§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. BARRY,
in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, expressed his regret that the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy), the author of the measure, who was so thoroughly acquainted with the subject, was not present to take charge of the Bill. That he thought was also a subject of general regret in the House, because his hon. Friend had given a great deal of attention to this question, and they all knew the great ability he could bring to bear upon it. It was fortunate for him (Mr. Barry) that the principle upon which the Bill was founded had been frequently endorsed and confirmed by Parliament. The principle of the Bill, that taxation and representation should go hand in hand, was recognized in this country as a fundamental principle, and had been confirmed by that House many times. The question of Grand Jury and Presentment Sessions reform in Ireland had been frequently the subject of Parliamentary investigation. So far back as 1840 a Royal Commission consisting entirely of representatives of the Grand Jury class, and therefore not likely to make any suggestions of a sweeping character, was appointed. In 1842 that Commission reported very strongly in favour of an amendment of the law. Dealing with Presentment Sessions, the Report pointed out how the intentions of Parliament to give the ratepayers some control over the expenditure of the rates had been frustrated, the associated cesspayers being appointed by the Grand Juries. There were instances of men so appointed being unable to read or write, or being deaf and dumb; while persons who had no property in the district sometimes outvoted those who were nominated to represent the ratepayers. But, though the Royal Commission had reported more than 40 years ago, and 4 though the flagrant evils of the system were then brought out in the evidence, nothing was done. In 1849 the Government, by the hands of Sir George Grey, introduced a Bill, the leading proposal of which was that two-thirds of the ratepayers' representatives should be elected, and the remaining third selected by the magistrates. The Bill was moderate in its terms; but it shared the fate of many others and was dropped. Sir George Grey promised that the Bill should be re-introduced next Session; but the promise was not kept. Nothing was done until 1855, when the initiative was taken, not by the Government, but by Sir Denham Norreys, who introduced a Bill very similar in its general principle to the Bill brought in by Sir George Grey in 1849. The Bill was defeated; it was re-introduced in 1856 and 1857, and met with the same fate on each occasion. In 1861 the late Mr. Isaac Butt, then sitting as a Conservative, brought forward a Motion, asking for a Committee to inquire how far the principle of popular representation might be utilized in county government in Ireland. He was answered by Mr. Cardwell, that inquiry was unnecessary, as the principle of popular representation in fiscal matters was already conceded, and was invited by him to introduce a Bill based on the representative principle. But Mr. Butt, who knew what the fate of such a Bill would be in the hands of a private Member, pointed out that the duty of introducing a measure lay on the shoulders of Her Majesty's Government. Nothing further was done until 1868, when a Select Committee, over which The O'Conor Don presided, was appointed to inquire into the whole Grand Jury system. A copious Report was issued, in which it was shown that neither the Grand Jury nor the Presentment Sessions were of a representative character, the Grand Jury being nominated by an individual, and its members not necessarily connected with the country, while the associated cesspayers were selected by the Grand Jury, and, therefore, were not real representatives of the ratepayers. They recommended that the Presentment Sessions should be made independent of the Grand Jury, and should represent the ratepayers of the barony; but nothing was done. The subject of Grand Jury reform slept till 1875, when 5 the late Mr. Isaac Butt introduced a Bill very similar in principle to the Bill he was about to introduce, the chief difference between the two schemes being that Mr. Butt's Bill proposed to select from each barony three ratepayers and one magistrate. He did not think anybody at this time of day could charge Mr. Butt with very revolutionary ideas or intentions, and he thought, after the lapse of seven years, his proposals would be recognized generally as moderate and statesmanlike. If that Bill had been passed a great deal of the late social disturbances in Ireland would have been avoided. On the occasion of that Bill, which met with a good deal of support in the House, Mr. Hugh Law, now Lord Chancellor of Ireland, expressed a remarkable opinion to the effect that it seemed then to be universally admitted that the present system was one which could not be maintained, and that the representative system was the only one that could satisfactorily carry out the fiscal arrangements in Irish counties. Mr. Butt secured considerable support for that Bill, 125 having voted for it and 170 against it. Among other influential supporters of Mr. Butt's Bill he found the names of Mr. Trevelyan, Sir Charles W. Dilke, Mr. Faweett, Mr. J. K. Cross, Sir Henry James, Mr. Campbell-Banner-man, and a great many other leading Liberals; but a Tory Government was then in power. Nothing further was done in the matter until 1879, when Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, then Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, introduced a measure for Grand Jury reform; but that Bill left the powers of the Grand Jury almost intact, and did not touch the great defect of the existing system; and the fact remained that evils which were acknowledged 40 years ago by a Royal Commission, constituted entirely of Grand Jurors, were still unredressed. A different state of things took place in 1881, when the present Government came into power. In the Queen's Speech of that year it was stated that a measure dealing with the subject of popular representation would be submitted, which, however, was not persevered in; but he believed that if it had been persevered in a great deal of the internal trouble which had since taken place would have been averted. In the Bill he was about to move, the aim and object of the Government, as indicated 6 in the Queen's Speech of 1881, were fairly met. It was based upon popular representation, and it was intended to transfer the power of county government from what was practically a self-elected and irresponsible body, to a body duly and popularly elected, for the control of the finances of the counties. That was the beginning and end of it—that it would substitute in Ireland for a system which had received condemnation over and over again by Parliamentary inquiry, and by the admission of Ministers, a system which would have the confidence of the people, because it would be the creation of the people. Following this great fundamental advantage, the Bill would establish something like a continuous authority in the counties. One of the greatest defects of the present law was this—that it was only during 12 days in the course of the year that the Grand Jury authority was practically in existence. The officials of the Grand Jury certainly existed; but he regarded that as an unmitigated evil, because it was open to every kind of corruption. But he was not so much dealing with detail as with the principle involved, and he claimed for the Bill that one of its most important and valuable features was that the authority created under the County Councils proposed would be permanent and continuous. Those Councils would exercise a permanent and regular check upon the expenditure of the county, and over the county officials, all of whom were absolutely under the present system. Then it would be observed that there were to be baronial divisions as representing the unit from which to elect the County Councils. He was aware that certain objections could be urged to the baronial divisions, because they varied so greatly in number in different parts of Ireland. For instance, he believed the county of Cork possessed something like 23 baronies, whilst others only possessed five or six; but having considered the question fully, he had come to the conclusion that for the election of the first Council under the Bill it would be better than having the ordinary electoral divisions. The Bill did not propose to interfere with the present powers of the Grand Jury with regard to framing indictments. It only dealt with the fiscal aspect of the question. Although this was a measure of 41 clauses, only a 7 limited number of them were what could be considered vital, the rest being either consequential or dealing with matters of detail. The 8th clause dealt with the powers of the Council, and was simply a transfer of the powers of the Grand Jury, with the addition that the Council of every maritime county should have power to elect representatives to the Harbour, Port, Dock, and Improvement Boards. Under the present system, although the people were deeply interested in the harbours, they had no voice in the election of the Harbour Boards. Clause 9 dealt with the nomination of Sheriffs. It gave to County Councils the power to nominate persons for the office of Sheriff as the Municipal Councils did at present under Mr. Butt's Bill of 1876. That Bill had produced a general feeling of satisfaction in Ireland, and for that reason he had inserted this clause in the present Bill. The 10th clause dealt with the nomination of Justices, and on this point the hon. Member observed that when it was remembered that an enormous majority of the magistrates were Protestants, opposed in feeling and sentiment to the great mass of the people, it was impossible for any man of common sense to expect that the law, in the hands of such administrators, could command the confidence and respect of the people of Ireland. His object was that the administrators of the law should, to a certain extent, be in sympathy with the bulk of the people. This was no new experiment, for in Scotland the Bailies Act gave the utmost satisfaction. He could readily understand that that was a point calculated to give rise to a good deal of warm contention; but he bad no desire to import into the discussion any sectarian feeling. He should be only too glad if that feeling could be banished from Ireland. He believed that this clause would remove a great deal of the jealously which at present existed. Clause 22 dealt with the management of asylums, on which an immense sum of money was annually spent, and in those circumstances it was essential that they should be to a certain extent under popular control. At present they were really governed by the Inspectors, who were not only the inspecting authority, but also the central controlling authority. There could be no doubt that such a system opened the door to a greal deal 8 of corruption, favouritism, and officialism. At present the Inspectors had to report to themselves any grievances that they found existing. Theoretically, he acknowledged, there was a superior authority in the person of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but, as a matter of practice, his interference was never called into play with respect to the asylums. Instead of there being two Inspectors, as at present, it proposed that Governors should be appointed, a fourth of whom should be nominated by the Lord Lieutenant. The remaining clauses referred to matters of detail, and could be discussed in Committee. He could fairly anticipate the objection that would be raised to the Bill. It would be said that a period of wild political excitement and internal convulsion was not the time for making concessions to popular demands. [Colonel KING-HARMAN: Hear, hear!] The hon. and gallant Member said "Hear, hear!" but he would find that concessions were invariably followed by beneficial results, and the proper time to make a concession was when the feeling of the people was unmistakebly pronounced in favour of popular rights. For that reason he believed the time had arrived for making concessions. He asked the House not to refuse this moderate concession to the demand of the Irish people, his aim being that the humblest Irishman might feel that he had a voice in the government of his country.
§ Motion made, and Question proposd, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Barry.)
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, that when he saw this Bill for the first time his impression was that it was a kind of practical joke; but when he looked closely into it and saw on its back the names of the Gentlemen who supported it, he began to perceive that it was one of those jokes like the dynamite explosion at Salford; a joke made up of promises held out by agitators, drawing the people away from the paths of truth and honesty in pursuit of an ignis fatuus. The hon. Gentleman argued that the feelings of the people had been wrought up to such a pitch of mild political excitement that it was incumbent upon the Government to yield to their demands. Why, this was the mild excitement that culminated in the Phoenix Park murders, and in the discovery of nitro-gly- 9 cerine factories in different parts of the country, and it was to this mild social disorder and excitement that the Government were now called upon to yield. [Mr. BARRY: I said "wild."] He took down the words of the hon. Member, and he certainly thought he said "mild." With regard to the Grand Jury system, he felt himself competent to speak, because he had for a number of years been in the habit of serving on those Juries. The hon. Member said there was no qualification for the Grand Jury. He believed that was so in law; but he defied him to show him an instance of a person having sat on a Grand Jury without a property qualification except in the case of a Member for the county. [Mr. CALLAN: A case occurred in County Louth.] Notwithstanding the remark of the hon. Member, he believed he was correct. The Grand Jurors were either owners of property or representatives of property, such as land agents. The hon. Member had spoken of Mr. Butt's proposals. He entirely agreed with him that had they been accepted much excitement would have been set at rest. But the present proposals of the hon. Member were entirely different from them. He was aware that in the Speech from the Throne of 1881 something was said about local self-government in Ireland; but from what had happened since the Irish people had shown no capacity for such government, and had, in fact, retrograded 50 years. Without going over the history of the question which had been given them by the hon. Member, he would turn at once to the Report of the Committee presided over by The O'Conor Don in 1868. That Report said that the Commissioners had carefully considered the Grand Jury system, and had come to the conclusion that its administration was generally pure and economical. Another recommendation was that the authority of Grand Juries in county fiscal matters should not be done away with. Now, however, hon. Members below the Gangway wanted to abolish Grand Juries. He would remind them that the Resolution brought forward by the hon. Member for Wexford in 1881 did not propose the abolition of Grand Juries, although it advocated their reform. Many of the Bills which had been brought in on this subject contrasted remarkably with the measure now before the House. For 10 example, the Bill introduced in 1879 by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) laid down that to be qualified to become a member of a County Board a man must be a registered elector or an owner of property. But under the present Bill any professional agitator, any stump orator might be elected on a Council and Finance Committee with such salary as the Council might appoint. Provisions of that kind explained the real object of the Bill. The hon. Member who had proposed the second reading of the measure stated that care had been taken to avoid making any sweeping change. At the same time he proposed to do away with the powers of Grand Juries over fiscal matters, with the Prerogative of the Crown in connection with the appointment of Sheriffs, and with the prerogative of the Lord Chancellor in connection with the appointment of magistrates. He should like to know how these could be held not to be sweeping changes. As to the proposals which were made with regard to the control of lunatic asylums, they might be thought useful by those who accepted the principle, Similia similibus curantur. Clause 26 of the Bill provided that property now held by the Grand Jury for any county should become the property of the Council of such county. As many Grand Juries possessed valuable collections of plate, besides other costly property, he had no doubt that the supporters of this Bill would be very glad if that property were to change hands. The Government, he held, could not agree to the second reading of the Bill; and he implored them to affirm their opposition to the measure in no halting or doubtful terms, and not to hold out the slightest encouragement to those who were continually flooding the Legislature with Bills of this kind in order to prove how active they were to their constituents in Ireland, which country they only visited for the purpose of delivering stump orations. The Bill did not provide any qualification for members of the County Councils it sought to set up, so that any agitator or stump orator, though wholly unconnected with, the county, could be elected as a member of the Council and Chairman of the Finance Committee, and even be made treasurer of the county funds, with such salary as the Council might settle. 11 In that fact he thought he saw one of the main objects of the measure. Let the Government distinctly declare that they would grant no concession to such agitators, but would allow the country to return to a state of rest and peace after they had banished from their midst agitation and agitators. When the people should have learnt the duty of assisting the law and discountenancing agitators, some measure of self-government might possibly be granted to them. He begged to move that the Bill be read that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Colonel King-Harmon.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
did not intend to vote for the Bill under consideration. In the abstract he approved of it, as he wished as much as any man could to see a reform of the Grand Jury Law in Ireland. He was not, however, under so serious a pledge as his hon. Friend the Member for Monaghan, who, at a recent public meeting in the North of Ireland, had pledged himself to see the Grand Jury system buried 20 feet under ground. [Mr. GIVAN: Twenty-five.] He considered that it was but fair that the landowners of the country should have an influence in the arrangement of local taxation, and if he saw introduced a good and comprehensive scheme of County Councils it should have his entire approval. The Bill contained, however, a principle which in the abstract he entirely approved, and which the constituences in the part of Ireland from which he came were extremely interested in—namely, that representation should follow taxation. The man who paid the piper ought undoubtedly to be consulted about the tune to be played. After the subject of Land Reform no question attracted greater interest in county constituencies than the question of the reform of the Grand Jury system. That system, having served its day in Ireland, ought, in his opinion, to be considerably modified, as it now contained many anomalies. There were, for example, in more than one county, gentlemen who paid as much rates as five or six members of the Grand 12 Jury taken together, but who never were summoned to attend the Grand Jury. He should heartily support a good and comprehensive scheme for the creation of County Boards in Ireland whenever it came before the House; but he thought that any measure for carrying out such a scheme should be brought forward on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, and he hoped that the Government, at some time not far distant, would deal with the question. His objection to the present Bill was that it did not give due regard to all the great interests involved in the proposed change. The measure appeared to be intended to eliminate altogether the fair influence of the landowners. In counties where there was an influential middle class not much injustice might be done if the Bill were passed, but in counties where there was a general absence of such a middle class the effect would be more or less to hand over the property of those who had anything to many who had a minus quantity, to be dealt with in a very primitive fashion. He objected to the appointment of Sheriffs and magistrates by County Boards. The present system of appointing magistrates was far from perfect. Lord Lieutenants were quite too frequently absentees, and knew nothing of the county, nor of those gentlemen who were qualified to receive the Commission of the Peace—they were too apt to regard their high place as one of ornament, and to neglect the serious duties which attached to it; and when names suitable for the Commission of the Peace were placed before such, they treated them in a very cavalier way. The process of being snubbed by the Lord Lieutenant of one's own county was, no doubt, a salutary one, but somewhat painful, and he would frankly own to the House that he (Mr. Richardson) had undergone that process pretty thoroughly; still, in his opinion, it was better that these appointments should come from a source above rather than beneath those who received them. He believed that the establishment of County Boards, with proper checks and safeguards, would create a healthy public feeling in Ireland, and that it would induce the energetic spirits of Ireland to come forward and take part in the management of local affairs, instead of devoting themselves to the abuse of the unfortunate British Government. He thought that 13 the present disloyalty of Ireland was due in a large degree to the excellence of the police, who had put an end to the old faction fights which had provided an outlet for that Irish courage which, otherwise directed, had been of so much service to the Empire.
while agreeing with the principle of the Bill which had been brought forward for the purpose of reforming county government in Ireland, regretted it should be framed in such an outrageously unreasonable manner that its fate in that House was almost certain. It had been alleged that the election should be entirely in the hands of occupiers, inasmuch as they were the persons who paid the county cess; but that involved a fallacy, for in the letting of their lands the owners always took into consideration that their occupiers would have to pay this cess, and reduced their rents proportionately. The Grand Jury system of taxation in Ireland was little understood in this country, and he could best explain it by stating that it was something analogous to that of Imperial taxation by Queen, Lords, and Commons. The Barony Sessions represented the popular element, the Grand Jury the House of Lords, and the Judge of Assize the Sovereign. When a presentment passed the Barony Sessions or the Grand Jury the Judge gave it his fiat, when it at once became obligatory. He had always thought that the Grand Jury system in Ireland ought to be reformed, and that the owners and the occupiers of land ought to be equally represented. He did not believe that a measure of this land need be postponed until the country was throughly tranquil, for he was afraid with the present organizations for preventing tranquillity that Ireland would not be tranquil for some years. He thought, however, a much more complicated system would be required than the hon. Member proposed. The provision in the Bill for appointing a permanent Finance Committee, with a paid Chairman, he looked upon as most mischievous. If the Bill was to appoint Sheriffs and magistrates, he did not see why they should not take from the Lord Lieutenant of the county all the power that remained to him, and appoint the officers of the Militia, of the Yeomanry, and of the Police. Nobody wished more sincerely than he did to see the Grand Jury system in Ireland 14 altered; but he felt that such a reform ought to be the work of the Government and should be totally unconnected with politics, that the work of the Boards should be only fiscal and have nothing to do with criminal matters, and that half the representatives should be elected by the ratepayers and half by the owners of property.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
thought that the Bill ought to be supported as a measure that was needed, and that in Committee, or when it was referred to a Grand Committee, it might, with advantage, be modified in some particulars, so as to remove its objectionable features. The leading point was, whether they wanted the present system modified at all or not? If they did want to have it modified, he thought they ought to accept almost any Bill that was put before them, and then alter it in Committee. The barony was a very inconvenient unit for the county, and he would prefer for that purpose the present Parliamentary division or the Poor Law Union. He could not understand how anyone acquainted with Ireland could support the present system. It was asked how County Boards would conduct business better than the Grand Juries, which were inclined to be economical? He admitted that they were; but they distributed the offices among their own friends, and the people of the country would very much prefer that some popular man should have a chance of becoming, for example, secretary to the Grand Jury, instead of having all appointments monopolized by a small clique. His great reason, however, for advocating County Boards was not that the county business would be better managed, but because there was a great deal of work which ought to be done in Ireland and was not done at all, and County Boards would naturally undertake that work. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had recently said that it was the fault of Irishmen if they did not get money for drainage works and railroads. At present none but landlords could form themselves into a Drainage Board, and, as a rule, landlords had now no interest in doing so. County Boards would be able to undertake such drainage works as might be required in the county, while the Local Government Board could provide engineers to see how the works were carried out. And so 15 with regard to railroads. Unfortunately at the present moment Ireland had but few large landed proprietors, and such were the men who would naturally take up these operations. Since that was the case, less wealthy people ought to be allowed to combine, and County Boards would furnish the proper medium for doing so.
§ MR. SEXTON
pointed out that the House was then engaged on the principle of the Bill, and if that were admitted, the details of the measure might be dealt with in Committee. What was the principle of the Bill? It had been fairly stated that those who contributed to the funds used for county finance in Ireland should dictate the use of that money. He acknowledged the reasonableness of the tone of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone, though he must dissent from his auguments; for he had said that, although the tenant in Ireland paid the county cess, it might be assumed that, in fixing the rent, allowance was made for the cess by the landlord; but it was evident that the Legislature thought otherwise, and was of opinion that the rent and county cess, were entirely independent matters. The hon. Gentleman had contradicted himself, for in one breath he had argued that the rent was fixed upon the assumption that the cess should be paid by the tenant, and at the same time admitted that he would divide the county cess between the landlord and the tenant. The hon. Gentleman had compared the system in Ireland to the Crown, the Lords, and the Commons; but he could not have chosen a more unhappy comparison. Of those three co-ordinate Powers, the Commons were the Representatives of the people; whereas in the present system in Ireland it was all the Crown, and not the people. It was the Crown who nominated the Judge and nominated the Sheriff, who selected the Grand Jury for the county by whom the cesspayers were fixed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Armagh (Mr. J. N. Richardson) appeared to have taken up the rôle of the statesman on the present occasion. He had spoken with a solemnity of manner and ponderosity of phrase which might almost have been mistaken for wisdom; but he (Mr. Sexton) thought that impression would soon disappear on a little scrutiny. He doubted whether the hon. Gentleman 16 had very carefully read the Bill, for he had said that the object of it was to take property from those who had it, and give it over into the hands of those who had none. All that they asked by the Bill was that those who paid the money into the county funds should have a reasonable power of saying how that money should be applied. It had been said that a Bill of this kind ought to have been brought forward by the responsible authorities. No doubt, it should be so; but why did they not do it? Ever since 1840 Committees had been reporting on the necessity of a reform of the Grand Jury system in Ireland. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who had in his hands powers for the repression of crime as terrible as ever Cromwell could imagine, eight years ago voted for a Reform Bill on this question, and the Prime Minister last year, in language of great force, expressed his eagerness and readiness to deal with this question of local self-government; and, above all, the Queen's Speech in 1881 said that a measure would be introduced founded upon representative principles, and framed with the double aim of confirming public control over expenditure, and of supplying a yet more serious wrant—namely, the extension and formation of habits of self-government. Was not the hon. Gentleman aware that that which the Government he admired so much had put into the mouth of Her Majesty had never been attempted? He agreed with the hon. Member when he said that a Bill of this description should be brought forward by the responsible Government; but if the responsible Government abnegated its functions, it was but a poor plea for an Irish Representative to say that he would not support a reasonable Bill because the Government had neglected their duty. He complained of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Dublin County (Colonel King-Harman), who seemed to treat this Bill as a practical joke, and had indulged in personal attack instead of meeting the case by argument; but it could not be otherwise than admitted by every Member of the House, that the character of the Grand Jury system in Ireland was indefensible. Hon. Members had talked about dynamite; but that had no connection with the subject before the House, which was a non-explosive subject, 17 and he believed the time of the House would be saved, and the value of the debate increased, if they endeavoured to confine themselves strictly to the subject of the Bill. The hon. and gallant Member could not deny that Grand Jurors possessed no more power than land agents. The hon. and gallant Member reminded the House that he had voted in favour of Mr. Butt's Land Bill; but he would also remind the House that the hon. and gallant Member voted for the second reading of Mr. Butt's Home Rule Bill, though now he refused to intrust these smaller Irish questions to Irishmen themselves. Surely it was not proper to intrust the care of public funds to those who did not themselves contribute to them; such a course must inevitably lead to jobbery and corruption. It was impossible to say that the Grand Jurors of Ireland exercised their powers properly. Questions of expenditure should be based upon the representative principle. He denied that this Bill proposed, as it was alleged, to deal with the property of the Grand Jurors. He appealed to the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to devote his attention to the principle of the Bill, and not to be led away from the consideration of that principle by the red herring drawn across it by some hon. Members. The principle of the Bill was that those who contributed to county funds should have the administration of them. That principle had been already on former occasions recognized and admitted by the Government. It was absolutely necessary that some change should be made in the mode of nominating magistrates, for under the present system they utterly failed to represent the feelings of the people. After three years' of a social movement in Ireland, which had created deep feelings of hostility between different classes, he contended that it was now more necessary than ever not to confine the administration of justice in Ireland to a class so remote from the people, and so distrusted by the people, but to admit as regarded the Magisterial Bench some such principle of elective power as was put forward in this Bill, and thus increase the confidence of the people in the administration of the law. He congratulated the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone) on the view be had taken on this question, inasmuch as he appeared to be the only 18 occupant of the Treasury Bench who had an intelligent conception of the wishes and desires of the Irish people. If the hon. Member continued in the same path he predicted for him a greater future than if he contented himself with being the bumble supporter of any Administration. He had deserved the thanks of the Irish people for the description he had given of Castle officialism in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had carried out one of the articles of the Liberal policy in Ireland—repression; let him now carry out the other article—reform; but to this the Government seemed averse, for out of the surplus announced the other day not a single penny was devoted to the relief of the starving people of Ireland. When the right hon. Gentleman was asked to assist these poor people he raised the bogey of economic science. He (Mr. Sexton) warned the Government that if they adhered to their present policy it would only lead to the expatriation of the Irish people. That policy was an outrage on humanity and an abnegation of the requirements of plain duty; and in saying this he was but echoing the warning of the Bishops of Connaught. The Government was nothing but a Government of repression. It presented always its clenched fist, and never its open hand; and whatever interpretation might be given to the language he was using, he would warn the Government of the fatality of the course they were pursuing. The man who spoke a warning was the truest friend of peace, and the worst was he who turned a deaf ear to it.
thought the question ripe for settlement, and expressed his surprise that the hon. and gallant Member for Dublin County (Colonel King-Harman) was opposed to a settlement of it, because if it was the interest of anyone to have the question speedily settled, it was the interest of the Irish landowners; and he thought the present a most fitting time for it. This Bill was, however, imperfect in several respects. He thought provision should be made for the establishment of some initiative body to which the business of any particular district might be referred. The Poor Law Board of a district seemed suitable for this purpose, for it was generally established close to a town, and possessed the neces- 19 sary machinery. Then above this body would come the County Board, upon which the poorer classes should be adequately represented. Again, what was wanted in Ireland was a central body in Dublin, to take up questions of public interest which could only be dealt with imperfectly by that House—for instance, questions of railway accommodation and water supply, which were dealt with by Committees of the House only at enormous expense. He thought nothing was more essential to the peace and prosperity of Ireland than the settlement of this question of establishing a central body, the County Board, to look after the local interests of the country—a body that would be purely a business, not a political body—the question which they were all interested in settling in the best manner possible, in such a way that it would not be subject to the contention of political Parties. Nothing could be done this Session; but, under the circumstances, he would suggest that a Royal Commission should be appointed to sit in Dublin for the purpose of taking evidence on this question. If a Royal Commission were appointed to collect evidence, its Report would supply a firm basis for legislation; and thus they would be spared the introduction of a measure prepared by political economists and theorists, and unsuited to the circumstances of the country.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he felt very much like "the last rose of summer," for of the 17 Members appointed upon a Select Committee in 1868 to inquire into the Irish Grand Jury system, he was now the only one who still sat in that House. Some had gone to join the majority, and others last Election were left in the minority. That Committee made some recommendations which he approved, but not one of them had been carried out. He could not support the proposal of the hon. Member who had just sat down, to the effect that the Government should issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, for he believed that nothing could be added to the information which the House already possessed. Members representing the popular cause in Ireland were systematically excluded from Grand Juries. His own was a case in point, for he had never been summoned to serve on a Grand Jury, the reason of his exclusion being, he believed, his political opinions. He denied the statement of the hon. Member for Cork County 20 (Mr. Shaw), that politics were never introduced at the meetings of the Grand Juries. Let a situation be about to be given away, and politics would soon exhibit itself in the selection of the candidate. The Grand Juries were entirely a creation of the Sheriffs. When a Tory Lord Lieutenant presided over the affairs of a country, as a rule a Liberal had not the same chance—chance, indeed!—of being appointed as magistrate, as compared with a Conservative. The Governors of lunatic asylums were mostly the nominees of Inspectors; the ratepayers, who paid the entire charge for lunatics, having no voice in the appointment of the Governors. The hon. Member, having criticized in a similar spirit the mode of election to Harbour Boards and other official bodies, concluded by expressing a general concurrence with the speeches delivered by the hon. Members for Sligo and the county of Wexford.
§ SIR HERVEY BRUCE
said, that while admitting that the Grand Jury system might be amended with regard to the election of cesspayers, he thought that the Bill bristled with the most revolutionary doctrine that had ever been brought before the House. If the power of appointing the Grand Jury was left to the Sheriff, the result would be, as recent elections had shown, that men who would find true bills against a certain class of criminals would not be summoned on the Grand Jury. The cesspayers often forced the magistrates into expenditure which they were unwilling to incur. He agreed that there ought to be a system of election in the appointment of the cesspayers who served with the Grand Juries, and that not more should be elected than the number who could act. No one would hear with greater pleasure than himself that the Government had resolved to reform that part of the Grand Jury system; but if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Trevelyan) gave the slightest hope of supporting a Bill such as that before the House, he was afraid the confidence which had been accorded to him largely and freely on that side of the House would be greatly diminished. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would hold out no encouragement to the promoters of this Bill so long as the spirit of disorder and misrule prevailed in Ireland.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, that, although he strongly objected to many of 21 the clauses, he should, at the same time, vote for the second reading of the Bill merely as a protest upon his part against the present system, which had now grown to be intolerable. They had a distinct promise from the Government that this question of Grand Jury reform should be dealt with during their tenure of Office. He thought the proposal of the hon. Member for the county of Cork (Mr. Shaw) to refer the question to a Royal Commission was a dangerous one, as it really meant the shelving of the question for an indefinite time. The hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Barry) said that 40 years had elapsed since an inquiry had been held on the subject. He regarded that as rather a hopeful sign than otherwise. On the average about 40 years were required in order to ripen any Irish question. It was in 1835 that Mr. Sharman Crawford first brought forward the question of tenant right, and it was not till 1881 that the question was settled. The present system gave to one class the privilege of fixing the amount of taxation, and to another the sole privilege of paying. Nearly £1,500,000 was annually paid in the shape of county cess, and the cesspayers had no voice in its imposition. He was one of the largest cesspayers in his district, and he had never been summoned to the Grand Jury, as his politics were not acceptable to the ruling class of the neighbourhood. The foreman of the Grand Jury in that district did not contribute 6d. to the cess, and another Grand Juror only paid about 10s. That was the system which hon. Gentlemen opposite looked upon as satisfactory. There was no record kept of the amount of taxation, and the public had no means of knowing what the amount imposed really was. Then it was discovered that the collector had actually obtained payment of 3d. or 4d. in the pound more than had been fixed by the Grand Jury. What was required was the total abolition of the Grand Jury system, and the building up of County Boards in substitution. He was afraid the days of Grand Jury reform were long since passed, and what they wanted now was Grand Jury abolition. The Government must be prepared to build a system of government, not on the rotten foundation of the old Grand Jury Act, but on a sound basis, which should give the ratepayers who contributed the taxes a voice in the expen- 22 diture and control of the funds. The present system was disastrous to all improvements in the country, especially to works of drainage. It was impossible for the people to unite to introduce improvements on public works. He hoped the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland would make an emphatic statement, defining the policy of the Government, and showing their determination to deal with the question of county government and local government upon a broad and comprehensive basis, which would be satisfactory to the taxpayers of Ireland.
§ MR. CALLAN
wished to point out that in the year 1879 the right hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. James Lowther), who was then Chief Secretary, introduced a Bill which contained almost the ipsissima verba of the clauses in the present Bill, which had been denounced by the hon. and gallant Member for the county of Dublin. He denied the assertion of that hon. and gallant Gentleman that Grand Jurors in Ireland all possessed a property qualification. He objected to certain portions of this Bill, and especially to those which abolished Presentment Sessions. He would, however, vote for the second reading as a protest against the principle of Grand Jury representation and Grand Jury legislation in Ireland. The Government would, he hoped, bring forward next year, if not in the present Session, a Bill dealing with the subject. That Bill ought to make the Councils representative, and provide that no one should be admitted to them who had not a property qualification as a rated occupier.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, no one could doubt that the last four hours I had been profitably spent in the discussion which began with the precise, full, and interesting historical account of the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Barry), and the clear explanations of the Bill, explanations more sufficient than the Bill itself. The Bill was interesting because it contained certain special proposals which contributed a good deal to maturing the question; while the measure itself, and the circumstances under which it was produced, did not lend themselves to the remarks with which the hon. and gallant Member for the county of Dublin prefaced his speech. There was something not more relevant in the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), who took the 23 House miles away into much less pleasant topics. If he (Mr. Trevelyan) were inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Coleraine (Sir Hervey Bruce), that legislation which at other times might be introduced should not be introduced while Ireland was in a state of disorder, that inclination would have been fostered by the language of the hon. Member for Sligo. That hon. Member charged the Government with governing Ireland by the scaffold, and such a charge could not be passed by, even in the discussion of a Local Government Bill. The hon. Member must be aware that Ireland was governed by the scaffold in no other sense than England and Scotland were so governed. Having giving long consideration to the subject of this Bill in the course of the last 12 months, he must say it appeared to him to be open to very serious exception. The hon. Member for Wexford said that the alpha and omega of the Bill was that it gave the people the control of their own finance. He could not but regard that as an unhappy simile when applied to the relations of this Bill to finance. A scheme described as the alpha and omega ought to cover the whole ground contained within the two; but this measure was open to the objection that it began at one end, and that end, he could not but think, the wrong one, and that it only covered a very small portion of the ground which ought to be covered by a comprehensive measure of county finance. In founding or reforming any political or administrative system, and, above all, a financial and administrative system, we should begin at the bottom and not at the top, and to lose sight of that principle was almost as dangerous in politics as it was in architecture. The Baronial and the County Presentment Sessions were for all practical purposes the taxing bodies in the rural districts of Ireland, having the sole right of initiating all taxation for roads, bridges, court-houses, and public works so far as they concerned respectively the barony or the collection of baronies that constituted the county; whilst the Grand Jury had very little more to do than to deal with those perfunctory classes of payment that concerned the county lunatic asylums, the extra police, and the payment of certain officers. Now, the more he looked at the Bill, and especially at the 8th clause, the less could he understand how the authors of this measure proposed to 24 deal with the financial powers that were attached to the Grand Jury. While he wished to express no opinion as to the lines on which county reform in Ireland should proceed generally, he felt justified in saying that a county reformer ought to leave the system at least as practicable and as workable as he found it; and this Bill did not expressly say whether it retained, or abolished, or reformed those bodies in which the practical financial work of the county was at present done. The Committee of 1868 proposed to deal with those bodies, and one of the Bills on the subject was brought in by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther), then Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Shaw), who addressed the House on this question with great force, spoke of those bodies as "initial bodies." The hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney), in a speech which appeared to have pleased everyone who heard it, proposed that the barony, or something corresponding to it, should be the foundation of county reform in Ireland. Now, it was impossible to accept the theory that Clauses 8, 16, and 28 dealt adequately with what the hon. Member for Wexford represented as the coping-stone of this question. He said that, to show that this Bill could not be accepted as an adequate scheme for dealing with county government, and therefore to accept it would be inexcusable on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Let him count up the questions of the first class dealt with in the Bill. The Bill proposed to divide the cess between owners and occupiers, and that, for good or for evil, was a great economical change. It could not be said for practical purposes that that was a change which had a place on the Statute Book, because the very little which was done in 1870 was prospective, and a prospective change was as nothing in its economical effect. The Bill proposed to give County Boards the power of electing officers, but did not define whether those officers were to be confined to the class at present established by statute. Then it said something about the relation between County Boards, Harbour Boards, Dock and Port Boards, and Improvement Boards. He did not know well what these Improvement Boards were. An interpretation had, however, been put upon this all-important feature in the Bill by the hon. 25 and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), who referred to various important industrial operations, and by other hon. Members who alluded to the granting of Provisional Orders, and to Bills for Railways. He presumed, therefore, that those Boards were to deal with railways, drainage, and such interesting questions as were discussed at so great a length last night. But if those Improvement Boards were to stand between the Treasury and the ratepayer, then their functions, so important, and their constitution, so vital, should have been defined and minutely laid down in the Bill. The Bill proposed that the County Board, should nominate a very considerable number of Justices of the Peace. But it did not say whether the Lieutenant of the County was to retain the privilege of swamping those magistrates by appointing eight or ten wherever the County Board appointed four. There was another very important change. The Bill proposed to give County Boards very considerable power of dealing with the government of lunatic asylums, but left to the Imperial Government a share of the appointments rather out of proportion to the contribution from the Imperial funds. On each of these points was it conceivable that the Government could have that amount of agreement with the authors of the Bill which would justify them in adopting it as their own, or in hoping that it could be made into a measure, either in an ordinary Committee or in a Grand Committee, as the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan) had suggested, such as the Government could adopt? Unless they were satisfied that such an agreement existed, the Government had no right to support the second reading of this Bill. Hon. Gentlemen, in the course of the debate, had mentioned that the Government had supported certain Bills of considerable importance, brought forward by private Members. They had done so; but those Bills either dealt with questions of small importance, so that it mattered comparatively little what their details were, or they were Bills of great importance, of which the details were not new, and were extremely simple. Such were the Bills for the election of Poor Law Guardians by ballot, for reducing the borough franchise, and for assimilating the municipal franchise of Ireland with that of England. 26 In those cases the Government had frequently been willing not only to give the Bill a second reading, but even to give up Government time for the purpose of enabling private Members to turn it into law. One of those Bills had gone as far as "another place," while the Bill for electing Guardians by ballot had reached an advanced stage in that House. But this Bill was second in importance only to a Bill for Parliamentary Reform, while it exceeded such a measure in complexity. It regulated the administration of the law in districts; it dealt indirectly, and to a great extent directly, with the sacred principle of property; and if it were to become law, it must have a very remarkable educational effect, for good or for evil, upon the people of Ireland, and in the long run have great social and political results. That was a Bill which the Government could take from nobody. It was a Bill which a Government, with any sense of responsibility, could not touch until it had made up its mind what it would lay before the House of Commons, both as regarded outlines and details. He would go further and say it was a Bill which no responsible Government would touch until prepared to carry out the proposals which it contained, for any glancing at the subject or the giving of isolated opinions on fragmentary plans might be productive of great public danger and could not produce any public advantage. It had been authoritatively declared impossible to deal with the question of county government in Ireland this year, and for the purpose of this debate that was all that need be known. The Government this Session had already too much upon its hands, and could not undertake any more, and, in these circumstances, would not be justified in asking the House to give the Bill a second reading. Therefore, it could only put up a petition to the hon. Members in charge of the Bill to withdraw it. If they would not, the Government would have no choice but to vote against it. In opposing the second reading, the Government did not wish to pronounce that the reform of county government in Ireland was not wanting. The Government did not pronounce against the doctrine that the ratepayer should have a more genuine voice than at present in the control of his own finances, and it would certainly 27 be difficult to devise a scheme in which the ratepayer had less control than at present. All that the Government wished to assert was that the Bill was not their Bill, and that they could not approach or handle this important question until they could do it materially and comprehensively, and, in so far as in them lay, definitely and even finally.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said that after the speech they had just listened to he did not desire to prevent the House from going to a division, for which he supposed all were anxious, and he would detain them only a few minutes. If the debate had done no other good, it had given the Representative of Her Majesty's Government an opportunity of stating that they had no idea of entering upon legislation upon this subject; and to that extent he thought it had been of great advantage. He was tolerably well satisfied, so far as the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland went, for, although he had not indicated the lines on which the Government might themselves at any future time deal with this subject, he had succeeded indisposing of almost every clause of the Bill before the House. But he could not help thinking there was little ground for the indignation expressed by various speakers in the debate at the speech of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dublin County (Colonel King-Harman), who had moved the rejection of the Bill. There was all the less ground for that indignation, because the proposals contained in it would, in a few minutes, be treated by the vote of the House as wholly inadmissible. He desired to state very shortly the grounds on which he opposed the Bill, not because he was altogether opposed to all reform of the Grand Jury system, but because this was not a reform which was proposed; it was a Bill for the abolition of the existing system. As a matter of fact, the House knew that one of the last acts of the late Government before it left Office was to introduce a Bill upon this subject, which, unfortunately, it had not been possible to carry through. The ground on which he objected to the Bill was that it proposed a revolutionary change in the foundations on which county government in Ireland had so long rested. It proposed the practical transfer of the 28 independent control of the finance of the county to a body which would by no means represent the cesspayers of the county. He would like to remind the House of the real state of things in regard to the county cess, which practically came to this, that it was the landlords who did directly or indirectly pay it, and who would certainly be made to feel any increase in the county cess throughout Ireland, and therefore it was absurd to deal with this subject as a reduction of county expenses in the interests of the tenants alone, when it would much more affect the landlords. What would be the real effect of such a change as this? It was very easy for hon. Members to say in general terms that the management under the present Grand Jury system was bad, and not carried on in an economical way; but, though such charges had been made at large, not one substantial instance had been brought forward to verify them. Hon. Gentlemen had refrained from giving names and places to which any such charges might apply, because they know that whenever they brought accusations of that sort to the point they had always been successfully contradicted. But what would be the kind of hands in which the funds would be placed? He supposed they would be at all times as reliable as those of some of the Poor Law Guardians had been during the late period of excitement. They had heard over and over again that in some cases it had been actually necessary to break up the Unions and appoint official Guardians in their place. [The right hon. Gentleman then referred by way of illustration to the action of various Poor Law Unions, and, amongst others, to that of Carrick-on-Suir, where it had been found necessary to dissolve the Board of Guardians.] He believed that the plan proposed in the Bill was a bad one. The effect of it would be to hand over the management of the county to those who would simply be nominees of the person who might happen to be the arch-agitator of the moment.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was not disappointed with the speech of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, for, unquestionably, the right hon. Gentleman had shown from time to time since he had taken Office that he was perfectly willing and able to make a speech to order, a speech which turned 29 the back upon the principles of the right hon. Gentleman himself and of the Party to which he belonged. Contrasting the amount of advantage which Ireland gained by the presence in Office of a Liberal as opposed to a Conservative Government, he pointed out that when in the last Parliament a Bill on the subject of county government, involving very much the same principles as those contained in the present measure, was brought forward by the late Mr. Butt, a special Whip was issued by the Liberal Party, then out of Office; the Bill was supported in debate by its Leaders who were present, and it was supported in the Division Lobby by the full strength of the Liberal Party, so much so, that the Government of the day were within a very few votes of being defeated. But what did the right hon. Gentleman tell them now that he and his Party had come into Office? He told them that no Government would take a Bill of this kind, involving such principles, from a private Member. If the right hon. Gentleman thought so that day, how was it that he and his Party did not think so then when they wished to force the Conservative Government to take in hand a a Bill involving exactly the same principles from a private Member? The effect of the action of the Government would be that they should now be beaten by about 5 to 1. So late as last autumn the Prime Minister expressed himself as deeply interested in this question of local self-government, and said that he was anxious to proceed with the matter as soon as he had the necessary facilities—that was, the clôture, and so forth. But now that this matter had been brought forward, the Chief Secretary was left alone on the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman's main objection to the Bill was that it made no mention of the Presentment Sessions. But that did not appear to them to be a question which ought to involve the fate of the Bill, because it was a matter which might be dealt with in Committee. He thought that the size of the areas was no objection to the Bill, for he would remind the House that its Members had constantly to decide on questions brought before the Select Committees with reference to railways and other matters covering even larger areas. He thought it desirable that the system of popular representation should be brought into play 30 in the election of magistrates. It was altogether unnecessary to have mentioned the Presentment Sessions; and he warned the Government against wasting their time in introducing a reactionary system of county government. If this question was not settled now, a reformed Parliament elected on household suffrage, and consisting of a very different body of Members, and containing, he trusted, very different Ministers, would settle this great question on Radical and lasting lines.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he did not intend to talk out the Bill, but wished merely to express his regret that, with the exception of the Chief Secretary, no English or Scotch Member had thought it worth while to take part in the discussion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided;—Ayes 58; Noes 231: Majority 173.—(Div. List, No. 55.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.