HL Deb 23 May 1822 vol 7 cc725-8

The bill having been read a first time,

The Marquis of Lansdown

said, he was not friendly to the suspension of the standing orders of the House for the purpose of accelerating the progress of bills, but under the special circumstances of the present bill, having for its object, the immediate relief of a considerable portion of the population of Ireland now labouring under the most sever distress, and recollecting also that at the commencement of the session the standing orders were suspended for the purpose of passing with greater rapidity measures for their coercion, he thought this was a case in which their lordships might be fairly called upon to suspend these orders, for the purpose of enabling this bill to be passed at once through its different stages.

Lord King

had no doubt that their lordships would willingly give their consent to this measure, tardy and inefficient as it was. In the distressed districts of Ireland, a million of people were said to be in a state of absolute starvation; and this bill proposed to lay out 50,000l. in giving them employment. That was a sum which, if fairly distributed, would only be a shilling a piece for each distressed individual. But it was not too much to suppose that a considerable part of the sum would be intercepted in its progress, and be lost on jobs. There was nothing done in Ireland without a job. Much offence had been taken in another place at a learned persons declaration, that the landlords of Ireland were rapacious; but it was not merely of the landlords that the people of Ireland had to complain. The learned person might have spoken also of the rapacity of the church of Ireland, and of the government of Ireland.

The Earl of Limerick

was surprised that the noble lord should choose such a moment for repeating any exasperating language, which might have been used in another place. For his part, he would assert that, whoever had cast on the landlords of Ireland the charge of rapacity, such charge was not founded in fact. There were, undoubtedly, some rapacious landlords in Ireland, and so there were in England. As to jobbing, it was most unfair to apply it exclusively to Ireland; for if the public money was to be laid out in England some of it would find its way into the pockets of those who were not intitled to it. What had been done in this country for the relief of Ireland was most generous, and would, he doubted not, have a powerful influence in the work of conciliation.

Lord King

protested that he had not held exasperating language. The whole object of what he had stated, was to show that all had not been done which ought to be done in so pressing a case. Those who had caused the evil ought to be more liberal in relieving it. The sum given by the bill was too little to afford any substantial relief to the suffering people of Ireland.

The Earl of Blesington

denied that there was any foundation for the charge of rapacity, as applied generally to the landlords of Ireland. With regard to the bill, it was a measure highly satisfactory to him, though he trusted that it would be followed by other measures for the relief of the suffering people of Ireland.

The Earl of Liverpool

said, that under the special circumstances of the case, he was induced to support the bill; it being, in his opinion, objectionable in principle. The general principle acted upon in England was, to leave public works, such as roads, canals, &c. to individual or joint speculation, it being well understood, that under such a system, individuals were induced, for the sake of their own interest: to a careful superintendence, and a more economical expenditure of money in consequence took place. As to the objection, that the relief was of small amount, it was only necessary for him to say, that it was considered, enough for the present exigency, and that there would be ample time to apply a further sum for the same purpose if the present should be found insufficient.

The Marquis of Downshire

regarded the measure as merely temporary, and trusted that government would look a little deeper into the state of Ireland. The great cause of the discontents in that country he considered to be the state of the law respecting tithes. He concurred in every thing that had been said on that Subject by a noble duke, (Devonshire) previous to the recess. The revision of the tithe system was indispensable, for nothing could be worse adapted to the situation of the country. He was himself a great proprietor of tithes, but he was willing to make almost any sacrifice to get rid of a system fraught with such injurious consequences to agriculture, and productive of so much discontent.

The. Earl of Darnley

was sensible of the hardships of the tithe system, but considered the want of employment to be the great cause of the present distress in Ireland. He wished that what was now done had been done sooner, and thought that it would have been more gracious to vote as much for the suffering people of Ireland as parliament had done for the Russians, Spaniards, and Portuguese. With respect to landlords in Ireland, he disclaimed any thing like a system of oppression on their part.

The Marquis of Lansdown

gave notice, that if no measure of a more permanent nature should be brought forward, he would shortly call their lordships attention to the situation of Ireland, with the view of proposing some measure having for its object to promote the happiness, and secure the conciliation of the people.

The bill went through all its stages, and was passed.