§ MR. CALLAN
, in rising to call attention to the condition of agricultural labourers in Ireland, and to the pressing necessity that existed for affording facilities for the erection of cottages and providing suitable garden plots for them, and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient and necessary that measures should be taken in the present Session of Parliament to improve the condition of agricultural labourers' habitations in Ireland;said, the question intimately concerned a large majority of the population of 1968 Ireland, and indirectly affected the whole nation. Therefore, it was unnecessary to dilate on its importance, which was, indeed, self-evident. As far back as 1843, on the representations of Mr. Sharman Crawford, a Royal Commission was issued to inquire into the subject. Major O'Reilly, a resident proprietor in County Down, gave evidence that nothing could be more distressing than the condition of the labourers, mainly in consequence of the landlords requiring that the cottier tenements should be got rid of, and wherever grazing farms were the condition of the labourers was most wretched. The evidence of Mr. Sharman Crawford, County Down, before the Devon Commission, and also that of Mr. William Smyth, County Limerick, showed that the condition of the labourers and their dwellings was wretched in the extreme. Upon the evidence the Devon Commission reported that the Irish labourers were "the worst fed, worst clothed, and worst housed in Europe." That was published in 1846 or 1847; and what had since then been done by the British Parliament to remedy the grievances of the Irish labourer? Nothing, until they came within a measurable distance, as the present Prime Minister expressed it, of civil war. In introducing the Land Act of 1870, the Prime Minister referred to the position of the Irish labourer, remarking that between the years 1849 and 1860 there was a great and general increase of wages throughout Ireland; but that from 1860 up to 1870 the rate of wages there had not advanced; and, alluding to the evictions which had occurred, the right hon. Gentleman said that some of those evictions were of the most painful, some of the most indefensible, and some even of the most guilty character. Another process, he explained, had been going on in Ireland—namely, the conversion of tillage land into pasturage, the result being a large increase in pauperism. At the present time ail the labouring population of Ireland, if not in absolute receipt of poor relief, would be in receipt of such relief if the Irish Poor Laws were administered with something like the humanity and liberality which attended the English Poor Law system. The Prime Minister, in introducing the Act of 1870, however, said that the Government had done for the Irish labourer what the circumstances of the case would permit— 1969 they allowed the tenant to divide and sub-let for cottages and gardens to be let to the labourers employed on the holding; and they offered from public funds facilities for the acquisition of land in small quantities. The Land Bill of 1870 emerged from that House with a clause in it affecting the labourer; but that clause was unwisely and uncharitably expunged by the House of Lords. The Bill came hack to the House of Commons with a number of other clauses disagreed to by the Lords, and it became the duty of the Government to consider whether they should agree or disagree with the Lords" Amendments. They moved the House of Commons to disagree with several of the Lords' Amendments. Three or four Divisions were taken, but they threw a sop to Cerberus. They threw over the Irish labourers—the Government threw over the Irish labourers. He (Mr. Callan) wished very much they would make an example, and throw over somebody else now, and if they did so he might say they would confer an inestimable boon upon the country. The Lords' Amendment affecting the labourers came before the House on the 12th of July—a fated day for Ireland—and Mr. Chichester Fortescue said, heMoved, That the House do agree to the Lords' Amendment, by which certain exceptions from the general effect of the clause which were intended to give the tenant the power of setting aside pieces of land for the purpose of building labourers' cottages, were struck out. If he were simply to consult his own wishes, he should prefer the Bill as it dealt with that point in its original shape; but the matter was one with regard to which he did not, for the reason stated by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, think it would be wise to insist by dissenting from the Amendment."—[3 Hansard, cciii. 125.]The Government, however, promised that the following year a measure should be introduced dealing with the entire question of labourers. The House met late in 1871, and on March 24th, Sir William Henry Gregory moved—That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that measures should be taken in the present Session of Parliament to improve the condition of the agricultural labourers' habitations in Ireland;and, in doing so, said—He wished to bring under the notice of the House, and of the Government, the condition of the most helpless and most hopeless class in the United Kingdom—namely, the agricultural 1970 labourers in Ireland. Last year, during the passing of the Land Bill, he had been anxious to make some provisions for the encouragement of the erection of suitable habitations for these unfortunate people, but was unable to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) who had charge of the Bill, opposed the proposal made by him (Mr. W. H. Gregory), not on the merits or demerits of the proposal, but because the subject was too large to be fully and fairly entered into in a Land Bill. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the subject deserved the fullest consideration, and gave the House to understand that it was the intention of the Government to legislate in the coming Session for the evils which he fully acknowledged."—[Ibid. ccv. 575.]The Motion to which he had alluded was proposed by Sir William Henry Gregory, the hon. Member for Galway, and no Land Leaguer, which was seconded by Sir Frederick Heygate, a Conservative, the Representative of Londonderry County. He trusted the present Member for the constituency (the Attorney General for Ireland) would be quite as sensible of the interests of the Irish labourers as his Predecessor. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) who had then been recently appointed Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, said—Were it not for technical reasons he did not know that he should have thought it necessary to ask his hon. Friend to withdraw the Motion. However, as it had taken the form of an Amendment to the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair, he hoped, in the event of his being able to give a satisfactory assurance on the subject, his hon. Friend would withdraw the Amendment and be content to leave the matter in the hands of the Government."—[Ibid. 590.]If he (Mr. Callan) to-day got across the floor of the House a similar assurance, he would withdraw his Motion; but if he did not get some such assurance, he should consider himself bound in honour to go to a division. But if that assurance were given, he hoped it would not be unfulfilled as on the previous occasion. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to use his influence in the interest of the Irish labourer; and he would ask the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) also to use his influence to have the promises which had been made on this question carried out, and the pledges which he had given redeemed. In May, 1871, Mr. M'Carthy Downing asked the Chief Secretary when he expected to be able 1971 to lay on the Table a Bill for the improvement of the condition and habitations of labourers in Ireland, which had been promised? The noble Lord said, in reply, that he had been in communication with the Board of Works in Ireland, and he would, as soon as possible, lay on the Table of the House a Bill for the improvement of the condition of labourers and their habitations. He could not promise that it should be done before Whitsuntide. Why, the name of the Board of Works was a byword in Ireland, and so it would remain until it was swept away. Nothing was done in 1871. Then they came to 1872, and no Bill was introduced. Mr. Maguire asked when a Bill on the subject of improving the condition of the Irish labourers would be brought in, and the Chief Secretary, in reply, said the subject was one which had long engaged the attention of the Government. That was true, for the subject had engaged attention for 30 years. ["Hear, hear!"] He heard an hon. Member opposite say "Hear, hear!" but nothing had been done. The noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington), in 1872, added that he trusted to be able to bring in a Bill to extend the operation of Sir William Somerville's Act; but he was not able to say whether he would he able to introduce it, though he hoped the day would not be long. Formerly, when it was the practice to execute prisoners after sentence they used to cry out—"Give me a long day, my lord." If any such prisoners had had as long a day as the Irish labourers on this subject, they might be alive till now. Sir Frederick Heygate each Session renewed his questions and remonstrances. Early in the Session of 1863 Sir Frederick Heygate asked a question about the promised Bill, and the noble Lord said he hoped to bring in such a Bill; but before he did so it would be well that the House should be in possession of certain Returns. The Returns were duly forwarded, but no Bill was forthcoming. On the 16th of June the same year, Sir Frederick Heygate asked the Chief Secretary if he had given up the intention of bring in the Bill, and the noble Lord replied that he feared he should not have an opportunity of bringing in the Bill that Session. He must do the noble Lord the justice to say, while referring to these repeated pro- 1972 mises which remained unfulfilled, that he did thoroughly sympathize with the Irish labourers in their wretched condition. But still nothing was done. The noble Lord had presided over a Select Committee which sat on the subject, and had thus become well acquainted with the condition and the wants of the Irish agricultural labourer. In 1873, on the 31st of July, Mr. Bruce, who was then Home Secretary, said that as soon as the Returns of the Inspectors had been received, they would be carefully considered by the Government, with a view to legislation. In the following year a Conservative Ministry was in Office, and he wished to do them the justice of acknowledging that they had broken no promises, for they made none, and, in fact, treated the question, as they treated every Irish question, with neglect. But there were ample Returns for the year 1869–70, upon which the Government might have acted. The Returns made by the Inspectors of many counties of Ireland were unanimous in describing the habitations and manner of living of the agricultural labourers as wretched beyond description, and the labourers as thoroughly discontented with their lot. Their condition was a standing disgrace to Christianity and civilization. But, notwithstanding the degrading circumstances in which the Irish poor were compelled to live, large families of both sexes and all ages huddled together night and day in one room, the modesty and purity of their lives were proverbial among the nations of Europe. Mr. Lane Joint, a gentleman of high authority on this subject, who was well known to many Members of the House, expressed a strong opinion that the farmers should be assisted in providing suitable cottages for the farm labourers; and his suggestion was that the assistance should come from the Board of Works in the shape of advances at a low rate of interest, the repayment to be extended over a long period. That opinion was expressed and that suggestion made in the year 1851, and since that time the condition of the agricultural labourer had changed for the worse. The Bessborough Commission, of which his hon. Friend the Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Shaw) was a Member, had given attention to this very important subject. Mr. Kavanagh, himself a large landed proprietor, 1973 was also a Member of the Commission, and the Commissioners, all of whom were landlords, reported that the subject of the condition of the agricultural labourer "demanded speedy consideration, for the sake of the country as well as for the sake of the labourers themselves." Between 40 and 50 witnesses were examined, and on their evidence the Report in question was founded. One witness, named Butler, who resided in the county of Kilkenny and stated that he had been a farm labourer, but was then a large farmer, replying to Mr. Kavanagh, stated that he considered the labourers' dwellings in his district to be unsuitable for human habitations, being badly lighted, badly ventilated, without out-houses or gardens. The witness added that the labourers were left without help from the landlord, and that there was no one to raise a voice on their behalf. The next witness was a Conservative landlord, lately a Member of that House, (Colonel King-Harman), who, replying to his hon. Friend (Mr. Shaw) stated that the farm labourers were badly housed and badly paid. Mr. Bolster, an extensive farmer, deposed that the labourers' question was one which pressed for immediate settlement. He also said the Irish labourers were the worst treated men in any part of the world. Slaves in South America were better off as far as food and lodging were concerned, while the slaves were better paid, better housed, and better clothed. Other witnesses—men who spoke from experience and with authority—stated that the labourers were being cleared from the land, and that the subject was one which the Government ought to take without delay into their serious consideration. He would not occupy the time of the House by going through the evidence, which he had merely skimmed, because he thought he had made out his case. On the introduction of the Land Bill he took occasion to express his regret that no provision was contained in it to improve the condition of the agricultural labourer. The Solicitor General for Ireland said that the Government had very much at heart the sufferings of a very large number of the population—sufferings borne with unexampled patience—but that, in the view of the Government, it would be inexpedient to overload the measure with a matter which could be dealt with separately; adding that he 1974 felt no doubt as to the fact that, if sufficient time were afforded, the Government would be very glad to deal with the question in a separate measure. There could be no doubt that the Solicitor General knew a great deal about the subject, and, as he was a rapid draftsman, there could be no doubt that, if leisure were afforded to him, he would in a fortnight produce a measure dealing in a satisfactory manner with the whole question. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary would be content to disconnect himself from a small question of this kind, and leave it to the Solicitor General to deal with. He could not but think it a somewhat Machiavellian suggestion that to attempt to deal with this question in the Land Bill would be to overload the measure The Chief Secretary for Ireland had said he sympathized with the labourers. No doubt he did, and perhaps he also sympathized with the "village ruffians," as his sympathies were of a very large character. Now, the Chief Secretary at the time stated that it would be for the House to consider most carefully how the condition of the agricultural labourers could be improved, and he (Mr. Callan) submitted that now was the time for the Government to take the matter in hand. He had just returned from his native country, and the 10 days he spent there had been the greater part of them absorbed in visiting the farmers and labourers. He saw how their hopes were excited by the promised Land Bill. He saw their miserable condition. He knew them, and he respected them. He would rather do something to serve the poor labourers of Ireland than any Prince or Nobleman in the land; and now, in the strict performance of his duty, and having stated his case without any attempt at exaggeration from official records, he asked the House, in view of the Report of the Devon Commission in 1843, the Report of the Royal Commission in 1871, and the Report of the Besshorough Commission, to accede to the Motion standing in his name.
§ MR. DALY
said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Resolution. The necessity for the speedy amelioration of the condition of the Irish agricultural labourers had been so fully placed before the House by his hon. Friend that he would not detain the House long with any remarks of his own. His hon. 1975 Friend had contended, and with perfect correctness, that the Trish labourers were the worst housed and fed labourers not only in Europe, but in the civilized world. Stronger testimony as to their deplorable condition could not be afforded than that given by Colonel Gordon, better known as Chinese Gordon, who stated that during all his travels, even in the lowest condition of life in China and Africa, he had never met a human being in as barbarous and miserable a condition as the Irish labourer. These poor labourers had received a promise from the English Government in 1871 that their wants would be attended to and their grievances remedied; but that promise had never been fulfilled. These men were no isolated portion of Her Majesty's subjects, for they numbered nearly 500,000. Their condition had been aggravated by the fact that English Law had suppressed manufactories, and so compelled a large number to take to the fields or deport themselves to other countries. Many of these men could read, and many of them knew that £20,000,000 had been expended by the British Parliament for emancipating the Blacks; and they also know that in more recent times over £17,000,000 had been spent for the rectification of the scientific Frontier in Afghanistan. And they knew that although money was spent in similar objects, and that although in the lowest depths of wretchedness, their crying wants were ignored, many of the sons of these labourers had swelled the ranks of the British Army, and had very materially helped to gain those victories of which Englishmen boasted. He would remind those who deplored the agitation in Ireland that the Irish labourers were the backbone and sinew of the agitation. There was no other class of labourers who had waited so patiently for justice as had these men and their families; and now were they to be told that their wants were not to be relieved, whilst millions were spent in emancipating the Blacks of another land? He had no hesitation in telling this House that no legislation ameliorating the relations between landlord and tenant would be complete which did not provide for the amelioration of the condition of the Irish labourers. That was as true as the Gospel of Almighty God. The Government might violate every law of political economy, in bringing forward a measure 1976 for the amelioration of the relations between landlord and tenant, and carry out their system to the fullest extreme; but the agitation by Irish labourers would not cease one jot or one iota unless their claims were attended, and they indeed required immediate attention, by Her Majesty's Government. There could be no subject more worthy of the attention of Her Majesty's Government than that which had been introduced to the notice of the House by the hon. Member for Louth.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is expedient and necessary that measures should be taken in the present session of Parliament to improve the condition of agricultural labourers' habitations in Ireland,"—(Mr. Callan,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. A. MOORE
remarked, that it was very refreshing to see the noble Lord the late Postmaster General in his place on that occasion. The position of the Tory Party in reference to the Irish question reminded him of the old lines—When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;When the devil got well, the devil a monk was he.If the Tory Party returned to power, they would do nothing on behalf of the Irish labourer. He (Mr. A. Moore) was sure they were all indebted to the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) for the very great care and study he had brought to bear upon this subject. There was no doubt that this was the moment to strike. They were now engaged in conferring great rights upon certain classes in Ireland—the farming classes—and this was the time to also deal with the condition of the Irish agricultural labourers. He would not dilate upon their condition, as that had already been sufficiently done by the hon. Member who had just spoken. He had only to say that nothing could be more deplorable than their condition, not only in the West of Ireland, but in the more prosperous districts. They lived in wretched cabins, without a foot of ground attached to them, and they paid extravagan rents for their dwellings. Numbers 1977 them only received about 6s. a-week; and he had lately come across a servant of a local politician in Ireland—who was probably engaged in denouncing landlords—who only received 3s. a-week and two meals a-day of sour milk and potatoes from his patriotic master. He denied that the labourers had approved the land agitation, for their indignation at the consequences which that agitation had brought upon them knew no bounds. They were starving. [Cheers.] Hon. Members might cheer that observation; but he was not going to join them in their Quixotic attempt to oppose the Bill which the Government had brought in at the express desire of the whole nation. He earnestly desired the amelioration of the Irish labourers; but he did not wish to leave them at the disposal of the Land League. He was of opinion that the Commission established by the Bill ought to have enlarged powers so as to deal with these labourers. If the tenant farmers were made secure in their holdings, without provision being made for the labourers, the latter would be placed at the mercy of the former. He questioned whether it would not be wise to put a stop to conacre by Act of Parliament, because there was not the slightest doubt that the poor labourer taking a quarter of land at the rate of £16 an acre, and expending his labour upon it, paid for his potatoes twice as much as he could get them for at the nearest town. The effect of such a prohibition would be to induce the farmers to grow an abundance of food supply. They could not hope to deal practically with the labourers' question unless they revised the Poor Law. There was no question that the Poor Law in Ireland was in a very unsatisfactory condition. In England, if a man left his home his wife and children were enabled to receive relief from the rates; but it was not so in Ireland. That House was well aware that a large number of Irish labourers came to England annually to save the harvest, and during their absence their wives and children were absolutely at the mercy of the winds. Then, again, they had to meet the important question of electoral rating. They should alter the law with regard to electoral rating, because the present incidence of that law afforded a direct inducement to the clearance of large estates. Upon the whole, the law as it 1978 stood at present very largely affected the labourers' question, and before they could hope to obtain a satisfactory settlement of the question they should remove the differences which existed between the English and the Irish Poor Law. There was not a single one of those fine patriotic maxims they had heard at Land League meetings throughout Ireland that did not apply à fortiori to the Irish labourer. They had seen upon platforms and banners the motto—"The land for the tiller of the soil." The legitimate outcome of that was that the labourer was entitled to the first consideration. St. Paul had been quoted as laying down that the husbandman must first be partaker of the fruits, and if the maxim had any application to Ireland at all it applied to the Irish labourer. He trusted that the Government would not neglect the great opportunity now afforded them of dealing thoroughly and satisfactorily with this vital question.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he was a Member of that House for seven years, and he never rose with greater pleasure to support any Motion than he did at present to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Louth. He believed that in the civilized world there was no class of people in so miserable a condition as the labourers of Ireland. It was a well-known fact that in place of having homes, as they should have, throughout the country, and as they had previous to 1847, they were driven into the towns and forced to live in crowded and ill-ventilated lodging-houses. Frequently 10 or 12 persons were huddled together in a miserable apartment for which they paid a most exorbitant rent. That state of things caused a loss to the farmers as well as to the unfortunate labourers themselves, because, if they were scattered throughout the country on the different farms, a sympathy would exist between them and the farmers; they would be always on the spot to perform their work, and their families ready to enter into service. In most cases there was no sympathy existing at present between the farmers and labourers in Ireland, in consequence of their separation, and of the residence of the latter in the towns and villages instead of on the different farms throughout the country. He need not tell the House that in addition to the other evil results the forced residence of these poor 1979 labourers in the towns injured their health, caused great demoralization and detriment to society, and to the welfare of the country. That system was commenced on a large scale in 1847, and was carried out largely by the landlords, because the Union rating in Ireland induced them to rid their estates as much as they could of the population. After giving them some trifling sum of money they tumbled down their houses, and the poor people were obliged to take refuge in the towns. According to the old divisional rating, they were not charged to the place where they lived all their lives, but to the small towns to which they had come, and in which they had lived for 12 or 18 months. He thought there were many defects in the Land Bill, particularly that which excluded leasehold, and also that which restricted the repayment of the money advanced to too short a period; but of all the defects, and of all the shortcomings of the Land Bill, there was none which showed so much want of sympathy with the bulk of the Irish people as the omission of any proposal to settle the labourers' question. He might tell the Government that no matter how much the Land Bill might serve the farmers of Ireland, there never would be peace, happiness, or contentment in Ireland until the grievances of the labourers were redressed as well. There was another great consideration in the settlement of the labourers' question. If the farmers had the labourers on their farms, they would be able to perform much more work than they did. At present, to his own knowledge, farmers had to walk three or four miles in the morning to employ labourers, and when they remembered that these men had to walk out two or three miles before they commenced work, and to walk back the same distance in the evening, it was quite impossible that they could perform a proper day's labour. During the winter he attended 15 or 16 public meetings throughout the counties of Limerick and Cork, and there was not a single meeting lie attended at which resolutions were not passed urging a settlement of the labourers' question. He just happened to have with him a resolution passed at the Shanagolden land meeting in December, and it was in the following terms:—That the labouring classes have as good a right to live by the land as the farmers and 1980 landlords, and that no settlement of the Land Question will bring either peace or satisfaction to Ireland until the labourers are placed as firmly on the soil as the farmers.That was only one of hundreds of similar resolutions passed throughout the country. In the Report of the Devon Commission of 1845, he found that special attention was called to the miserable and disgraceful condition of the labourers; but, though nearly 40 years had elapsed since, he regretted to say that no steps had been taken by any of the various Governments to remedy the grievance. He knew the question was a very difficult one to deal with; but he would throw out a suggestion which might be made the basis of some settlement. He would make it compulsory that upon every farm valued at £50 per annum or upwards there should be one labourer's cottage. He mentioned £50, because he considered that any man holding a farm worth £50 per annum must require at least one labourer every day. Whether they made the landlord or the farmer, or both, jointly build the cottage, he thought that no farm valued at such a sum should be without it. Then, for every farm valued at £100 and upwards, he would suggest that there should be two cottages, and so on in proportion. He proposed that there should be attached to each cottage half a statute acre of land, which should be given to the labourer occupying it at the same rate as that paid by the tenant, or, if the tenant was owner, at the Government valuation. He proposed that the rent of the cottage should not exceed a sum of 5 per cent per annum on the capital sum which it cost to build the cottage. If such a plan were adopted it would diffuse new life into many parts of the country. In his own district, and in the midland grazing counties, whole tracts of land afforded employment only to a few herdsmen, and he believed that pernicious mode of dealing with the land was adopted because it was the easiest way for making money. But he maintained that if the fine lands of Limerick and Tipperary were devoted to ordinary agricultural purposes, it would pay the owners far better, it would give employment to the people, and it would bring peace and prosperity to the country. He trusted the House would not allow the Land Bill to pass without dealing with this question, because it was a fearful 1981 thing to contemplate that 500,000 or 600,000 persons were left in a condition more wretched and miserable than any class on the face of the earth.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I do not think there is any difference of opinion about the condition of the agricultural labourer in Ireland. It is very bad. Still, notwithstanding what the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) has stated, I maintain it is not so bad as it was 25 years ago. It was then very bad indeed. I think it is the opinion of every Member of the House that what can be done should be done. The hon. Member for Louth thinks it would be an unpleasant task for me to have to do something to benefit the agricultural labourers of Ireland. If that were so, I should be an exception to every Member in the House, for I believe there can be no more pleasant task than to do everything for the Irish labourer that can be done. But this is not a very easy matter to deal with. The tenure of land will require amendment, and I hope that by an alteration of the law in that respect the position of the tenant will be greatly improved. The position of the labourer after all is very much owing to the smallness of his earnings. If the position of the tenant were improved, the labourer would get better employment. But there is another matter which has been discussed and which holds out rather more hope, and that is legislation with regard to labourers' dwellings. I am very careful about what I say, because I know the position of these poor people, and I do not wish to hold out hopes to them which may not be justified. Therefore, hon. Members must not do injustice to the Government because of my reticence, for if I do not speak as much as they expected, it is not to be imagined that we are not desirous to do what we can in the matter; but we must be guided by possibilities. The hon. Member for Louth has given me and the House some information with regard to the Land Act of 1870 which is very useful. I have looked at the Land Bill of 1870 as brought into the House of Commons, and I find there was a clause in it which was to this effect—that, as regards disturbance, the tenant should not lose the right to compensation on account of sub-letting, if that sub-letting provided a dwelling for a labourer. I 1982 cannot understand why that was struck out in the House of Lords, and the fact that such a proposal was made in 1870 proves that it is not intended to overlook the case of the labourers. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, if he were present, would agree with me in that. I understood my right hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers-Stuart) to say that he intended to raise the question also. I do not mean to say that we care so little about the matter that we intend to leave it to private Members to devise schemes; but it would be a help to us to see Amendments of that kind on the Notice Paper. We cannot do more than express our great anxiety to do what can be done both as regards labourers' dwellings and as regards allotments. I believe that allotments are of the greatest possible advantage; they have been found to be so in England, and no doubt it would be the same in Ireland; though how to arrive at allotments by law I do not exactly see. It is true that the Land Bill is a very difficult and complicated question, and it is undesirable that it should be overweighted more than can be helped. On the other hand, I admit that we ought not to allow the Land Bill to pass without provisions properly germane to it, if we can rightly insert them. More than that I can hardly say. My hon. Friend the Member for Clonmel (Mr. A. Moore) has alluded to the question of the Poor Law. I fear it is impossible for us to deal with that question this year. I confess I have not been personally as strong an advocate of outdoor relief as many other persons; but, after all, there is a very strong argument for it, and apparently a very great feeling in Ireland in favour of out-door relief. Then, with regard to Union rating, I see a great reason why we should have Union rating. That matter would, however, come more under the Local Government Department; and if it could be brought on this year we should be glad to do it. The indisposition of my right hon Friend is, I hope, slight; but the House will feel that in his absence I cannot pledge the Government as to the time of action, nor pledge him, as he has charge of the Land Bill, to Amendments. But I may say this much, that we shall look most carefully to the Land Bill itself and to what was proposed in the Land Act of 1870, as well as to the 1983 suggestions that have been made and the information that we have obtained, and we shall see whether we can propose anything ourselves in the Bill. In any case, we shall thoroughly consider Amendments which may be suggested. I think it may be expedient to pledge the House to the proposition that measures should be taken to improve the condition of the dwellings of agricultural labourers in Ireland, if the hon. Member for Louth would consent to leave out of his Resolution the words "in the present Session of Parliament." But I could not, in the absence of my right hon. Friend, pledge myself more positively.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, that, after the very candid and satisfactory answer he had received from the right hon. Gentleman and the explanation he had given of the reason why he proposed that the words "in the present Session of Parliament" should be struck out of the Resolution, he would not insist on retaining those words. As he had obtained substantially the end for which he had laboured, he felt himself fully justified in accepting the very fair proposition which the right hon. Gentleman had made; and he hoped that, although the Government was not pledged to bring forward the question this Session, it yet might be dealt with this Session, or, at all events, at the very first opportunity next year.
§ Question put, and negatived.
That the words 'in the opinion of this House, it is expedient and necessary that measures should be taken in the present session of Parliament to improve the condition of agricultural labourers' habitations in Ireland,' be there added.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "in the present Session of Parliament."—(Mr. William Edward Forster.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. GIVAN
was exceedingly glad that the discussion, which had been so ably conducted by the hon. Member for Louth, had resulted in a termination which he thought they should consider exceedingly creditable to the Chief Secretary. But, suppose the words "in 1984 the present Session, &c." were left out, and that the Land Bill was passed in its present shape, the land would be tied up in the hands of the tenants for 15 years, and there would be no power to take any land for the labourers. Then, if the Government refused to insert the provisions proposed respecting the lease holders, the leaseholders, even if they wished it, would not have power to give land for the accommodation of labourers, because in most of the cases they were absolutely prevented by the terms of their leases from erecting labourers' dwellings. He felt very strongly on this question, because although residing in the North of Ireland, where the labourer was perhaps in a better condition than in the South or West, yet he knew from experience that even in the North of Ireland the labourers were in a most deplorable condition, having dwellings that were unfit for human habitation. He would, therefore, strongly suggest that some provision should be introduced into the present Land Bill to improve their condition. If the tenants were permitted to borrow money independently of the landlords, upon exceedingly low terms, to enable them to erect labourers' cottages, the expense of which the labourers themselves would be able to pay by a very, very small rent, he believed the farmers would be willing to take the money, and would themselves co-operate with the labourers in improving their condition. For these reasons he would suggest that, instead of putting off the matter till another Session, something should be done immediately, and that they should deal with the whole question during this Session.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
expressed the satisfaction with which he had heard his right hon. Friend (Mr. Forster) state that this matter would receive at no very distant period the attention of the Government. He had hoped, however, that so pressing a subject might have been dealt with effectually in the present Session; and he earnestly trusted that it would be taken up by Her Majesty's Ministers at the earliest possible moment, and he suggested that if the words "in the present Session of Parliament" were to be omitted, there should be substituted for them "at the earliest possible moment." As to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who had 1985 been depreciated by hon. Members below the Gangway. No man who had carefully watched the career of his right hon. Friend could deny that he had deserved well of his country for the efforts he was making to elevate the state of Ireland. He should probably not have an opportunity of giving expression to his views on the Land Bill; but there was one part of that measure to which he wished to refer.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, as it was really so difficult to get an opportunity of speaking in that House, he thought he might take that opportunity of saying something about the Bill. As to the Irish labourers, there was no doubt that their condition was a disgrace not only to the civilization of England, but to that of Europe. It was the bounden duty of the Government to take the question of the Irish labourer into its serious consideration at the earliest possible moment. Our French neighbours expressed their astonishment that we so wealthy, and, as they themselves acknowledged, so liberal a nation, who had generously given £20,000,000 to emancipate our West India slaves, could not, in the day of her distress, contribute a few millions out of our superabundance to raise the prostrate and suffering condition of Ireland. It must be recollected that that country laboured under immense disadvantages. In England was the principal centre of expenditure, and the seat of Government with its necessary cost and outlay. What was the difference between the English and the Irish labourers? It was not that England had such a good soil or good climate, but it was because the Government, with its Dockyards, its arsenals, and its public works, opened out a field of employment to the English labourer which the Irish labourer did not possess. Let them consider the case of this unfortunate class, and let them act in a manner worthy of themselves and of the great country to which they belonged.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he did not see why some attempt should not be made in the Land Bill to improve the condition of the labourers, although he did not suppose they could do much by direct legislation as regarded the labourers themselves. The fundamental reason 1986 why the condition of the labourers in Ireland and England was so bad was because it was quite impossible for them to become owners of land. The labourer had, practically speaking, under the territorial system in England and Ireland, nothing but the workhouse before him, and if he worked hard and made a little money he had nothing in which he could invest it. If he could hope that, as the result of his labour, he could obtain a piece of land, an incentive would be held out to the labourer which was not now in existence. If, therefore, the Land Bill was capable of being made to work to bring about a large number of small occupiers of land in Ireland, he would have thought the ultimate result of that Bill would be a great blessing to the Irish labourer. But, in the meanwhile, there was something which they could do for the labourer by direct legislation, and which, he submitted, the Irish labourer was entitled to. The Irish labourer was entitled to be placed, at all events, in an independent position as regarded his house and a small bit of land for growing vegetables and other food for his family. There was no reason why they could not provide for this matter in the Land Bill. If they gave the Commission power to buy land for the purpose of allotting it in small portions among the labourers, and to help in the building of little houses on the land, which the labourers could build themselves, under the system described by Professor Baldwin before the Royal Agricultural Commission—if they did this they would place the labourer in an independent position as regarded entering into contracts for labour with the farmer. As far as any immediate benefit by legislation, that was the only thing that appeared to him to hold out any hope of doing good. The labourers would also require to be in an independent position as regarded their houses, that the houses should be waterproof and tolerably habitable, and they should also be in an independent position as regarded a little bit of land for growing food for themselves and their families—say from half to three-quarters of an acre. They would then be independent of the farmers and landlords, and neither the farmers nor the landlords had shown in the past they deserved to have the future of the labourers under their con- 1987 trol. Before he left home in Ireland to come to that House he had a visit from a labourer, who said to him—"The farmers are the worst men in the world as regards the labourers. They will grind them down and do nothing for them, and make them exist on starvation wages." He would suggest to the Government, if they wanted to prevent the uprising of another agitation in Ireland such as the present, to consider whether they could not give power to their Commissioner to buy land in suitable localities and allocate it in small portions to the labourers of the country. It would not be necessary to interfere with the tenant right of tenants. There was plenty of land from which the tenants bad been cleared, and where the tenant right had been appropriated by the landlords, and he submitted it would be fair that the labourers should have some chance of getting an allotment of this land. In that way they would avoid any contact between the tenant farmers and the labourers; and the labourers would be placed in the independent position which was so necessary for their welfare.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Sir, I must make an observation or two after the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). It has always been one of the misfortunes of discussions of this nature that hitherto no plan has been laid before the House which appeared practical, or, being practical, was likely to answer the purpose. Now, the hon. Gentleman has suggested a plan which is the only original scheme I have heard of; and I think the way he put it before the House was in itself sufficient to condemn it, because, if I understand him aright, the Commission to be appointed under the Land Bill is to be allowed to purchase or possess itself of plots of land here and there throughout the country—it may be any particular farm in a neighbourhood, or the junction of two or three farms—and build as many cottages as are wanted for the labourers of that immediate locality, and each house shall have its half-acre or acre—I do not remember that the hon. Member was exact as to the amount—of land attached for the purpose of growing vegetables, which is like a little garden allotment. The hon. Member says that then the labourer would thus be independent of the farmer 1988 and the landowner. [Mr. PARNELL: So far as the allotment goes.] So far as the amount of food that he would grow on the plot of land which he had in his possession. Well, the House will see that this tends to bring back the condition of Ireland to that in which it was before the abolition of the 40s. freeholders. You now complain of the smallness of the holdings in the West. When a bad harvest comes the small farmers are in a state of suffering and ruin. If this plan were adopted, and you had another condition of things, which drove the small tenant of this allotment to endeavour to subsist upon his allotment rather than upon the wages which he might obtain from the neighbouring farmer, you would, it seems to me, have built up another state of things, another class, quite as bad as anything you already have in Ireland, and probably much worse. I am quite as anxious as anybody in this House for the improvement of the condition of the Irish labourers; but it is quite a mistake to suppose that the Irish labourer is the only labourer who is so badly off. The hon. Member for South Warwickshire (Sir Eardley Wilmot) says that the condition of the Irish labourer is a disgrace, not to this country alone, but in the eyes of Europe also. I believe that. I have seen labourers' cottages in the West of Scotland as bad as anything that can be found in Ireland. I recollect also that during the time we were endeavouring to carry the repeal of the Corn Laws it was proposed by the Council of the Anti Corn Law League that they should bring bodily a labourer's cottage from Wales and set it up in this City, and invite the people of London to come and see what sort of places the Welsh labourers' families lived in. I could tell some sorrowful and dreary stories of the state of things I have seen in Scotland. In Scotland labourers are not able to get plots of land. Ireland is far more favourable to the labourer than either England or Scotland in that particular, because in England and Scotland, as a rule, a labourer cannot obtain a piece of land for his own possession. He cannot even obtain a piece to rent, whereas in Ireland the farms are so small that a labourer who has saved a £10 note can compete for a farm, and in all probability obtain one. In England or Scotland it is 10 times 1989 more difficult for a labourer to obtain possession of a small farm than in Ireland. The fact is, there is no kind of conjuring by which you can improve the condition of the labourer except by stimulating the industry of the country. I would agree to any plan Irish Members may propose that would have oven a probability of being useful to the Irish labourers. Labourers' wages, as everyone knows, have greatly increased within the last 30 or 40 years. The Irish labourer at this moment is obtaining, when he works, three times—I am sure, at least, more than double the wages he had when I first went to Ireland, 30 years ago. In England there has been no alteration in the law, no new mode by which the labourers could have better cottages or plots of land, yet the labourers' wages in England have nearly doubled since that time. I saw a letter the other day—it is a matter that excites feelings which one cannot express now—the letter published I think since the death of Lord Beaconsfield was one which he had written to Mr. Heath, who sent him a book he had written on the condition of the agricultural labourers, a book which I have the pleasure to possess myself, and Lord Beaconsfield said he thought that Mr. Heath took too much of a discouraging view of the condition of the labourers in the South and West of England, because in his own county of Buckingham wages in the time to which Mr. Heath referred had risen 40 percent. The increase, I believe, has been greater than that, for I know that in Buckinghamshire 30 years ago labourers received only 7s. or 8s. a-week. I do not know what they are now; but I know that not long ago they were at least double that figure. Now, what has caused that increase of wages? The increased stimulus which has been given to the industry of the country, and farm labourers have taken advantage of it as other labourers have done. What you want in Ireland is a stimulus of the same kind. How is it to come? Not, I presume, from cotton or other factories, because you have not got them, and there seems to be nobody in Ireland who is able or willing to turn to account the great resources of water-power in that country. At Galway 30 years ago I recollect I was shown a run of water from Lough Corrib which would have 1990 been of extraordinary value for manufacturing purposes. Why, then, has no manufacturing industry been carried on in Ireland, I should like to know? We hear a good deal in this House of the destruction of the woollen manufacture in Ireland by laws which came to an end 100 years ago. I should like to know why, during that 100 years, no attempt has been made to establish or to revive that industry? Go to the North, to the river which separates us from Scotland—the Tweed. I do not know how long the manufactures have been going on there; but you have Hawick, Galashiels, and some other towns, among the most prosperous towns in Great Britain. You see that from the condition of the people, from their cottages, and the good houses built round about where the manufacturers live. Last October, at the station at Hawick, a gentleman connected with the manufactures of the town to whom I spoke told me that trade there was satisfactory and good; and I believe there is no part of Great Britain in which for many years past there has been greater prosperity than on the banks of the Tweed. What is it they work on the banks of the Tweed? Wool. I do not know whether the wool is chiefly home-grown or imported. If it be imported, Ireland can import wool quite as well as England or Scotland. If it be home-grown, Ireland is not very far from Scotland, and Ireland itself grows a good deal of wool. I do not see why, if there was that spirit amongst the Irish people—I am not speaking of the poor labourer, but of the middle classes—why, in the name of common sense, is it that during the last 100 years there has not been a single manufacture of any importance established and sustained in Ireland? Why is nothing done with the water that runs from Lough Corrib into Galway harbour? If it were in America it would be used. If it were in Great Britain it would be used. Why is it not used in Ireland? It is no answer to say that the Land Laws in Ireland have been bad. Our Land Laws have been bad also. What has been done in England has been done in the teeth of our Land Laws, which have been as bad, and in some respects worse than yours. I think Irishmen ought to ask themselves why something is not done to utilize the vast stores of water and the many other advantages they 1991 have. I do not know of any disadvantage they have, except that they have not so good a supply of coals as we have. [Mr. DAWSON: Or capital.] Capital! Do you suppose that the people of Great Britain, who have invested scores, if not hundreds, of their capital all over the world and lost millions of it, would not invest it in Ireland if there was any disposition on the part of the Irish people to utilize it, and, at the same time, to convince them that it would be secure? I am only telling you what I have observed in Ireland. I recollect very well the first time I went to Ireland it was said that if a man had £100 a-year he thought it necessary to keep a jaunting car, and there was the least possible disposition on the part of the people for trade or industry. Wherever I went there was not a mother who did not expect her son to get into the Constabulary, the Customs, the Excise, or some other Government appointment. It was an old habit I suppose; but there seemed to be none of that anxiety to get into business and to succeed in business which is universal with the middle-class in Great Britain. I do not know how it is. It is not for me to find fault with the Irish people. They are, if anything, I think, rather cleverer than the English or the Scotch. They beat us in many things; but in their own country they do not appear to be interested very much in business. It is only fair to say, at the same time, that the Irish labourers who come to this country—and I suppose we have 1,000,000 of them—work pretty well. I recollect a gentleman, engaged in manufacture in Ireland, telling me not long ago that owing to the prevalence of, as he thought, unnecessary Saints' days, his firm lost £500 a-year from the idleness to which their machinery was condemned. That is a disadvantage which the Irish people, if they liked, could get rid of. [Mr. DAWSON: What about fast days?] I am glad that the hon. Member for the City of Cork has made the speech that he has, because he has approached the subject with a proposition which we can discuss and understand; but if hon. Members wish the Government to introduce some clauses affecting this question, I would recommend them to give them careful consideration, and try whether it is possible to put into two or three clauses 1992 some mode by which the condition of the labourers can be improved in Ireland. Hon. Members from Ireland have not said much about the labourers until lately. I do not know that they said anything until there was a meeting of labourers somewhere in the South of Ireland complaining that the Land League was not doing much for them. Now, if I understood the hon. Gentleman aright, he seemed to think that the worst friends of the labourers were the farmers. According to his theory, the landowners are the great oppressors of the tenants, and the tenants are the oppressors of the labourers. I suppose that the labourers have nobody below them, or they would be oppressors to somebody else. Now, is there any possibility of approaching the condition of the labourers except through the tenant farmers? The farmers are the employers of the labourers, who, if there is no manufacturing industry in the country, must work on the land; and if the farmers are harsh, severe, and unjust, what is to be done? You ask, in what I should call the extreme extravagance of your views, that something should be taken from the landlord and conferred upon the tenant. Well, someone may say, Why should not something that belongs to the farmer be conferred on the labourer? The question, therefore, is one of extreme difficulty; but I think hon. Members who come to this House from Ireland—I will not say for the first time, but for the first time in great force—and speak on behalf of the Irish labourers, should be able to show some scheme by which the Government can aid the labourers. I should recommend the House, however, not to agree to any plan which would withdraw the labourer from employment to give him a patch of land which would be fit only to raise a few potatoes for his family, and which would consign him to a condition even worse than that in which he is at present. I admit frankly that in travelling through the South of Ireland many years ago, I saw scenes affecting enough to make any man weep; and as I look back now I can see some of the cottages, as they are called, but are no better than Indian wigwams, and which, in my opinion, are a disgrace to the country. I do not know whether this is the fault of the Government or not. We may, perhaps, divide the blame between 1993 the Government and the people; but if the Irish Members can suggest any plan which does not rob anybody else, any honest and practicable plan, by which the condition of the Irish labourer can be improved, depend upon it they will find none more anxious than Her Majesty's Government, and no Member of that Government more anxious than myself, to aid them in promoting that object.
§ MR. CRAIG
said, the hon. Member for County Louth, in his speech, had described a state of things which was precisely similar to that with which he (Mr. Craig) was acquainted in the North of Northumberland 30 years ago. It was not at all unusual then for a whole family of 10 or 12 to live in one room, and often behind the box beds a cow had quarters in the same cottage house. That was the case both in the mining and in the agricultural districts. Such a state of things had happily given place to arrangements which were more conducive to the moral, intellectual, and physical health of the people. He had had a very long experience in the establishment of cottage homes for labourers in connection with large industrial establishments—at least extending over a period of upwards of 25 years—and the result of his experience was the conviction that there was nothing more conducive to morality, industry, and sobriety than good homes for the labouring population. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had objected to the views of the hon. Member for Cork City (Mr. Parnell), who advocated independent cottages and gardens for the labourers, giving them an acre of ground or more, and a good cottage as an allotment. He (Mr. Craig) thought the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct in his objection; because it would not be conducive to the general interests of the community to make the labourers independent of both the landlords and the farmers. The fruits of their labour ought to make them independent of everything, except the labour itself. He (Mr. Craig) found from experience in Staffordshire that those colliers who possessed their own house and a piece of land, although they were industrious and sober and thrifty, nevertheless absented themselves from their employment frequently, and occasionally at very inconvenient times. He thought also that one acre of land 1994 was too much for a labourer's garden. What he required was sufficient to occupy his time during leisure hours, and to afford him a beneficial pastime, which would be the case if he had a quarter of an acre, in connection with a good five-roomed cottage. He was, however, disappointed in hearing the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster describe the case as a difficult one, and say that there was not a probability of its being settled in connection with the Land Bill. His (Mr. Craig's) own opinion was that it was not so difficult, and it was certainly a matter which would not involve a very large amount of money, having regard to the enormous good which would be produced. The right hon. Gentleman said, in comparing Ireland with England, that there was a want of will and determination among the Irish which prevailed in England, and which was the cause, to a great extent, of England's superior prosperity. The fact was, however, that the will and determination did not exist owing to the demoralized condition of the people, in consequence of the deplorable homes in which they were compelled to live. It was one of those cases where the assistance of a superior power was required, and it was incumbent upon the State to give a start—at least, to set an example—to the erection of superior dwellings. Now, he could state as a fact—because he had built many hundreds of cottages—that in their manufacturing districts a five-roomed house could be erected for £120. He did not think it would take half that amount in many districts in Ireland; but even supposing it took the whole of that sum, they could erect 50,000 cottages of five rooms each for the total amount of £6,000,000, and that would be sufficient to accommodate 500,000 people with homes which would be sufficient for health of both body and mind. Let the Government, therefore, put a clause into the Bill, making it compulsory upon tenants who purchased their own holdings, under the clause of the Bill, to borrow, in addition to that required for the payment of the price of the holding, a sum of money on the same conditions, to establish, under proper inspection, good five-roomed cottages for the labourers who cultivated the land. And let the Government also offer, upon easy 1995 terms, the amount necessary to build cottages upon holdings where the present relation of landlord and tenant continued to exist. This amount of £6,000,000, in his opinion, would bring about a state of things in Ireland which would result in greater intelligence among the people and a higher state of morality, which were the necessary causes of commercial prosperity. Re should not be surprised if the Government took this step and settled this important question in connection with the Laud Law (Ireland) Bill, to see a similar condition of prosperity introduced to Ireland to that which had prevailed in England during the last 40 years.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he was sorry to find the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster speaking in the same anti-Irish spirit that evening as he had done 26 years ago, and taunting the Irish Members with never bringing forward any proposal of a practical nature. The right hon. Gentleman, too, he regretted to see, could not refrain from displaying somewhat of a sectarian feeling against the religious observances of the Roman Catholics in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had a varnish of religious toleration, but real toleration was far from his heart and from his lips; and now a gratuitous sneer was wantonly flung at the Roman Catholics by "the illustrious friend of Ireland." At the same time, the right hon. Gentleman's sense of toleration was extremely delicate with regard to some people. He could make excuses for forms of belief, which need not be more particularly referred to in a Christian Assembly; but, dealing with the Catholics of Ireland, he did not hesitate to suggest that the progress of civilization might lead them to give up the holy days of their Church, forgetting, apparently, that more time was wasted by drunkenness and debauchery in other parts of the world than by strict adherence to the requirements of a religious creed. But these were some of the idiosyncrasies of the right hon. Gentleman, and he was not disposed to deal hardly with them. The right hon. Gentleman had once more displayed his utter ignorance of those rural questions upon which he was so fond of dilating. The right hon. Gentleman might, however, have recollected the work of Pro- 1996 fessor Kaye, which was full of statements illustrating the advantages of enabling labourers to secure possession of their homes and gardens. Speaking of Prussia, Professor Kaye stated that in 1858 there were 800,000 day labourers working for wages who owned small plots of land; and he also spoke of the French system, and that which existed in Norway. After alluding to the position of single labourers, Professor Kaye described the married labourers as living on the outskirts of the farm in cottages of their own, containing generally four rooms and glass windows. The leases were for their lives, and attached to each cottage was a piece of land capable of producing enough corn and potatoes to supply the wants of the occupant. Considering that men were in many parts of Europe in this comfortable position, it was indeed strange that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster should have declared that the scheme of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was one which must be at once condemned by the House. The presence of the right hon. Gentleman in the Cabinet was anything but a guarantee that the Irish people would again know the blessing of prosperity while a British Government existed to blast their prospects. The action of England had strangled the national industries of Ireland; and yet the right hon. Gentleman dared to read the people of that country a lecture upon the absence among them of manufacturing industries! Having heard such language from a distinguished and eminent Liberal, he had, at any rate, the satisfaction of knowing that the great sham of Liberalism had that night exploded for ever. No longer would the Irish people be in danger of being turned away from its own attempts to free itself from the injustice of centuries by the pro-Irish sympathies of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The right hon. Gentleman had cast aside the mask, which it had not been difficult to see through in any case; and, for his part, he was glad of it. The proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork could easily be carried out by a National Government, though the execution of the plan might be beyond the intelligence and capacity, as it seemed certainly to be beyond the good will, of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The right hon 1997 Gentleman's confession of incapacity and ill-will would go to swell the number of the many existing proofs that the Imperial Parliament would never promote the welfare of the Irish people.
§ MR. LITTON
said, that when the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) charged the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with showing sectarian feeling in his speech, the hon. Member must have forgotten there was no Member in the House who himself indulged in "sectarian flings" so often as he did. The hon. Member who did not sit for Northampton could bear testimony to that fact, and the hon. Member for Dungarvan possessed a monopoly in that style of argument. The warmth and energy the hon. Member for Dungarvan had shown were misplaced. The question they were discussing was one of the greatest interest and importance, and it was one of eminent difficulty. He had failed to see any practical way whereby the condition of the labourer could be improved without inflicting an injustice on the very class of persons for whom a struggle was being made to free them from the incubus of excessive rents, and enable them to manage their own holdings uncontrolled and unfettered. If the proposal of the hon. Member for Dungarvan was carried out it should be necessary to enact that the labourers of Ireland should be put in possession of sufficient plots of land for comfort, and to this extent deprive the peasant proprietors of so much of their holding—against their will, and when they, perhaps, did not require labourers at all. If that was done by an Act of Parliament it would be regarded by the tenant farmers as the most oppressive Act that this or any Government could inflict. What would be said by the tenant farmers who were now seeking to be freed from the incubus of heavy rents if they found an Act of Parliament or a clause of an Act insisting that they should employ a labourer, whether they wanted him or not; and also be told that their dealings with the labourers were to be regulated by the Act. It appeared to him that this sympathy for the labourers was quite a new-born zeal on the part of the Land League. It was now the fashion to take up the cause of the labourer. But the labourers were never thought of until they had broken up a Land League meeting at Shana- 1998 garry in the county of Cork last autumn. The landlords had also made advances to the labourers, and it was but a day or two ago the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had given Notice of a Resolution on their behalf.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. LITTON,
resuming, said, that the subject ought not to be made a stalking horse by either the Conservative or the Home Rule Party. It appeared to him that a practical remedy for the evils complained of had not been suggested; and he thought that they could not deal with them by the insertion of clauses in the Land Law (Ireland) Bill. In conclusion, he must enter his protest against the attempts made from the Benches opposite to lead the country to imagine that hon. Members on his side of the House were indifferent to the welfare and happiness of the Irish labourers.
§ MR. SEXTON
desired to give a most direct contradiction to the statement that the interest felt by the Irish Members in Irish labourers arose from a new-born zeal. The question had been the subject of many speeches and resolutions at meetings held in Ireland; but it appeared to be obvious that the improvement of the condition of the labourers depended largely upon the previous improvement of the condition of the farmers, and that one would follow the other.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the hon. and learned Member for Tyrone (Mr. Litton) had ineffectually attempted to defend the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster against the attack of the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), which betrayed the vehemence of just anger. From either a religious or a political point of view the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was equally deserving of condemnation; and the Government must by this time regret that the discussion, so far as they were concerned, was not allowed to close with the speech of the Chief Secretary, who approached the question in a calm, practical spirit, and professed his desire 1999 to avail himself of any useful suggestion. The speech of his Colleague offered a most painful contrast, and was devoid of the humanity and the friendliness towards Ireland with which the right hon. Gentleman had always been credited. Why did the right hon. Gentleman go out of his way to sneer at the religion of the Irish nation? He spoke of the number of Saints' days observed in Ireland. Why, the wisest observers and soundest critics of modern civilization were of opinion that if holidays were increased it would be well for this country. No doubt, there were more religious holidays in Ireland than in England; and, perhaps, if the Irish people were less devoted to their religion—if they had less of the patience and hope which ranked so high among the Christian virtues—the English method of rule in Ireland, but for the influence of that religion, would have been treated by the people in such a way as even the intellect and the resources of the right hon. Gentleman would have found it difficult to contend against. The right hon. Gentleman had been eloquent on the subject of manu—factures; but he altogether ignored the fatal system of English legislation which in former days crushed out the manufactures of Ireland. Manufacture was a plant that did not grow in a single day. The interests of the English people in manufactures, as in every other regard, had been carefully cherished by the Legislature; but in Ireland an opposite course had been followed, and the life of Irish manufactures had been crushed out with such completeness as to render impossible any chance of their reviving. How could manufactures revive, and how could the necessary funds be applied, in a country where society was dislocated? In Ireland society consisted of two classes—the one embarrassed and needy, descendants of a race of spend-thrifts, seeking only to draw the last penny, were the miserable tillers of the soil. How could such a class find money for manufactures? They could not find money enough for their own miserable wants and extravagances. As to the other class, the poor tenant farmers, the fruit of.their labour went to the landlords. How, then, in this condition of society, could they expect manufacturing capitalists to spring into life? It was impossible, and the right hon. Gen- 2000 tleman, while he talked so eloquently of the growth of manufactures in England, and while he pandered to England's nationality and vanity, quoted only the primer history, and entirely ignored its philosophy. His hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had attempted to point out how the condition of the Irish labourer could be improved, and. he had no doubt that such a plan was well within the reach of human ingenuity. But if there were any defects in the plan, it did not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to emphasize them as he had done in his tart and severe speech of that evening. They were there as Representatives of the people, to explain the wants of the people, and to insist upon the direction in which remedy should proceed. The obligation did not lie upon them to prepare schemes of reform in the fulness of detail. It was enough for them to point out the particulars in which the Government had failed; and when the right hon. Gentleman criticized the scheme of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork, he felt entitled to reply to him that when the State appointed a Government, when the State selected the best ability at its disposal, and when the State offered large practical inducements to the men whom it took into its service, to employ their ability for the good and advantage of the people, it was for them, and not for private Members, to elaborate schemes of reform and progress. But it did not well become experienced statesmen to endeavour to give only the cold shoulder to such schemes of reform and progress as might be introduced by private Members. Therefore, he had heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with regret. He believed the unfortunate condition of Ireland with regard to the farmers, labourers, and in many other particulars, could be traced to causes bearing directly or indirectly upon the government of the country by England, and not to any cause that was prejudicial or disgraceful to the character of the Irish. people. He was extremely sorry that when the subject had been already wisely and patiently dealt with by one of his Colleagues (Mr. W. E. Forster), the right hon. Gentleman thought fit to interfere without improving the condition of the question, to injure his own 2001 character in Ireland, and to add to the discredit of a Government whose character was already irretrievably damaged. If he were to live for 50 years, and were at the end of that time to look for an example of the spirit of British Philistinism, he would refer to the speech of the right lion. Gentleman. It was a speech which was singularly marked by an unperceptive spirit—it was singularly deficient in the dramatic sympathy which should be one of the first attributes of a statesman, and it was singularly distinguished by the spirit of arrogance and self-sufficiency which was very frequently to be found displayed in the British character, and which, while, perhaps, it supplied the secret of the success of the English people in attending to their own interests, also suggested the explanation of the opinion with which English rule had been regarded since ever it began to have sway over Ireland.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
thought the hon. Member who had just spoken had somewhat misunderstood the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. [An hon. MEMBER: But you did not hear it all.] The Land Bill, as a great measure for the benefit of agriculture, must improve the condition of the labourers. The proposition of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) was obviously open to the objection that it might import a large quantity of labour where it was not wanted. At the same time, he hoped conditions would arise under the Land Bill which would be taken advantage of for the benefit of the Irish labourer. Where large or small areas of land were reclaimed by the agency of Companies or under baronial guarantees, there was nothing to prevent the Land Commission entering into engagements for allotments to labourers. He reminded the hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was impossible to separate the welfare of the people of Ireland generally from the Bill of the Government. He had noticed lately that the value of shares in certain Irish banks had increased—which was probably duo to the introduction of the Land Bill, and might be held to prove that the greater security given to the property of the people of Ireland would naturally be followed by an increase in the value of capital in that country. With regard to the observations of his 2002 right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, they had been misrepresented. He understood his right hon. Friend to refer simply to a fact, but to draw no inference from it. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would set themselves, might he say, dutifully to support the Land Bill and to introduce Amendments, they would not only promote the welfare of the Irish farmers, but would bring a large amount of happiness to the labouring class, which had hitherto been greatly neglected.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, his opinion was that if they improved the social condition of things in Ireland each class would benefit of necessity the class below it. Therefore, without any fictitious bolstering up, when they improved the state of one class they would improve that of the other. Every attempt had been made to draw away the labourers from the side of the farmers in the present agitation; but, as the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had shown, the labourers had too much acumen to be led astray. They saw that if the number of employers was increased the demand for labour would be also increased, and the labourers would be able to make their own terms. It appeared from evidence taken by the Devon Commission that at that time there was a waste land society, which bought up half the side of a country, and settled upon it labourers who were before periodically in a state of famine, giving them 31 years' leases. The families so treated emerged from their poverty, and before half the term was over they had a smiling in place of a barren land. If, therefore, they were to plant Ireland again, he must protest against its being planted by Englishmen, or any others than Irishmen, who were both willing and able to work. Indeed, the cause of the labourers, whether English or Irish, ought to appeal to their hearts. The English labourer was not a bit better off than the Irish labourer. Mr. G. F. Heath had written a book in which he told us that the honeysuckled cottages of the English labourers were but whited sepulchres. It could be seen, too, from the correspondence in The Times and other papers, that the labouring population of England was in a fearful state. Coming now to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham 2003 (Mr. John Bright), whom Irishmen had looked upon as a friend, upon what grounds had he thrown in the face of Ireland that it had no capital and no manufactures? Was not that like the robber upbraiding the man he had robbed? Then the right hon. Gentleman, in his reference to Saints' days, had made another most unfortunate remark—a remark which lie was compelled to describe as of the lowest and most unworthy character. He protested against such sneers at the holy days of the Church, and preferred days consecrated by religious customs to holidays appointed by Act of Parliament. For himself, if the inconvenience of solemn days was to be discussed, he might observe, as an Irish trader, that the fast days in Scotland occasionally delayed his mercantile transactions. However, he would, refrain from criticisms on such matters, and only hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would regret his suggestion that the nine days observed as holy in Ireland were a hindrance to the prosperity of the country. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman exhibited in a striking manner his utter want of knowledge and sympathy in dealing with the Irish people.
§ MR. SHAW
said, when he had left the House a couple of hours ago, he thought the discussion was about to come to an amicable conclusion; but, on entering again, he found that it had taken rather an unpleasant turn. He could gather from hon. Gentlemen opposite that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had said something that Irish Members seemed to have a right to complain of. Well, he must say that if he had done so it was the first time during his long political life that he had ever said anything in reference to Ireland that had not been for the benefit of Ireland. He always felt that when a friend of long standing, of venerable years, whose sympathies and feelings he know to be good, said anything severe, it was wrong to lose one's temper over it; but that one should take it home and think over it. He believed it came from the fact of a man speaking during the dinner hour, when the House was empty. He might, perhaps, be allowed to say one or two words as to the employment of labourers in Ireland, and as to the conditions under which he 2004 carried on his industry there. Something had been said about Saints' days and holidays. He could not tell exactly the number of Saints' days and. holidays, he was sorry to say—[Mr. SEXTON: Nine altogether in the year.] At all events, he could say that they had a very largo number in their employment, 99 per cent of whom were Catholics, and he believed they never lost an hour on ordinary working days owing to their absence on those holidays. They had in the City of Cork a Prelate of great wisdom, and a clergy of great experience and great piety, and they had come to them and told. them that they knew very well the immense loss that would be caused to their business establishment by a cessation of work on those days, and they had special services in their churches for the workers in their mill. The workers went there, and, as a matter of fact, they could do their business as well and as successfully in their mill as in any mill in Belfast, and they were as little interfered with by these Saints' days and holidays. As to the aptitude of the Irish people for manufactures, that was a very different question. Manufacturing aptitude, like other habits, became localized, and he believed the habit of industry must be born with a people. Unfortunately, industry had been interfered with, and he could speak with practical experience of the almost insuperable difficulty of starting a new industry in a country. He felt himself this Land Question would do an immense deal of good to the labourers of Ireland. But he believed it was only one of the means that they should look to for elevating the working classes. If they gave the tenant farmer a hold of his farm, enabled him to drain his land and make improvements, and let him feel that those improvements were his own, he believed that in two years they would not have a single able-bodied man in Ireland in want of employment. In the South and West of Ireland there was a great want of industrial establishments, and if they could only get these, employment would be found for thousands of persons, and they would be spared. the necessity of emigrating. If they could get some industrial manufactures and less oratory by slow degrees and by patience the very greatest good would. be done to the country. He had more 2005 respect for the man who laboured clay after day to plant some industry in Ireland than for all the eloquence and writings about the progress of the country. He knew of cases of extraordinary success attending men who had striven to establish some small industry in the South of Ireland. He knew of instances of working mechanics amassing small fortunes by patience, thrift, and sobriety. They required more industries, and if they could settle down they would very soon get them. As to the agricultural labourers, the experience of the Land Commission taught him there was nothing more disgraceful than the condition of three-fourths of these people. Their houses, pay, food, and prospects were wretched; their children were a burden to them, and soon as they got old enough for service they left home, and it was miserable to see the poor men, with hardly any prospect before them in their old age but the poor house. He believed they could, if not in this Bill, by another Bill, make it obligatory on country sanitary authorities to see that where labourers were employed they should be well housed. The people of the South of Ireland could engage in industrial occupations as well as the inhabitants of any part of the world; and if some rich persons would come over there and plant their industries—["No, no!"]—No! that was certainly an interruption he did not expect. He repeated, if some persons could be induced to come over to Ireland with their hundreds of thousands of pounds, and plant their industries in the country, they would find as good workers and as honest workers, and they would make as much money, as in any part of the Three Kingdoms. As to any people interfering with or injuring their capital, the investor would find his capital as safe in Cork as in Manchester.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that he had risen to address the House more than two hours ago, when his remarks would have occupied only a very few minutes; but since the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the debate, which had been businesslike and conciliatory, had been less strictly confined to the question before the House. He would first make one or two observations on what had fallen from his bon. Friend the Member for 2006 County Cork (Mr. Shaw). His hon. Friend had referred to the great amount of effort which had been diverted from practical work to political questions. The feeling of every Irishman was that every talent and all the energy of thousands of Irishmen must be thrown into the work of bringing Ireland into competition with the other civilized countries of the world. Why was so much energy wasted in political struggles? Because this country, already overburdened with its own responsibilities, insisted upon managing the affairs of Ireland, with which it was not competent to deal. His hon. Friend had referred to the majority of the sanitary authorities exerting themselves on behalf of the poor in their dwellings. The fact was, the sanitary authorities did nothing. Beggars went from village to village, carrying often with them the germs of disease, which were scattered broadcast over the country, and the sanitary authorities did nothing to prevent it. The police, instead of preventing such things happening, were engaged in looking after imaginary political offenders. He would next refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which was an extremely offensive speech. In a calm discussion he had got up and had gone off into one of his general sermons upon the faults of the Irish character and the virtues of the English, sermons which were more easy to deliver than they were agreeable to listen to. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the Saints' days in Ireland; he apparently did not know that there were only nine altogether, and that as the four Bank Holidays were scarcely observed at all there, this left only five days more of holidays in Ireland than there were in England. But he believed that in Lancashire, and particularly in Rochdale, a general cessation of manufacturing operations took place in Whit week. When the right hon. Gentleman attributed the holidays of the Irish people to their religion, it was simply because the bigotry in his nature must find some expression. Ever since he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had thought upon political subjects, he had conceived a great contempt for the views of the middle classes in England upon political questions, which were narrow and insular. The right hon. Gentleman was an extremely good representative of the 2007 middle classes. He had the highest respect for the right hon. Gentleman, and had carefully read his speeches; and in reading the speeches which he delivered 30 years ago with his recent ones, he found that the right hon. Gentleman's mind had not widened one inch. There was not a single new idea, and they too often expressed prejudices in which he had been brought up, instead of statesmanlike breadth of thought. It was too often the case that the right hon. Gentleman's words were the result of temper instead of the expression of the workings of his own clear intelligence. One of the most frequently-quoted passages from the right hon. Gentleman had once been his remark that "the Irish people were idle because they were Catholic, and were poor because they were idle." If, however, the Irish Representatives would only consent to represent English opinions and not Irish, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman would forget all the unkind things he had ever said about Ireland, and would give them what they did not desire, a patronizing benediction, which, no doubt, would make them all very happy. The right hon. Gentleman had asked how it was that there was no commerce in Ireland, while there was commerce in America, and also why English capital did not find its way into Ireland? He would answer the last question first. There was a mistaken idea abroad that capital was insecure in Ireland. Capital was certainly much safer invested in Ireland than in Turkey or in the South American Republics. Certainly property in Ireland was much safer from robbery than it was in England. It was thought, too, that public peace and security were not so well established in Ireland as in England. Such peace and security could never be established till the present system of government was altered root and branch, and the Irish were enabled to exercise self-government. And if commerce did not flourish in that country, whose fault was it in America the Irish were as successful in commerce as any people. The fault, therefore, lay with England. The mis-government of England had compelled the Irish to devote energies to political questions which could more profitably be directed to commercial pursuits. He could quote the right hon. Gentleman himself in sup- 2008 port of what he said; for the right hon. Gentleman had himself drawn a powerful contrast between the Irish in Ireland with the Irish in America, showing the energy and industry which they could display when a fair field was opened. He understood the proposal of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to be to advance money to Companies for the reclamation of waste lands; but that plan had been condemned by Professor Baldwin, who instanced the failure of the Galtee experiment.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was endeavouring to show the true way of benefiting the material condition of the labourers of Ireland, and he was going on to show that was by the reclamation of waste land. If they wanted waste land reclaimed, they must trust to labour for it, and not to capital. The proposal of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had been misunderstood. What he would like would be that the Commission should have the power to buy up waste or semi-waste land, and that it should be given rent free for some years to a certain number of labourers. An important experiment of that kind had been made by Mr. Pitt Kennedy, who had charged 1s. per annum per acre to the labourers for the first year, adding 1s. per acre each year up to 21 years. They were now paying 14s. per acre for the land, and it was flourishing and valuable. He believed that was the true solution of the difficulty for getting rid of the surplus agricultural population; but with regard to the other portions of the population, he was not prepared to make any suggestions.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
regretted that so much time should have been wasted by hon. Members from Ireland in attacking the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, instead of informing the House of their views upon the question of the agricultural labourer, whose hopes they had been instrumental in exciting. He rose, however, in order to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland not to postpone to another year, as had been suggested, the subject raised by this Motion. The expectations of the labourers of Ireland had been raised by the promises which 2009 had been made; and they would suffer bitter disappointment if they found that, after the part they had taken in the agitation in favour of the tenant farmers, they were told that nothing could be proposed at present for the benefit of the agricultural labourers. They were told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that they were to trust to economic laws! But that was because it was a difficult question that was to be faced. It would be amusing, were it not so sad, to observe how the labourers had been imposed upon by the members of the Land League—at every meeting an unmeaning resolution, embodying no statement of intended action, was passed sub silentio at the end of the proceedings, somewhat in the same manner as the toast of "The Press" was proposed, as a matter of form, at the tail end of public dinners; and now, after strong hopes had been excited, they were told by Gentlemen opposite that one thing only could be done at a time; that they should wait till the tenant question was settled before their case could be considered—a kind of "live horse, and you will get grass" sort of advice, as it occurred to him (Sir Patrick O'Brien). The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had said that the landlord "sat" on the tenant, and the tenant performed the same operation on the agricultural labourers; but he made suggestions which required attention, although he thought the hon. Gentleman's plan would be somewhat inadequate. For his own part, he thought some plan might be devised for carrying out the capital suggestion of the hon. Member (Mr. Craig), as regards the building of cottages, and also of, in certain cases, granting small gardens to the labourer. Where so much was proposed to be done for the tenant, he could not object to making this small concession to the labourer who tilled his farm. Whatever was done for the labourers, at all events, would, he trusted, be done without delay. He would only add that although, no doubt, there were blots upon the Land Bill, it would confer great benefits upon the tenant farmers, and lie hoped the Prime Minister would not relinquish any of its provisions.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was sorry to say that the condition of the agricultural labourer in Ireland had been entirely overlooked in the legislation of that House; and would suggest, 2010 that in the improvement of the Poor Law, and the making it more in accordance with the system which prevailed in England, the most practical remedy for the recurrence of famine in the case of that class of the population was to be found. He should like to point out, he might add, to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that the late Lord Mayo, in a debate on the milling trade in Ireland in 1851, showed that since the legislation of 1846, for which the right hon. Gentleman was mainly responsible, that trade had rapidly decreased. He was surprised, therefore, to hear the language with respect to the promotion of manufactures in Ireland in which the right hon. Gentleman had indulged. He did not know, he might add, any specific for all the ills of Ireland; but he might observe that they seemed to be somewhat analogous to those which prevailed in the Pontifical States before their emancipation.
§ MR. LAING
said, that he had recently spent some time in the South-West of Ireland, and must state that the condition of the labouring classes there had impressed him with a feeling of most profound and intense pity. No words could exaggerate the lamentable and deplorable condition in which the great mass of the population existed. That part of the country contrasted strongly with the respectable and comfortable circumstances of the peasantry in the North-West of Sutherlandshire—a district that greatly resembled the South-West of Ireland in physical conformation. He must confess that he came away from Ireland with a much larger feeling of toleration towards the excesses of the Land League, and the gentleman who might go to excesses of agitation in that direction. He had met men in Ireland who were glad to dig in most difficult ground and to remove boulder stones for 1s. a-day. According to a reasonable calculation, the earnings of such men could not exceed 200s. a-year. The things that were wanted for the labourers were constant employment and better wages. The Land Bill, he thought, would, in a measure, supply these wants. It would cause an increase in the demand for labour; and, consequently, more labourers would obtain employment, and their remuneration would be greater. If the condition of 2011 the stratum of society next above the labourer—namely, the farmer—were improved, there must, he maintained, be more demand for agricultural labour. But in over-populated districts no remedy would be effectual unless the demand for labour could be increased and the supply diminished. He must express his convictions. The best means of reducing the supply was by establishing a well-organized scheme of emigration, which would also be a boon to the female population. In America and elsewhere, girls could find employment without difficulty at remunerative wages, and their chances of matrimony were greater than at home. It seemed to him almost inhuman to interpose any obstacle in the way of emigration. At the same time, he was quite of opinion that it ought to be voluntary. He would conclude with one appeal to the Irish Members, and another to the Government. He appealed to the former to co-operate with the Liberal Party in facilitating the progress of the Irish Land Bill. There was far more sympathy with their cause on the Ministerial side of the House than the Irish Members had any idea of; and, therefore, he hoped that they would not throw any obstacles in the way of the Government by pursuing a policy of exasperation. He would also appeal to the Government, and ask them to throw a little more energy into their proceedings for the passing of the Bill. A good many days had already been wasted in skirmishing upon the second reading; and no little dissatisfaction was caused by the fact that measures of minor importance should be allowed to impede the progress of a Bill of so vital a character. He must also condemn the bringing on of the Motion, of which Notice had been given for next Monday. ["Question!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
intimated to the hon. Member that he was not discussing the Question before the House.
§ MR. LEWIS
desired to call attention to the action of the Government in reference to the Resolution before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had stated on behalf of the Government that they were prepared to accept the Resolution, save as to that part of it which said that the subject should be 2012 dealt with during the present Session of Parliament. Well, he bad been in the House long enough to remember the objections which Members of Her Majesty's Government had taken to the passing of abstract Resolutions; and he thought nothing could be more improper than that they should bind themselves down to the acceptance and carrying out of the abstract Resolution before them. The fact should be borne in mind that the House had not yet had any statement on the part of the Government as to their entire policy with respect to the Land Question in Ireland. But the present Resolution was only a part of the Land Question, affecting, as it did, a large class of the agricultural population of Ireland, whose existence had been, so far as the Land Bill was concerned, totally ignored by the Government, and of whom, indeed, nothing had been heard until a certain great meeting had been held in their interest. Now, however, the new-born zeal of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway had, like an epidemic, spread to the Treasury Bench. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan) sought to bind the House to a proposal as to the practical details or results of which neither the Government nor the House had had any explanation afforded to them. They were asked to assent to two propositions, the first of which was that it was matter of pressing necessity that facilities should be afforded for the erection of cottages and the providing of garden plots for agricultural labourers. At whose expense was that to be done? Had the Government the least idea how the proposal thus made, and to which they had assented, was to be carried out? Was the cost to come out of the property remaining to the landlord after the passing of the Land Bill, or was it to be borne out of the property of the landlord which was to be conferred upon the tenant under the proposed legislation? The second portion of the Resolution pledged the Government to take steps to improve the condition of the agricultural labourer, a duty which would very soon come home to roost. He could not help thinking that there had been a great deal of sound and a great deal of hollowness in the speeches which had been made upon this question. When, he asked, did this zeal on behalf of the Irish agricultural labourer begin? When the Land League 2013 agitation commenced nothing was heard of the agricultural labourer. The only questions raised were how injury could be inflicted upon the landlords, and how the tenants could become proprietors of the soil. But the labourer caught the prevailing spirit, thinking that if the farmer could possess himself of a portion of his landlord's property he might fairly try to become possessed of a slice of that which belonged to the farmer. Then the great meeting of which they had heard was held, and the Land League thought it prudent to take up the cause of the labourer. Her Majesty's Government, however, had no notion of the sort in their minds when they issued their Land Commission, or, if they had, why did it not form part of the scheme of the Commission or of their Bill? Were they to deal with this question of the Irish land piecemeal, and, if not, why had not the Government possessed the House of their entire policy? In his opinion, the Government did not know their own land policy. What was likely to be the effect of the present debate when it became known all over Ireland that the House of Commons had passed a Resolution that agricultural labourers were to have cottages built for them and allotments of land made to them? Was it right to give rise in the minds of an excitable people to hopes, which more or less must prove delusive, unless the Government were prepared to follow up the passing of the Resolution by the proposal of a practical measure to give it effect? The hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw), with an amount of complacency which, under the circumstances, was almost astounding, asked why rich English manufacturers did not set up manufactories in Ireland? His answer was that they were not so foolish to do so under the patronage and protection of a Liberal Government. They had had the painful experience of knowing that for months together life and property were at the mercy of men whose conduct appeared to be patronized for the time being by the Government, which allowed the reign of the law to be subdued and overridden by the reign of the mob. Everyone who knew Ireland knew that, save in a few counties in the North of Ireland, there was no protection for English capital in Ireland. They had heard from the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) that "no 2014 public peace would there be in Ireland until the entire system of government was uprooted." What encouragement, then, he asked the hon. Member for the County of Cork, was there for the investment of English capital in Irish industries? A discussion like the present merely presented a false and delusive aspect of a great social question to a large portion of the ignorant population of Ireland. If the Government did not intend to give effect to the Resolution, they would only be adding another serious difficulty to the pacification of Ireland. While he thought it was advisable on the part of owners of land in Ireland to make great concessions in order to prevent their property entirely passing away from them, yet he hoped that, after their property was reduced, they were not to be called upon to build cottages for the labourers upon the farms of their tenants.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
There is one remark of the hon. Member with which I entirely concur. [Cries of "Spoken!"] I have not spoken on the present Motion. [Cries of "Chair!"]
§ THE SPEAKER
I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that, having already addressed the House, he cannot speak again on this question.
§ MR. HEALY
remarked, that the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had the usual port wine flavour. The hon. Member had endeavoured to answer the question of the hon. Member for the County of Cork (Mr. Shaw) as to the reason why English capitalists did not carry their capital to Ireland. He would ask why rich English solicitors endeavoured to obtain Parliamentary seats in Ireland for the purpose of vilifying the country from which they obtained some share of distinction? The condition of the Irish labourers was most deplorable. On the Devonshire estate they were paid only 8s. a-week, and he trusted the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India would duly read and digest the Resolution which was about to be acceded to by the House.
§ Question put, and negatived.
Main Question, as amended, put.
Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient and necessary that measures should be taken to improve the condition of agricultural labourers' habitations in Ireland,