§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
, in rising to move for—A Return showing the working of the Labourers (Ireland) Act up to the 31st of May, 1888—(1) number of cottages already completed: (2) actual cost of cottages already completed, exclusive of preliminary expenses and law costs: (3) preliminary expenses and law costs 626 —(a) expenses incurred by Local Government Board; (b) expenses incurred by Boards of Guardians (including medical report, architects' fees, solicitors' costs, expenses of defending appeals against cottages authorized, and miscellaneous expenses): (4) number of cottages occupied: (5) number of cottages occupied and not paying rent: (6) number of cottages let to evicted tenants: (7) number of cottages in which persons in receipt of outdoor relief are resident: (8) trades or occupations of persons in occupation of cottages: (9) highest and lowest weekly rents charged: and (10) number of cottages condemned by the sanitary or local authority (and in lieu of which new cottages have been erected), but which are still inhabited,said, that the Returns moved for in the House of Commons were not sufficiently explicit owing to the complicated nature of the Labourers Acts. In 1885 Her Majesty's Government brought in an Act with the object of making the Act of 1883 workable. He had the honour of introducing that Act, and he was extremely sorry that he did so, for a worse Act never was passed. It opened the way to any amount of jobbery. The Boards of Guardians had the administration of the Act in their hands, and they administered it as only Irish Boards of Guardians could. It was reported to him that the Act had been worked entirely for political purposes. If a man happened to be a Land Leaguer, or, which was the same thing, a National Leaguer, he could always obtain a cottage, but even if he were the best labourer in Ireland and not a National Leaguer he had no chance. A noble Lord, a Member of their Lordships' House, had informed him that a Guardian had stood up at a meeting of a Board, of which he (the noble Lord) was a member, against a proposal of this kind, in order to put a stop to some jobbery, and be heard two men say, "We will put two cottages upon him." That was the way this Act was worked. Then, the salaries under this Act were enormous. First, the clerks of the Union, who were a hardworking body of men, had very large salaries, but they did a great amount of work and he did not object to their being well paid for it. But, then, there was the medical Inspectors, who, he thought, might very well do this extra work without any extra salary. Then they had a solicitor attached to some Boards of Guardians for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act, and in addition to that they had for the erection 627 of these labourers' cottages an architect, and it could well be imagined how the ratepayers' money was being spent. Many cottages were unoccupied, and, in many cases, the sites selected were very inconvenient. He had heard of cottages being built on land where no labourers were required. He was informed, too, that some cottages were occupied without any rent being paid, which was only to be expected when the Guardians themselves taught the people not to pay rent. Then, he had heard that some of these cottages were let to evicted tenants; he had heard, too, that some of them were let—but he hoped it might not be true—to persons in receipt of outdoor relief, for that was a direct breach of the law. Most careful definitions had been laid down of who was a labourer, yet he was told that these cottages were often let to men who did not pretend to be labourers. Again, he was told, and, in fact, he knew from experience, that the landlords had not received anything like the value of the land on which the cottages were built. It was proposed by the Act of 1885 that the landlord should let the land for 99 years to the Board of Guardians, and the Sub-Commissioners were to fix what the rent was to be, but the rent that was fixed was often perfectly ridiculous. In the case of a purchase the landlord in many cases received neither the purchase money nor the interest on it. Not only had these Acts been a great injury to the landlords, but he was told that the National Leaguers themselves who administered the Acts had become extremely dissatisfied with them, and spoke of them as most injurious to their interests. They did not recognize that the failure of these Acts was due to their own administration of them. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would grant the Return he moved for, because, if he was correct in the information he had received, it was necessary that their Lordships should know how these Acts were administered.
Moved, That there be laid before the House—
Return showing the working of the Labourers (Ireland) Acts up to the 31st day of May, 1888:
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (Earl CADOGAN)
said, there was no objection on the part of the Government to the Return moved for, and it would be granted in the form in which it stood on the Paper.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
asked their Lordships what other result could they expect from such legislation than the natural consequences—namely, jobbery, extravagance, and the robbery of landlords, of which the noble Marquess had so justly complained. Such a Return as that moved for would be useful in the study of the question of Local Government. But he thought his noble Friend had omitted one point. He would suggest that an 11th point should be added, asking for the total profits or loss to the ratepayers.
§ EARL CADOGAN
said, he could not, without Notice, promise to give the Return suggested by the noble Earl.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Return ordered to be laid before the House.