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Irish Reproductive Loan Fund Act (1874) Amendment Bill

Volume 280: debated on Wednesday 27 June 1883

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( Mr. Blake, Mr. O'Kelly, Dr. Commins, Mr. T. P. O' Connor.)

[BILL 39.] SECOND READING.

Order for Second Reading read.

, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the Bill made no change in the principle of the existing law, and was only intended to remove a technical difficulty, which had impeded the application of portion of the fund in the counties of Roscommon and Tipperary. It was the residue of a charitable fund given to certain Irish counties many years ago; but Roscommon and Tipperary, owing to the wording of the Act of 1874, had never been able to derive any benefit from it. The Bill proposed to confer on local bodies in these two counties the power of lending the fund to those persons who might apply for loans for works of public utility; and this would be done under guarantees which would be taken for repayment, and after the Board of Works in Ireland had sanctioned the loans. There would, therefore, be an efficient guarantee that no loans would be improperly contracted. He begged to move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. O'Kelly.)

, in moving the Adjournment of the Debate, said that even if no other objection existed, the fact that the Bill had only been placed in the hands of Members that morning, and that a copy was not obtainable at a quarter past 12, was a sufficient reason for refusing to read it now a second time. There were, however, other grave objections to it. He was bound to admit that there was a sum of money lying idle belonging to Roscommon and Tipperary which it would be better to utilize for works of public benefit; and if the Bill before the House proposed to entrust that money to bodies which would employ it for the benefit of those counties, he would not be prepared to resist it. But it was proposed to entrust it to the Town Commissioners. If the fund were applied to the counties it would benefit his own tenants in Roscommon most of all. But, so far as he could see, it was only to be utilized for the benefit of the boroughs, which in Roscommon would be Boyle, Roscommon, and part of Athlone. These Town Commissioners were, no doubt, men of intelligence and respectability; but they were elected on purely political grounds, and not because they understood or cared one particle about the boroughs they represented. But, even supposing they were elected because they understood and cared for the boroughs they represented, he maintained that the money should be employed for the benefit of the entire counties. Under those circumstances, the Town Commissioners were not fit bodies to have the spending of the fund. The authority should be either the Grand Juries or the Boards of Guardians. However, he was not going to oppose the second reading on these grounds. He proposed to move the Adjournment of the Debate, on the ground that the Bill had only been placed in the hands of Members late this morning, although it was ordered to be brought in and printed on February 16.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—( Colonel Bing-Harman.)

said, though there was considerable objection to the course which had been taken in bringing on the Bill for second reading before it had been distributed to Members—

explained that it was through no fault of' his that the Bill had not been distributed. It was in the hands of the printers ten days ago.

said, that being the case, of course there was no blame with the hon. Member. He did not consider, however, that the shortness of the time for consideration was of sufficient importance to induce hon. Members to oppose the Bill. The question was really a very small one, and only affected the interest on two sums of £5,000. The fund, in its present state, was useless. It would be much better that it should be utilized, than that it should continue to lie idle; and what better guarantee could they have for its proper expenditure than the supervision, as proposed, of the Board of Public Works? He hoped his hon. and gallant Friend would withdraw his opposition.

said, he thought the explanation given by his hon. Friend opposite completely exonerated him from any blame as to the delay in the distribution of the Bill. It simply happened that Roscommon and Tipperary, being non-maritime counties, could not participate in the Reproductive Loan Fund; and the Bill proposed to remove this difficulty.

pointed out that the hon. Member could not discuss the Bill on a Motion for Adjournment.

said, he thought that the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly) had fully explained the cause of delay in the printing of the Bill; but experience showed that at this period of the Session a wider margin than 10 days should be given to the printers. He thought the objections made against the Bill were certainly well worthy of attention. It was difficult to speak on the Question of Adjournment without referring to them.

said, he was willing to withdraw his Motion, in order that the Chief Secretary might state what the Government proposed to do.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

thanked the hon. and gallant Member for having withdrawn his Motion for the Adjournment. He might say, as regarded the printing of the Bill, that, so far as the Government were concerned, they were fully informed in the matter, inasmuch as since he became the Irish Secretary several of the Irish Representatives had called his attention to this matter, and the hon. Member for Roscommon had explained to him already the provisions of the measure. It would be, perhaps, under ordinary circumstances, a rudeness on his part to ask the House to accept a Bill which it had not full time to study because the Government had been previously made acquainted with its provisions. However, the hon. and gallant Member for Dublin County (Colonel King-Harman) had not, he thought, given any strong reasons for not adopting the course recommended by the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly). It was quite true that while the fund concerned the counties, it was put forward there in the interest of the towns; but if there was any objection to the Bill in the counties, he was sure the hon. Members for Roscommon and Tipperary would be there to protest against it.

said, the hon. Members must have seen the title of the Bill, as for some time it stood second on the Paper for Wednesday, and they must have informed themselves of its provisions. However, if this was a sum of £100,000 or £50,000 belonging to the counties, the Government would hesitate about supporting the Bill; but, in the present instance, the whole sum concerned for the two counties was a sum of only £10,000, and that sum could not be employed for any purpose until a Bill of this kind was passed. There was no doubt the counties of Roscommon and Tipperary had a clear and absolute right to the enjoyment of that sum; but it should be remembered that it was not now being dealt with in a manner that could not be revoked, and that it was only proposed to deal with it in the shape of loans sanctioned by the Board of Works which should be repaid at a reasonable date. The sum was a very small one, and if it could be divided amongst Boards of Guardians for any purpose of public utility, the Government would hesitate long before rejecting the Bill; but he had consulted several hon. Members in connection with the matter, and they had told him that it could not possibly be applied to any uses other than those suggested by the hon. Member for Roscommon. From the peculiar character of the fishing industries in the maritime counties, the granting of small loans to aid them was, no doubt, a very useful public purpose to which to apply the fund, as it was being at present applied; but he could not find any parallel to such industries in the interior part of the Island; and, under those circumstances, and having regard to the small sum dealt with, and to the fact that the principle involved being one which would not form a precedent in any other case—because he knew no other cases in Ireland similar to it, though his experience in such matters in England was very narrow—having regard to these considerations, and to the general desire of the counties concerned, the Government were prepared to consent to the second reading of the Bill. The details of the Bill were well prepared and carefully drawn, and the only objection he would be inclined to make would be regarding Sub-section 4, Clause 5. Considering that at present 2½ per cent was paid on loans borrowed in this way in the maritime counties, he did not think Parliament would be justified in allowing only 1 per cent to be paid in reference to the loans granted under this Bill. However, he would not make objection now in that direction; but when the Bill was proceeded with on Committee stage he would move to strike out that clause. That was the only objection the Government was inclined to make; and, under those circumstances, they were prepared to consent to the second reading, and, unless there was some very strong argument brought forward against the Bill, he could not help hoping that the House would agree to it.

said, the speech of the Chief Secretary was, no doubt, very reasonable and persuasive in its character. The Bill was not a very large one certainly; and being very small, and therefore to be excused, he was not disposed to keep the House at any great length in dealing with it. He did not think, however, with the Chief Secretary that the title of the Bill was likely to attract the attention of those interested in it. The title was very large, grandiose, and vague, and did not convey any idea of the details to anyone; and he did not suppose there was a person in Roscommon or Tipperary who knew the least about "The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund Act (1874) Amendment Bill." The Chief Secretary admitted that the counties had an absolute right to the benefit of the fund; but, as a matter of fact, under this Bill the counties would have no claim whatever on it. The hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore) rose to support this Bill; but he was not aware, perhaps, that Clonmel was the only town in the two counties excluded from the benefit of the fund. By the 8th clause, which was either—should he say very craftily drawn or unintentionally inserted—Clonmel was excluded, because Clonmel boasted of a Mayor and Corporation, and this Bill related only to towns incorporated under the Towns Improvement Act. He did not intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill; but he thought it would be only fair, before it was further proceeded with, that the Boards of Guardians of Roscommon and Tipperary should have an opportunity, if they desired to get power to borrow from this fund, to make their case before the Bill passed into law. The Guardians might desire to be given the power of making applications to the Local Government Board for loans from this fund; and if that desire was substantially supported by the Guardians he thought it ought to be fairly considered. The Chief Secretary wished to know to what purposes these loans could be applied in the counties. That was a large inquiry, and he did not intend to answer it; but he might say that, under this Bill, the authority to which the power of obtaining loans was given was the urban sanitary authority, while the rural sanitary authority was excluded; and the only definition which the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly) gave of the works to which the money could be applied was works of general utility. Now, one institution which he (Mr. Gibson) would propose in regard to the counties would be the county infirmary. Again, he thought it would be worthy of consideration to insert in the Bill a direction that loans for works of general utility ought to partake of the character of sanitary works, as such works were very much required in Ireland, both in the country districts and the towns. However, he did not intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill, nor did he intend to place any Amendments to it on the Paper.

said, he was quite aware of the point to which the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had called his attention—namely, that Clonmel was excluded from the provisions of the Bill, and he was proceeding to speak with regard to it, when the Speaker called him to Order. The exclusion of Clonmel was merely a technical error, and the hon. Member for Roscommon would have no objection to correct it. [Mr. O'KELLY assented.] This fund was a fund raised by private charity in the years of the Famine, and it was intended that it should be applied to useful purposes in certain counties. Under the Act already passed the maritime countries could participate in the leans granted for fishing purposes; but Tipperary and Roscommon, the two other counties affected, could not share in those benefits. The amount belonging to these two counties was exactly £10,600; and he thought the best way they could discharge their duty to those by whom the fund was originated was that the money should be devoted to charitable as well as industrial purposes. He would suggest respectfully that the fund could not be better employed than in endeavouring to improve the accommodation of the labouring and artizan classes. Such a one would be thoroughly in consonance with the intentions of the subscribers. He thought, too, that it would be well to enlarge the number of the local authorities to whom the right of applying for leans would be granted. He would only add that the hon. Member for Roscommon, in his opinion, deserved great credit for bringing forward so useful and practical a measure.

said, that amongst the other many useful purposes to which this money could be applied would be the helping of young children and orphans at present in the workhouses of the two countries to become useful members of society. These children were usually reared in the workhouse until they were 12 or 14 years of age, and being trained to no sort of industry they became useless when they grew to be men and women. He thought the best possible way to employ some of this money, therefore, would be in apprenticing some of these children to a trade or business, and not allow them, as at present, to become waifs and strays, who, when they became old enough to leave the workhouse, went out into the world only for a short time, to come back again later on much worse than they were at first

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.