§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. W. E. Forster.)
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would abandon his intention of proceeding with that stage of the Bill at present, because he thought the Irish Members should have an opportunity of considering the situation and line of action they proposed with regard to the Bill. It was important they should know the 300 intention of. Government in the matter, both as regarded the interests of Ireland and the saving of the time of the House. If they were compelled to go into a premature discussion upon the Committee stage of that Bill at that moment, they might be obliged to give the debate an extent and a tendency which they might find themselves in a position to avoid hereafter. The course of the Government, in any case, was unusual. The second reading of the Bill was taken last night after full and fair time had been allowed for its consideration, and then the Committee stage was put down for to-day, without affording any time to Members to place Amendments upon the Notice Paper. He saw, however, that some Members, endowed with greater activity than the generality of Irish Members, did succeed, in the five minutes that had elapsed between the second reading and the rising of the House, in placing some Amendments upon the Notice Paper; but a very large number of Amendments which had been prepared by the Irish Members it was utterly impossible to place on the Paper. It had always been the custom of the House to take the Motion for going into Committee on a Bill at a time when it was possible that Amendments might appear on the Notice Paper; but by the present action of the Government they were entirely debarred from the advantages which the Rules of the House usually afforded to Members. He thought it would be a course that would be convenient to the House to postpone the Committee on the Bill, and he asked that that should be done in the interests of Ireland. It would be in the recollection of the House that on the second reading of the Land Act Bill introduced by his hon Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), the Government received it in a friendly spirit, and there was nothing that took place at that time that could have led the House to suppose that the Government intended subsequently to oppose it; but, after a week or so, in obedience to a pressure of a section behind the Government, the Chief Secretary for Ireland announced, without waiting to hear the reasons that might be urged in debate, that the Government could not accede to the second reading of the Bill, and stated that it was intended to amend the present measure for the re- 301 lief of the Irish distress by the introduction of a supplementary clause giving power to County Court Judges to award compensation for eviction. The Notice of the introduction of the clause involved a very important change in the policy of the Government as regarded the relief of the distress in Ireland. It was true that the distress in Ireland could not be satisfactorily relieved without some amendment of the law between landlord and tenant; but they found in the vacillation that had marked the Government in the conduct of this matter a want of firmness, a want of belief that they had any force behind them on which they could rely, because, in obedience to the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. Chaplin), the Government could change their policy, and abandon their intention of introducing the clause that had been announced. He found now that the subject intended to have been introduced in the Bill by the Government was to be brought forward in a fresh Bill, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had given Notice. All they knew was that he had given Notice of it, though no further guarantee in respect of it. They had no surety that in a few days the right hon. Gentleman would not come and announce that owing to the pressure of Public Business he felt unable to proceed with the Bill. If they allowed the present Bill to go through without some assurance that the other Bill would not be abandoned, they might be left entirely in the lurch. Under all these circumstances, in view of all these changes of front on the part of the Government, three in number during the last three or four days, he thought the Irish Members should be afforded an opportunity of meeting together and considering what policy they would adopt on the Committee stage of the Irish Belief Bill; whether they would permit it to go through on the vague assurance they had received from the Government of the introduction of another measure of the terms of which they knew nothing, or Whether they would adopt some special course. He had seen enough already to be able to indicate that it would be a saving of the time of the House to afford the Irish Members the opportunity they asked for. Even without the very exceptional circumstances he had mentioned, they 302 were entitled by the ordinary practice of the House to more than 12 hours' Notice of the Committee stage of that important measure. The constituencies represented felt very deeply upon the matter, and would not be satisfied unless the course he proposed were adopted. He could understand the difficulties under which the Government laboured in dealing with any Irish question; he could understand that they had a majority that was not well acquainted with the condition of affairs in Ireland—not so well acquainted as even the Chief Secretary for Ireland himself—and that those difficulties only made it more difficult for the Chief Secretary to carry out his views as to what was right and proper for the government of Ireland. At the same time, the Irish Members had their difficulties; and they felt that they must stand firm in respect to this question, that they should lose no opportunity of pressing their views upon the House for endeavouring to revise the practice that formerly existed with respect to Irish affairs, and of trying to strengthen the Chief Secretary for Ireland in his good intentions with regard to the good government of the country he had adopted. He trusted, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would consent to postpone the present stage of that important measure until they had a further opportunity of considering what course they should adopt. There was no particular hurry about the matter, because the money Parliament was asked to grant was not going to buy bread for a single person wanting it in Ireland, and, as regarded the fishery piers, any period of the season would do as well for the passing of the measure. Therefore, he would ask the Chief Secretary to postpone the Committee stage of the Bill until they had an opportunity of seeing the other Relief of Distress in Ireland Bill which it was proposed to introduce, and of ascertaining whether the Government really intended to press it forward. He moved, therefore, the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. ParnelL)
said, that the remarks of the hon. Member were doubtless inspired by admirable motives, which, however, had to be stated somewhat 303 plainly in order to be discoverable in the general object of his speech. He was glad to hear that the hon. Member wished to strengthen the hands of the Government, but should not have inferred from the previous part of his speech that he had any such intention. He should, therefore, take no notice of the contentious portions of the hon. Member's speech, whether as regarded his comments on the action of the Government or on the prejudices which he ascribed to the majority sitting on that side of the House. The hon. Member had referred to one subject on which it was necessary that he should say a word or two. The hon. Member had stated that there was no fixity of purpose with regard to the supplemental clauses of the Bill, and that he did not know whether or not they were to be abandoned. The hon. Gentleman would be best satisfied with the reality of the intentions of the Chief Secretary for Ireland when he observed that the right hon. Gentleman had given Notice at the earliest time in his power—namely, tonight—for the introduction of the Bill. If he allowed the Bill to be read a first time to-night, it would, in the usual course, be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow morning. As they were pledged to assign next Tuesday morning for the consideration of the subject, the Chief Secretary would put the Bill down for that day. The hon. Member, therefore, would have the earliest opportunity of testing the views and intentions of the Government in the matter. With regard to the particular Bill before the House, the view of his right hon. Friend and the Government was that its main object was to fulfil the engagements and to redeem the pledges of the late Government, and they inferred from that fact that the main discussion upon it would be taken in Committee. His right hon. Friend had added two clauses on points he regarded as subsidiary; but, in proposing to take the Committee immediately after the second reading, his right hon. Friend was really proceeding on the principle he had stated. He was quite aware", however, that it would not be just and fair to the Irish Members to force on them a discussion of the clauses. He thought the hon. Gentleman himself last night expressed an opinion that it would be perfectly allowable to take the Committee to-day. [Mr. PARNELL dissented.] The hon. Member would see that on 304 account of all these Irish questions they had really consigned to virtual suspension the rest of the Business of the House. Last night they devoted to a debate on the second reading; they had appropriated to-day to the Committee; and on Tuesday morning they were pledged to take into consideration and ask the decision of the House upon the matter proposed by his right hon. Friend with regard to ejectments. If he understood the hon. Gentleman to speak on behalf of himself and hon. Members near him, the Government would be content if Mr. Speaker were allowed to leave the Chair; but he was not prepared at present to name a day for taking the clauses.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that, after the very satisfactory and kind statement of the Prime Minister, he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, that the difficulties in the progress of this measure ought to be very instructive to Her Majesty's Government, and teach them that when they proposed to deal with the question of the Land in Ireland their proposals ought to be of a definite character. The Government had adopted, in the construction of the Bill, the policy of their Predecessors, which appeared to be a policy of give and take, only that the giving was to the class that were in the least in need of it— namely, the landlord class. He merely made that remark because he thought the occasion called for it. In order to fulfil the promise which he made a while ago, and to justify the Notice which he gave when the right hon. Gentleman replied to him as to Irish piers and harbours, he wished to point out the great defect observable in reference to those relief measures in Ireland. There was not a single official board in Ireland that had learned the alphabet of its business —not one of them. They were simply nominations of individuals who, in the main, had no practical knowledge whatever of the subjects with which they had been charged. If the Belief Bill was to bring any advantage of an independent or substantial character to the people of Ireland, it would be the business of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to see that the provisions of the 305 Bill were properly carried out by the Board of Works and the other authorities, without whose action the provisions of the Bill were useless. A clause in the Bill proposed to set apart the sum of £30,000 as a contribution in aid of the construction of piers and harbours in Ireland. There was a relief measure, something that was to revive the fishing industry, and what did it amount to? A paltry £30,000, as he was informed, was the sum of money already due to the Irish fisheries in consequence of the non-payment of an annual sum of £5,000. Under these circumstances, and in view of the fact that after putting two Questions to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, allowing a week's interval between each Question, and finding that he could discover no official evidence of that Departmental Committee having done any work, he was entitled to say it was an insult to the intelligence of the people to see the delay in putting those provisions before the House. He would not resume his seat without saying that he joined in the complaint that had been made by several Irish Members that the late Government and the present Government had drawn on the Irish Church Surplus Fund as the means of meeting the prevailing distress in Ireland. When the Vote of £750,000 was passed on the Relief Bill of last year, everyone in Europe and America thought it represented a generous contribution from Her Majesty's Government, that it was the wealthy people of England and Scotland, and the Exchequer of the Empire, that handed out that large sum; and he remembered reading some foreign newspapers which applauded the English Government for their magnificent generosity. But what were the facts? The fact was, that the magnanimous Government had put their hands into the pockets of the Irish Fund; and then posed before Europe and America as models of Christian benevolence. He mentioned that, to show that if he had been disposed to embarrass the Government in the slightest degree he, as well as other Members, had sufficient cause for complaint. Like his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork, he was disposed to place a great deal of reliance on the statesmanship of the Irish Chief Secretary. What was he to think of the 306 machinery behind the right hon. Gentleman? What was he to think of the officials in Dublin? When the right hon. Gentleman came down and gave evasive answers—["Oh!"]—he did not mean that the right hon. Gentleman could give any other, seeing the position in which the officials in Dublin had placed him—his conclusion must be that this Departmental Committee was absolutely doing nothing, and that the Canadian grants never could be realized unless pressure was employed by the Government. If the action of the Departmental Committee was to be imitated by other officials in Ireland charged with carrying out other provisions, he said they had better put the Bill out of the House of Commons at once. However, he was disposed to assent to the Motion that they formally went into Committee on the Bill, on the understanding that they were not to consider the clauses now.
§ MR. VILLIERS-STUART
Sir, no one acquainted with the present condition of Ireland doubts that a large addition to the grant for relief of distress is necessary; but the question is, out of what fund that grant shall come, and through what agencies it can be most efficiently distributed? There is a universal consent among all classes of Irishmen that it ought not to come out of the Church Surplus, because that is a fund raised from the entire land of Ireland—the property, therefore, of the entire country, and it ought, therefore, to be applied only to such purposes as the whole country can participate equally in. But it will not be so applied, if it is applied to the relief of distress, because that is partial—limited mainly to the West of Ireland and certain scheduled districts. Of course, if there were no alternative, we should prefer even the sacrifice of this National Fund rather than that our fellow-countrymen should be left in a state of destitution. But there are other alternatives. The hon. Member for Salford, in his maiden speech the other day, came forth like an infant Hercules of debate, strangling those serpents—the landlords—with both hands while yet in his Parliamentary cradle. And he was loudly cheered by hon. Members opposite; but they would not have cheered quite so loudly if they had known a little more of his views, for he is one of those bigoted political 307 economists, who would oppose most vehemently any grant to Ireland from Imperial resources. He showed the cloven hoof in the course of his speech; for what was the first accusation he brought against the late Government? Why, that they had not met the distress through the ordinary operation of the Poor Laws. Had he been better acquainted with the present state of things in Ireland, he would have known that the burden could not have been thrown upon the ratepayers, because they themselves are so impoverished that even existing arrears of poor-rates cannot be got in without resorting to the odious expedient of distraining what little property is yet left to them, and reducing the ratepayers themselves to pauperism. The poor-rates, then, are not an available resource. But there is another fund to which Ireland contributes her full share, and on which she, therefore, has a claim. I believe I am below the mark when I say that fully one-tenth part of the Imperial Revenue is derived from Ireland. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Frederick Cavendish) has pointed out that it would be an inconvenient precedent if, in every difficulty, the Imperial Exchequer were resorted to; but the present crisis is exceptional—it cannot be met out of the usual resources. If Ireland had the management of her own finances, could it be supposed for a moment that she would have sanctioned the expenditure of millions on foreign wars while her own people at home were in dire destitution and distress? The Imperial Government undertakes to manage her finances for us, and they are bound so to manage them that we shall have no reasonable ground for complaint; but we are entitled to complain if our contributions to the Imperial Exchequer have been lavished upon wars of aggression by the million, while not a shilling of it has been devoted to the relief of distress at home. Is not that the fact? Hitherto the distress has been met either from the donations of private charity in England and Ireland, or Australia and Canada, or the United States, and lastly, out of that purely Irish fund—the Church Surplus; but out of the Imperial Exchequer not one shilling has as yet come. We do not ask for assistance from the Imperial Exchequer as a charity, but as a right. 308 I hope the Government will re-consider their decision. No step they can take will give greater satisfaction in Ireland, or be hailed as a surer earnest of their anxiety to meet the just claims of Ireland. The sum so granted will not be lost—every farthing of it will be ultimately repaid. The Government of Lord Beaconsfield has been repeatedly referred to as the late Government; but I would rather call them the too-late Government, for too late they were in the matter of Irish distress. Most earnest representations had been made to them from every quarter—from Poor Law Guardians, from magistrates, from the clergy of both denominations, and from landlords—but to no purpose. Twenty-five Boards of Guardians in all parts of Ireland had agreed to send their chairmen to wait as a deputation upon his Excellency to represent the state of things, and to suggest measures which their experience in dealing with poverty and want suggested as most efficient; and no body of men were better qualified to make suggestions on this subject. But what reply did they receive? Why, that no good purpose would be served by their attendance, for that the Government were already well aware of the state of things. What conclusion are we to draw from this reply? Are we to conclude that his Excellency was callously indifferent to the distress? We know that was not the case; for, in their private capacities, both he and his noble-hearted consort have exerted themselves most zealously to stem the distress. The fact is, his Excellency had made all the representations in his power at headquarters in London, but in vain. At last, they brought forward a measure in the shape of loans to landlords to enable them to give employment. That was a step in the right direction, but it did not go far enough. Concurrently with loans to landlords, loans should have been made to Boards of Guardians, and through them to tenants for the permanent improvement of their holdings, so as to diffuse the relief as much as possible, and bring it home, as it were, to every man's door, and reach every remote corner in which want and destitution, from want of employment, existed. It is not in the power of the landlords to do everything. I must remonstrate with the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) for making, 309 indiscriminately against the landlords, charges unsupported by evidence; I deny that landlords have used these loans as a lever to exact arrears of rent from their tenants. If any landlord has done such a thing, he would deserve to be shown up; but no such case has been proved. They are, in the matter of these loans, merely acting as paymasters, and the distressed labourers get the benefit of it. I myself have taken out one of these loans, and am reclaiming a tract of mountain land with it, which, when reclaimed, will be worth, perhaps, 10s. per acre per annum; but as it costs about £18 or £20 per acre to reclaim, the return will only be 2½ per cent— whereas I shall have to pay £3 8s. per annum to the Government for the next 35 years; therefore, I shall be out of pocket about 1 per cent per annum on the loan for the rest of my life. I would be quite willing to make over part, of my loan to the Board of Guardians if they will act as paymasters instead of me. I think it would be a good thing to empower landlords to give up a portion of their loans to Boards of Guardians, for they would constitute a very suitable machinery for the distribution of relief funds in employment, and I suspect that many a landlord would be glad to avail himself of such a provision. I will move that the following clauses be added to the Bill—["Order, order !"]—if I am out of Order, I shall submit them in Committee. Meanwhile, I hope that the Government will be disposed to make important Amendments in the Bill, both as to the fund out of which the relief is to come and as to the agencies and machinery through which it is to be distributed.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, there could be no doubt that the distress in Ireland was very urgent and pressing, but the present Bill did not meet it in any adequate or direct manner. He did not believe that any body of men on the face of the earth, except the Members of the late Government, would think of relieving Irish distress by the circuitous process of giving grants to Irish landlords. They had various bodies administering relief in Ireland; large amounts had been sent to them from London and from abroad, and it was remarkable that in these cases no suggestion had been made as to applying the money to relief through the land- 310 lords. They had the Dublin Mansion House Committee, and not one member of that body had ever suggested such an extraordinary system of relieving Irish distress. In like manner they had the Land League and the Fund got up in connection with the New York Herald, both composed of practical and sensible men, and none of them had proposed to alleviate the existing suffering by passing money through the pockets of the Irish landlords. He had listened with great pain to the discussion which had taken place on this subject in the House. What did they find '? They found that they were pleading for relief for a people who would not be in need of relief if only justice were accorded to them—for relief to an industrious people who inhabited a fertile country. Why was it that these debates on Irish relief should occupy from time to time the attention of the House of Commons? It was perfectly plain that something interfered with the prosperity of the Irish people—that there was some check and bar to that prosperity; and he found that check and bar in the system of government which the British House imposed upon the Irish people. The true Belief Committee for Ireland would be an Irish Parliament. At the present time there could be no doubt that the condition of the country was one of great suffering, and he feared that that suffering might be accompanied with serious disturbances. The Irish Members were heartily tired of all these discussions. They asked that they should be allowed to apply the resources and revenue of their own country to its necessities and requirements; and so long as they were prevented doing so, the House would have these debates again and again—humiliating debates such as had occurred in connection with the present question. The Bill now before the House would not, unless it were modified and improved in important respects, meet the crisis which now existed; and he hoped it was not too late for Her Majesty's Government to take into consideration whether some better means than it proposed could not be devised. Let the Government consider, for example, whether it would not be better to lend this money not to the landlords, but to the relief of committees which were now keeping the people alive.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
said, the Bill had been actually described as a sham. It was quite incorrect to call it a measure for the relief of distress in Ireland, for it was perfectly inadequate for the purpose for which it appeared to be intended; but he hoped the measure would be sufficiently changed and amended to make it what it pretended to be.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, the Chief Secretary for Ireland was perfectly right, the previous evening, in discarding the weak arguments of the Attorney General for Ireland in favour of the Bill. The Chief Secretary gave as his reason and argument for the measure that the late Government had sanctioned a grant of £500,000 which they had no authority to do; because of that sanction Irish landlords had undertaken works, or had incurred expense preliminary to the prosecution of works; and, in order that these landlords should not be damnified, the present Administration felt compelled to introduce this measure in order to fulfil the promises which their Predecessors made. While he regretted, and regretted extremely, that the late Government should have found no other means of relieving distress than by making advances to the landlords, who had become the hereditary enemies of the Irish tenantry, and to whose intolerance and harsh treatment it was mainly due that the tenants went down at the first shock of the distress, yet he still recognized the force of the obligation which the Chief Secretary asked the House to allow him to fulfil. They had seen the plan proposed by the Government tested, and they had seen that it was a failure. They had seen that, notwithstanding the fact that £250,000 had been issued to the landlords, over 500,000 of the Irish people had been kept from starvation—not by the circulation of the money consequent on the employment given by the landlords, but by the generous hand of foreign charity. If this country did not extend immediate and timely assistance to the Irish people, it was inevitable that the present distress must deepen into famine before the harvest. He had been told that the Chief Secretary was watching the distress. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that if he waited until the funds of the charity organizations were exhausted, he would wait until a terrible famine had 312 come upon the people before he was aware of it. The Bill was wholly useless for the purpose for which it was intended; and it could not be wondered at that they had some misgivings as to placing in the hollow of one man's hand the lives of 500,000 of their fellow-countrymen. It had been conceded that this Bill could not meet the existing distress. The Chief Secretary had admitted as much. The obligation on the Government was merely to fulfil the obligations which had been entered into by the former Administration. The present Government had a right to do so; but he could not see why, in order to maintain that honourable obligation, the Chief Secretary and the present Administration should dip their hands into the pockets of the Irish people.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, it was now conceded by the Government that the Bill was not expected or intended to alleviate in any way the distress at present prevalent in Ireland. It was only a Bill to indemnify the late Administration; and, seeing that that was the case, he would suggest to the present Government that they would curtail as much as possible the amount of money to be given to landlords under the engagements of the late Ministry.
MR. W. E. POPSTER
said, the House had kindly listened to him for some time on Thursday evening on this subject, and he should not trouble it long on the present occasion. He quite admitted that if the Irish Members wished for more time to put on the Paper their Amendments to the Bill, that time must be given to them. But he was afraid that the delay would result in endangering the objects which he had in view in pressing forward the measure. The first object had relation to the guarantee for railways, which was a matter deserving very close and careful consideration. His object in introducing the railway clause was two-fold—to endeavour to facilitate the development of some of the most distressed districts where the tenants experienced great difficulty in selling their produce, owing to the want of railway accommodation; and to provide some additional work for the next two or three months. He was afraid, however, that if the Bill were not allowed to go into Committee and passed without delay, its provisions would not be of much use for the purposes of em- 313 ployment before the harvest. He should very much regret that that should be so; but he was very greatly relieved by finding that hon. Members who came from the distressed districts, and who ought to know the wishes of the people, did not seem to regard that as a matter of any great importance. With regard to the Fishery grant, he had no fault to find with the general tone of the remarks which had been made; but he might give a very strong contradiction— he was going to say a very strong denial —to the statement that he had made evasive replies as to the fishery piers, or as to anything else which had come under his cognizance since he had been in Office. He had endeavoured to say exactly what he thought, and to give to the House all the information in his power. There was no danger whatever in reference to these piers on account of the proceedings of the Departmental Committee. Their object was that the moment the Bill passed they might know exactly what piers the Treasury would give grants to, so that the final meetings might be called and the final notices issued. If they were obliged to postpone the Bill, there might be some danger as to whether the Canadian grant would be made use of or not; but he trusted that the dispensers of that Fund, recognizing the difficulties of the situation, would not allow any such delay to prevent them giving their money towards the relief of the distress. He hoped the Representatives from Ireland itself would not take offence when he said that, while he was determined to do everything he could for the advantage of the Irish people, he did not believe he should be rendering them any really true help if he were to press upon the Treasury or the Imperial Government to give them very large sums of money. What he wanted to see was the resources of Ireland developed by loans which were properly given, and which had the security that all loans ought to have; and if time were given for maturing such a system, he did not think that grants would ultimately be necessary. It would be positively fatal to be pouring out showers of gold from the Imperial Exchequer. Besides, hon. Gentlemen must remember that Ireland was not the only country in which there had been distress. There had been distress both in England and Scotland, and at the pre- 314 sent moment there was a larger proportion of English than of Irish paupers. He hoped Mr. Speaker might now be allowed to leave the Chair, and he would promise to bring the measure forward again as soon as the Government could give him time, though he was aware that they had a great deal of other Business. With regard to the £750,000, he stated yesterday, and he now repeated, that they did not know that all of it would be wanted; but they did know that no larger sum than that would be wanted. The Government considered that they were strictly fulfilling, not merely the pledges of the late Government, but the pledges of the late House; and if they did not fulfil those pledges, they would adopt the unprecedented course of one Parliament refusing to abide by the obligations entered into by a previous Parliament.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman were very serious. He should like to know what were the obligations entered into by the late Parliament, when they were entered into, and with whom? The obligations of the late Parliament were on the Statute Book, and were contained in Clause 17. And the Act of the present Parliament was now brought in because of the violation of those obligations, because the Government had violated—illegally violated—the obligations which were placed on the Statute Book by the late Parliament. It was hard for Irish Members to know what to do. He listened to the debate yesterday, and he heard Irish Members accused of the high crime and misdemeanour of allowing the Bill to pass last Session. The fact was, that although they knew the Bill of last Session was an unreality, and would not work, they had the menace before them that if they resisted it they would be made to appear as if they were resisting a benevolent intention for the relief of distress in Ireland. With that menace before them, some of them did violence to their convictions—they allowed the Bill to pass; because, if they had taken any other course, the Press of England and Ministers would say—"We wanted to relieve Irish distress, and the Irish Members of Parliament prevented us from doing so." In the face of those circumstances, having the convictions that experience had justified this, they 315 recorded their warning against the measure; but even that small remonstrance was denounced as obstruction to the benevolent intentions of the Government. And were they to be taunted today by some Gentleman who appeared here for the first time, and who got his knowledge of the subject from the miserable scraps of reports that he found in the London morning papers—were they to be taunted with the fact that they allowed the Bill of last Session to pass? There were English Members who were animated by a sincere desire to help the Government in the belief that this Bill was to do something good for Ireland. He warned those hon. Gentlemen that their belief was doomed to disillusion. The Chief Secretary had told them that they did not rely on this Bill to relieve the distress.
MR. W. E. FOESTER
, interposing, said, what he said was that he could rely on no Bill without out-door relief to meet the distress till the harvest. He had also stated, and gave figures in proof, that a large amount of employment had been given in consequence of the loans, and that consequently without the loans the distress would have been greater.
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, he quite understood the right hon. Gentleman, and he still understood him to say that he relied rather on the power of giving out-door relief than on anything this Bill would accomplish. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman, if the Bill was not to grapple with the distress in June, July, and August, what was the Bill to do? Where would there be any guarantee given that the landlord, having secured the loan upon easy terms, would not take his own time for going about the work? — that he would not wait till next December or next year? If money at 1 per cent was to go to the landlords for the purpose of relieving Irish distress, where was the clause providing that the loan should be cancelled unless the work was commenced within a certain time? The right hon. Gentleman told them that £240,000 had been "issued;" but do not let them run away with the idea that that was for the relief of Ireland. How much of that £240,000 had been issued but not spent? Why, it was absolutely offering the people circumlocution instead of relief. In Committee he would ask the 316 Government to put in a clause providing that unless the landlords availed themselves of the funds within the proper time, the loan should be recalled and cancelled. If that was not done, the Bill would be a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. The Prime Minister complained of the Public Business being stopped by these discussions. That was true, but it was not the fault of the Irish Members; and he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the way to facilitate the passing of the Bill, relieve the House, and insure the Bill being made efficacious, was to refer it to a Select Committee consisting entirely of Irish Representatives, with the Chief Secretary as Chairman. The Committee could go upstairs, and not interfere with English Business in the House. There was no Minister of the Crown whom they would more cheerfully elect as Chairman. He offered the right hon. Gentleman that suggestion in order to put an end to these discussions, which were animated by no disposition to thwart good intentions, but because they held that the Bill would turn out a gross mistake.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, the discussion had proceeded on the assumption that the 17th section of the Act of last Session was the governing section, whereas the 9th section was that which governed the Bill. In that section the terms of the two Treasury Circulars were distinctly set forth. The loans which had been referred to were equally applicable to sanitary authorities as to landlords; and it must not be forgotten that the Treasury Circulars incorporated in the Bill gave no power to entertain applications made after the 29th of February. The present Government were now simply giving effect to and ratifying the Circular of the 29th February last.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that the original amount of the loans had been increased to £750,000, after considerable discussion in that House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that, in order to bring to a practical issue the point in dispute between the Chief Secretary and the Irish Members, he would propose the following Amendment:—That the Committee stage of the Bill in the Whole House he dispensed with, and that the 317 Bill be referred to a Committee consisting of the Members who prepared and brought in the Bill, and of the Members for counties, cities, and boroughs in Ireland.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member desires to take the course indicated by this Amendment, he ought to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. The constitution of the Committee would form a subject for subsequent consideration by the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the course proposed by the hon. Member was one Which was proposed in the late Parliament by the then Leader of the House in reference to an English Bill. There was also a precedent for it in a proposal made by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, who was well acquainted with the Forms of the House, and who was a Constitutional lawyer. In the last Parliament that hon. Member placed on the Paper a Notice for referring the Officers and Courts (Ireland) Bill to such a Committee. The Speaker, also, in his examination before the Select Committee on Public Business, gave it as his opinion that it was undoubtedly competent for the House to dispense with the Committee stage of a Bill in the Whole House. It was only by the courtesy of the House that he could discuss the merits of the Motion; but it seemed to him that it had been promoted by the apparent desire of the Chief Secretary to put on the shoulders of the Irish Members the blame for the postponement of the Bill. The course suggested would obviate all inconvenience, and would expedite the passage of the Bill.
§ MR. RYLANDS
, as an English Member, felt that he was in a difficulty with respect to the Bill considering the view he had taken of the measure of the last Session. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member could only speak to the point of Order. At the same time, he thought that the proposal of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) was an entire departure from the practice of the House. He did not think it was competent on a Motion for going into Committee to move that an Amendment of such a character could be moved. The proposal to dispense with the Committee stage was of such a novel character that, without the special instruction of the House, he could not put the Amendment.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, the House was, no doubt, willing to pass measures which were necessary to be passed in the interests of Ireland; but he must point out to the Government that if all the time of the House was to be occupied in discussing Irish questions, there would be no hope of getting through some English measures which were before the House, and which were of great importance. The question was, was the Bill necessary in the interests of Ireland? ["No, no!"] Then, if it was not, it ought not to occupy the time which it had done in that House. Contrary to expectation, a debate had arisen which seemed capable of being prolonged indefinitely. He appealed to the Government to have some regard for English Members. He was prepared to support the Government, if the Chief Secretary told the House that the Bill was absolutely necessary; but he must protest against the waste of time which was taking place without making any progress on any Business at all.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down made it incumbent on them to vindicate themselves in the face of the country and the House from a very serious and grave imputation. Irish Members had been charged with being guilty of delaying and obstructing a measure for relieving the Irish people. Did he need to remind them how last Session, rather than appear obstructive, they gave the measure their adhesion and allowed it to pass; and what had been the result of that measure? He would call them back to the real question before them. He saw the Prime Minister the other night hanging on the lips of a Member of that House when he spoke of the miseries from which the English people were suffering, and, after he had dwelt on the imagined wrongs which would be done to English workmen if certain things were not done, he saw the Prime Minister go to that hon. Member and compliment him on the way he had spoken. But did hon. Gentlemen in that House listen with wrapt attention when the wrongs and grievances under which the Irish people suffered were spoken of? A sum of £750,000 had been granted by the Bill; but how much of that sum had reached the pockets of the starving people? The Chief Secretary had cast on the Irish 319 Members the responsibility of delaying the Bill; but he could assure the House that the Irish Members were anxious to prevent the misery and mistakes of last Session, and they were anxious to bring real help to the suffering people of Ireland. He would not hesitate to grant the people relief from the Irish Church Fund; but the fact was, that he was afraid of that fund. It was a dangerous fund for a Government to have always at hand; because, if they always had a fund like that at hand, they would not take the precautionary measures they ought to take to prevent the recurrence of such evils. It had been forgotten how many millions had been spent in the Famine of 1847, and how fruitless that expenditure was. It had done no permanent good, and it saved no lives. With regard to the fishery proposals, they would probably be good for Ireland prospectively, and as far as trade and industry went; but they would not meet the present distress and feed the starving people. The construction of the piers would require skilled labour; it would employ divers, skilled stone-dressers, and other such labour, but it would not give the people of Ireland the relief which they required. It might be called a Land Improvement Bill — a Railway Extension Bill, to take effect some years hence; but a prompt Relief Bill it was not. There was no clause in the Bill to stand between the people and destruction. They had to provide for the four months which still intervened between the present time and the harvest. Would that Bill provide for that four months? If not, it was a futile measure. The Bill was called the Relief of Irish Distress Bill; but he asked if it appeared in one clause from beginning to end, that it effected that purpose?
§ MR. DAWSON
said, the cure was worse than the disease. He apologized to hon. Gentlemen for intruding the affairs of Ireland so much upon the House; but they were ready to relieve the House of Irish affairs at any moment. The question was whether the Bill was intended to relieve distress, and whether it would do so in the next four months; because if it would not do that, it would not carry out the object for which it was ostensibly intended. It 320 was hard to pretend to give the people of Ireland a great boon when, in reality, it was nothing of the sort.
MR. JUSTIN M'OARTHY
said, he was extremely anxious to bring this long discussion to a close, and not to have any more time wasted by the debate. He rose for the purpose of moving that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. He understood that this was the proper stage at which to make that Motion; and it was his intention, if the Motion were carried, to propose that the Select Committee be composed of the Irish Members of that House and the Gentlemen who had brought in the Bill. He did not know how he or his Friends could answer better the appeal made to them by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands). He was the more desirous to respond to that appeal, because all the Irish Members knew that every measure for the promotion of the good of Ireland had his hon. Friend's sympathy and support. It was impossible for Irish Members wishing to see this made a beneficent measure to allow it to pass in its present condition. It was equally impossible that a Committee of that House should discuss with advantage all the clauses of the Bill and dispose of the Amendments the Irish Members proposed to introduce. The time of the House would be lost in spoiling and marring the measure. What he proposed was that the Irish Members should be allowed to take the Bill upstairs, and there endeavour to make it a genuine and useful measure, without occupying the time and attention of the House in general, or laying themselves open to the objection made by the hon. Member for Burnley. The defective local machinery in Ireland prevented Irish Members from sanctioning the Bill as it stood. If they had proper local machinery in Ireland the Bill might be worked; but there was none which they could trust for carrying out a measure like that. That fact made it necessary to endeavour to shape the Bill so that it might be of some practical use even with the defective local machinery in Ireland, and that could only be done by means of a Select Committee composed of those who best understood this practical question. He begged to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Bill be referred to a Select Committee,"— (Mr. Justin M'Carthy,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ An hon. MEMBER said that the Irish Members did not wish to impede the Bill, so far as they considered it useful, but to add materially to its use by the Amendments they intended to propose.
I have heard with some surprise the proposal which has been submitted to the House within the last half-hour. I really thought by this time that some consideration would have been shown for the mode in which the Business of the House is to be conducted. Shortly after 2 o'clock an explanation took place in the House between the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and myself. I stated that we had understood, and that the Irish Members had understood, it to be agreed that, on the one side, you, Sir, should leave the Chair, and on the other side the Government—for the hon. Member spoke on the part of his Friends around him— expressed their willingness not to press the clauses of the Bill to-day, but would postpone the Bill until some future day. I need not go into further detail. The hon. Member for Cork said the statement and the proposal made by the Government was perfectly satisfactory to him. My reference was not to himself individually, but to him as speaking on the part of his Friends, and my statement was so entirely satisfactory that he at once accepted my suggestion and withdrew the Motion he had made for the adjournment of the debate. When I recollected how this week had been spent I was extremely glad that such a course had been agreed upon between us; but now I find that nearly three hours have been spent in a debate on the Bill after the hon. Gentleman had accepted my proposal, and now at the close of these three hours a proposition is made openly on an entirely new subject—namely, that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. Nor is that all, for, at the same time, indications are given of the ulterior steps connected with the reference to the Select Com- 322 mittee. It is not to be referred to a Select Committee in the ordinary sense —that is to say, to a limted number of Gentlemen who are to go through the clauses of the Bill, but to a Select Committee, to be composed, with the exception of two or three Gentlemen whose names may be on the Bill, of the 105 Gentlemen who claim to represent the interests of Ireland in this House. That is not a Select Committee in the usual and well understood meaning of the term in this House. What is understood to be the object of this Select Committee? If I comprehend the hon. Gentlemen's purpose, it is that in lieu of charging this relief upon the Church Surplus in prosecution of the determination of the last Parliament, it is to be charged upon an Imperial fund. But why it is to be charged on an Imperial fund is a question which interests the rest of the United Kingdom—England and Scotland—who are to be represented on that Committee by the two or three Gentlemen who have obstructed the Bill in the face of 105 Irish Members. Both on account of the nature of the vista thus opened to us, and my sense of duty in the matter, as well as the necessity I feel of securing some regularity in the transaction of Public Business, I must certainly decline to accede to such a Motion.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, the right hon. Gentleman appeared to complain of a breach of understanding, which he had described as having been entered into at the commencement of the day's proceedings. He correctly stated that, upon his undertaking that the clause of the Bill should not be proceeded with in Committee, he (Mr. Parnell) expressed his perfect satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman had also said he (Mr. Parnell) expressed his willingness to withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate. But the right hon. Gentleman treated him rather unfairly when he intimated to the House that the debate which ensued on the Motion for going into Committee was brought on by him (Mr. Parnell), or that it had been controlled by him. When he spoke, the right hon. Gentleman assumed that he was representing the views of those hon. Members who sat behind him. It should be borne in mind that the debate which ultimately ensued on the Bill was continued by hon. Members on the 323 Ministerial side of the House, with whom he had, personally, no influence whatever. It was not until the Chief Secretary made a statement that he considered it necessary that some action should be taken. What was the statement of the Chief Secretary? The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the result of carrying out the arrangement made between the Prime Minister and himself (Mr. Parnell) would be to put off the further stages of the Bill until a very late period of the Session, and that the people of Ireland would be deprived of the benefit of the Bill; and, amongst other things, they would be deprived of the grant for fishery piers, and that, consequently, the fishing industry on the North-West and West coasts of Ireland would be materially injured, and the starving population suffer during the ensuing season. What was this statement of the Chief Secretary but quibbling? He must, therefore, throw the blame of the subsequent discussion on the Chief Secretary. Why should they tacitly accept the blame which was due to the right hon. Gentleman? It was to point out some practical way to making progress that his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) rose and moved that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, consisting of the Irish Members, which would naturally save the time of the House, and enable them to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. That discussion had arisen because the Chief Secretary had cavilled at the arrangement which had been made, entered into two hours ago. It was not likely that the Irish Members would sit under the imputation which the Chief Secretary had thrown on them; they therefore threw back on him the odium of breaking the arrangement and impeding the progress of the measure.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he would reply to the statement of the hon. Member as temperately as he could. The hon. Member said the remarks he had made were "cavilling," and he cast on him the "odium" of the course which had been taken; he must inform the House what really had happened. The hon. Member had made a not unreasonable appeal that more time should be given for Amendments, and said no harm would arise from postponing the consideration of the Bill in Committee. His 324 right hon. Friend, admitting the appeal for more time to consider further Amendments, stated that, considering the other Business before Parliament, it would be impossible, if the Committee were not disposed of to-day, or some substantial progress made, to take up the Bill again for some time. But he said his regret at that cause was diminished by the statement of the hon. Member, whose knowledge of Ireland must be great, and speaking, as no doubt he did, for those who acted with him. But when the debate went on, it became necessary for him to reply to several statements which were made, especially by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power). Perhaps it would have been better that he had not replied to the allusions made to himself; but he did not think it would be quite respectful if he had not done so. He stood up just to confirm what his right hon. Friend had said—that was all he did. He did not think it deserved the imputation of "cavilling," or that any "odium" should be cast on him in consequence. With regard to the proposal for submitting the Bill to a large Irish Committee, it would obviously be unwise and unfair to English and Scotch Members, and it was scarcely fair to attempt to start such a suggestion suddenly upon the House.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
was quite prepared to admit that the question whether the relief should come from Imperial funds or the Irish Church Surplus should be left to be determined by the House; but as regarded other parts of the Bill he thought there should be but one opinion. The Bill was a measure to continue an Act which had admittedly failed for its purpose. Therefore, it was asked that it should be referred to the 103 Members, who, knowing the actual circumstances of the country which the measure concerned, were best able to consider its provisions. Such a Committee was desirable, because the great majority of English and Scotch Members backed up the Government when the present Act was passed, on the lines of which this Bill proceeded. That Act had ended in failure, and he anticipated the same result from this Bill unless it were referred to a Select Committee as proposed.
§ COLONEL BARNE
thought the proposal made would facilitate the progress of the Bill, and also of the general Busi- 325 ness of the House; and it must be remembered that when the Bill came back from the Committee, the House could, on the third reading, reject any of the conclusions of the Committee.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee; Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.