HL Deb 29 March 1860 vol 157 cc1471-6

On Motion that the House do go into Committee on the Dwellings for Labouring Classes (Ireland) Bill,


said, he hoped the Bill would be allowed to pass through Committee. He understood the Board of Public Works in Ireland had been consulted, and had stated that they had no objection to the measure, being perfectly satisfied that the Treasury could be guaranteed against the possibility of any abuse of the provisions of the Bill. Looking at some of the objections that had been made against the Bill he thought the matter had been looked at by some in too narrow a spirit. There had been a great diminution of available labour in Ireland owing to the extensive emigration, and the fact that labour was in greater request in other countries; The true remedy against a further diminution was to increase the temptation to the labouring class to remain at home; and no one could doubt that one of the first steps in that direction was to improve their dwellings. This Bill was therefore one step in the right direction. He would mention to their Lordships that the Farmers' Club of the County Westmeath had sent to him a petition, signed by the president, to present to the House in favour of the Bill, which stated, that there were in that county 100,000 dwellings which were valued by the Government valuators at from 5s. to 1s. per annum, and that such dwellings in the majority of instances were wholly unfit for the abode of human beings. He thought their Lordships would see that it was highly important for the country and for the State that something should be done to improve the dwellings of the labouring classes, in order, if possible, to check the emigration which was so regularly going on of the best of those classes. Surely the improvement of the dwellings of the labouring class was as important an object as draining and improving the land.


said, he had seen no reason to change the opinion he had expressed on the first discussion. As to the petition from the Farmers' Club of Westmeath, it was really the petition of only one gentleman, who was quite as peculiar in his opinions as the noble Marquess himself. If new dwelling-houses were built under the Act, who was to keep them in repair? The Board of Works was to provide the machinery of the Bill, but they were not told what that machinery was to be. He was as much convinced of the necessity of improving the dwellings of the labouring class as the noble Marquess; but the object of the Bill seemed to him to be to enable a man who had no house to ask another man to build one for him. Neither was it stated in the Bill whether the improved dwellings were to be built in the streets of towns or on farms. He would not oppose going into Committee, but his opinion of the measure was not changed.


said, that a clause would be proposed in Committee which would meet the objections of the noble Marquess, and also that he had received a letter from Sir R. Griffiths, the Chief Commissioner of the Irish Board of Works, approving of some such arrangements as were provided by the Bill. The Chief Commissioner stated his belief that the general Act under which the Board was constituted gave ample powers to the Treasury to frame any additional regulations as to the application of loans of public money under this Bill; no clause was required to state the manner in which the money should be applied; the power of the Treasury to lay down stringent regulations on the point was sufficient. Under these circumstances he hoped it would be seen that the interests of all parties concerned and those of the landlords of Ireland would be better served by the Bill as it stood rather than by not legislating on the subject.


said, the House, in extending the powers to grant money for the improvement of estates in Ireland, were as fully competent as the Treasury to fix the terms on which those improvements should be undertaken. Any person bearing in mind the object with which the Bill was introduced would admit that no cottages ought to be built for the accommodation of a greater number of labourers than were required for the proper cultivation of the particular estate. He believed the House would therefore do well to adopt a clause empowering the Board of Works to see that no more cottages were built than were absolutely required. The Amendment of which he had given notice was intended to have that effect.


said, that the object of the Bill was very valuable, but thought that the Amendment suggested by the noble Lord who had last addressed them was exceedingly desirable, and if their Lordships would not sanction such a clause he hoped the Treasury would take care that similar restrictions were enforced. He doubted whether the proposed provision went far enough, for it appeared to him not only desirable that the restrictions should be made as to the building of cottages, but that provision should be made for the maintenance of the cottages that were built. The general good sense of the Irish landlords would prevent abuse; but in some cases the landlords might take advantage of the loans for the purpose of building cottages, which they would let at a high rent; but they would also retain the old and worthless habitations which it was the object of this measure to get rid of.


observed that it certainly was most desirable that provision should be made for the mainte- nance of the new cottages to be erected under this Act, for if left to themselves, as was too often the case in Ireland, they would fall into ruin and decay. The removal of the original cottages, which were in most cases mere hovels, fit neither for human nor animal occupation, should be provided for. The Bill he believed to be a most useful measure; but it ought to be accompanied by protective clauses.

House in Committee.

Bill reported without Amendment.

LORD REDESDALE moved a clause giving power to the Board of Works to exercise control over the number of cottages to be erected on the estate. Their maintenance in good repair would be secured in a great degree by the supervision of the officers of the Board of Works, who, as long as there was money to be repaid, would take care that the security was kept in proper order; and, as the repayment was to extend over a period of twenty-two years, the extent to which these buildings would be suffered to want repair could not be very serious. The Board, too, would no doubt take care that the cottages were efficiently maintained, so as to produce a rent adequate as a security for the repayment of the loan. He left the removal of the old buildings altogether at the discretion of the Commissioners of Works, who would be guided by the proportionate increase which might take place in the population.

Amendment moved to Omit the Words ('the Labouring Classes in Ireland,') and insert ('Labourers and their Families in any Case in which it shall appear to the Commissioners for Public Works in Ireland that more or improved Accommodation for such Labourers is required; and the Commissioners, as the Condition of such Loan, shall require existing Dwellings to be removed, if they shall consider such Removal expedient, and shall not sanction the Erection of any greater Number of Dwellings by means of such Loan than they shall consider sufficient for the Accommodation of the Labourers required for the proper Cultivation of the Estate on which any such Loan is to be advanced, or of the Portion of such Estate on which such Dwellings are to be erected.")


complained that the principle was about to be departed from of making the money expended on these estates reproductive.


said, those who were interested in the passing of this measure looked for its re-productiveness to the increased comfort which it would bestow on the labouring class. It was very desirable to know what amount still remained at the disposal of the Board of Works, for he had been informed some time ago that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to sanction the re-issue of money which had been repaid to the Commissioners, or was in course of repayment, unless a fresh Parliamentary grant were made for the purpose.


expressed a hope that there would be a report from the, Board of Works setting forth the effect in Ireland of the loan as hitherto applied; because he thought it would appear from such a document that the Board of Works had done its duty, that the landlords and tenants for life of the property had also done their duty, and that the Loan Act had been altogether of the greatest utility to Ireland. He objected to the proposed clause, because it would unnecessarily fetter the discretion of the Commissioners, and because it would be sure to occasion objection in the other House of Parliament.


supported the clause, which would, he thought, constitute a useful rule for the guidance of the Commissioners of the Board of Works.


said, he had made inquiries on the subject, and he had found that there was a sum of money under the old Loan Act, which would be applicable for this purpose, if the Bill were passed. He objected to the proposed clause, because to enact this restriction without others, would be to say to the Commissioners, that this was the only restriction imposed upon them; whereas there were many other rules by which they ought equally to be bound. He hoped, therefore, that under the circumstances their Lordships would not agree to the clause proposed by his noble Friend.


said, that he had not any property in Ireland, and he must confess he was very ignorant of the particular points to which reference had been made in the observations that had been addressed to their Lordships. He had, however, listened to the remarks made by noble Lords connected with Ireland, and they seemed to be pretty equally divided. He should, under these circumstances, act as he would if the question was one which related to England; and if his noble Friend (Lord Redesdale) divided the House, he should vote with him. He should do so on this ground, that when agreements of this sort were entered into, they ought to be made as perfect and com- plete as possible, and that as little discretion as possible ought to be left in any body of Commissioners, or any body whatever. When loans were granted they could not be too explicit in stating how and why, those loans were advanced, and why and how they were to be expended. He did not doubt the accuracy of the noble Duke's statement, that the matter which he proposed to leave in the hands of the Treasury would be perfectly safe in their hands, but on principle he thought they ought not to trouble the Treasury with the exercise of the discretion which the noble Duke proposed to vest in them.

On Question, that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 24; Not-Contents 26: Majority 2.

Newcastle, D. Lyveden, L.
Somerset, D. Methuen, L.
Pensonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Clarendon, E.
De Grey, E. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Ducie, E.
Grey, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Saint Germans, E. Stewart of Stewart's Court, L. (M. Londonderry.)
Vane, E.
Eversley, V. Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Sydney, V.
Sundridge, L. (D. Argyll.)
Clarendon, E.
Cranworth, L. Truro, L.
De Tabley, L. Wodehouse, L.
Foley, L. [Teller.]
Bath, M. [Teller.] Dungannon, V. [Teller.]
Salisbury, M.
Westmeath, M. Broderick, L. (V. Middleton.)
Amherst, E. Chelmsford, L.
Carnarvon, E. Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.)
Cathcart, E. Colchester, L.
Lucan, E. Denman, L.
Malmesbury, E. Digby, L.
Powis, E. Downes, L.
Stanhope, E. Egerton, L.
Verulam, E. Redesdale, L.
Wicklow, E. Saltoun, L.
Winton, E. [E. Eglintoun.] Templemore, L.
Wynford, L.

Words struck out; other words inserted; Clause, as amended, agreod to: Bill to be read 3a on Monday next.

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