The EARL of RADNOR
observed, that the number of persons employed on the relief works in Ireland was now 668,000, being an increase of 40 per cent in the number. He wished to ask if Government had any idea that the number would be diminished. What was to become of them if this system should go on to October or November?
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
was not in the least surprised at the question put by his noble Friend, and the great anxiety he had expressed as to the subject, in which anxiety he entirely concurred. It undoubtedly was the intention of Her Majesty's Government, and had been so stated by them to Parliament, that as far as practicable reproductive works should be set on foot, and that the relief works should be not abruptly, but gradually, discontinued. The only reason for that course not having been yet acted upon to the extent to which it was desirable, was the increasing destitution of Ireland by the increase of scarcity, and the absolute failure of any other means of support, combined with the difficulty, or rather impossibility, of carrying at once into operation those other measures which it was hoped by Government and Parliament would operate in some degree as a substitute. One of those Bills was only just passed; and he could assure his noble Friend that no time would be lost in Ireland in carrying the new system into operation, with a view to afford such relief as could be immediately given. Positive instructions had been sent to the local government in Ireland, enjoining the discontinuing of those works; that none should be commenced except under the most urgent circumstances; and that if any particular work was so commenced, an immediate report should be made expressing the grounds of the undertaking. He did therefore feel confident, that at no distant period there would be a diminution in the amount of men employed on those works. Though it was undoubtedly true, that any system of relief 897 which could be introduced into Ireland would be subject to abuse, yet the system now to be established would be one more capable of control, less liable to abuse, more easily watched, than the one to which his noble Friend had called their Lordships' attention. He could only say, that he should be obliged to his noble Friend to continue his attention to this subject, because it was one of great importance.
could only say, that he entertained the same hope with his noble Friend opposite, which he trusted would not be frustrated by the result. But his fear, as well as that of his noble Friend near him, was that it would. His great fear was, as he had constantly stated since the beginning of the Session, that they had got into a plan, the necessary and inevitable consequence of which was, that it could not stop where it was, but must go on.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHEL
remarked, that the noble Lord (the Earl of Radnor) could not surely be aware of the present state of Ireland, or he would not have spoken as he had done. It was impossible that the landowners could diminish the enormous expense which they were at present incurring in the execution of relief works, however much it was their interest to do it; for they found themselves compelled to bring in presentations for more works, in order to provide employment for the people to prevent them from starving. When they saw the people falling dead on the roads—when they found contagion spreading not only in the cabins of the poor, but among every class of society—when they saw these things occurring, it was impossible to put a stop suddenly to the means which had hitherto been adopted of supporting the people in their present distress. Besides, there were certain public works which had been presented for, and which were not finished; and the money which had been already expended on the progress of these works would be thrown away, if the works were not continued. Many roads in the south of Ireland were in this condition, and the number of persons employed on them could not well be diminished until they were completed. And, even if they were finished, what was to be done with these poor people until other means were found for supporting them?
The EARL of RADNOR
hoped that none of their Lordships had misunderstood him, as the noble Earl seemed to have done. 898 He spoke of Ireland in regard to this matter, only as he would of Yorkshire.
§ Amendments reported.