§ The EARL of MINTO, moved that the Bill be now read 2a.
§ The DUKE of NEWCASTLE
, though he would not oppose the second reading, thought that the Bill was open to serious objections. He did not complain of the advance of public money for the purpose proposed, being fully aware of the distress which existed in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and of the praiseworthy manner in which many of the landowners had exerted themselves to alleviate it; but his objection to the Bill was, that it diverted from their proper channel funds which had been voted in previous Sessions for the purpose of promoting the drainage of lands in Great Britain and Ireland. He did not believe that there would have been any objection to a distinct grant for the purpose now proposed; but he was sure that 1843 the other House of Parliament would not have sanctioned this diversion of the public funds if attention had been drawn to it earlier in the Session.
The DUKE of ARGYLL
agreed, that it would have been bettor if a distinct grant had been taken for this purpose; but though he admitted that this money had been voted for promoting the drainage of lands, yet he thought that the noble Duke had put the case somewhat too strongly. If they came to the principle of the thing, it was very questionable whether the advancing of money merely for improving land was quite justifiable; but this particular loan had acquired a completely new feature in consequence of the distress which had arisen in Ireland. For a long period no one had taken advantage of the loan; but when that distress arose, it was found to be an important auxiliary means of alleviating it, and an additional sum had been advanced for the purpose. He thought that the loan was only justified by the distress; and he could not recognise the principle that Government should lend money to landowners any more than to others engaged in business, unless there was great distress existing.
§ Bill read 2a.