106 tion would part entirely with the control in matters such as those included in the class of topics to which I have referred. On the other hand, the Corporation have not been obstinate. They discussed frankly, and with much public spirit, the question of whether, in the interests of the city, it was not possible to find some intermediate course between the establishment of an independent authority and the mere act of the corporation sanctioned by the Local Government Board. The corporation is willing, and the Government propose to amend the Bill in this sense. The corporation is willing that, in lieu of the appeal to the Local Government Board upon questions of the reasonable and fair application of any by-laws which may be sanctioned by the Local Government Board dealing with properties which are here in question, and upon the other topic of the reasonableness of a ready, prompt, and strict enforcement of any rights that may be given to the corporation to acquire sites which might become derelict, the appeal shall not be to the Local Government Board, but that there shall be constituted a body of, perhaps, three representing one body of interests, and three representing the interests of the ratepayers, and perhaps with a neutral chairman, which shall promptly deal with these matters, which shall have the consideration of the whole of these questions which arise, and shall be able to deal with them in a consistent manner, but which shall also be able to give to the citizens of Dublin the advantage of promptitude, which I regard as essential and indispensable in this case, and so will take the questions of individual controversy out of the realm of controversy and bring them to a prompt settlement.
In order that we may quite understand where we are, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he means that all those questions affecting by-laws, sites, and the opening of new streets, shall, in the first case, be initiated by this mixed tribunal, that then the appeal shall lie to the Local Government Board, and afterwards, if necessary, to Parliament? Are those the three courses?
§ Mr. DUKE
My hon. and learned Friend does not quite apprehend my view about this. My hon. and learned Friend put the case of by-laws, the case of planning, and the case of the application of 2107 planning. The by-laws will be sanctioned in the ordinary course. It is proposed that they shall be sanctioned in the ordinary course after the whole hearing by the Local Government Board. Let me make it quite clear. By-laws will be drafted, I take it, by advisers of the corporation. They will then be presented for sanction. The Local Government Board will publish the draft and will fix the time for the hearing. The whole matter will be thrashed out, so that there will be no decision of the Board without full consideration of the questions which arise. It is no departure from ordinary constitutional methods. With regard to the second point, town planning and the planning of streets, there will be what there is at the present time, the right to come to Parliament, because there will be no town-planning scheme, no scheme for new streets or widening, or anything of that kind, which involves the expropriation of private rights except by an Order which will be dealt with in the manner indicated—that is, an Order which will be provisional and will not take final effect until confirmed by this House.
§ Mr. DUKE
That is a proposed new provision. It is obvious there could be no progress on the way to peace in this matter unless those who were interested—and both parties have behaved very reasonably—should be ready to find some way out of conflict and difficulty. The other two questions are the application of the by-laws. For instance, there is a bylaw which gives power to prohibit a building which is manifestly unfit. Supposing a man proposes to erect a shanty or a pig-stye in some conspicuous position, which would be an abuse of private right, in such a case as that the decision of the corporation would not be the final decision. In whatever appeals are necessary to the tribunal of disinterested people, they would say whether, under the circumstances, the proposed application of the by-law was a reasonable application, or whether it was an abuse of the by-law. In the same way, with regard to questions under Section 4, it might be manifest that a man was obstructively keeping a derelict site, and the question of reasonableness, it is proposed, should 2108 be referred to the same tribunal. I hope those are the matters which my hon. and learned Friend desires I should clear up.
§ Sir E. CARSON
My right hon. Friend talked about owners of property acting unreasonably and matters of that kind. Supposing it was a case in which the corporation was insisting upon a man doing something which he thought unreasonable, is that a matter which might come before this tribunal?
§ Mr. DUKE
Yes. The whole question of the application of the by-law in the particular instance will be a matter upon which the individual owner may appeal, not to the Local Government Board as the Bill provided, but to the independent authority which will be constituted in a manner to secure public confidence. Upon that appeal to the independent authority, there will be the decision as to whether the individual is unreasonable or whether the corporation is unreasonable.
§ Mr. R. McNEILL
I understand my right hon. and learned Friend is dealing with a provision which is intended to be inserted in the Bill. I want to ask him whether in relation to those orders, so far as town planning and design are concerned, there is any intention of bringing into the authority, either in an advisory character or as part of the authority, experts in the matter of town planning and design? Will there be any advice heard from any artistic bodies such as the Institute of Architects?
§ Mr. DUKE
My impression on that subject is that the proper course, and the most advantageous course, would be that the by-laws should be framed with due regard to the public interest and private rights, and then with regard to other matters, such as those to which my hon. Friend refers, any question of conflict which arises shall be thrashed out before independent people. On questions of taste and matters of that kind it will be open to those who think it necessary to contest them to present to the independent tribunal, which I hope will be a 2109 competent tribunal, such information as it ought to have in order that it may be seen whether there are extravagant proposals on the one hand, or, on the other hand, whether what is proposed is manifestly reasonable and proper in the common interest. I will try to deal with what I think is in my hon. Friend's mind. If you have a scheme set up which involves the creation of a Regent Street or some thoroughfare on the scale of some great thoroughfares on the Continent, and the by-laws are framed with that object, the public inquiry would deal with those bylaws, and I do not myself entertain any doubt that the citizens of Dublin, the very active gentlemen whom I have had the advantage of meeting on this matter, would take care that not only the question of private interests, but the question of public taste and public interest was fully thrashed out before those by-laws were sanctioned.
§ Mr. McNEILL
What was in my mind was exactly the opposite. What I am much more afraid of than any attempt to build a Regent Street in Dublin is the introduction of mean streets. What I want to know is, if the plan as passed under the Schedule appears to the public at large as being utterly inartistic and unworthy of the city, whether they would have: any means of bringing that opinion to bear?
§ Mr. DUKE
I would respectfully suggest that on the general question it would be well to secure the support of the Plans Committee of the corporation. Unless the people who object to buildings which the corporation are prepared to sanction are ready to provide the cost of better buildings, I do not really know on what evidence we shall go if we are to make the taste of individual citizens of Dublin a possible criterion. There must be some middle course in this matter if you are to have a practical scheme.
I have dealt with the matter of the bylaws and the application of them, and any possible demand for the expropriation of an owner who might be thought to be obstinately delaying the utilisation of a site. There is a great question outstanding as to which, up to the present time, it has not been possible to find a solution, not because of any unwillingness, but because time has been very short, and it has not been practicable to come to a conclusion; it is the question of the right to compensation and the amount of com- 2110 pensation. There is also bound up with that the question of what is to be the authority to decide whether there is an infringement of private rights which has caused loss and what is the amount to be paid. The owners and the corporation are at variance about that question, and some time has elapsed without their coming to a conclusion. The view of the Government is that another six weeks-spent now on the road of agreement may avoid many months of conflict subsequently. If in that time the parties are not agreed as to what the right tribunal should be, I am inclined to think that the Government may have to deal with the matter upon the footing that an independent person, nominated by the Local Government Board, is a very usual authority to decide compensation, and that the amount of compensation, having regard to the facts, might properly be said to be the actual amount of the loss caused by destruction. It may be that the parties will between themselves relieve the Government and the Irish Office of any necessity for further considering that question. I hope that they will come to a reasonable settlement about it, just as they have shown themselves ready to do so upon the other questions to which I have referred.
I ought not to say that there have been negotiations on the part of the corporation or the property owners. They have frankly confided their views to a disinterested intermediary, and it is the result of these conferences I am now proposing to the House. That is the state of things with regard to this Bill. The immediate question for us now is what ought to be done with the Second Reading, This is a Bill which has secured on its main principles a large measure of assent in regard to those immediately interested, owners as well as public authorities. The necessity of aid from public sources for the reconstruction of these streets being admitted, and it also being admitted that this is a necessity which can only be dealt with if there is public control, what I propose to do now is to move the Second Reading, and afterwards I shall propose that the question of the Committee to which the Bill shall be committed shall not be decided to-day, but shall stand over until as early a period after the Adjournment as is practicable, and then if any serious differences remain outstanding between private owners and the corporation we might consent to refer the Bill to a Select 2111 Committee, which I believe, in the ordinary course, would deal with a Bill of this kind, and we should then be in a position in which the parties need only present to that Select Committee those matters of difference which are outstanding. It is a waste of the money of individuals that is at stake, and I think it is far better that £5,000 should be spent in making a good house; a good block of premises, or a better block of buildings in Sackville Street than that £5,000 should go into the hands of the members of any profession, however deserving, for the purposes of a great fight between the corporation and the property owners. That is the position The necessity for aid undoubtedly exists. The Corporation of Dublin is ready to pledge the public resources of the city and to meet the case of the owners on the main questions, as to the degree of control there ought to be in these matters. There is a disagreement about one comparatively small matter, but I cannot call it unimportant because it is a matter of money, but I hope that difficulty will be removed, and I trust that this Bill may eventually go through all its stages unopposed. I ask for the Second Reading now in order that progress by consent may be made during the Adjournment, and in order that any disagreements may be solved in the least expensive way.
The right hon. Gentleman has introduced to the House a Bill which we have not yet seen, and it is quite plain that the artillery directed against the Bill in its original form has effectively disposed of that measure as it was first introduced. I congratulate the Chief Secretary on the progress he has made in this matter since he took office. I can assure him that in this matter both sides, whatever their feelings may be in politics, have absolute confidence in him. I would like to ask why is a Bill necessary to deal with loans, when no Bill has been introduced to deal with grants? I think that is a House of Commons question.
§ Mr. DUKE
It was necessary to have a Bill because the rates of the Corporation of Dublin could not be made available for the purpose of guaranteeing the loans which will probable become necessary, except with the consent of the Corporation of Dublin, and that consent might have been withheld if they had not 2112 been allowed anything to say as to the manner in which the money was going to be expended.
The main objection we feel is the property owners being put under the control of the Dublin Corporation. Let the House remember this: Yesterday this House was engaged in considering an electoral question dealing with Parliament. Some hon. Members said this House was effete, and that hon. Members did not represent their constituencies. The same matter arises in regard to the Dublin Corporation. All the offices that have become vacant have been filled by co-option. In this connection let me point out that some of the best and the most public-spirited members of that corporation have either been shot, sent to penal servitude, or they are in internment camps. I believe two members of the corporation have been shot, and I know that three or four more are in internment camps. These men would have been the critics of the so-called present majority in the corporation, and although they may be men of extreme views, I am sure they would have been the very men whom the Conservatives of the City of Dublin would rely upon by reason of their tendency to prevent anything in the nature of jobbery or waste.
Probably that seems to many hon. Members an extraordinary situation, but this House never will understand our country. You have a corporation which is practically in the same position as this House of Commons. There is no fresh material in it, and whenever a vacancy occurs the existing majority proceed to co-opt a man of its own. What would be said here of this House if we had been co-opting our own Members in the course of the last eighteen months? What a menagerie this place would have, become. I am not in opposition to the Dublin Corporation in normal times, and I must not be taken as throwing discredit of any kind upon the management of that corporation's business. I do say, however, that in the present state of things if there was an election in Dublin to-morrow, three-quarters of the present members of the Dublin Corporation would disappear. I may say that I have looked for a resolution of that body warranting the introduction of this Bill, and I believe I am right when I say that the Corporation of Dublin, as a corporation, never approved of this Bill before it was introduced, and has not approved of 2113 it after it has been introduced. Therefore the property owners are entitled to say that a few busybodies in the corporation—I do not care to further express myself on the subject—have put this Bill forward as representing the corporation. I am entirely with the Chief Secretary in endeavouring to find a solution in this case, but this must be remembered. The destroyed buildings in every case are shops. Delay is fatal to the business of a shop, and how yon can blend the necessity for æsthetic consideration with the necessity of commerce is more than I can understand. These shopkeepers want to get on with their business: they wish to resume their trade, and although I am speaking for them to-day I may say that half of them at least are men who are Unionists in politics. As a rule, I have rather been on the side of the corporation, but I may say that the devastation which has fallen upon the city of Dublin has made all men brethren there, and if we could eliminate the element of what I will call personal selfishness on the part of one or two members of the corporation, I have no doubt a tribunal could be arrived at which would give satisfaction to the general body of the citizens.
The right hon. Gentleman admitted that he could not make up his mind as to what Committee this Bill should be sent. In other words, it will not get to this Committee for the next six weeks or two months. Meanwhile, these wretched shopkeepers are walking about the city with their hands in their pockets and their trades and businesses destroyed. What has brought about the delay? It is the desire on the part of certain individuals on the corporation to have control and to lend money on the security of the rates. I protest against that, and I say that there is no necessity whatever for it. There is not a shopkeeper in Dublin who cannot go to a bank just as easily as he could go to the corporation and borrow any money that he requires. There is no necessity to pledge the rates of the city in this case. Furthermore, you are compelling him to borrow at the very highest point of the market, whereas if the War terminated in two or three years' time you might expect to get cheaper money and the bank rate of these shopkeepers to diminish. Therefore, so far from regarding this Bill as a boon and a blessing, I regard it as a blister, and I say that it is not required. I beg Tory 2114 Members and others who may be opposed to the idea of loans not to think that we have come to the Government craving for this Bill. Men like myself do not want this Bill at all. We regard it as a hindrance. The Government have faithfully kept the pledge given by the Prime-Minister. It has been fully discharged by setting up Sir William Goulding's Committee. That absolutely redeemed the pledge which the Prime Minister gave, and it is super-sensitiveness on his part to say that in addition we require a Bill of this kind. We really want some body that will blend on the one hand the necessity for æsthetic considerations, and on the other hand will give out the money which Sir William Goulding's Committee is giving to the shopkeepers, so that building may be started at once. In six weeks' time we shall practically be in the winter months, which are most unsuitable for building, and, having lost the whole of the summer, you will be practically putting the matter off until next spring. Meanwhile, the workpeople and shopkeepers will be walking about absolutely idle.
I have not touched upon an aspect of the Bill to which I am bound to refer. The making of new streets is practically an impossibility. So far as the main part of the ravaged city is concerned, it is absolutely impossible. Sackville Street is the widest thoroughfare in Europe, and, therefore, you do not want a new street made there. The Quays—those parts which have been destroyed — you cannot widen, because you have the river to contend with. Therefore, you reduce the ambit within which a new street is possible to two streets, namely, Earl Street, which has been destroyed, and Henry Street. It is true that the streets are narrow, but the shopkeepers want them narrow, because every successful street in Europe is a narrow street. Take Bond Street, in London. It is a narrow street. Would the shopkeepers of Bond Street, in London, consent to the widening of that street? Why, you would cut their throats. A shopping street is one in which ladies want to go quickly from one side to the other and to be attracted and tempted. That is the value of the narrow street. In the same way the best shopping street in Dublin is a narrow street. Grafton Street is the Bond Street of Dublin. These shopkeepers say, "It is all very fine to try and create a Piccadilly Circus, or some such street as you have in your mind, but we have 2115 succeeded in these narrow streets, and we do not see why the misfortune of a rebellion, which has destroyed our business and ruined our shops and houses, should imperil our prospects in the future because of a fad on the part of some members of the corporation, which to some extent is an effete body, and the æsthetic views which they have. Give up this idea of widening Earl Street and Henry Street, and, if you give that up, the necessity for all the powers which the corporation are seeking in this Bill disappears. Sir William Goulding's Committee is going to provide the money, and the necessity for a loan disappears.
The only remaining thing which is wanted is a body which will prevent what the right lion. Gentleman has just called a shanty being erected where there was formerly a noble structure. The existing by-laws of the corporation are already adequate for that purpose. I remember very well that forty years ago it used to be complained that the corporation had no such powers, but they have got them now. They are carefully used, and the officials who have control of this matter are excellent officials. What else remains? Nothing remains. This Bill is wholly unnecessary. We have not even been told what was the amount of money which it was expected that the corporation would have to borrow. I object to a single staling being put upon the ratepayers of Dublin for any such purpose as this Bill suggests. I object to it altogether. The rebellion in Dublin was a Government connived at rebellion. It was the rebellion of Sir Matthew Nathan and his political friends who deliberately allowed the rebellion to come to a head after they had got notice, notice, and notice days in advance of the intention to create disturbance in the city. They deliberately held their hands because they thought that it was going to be a small business involving only the death of four or five people. It is your rebellion; it is not our rebellion. It is the Nathan rebellion. I say so deliberately. I have said it before and I say it again. It was a monstrous thing to constitute a Committee, as you did, of three men, ignorant, so far as our country is concerned—Lord Hardinge, Mr. Justice Shearman, and the other gentleman whose name I have forgotten—to go over and probe into matters that would require thirty years' experience of Ireland to understand.
2116 The pledge of the Prime Minister has been faithfully kept by the appointment of Sir William Goulding's Committee. What will be the effect of passing this Bill? It is intended to give £250,000 or £750,000— I do not know which is the right sum; I had expected that the right hon. Gentleman would have stated it—and you are going to put that £750,000 loan on to the overburdened ratepayers of Dublin, including these very shopkeepers, so that their houses may be beautified in some special manner, involving increased valuation, with increased rates and increased Income Tax, all out of their own pockets. It is feeding the dog with a bit of its own tail. The effect will be this: Sir William. Goulding's Committee, as in everything else, has got one Irishman and two Englishmen on it. It has got two London fire assessors. I think that is the right word. These fire assessors have been appointed by the Treasury, and, of course, as is their duty, they wish to confine and cut down the loss which will fall upon the Treasury to the very smallest amount at which they can compute it. Pass this Bill and tell these British fire assessors who are a majority on the Committee that £750,000 is going to be shouldered by the ratepayers of Dublin, and I venture to say that they will cut down their Grants three-quarters. That is our experience of the Treasury. This is a Bill to throw three-quarters of a million on the citizens of Dublin, and to that extent it is in ease of the British Treasury. This Bill therefore, so far from being a fulfilment of the pledge of the Prime Minister, is rather an incision upon it; it is nibbling at the pledge.
There is one thing wanting. You want legislation which will provide that the money which the Treasury is going to grant shall be expended on the site. That is absolutely necessary, because, as at present advised, a man might get £50,000 from the Goulding Committee and he might go off to America with it, if the Government gave him a passage. There is no provision whatever that this money, once granted, shall be laid out upon the site. That provision is missing from the Bill, and I am rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, the delicacy of whose position I fully recognise, did not advert to that state of affairs. The first amendment necessary is that money given by the Government shall be laid out in bricks and mortar. That is absolutely essential. The next essential is that there should be something in the nature of an 2117 approach to what I may call the corporation position. The corporation, whatever its defect for the moment may be, is justly entitled to have some say as to the character of the buildings that are to be erected. If anybody can show me that in these by-laws which I have here an amendment is necessary, I will gladly assent to it, but I would respectfully demur from the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion and say that is not the best solution. I will give him a suggestion.
§ 5.0 P.M.
Let me make this suggestion: We have had three stages, as shown by Statute, in the taking of land. I take, for instance, the Labourers Act. You first had your local inquiry; next there was an apeal to the Privy Council; and then you came to Parliament. We were forced, the Local Government Board were forced, and the Conservative party were forced, to drop the appeal to Parliament because of its expense. I remember once, in the county of Waterford, an owner objecting to a Mass path being taken from him, and the whole question of a Mass path is a short right-of-way to go to church on Sunday. Because a Noble Lord objected to it, it had to be discussed here thirty years ago, with the result that the expenditure was so great that we abolished Parliament in connection with the taking of land. The next stage was that we substituted the Irish Privy Council for Parliament, and gave that Parliamentary power. That was even then too expensive. The labourers objected, and said that the Privy Council consisted of persons none of whom were of their own class, and did not give them sufficient consideration; and the Privy Council was dropped. Accordingly, now the appeal lies, and lies only, to the County Court judge. In this case of Dublin, what I would suggest is this: The present Recorder of the city regards himself as the city judge, and I think quite properly. The corporation own, repair, and beautify his Court in Green Street, and I have always heard him say that he was most fairly treated by the corporation, and he regards himself as the corporation judge. The citizens, as a body, 2118 also have confidence in him, and between the corporation and the citizens I believe the present Recorder of Dublin would be regarded as the person whose view might fairly be accepted. He is an old citizen of Dublin, and I, for my part, would be quite willing that the appeal from the Local Government Board should lie to the Recorder of Dublin in case that conflict arose. To put upon us the additional delay of coming here to Parliament involving us in counsel, and all the questions of Standing Orders, I think, would be to place an intolerable burden and knapsack on the shoulders of these burnt-out shopkeepers.
With respect, I must say that the owners of property do not know as much about coming to Parliament as I do. No doubt it will operate in one sense. I quite see their point—it is like the warnings on the fields, "Keep off the Grass,"—"Trespassers will be prosecuted."