§ Order of the Day for the House to go into Committee read.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE moved that the House resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
admitted that great debts had been incurred, and appeared to be irrecoverable in many parts of Ireland, and therefore some remedial measures might be forced on them on the subject. It should be recollected, however, that the great bulk of the debts had been incurred in those parts of Ireland where the landed proprietors had no more control over the expenditure of the advances and the rates than the officers of that House. The great portion of those debts were not to be attributed to the landed proprietors of Ireland, but were incurred under the Labour Rate Act enforced by vice-guardians selected by Government, which empowered the officers of the union to throw heavy charges on the several local districts. The same thing had also occurred under the operation of the Irish poor-law. In some of the more distressed unions the debts had been increased in a most most remarkable degree without the landed proprietors having the slightest influence or control in the matter. According to the papers on the table of the 10 House, the former debt of the union of Ballina was 2,400l., but it was now debited for 21,440l.; the debt of the union of Kilrush was 2,100l., but it had since been debited at 12,000l.; the debt of the union of Listowell was 5,000l., but it had been increased to 12,000l. The whole increase of their debts had been incurred under such circumstances that the landed proprietors had no control over the expenditure. Many of their debts had been contracted at rates of 10 or 20 or 30 per cent above the market charge, for the public works, because the security tendered was bad. And when they were going to transfer a bad into a good security, surely they ought not to be called to pay the same rate. The parishes who undertook these works should be repaid in proportion to what was really expended by them. Such a proceeding would only be a measure of justice. He also objected most strongly to the discretionary power left in the Treasury to declare in what manner the period of payment should be extended, and also to determine when each repayment should be made. There ought to be some regulation in this respect. The Bill also gave a discretionary power to the Treasury to apportion the repayment of these debts among the various electoral divisions and landlords. How such a Bill could have received the assent of the representatives of the people, who were bound to watch over financial matters of this kind, he was utterly at a loss to understand. If the Bill passed in its present shape, it would leave the people of Ireland in a much worse situation than they had hitherto found themselves. This, above all, would be the ease, if, as it appeared, no steps were to be taken for the amendment of the poor-law in Ireland. If they left the cardinal vice without remedy, the present measure would only tend to encourage parties to incur new debts.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
, in reply, alluded to the statement of the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) that a period of forty years was given for the payment of the debts. Twenty years was the term in the Bill originally; but statements were made by the distressed unions, that they could not pay the debts in twenty years, and the time was then extended to forty years. He deprecated delay as to this Bill, which was to provide for advances which were so earnestly called for. The noble Lord had never proposed any other mode of averting the calamity; the present 11 was a mode adopted by Parliament with a perfect knowledge of the machinery to be used. If the people of Ireland were led into an expenditure which was necessarily liable to abuse, under the urgency of the occasion, let it be remembered that this portion of the united kingdom had taken upon itself the whole amount of the expense. It was, undoubtedly, done in a spirit of kindness and liberality, and as such it had been acknowledged in Ireland; as such it had been acknowledged in the other House of Parliament; and as such it would be long calculated to do an act of justice to those persons in Ireland who had endeavoured to meet the calamities of the times by taxing themselves, and imposing on themselves a burden under these different Acts; and to remedy, to a certain extent, the evils of the law which the noble Lord said had been entirely kept out of view. It had not been kept out of view. It was for the purpose of enabling facilities to be granted for the erection of workhouses, that these expenses had been incurred; it was for the purpose of erecting workhouses in many of these instances which the noble Lord had not fairly pointed out as instances of the misconduct of vice-guardians. It was to facilitate the repayment of debts of that kind, that, amongst other objects, this Bill had been introduced, for the purpose of relieving the unions from the debts they had contracted. To repay these persons was only an act of justice. He could give no assurance that the Treasury would abandon the exercise of that discretion which was wisely entrusted to them, of extending the relief from a period of twenty to a period of forty years.
§ On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ Bill Reported; to be read a Third Time on May 16.
§ House adjourned to Thursday next.