MR. J. COWEN
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If, when the Government agreed to recommend Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Irish Land Act of 1870, he was aware that the Royal Commission appointed last year to inquire into the causes and extent of the present agricultural distress was already conducting inquiries as to the operation of the Land Act; that two Assistant Commissioners had been collecting evidence on the subject for some months past; that a preliminary report from these Commissioners had been received and printed; that Professor Baldwin and Major Robertson had been examined at great length by the Commissioners; that arrangements had been made by the Commissioners to open an inquiry at Dublin on Monday first; that witnesses whose examinations will occupy several days have been invited and have engaged to be present at that time; and, whether he will persevere in recommending to Her Majesty to appoint a new Royal Commission to institute inquiries of the same description in Ireland as those now being carried out by the existing Commission, as such appointment might be calculated to impart a partisan character to an investigation that ought to be impartial and judicial?
Sir, in answer to the Question of my hon. Friend, I may state, without entering into the various details which the hon. Member has put into the Preamble, that we were perfectly aware that inquiries into the 199 working of the Land Act were within the scope of the instructions given to the Royal Commission on Agriculture; and, further, that the Royal Commission on Agriculture either had begun, or was about to take—had, in fact, taken preliminary steps, and was about to take further steps, for entering upon the execution of that part of its Commission; but I am by no means able to say that we recede in any respect from our intention to recommend to Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Irish Land Act of 1870, and the reason why we intend to take that step is this. In the first place, that we think that the gravity of the circumstances attending the condition of the Irish population in certain parts of Ireland at the present moment is such as to require attention from a Royal Commission, which should be immediate, and entire, and undivided. We think it quite impossible for the existing Royal Commission to fulfil those conditions without sacrificing to them its other equally important duties in a multitude of other particulars; and, therefore, in no spirit of disrespect or want of confidence in the existing Royal Commission, we have thought it right to take those proceedings for the purpose of obtaining, at the earliest possible moment, the most authentic information on a subject so important as the condition of Ireland. This intention was communicated by me to the Duke of Richmond, as head of the Commission, yesterday morning; and the Duke of Richmond made known the intentions of the Government to the Commission at its meeting yesterday.