Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That the Bill be now read the third time."
Mr. SHEEHAN: Whilst I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Chief Secretary on having introduced the Bill, I believe it does not go far enough to satisfy the demands of the labourers. The Chief Secretary thinks that £1,000,000 will be sufficient to complete the housing of the working population. I am satisfied, from my own experience and knowledge of the labouring population, and the numbers who are still unhoused, that it will require far more than this before you complete the beneficent work of housing our workers in happiness and comfort on their native soil. I should have wished a larger amount of money could be secured. Anybody who, like myself, lived in the country twenty-five or thirty years ago, and who knew the wretched conditions of the labourers' dwellings at the time, must feel pleasure and gratification in knowing that at the present time we are in a fair way of having 50,000 labourers in happy homes, where they will be able to rear their families in comfort and cheerfulness.
I hope it is not too much to expect that in this Session or next Session we will be able to introduce an amending Bill to correct many of the defects which exist in previous Acts. The way I look upon the matter is this: For every house you build you are keeping a family in the country and rooting them to the soil. The labourers in this matter owe their salvation to themselves and to their organisation when they won the Labourers Act of 1906. The transformation effected in rural Ireland has been of the most marvellous kind. Anyone who remembers the state of things in the country ten years ago, and who now sees the rural districts dotted all over with happy homesteads — the squalid cabins in which people formerly lived having been removed – and who sees the bright and happy conditions which have replaced the griminess and misery of other days, must feel that we have made a great advance all along the line in this matter. I am glad to say that, under the schemes which have been lately promoted by district councils village communities are being formed more and more. The labouring people are in this way brought together, and they are enabled to enjoy social amenities and an environment which they had not before.
I believe this measure will be the means of extending that practice in many directions. In that way this House will have assisted in laying the foundation of a sturdy and independent working class in our country, who will work with cheerfulness, knowing that they will have a stake in the land. We take this measure for what it is worth, and to me it is worth a great deal in the increased comfort and happiness it will bring to our people. You are not only building cottages, but you are building up the natural character of the people. You are not only increasing the material comfort of the people, but you are lifting up the tone of their human life. I welcome the measure, and I wish it God-speed, because I believe it will add a great deal to the happiness of the labouring poor.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read the third time and passed.