HC Deb 14 June 1882 vol 270 cc1173-90

said, that as a Motion for the adjournment of the House had been made, he could not, in justice to part of his constituency, before it was withdrawn, refrain from taking advantage of that opportunity to bring before the House a matter of very serious importance. He received a letter from a parish priest in Connemara a few days ago, requesting him to call attention to several evictions which were likely to take place in the district upon a property which he could not name, and pointing out that with respect to those evictions, and one batch of them in particular, it would be a matter of enormous importance if the agent would wait until the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill was passed. The parish priest pointed out to him that it was of the utmost importance that the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill should be passed, as it would save those tenants from eviction who were liable to be turned out on the roadside. He (Colonel Nolan) was in some hopes he might be able to prevent that, and for that purpose he had brought in a Bill suspending evictions till 1st September, or it might be for a shorter time than that—it might be for only three or four weeks—until the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill came into operation. During that interval these unfortunate tenants might be evicted and made liable for heavy costs. The Bill he had brought in received the support of every section of Irish Members in the House, except the Irish Conservative Members. An hon. and learned Member (Mr. Warton), on the Conservative side of the House, took the responsibility upon himself of blocking the Bill and preventing its being read a first time, and printed and circulated. That was a great responsibility for an hon. and learned Gentleman who had no natural connection with the country to undertake, because it was tantamount to saying that evictions would continue for the next two months. He (Colonel Nolan), however, believed the hon. and learned Gentleman was only the instru- ment in this matter. This was the work of the Irish Conservative Members. He charged them with it; and, if he was mistaken, he challenged any of the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench to get up and deny it, and further to request the hon. and learned Member to take off the block and allow the Bill to be printed and circulated, as it was one which would bring relief to a great many suffering families in Ireland. No Irish Conservative Members dare take the responsibility on themselves of blocking the Bill.


said, the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Nolan) was not in Order in discussing a Bill not now before the House on a Motion for the adjournment of the House.


said, he would not discuss it further; but it was customary for the House to allow Bills to be read a first time, except for very strong reasons. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Lowther), or some other right hon. Member on the Front Opposition Bench, would get up and repudiate what had been done in reference to the Bill, and request the hon. and learned Member to remove the block.


As the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) has spoken of the Irish Conservative Members of the House, I must say, for myself, that I knew nothing whatever of this Notice until I saw it on the Paper, and, as an Irish Conservative Member, I can state individually that I have had nothing whatever to say to it; and, so far as I am myself concerned, to show that I had nothing to do in the matter, I have given specific instructions to my agent in Ireland that no pressure whatever shall be put on my tenants until the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill has been passed, in order that they may have any advantage that may arise from the Bill when it passes into law.


said, it was not the case that the Irish Conservative Members were in any way responsible for the blocking of the Bill. He himself took an interest in Ireland, and had been studying the question for some time; and he had blocked the Bill entirely on his own responsibility. So far from asking him to put it on, the Irish Conservative Members had asked him to take off the block; and now, in obedience to their wishes and postponing his own judgment, he took it off. He hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), on other occasions, would not indulge in haphazard charges.


Sir, in reference to this question of evictions, which has been raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), I wish, as I see the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) in his place, to point out to him that evictions in Ireland are increasing to an enormous extent; and I wish to ash him whether he will not consider the advisability of taking Saturday Sittings for the passage of the Arrears Bill? I am sure the Irish Members would give their support to such a course, and possibly a sufficient number of English Members could be got together for the discussion of the Bill on Saturdays, because the number of evictions in Ireland at present is very alarming. Owing to the fact that in a great number of the evictions now taking place, the tenants are not re-admitted as caretakers, they are, consequently, turned out of their homes, and their little store of food and money, that might be used for the purpose of redeeming their holdings, is consumed in supporting themselves, and in order to keep a roof over their heads and the heads of their families. I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this fact, that since the first quarter of this year evictions are increasing every month in a very alarming proportion. The evictions during the first quarter of this year amounted to over 7,000 persons—that was, at the rate of a little over 2,000 persons a-month. In the month of January I think there were over 1,000 persons, and evictions have been increasing since. During the month of May, the fifth month of the year, there were over 3,000 person evicted; and if that proportion is maintained, it will make a number of over 9,000 evictions for the next quarter; but as the number of evicted persons is increasing so largely, we must probably expect that during the next quarter, instead of 9,000 persons, there will be something like 12,000 persons evicted. Now, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman, whether, as the person responsible in this House for the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, he does not view with the greatest anxiety and alarm the enormous increase in the number of evictions in the West and South-West of that country; and, whether he does not fear that those evictions will make the task of maintaining law and, order in Ireland very much more difficult by Her Majesty's Government in Ireland? Unfortunately, as regards decrees which were granted at the last Quarter Sessions, there is no way of preventing them from being executed. I understand that at least half the tenantry in some counties in Ireland, who were in arrears of rent, were decreed at last Quarter Sessions, and, as a consequence, it is in the power of the landlords to execute these decrees at any time, and the execution of these decrees can only be stopped by the passing of the Arrears of Pent (Ireland) Bill. It is not possible, under the Act of 1881, to obtain from any Court in Ireland a stay of ejectment process once it is granted by the Court. It is possible, and I hope the teuants will exercise the right given them, under the Act of 1881, of applying at the next Quarter Sessions throughout Ireland to the Chairman to stay execution of the decrees which may be applied for by the landlords, in cases where they come under the operation of the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill, and in the terms provided by that Bill—namely, that there should be a year's rent paid within a reasonable time up to the 1st of last November. Even if a stay is put upon the proceedings in these cases, considerable costs will be incurred, which the tenants have to pay. But as regards the other class of cases, where ejectment decrees were already issued at last Quarter Sessions throughout Ireland, and which have not been yet executed, there is no possible way of putting a stop to the execution of the decrees except by passing this Bill. I would, therefore, put it to the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact that so many important questions still remain for discussion on the Prevention of Crime Bill, whether he himself is not impressed with the necessity of asking the House to give him facilities, by means of Saturday Sittings, for the Purpose of making some progress with the Arrears of Pent (Ireland) Bill? MR. REDMOND said, he wished to read a telegram which he had received, and to call attention to a practice of a serious character which was becoming very prevalent in Ireland. A clergyman in the County Wexford sent him a telegram with reference to some evictions of tenants who were in arrears which took place yesterday on the property of Mr. Batt. He says— Two tenants on Batt's property evicted by Sheriff to-day. Emergency men took possession, and set fire to houses and offices. People indignant. These tenants had six months as a period of redemption; and he conceived there could be nothing more cruel, unjust, and criminal than for the agents of the Emergency Association, or of the landlords, to step in and destroy those houses, and with them the hope that, within six months, the evicted tenants would be able to recover their homes after settling with their landlords. He asked the Government to give their serious attention to the matter, and hoped that in the Prevention of Crime Bill now before Parliament, offences of this kind should be included. He joined in the appeal of his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) with regard to Saturday Sittings to proceed with the Arrears Bill.


said, that on a question of that description, he would speak with as few sentences as possible. He thought the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), though not quoting from papers, had described generally the state of evictions in Ireland, and he had described them, undoubtedly, with perfect correctness. The number of evictions in the first quarter of this year was serious. The number of evictions during the last month was most formidable. The number of evictions during the first week of this month was something very like appalling. He must say that he heard with great pleasure the generous and patriotic words that fell from the hon. Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Greer). The Government of Ireland was extremely and deeply interested in the question; and in order to keep themselves fully informed on a matter in which, deep as their interest was, he was sorry to say their power was not very great, they ordered Returns of evictions, as well as Returns of outrages, to be sent in daily to Dublin Castle; and, at the same time, the opinions of the police on these evictions. The opinions of the police, and Resident and Special Magistrates, were sent in together with those Re- turns; and he was bound to say that while, in a great number of instances, these evictions occurred on account of the contumacious determination of tenants not to pay their rent, in a great many instances the police and the Special and Resident Magistrates described them as cases of great hardship. He deeply regretted that the landlords of Ireland generally would not take the attitude assumed by the hon. Member for Carrickfergus. He regretted exceedingly that the good example of the hon. Member for Carrickfergus was not more generally followed; that, at a time when the Government—he was not now speaking of the Liberal Government in particular, but the Executive Government of Ireland—were labouring in a position of extreme difficulty, and honestly endeavouring to do their duty, without fear or being influenced on either side, landlords should be found to use those rights of theirs as to evictions in such a cool and unpatriotic manner. This was most cruel to the country and the Executive Government. The practical suggestion which the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Parnell) had made was one which, ho was sorry to say, the Government could not see any chance of entertaining. If they took Saturday Sittings, they would be bound to take them to pass the Prevention of Crime Bill, which the Government of Ireland regarded as essential. They regarded it, too, as primarily essential that it should pass in substantially the same form as it was now presented to the House; and if it did, they hoped that, in the course of six or nine months, it would bring about a very different state of things to what existed in Ireland then. His experience was that, in Parliamentary matters, it was necessary that the Government should deal with one thing at a time; and he could not help venturing saying, he thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite (Home Rulers) would quite as well serve their cause if they would make such protests only as were sufficient to get a clear understanding from the Government as to the points upon which they were willing to modify the Bill, which should be declared at once; but, after making those concessions, it should be known to hon. Members that not one iota more would be wrung from the Government, either by obstruction or by unfair discussion.

He did not appeal to hon. Members to curtail legitimate debate, because their views, and experience, and suggestions would very decidedly enter into the views which the Government would take of each clause; but the Government had their Bill fairly at their fingers' ends, and were very able to form an opinion as to whether proposed modifications were necessary or not. In order to get to the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill, which, after all, was a measure brought in for the purpose of preventing evictions, he could not help thinking that it was the duty of every patriotic Irishman to try and push the measure now before the Committee through as soon as possible, especially seeing that hon. Members could not hope, by further delay, to modify the clauses. That was the advice he ventured to give them. The present duty of the Government was to pass it as soon as possible; and when they got to the Arrears of Kent (Ireland) Bill, they would press it forward with the same eagerness as they were doing this measure. He could answer for the Irish Government in this respect, that they considered the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill every way as valuable for the maintenance of peace and order, and, what they regarded with equal anxiety, as being necessary for restoring prosperity to Ireland as the Prevention of Crime Bill; and they would feel themselves bound to carry it essentially as it was presented to the House, or in such a shape that it would confer the same amount of benefit on the people. He did not for a moment believe that they should gain anything at present by taking a Saturday Sitting and devoting it to the Arrears of Kent (Ireland) Bill.


Sir, this debate has arisen very suddenly and unexpectedly upon some observations by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), which, I think, were met with certainly great courtesy by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan). I do not think I should have now risen to say anything at all, but to guard myself from being presumed to assent to the collocation of words and to the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has presented his ideas to the House. I do not desire to be at all hypercritical, or to use any words calculated to lengthen the debate or to provoke discussion; and I do not think it would be fair, having regard to the great difficulties with which he has to contend, that I should indulge in any personal criticism, bearing in mind that he was called on to speak with some suddenness and without a moment's notice. I desire, however, to guard myself against assenting to the position in which he appeared to place evictions as contrasted with other matters reported to the Government in Ireland; and, also, I desire to guard myself against being supposed, by any silence on my part, to tolerate the assertion that any appreciable number of landlords should be open to the deliberate charge of acting in an unpatriotic or unfair manner. [Ironical cheers.] Of course, I am well aware that in this House the landlords in Ireland have many enemies, who do not hesitate to make charges against them; but it is not unreasonable that those who take a standpoint of a somewhat wider character should guard themselves against appearing to support principles from which they dissent. There is one matter which must be borne in mind. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) says that the Judges of the Irish County Courts who administer the vast ejectment jurisdiction up to £100 of rental, and have as wide a power as any Act of Parliament should confer upon them, should have jurisdiction to stay execution of decrees for eviction when cases require it. I may inform him, as to civil bill ejectments, that it is within the power of the Judges administering that jurisdiction to put a stay on evictions. That power is quite as wide as could be given on any Act.


Not after they have granted the decree.


No; but at the moment of granting the decree, when the whole of the matters are present to their minds.




Well, when a case is before the Judge, and the landlord has proved his claim as to the amount that is due, and the tenant has been heard, then the County Court Judge can say—"I have heard the case, and am satisfied that the two or three years' rent may be due. I am bound to give that to the landlord; but, having regard to all that has appeared before me, what the tenant has said in the way of substantiating his case, I put a stay upon that decree to the landlord, and I will put that decree over six months, nine months, or, as has been in some cases, twelve months." That is the existing law in Ireland, and can be, and has been, applied in many cases. It must be remembered that in Ireland the landlords, speaking generally—although there are exceptions, just as there are exceptions with all classes—have shown themselves not disposed to push their powers to excess, and desirous to meet matters fairly and reasonably. This is shown by the fact that the arrears of rent on the property of many men are very large, and for several years—partly owing to their consideration in years of distress, but also during years of prosperity. The Land League has prevented these payments, and the landlords who previously showed consideration have not got a penny of their rents. It must be remembered, also, that evictions are of two classes, as might be expected. Tenants who could have paid their rents have spent their money, and have not got the means now. As regarded this, it was not reasonable that a landlord who has a family and many charges to meet should be left to starve, and be held up to obloquy for seeking to maintain his rights. Then, there are others who are entitled to every commiseration and sympathy—men who are really poor, and who would pay their obligations if they could. I would venture to hope, in reference to the Returns of the Government, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will take care that they are complete, and that they indicate clearly, not only what ejectments have been pronounced, but what evictions have been actually carried out, and the number of instances in which the tenants have been restored to possession, whether as tenants or caretakers. One of the Returns issued last month stopped short of that vital matter of information. It simply showed in some cases that possession was taken from the tenant and handed over to the landlord; but in regard to the more numerous class it only said that a decree was pronounced, and not whether it was carried out. It was very kind of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) to speak as he had; but it should be understood that the Bill, having received that consideration, would get no further facilities.


said, that, no doubt, it was very important in any measure of relief to make a clear and unmistakable distinction between those tenants who were, and those who were not, able to pay; and certainly the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan), in making his observations, had in view the class of tenants unable to pay. There undoubtedly were evictions going on where, if the tenants had been granted two or three months' delay, they would have been able to pay some part, at least, of their rent.


said, he wished to express the deep satisfaction with which he and those who sat with him had listened to the patriotic statement of the hon. Member for Carrickfergus (Mr. Greer)—that his tenants should not be evicted until the House had time to come to a decision upon the Arrears Bill. He had shown a very commendable spirit; and he (Mr. Sexton) only wished—he could not expect—that his good example might be generally followed by other Irish landlords. The difficulties of the position were well illustrated by the promptitude with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Gibson), who was the most competent and able Representative of the landlord class, had risen to reply to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland as to the tenants. He desired to point out that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), in quoting to the House, had adduced facts for the Returns of the Resident Magistrates; and he might remind hon. Members that eviction at this time in Ireland must be attended with very great hardship, for they amounted to a confiscation of the crops of the tenants, which too often had cost those tenants their last penny. The point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had raised as to evictions had nothing whatever to do with executed ejectments. He would find the whole of the information he asked for in the Returns. It was with very great regret that he (Mr. Sexton) heard the Chief Secretary for Ireland state that if Saturday Sittings were held they would be used for the Prevention of Crime Bill, and not for furthering the Arrears of Kent (Ireland) Bill. The Prevention of Crime Bill attacked the primary and fundamental principles of liberty; and the Irish Members could not, even upon the consideration of the past position of the tenantry, and in order to expedite the {Arrears of Bent (Ireland) Bill, refrain from expressing their opinions as fully as they deemed necessary upon this attempt to take away the liberties of the people. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Government were prepared to announce, with a view to shortening the discussion on the Prevention of Crime Bill, that concessions would be granted. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that the moment a Member of the Government rose after the proposal of an Amendment, and stated his opinions, that the discussion must practically come to an end? Surely that would amount to a neutralization of the whole process of debate.


What I said was, that as soon as the Government thoroughly understood the opinion of the House in debate, then they would, at a comparatively early stage—and I am bound to say that does not mean a very early one—announce what line they would take up, and that there would be no alteration in the decision in consequence of the debate being prolonged beyond what the Government considered legitimate discussion.


said, he would admit that the explanation was less objectionable than the right hon. Gentleman's previous statement; but he would ask him to reconsider even his explanation, and to give the Irish Members some hope that if additional arguments and new evidence were brought forward, even after the Government had spoken, they would be prepared to consider them favourably. There was another inconsistency in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. If, as he said, the Crime Bill and the Arrears Bill were regarded by the Government as equally important, why were they not being taken stage by stage? Or why was the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill not being taken first, seeing that last Session the Government gave repression the first place, and that events ought to have shown them the fatality of that sequence of policy? He (Mr. Sexton) most posi- tively asserted that the Arrears of Bent (Ireland) Bill was not only equally valuable, but infinitely more valuable, than the Prevention of Crime Bill, and that the former Bill would operate quicker and more effectually for the prevention of crime and the restoration of order in Ireland than any Coercion Act which the most ingenious Government could devise. Ho would state why he thought that. A Coercion Bill could not be effective in turning away from the course of violence and revenge a man whose mind was convulsed with passion and a seuse of wrong; and in the case of those people who were being evicted in thousands, with what the Resident Magistrates described as scenes of hardship, no Coercion Bill could take away their desire and intention to have revenge. On the other hand, if the House passed a good Arrears Bill first, see what a salutory influence it would bring to bear upon those tenants. Every tenant who was threatened with eviction would feel that the law was now on his side, and that Arrears Bill would be as a salve to his mind. He was hopeful even yet that, upon consideration of the Reports made by the Resident Magistrates, and of the urgency of this question of eviction, and on consideration, also, of the greater effectiveness of the Arrears of Bent (Ireland) Bill over the Prevention of Crime Bill as an engine for the restoration of order, the Government would reconsider the matter, and cease to give repression the first place in their policy.


said, he would suggest that, as there was no use in carrying the discussion further, the Motion for the adjournment of the House should now be withdrawn in order that they might at once proceed with the Prevention of Crime Bill. If Irish Members wished to reach the discussion upon the Arrears of Bent (Ireland) Bill, and to state their views upon that measure, surely the best way of attaining that object was to get on with the Business more immediately before them.


said, he had no doubt that if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) was left to his own kindly and benevolent disposition, means would be devised for putting a stop to evictions; but he understood from the right hon. Gentleman's remarks that the hands of the Government were tied by the Resolution of the House pledging them to proceed from day to day with the Prevention of Crime Bill, and that they were not going to touch the Arrears Question until the Prevention of Crime Bill had been discussed and disposed of. Ho appealed to the Government to take the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill day by day and stage by stage with the one they were at present dealing with. There were in the month of May no less than 1, 188 evictions, and it was not too much to say that one-half of them would have been averted by the passage of that Bill. It was as if the Government had launched a lifeboat to rescue a drowning crew, and had then put back to settle some miserable quarrel upon the shore; while, one by one, the wretched sailors dropped from the rigging and were lost. They appealed to Her Majesty's Government to stop this wretched state of things, and thus bring back to Ireland that peace which would never be obtained by coercive measures. What caused increased bitterness in the minds of the Irish people was this—They had seen the Arrears of Pent (Ireland) Bill introduced and read a second time, and notwithstanding that they were being dragged from their homes and turned on the road-sides and into the workhouses in thousands week after week.


said, he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not in his place, as he wished to extract from him a definite an wer to the question put to him by the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond) with respect to the action the Government intended to take in cases in which bailiffs and Emergency men deliberately set fire to the houses of tenants whom they had evicted. The case put before the House by his hon. Friend was very strong; but he (Mr. Metge) knew a case in his own county which was of a still more aggravated character. He brought the case before Parliament on two or three occasions, and he received no answer, which satisfied him that the Government intended to take any action in the matter. The case he referred to was that of a large series of evictions on the estate of Lord Gor- manston, in Meath. The execution having failed on two or three occasions, by reason of a technical error on the part of the process-server, the Emergency men at last determined to make good the process of the law by deliberately setting fire to the houses of the tenants, and burning them over their heads. The parish priest of the district, who informed him of the occurrence, was first made aware of it by seeing the flames rising from the roofs of the whole village a couple of miles distant, and, upon coming into the town, he found the bailiffs and process-servers busily engaged in burning down the houses of the tenants in presence of their wives and children, the men themselves being away. When such a state of things as that was permitted in Ireland, it was absolutely certain that the present contention would go on increasing. They had in three months of the present year no less than 3,400 evictions in a single month, which was more than double the number on which the Prime Minister based the Compensation for Disturbance Bill of last year. These evictions were supported by bodies of police and military, and the state of things which they produced he (Mr. Metge) called nothing less than civil war, which every person who wished well to Ireland desired to see ended. He thought when the Government asked for strong measures of repression against the people, the Irish Members were entitled to ask that some limitation and punishment should be put upon the crimes which were now committed day after day by the landlords of Ireland.


said, he rose merely to enforce the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), that they should now be allowed to go into Committee upon the Prevention of Crime Bill. As his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland had already stated, the Government were anxious to pass the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill; but they could entertain no measure until the former Bill had been disposed of. It was quite time to cease that fruitless discussion, seeing that four hours had been spent upon a subject which any reasonable person would think might very well have been disposed of in one hour.


said, the attention of the Government had been called, over and over again, to the burning by agents of landlords of the dwellings of tenants who had been evicted; and, as such crimes were punishable under Statute or Common Law, he wished to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, whether such acts as those described by the hon. Member for New Ross (Mr. Redmond) did not amount to arson under the Common and Statute Law, and whether he had ordered any prosecution in the numerous cases which had been brought before him?


in reply, said, he must, deny that the acts mentioned constituted the offence of arson, and he had, therefore, ordered no prosecution.


said, he believed the Arrears of Rent Bill would be a far better deterrent to crime than the Bill now before the House; but until the Prevention of Crime Bill was disposed of, no other Business could be taken, and it was their duty to get rid of it as soon as possible. If, therefore, the Irish Members curtailed their opposition to the latter Bill the House might more readily pass the former Bill. Evictions were undoubtedly taking place in Ireland to a very serious extent, notably the County Donegal, where for the past two months a great number of tenants had been evicted. He was also informed by a friend who had recently come from the North of Ireland that evictions would become more numerous. Under such circumstances, they were most anxious to get the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill through; and, with that object in view, he hoped hon. Members opposite would not continue their prolonged opposition to the Prevention of Crime Bill.


said, he perfectly agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Donegal (Mr. Lea), that it was highly desirable, in the interests of peace and tranquillity in Ireland, that the House should be allowed to approach the consideration of the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill as soon as possible; but he (Mr. O'Connor Power) thought his hon. Friend would see that in saying that he was asking for too much, for it was inviting them to accept a one-sided engagement. He was asking them to become parties to a contract in which all the obligation would rest on them, while no corresponding obligation would rest on the Government. Suppose they were now to desist from all further opposition to the Prevention of Crime Bill, could his hon. Friend guarantee that the Government would persist with their Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill, no matter what opposition might arise against it in this or the other House of Parliament? Would the Government act in reference to that Bill as they acted in reference to the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, the rejection of which, in his opinion, was the source and beginning of most of the trouble and annoyance which had since arisen in Ireland? That showed how impossible it was to carry out the proposal of his hon. Friend. They must take things as they came before them; and if the Government, having absolute discretion in their hands, had made the mistake of placing coercion before remedial legislation, on their head would rest the responsibility. To charge the Irish Members with any responsibility for the state of things which arose out of that choice would be to make them responsible for that over which they had absolutely no control. He wished to appeal to his hon. Friend the Member for Donegal, who was elected to support Her Majesty's Government, and who loyally supported Her Majesty's Government, and, therefore, might be supposed to have some influence over Her Majesty's Government—he asked him and other Members of the House to approach Her Majesty's Government on this subject. The Prime Minister stated, a few weeks ago, that he would avail himself of every lucid interval to push forward the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill. They had looked in vain for the appearance of that interval, and he wished to ask whether the time had not now come when something might be done with it? Why did not his hon. Friend appeal to the Conservative Party to abridge their long speeches on the Egyptian Question, allow Egyptian affairs to be managed by those who were responsible for the policy of the Government, and let them go on with their ordinary affairs? It would be scandalous and a disgrace to the Irish Representatives if they allowed the present Bill to go through without discussion, in that way consenting to see every principle of their liberties struck down, as was pro- posed by that Bill, on a bargain, as he said, in which all the obligations were on their side; while, on the other hand, the Arrears of Rent (Ireland) Bill would still remain at the discretion of the Government, acting under the coercion of the Conservative Party. If the opposite course entailed the responsibility of retarding the remedial measure of the Government, let them not hesitate to take that course, seeing their end could be obtained by no other means.


said, he wished the Government would accede to the request of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and have a Saturday's Sitting. ["Oh, oh!"] He said that as much in the interest of the Scottish and English legislation, which had been kept behind, as in the interest of Ireland. The present bad weather was beginning to make persons look to the harvest; and there appeared a prospect of another Session passing without anything being done for the agricultural interests of England and Scotland, which demanded attention. They ought to look at the mass of legislation behind the two Bills referred to in the discussion, and reflect how it was being hindered, solely by the waste of time now taking place.


said, he believed that it would be a very small minority of the people of Donegal who would support the Liberal Member for Donegal (Mr. Lea) in his appeal to the Irish Party to give up their resistance to Coercion. He was glad, however, to hear from the hon. Member for Donegal that he was aware of the cruel evictions that were taking place in the country—evictions in which all the rights were on the side of the tenants, and all the wrongs on the side of the landlords. But he could not but think that these deplorable facts would have been more properly brought forward at the introduction of the Coercion Bill as a reason for delaying the Coercion Bill, and not as a reason why Irish Members should now decline to criticize, and, if possible, amend that Bill. The Secretary of State for the Home Department had deprecated conversations of this kind; but the observation would have more power if it had not been preceded by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Chief Secretary for Ireland informed Irish Members that, even with regard to the discussion of the Coercion Bill, their observations would be of no use, that Her Majesty's Government at the commencement of each clause would state what was their will, and would refuse all Amendments on the part of the Irish Members. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland stated that when arson was committed by Emergency men it was not a crime.


I never made any such statement.


I am translating the right hon. and learned Gentleman's language into plain English, stripped of the technicalities of Dublin Castle law. If they wished to deal fairly with both sides, let them introduce a provision into the Coercion Act, making the burning of houses by Emergency men a crime.


said, he had contented himself hitherto with entering a silent protest against the Coercion Bill by voting against it, because he saw it was of no use opposing the Bill in the face of the overwhelming power brought into operation by the junction of the two great Parties. The sooner the Bill was passed the sooner they would get to remedial measures. He admitted the satisfaction he had felt at the frank and earnest statement of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and regretted the unfavourable criticisms made upon it by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. At the same time, he could not but express his protest against the fatuity of Her Majesty's Government in bringing on coercive before remedial measures; coercive measures which all history proved would not paralyze the arm of the assassin nor insure detection; but would add weight to the disgust and hatred of the English Government in Ireland, out of which all such outrages sprung. He believed that the Government were causing deep regret and dissatisfaction among the Liberal Party by the course they were pursuing. They were dragging the Liberal Party, who felt no little disinclination to support measures which might have found a proper home on the Benches opposite, but which were a disgrace to the Liberal Party.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.